Free Will(y)*

Posted by jlubans on November 21, 2022

Caption: Homer’s Donut: Chosen or Destined?

A sad tale, for Thanksgiving week, about a failed friendship, all because of free will.
Free will ended your friendship?
Yes, my excommunication resulted from a freshman dorm-type discussion about free will between my friend (a professed socialist) and me (not a socialist).
Over beer (!), our normally friendly banter and camaraderie had deteriorated into a shouting match.
For the socialist, free will is anathema or so it seems. I mean how can one become subordinate to the state if you have free will?
Remember, the socialist state is superior to the individual, hence the state takes priority.
Never a particularly reflective person, I tossed off our overheated disagreement as regrettably stupid behavior.
My friend did not, as it became apparent several months later.
While on a trip to Poland, I took a photo
of a Frey Wille store and sent it to him with a punning joke.
You know, Free Willy (the movie), Frey Wille, a jewelry store, get it?
My joke fell flat.
My friend said, tersely, he did not get the joke.
Not long after, our friendship formally ended, kind of like the Latvian proverb, paraphrased “Once you've cut the bread (or donut), you cannot put it together again".
I guess my conviction there’s free will, crossed an invisible line. I was now one of the deplorables and as such unworthy of his or any socialist’s friendship.
Discussion closed.
Apart from any individual’s belief to the contrary, socialism cannot tolerate the idea of people having choice or individual volition. Remember, the individual is subordinate; others – believe me, they are there in the wings waiting their turn - will make decisions for us.
In socialism, even Homer’s relationship with donuts is pre-ordained; he has no choice, other than choosing between cinnamon or bacon or jelly.
We are all victims of fate or fortune.
In Soviet times, the bosses took away the individual’s right to choose. Do as we say, or else.
It’s still going on in Russia. Commenting on Britney Griner’s (the basketball player) labor camp imprisonment, a former inmate offers this advice,
"It's important to not forget yourself and not lose your freedom. Because this is what the system teaches you. They teach you how to forget your right to choose."
Well then, what does this have to do with the workplace?
The more choice the competent individual has, the better job she/he will do.
That’s been an enduring tenet of my management philosophy. And, regardless of working in a hierarchical or autocratic workplace, that’s how I’ve done my job, often with highly positive results.
Naturally, most managers want to be needed. Letting go, for many managers, is a sign of weakness. Some even claim that letting go will put them out of a job; as if leadership exists solely to supervise.
Back in 1958, the philosopher Isaiah Berlin claimed there were two kinds of liberty: negative and positive. Negative was freedom from obstacles and interference by others, in brief, freedom from control.
Positive freedom pertains to controlling your own destiny and shaping your life, freedom to control oneself.
Is not free will implicit in positive freedom?
In this current workplace milieu of quiet quitting, quiet firing and quiet restraint allowing competent/productive workers more positive freedom might be one way to enlarge upon a mutually beneficial relationship between boss and worker, between the personal and the professional.

*The movie, Free Willy, is about the relationship between a young boy and a captive killer whale, both separated from their natural families. The boy helps Willy, the whale, escape his captivity. It touches on free will, especially the boy’s choosing to help Willy break free. And, of course, Willy, wants nothing but to be free. Like most of us.

My book, Fables for Leaders, many of which exemplify free will, is available. Click on the image and order up!

And, don’t forget Lubans' book on democratic workplaces, Leading from the Middle
© Copyright text by John Lubans 2022

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