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.

“The Problem is Apathy, not Activism”

Every single Indian needs to read this *right now*.
…Thank you, Ser.

Smoke Signals

News has four cycles.

There is, first, the child, flapping its arms and legs and yelping in excitement at having been presented with a brand new shiny object, wondering what to do with it: toss it in the air? Kick it? Try and stuff it, whole and entire, into the mouth? (Think of days one and two of the aftermath of the Delhi rape, when ‘coverage’ was a series of increasingly shrill freeform yelps without coherence or substance but with lots of lung powering it.)

Then the teen, as volubly excited but with a greater awareness of his peers. (That channel had the home minister on the griddle and called for the resignation of the police commissioner? We need to ask for someone’s resignation too. Oh and that other media house? It gave the victim a symbolic name — that’s so cool; we need to give her…

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Friends, Indians, Countrymen

Neither the government, nor the police, nor any other paid force is ever going to wake up and go “aww, lets protect our citizens better”. It’s like this, 

Example 1: This guy comes to you and gives you thousands of dollars. Says that he gambles, but doesn’t trust himself to not lose the money or get robbed, so he just wants to stash it in one of your unused cupboards. You say okay, and everything is fine at first, until you notice that he never really bothers counting the money, and is forever throwing in bundles, and pulling them out. How tempted will you be to take that money? Now, suppose there are three of you in that house. If one guy says “Fuck it, man. He’s never gonna notice, lemme take some.”, how long will it be before the others follow suit?

Example 2: You’ve employed a lady to cook your food and clean your kitchen. At first, she’s amazingly efficient, and tidy. The food tastes great, and the kitchen is all sparkly. But, suppose you never ask her to do anything, never insist that she dust something or cleans something else, are you really going to be surprised when it all comes to a bare essentials kind of set-up?

What I’m trying to say is, don’t you think it’s kinda crazy to hand over all those individual rights and liberties (which we do, by the way, in exchange for certain securities while being citizens of the State) to an unrelated, external oligarchic system, and just expect them to always do what’s best for us? Even if we’ve shown ourselves to be a sentimental, easily swayed, fanatical mob with no interest or need of long term solutions to any of our problems?

Why do you think the concept of these “Apartment complexes” is so popular in India?? With their own security guards, and their own little pools, and gardens for the children, and gyms for the women? Why, why, why? It’s because, instinctively, everyone knows, everyone is aware that India is in a state of acute lawlessness. Your only hope is private defense. Our only defense is to hole ourselves up in forts and behind barricades to protect ourselves, never once insisting that the State to whom we gave that responsibility live up to it. Never once even bothering to engage in any sort of intelligent debate, because “how does it matter?”, right?

Well, it *does* matter. It matters because unless this country, or any country for that matter, has a responsive, educated and aware civil society, the atrocities will continue.

And we shall have nothing to blame but our own apathy.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?