Aside the fact that we don’t ‘originally’ choose such status as gender, race, and sexual orientation, we get to spend our entire lives making choices. ‘Originally’ leans against the backdrop that we are now even capable of altering some of those seeming natural choices via the likes of transgender and homosexuality. People can now even choose a different skin colour or identify with a different race. In fact, the one thing we just can’t stop doing is choice-making. Funnily enough, even the hesitation to make a choice is already a choice.
What is more, we appear to hold our power of choice sacred. Deny a man that right, for instance, and he could transform into a monster overnight. Even daddy’s little girl grows up too; it gets to the point where her own way is the only way that makes sense her. She’s bold to remind all those who think she was born yesterday that she’s come of age to run her own shows both by herself and on her own terms. And she holds especially sacred the choice of her ‘Mr. Right’ and would take it personal with anyone – just about anyone – who dares to get in her way.
Our seeming obsession with choice-making is both the child and an expression of a bigger obsession – FREEDOM. And this would inform why ‘self-determination’ is the first fundamental human right, which is dressed under the cloak of ‘right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’.
However, there is a big problem. And this is it: our understanding of choice and freedom is not just shallow but annoying. This shallowness draws from the fact that we have more often than not related with those concepts solely from the standpoint of pleasure, and this one-sidedness lands us into interpreting freedom as license. Cowed by pleasure-mindedness, we choose without consequences in mind; we exercise freedom divorced of responsibility. Too bad.
Be that as it may, our power of choice, which is the expression of freedom, is the best thing that has happened to our species. But to make choice and freedom worthwhile, we must construe them holistically and relate with them truly. We must not just choose for the fun of choosing; we must make informed and right choices. Yes, for a choice to be informed, we must understudy and then evaluate the implications/consequences of the said choice. For instance, being in the know that premarital sex can pave way for pregnancy, STDs/STIs and the likes, would significantly inform the choice of indulgence or abstinence. More so, we’re moral beings and imbued with the mechanisms to relate with right and wrong. And so, our choices also need to be right – not wrong.
On freedom; it is not license. The hallmark of freedom is responsibility, especially of knowing that one’s freedom stops where those of others begin. We keep and enjoy ours; they keep and enjoy theirs. Plus, we owe the larger community the duty of contributing our quota to securing and ensuring order, peace and progress. Why is incest a taboo? Why is a father not ‘free’ to lie with his daughter even if she consents; a mother with her son; siblings, etc.? Why is incest a crime and punishable by the law of the land? Of course, incest, as typical of sexual encounters, all things being equal, promises pleasure to parties involved and has no business to do with consanguinity (blood relationship). However, it holds pain to the society at large because of the negatives associated with inbreeding, which can especially result in handicapped children.
And so, freedom and choice can be guided and guarded by information, morality and community. There are not unlimited after all. I hope this is not disappointing.