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May 21, 2012 | by  | in Features |
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10 Reasons You Are Not As Free As You Think


A basic freedom we think we have is freedom of movement. But, try moving off the Earth’s surface under your own power for more than a second—it’s impossible, for even the most athletic of you. Gravity ensures you’re trapped to whatever is directly beneath you, and it’s grip is pretty powerful. Only in space can you really gain true freedom of movement, but getting to space costs a shitload, so good luck with that.


While legislature certainly protects some of your freedoms, it curtails a whole bunch more. Want to opt out of paying tax/smoke a fat jay in the privacy of your own home/gay marry/euthanise/(choose your own criminal offence)? Under the eyes of the law, you’re out of luck. How’s that for freedom?

Peer pressure

It can be direct (“just do it, bro”) or indirect (social conventions). Despite what you might want to do, you’re probably swayed by what others want you to do, or what people might think of your actions. This is the reason why you did that thing that time—you know the one I mean, do you still have the scar/rash/ familial sense of shame?

Bounded rationality

This means your decisions are generally irrational—you’re not able to exercise free thought effectively, due to the limits imposed by your shitty mammalian brain. Instead, you base decisions on heuristics such as stereotypes, misplaced assumptions, cognitive consistency (disregarding what doesn’t fit your beliefs and over-emphasising what does), fitting in with the group, wishful thinking, et cetera. You’re free to think what you want, but you’re probably wrong—this writer included.

False Consciousness

Friedrich Engels was a Commie who sought to explain why Marx’s forecasted proletariat revolution had never eventuated. Basically, his theory was that people don’t realise what they’re missing. As a result, the status quo is perpetuated through disregarding the possibility of upward social mobility. In the words of Lenin, “Open your eyes to true freedom, sheeple!”

Tertiary study

Assignments, exams, classes, deadlines and debt. Sure, you have more freedom than you did at high school (products of Onslow College/Wellington High, please ignore), but if you really want freedom, try unemployment. If you’re taking a BA, just wait.

Your political viewpoint

Your views on politics mean you’ll feel less free about half of the time, depending on who’s in power. Example: “Isn’t that [left-wing/right-wing] government terrible? Being a [left- winger/right-winger] myself, I believe that [higher/lower taxes] would let us provide for the needs of [society as a whole/all individuals]. The best way to achieve freedom is [larger/smaller government], and a change of the current [left-wing/right-wing] administration.” Democracy is the system which is meant to ensure your political freedoms, yet the minority have to live by the choices of the majority. Majority rule means up to 49.9 per cent of you end up less free on election night.

You don’t have good enough lawyers

While money might not be able to buy you happiness (though that’s something I’d like investigate), it can buy you freedom. OJ Simpson managed to get off a double-murder charge AND write a book entitled If I Did It, detailing how he would have done it if he was in fact, cough, guilty. I’m going to go ahead and say that OJ purchased freedom on this one. The bottom line is, if you’re less fortunate financially chances are you won’t be as free, should you find the need to defend yourself in criminal proceedings after “one of those nights”.


Want to do something, but you’re worried about the repercussions? Fuck that! You have a biological excuse not to! (Note: police won’t buy this excuse, but you could try convincing them on
the merits of the YOLO philosophy). Luckily, if you’re under 25 the part of your brain which deals with consequences (the anterior cingulate cortex, oooh) hasn’t fully developed yet so your brain isn’t going to nag you too hard about what could happen. Once you hit 25, or thereabouts, bad luck—you’re now a slave to the reality of consequences. So make the most of your blissful ignorance while you still can!


Determinism is the idea that preceding events causally determine our world— every event is necessary, inevitable and unavoidable, because of what has gone before. This might go well (think Jamal winning 20 million rupees on Slumdog Millionaire) or not so well (think Jamal’s brother, or that beggar kid with no eyes). Ultimately, determinism suggests you don’t really have free will at all. Guts.

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