I've been thinking a lot lately about the idea of freedom. It's something we're supposed to be all about in the U.S. I also think it's something that I've craved for a long time. I think I was enchanted with it as a child, and I think a lot of kids are, which is probably why we're so interested in animals like wolves and dolphins and wild horses - they seem to represent freedom to us. Personally I was more of a wolf girl than anything, though I was never interested in werewolves, totally team Edward, just kidding I don't read Mormon porn.
Anyway, my feelings about the concept of freedom really hit me when, as an adult, I saw Carmen for the first time. Carmen sings a song about freedom, and even though I could only understand it by reading the subtitles, it really affected me. And I can't be the only one, because the number of my fellow white women who become enchanted with and basically fetishize a stereotype of the Romani, calling themselves the g-slur or using it to name pieces of their ugly fashion line, is astonishing. I think it affects all of us. If you consider the themes of some of our most popular pieces of fiction, it becomes clear.
So what is freedom? What does this concept mean? We call the U.S. a "free country," but what does that entail? We can say a lot of things without being arrested, though not all things, but more things than in some countries. We're free to travel and do a lot of fun things if we have the money for it.
Yes this is going to turn into a communist rant. Actually, more than that.
When I was first being introduced to anarchist ideas, it was posed to me that if we refused to pay taxes on the money we earn, the government can and will send a cop to our home to arrest us. And if we refuse to go, they can kill us. The might choose to incapacitate us instead, but, you know. The point is that we are forced to do these things under threat of violence and possibly death. Is that freedom?
And increasingly, even living off the grid has become impossible because both governments and private companies make it that way. Corporations are patenting fucking seeds.
Don't get me wrong, I believe people should pay taxes within this system we've created. Particularly rich people. And I don't believe that 100% free, unregulated "markets" will magically fix everything. Or anything. But I think it would do us some good to think about what freedom really is.
I don't feel free under capitalism. Capitalism makes me feel trapped. Capitalism gives you the choice of either selling your labor, energy, ideas, and/or body or death. Literally, even homeless people need money to survive and I'm pretty sure the vast majority of us would be dead within a couple of years if we didn't make any money.
Is that a choice? Is that freedom? I feel like I've had my heart broken through adulthood over and over again hoping that a better job/money-making situation would make me happy. It doesn't. I resent work no matter what it is. I resent being forced to make money to live. I resent having to worry about money all the time, because even when I'm making a good amount (for my situation) the total lack of job security and hole-filled safety net means that I don't even want to plan for the future anymore. I've had the rug pulled out from under me too many times and I'm only 30.
It's not just work. Insecurity about my weight and general appearance make me feel trapped inside my own home sometimes. Thanks a lot, beauty industry. I wish I could just leave the apartment on a whim without feeling like I need to put on makeup. I wish I could throw on a swimsuit and just run into the nearby lake without a care and have a swim but I never know when the city of Seattle has gone and dumped a bunch of sewage into it again because this place is fake progressive.
I wish we could create a world where people were just taken care of. We could be welcoming automation with open arms to do all of the hard and dirty jobs while we pursue our passions, but instead we fear it. Imagine if shelter was freely given and you could always count on food to be on the table. Imagine you didn't have to work. What would you do? Imagine a wonderful world where every artist could make all the art they wanted and every person interested in science could experiment and invent and add their own brand of genius to society. What incredible things could humanity do if only we were all free to do so? If we weren't bogged down and exhausted by work.
The U.S. is sick from work. We work too hard and too much, and we don't get vacations, and it's making us sick.
I was lucky enough to basically land my dream job and I still don't feel free. And it's not because I have to pay taxes so much as it is because money exists at all. Because we fell into this weird self-imposed trap where we decided that people need to earn a certain amount of human worth points to live and now we have people who are seriously gaming the system and we can't seem to stop them. Does it really have to be this way, or have we played ourselves?
Is this freedom?