Freedom of Choice

Nigel Cohen
3 min readMay 14, 2024

Securing one of the most fundamental pillars of democracy

Photo Art: G Nigel Cohen

“Freedom of Choice” is an artwork that explores the reality of the democratic ideal of freedom of choice.

Democratic Freedoms

The American Declaration of Independence revolves around the iconic phrase of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. The French Revolution against the autocratic French royalty was driven by the slogan “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité” (“Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood”) which continues as the shining goal of democracy.

Perhaps the most compelling aspect of Democracy is the freedom it allows people to choose what they think and how to live their lives. In an ideal world, freedom is limited only by boundaries to prevent one person from denying another person’s freedom.

Our current state of Capitalism has not fully matured. Most people’s freedom is undermined by a wide range of invisible barriers that restrict choice. The film Origin conveys the frightful impact of racism on people of colour. Its author, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Isabel Wilkerson, portrays the distress and fear of a child of colour who is refused entry to a whites-only swimming pool, having to watch his friends cool down and play whilst he roasts outside under the summer sun. She features the “untouchables”, a caste system in India where its members are treated with such contempt by the rest of society that they are not allowed to touch anyone else, drink from the same water fountain as anyone else and are allowed to work on only the most menial of tasks, having to clear sewage with their bare hands where necessary.

Social Barriers

More subtle barriers affect a far wider range of people. People in poverty have limited access to basic nutrition, adequate housing and properly paid work. The needs of people with physical and mental disabilities are frequently ignored. Even in the most affluent countries, women are paid less than men, under-represented in the world of health and subject to shockingly inadequate protection against sexual aggression.

Hidden barriers limit people’s access to rights and opportunities. In doing so, they limit the very freedoms that underpin our democracy. We can dismantle social barriers with the most simple of changes in the way we think about, treat and demean the rights and beliefs of others. Whilst freedoms in autocratic societies are far more severely limited, we each have the power to improve the quality of life for the majority of people living in democracies.

Artistic Representation

The photo art “Freedom of Choice” represents the restrictions on freedom in the way food options on the table are limited. A shadowy figure lurks behind the diners smashing plates, limiting their opportunities further.

We can only choose from the options available to us. A healthy democracy depends on finding ways to ensure opportunities are spread fairly throughout society.

Further Reading

If you enjoyed this article, you may enjoy my Animating Vision website at www.animating.vision. It brings to life a vision of the people we live with and the world we live in.

To see more Photo Art, check out the Photo Art gallery at www.animating.vision/art.

We can only choose from the options available to us. Healthy democracy depends on our finding ways to make sure that opportunities are spread fairly throughout society.

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