Sometimes I wonder how much we are in control of our own actions, and our own fate.
Fate is something I’ve always wondered about. Are we born to be certain people? Are we born to do certain things?
In short, I’ve never really believed in fate. I don’t like the idea that I’m not in control of my own destiny or my actions. Fate is something I’ve never wanted to believe in, but over the years I’ve come to accept that it does, to at least some extent exist.
I know you’re probably thinking, if we are fated to do certain things and become certain people. What is the point of free will? Or indeed, is there such a thing as free will? And more importantly to me, is there such a thing as free thought?
I guess we all have free will, but for some of us it is freer (freer? Is that a word) than others. Is that fair? No.
When I was a child, I think I must’ve been about 12 years old. I was asked to write letters to a pen pal as part of a school project. He was a African boy slightly younger than I was at the time. We wrote to each other for almost a year, until I stopped receiving letters from him. Weeks and then months went by until I finally received a letter from another boy in his village informing me that he had become ill and passed away.
I remember feeling pretty sad about it. And my teacher explained that it was a common occurrence in Africa, where young children die all the time, ‘’They are not as lucky as you and I’’ she said before allocating me another pen pal...I didn’t write to this one. Was he fated to die? I don’t know.
Also when I was a child, my uncle had committed suicide. On the morning that he died, he had walked me to visit my cousins. As we we’re walking, we came across a church. Not a catholic church, but a church building where Christian groups would meet to pray. My uncle turned to me and asked if I wanted to go inside. I said no, I hated going to church.
That evening on returning home, my uncle was dead. Was he fated to die? Had I gone to church with him, would he not have died? I don’t know.
Today I look at the person I am, an over analytical, cynical and slightly apathetic graduate. Was I fated to become this man?
Without going into the academic side of things, I want to mention the age old debate I was introduced to in my last year of uni, known as structure VS agency which might explain things.
In layman's terms, agency refers to us as individuals in society, and to what extent we are capable of making our own choices.
And structures, are the things in society that can limit or steer our choices in certain directions.
Whether we like to admit it or not, structures do influence our choices. Whether it be schools, the church, the state (government),work etc. They all shape our thinking, and inevitably the choices we make.
I was once asked why I chose to go to the university I did. My answer was ‘’I wanted to study politics’’... I lied.
The correct answer should have been, ‘’I chose to study politics’’. In fact I had wanted to study sciences, however being sceptical at college (for you Americans, we go to college before university here, they are two separate things). Anywho, having been sceptical about college, I enrolled too late, to a hellhole of a college where I was offered the chance to study business, law, politics, and history.
I accepted the offer, intending to ride out the free tuition for a year or two until I figured out what to do.
Before I knew it, I had completed my exams and was at university studying politics, despite my wishes... but due to my choices nonetheless. In fact I was still rather confused during my first year, to the point where I decided to study everything from criminal law, criminology, psychology, history and English...but that’s beside the point.
Was I fated to study politics? I don’t know. But despite my discontent, I was afforded opportunities that I’m grateful for.
I think back to my African pen pal. He once told me in a letter he wanted to be a doctor. Would his fate have allowed him to do so if he had not died? I doubt it. No matter what his choices, the poor structures in his village...i.e. his family, the government and the lack of schools would not have allowed him to do so.
My uncle was a tailor. Had he always wanted to be a tailor? I doubt it. But again his structures would not allow him to have had much choice. Is this fate? Fate sucks ass.
And you and I? How much free will do we have in what we choose to become?
The government limits our actions. In the UK we are in a recession, jobs are short. To the point where people would pretty much do anything as long as it pays the bills.
The government introduced promising vocational courses for people who did not go into further education. Steering them in this direction ‘’BUILD YOUR SKILLS’’ they said. Though now we have learned these courses are practically worthless.
The music, movies, clothes, and cars we choose to buy are a result of advertising. Did I choose to take out that sky subscription (Cable TV to you Americans) the other day because I wanted to? Or was I convinced that I would be sucked into a world of sports and American TV dramas that would allow me to escape the stresses of modern life and sit back on a coach with a large pizza, because of the promising adverts I saw on TV.
I don’t know.
I guess I’ve always thought of myself a free thinker. Now I know that nothing about free thought is free.
We are taught from school, the media, the government etc...how to think, and in many instances what to think. And whether we like it or not, it has a bearing on our so called ‘’fate’’.
I don’t like it. And next time that guy at the gym asks if I’ve had the government recommended 5 fruit and vegetable today?...
I’m going to tell him to fuck off. (Not Really)