Freedom of Choice vs. Making Good Choices
Living in an individualistic society means that we are a melting pot of different lifestyles from society at large to individual families. Guiding principles of one’s beliefs vary widely from person to person.
In a place like this, it is only natural for people to become divided over their lifestyle choices. There will be disagreements about how values are ranked.
The particular value that is involved in major socio-political disagreements is is the value of Freedom.
This was evident during the pandemic, when people were divided over the ranking of the values of “Safety” and “Freedom.” Should we all stay home and wear masks for the safety of the greater good, or should we all have the freedom to choose to put ourselves at risk in order to maintain a normal lifestyle?
There are some people who define “Freedom” as their top ranking priority. This is reflected in messages like “pro-choice,” and “my body, my choice.”
The meaning behind this message is pretty clear. It promotes tolerance of different cultural and lifestyle choices. In a country like the US, this is such an important message since we have so many different cultures blending together. We have to be accepting of each other in order to live in harmony.
It’s not a complex message. It’s actually almost too simple.
For example, those who aren’t “pro-choice” are generally identified as “pro-life.” Pro-choice wants everyone to have the choice to do what they want, and pro-life promotes a specific choice to make, rallying for opposing choices to be made unavailable.
The difference in these two arguments is that they both acknowledge free will, but only one of them identifies their guiding values.
Pro-Life says, we value life over your freedom to make a choice. Whether or not you agree with this guiding value, it is clear and true that the guiding value has been identified.
Guiding values are important because they are what tie all of your beliefs together. If all of your beliefs can’t be tied together by your guiding values, then you are functioning on inconsistent logic. These gaps in logic result in a fragile belief system that can easily be manipulated.
Pro-choice says, all we care about is that you are doing what makes you feel safe and happy. The choices one makes based off this premise are left to be selected by the individual.
This theme of the values being left blank for the individual to fill in carries through to different subjects.
For example, a lot of traditionally-frowned upon behaviors are often defended with “my body, my choice.”
“You shouldn’t sleep with so many strangers, it’s bad for your health.”
“Well, it’s my body and my choice.”
It’s my body, I have the freedom of choice to do what I want with it.
It’s a great message in that context, but the logic applied anywhere else looks like this:
“You shouldn’t starve yourself, it’s bad for your health.”
“Well it’s my body, my choice.”
The first conversation is acceptable. Why isn’t the second one?
If you were to have that conversation with someone struggling with an eating disorder, their defense of their freedom of choice wouldn’t stop you from trying to change their behavior (if you care about them). You’d probably say something along the lines of,
“well, yeah, it is your body and it is your choice, but the choice you’re making is bad for you.”
While one side rallies freedom of choice, the other side rallies, make good choices.
This is not to say that one side knows what the “good choice” is for everyone, but the point is that this side has identified their guiding values and their message about what makes a “good choice” is defined by said values.
The movement behind the promotion of freedom of choice is still clearly intolerant of certain choices. For example, the “choice” to be racist, homophobic, transphobic, islamophobic, fatphobic, sexist, ableist, xenophobic, or misogynistic are all intolerable choices.
That makes sense. But intolerance being justified does not negate its existence.
My question is this:
What are the guiding values of your beliefs?
Surely, they are not just the freedom of choice, because I just gave evidence of certain choices that are not acceptable to most people, and you can probably think of more choices that are not acceptable to you.
Most beliefs and perspectives acknowledge the baseline of free will and an individual’s right to choose, but what defines it as a specific viewpoint are the guiding values that determine which choice it is that they want to promote, as reflected by their guiding values.
Types of intolerance, such as being racist or sexist are usually a reflection of one’s guiding values. Although these are generally unacceptable ways to be, the guiding values are still definable.
For someone who believes that others should not be able to choose to be a Trump supporter, or choose to be pro-life, or to choose to be a bully — are you able to define the “good choices” that you are promoting?