Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I have no choice

"I have no choice!" How many times have you heard a friend proclaim this out of desperation? Choices are something we all make on a daily basis. You woke up late. Do you eat breakfast or not? Traffic is bad, which way should you take to work? Should you eat healthy or not? Most choices are relatively trivial in the grand scheme of things. In addition, there are a fair amount of choices we have absolutely no say in. Many of our most defining characteristics were decided without any input from us. Think about it.

Did you have any say in what you were named? I don't think so. What about where you were born, what elementary school you attended, who your family members are? These are key elements to our development as individuals, yet we had little to absolutely no control over them. Sure, if you have kids, you get to exercise control and name them, raise them, etc. Still, you can't control what the weather will be on the day of their birth, if they'll grow up to be successful, or even when they'll be born. We are powerless to the inevitability and uncertainty of events beyond our control. It is inevitable we will die, but it is uncertain when that will occur. Now, this shouldn't cause us to live in fear, but it should make us mindful of what limits us. Also, in other cultures and countries, some things that are choices in our own country are not. In some parts of the world marriages are still arranged. Something that many fundamentally believe should be a choice is decided by parents, tribal councils, or worse. As a result, two people that may be completely incompatible are forced together for better or, most likely, for worse. Imagine having little choice in your career, you know you'll be doing exactly what your father did and his father before him. It can be hard to find joy, fulfillment, or any measure of success when you feel like everything in your life has been forced.

Of course, this naturally leads to other questions that deal with the notion of choice. Should women be able to choose to abort their unborn children? With the father's permission, without? Along with that, is a fetus even a child? At what point should something be considered a child? These are heady questions without easy answers. They have divided our nation, and led people to assert ridiculous positions on both sides. The current question of strongest opinion, is being gay a choice? Should gay people be allowed to adopt children? If gay people choose to get married, should states recognize it? These and many other questions are currently debated across our nation and worldwide. Now, my goal is not to create debate about who is right or wrong, or pick sides, but simply to examine how influential choices are.

Ultimately, this is the beginning of a larger thought I've been having about privilege, rights, and fairness. Some questions I will be addressing in the following post are: do some people deserve special treatment or privilege? Why do we expect other people to follow laws, rules, etc, but then get angry when we're held to our own standards? Are we entitled to make our own choices? Do we have any fundamental rights as Americans, as humans? Does freewill mean that we can do whatever we want, within the law, or are there limits to our choices?

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