Today is Memorial Day and I am bombarded with Facebook posts that are asking me to take the time to honor the men and women who have served our country and not to passively and disingenuously dismiss Monday as being only instrumental in allowing for a three-day weekend and an excuse to drink in excess with social acceptance. I understand the sentiment of this notion, as we should not take for granted the origin and sentiment behind this holiday, or any holiday, at that matter- but, if we take notice of the sacrifice made by soldiers, then it would be respectful to take notice what they sacrificed for.
It could be argued that our soldiers have fought hard battles in pursuance of defending our freedom. But, this argument makes a bold assumption- this is the assumption that we had freedom to begin with. Freedom, in abstraction, could be seen as an extension of free will and people could equate being able to control themselves, and their actions as freedom. I am free to write this essay and I am free to think these thoughts. I am free to choose to drink coffee over tea and I am free to choose the religion I want. These statements all may be true, but does this define my freedom- do I have freedom? In actu, it may seem, that every person is autonomous and every person may act from their autonomy and therefore, everybody has freedom of choice. An enslaved person may freely choose to be enslaved or may freely choose to flee, and, conversely, their captor may freely choose to enslave or may freely choose to persecute.
Being free of mind does not imply you have freedom, as an enslaved person may freely choose their actions, but the explicit threat of persecution infringes their freedom- hence, they do not have freedom. But, if the slave owner willed themselves to denounce slavery and freed their slaves, then the slaves may choose to reside enslaved or flee- for this would be freedom. Freedom is having the capacity to autonomously decide how to act without infringement or inhibition while in pursuance of said autonomous act. I would argue that this implies that freedom is not dependent on acting out of your own free will, but it is dependent that you are not enslaved by another agent’s autonomy.
So, here in the United States, are we free of enslavement? May we choose as we wish, without persecution? If I owned a restaurant and called it Freedom Dinning and boasted that the customer had the freedom to choose whatever they wish and we will not inhibit this freedom, in any way, then it would seem contradictory if we had a menu? If a teacher told you to answer the question, “What makes you happy?” with the freedom to answer any way we like, then it would be contradictory to have the answer be multiple choice? Do we have the freedom to choose our leaders, or is this freedom inhibited in some way?
When we vote for our leaders, we do not vote from a large array of options, or ideas, but rather a small selection of choices. We are choosing option A or option B and sometimes, option C or D. But, in reality, we are slaves to these limited options. You could say that anybody may freely choose to write in another name and vote for any candidate they feel is right, but as is the case of an enslaved person- you can choose to do as you wish But, what does it matter if the efficacy of your freedom being wholly realized is near nothing? Does the persecution of a slave for trying to will their freedom run parallel to the failed actualization of the will to transcend the dominant ideology? Does this mean that we are enslaved by our politicians- do they inhibit our autonomy? Do they persecute us for acting freely?
In the example of enslavement, if a slave tries to flee, is caught and is then brought back to enslavement- then the persecution is not the act of punishment, but the act of enslavement itself. The punishment for trying to break your shackles is, simply, more shackles. Stealing a person’s autonomy is the most heinous possible punishment already.
You may argue that it would be impractical for everybody to freely choose as they wish, as then we could end up with 250 million votes and a 250 million way tie- as everybody voted for themselves. Narrowing down the selection is practical and not every choice leads to enslavement. This may be true, but that would depend on how the selection was narrowed. How did these people get on the ballot? If they only became our options because they were both A) the candidate willing to enslave themselves to the interests of their wealthy campaign funders and B) willing and able to extend this enslavement to the people they were elected to govern over, then perhaps there is no freedom in that choice. If our only viable options for selecting a leader are individuals who will bind us and enslave us to the will of wealthy corporations, then we are both enslaved by our lack of freedom to choose our leaders and subsequently persecuted by enslavement if we freely choose and desire an alternative. In the case of political elections- we do not have freedom.
Further, do we have the freedom to buy any product we wish or is our autonomy inhibited by the bombardment of corporate advertisement and the economic oppression of the middle-class by the pervasive powers of supply-side economics? Do we have freedom to choose the food we buy? Do we have freedom to privately browse the Internet? Do we have freedom to choose our religion, without being persecuted by other people and the pervasive ideology that rains down from the ruling class?
Maybe our soldiers died for freedom and liberty and justice. Or, perhaps they died to preserve the illusion of freedom, illusion of liberty and illusion of justice. Maybe you read this essay and were outraged and angered by my disrespect towards the men and women who fought for this country, maybe I am trivializing and belittling their efforts and maybe I am an asshole. Or maybe we are enslaved to the idea of reverence towards our fallen soldier and I am not free to question without persecution. Maybe wars are waged and soldiers are sacrificed as a device to ensure that we continue to shackle and bond ourselves to the enslavement of the illusion of freedom. Maybe we are all just slaves to an illusion- a puppet show of ideology. Maybe the illusion is so real, that we have volunteered to become the illusionist ourselves, as we perpetuate the illusion to ourselves and to everybody we know. We enslave ourselves to the illusion of freedom, and we are enslaved by a paradigm and ideology that ensures we continue to self-enslave. We are the land of the free and the home of the brave, so they say. How free do you feel?