Friday, February 6, 2015

The American Slave State or The Delusion of Freedom

Recently I got into a discussion with my husband over ideology. The question was, does personal ideology - or the way we think about our personal lives - impact political or public ideology - our behavior in the public sphere?

I would argue yes. Always.

This was a problem for Christian because he finds libertarian thought very attractive. And it is attractive, especially to Americans. The idea of being free, of being able to choose every aspect of life is a nice dream. But if a person believes this should govern their personal choices, it will impact their political ones.

Having freedom to choose whether to breastfeed, smoke, carry firearms, eat meat, or hunt are not personal choices. They are also political ones. Breastfeeding, for example, has long term health and psychological benefits to both the mother and child. It necessarily costs taxpayers less if mothers breastfeed. This is not just a personal choice any more because it impacts society at large.

Smoking has been linked to any number of health ailments. The potential cost to taxpayers is enormous. Again, it is no longer a personal choice, but a public and therefore political one.

Carrying firearms is not a question of being able to defend one's self, or even the pleasure of going to the range. In the face of children being shot daily or the mass shootings so regularly committed, it is a question of public safety. It necessarily becomes a public issues, and therefore, highly politicized.

Even eating meat is a political choice. By eating meat raised in large farms where animals are in close quarters and extreme amounts of waste are produced and dumped, sometimes to the detriment of the local environment, this becomes a political issue. This is not to mention the treatment of the workers, which necessarily impacts their physical and psychological health as well as their family structure.

Hunting, of course is a political issue as well. It is not just personal, especially when certain hunters pay to shoot from helicopters as herds try frantically to escape the rain of bullets. This is not a question of personal freedom, but necessarily impacts the environment, and therefore impacts future generations.

These are the same kinds of questions that come into play over the vaccine debate. It is quite clear the personal choice of a few have life and death consequences for the many...therefore the personal choice is not personal at all.

There is no such thing as as a strictly personal choice. All choices have far reaching impacts. All choices impact the communities in which we live. For this reason, extreme freedom is extremely dangerous.

It is often said that freedom is the cornerstone of American society. Freedom of expression and freedom of religion are often cited as benefits of living in the US. And they are. They are wonderful gifts that French and English philosophers inspired American leaders to codify into law. And I am grateful for that every day. However these are not personal freedoms. These are political ones. To think for one second that our freedom to be Baptist or Buddhist is a personal choice is delusional. The moralities associated with such a choice are inherently political - inherently impacting public life.

If this is true, then we cannot allow extreme freedom. We must control the amount of freedom people have, not as punishment  or in an effort to prevent people from being free, but to protect the rights of the weak and marginalized in our society. In short, we must limit the extreme freedom of the few in order to protect the freedom of all. These who benefit from such limitations are the victims of extreme freedom. These are the voices who are silenced by moneyed interests. These are the people who are shot, who get cancer, who suffer environmental degradation because some are given the extreme freedom to.

A society cannot be healthy when the rights of some necessarily hurt others. A country cannot hope to successfully continue when its foundation requires the subjugation of some to allow for the freedom of a few. This is not freedom. This is enslavement of the many by the few.

Legislating extreme freedom to, therefore, is a legitimation of the slave state. It is perpetuating the consolidation of power and freedom in the hands of a select few privileged members.

How does this happen? By those select privileged members spreading lies and spinning half truths to the masses. By letting us think we have freedom, by successfully deluding the many into believing we all have freedom to, we continue to allow our enslavement. We are, in short, handing our power over to our masters.

This is not a question of small or big government. This is not a question of assuring everyone has "personal" freedoms. This is a question of everyone getting their basic humanity respected and protected. This is a question of assuring that everyone has their basic needs met. This is a question of life and death.

So I remind you, the personal is by its nature political. I remind you, extreme freedom is no freedom at all. The rights of a few are not worth more than the rights of the many.

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