Freedom of the capitalist variety is a little overrated
Take away someone’s freedom and you suck the air out of their lungs — you blind their eyes, cut out their tongues, block their ears. The West likes to label itself the ‘free world’. In the free world, you can buy what you want, go where you want, do what you want, say what you want, and express your sexuality or spirituality how you want.
If the ‘free world’ is free then that feeling of freedom should be all-encompassing. You live it, breathe it, feel it— your freedom is a fact of life, a truism that can’t be denied. You certainly shouldn’t have to be reminded that you’re free.
Only we are reminded how lucky we are to be part of the free world, constantly. Those reminders are because freedom in the free world comes with a catch.
Freedom certainly isn’t that feeling in the morning when you have to prise yourself out of bed to go to work. Every sinew of your body may be aching to snooze a little longer, and you are more than free to do so, but time and again, you choose to get up because you know the consequences of not going to work.
If you don’t work, you don’t earn money, and if you don’t earn money, you lose your freedoms. Because without money, you are trapped, unable to live a free life. Sure, you can say what you want, but if you live in poverty you can’t do anything, and the stress and mental anguish of poverty sure aren’t fun.
Our freedoms come gift wrapped with an invisible ball and chain locked to your ankles. You may not see it, but that ball and chain weigh heavy in the winter mornings when you don’t want to get out of a warm bed.
Another questionable aspect of the free world is the idea you are free to choose the career and job you want. With some grit, determination and ambition, anyone can become successful in the free market. Only, this doesn’t play out in reality. Often, people who get the best jobs aren’t the most talented; they’re the best at interviewing, or they know the right person to land that ideal role.
Inequality of opportunity is why the rich tend to stay rich, and the poor tend to stay poor. If everyone had an even chance of ‘making it’, then generational inequality wouldn’t be a thing.
All too often, normal people with dreams of a certain career end up being faced with the reality of not being able to get an entry-level role in that industry or sector. They then take a job they may not want to do but have to do out of necessity. Once in a role, their careers become defined for them. That dream becomes a distant memory as the realities and comforts of life sink in.
Then there is how we’re mediated. We’re told the free press presents the objective, non-biased truth about news stories. The reality is that the free press is owned by wealthy billionaires. The media agencies and newspapers they own interpret the news to serve an underlying agenda. That agenda tends to reinforce how great it is to live in the free world.
Granted, you are free to read whatever you want, but usually, people don’t look for news stories, they consume the stories that are fed to them.
Social media feeds into this, it’s become a melting pot of misinformation, and it’s hard to know what to trust and what is garbage, but everyone is free to say what they want. Social media is a symbol of freedom in capitalism and look what that looks like. Everyone desperately vying for attention, doing all they can to get likes to validate their brittle self esteems.
Maybe freedom is defined by having the freedom to vote in elections every few years? But the major political parties tend to have far more in common than differences. They all tend to agree on how best to run the economy, for instance. And as the economy impacts every part of our lives voting for a different political party makes little difference. But that vote provides the illusion that government and the ideas and policies they implement are by the will of the people who chose to place them into government.
Multi-millionaires and billionaires are financially free. They could spend their days doing whatever they want, but they choose to continue working because capitalism makes everyone desire more.
That’s what makes capitalism pathological and why greed always rears it’s ugly head. No matter how much you make, you can always make more, and as soon as you stop making more, others will have more than you. So everyone remains locked to the treadmill, constantly fighting to increase their productivity, to maximise efficiencies to make more money, all so they can remain ahead of the pack.
If the idea we are free is a political weapon designed to present an appearance of freedom, then yeah, we’re all free. But if it’s meant in the truest sense of the word, we are all trapped by a construct that compels us to do not what we want to do each day, but what we have to do to survive.
That’s why we’re constantly reminded we live in the free world, because the ‘free world’ is an illusion. Behind the veil is a rat race where everyone is knawing at each other’s ankles to get a step ahead. When you look at it like that, freedom of the capitalist kind feels a little overrated.