Law in Contemporary Society

Institutional Creeds, Cons, and Making Choices for Life

-- By Yinan Zhang, revising Kevin Chang's 1st paper

People are not truly making decisions

Living in the U.S., we hold immense pride in the idea that we enjoy liberty and freedom of choice. Granted, we enjoy more freedom than most people in the world, whose impoverished conditions force them to struggle through life literally to stay alive. In contrast, abundance of food and other living necessities in this country enables us to pursue the more advanced goal of personal freedom. Furthermore, the idea of liberty and freedom seem to be ingrained into the American political system, as evidenced by the first and second amendments to the Constitutional and the electoral process. Most of us generally believe that we make meaningful decisions when choosing which college to attend, which major to study in, whom we marry, and what career path we dedicate to. During such decision-making process, we often quickly dismiss certain choices as impractical, although they are very much feasible. Therefore, do our choices really reflect autonomy and free will?

Free will takes on many forms. Interpreted narrowly, a truly autonomous person entirely disregards social values and bases his decisions solely on internal factors such as current knowledge about himself and future ambitions. Interpreted more broadly, a person may be deemed as autonomous when he makes choices according to internal factors but still operates within the social creed rather than outside it. Thus, whether people really make free choices depends on the interpretation of free will.

People tend to be confined by the social creed and assigned roles

Why do we limit our possibilities when, unlike the less-fortunate people in other countries who face more financial and class barriers, we have the means to choose them? Is it because our minds are limited by some invisible boundaries that we feel urged to ignore those possibilities? In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the human need for belonging is a basic desire that must be fulfilled before the higher pursuit for personal freedom of choice can be satisfied. This desire for conformity is so innate to human nature that most of us need to constantly communicate with other people and inevitably become a believer in the social creed, though we may not be aware of it. Exploiting this aspect of human nature, the conmen who control our society – those with power and money – manipulate the common masses to uphold them while creating the illusion that we possess the free will to make meaningful choices.

Therefore, the first narrow interpretation of autonomy is unlikely to work because our social nature and desire for conformity prevent us from breaking free from social pressures and become independent in that sense. Our search for autonomy must continue under the broader interpretation by reconciling free will with the social creed.

People are controlled because of their weakness

Conmen act on two types of people: (1) those unaware of the con and blindly follow the social creed, and (2) those who knowingly embrace the social creed due to a general laziness to perform introspection and chase after their desired ambitions. The first type of people lacks awareness of the situation and therefore is helpless against it. People in the second category, in contrast, lack comprehensive knowledge about themselves to make independent meaningful choices.

Controlling benefits some people

In effect, conmen act as shepherds for the people in the second category. For example, in making career choices, some people do not have specific aspirations, and some do not even want aspirations in the first place. They live day after day with no plans or goals of their own. They perform their jobs only to make a living. Once that need is satisfied, they do not possess the motivation to think devise and chase after a meaningful career or life. A more fortunately subgroup of this category may accidentally pursue pre-selected roads that actually fit their personalities and give meanings to their lives. For them, having someone else to set up a stage for them and provide them with a pre-assigned role may actually maximize their ability and enable them to succeed in their professions. Nevertheless, such luck is left purely to chance under for these people. In general, the social creed promotes social stability by providing paths for those people who lack current self knowledge and future expectations.

Think and fight, and we shall be free

Thus, only people in the first category possess the potential to challenge the social creed and acquire autonomy and free will. Unlike those who are too lazy to think for themselves, these people desire to make their own decisions but merely lack the initial guidance to lift themselves from the blindness that inflict them. Arnold quotes that “when someone attempts to describe how an institution works, he is labeled a ‘realist’ or a ‘cynic’ because he makes believers uncomfortable. Thus, to describe how the law . . . actually works is to appear attack these symbols.” Perhaps those who wish to break away from the total bondage of the con script should seek the guidance of these “cynics” who “make believers uncomfortable”. Once they realize the true nature of the con setup, they should reflect upon and develop their current self knowledge and future goals to develop a wholesome view of the relationship between the social creed and autonomous self. As mentioned above, most of us can never truly disregard the social creed due to our social nature and the innate desire to conform to the masses. Rather, when making choices, we must consider the backdrop of the social creed and realize its effects on our choices instead of blindly following it. Only by merging our free will with the demands of society, thus reconciling these two conflicting ends, can we achieve autonomy in the most realistic sense.


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r2 - 08 Jan 2010 - 22:28:50 - IanSullivan
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