-- a commentary by Wayfinder Wishbringer
Some time ago I wrote a saying about freedom. It goes something like this:
True freedom must contain boundaries, for freedom without constraints invariably infringes upon the freedom of others.
Zauber put a term to this concept: the Freedom Paradox. I think that is an excellent term.
Simply stated the Freedom Paradox is this: as human beings we do have certain rights. Those rights include basic freedoms to think and act as we please-- to a degree. In order for freedom to be real, we must be willing to accept reasonable constraints.
However as with so many things associated with humankind as a whole, we often take the concept of "freedom" to an extreme. People propose that we have a right to do anything we want to do so long as it "doesn't harm anyone else".
The problem with this concept is that it takes for granted that we as individuals have the ability to consistently and accurately judge the consequences of our actions on others, or upon our environment. Therein lies the rub; our history as a species clearly indicates that as a society, we tend to grossly misunderstand the world around us and to make very bad decisions. The current state of the environment should be strong indication we really don't manage ourselves very well.
The idea that we should be able to do whatever we want has a correlation to something we are all acquainted with: two-year-olds. There is no one more self-centered, self-focused and individualistic than a two-year old. They are so narcissistic that we refer to that age as the terrible twos. Why? Because two year olds are concerned with one thing and one thing only: whatever they want. Hopefully the restrictions imposed upon us by our parents helps us through that stage so that we learn a degree of self-control, imposed by boundaries. Their guidance, their restriction of our desired freedoms, help us mature. We discover the freedoms we insist on when we were two weren't necessarily in our best interest, nor in the best interest of those around us.
However that is not the only time in our lives we go through that phase. We are all acquainted with teens. Most of us remember our teen years, how insufferable we were, and wonder how our parents had any patience with us at all. Why? Because teens, like two-year-olds, often go through a phase in which they think they know more than others and are interested only in one thing: whatever they want. Most of us go through that stage and thankfully, survive it. Hopefully we grow, become more mature and learn from those wiser than we. Eventually we become adults and wonder how we ever got through our teens without someone killing us. Unfortunately some can't make that claim; they paid the ultimate price for their insistence on "freedom" without limits. They did not understand the paradox of real freedom-- that it must be exercised with wise boundaries.
Unfortunately many people fail to learn the lessons of childhood and the teen years. They enter their adult years still believing they know more than anyone else and that, yes, they should be able to do whatever they want. It is a repetitive cycle that many never outgrow.
THE FREEDOM PARADOX
The point of the Freedom Paradox is this: true freedom means accepting limits on freedom. Those of us who survived our youth generally recognize this to be true. It means that freedom cannot be truly exercised and truly enjoyed without setting reasonable and wise boundaries. In order to have freedom one must be willing to curtail freedoms, to set logical limits.
Ideally this should be done at individual levels. But since we as individuals simply don't know everything, since we are not omniscient, we give up some of our individual freedoms to form greater freedoms. The labels we attach to this are civilization and society... an organization of individuals dedicated to a common goal. We empower that society to pass laws and enforce those laws. We set a police agency to enforce those restrictions on individuals who refuse to recognize the wisdom of them. As a society we do recognize that some limitations must be employed on individual freedoms to protect the safety of the whole. Those who refuse to recognize such limitations we refer to as criminals or sociopaths.
Despite this recognition of reality, there is still a tendency among society as a whole to insist on massive whims, desires and whatever they want... despite quite obvious and logical reasons against such. Our history is full of the failures of society: the Crusades, two world wars, the pollution of the earth. We could spend all day, next week, next year and the rest of our lives detailing and debating how even society fails to properly handle "freedom", but all of them come down to a simple concept:
Just because society wants to does not mean it should. Just because society thinks something is right does not make it so.
This of course is a problem, because if we cannot trust society to exercise proper wisdom, who do we trust? When we, as individuals or as a civilization, insist on the concept that we know enough, are wise enough and competent enough to do whatever we want... we suffer the danger of crossing the line from freedom into anarchy, from reasonable boundaries into no boundaries, from society into chaos. The result is in the breakdown of society, the failure of civilization, the descent into anarchy. Three steps forward, two steps back.
THE MICROCOSM OF ELF CLAN
A few of us were discussing why it is that Elf Clan is popular, why our lands are peaceful and harmonious, why people enjoy living on our G-rated, family-friendly lands when they could experience greater "freedoms" elsewhere. The answer is obvious: Because Elf Clan lands offer true freedom, not the illusion of freedom without constraints.
Yes, our group has "rules" and guidelines. Some of them are basic, some of them are specific. That very set of guidelines lets people know where they stand. We establish a set of freedoms along with restrictions. Within the safety-net of those restrictions our members know they have all the freedoms necessary to enjoy our lands and group. We recognize as a group that our harmony, our peacefulness, our limited drama are not by accident. As individuals we are willing to sacrifice some individual freedoms to ensure a far greater and more harmonious freedom. We call that freedom Elf Clan, and it is quite unique.
We see the results of unbridled freedom elsewhere. In truth griefers insist on such "freedoms" and like a two-year-old failing to get what they want, they engage in tantrums (griefing). In other areas we see folks who speak however they want, dress however they want and act however they want, without any regard for the individuals around them. Their excuse: this is an "adult" grid and we can do whatever we want. By insisting on their own freedoms, by ignoring the concepts of ethics or morality, they encroach upon the freedoms of others and "pollute" their environment with that attitude. People are aware of this. It is palpable. You can feel it when you travel elsewhere. It is stressful.
I don't consider that freedom; I consider that anarchy. Anarchy breeds chaos. Chaos breeds destructive attitudes, discontent, abuses, drama and the issues we see throughout virtual reality worlds. That's why people come to Elf Clan. That is why we will sometimes receive IMs or notecards from visitors telling us how beautiful and peaceful our lands are. That is why people make their homes with Elf Clan. People come to our lands to unwind and de-stress. They know that when they come to Elf Clan they will find the opposite of what they find elsewhere; they will find real freedom.
I by no means condone limitations or restrictions on real freedoms. People do have rights to live their lives as they wish, without someone persecuting or harassing them for doing so. But is it wise to go to the extreme opposite and condone "anything we want" as being freedom? Freedom without constraints invariably infringes on the freedom of others.
In order to have true freedom we must be willing to accept limitations. That is the Freedom Paradox. Those limitations and restrictions are for our safety, our harmony and to moderate those who do not seem to know how to moderate themselves. Boundaries help us protect ourselves from ourselves and further, serve to protect the very environment in which we live. That is what the Elf Clan Charter is about, what our group is about... and is why we enjoy real freedom.