On Freedom and Cruelty

If you ever want to be Free, you have gotta learn how to be Cruel. 
Or Apathetic. But, even that requires its own kind of cruelty.

In that, I do not  mean to say that to be cruel is to be free.

What is cruelty?

Willfully causing pain or suffering to others, or feeling no concern about it

What is Freedom, then?

Freedom is the State of being Free. It is “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants.

Since no two people are exactly the same, it is a fair assumption to make that all people say and do different things, and think in different ways, at different points of times in their lives. What you want to do or say or think shall often contradict what someone else might want to think or say or do. Since we live in a society, usually these people shall be people you know, and care about. And, if you want to be free, you must accept the fact that the decisions you make will hurt and upset them. No.. If you really want to be free, you must be willing to hurt and upset them.

And, that is why there is no Freedom without Cruelty.

Of course, to be cruel alone is not enough.

It is easy to be a cruel slave. It is far harder to be free and kind.

For, when you are kind, things are expected of you. Understanding, Mercy, Compassion, Justice. And the more things are expected from you, the lesser freedom you possess. Thus, to be free, you must either be capable of (1) Lowering expectations; (2) Disappointing expectations; (3) Lying to those that expect; (4) Lying to yourself. All of these acts also require a certain amount of cruelty.

But, as Socrates would remind us, Cruelty is bad, but freedom is good. Then how can cruelty lead to freedom?

And, more importantly, is it really cruelty that is required for freedom? Or is it in some sense, a perversion of the word, perhaps even just one single aspect of it?

Here, it would be useful to reconsider the very definition of cruelty: ‘Willfully causing pain or suffering to others’, which is definitely bad, or ‘feeling no concern about it’, which is not that awful a thing.. Is it? This is what I meant by my statement that when it comes to freedom, the only alternative to cruelty is apathy, but it turns out that apathy is itself a sub-component of cruelty.

Further, the problem with simply not caring, rather than actively causing suffering or discomfort, is that sometimes the people you care about, you will also love. And, love brings its attachments in chains. Freedom requires you to break out of these chains. Is this always cruel?

Perhaps then, a declaration would suffice. But, to someone that is beginning to like you, and form their own attachments, a declaration of your intent to never be bound by or to them, or by and to anything else, that is also cruel..

I am no closer to understanding whether cruelty is essential for anyone who wishes to be truly free. But, it makes it a lot easier, and sometimes, it does appear to be necessary. Further, even if you just don’t care (apathy), you are cruel to those that truly love you. Unless no one loves you, in which case, I guess you’re free. But, only in the way that you’re free when you’re lost..

It wouldn’t be enough to say ‘Only be Cruel when you absolutely have to’, because you can’t just wake up one morning and do the evilest act without harming your mind. You can’t only be cruel when every aspect of your freedom is threatened. No. For every threat, you must respond with equal cruelty. That’s because it’s the *only* thing that can cut through ties and bonds that other people have made with you. If the bonds are new, or weak, or not very valuable, apathy would usually suffice.

I know no real conclusions have been reached, but I’d still like to end this post now, on a slight bit of a tangent, with this quote that I find always worth considering when talking about any kind of freedom, even though I’m not fully convinced of its truth:

Who do you suppose decided birds are free? They can fly wherever they choose, it’s true… but if there’s no branch for them to return to they might regret having wings, don’t you think? Perhaps true freedom is having a home to return to.

2 thoughts on “On Freedom and Cruelty

  1. Satarupa says:

    What a thought-provoking piece. I agree completely.
    Cruelty sometimes, is a little necessary.
    Two people can both be right in their perspective about the same thing and not agree with each other. If you stick to your guns then, regardless of your thinking, you will end up being cruel, in order to defend your ideas. Otherwise, if you’re a pacifist, you can shut up, thereby compromising your own self-respect.
    Though I wonder, if you disagree with someone and manage to somehow put your point across in a tactful manner, so as to make sure neither party is upset…
    I mean, I understand if disagreements happen, it is hard to draw that line and say something that just opposes the other person’s opinions and not the person himself/herself.
    So I kind of think, cruelty is the easier way out in situations like these. Ideal solution would be supreme patience ,tact and detachment.
    From a utilitarian point of view, on certain occasions, the ideal way is a waste of time.

    • Satarupa says:

      Also, on your four points on being kind:(sorry for the reply spams, im sucha scatterbrain -.-)
      1. if you have to lower your expectation to match the reality of people around you, its your estimates that are at fault, not the people. They have and will do whatever they are capable of,. You can be kind and still have realistic expectations of people. If you manage to do that, i think the cruelty aspect can be avoided.
      2. Cruelty can be avoided in disappointing expectations, if you are earnest in your efforts. Intentions are what truly determine whether you were cruel or not, circumstances can go beyond your help.
      3. Lying to others that expect can also be done away with, if you are truthful. If my best friend wants me to do something I don’t want to do, I have the right to say no and give them an honest reason why. Just because I said no, doesnt make me an unkind person, it makes me human. Imagine the number of times one may have said no to one’s own parents. Can you even consider for a moment that you have unkind intentions towards your own parents?
      4. Lying to yourself is needless. If there is one person that’s not going to judge you , its your own self. So whats the harm in telling yourself the truth?
      I guess, what I am trying to say is, while I do see the usefulness of cruelty when it comes to exercising freedom, and how often we resort to cruelty without even meaning to,but if we are going to make a discussion out of it, I can accept that cruelty is just the easier way to do things and it can be easily avoided with tact, honesty etc etc.If you want 😛

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