In everyday rhetoric, we hardly use the word “autonomy” with any conscious thought. Most of us have heard it in a political context where a group of minorities, for example, is asking for political self-determination. What we fail to realize is that it has much profound and deeper connotations. Philosophically, a person is autonomous if they are free from any internal as well as external bias. Hence, autonomy is not only the elimination of physical chains but also the prejudices that have clenched our minds over time. Now, the point is that are we really autonomous? Do we really take decisions based on reasoning and thought? It seems not. Our attitudes at large are based upon beliefs that are in turn inherited to us by our society, by our friends, and by our families.
A perfect manifestation is how we choose our leaders in elections. Our decisions are based on ties rather than performance, charisma rather than ideology and myths rather than facts. The tendency of our people is reflected through the political parties which play their games and manipulate people based on ethnicity, religion, nationalism or lineage. People vote for ABC candidate because of their XYZ ancestors. Those ancestors might have introduced certain beneficial socio-economic policies in their time, but the point is what the current candidate has to offer now. Iqbal painted it wonderfully as,
Similarly, people tend to adhere to certain parties no matter what the state institution rules against them. Be it the Panamagate scandal or any other accountability case, people tend to believe that their leaders are holy and are being victimized instead. The rest of the people who don’t have any dyed-in-the-wool inclinations are manipulated by the media houses which have nowadays taken the place of spin doctors.
Such conditions exhort us to sharpen our filters, critically analyze our beliefs, and rectify them, if necessary. One of the most effective ways is via education. “Education” does not refer to specialized fields but to the liberal arts. A liberal arts curriculum prepares one for their life. It introduces one to a variety of opposing view-points and thus, allows one to analyze the claims and forge one for himself.
This all boils down to the fact that if we want to proceed socially as a nation, we need to be autonomous. We all need to realize what we should do rather than just following the socially dictated norms. We need to exercise our special capability which, according to Aristotle, is the real purpose of life. The capability which differentiates between humans and animals: the gift of reason.
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