GRE Issue Essay 228

“Choice is an illusion. In reality, our lives are controlled by the society in which we live.”

Our behavior and lifestyle are largely determined by the society we live in. A person has to abide by the norms laid down by the society in which he lives. Although one does have the liberty to make choices with respect to certain aspects of life, the society has a significant influence on the way we lead our lives. Therefore, it can be said that there are times when we can make choices without being influenced by the society, but when seen in the larger perspective, our lives are more or less controlled by the society we live in.

Early Man lived in groups in order to gain assistance while hunting for food and to protect him not only from other groups of men but also from wild animals. These groups slowly evolved into societies discriminated on the basis of religion or area of inhabitance. As time passed, the societies formed norms that were required to be followed by the people who lived in those societies. It has generally been seen that people who choose to revolt against the rules laid down by society are either ostracized by the society or forced to alienate themselves from the society. Therefore, people who wish to live in societies are forced to allow societies to control how they lead their lives.

Live-in relationships are disapproved by most conservative societies. However, the modern world today had led to a steady increase in the number of couples who do not consider it necessary to be married before they enter into a live-in relationship. These couples may belong to conservative societies too. The societies have failed in controlling how these couples choose to live their lives. Therefore, this is one aspect of life where people are increasingly feeling free to make their own choices. However, does this mean that these couples will be readily accepted by the society when they try to intermingle with other married couples? There are bound to be people who will raise eyebrows and there might be others who will not like to mix up with such couples for fear of their children picking up wrong traits. There are societies which still do not give recognition to children of unwed mothers. A woman may exercise her choice to give birth to a child outside wedlock, but will the society accept such a child. The child may be subjected to embarrassing moments by his peers and also by other people of the society as he grows up. It is this fear of social ostracism that forces people to let society take control of their lives.

Society has deemed it necessary to be social and cordial in your relations with your neighbors. Can you afford to go against these norms and listen to blaring music at midnight? Can you choose to have daily altercations with your neighbors over some flimsy issues? There will come a day when your neighbors will lodge a formal complaint against you which might lead to dire consequences. At the same time, does the society give you the liberty to take the law into your own hands? Irrespective of the harm someone has inflicted upon you, society requires you to take the assistance of the law rather than punishing the other person yourself. No matter how badly you might need money, society does not permit you to embezzle accounts, steal, forge or resort to other unlawful means for acquiring money.

There are a certain set of choices like your choice of career, place of residence, personal likes and dislikes, friend circles etc. which society permits you to make on your own. On the other hand, there are certain rules that are laid down by society which determine how the people who live in that particular society will lead their lives. These rules may either be unwritten rules or they may be endorsed as the law of the country where you reside. You will have to abide by these rules if you wish to be a part of that society. In view of the above, it is evident that our lives are largely controlled by the societies that we live in.