Saturday, 20 September 2014

The Erosion of Agency


The most powerful thing in this world is choice. Everything is driven by it. The world may be filled with certain realities that cannot be changed or undone but how we act or react is down to our God-given agency. It is something that is a certain human right. We all have the right to choose and that can only be diminished by the level of freedom afforded to us.

Yet recent events have brought about notions that seem to undermine this. The tragic death of Robin Williams brought about different reactions. Mine was to feel sorry for the family and the loved one who they had just lost. A fairly standard reaction, I'd like to think. However, some decided to demonise the fact that Williams committed suicide, calling it a selfish act. Whether it was or not was irrelevant because it's actually no one's business.

What was relevant was the defence of his action. It was to suggest that his depression robbed him of the choice. He saw no other option available to him. Now, I don't know Robin Williams and I don't know the situation or his mindset at the time when he took his life, so I'm not about to judge his actions.

However, the argument is deeply unsettling. There are undoubtedly people in this world who are not capable of making a rationale choice and I think we all know where that line is. People with deep set dementia, for example. For some reason though, we have decided to push that line further to accommodate other scenarios. One that is included is depression. It's not the only one. Other mental conditions, such as anorexia, have been identified as ailments that rob someone of their choice. I believe this to be a dangerous rhetoric to have because if there is anything that would help someone overcome a lot of these conditions, it begins with choice.

Will it solve the whole problem? No. That choice will have to be followed up with various medically proven methods or medicine. It will require dedication and support. It will not be easy at step one or a million miles on but the one thing that will start the mountainous journey to a level of liberty starts with making the right choices. Getting help. Facing up to it. Finding strength from that inner well that I believe every human being has. The very well that has made people overcome insurmountable odds and achieve the seemingly impossible.

There will be those who will say that I don't understand. I haven't been through what these people have and I don't get it. To those people who think I am making an arrogant judgement about other people, I'd suggest you're hypocrites, because you don't know what I have gone through. Either way, suffering the experience is not the only way of coming to a qualified opinion. For example, I don't have to be a smoker to know it is a bad idea or that it is a hard thing to quit. This is not to belittle people's predicaments in any way. It is just that our agency is the highest of any human right and anything that erodes such a sacred thing should be shunned.

Agency is what sets us apart. It what defines us and makes us who we are. Sometimes, that means accepting a truth which is horrible and uncomfortable but life is not a bed of roses. It is a life of choices and that's the way it should stay.