You would think that happiness and freedom go hand in hand. And it is true that they go together most of the time; being free is a source of happiness and happiness means also freedom. But it is not always the case. Sometimes freedom means choosing the opposite of happiness. And sometimes happiness can be found in tense situations from which freedom is absent.
Many people indulge themselves in circumstances which involve restraint or straightforward oppression. Think North Korea and happy people greeting their president. Think secluded places, like monasteries for example, where people willingly hide or lock themselves, happily pursuing their calling. Or think masochistic sexuality, in which pleasure is derived from pain and being tied. Or masochistic relationships, in which happiness has as a prerequisite the idea of submission or other forms of dependence. Or think addictions, such as alcohol or drugs for instance, where filling the inner void with the aid of the substance is highly appreciated. Or think idealism, a subtle form of dependence, with its accompanying feeling of arousal when pursuing a dream – like fighting corruption or social inequalities… Are you willing to argue that people in such circumstances aren’t genuinely happy?
Take a moment to ponder on what I have just written… Freedom and happiness aren’t always in the same boat?
Freedom means being able to choose freely. This is a circular statement. Choosing freely means that all options are equal and you can pick any of them without being preconditioned by any prior judgment or requirement.
But you also want to be happy.
This means that you will always try to choose what is best for you. This means that you are likely to try to stay healthy. This means that you will likely seek ways to have resources available. This means you will be driven to acquire food, to have a shelter. For this you need money so you need a job or to own your profitable business. Then it also means that you need friends, a partner, family, social recognition, etc., up to the highest possible summit of happiness. All your choices are therefore focused on achieving happiness. Consequently, you must pick up or select those choices that drive you towards success and happiness, and ignore or discard the other choices. You become selective. Suddenly, you are no longer choosing freely, but you rather reduce your possibilities so as to pursue what you think that must be the path towards happiness. You consciously lose your freedom, and you do this on the assumption that you know what is best for you. In the end, chances are you become successful and, most likely, pleased. But, in the process, you have lost your freedom; you have sacrificed it so as to become happy. And it is likely that you’re actually enjoying having lost freedom. You can now fit in – like a brick in the wall – and it’s a great feeling.
For some people. Not all of them.
For some people, freedom is much more important than happiness. That’s why you don’t see them too happy or they don’t seem to be happy for too much. Sooner or later, they plunge back into distressing circumstances. Why? Because, most of them, make the unconscious choice to keep their freedom. “It happens”. “It just happened”. They don’t know how they ended up there but – here they are again! – in the midst of the tempest. Occasionally they visit a psychotherapist. And occasionally they get a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. Occasionally. Otherwise they are labeled as neurotics, without going deeper in search of their existential motivations. Such as maintaining freedom at all costs…
Yet, some people – a minority – make the conscious choice to be free. When asked about the reason of their choices, they will at some point discard any logical reason.
– Why did you do that?
– Just because!
– Did you know that it was ruining everything you have built?
– It was fun!
Nowadays we have the AI. The artificial intelligence. It analyses everything. Better and faster. On logical grounds. If you take a “standard human being” and the pyramid of needs, and if you correctly describe the social context of that human being (country, friends, family background, education, etc.), you can accurately predict the choices that person is going to make… provided she is pursuing happiness (which is the rule, not the exception). A person can be 100% predictable by AI algorithms. It’s basically mathematics and probabilistic science. The person starts from here and wants to get there. Given the resources available around her and in her, she will reach her destination following this path and will arrive at its destination at this time. Or, it will never arrive at her desired destination because she lacks this and that. Period.
Oh… I almost forgot… Just add this advertising here and there, “intuitively”. Pursuing happiness, that person will definitely buy this or that product…
By this time, I should have been in France for 8 years. I should have owned a nice house at the foot of the Vosges Mountains and I should have had a nice family. Money wouldn’t have been a problem and the pervasive harassment either.
I suspect that between me and the AI a love-story would never be possible. Just when things started to be predictable… I have hit the restart button. Several times. By now, I should be considered as a failure by The System. Someone at the outskirts of society, someone who always stays in his own light or not on in his “normal” path, someone who stubbornly refuses… to be happy.