What? Why? Well, I’ve done several posts on freedom. The first was on empty freedom. Then degraded freedom followed by fake freedom and radical freedom. But why escape from freedom?
Actually the idea came up in those previous posts. In Economics and Freedom, our addiction to empty freedom is seen as an impediment to real freedom. What good is chanting “Don’t Fence Me In” if the landscape is a desert. You can’t thrive there with or without fences. It’s empty freedom, negative freedom. Real freedom, positive freedom, means having what you need to follow your dream. Societies that are obsessed with only the freedom to be free are rarely the ones that make sure you have what you need to really be free. Lemme outta here.
In Degraded Freedom, I lamented oppressive freedom. If you don’t have any bargaining power — like most of the world’s poor — sometimes the only options you have are to be screwed one way or be screwed another way. But nobody dictates their choices. They’re freeeeee!! Yay. It’s unfortunate that economic refugees escaping this kind of dark freedom don’t get much sympathy.
In the next post, Fake Freedom, the issue was manipulation in the name of freedom. In our culture of obsessive consumerism, a powerful marketing industry steeped in the techniques of psychological programming convinces the public that they desperately want what’s bring peddled to them — while simultaneously convincing them that this is the essence of freedom. Those who are less susceptible to the double whammy of consumerism and brainwashing will seek to escape such fake freedom as best they can.
Then came the post, Radical Freedom. This one came from the French sociologist, Jaques Ellul. He analyzed how technological society has hijacked most everything about the way we live and what we value — in the sense that we now think only in ways that suit us for serving the machine culture — freely and gladly accepting the choices that the algorithms lay out for us. This culture is so ubiquitous and all-consuming that Ellul would exhort us to escape belly of the beast and make a run for real freedom. That sentiment is experiencing a revival in the current desire on the part of some to escape the freedom of smarphone slavery.
Another issue touching on freedom and its discontents was raised in the post, Economics vs Community. Human beings were created to live in community, whether by revelation or by evolution. We identify with the needs of our communities much more than think we do in our individual-crazed culture. So what does it mean to be free when we’re balancing our individual needs with those of the community? It certainly doesn’t mean always getting what we want, because sometimes we’re quite happy to go along with others to share in some common benefit — such as the convenience of public roads — even though it means conforming to the rules of the group.
In that case, the freedom to get what we want trumps the freedom to get what I want — even though I don’t want to pay taxes for road maintenance. But if we live in a society that values only individual freedom to the extent that taxes aren’t allowed to pay for road construction, you may indeed want to walk through the mud to find a more amenable place to live.
So it turns out there are a whole lot of reasons we might want to escape freedom. Don’t fall for simplistic slogans.