The Illusion of freedom By Olaotan Fawehinmi



Several West slave-era movies depict tales of the black man’s travails to live with honour, dignity, and a ‘normal life.’ With Will Smith’s Emancipation being the latest, Peter (Will Smith), the Runner, tried to make his way out of the swamp in search of freedom, and it became expedient to run through and understand this thing called “freedom.”

Back in primary school, we earnestly looked forward to getting into secondary school to be “free” from the boring subjects imposed on us. We thought and were told we’d be free to choose the subjects we wanted when we got there, be it arts, commercials or sciences. We looked forward to the freedom to choose our paths and only do certain subjects based on a specific direction.

Secondary school came, and we realised that choosing a class arm wasn’t a function of our choice; it depended on performance. Halfway into secondary school, we couldn’t wait to get to a higher institution where we could have the freedom to skip classes and no one would question us. They told us lectures were optional and that there would be ample time for fun.

Again, we met another rude shock getting into university. There was no freedom to skip classes at will as we usually wrote attendance, and not attending at least 80 per cent throughout the semester meant one wouldn’t sit an examination. In fact, most continuous assessments were taken before, during or after lectures.


At the university, they told us to wait until we started working, and we will be in control of our lives. They told us to study hard and make good grades, to get a job quickly and earn more than enough to cater to all our needs. They said we would have time to chase love and fall into it. Brethren, we all know that starting work brought a different experience from the insinuations back in school.

Do we then wait till after retirement to enjoy this highly desired freedom? But then again, who retires and folds his arms, save one who will lean on others to feed or is ready to starve to death?

They told us to focus only on our books from childhood, adolescence to youthhood. The freedom to look for love should wait till we are adults. We became adults and found love, but they told us to abstain from intimacy until marriage, where there is the freedom to do anything, anytime, anywhere, and anyhow.

Marriage is here, do anything at will, and you will be hosting christenings every year. Under their father’s roof, they told ladies to hold on to the freedom that awaited them in their husbands’ houses. In her husband’s house, there are freedoms indeed.

When we were in the world, they told us to come to church, where there is freedom from the devil and his evil works. But then again, is there freedom in the church? We were slaves to sin, saved by grace, not by freedom.

To remove darkness from a room, illumination is needed.  Isn’t it? To end slavery, one has to introduce knowledge and not freedom. Emancipation is an illusion if it doesn’t start with the renewal of the mind, and a man will forever be enslaved by the lies he is told because of the truth he does not know.

Every stage of life has unique challenges, and transiting into a new beginning doesn’t bring freedom from the old one. It brings new levels of challenges that one can only overcome using the learning from the last stage.

Slavery is not the absence of freedom. It is the total acceptance of another man’s enforcement, excessive dependence on or devotion to another’s wants, mostly against one’s wish, and the subjection of one’s existence to the dictates of another.That means a man may not have chains around his neck, hands, and legs, yet he is enslaved.

Slavery is in the mind and so is ‘true freedom.’ Yet, absolute freedom is not a state of being in 100 per cent control of everything that happens to one. No! That state doesn’t exist. True freedom is a state of being above the limitations of the past, the challenges of the present and the aspirations of the future and it all begins and ends (technically) in the mind. True freedom is managing pressures effectively and controlling pleasures efficiently. 

  • Olaotan Fawehinmi is a media and marketing communications professional

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