David Warren of Essays in Idleness eloquently says something that has been on my mind for a long time: that most of what we call ‘freedom’ is really a rejection of freedom.
We flatter ourselves, not only by the sins we commit, but by our modern conception of what sin is. We think that we are enacting “some momentous alternative to the good,” when really we are just being thick….
…And we, from pride, compliment ourselves when we have “gamed the system.” Having demeaned not the devil, but God, in our grey “agnosticism,” we praise the ruthless and successful, and sneer at all the humble “losers.”
Our whole conception of freedom has been reduced to the dumb idea that we are “free to choose” in our own – very short-term – interest. And we protest only obstructions to that paltry freedom, including the obstructions of Nature, which made us (to give only one example) male or female.
We are unacknowledged antinomians, and that is why we cannot understand that freedom from sin entails freedom from the law. For if we were free of sin, we could do as we pleased without transgression. But as we are not, we have to be restrained. The real choice is between humility and humiliation…
He concludes by pointing out that Rousseau got it exactly backwards: man is not “born free and is everywhere in chains,” but is born in chains and must achieve his freedom, which he does through humility and discipline.