I have been thinking about a 'tweet' I received recently:
"caffeine_addict@psychotherapynz See U are interested in how people can be free 2 b themselves – except if they want to smack kids! On yr own terms perhaps"
Caffeine_addict challenged me to think about the apparent paradox that I am interested in how people can be free to be themselves and yet I support the movement here in New Zealand to maintain hitting children as a criminal offense. I have been listening this week to a free podcast from Oxford University of an Introduction to Philosophy and somehow Caffeine_addict's challenge and my listening have linked up in my mind.
To clarify my position, when I think about peoples' freedom to be themselves I am referring to my sense that we human beings are like icebergs!
We are like icebergs because it seems most of who we are is unconscious or repressed (beneath the surface), and just as the course of an iceberg is primarily determined by the tides and currents rather than the winds, I think the course of our lives is primarily determined by the things we don't know about ourselves rather than what we do know.
We like to think we are the masters of our destiny because to think otherwise is difficult, and we adopt all manner of defences to avoid having to acknowledge the truth.
Freedom is not about having the right to hit people.
Gregory David Roberts writes eloquently of his take on freedom in the opening paragraph of his book "Shantaram" (2003):
"It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured. I realised, somehow, through the screaming in my mind, that even in that shackled, bloody helplessness, I was still free: free to hate the men who were torturing me, or to forgive them. It doesn't sound like much, I know, but in the flinch of the chain, when it's all you've got, that freedom is a universe of possibility. And the choice you make, between hating and forgiving, can become the story of your life."
I believe that ability to choose to love or to hate only comes with hard work and we can not have one without the other – that is we only have the freedom to choose to love when we can also choose to hate. I am not talking about acting something out, rather the knowing of these experiences in our inner world.
I believe it is worth protecting the right of children not to be hit as it opens up a space in them where they have more chance of being able to make free choices in the future. The law is in place to protect our freedoms, and children especially need its protection.