Choice. Something I have been thinking about a lot, given not only the current political climate but also the whole reflect-on-yourself post-birthday climate. Yes, I am still stuck in transition mode, maybe because I have not received all my gifts yet or maybe because I like my birthdays too much to just let it go.
I really don’t want to talk politics – I talk politics way too much anyway and that in itself just makes me older and more miserable; there is really no need for any more. Especially somewhere that feels so… safe, I suppose, since everyone I have met through my blog and everyone I have interacted with here have always been extremely nice. Politics is ugly and dirty, and although necessary, I suppose, it does not really have any reason to invade MY safe spaces. My pretty places, if that does not sound too ridiculous.
But I cannot hide the initial reason I started to think about choice much more lately and that would be the…. I don’t even have a good word for it and I hardly ever run out of words. The political situation in Poland around the laws concerning women, yes, maybe we should put it like that. If you’re interested in knowing what has been happening, I am more than happy to explain in the comments or you can just google “Black Monday Poland”; I am pretty sure all major news outlets around the world have reported on the protests taking place.
Protests of people asking for a choice.
Yet choice is so much more than that. We make choices over and over again, good choices, bad choices, choices that will change our lives and choices that will just fade and be forgotten within the blink of an eye. To some extent every breath we take is a choice, because there is always this most fundamental, underlying choice involved – the choice of who we are and what we stand for and what we do with our lives. The right to our choices might be one of the most precious rights we have, as humans, alongside the right to live and enjoy the sunshine.
You can tell how much we value choice as a right because this is the one we take away first – the one we strip away from the undeserving. It is also the one we cling onto the most, even once it becomes meaningless, empty and overused; we try to choose even when no choice is left, even when all the decisions were already made on our behalf.
Wow, that got very pompous very quickly.
No surprise though – choice is a grand concept. It walks hand in hand with freedom and identity and all of these Big Ideas that I usually stay away from, as I have never developed much of a liking for dealing with absolutes. Keep it simple, stupid does not quite apply here.
I have been raised with this silly little conviction that my right to choose ends where someone else’s starts; so old-fashioned and inapplicable to the fast, selfish 21st century that it is almost embarrassing to admit to it. But the older and grumpier I get, the more I am glad that is the attitude I am sticking to, because, quite frankly, the amount of people who are uncomfortable with others’ choices when they do not concern them is insane.
I guess that is why I have always had a problem with some of the women who call themselves feminists. Sure, like with any ideology there are good and there are bad apples around; the bad apples just stink more. But it seems like there is an ideal cut out of a woman around, a form we should all fit in and if we choose not to, well, that makes us wrong.
For me, and I am sure for many others as well, the idea behind emancipation was simple – give us the right to choose who we want to be. But this has evolved through the years into some construct I don’t even understand anymore, full of do-s and don’t-s and having very little to do with any freedom whatsoever.
Every time I hear the awful Real women have curves, I cringe inside a bit, because on some plane I do not want to visit very often, this does encroach on my choice – my choice not to be curvy. Sure, genetics plays its part, but at the end of the day my choices are what make me who I am. That does not make me any less real. It makes me different.
It makes me sad more than anything that the people who are meant to be champions for choice are the ones restricting it. I guess it is always heart-breaking to see the ideals of the past collapsing under their own weight, as they always do; after all, the revolution needs to eat its own children. But I am sad anyway, sad that we used to stand for all women and now we only stand for women who align with the new lifestyles.
Sad that we forgot we have no right to choose for others.
You see, I don’t have to like all the choices people in my life make. I don’t have to approve of them. To some extent I do not have any right to approve of them – because that would imply my approval matters. It doesn’t. But even if I do find them despicable, I have my own right to choose not to have them in my life – a right to choose to dislike them, to ignore them, to avoid them. But if their decisions do not hurt me, I do not have a right to pressure them and mould them according to my will till they finally take a form that satisfies me.
They don’t have to do what I think is right. They don’t have to live how I want them to live. I can feel sad, devastated, disgusted, angry, frustrated, I can have any opinion I want to have, I can express this opinion (to an extent), but I cannot force them into taking my choice instead.
Contrary to popular opinion most people are not idiots. They know what is good for them. And even if they don’t, they have full right to hurt themselves if it so pleases them.
I know very well what it is like to watch someone spiral down a path that could not end well. Yes, it is important to try to help them – but it is even more important to realise that they have right to choose. As one of my favourite Polish songs go (rough translation):
We’ll fall but you need to agree
That out of the many roads of life
Everybody has a right to choose the wrong one
Our choice needs to be ours.
And yet all we seem to obsess about is steering other people in our way. There is no one good way. I thought through years of philosophy and science we finally reached that conclusion. There is no one solution. We are different. All the advertisement and positivity-movements seem to blab and blab about it day after day and yet we still do not understand it. We celebrate difference yet we expect it to follow in each other’s footstep; we want it to express the same values and the same mind-set. We want our differences to be, we can only accept our differences to exist, if they are just cosmetic – anything more than that and it is crossing the line.
So let us choose for ourselves. Give us a chance. We are all consenting adults after all. We are capable of taking upon ourselves the consequences of our own actions. The price is not yours to pay. It cannot be. It’s none of your business.
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