It is 15th August once again, a time when Indians happily celebrate their Independence Day all over the world. Many among these, deeply conscious of the long, arduous and painful struggle that at long-last won India its freedom from its colonial rulers this day some 70 years ago, appreciate the true significance and import of Independence Day.
Freedom is thus one of the most precious gifts that we possess today, a legacy passed on to us through the sacrifices of many.
But, are we really free?
Is independence only about achieving political liberty, and exercising our right and freedom to run the country any which way we want, or is there more to it?
Perhaps there won’t be a better opportunity than today, our Independence Day, to think more deeply about this.
As a society we may be free, but individually, many fetters continue to shackle people out of their personal freedoms.
From an educational and moral perspective, I can think of three such fetters that constantly but subtly chip away at peoples’ freedom of spirit:
Subjugation implies bringing others under complete control or subjection, to make others submissive, or to enslave others. It also implies forcing one’s will on others. How often do we find our children and youth subjugated by negative peer-pressure, bullying, too much competition and other harmful social practices! Children and youth constantly barter a portion of their freedom for acceptance by their peers, or from fear of hurt and harm.
An unhealthy over-dependence on others for one’s decisions and actions constantly chips away at one’s independence. A good example of this is dependence on ‘fashion gurus’ to tell them what is fashionable for them to wear and do, and what is not! At yet another level, dependence on habit forming substances is a more serious and inimical form of this omnipresent threat to one’s freedom of spirit.
When we imitate others we are no longer being ourselves! But we often do this, and quite willfully–-imitating celebrities, fashion icons, sports-persons, and others. Rumors, superstitions, prejudices and other social problems are born out of blind imitation. In many schools, teasing for instance is a major problem. It often starts with one student calling another peer names. This is quickly picked up by others and suddenly the victim is harassed to no end by a bunch of unthinking, imitating students.
So, this Independence Day, let us peed down inside and introspect to find out how free we really are as individuals!
A long drawn and grueling battle has won our nation its freedom. Perhaps it is time now for a freedom struggle of a different kind, one that seeks to secure for all individuals their freedom of spirit. This will have to be a struggle that seeks to inspire and empower people based on sound moral and educational principles, to think and decide for themselves, and to do what is right.
Wish you all a very happy Independence Day.