“There is a certain type of liberal fundamentalism, which says: ‘What human beings have been until quite recently is different from what they really want to be, which is to be free.’ But the idea that human beings are, by their very nature, free is one of the most harmful fictions that has ever been promoted anywhere.
“I don’t deny that freedom is a human impulse…otherwise we wouldn’t have the periods of freedom that we’ve had in human history. But it’s not the only human impulse, and it’s rarely the most powerful one. You can see that when life becomes unsettled, or when there are dangers, especially that people cannot understand. Then human beings tend to look at solutions to these problems that typically involve restricting freedoms.”
John Gray interviewed in New Humanist, March/April 2013
The posited “liberal fundamentalist” may be a straw man for Gray’s argument, but he’s right to highlight the flaw in the absolutist conception of freedom. In fact freedom is a photographic negative, a relative absence of constraints, defined differently for each individual at each separate moment of its life.