In 1995 „Dangerous minds” movie, starring Michelle Pfeiffer, the actress playing teacher Louanne Johnson has the following dialogue with her students:
“- Lady, why are you playin’ this game? We don’t have a choice.
– You don’t have a choice? You don’t have a choice on whether or not you’re here?
– No. lf we leave, we don’t get to graduate. lf we stay, we gotta put up with you.
– Well, that’s a choice, isn’t it? You have a choice. You either don’t graduate or you have to put up with me. lt may not be a choice you like, but it is a choice.
– Man, you don’t understand nothing. I mean, you don’t come from where we live. You-You’re not bussed here.
– Do you have a choice to get on that bus?
– Man, you come and live in my neighborhood for one week and then you tell me if you got a choice.
– There are a lot of people who live in your neighborhood who choose not to get on that bus. What do they choose to do?They choose to go out and sell drugs. They choose to go out and kill people. They choose to do a lot of other things. But they choose not to get on that bus.”
And this dialogue reminded me of the old theme of “choice” that I used to talk about with my colleagues back in the 12th grade, when I loved philosophy in general and talking about everything in particular:)
So, the question is: do you have a choice or not?
Can you choose where to be born? Not from what I know.
Can you choose when to be born? That either.
Can you choose in which family you are born? Not yet, at least. When you come into this world your mind is a blank sheet of paper, a “tabula rasa”. Your heart doesn’t know yet what “discrimination”, “hate” or “regret” mean. Your entire becoming seems to be in the hands of external factors. But you have a genetic inheritance and you have a personality, both of them having to adjust to world’s rules and conditions … which means you will have a lot of choices to do.
Your childhood is the period in which you start to make small choices, like putting or not your hand on a hot stove. That would imply that your parents or care takers, if you don’t have parents, have told you what happens if you do this gesture: you get burned. Beside explaining this to you, they have also supervised you, for some time, so you don’t put your hand on the hot stove, no matter how fascinating it may seem to you. So I would say that little by little you get to choose what to do and what not to do. What you see around you, what others teach you, what other do, may serve at some point as a reference in making your choices, so, again, you do have a choice, this time from several alternatives.
As a teenager, your character continues to be built by the choices you make. One choice can lead you to a dead-end road, while other can get you to an accomplished life. But can you choose? Do you have the ability to choose, as a teen ager? Of course, you might say, I rely on my judgment and sometimes on what grownups around me – such as my parents, indicate as being the best path for me and I choose.
Later you rely on previous experience to help you choose in new situations, as long as there is a similarity with something that has already happened to you.
And it seems that you do have a choice and that you know HOW to choose.
Yet, your ability to choose, the right to choose, the freedom to choose, the obligation to choose, all these are possible IF some conditions are met.
Examples of conditions are:
you are born in a family, not as an abandoned baby that will be thrown away from foster home to foster home;
you have parents that will want and know how to take care of you;
you will have parents that will teach you and will love you;
you will grow inside a home and not on the streets,
and the examples can continue.
So, how does the existence of “choice” changes when one or more of the conditions above are not met at all or in the needed dose for a choice to be possible?
A child born and raised in a family of drug addicts, does he has a choice? How about a family with physical abuse? Or sexual one?
Well, yeah, you might be tempted to say, he will grow up and leave that house. Are you sure he is going to make it until is old enough to leave? Leave where? Live with what?
You might say that somebody will help him. So at some point that kid will have a little bit of luck and somebody will help him escape that environment. Statistically, I am sure there are a lot of kids that made it “out” through the help of some saviors. What about the rest? The exceptions? What choices do they have, if luck doesn’t bring them a savior? To kill themselves, to kill their oppressors? Of course, these are choices. So, the mighty choice still exists …
(to be continued)