The Fetters Of Freedom

One of the characteristics of technological improvements are that while the initial wave of such improvements tends to increase freedom, the second wave that lags behind tends to leave people even more in chains than before. While this phenomenon has long troubled me, it is one part of what is only a family of related problems where that which appears on its face to lead to freedom ends up leading to increased slavery. Indeed, just about anything that promises us freedom from something likely involves slavery to something else that we might not be thinking about or realizing for quite a while.

When we think of the great attention that political leaders and advertisers think of ways to encourage people to take decisions that appeal to freedom from things that are deemed to be unpleasant, we might do well to be suspicious of what is being offered because the result might be worse than the original. Drugs and alcohol, for example, often carry with them the promise of putting unpleasant realities out of our minds, if only for a while, but the sting in the tail is both addiction to the drug and alcohol as well as a decreased ability to cope with unpleasant realities. The freedom offered by such things is an illusion that preys on our weakness and our desire to escape from the unpleasant.

Yet it is not as if the freedom to offers us any less deception than the freedom from. The freedom to say whatever we want also leaves us fettered to a dependence on such conditions remaining the same, because changes in what sort of speech is accepted or tolerated may lead what we said before to be held against us. For this reason, many people refuse to admit or acknowledge what they have said in the past, seeking to airbrush their record to remove from it anything that may be inconvenient in the present. Similarly, having or thinking we have the freedom to act in certain ways makes us think that lacking such freedoms is intolerable, leading us to curse and be immensely hostile to those who would urge upon us unwanted restraint.

Frequently, the possession of freedom requires a certain degree of vigilance. That which we own tends to own us–the freedom that comes from owning our own house comes with it deeper ties to a particular location which may be a source of vulnerability to us. The freedom from long-term ties and contracts, on the other hand, makes us more fettered to present conditions, from which we may have little ability to ameliorate. We might wish to be free in all ways, but whatever we do to increase our freedom in one way seems to reduce it in another way. We are forced to be fettered to something, and we can only choose what we are bound by, not whether we wish to be bound at all, however much we might wish it was different.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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