Adult Freedom   (2017Apr30)


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Sunday, April 30, 2017                                                      12:53 PM

Some of us see being adult as taking responsibility for being a part of a family, of a community. But there’s an aspect of adulthood that is simply the freedom to tell parents (or teachers, or anyone else) to go to hell— freedom to do whatever, and not care what other people think. So being a grown-up is a mix of being let off the leash, and learning to guide yourself.

Currently, many adults show signs of emphasizing their freedom, without any commensurate responsibility. They insist on freedom from facts—if those facts run counter to their preferences—raising the question—where is the line between freedom and irresponsibility? Even our own president shows irresponsibility in his words and his behavior. To hear him blather, one might suppose that some Americans are more free and equal than others—i.e., that freedom includes the right to impinge on another’s freedom.

I marvel at the continuing election of Republicans—they stand for things the majority of citizens oppose—and oppose many of the things that truly matter to the majority of citizens—or, just as often, pretend to ignore things that most of us consider important. Their supporters tend to insist that, since society has always had a pecking order, society is supposed to have a pecking order—as nature intended.

Many people cannot conceive of anything more nuanced—and who can blame them? Everybody has people they must answer to, and people that answer to them—an almost military-style tree of authority overlays every aspect of our communities.

The strength of this pecking order was once inviolate—rejection by a community, in pre-industrial days, was next to a death sentence. In the modern era, the chokehold is capital—cold, hard cash—communities can no longer demand total conformity, but now workplaces can. Your employers can drug-test, credit-check—even restrict bathroom breaks—American freedom ends abruptly at the entrance to your workplaces.

I believe this lust for authority has become the true motivation behind Capitalism. Competition no longer makes sense—humanity’s total production could easily support every single human in comfort far above what we see around today’s chaotic globe. Automation and digital tech are erasing jobs with increasing acceleration. If we extrapolate capitalism out to the next few decades, it results in maybe a thousand really wealthy people, 50,000 people with service jobs, maybe another 50,000 maintaining the tech, and I guess the other (by then) 9,000,000,000 of us are supposed to just curl up and die? If I have that wrong, please explain how it can go any other way.

Now the joke here, to me, is that people counter calls for socialist-leaning policies as ‘attacks on our freedoms’—ha! There has to be more precision in our discourse. Our ‘freedoms’ as individuals remain untouched by regulations on business—unless we’re talking about employee rights—which we never are. It is our ‘freedoms’ as business-owners that are under attack by socialist programs. (According to the ‘American Dream’, anybody could end up being a business-owner, so it really applies to all of us, right? O—wake the hell up. And besides—it’s ludicrous—if everybody had a business, who would they hire?)

It’s as if America were Amway, writ large—lots of promises, lots of ‘opportunity’—but no guarantees, no protections. This is a great thing for an employer—but makes a cold, cruel situation for employees. Consider the years we’re expected to spend on schooling and experience before we can be considered for a good job. Now consider how quickly a person’s life disintegrates when they’re let go—money for food runs out within a week, within a month or so, the home is lost (and most possessions, since you can only own what you can carry with you).

There is no justice in American Capitalism—the opportunities it once boasted have shriveled down to match the odds of a lottery win—the lack of regulation wasn’t enough to satisfy business-owners and has become a surplus of business-centric legislation, a dam against any employee push-back—assuming an individual could afford to sue a company in the first place. The stuffed suits that rail for their ‘freedoms’ are concerned that justice might turn off their taps. The manifestation of their destinies depends solely on neglecting the destinies of the rest of us—their freedom is the freedom to take advantage of us, to curtail our freedoms whenever it conflicts with their profits.

The digital age offers a profound enhancement to the lives of the well-off—but it has zero impact on the poor. The income-inequality divide is partly due to this bisecting of society into digital haves and have-nots—like college degrees on steroids, digital technology makes it easier for owners to take advantage of employees and consumers—and harder for the poor to keep up.

Plus, after more than two centuries of ingrown affluence, our government rarely stops meeting with lobbyists long enough to glance at the needs of the people—so any adjustment of this unfairness is, ultimately, in the hands of those few who benefit from it—while the rest of us watch jobs continue to evaporate. It’s a recipe for disaster.

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