Freedom and Constraint: Self and Community

I have just read an interview in with Orsen Scott Card. As usual, Orsen’s thoughts provides rich material for further considerations. Of Ender Card says,

“But he can’t be the kind of person who explains himself to other people. That would weaken him.”

NOTE – O will represent Ender AND anyone who explains/justifies/defends them self

Does explaining/justifying/defending weaken the one who explains (O)? I think that this depends on what value is being weighted.

In the realm of opinion, a person can appear weak to others when they explain themselves. If the opinion of others is of concern, then this action of explaining directly weakens O. If O can have strength or weakness independent of the opinions of others, it could only be in the opinion of O. Even the opinion of ones deity is an external opinion, unless O believes they are united with God in some manner.

We all consider the opinion others. The value of this opinion is often given more weight than is healthy for O on the liberty/communal spectrum . In other words, concern to conform into a norms accepted by a group can limit the amount of liberty the souls needs for healthy functioning. It is a balance that need be weighed by each generation. Simone Weil wrote:

“One of the indispensable foods of the human soul is liberty. Liberty, taking the word in its concrete sense, consists in the ability to choose. We must understand by that, of course, a real possibility. Wherever men are living in community, rules imposed in the common interest must necessarily limit the possibilities of choice…. Rules should be sufficiently sensible and sufficiently straightforward so that any one who so desires and is blessed with average powers of application may be able to understand, on the one hand the useful ends they serve…. They should emanate from a source of authority which is not looked upon as strange or hostile, but loved…. They should be sufficiently stable… For, having incorporated the rules into their own being, the prohibited possibilities no longer present themselves to the mind, and have not to be rejected.” Simon Weil, Need for Roots: Prelude to a Declaration of Human Duties Towards Mankind

The healthy balance need be determined by O. Silence in explanation strengthens the position of O in society but does not add liberty. Manifest explanation can act to weaken O’s position in a group but aid to meet O’s  need for individuality and expression.

There there is also additional content of the explanation. Since we all think a bit different it is hard to have a brief conversation with someone without uncovering a difference of opinion. This can go beyond difference of opinion and find itself in the margins bracketing acceptable thought and behavior. In this case, remaining silent not act to strengthen O’s position in society but also protects O from stating an idea which places O in the margins

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt,”

We should act in accord with our needs. And our needs oscillate between liberty expressed in explanation and conformation to the expected norms. We have a felt need to conform to a group’s norms and we have a felt need for self expression.

Anyhow the interview, “Orson Scott Card Talks Ender’s Game in Rare Interview” is brief but beneficial for those familiar with the work of Orsen Scott Card.

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