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Disregard Throughout history, one question has plagued the thoughts of mankind: should individuals be granted absolute freedom, or do they need structure and rules for their own good? Rudolph Giuliani, an American politician, once said, “Freedom is not a concept in which people can do anything they want, be anything they can be. Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you can do and how you can do it” (Thinkexist.com). While some people would argue for either absolute control or complete freedom, neither extreme is the better choice. Instead, a balance between the two must be achieved that has a certain “controlled freedom,” that is, one in which individuals maintain certain rights while still having guidelines placed on them that will ensure both their safety and the safety of others. Absolute control over the individual can never work because it limits certain rights that he is entitled to and discourages originality and new discoveries. For example, fate and destiny cannot be thought of as being set in stone because it does not allow for individuals to have any choice in what happens to them. Guildenstern points this fact out when he states that “if we happened, just happened to discover, or even suspect, that our spontaneity was part of their order, we’d know we were lost” (Stoppard, 60). If everything humans did was preordained to happen, there would be no point in living.
Hendricks 2 There would be no freedom to make the decisions for oneself, and there would be no point in trying to change anything because whatever happens was supposed to happen regardless of the desires of the individual. This kind of thinking renders the desire to change one’s current situation pointless because there is no point in fighting a system that has absolute power over who and what the individual is. Another example of how absolute control is a harmful idea is in child development. Psychologists have classified parents into three different categories: authoritative, authoritarian, and permissive. Authoritarian parents are the type of parents that “set household rules and expect their children to follow these rules, no questions asked” (Types of Parenting Styles). This type of parenting can be debilitating for developing children because they are punished for every little thing they do wrong, never developing any sort of self-esteem or independence. They do not grow up to be successful members of society and instead are subservient to dominant personalities that are able to take advantage of their vulnerability. Instead of allowing the children to make their own choices and deal with the consequences that follow, the parents make the decisions and then punish the child if the outcome is not desirable. On the other hand, having absolute freedom threatens society as a whole because it allows individuals to do whatever they want, regardless of the consequences. For example, having the ability to completely decide one’s fate would simply put too much pressure on the individual in addition to raising the issue of what would happen when two different individuals’ fates conflicted with each other. If the individual is granted the power to decide his future, then every single choice that he makes would have to be carefully weighed and considered. He would be driven mad by the knowledge that every
Hendricks 3 little decision that he makes could have unintended consequences that might not be the best for society. Guildenstern points this out when he says that “to be taken in hand and led, like being a child again, even without the innocence, a child—it’s like being given a prize an extra slice of childhood…” (Stoppard, 40). Sometimes it is simply easier to be told what to do without having to think about the ramifications of one’s actions; without having to consider every other alternative that could be chosen. Similarly, what happens when two individuals want something that only one of them can possess or achieve? They would never be able to decide who is entitled to achieve that goal because both would feel that they are the best choice. Society has to be able to sort this out and say who deserves something and who does not, even if it is not necessarily the fairest outcome. Continuing with the child development example, psychologists have defined permissive parents as being “overly indulgent of their children. They rarely discipline their children and also rarely engage them in arguments and confrontations. They are very tolerant of their children and have set low expectations on their children's maturity, self-control and self-regulation” (Types of Parenting Styles). This type of parenting is detrimental to children because they never develop a sense of right or wrong. They become spoiled and believe that they should get whatever they want. They do not develop respect for the laws that society places on them because they are not exposed to rules and guidelines as children that are necessary for their successful integration into society. Instead, they are constantly at odds with the law and authority figures that would seek to input some means of controlling their selfish behavior. Rather than opting to either chain down individuals, completely disregarding their freedoms, or to give them complete control to do whatever they want to do, a harmony
Hendricks 4 must be reached between the two. It must give individuals an even amount of both freedom and structure that will allow them to make some decisions for themselves while still maintaining control over certain decisions they could not make for themselves. For example, individuals should be able to have some freedom to decide their own fate while remaining relatively close to their previous position. Any substantial deviation from this path would throw society into chaos, resulting in a complete overturn of an accepted system based on the whim of one individual. Returning to the child development example, the authoritative style of parenting is defined as one in which the parents “set ground rules and expect these rules to be followed…When they do enforce punishments, these punishments are often enforced to help the children do better rather than just for punitive purposes” (Types of Parenting Styles). This type of parenting is a mix of permissive and authoritarian parenting. It allows the children certain freedoms to do what they want, but still maintains certain rules that they need to follow for their own good. This method of parenting results in children that have a high self-esteem and are independent enough to make the socially acceptable decisions. The issue of absolute control vs. absolute freedom is a common theme that has pervaded many topics of discussion throughout history. Whether it is the individual deciding his own fate, or exactly how much discipline is needed to raise children successfully, structure vs. freedom is a pervasive theme that will continue to be present in major issues with neither being the best possible choice. In fact, having only one or the other would be absurd. Rather, an equilibrium must be reached that balances the two extremes and ensures both the collective safety of the whole while still protecting the necessary individual freedoms that every person possesses.
Hendricks 5 Works Cited "Different Types of Parenting Styles - Troubled Teens." Troubled Teens, Therapeutic Boarding Schools, Teen Program, Parenting. Web. 03 Dec. 2011. "Rudolph W. Giuliani Quotes." ThinkExist.com. Web. 03 Dec. 2011.