It’s something we all have. But not in equal measure. How much freedom we have depends on how much power we have, which is determined by how much material wealth we have.
Literally material wealth means a poor Indian might use his gas stove to cook for his family. Or that a million/billionaire might use his yacht to cruise the Greek islands. Monetary wealth (a system incidentally established by the already powerful to further consolidate their power over the masses) means a Sub-Saharan, black African might buy a loaf of bread. Or that a million/billionaire might feed his closest friends and/or people whose arses he wishes to climb into, at a 5-star restaurant and then leave a generous (yet insignificant (to him but not the staff)) tip.
Freedom is about choice. But in the absence of wealth is a dearth of choice. Which is why the term “free world” – which is usually applied to mostly white, mostly democratic and mostly Christian, yet religiously tolerant, nations – is such a misnomer. There are people, some of whom are employed, living in poverty within the free world. And even among the middle class very little wealth cum power cum freedom is weilded in comparison to the many millionaires, and less common billionaires – who inhabit not only countries labeled as part of the free world. So, put simply, you have choices. But that guy who just drove past in a new Mercedes; he has more choices. Many more.
I was watching one of those ads for easy, limited and high interest loans at the doctor’s (which I’ll come back to) while writing this. You know: Nimble and Cash Converters and Wallet Wizard, etc. It occurred to me that here was something that shouldn’t be legal to advertise, let alone to actually engage in as a business. But then I realised it was legal because the people engaging in it were wealthy, and the government would be happy with resultant tax revenue – with little regard for the poor, powerless souls from which the money had bled in the form of interest-saddled repayments. If someone needs a few hundred or thousand dollars within a day, then something’s either not right or they don’t really need the money. Either way, the lender is shamelessly profiteering from someone who’s desperate, dumbarse, or both. The lender, being more wealthy, has the power to exploit the less wealthy debtor – to the increasing detriment of the latter and benefit to the former.
The doctor visit itself provided a useful example of power and, more specifically, a lack thereof. I was there on a Sunday afternoon because I had a cold (it actually turned out to be the flu, which is really just like comparing apples with bigger apples), which I knew required little more than rest and maybe a little non-prescription medication – neither of which required the services of a doctor. But I wasn’t there for treatment. I was there for a piece of paper. When a CEO, president or owner of a large company gets sick, they don’t have to convince their employees that they’re sick so they can stay home and rest. They just do. But when an employee gets sick they have to go to the doctor for a certificate to prove as much. A small but apt example of how, even during times of ill-health, a company can remain suspicious, contemptuous and, possibly worst of all, bureaucratic toward its employees.
Freedom as defined in the first entry of the above image is “the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint”. I have never felt this way. Or, at least, not to the degree in which I feel comfortable. I work, and earn money. But I like so many others am a slave, who can choose his owner but not to not be owned unless he wants to live in poverty. And when I spend the pittance my employer (not just my current, but all my former and future employers) gives me so I’m forced to return every day, I remain a slave. I’ve never paid rent to anyone who isn’t far wealthier than me. And when I buy anything I know the sum spent will be, as well as rationed out to thousands of wage slaves like myself, finding its vast bulk landing in the hands of one, or very few, very rich people.
I have freedom. But not much. Because, like everything on this planet, freedom in its truer forms as money and power is finite – and wielded in obscenely excessive amounts by obscenely (and quite simply undemocratic to the point of fascistically) few people. The only solution is revolution. It can’t come soon enough.