Liberating the Will in and From Cluttered and Cloistered Space(s) – Kashmir Reader

Naseer Ahmad Bhat

Liberation is the basic and fundamental desire of human beings, but it, many a times remains, incarcerated or is shadowed by other basic desires of the human body. The moot point is:, how is free will related to liberation and what is its relation with human decision making?
Free will has its roots in religious and metaphysical beliefs. Even though it has metaphysical and religious wellsprings, free will is very fundamental to the survival and freedom of an individual in the era of liberal democracy. When we talk of freedom and open debates and discussions, we might actually be living in the times of anarchy and illiberal environment.
To explain and explore this phenomenon further I have extensively taken help from the Abraham Maslow’s theory of “Hierarchy of Needs”. This Theory was propounded in 1943 in his classical paper “A Theory of Human Motivation”. This theory of human motivation has got Five (5) Levels one above the other in a pyramid. Maslow argues that, when the lower order need is fulfilled then only does a man move to next level and the next level subsequently becomes his drive and desire for motivation. This continues till an individual achieves the highest level that is self-actualization. More specifically, the Levels of Needs Hierarchy Theory are: 1. Physiological Needs like Hunger, Thirst, Sex, Sleep and Salary. 2. Security or Safety needs like protection from Dangers, Threats, and Natural Calamities. 3. Social needs like Friends, Family, Friendship, etc. 4. Esteem needs or Ego needs like Recognition, Status, Importance, and Appreciation. 5. Self Actualization like Self fulfillment of one’s potential or creativity.
According to this Theory of Hierarchy, when a man reaches the stage of self actualization, he is no longer motivated by lower order needs or those basic needs remain subservient to esteem needs and self actualization.
Governments around the world, in most specific terms, work on the plank of governance. The governance plank addresses first three levels of Needs Hierarchy Theory. This is truer about developing countries where the needs of first three levels remain largely unfulfilled. Hence, an individual rising to 4th and 5th stage is rarely possible. If we nuance the argument further we find that the needs that come under the first three levels of Needs Hierarchy Theory are more prone to be hijacked by the Corporations, Governments and Private sector..
Given the state of world that we are living in the Information revolution has drastically altered and reduced our space of free will. We don’t have myriad choices to choose from. Actually monopolistic environment is detrimental to liberal thought. A consumer, customer, client or a citizen is indoctrinated with a particular data and information to choose from and the nature of that very information is decided by big MNCs or Large Private Social media platforms/ houses. Fake news, paid news or agenda based media houses hammer our heads with monologue and obscurantism. This drastically reduces our space of free will and free decision making and we are largely reduced to rubber stamp receivers that are only meant to be mere spectators and not free thinkers. This model can be applied to any sector of the nation state, be it our economy or political decision making. Few years back we had many telecom operators and as of now they are reduced to one or two, and who knows in coming years we might just be having one.
Political parties address our needs largely that are important for our survival and not our mental or personality growth. Lack of electricity, roads, employment and money do address our basic concerns but we don’t reach the esteem or self actualization where our free will is completely free and we are sole masters of our motivators.
In the era of Artificial Intelligence, the data houses will know your finger prints, heart rates and your temperature and can easily guess the needs of an individual. This data can be used by governments to know the behavior of citizens and can be easily leveraged by political parties to decide the election outcomes. This was more manifest when Google CEO was called in for questioning by the US government regarding the issues whether Google searches are biased against conservative view points and news sources; concerns over how Android devices collect data, etc.
Those individuals that have reached the levels of self esteem and self-actualization, like M.K Gandhi, Martin Luther king Jr. or Obama, it is very difficult for an AI Robots to make their decisions and hijack their free will.
For the solutions we have to look for a two pronged strategy at the individual level and at the societal levels. At the individual level, we have to educate the people about self esteem and self actualization and raise their bar in the needs hierarchy. This will require a lot off “Positive indoctrination”. Moral schooling and religious education can come in handy. From the societal perspective institution building is required that will support this process and we will be able to we will reduce the effects of hidden fascism that lurks in an society.

— The author is a scholar in Public Administration. He can be reached at: [email protected]