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Free-will and Determinism

By Roya Monajem, Tehran

As an incurable skeptic, when I see ourselves here in this country adopting some kind of deterministic view toward life and I compare ourselves with my countrymen and women living abroad and with the foreigners coming from a country with a more secure social economic system, I directly and immediately experience the effects of the environment on one's world-view and thus way of life. So once more I ask myself this human eternal question: "To what extent can outside determine, affect inside?"

When one lives in an environment where the rulers not only do not recognize the freedom of the individual in choosing his/her own political social system, but even his freedom and choice in choosing his/her philosophy of life, surely one starts to deeply doubt whether such a thing as free will can exist at all or not. Let us not forget that the rulers have all the instruments of intimidation available to them as well. Therefore, added to that lack of freedom of choice, one constantly lives under a state of fear as well. Wait; that is not all! We are speaking of a specific country with a very very long history. And we know that except for very short periods of times when one could breathe freely on this ancient land, this has been the fate of her people for more than a millennium now. A glance at our literature (that is really limited to poetry- I suppose because it gives you more room to write symbolically) proves that 'this whisper of grief' has a long history.

"To what extent can outside determine inside?" In an environment where free thinking is forbidden, the radius of the circle of freedom or free-will will naturally be very small and insignificant. It is limited to the way one dresses at home in the absence of strangers, to what one eats and when one goes to the toilet and other purely biological behavior. (Westerners experienced the same during their Dark Ages.) This is different from living in an actual prison mainly in one aspect: a prisoner can not determine even his time of hunger, urination and defecation, and of course he has no choice in regard to how he likes to cover his body (he has to wear a uniform, as we have to when we leave our little private homes. The Chinese had to wear a uniform outside for many years under the rule of their Chinese way of communism as well.) And of course both groups have another freedom too: they can think of any thoughts they like in Private.

What is the result of this kind of living? A feeling of impotence, absurdity, despair, depression, mistrust and many other 'negative emotions' starts to fill the space usually occupied by a sense of strength, positivism, hope and the like felt in a more secure environment. But as scientists can approve, such a mental psychological state is very pathogenic because it depresses our immune system. We can easily get sick under such conditions. So we look for a solution. We first look to do something with the outside, that sick social environment that is generating such a sick mental psychological state.

And soon we find out that the social environment is a reflection of the political system and so far no political system has planned to create a healthy joyful society.

And even a healthy joyful individual is becoming a rare species because our medical approach is sick and is disease-oriented. Now poor doctors are more concerned about paying their own bills and insurances and be careful not to get sued than helping their patients to recover in a radical way: that is to cure the patient. So no wonder a healthy, joyful individual is becoming a rare species throughout the world.

And you see yourself too small to do anything in this respect - that is to change the outside. So here comes the root of a deterministic outlook to life as an individual. You are too small to change the outside.

And you hear Roudaki, the great Persian poet singing:

"You want to make the world gentle? The world is the world, when and how will it accept gentleness?"

(Goodness! it is so difficult to be a good translator! Let us take this and the rest of the verses that will follow as a personal interpretation.)

And you hear Hafez saying:

"Our share is either the cup of the wine or blood of the heart, this is the way it is in the circle of fate."

The same Hafez who has also said,

"if the world does not fulfill my wish, I will topple it."

And you hear Nietzsche saying toward the end of his life that

"Loving fate (amor fati) has become his only love in life or the only question in life."

The same Nietzsche who had negated all gods and idols and thus the absolutes! And you ask yourself:

"Did Nietzsche know that his Overman will be taken as Hitler? Did Einstein know that his Theory of Relativity will lead to the emergence of atomic bomb and following massacres?"

Now added to that deep despair, nostalgia and grief that the environment is causing, is the despair in humanity. And you are sick of this 'eternal whispering of grief,' as the compassionate contemporary Persian poet Sepeheri puts it.

Thus you come to the conclusion that the only choice, free-will that you as an individual seem to have is to create that healthy, joyful individual out of yourself; because as Osho says:

"Although it is difficult to have any hope in humanity, we can still trust existence."

... Payvand News - 7/1/04 ... --

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