I love this country, and for that reason, I must speak my mind about how we can improve our society. We must stop selling lies to unsuspecting people, and lead – by example – with new rigors of excellence we first and successfully apply to ourselves.
Freedom is a crucial precept of a vibrant society. The term, more often referred to as liberty in Constitutional scripture, is frequently mentioned. Its definition, however, left woefully undefined. When you ask twenty people what freedom is (I have), you will get twenty different answers, few of them coherent.
So, it is not hard to imagine that when a definition of freedom is fuzzy, to say the least, the implementation is bound to be even more discombobulated.
Is freedom the inability to speak up to your boss in fear of losing your health insurance (pre-Obama care)? Is freedom the inability of an immigrant worker on an H1B visa to disagree with their boss in fear of being sent back to their country of origin? Is freedom defined by the compliance of wearing a modern-day uniform, a formal shirt, and tie, to be taken seriously in business?
Is freedom the inability of the vast majority of little boys in the United States to decline their mass mutilation (circumcision) within hours of birth, while we hasten to condemn its female equivalent in other countries? Is freedom the inability for twenty-seven percent of kids to know where their next meal will come from? Is freedom the need for kids to learn about and emphasize the color of their skin in school, rather than, in the real spirit of freedom, for us all to consider this debilitating typecasting moot?
Is freedom the inability of parents to bring home-baked brownies and cookies to school? Is freedom the inability for a teacher to hug a child, for an accomplishment well done? Is freedom the inability to open a barbershop to simply cut hair, requiring a trade organization approved education and license?
Is freedom the expectation of office workers to spend at least eight hours per day, five days a week, in a box (referred to as a cubicle) with limited exposure to sunlight and less than half the size of a regular bedroom? Is freedom the need for both parents to work to support merely a decent education for their children? Is freedom a tax-payer funded public school system that simply cannot survive without weekly supplemental funding from parents?
Is freedom the inability for bakeries in our country to purchase the specific french flour, at a market-rate price, to bake real French baguettes. Is freedom forcing consumers to pay double the price of sugar other countries pay? Is freedom the inability for women to sunbathe topless on the beach if they so desire? Is freedom the inability to leave the Christmas lights hanging on my house because I believe festivities ought not to be constrained by religious holidays?
Clearly, our implementation of freedom should make us all think twice about suggesting other countries to follow suit, considering the stifling absolutisms of freedom we deem the cream of the crop.
But a similarly stark list of contentions to freedom can be made to measure the levels of freedom in other countries. I should know, as I grew up in arguably the most progressive of European countries (The Netherlands) until the mid-90s. And I could easily make other countries in Europe look like even bigger violators of freedom.
Hence, the contest of freedom is not won by the country that can produce the shortest list of contentions, but by the country whose implementation of freedom best supports the socioeconomic values, it holds in high regard.
Freedom is a relativity theory, in the eye of the beholder, and to each sovereignty its own. Comprised of a set of expectations of personal freedom paired with the protection of collective freedom that binds the ethos of a sovereign nation together.
Freedom is defined by the boundaries of its paradoxical rules. And without rules, there will be no freedom, for the hegemony of a vile-maxim of personal interests quickly leads to uncontrollable and unidentifiable anarchy.
Now, it is easy to brush off the above examples of unfreedom as not relevant to you. Having been in this country for so long, I tend to forget about them too.
But then I rush over to Harris Teeter to get a bag of my favorite coals, briquettes, for my ranch-kettle barbeque, which appears to eat those things alive, and I frown being charged north of $12 per bag, periodically on sale for around $7. My mind is quickly computing the upcharge, i.e., profit, on that normally priced bag to be north of $7. As $12 – $7 equals $5, plus the presumption of at least a $2 margin when discounted. In total, Harris Teeter, part of Kroger now, rakes in about a 50% profit margin on a regular household product I purchased that day. Not a bad a gig if you can get away with it.
As I walk to the cash register to pay, I notice a tortilla holder, made out of molded plastic, to keep my precious flour tortillas nice and warm — the price: around $11. I know for sure my friends in my favorite Mexican restaurant are not paying that price for a plastic tortilla server. Sure, I can order that holder from Amazon, but even then, do I know if the price is truly competitive or has Amazon struck a deal with holder manufacturers and selected the one they prefer to do business with? Don’t laugh; I know this kind of stuff happens behind the scenes, all the time.
The point I am making is that our freedom comes at a steep price. In this case, I would have to travel to ten stores to find the briquettes at its lowest price, only to find the other things I needed at higher prices — a good-old-fashioned ploy of switcharoo, with all roads leading to the slaughterhouse of unfreedom.
The integrity of competing online stores is also highly contestable, as price-fixing is officially illegal but omnipresent and, unfortunately, rarely enforced. Take Travelocity, only offering you flights to hubs it has a vested interest in promoting, unbeknownst to the unsuspecting general public their freedom to travel artificially restricted by yet another pretense of freedom. Examples abound.
So, in the words of Goethe:
None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free. — Goethe
The examples above demonstrate we, in the U.S., are no expert in establishing systems of freedom to determine the excellence we are entitled to enjoy. Instead, through ingenious ploys, we are all charged a premium for products and services that should be considered a uniform commodity, clear evidence of imposition of fake free-market systems. In the words of George Carlin: screwing us over every day of our lives.
Our freedom is a grand illusion of make-believe. And yet we expect so much from freedom. We expect renewal, mobility, choice, and purchasing power. Yet, we have gotten the opposite.
Only freedom subjugated to new guiding principles of capitalism can meet the expectation of what free-markets ought to produce. We must stop lying to ourselves if we want to maximize the freedoms responsible for the renewable excellence of humanity, and inspire the world with new rigors of our hard-earned excellence, first and foremost.