Are you free or are you dom, asks the zealous poet in the Vodacom ad. The clever line got me thinking. Not about airtime, about freewill, or rather the illusion of freewill.
Freewill is central to how many people’s identity as human beings. There is a widely held belief that humans have freewill. This supposedly not only differentiates us from the animal kingdom, it also proves our superiority. We are willful in our choices while animals operate from instinct – programming. Human beings get to choose their actions, while the actions of animals are wired into them. That is what makes them Dom and us Free, the fact that we have freewill.
But do we really?
In my view, the average person is far from free. We may not be governed by instinct like animals but we are governed by conditioning. We tend to make the ‘choices’ that we are programmed to make, like robots. Since most of us are unaware that our choices are dictated by our programming, our freewill is merely an illusion. Which means not only are we not free, we are dom.
We are conditioned from the moment we take our first breath. We call this conditioning by many names, socialization, manners, education, etc. When we are young our parents, caregivers, teachers, older siblings and more experienced friends tell us what is right and what is wrong, what we should and shouldn’t do, what we should and shouldn’t want. What kind of dreams and aspirations to have. As we get older our conditioning comes from more impersonal sources; the books we read, movies we watch and songs hear. They all silently colour what we think and expect from very important things like life, people and love. Ads tell us what we should want and how we should look and the news tell us who and what we should be afraid of (this month its Swine flu), and who we should love or hate (last month it was Zuma).
Most people are very resistant to the idea that they are merely robots acting out their conditioning, but it is telling, even in the language we use. When faced with questions of values and morals we use words like; “I was brought up to believe…, my mother always said…where I come from…”All of which imply that had we been brought up by other people in other places we would choose differently. Religion is the most obvious example of this, most people believe in, (practice) and identify with the religion they were born in to. South Africa is full of Christians who won’t dispute that had they been born white in Israel they would be Jewish or had they been born in the Middle East they would most likely be Muslim. So the final destination of many souls was predetermined by a geographic location.
All these beliefs, which came into our lives as advice, manners, warnings, common sense and religious teachings, govern our behavior. Our CHOICES. Yet very few of us stop to question them, despite the fact that they affect our behaviour and thus create our lives. We hardly ever ask; Is this true? Is this true for me? Is it true that love hurts? Is it true that all good things come to an end? Is it true that hard work pays off? Is it true that God prefers poor people? Why is it not okay for a woman to sleep around? Why must work come before play? Why can’t you have it all? Is it true that all men are only after one thing?
We hardly ever question our beliefs, despite the fact that most if not all of them were inherited from someone else, but still we claim to have freewill.
We do have freewill because we are always free to change our beliefs but most of us never even examine why we believe the things that we believe, let alone contemplate choosing to believe differently. Instead we merely live out our programming. Kekelekeke, are you free or are you dom?