I just finished writing a letter to a friend in prison. He’s one of the kindest, most sincere people I’ve ever met. He’s there for a victimless crime – just like 86% of people in there. This is the second piece of mail I’ll be sending him. The first was just telling him I don’t know what to say, then rambling about stuff. The second letter was just rambling about stuff.
We as humans have coping mechanisms that blow me away. We may not be able to cope with our favorite football team losing but when something catastrophic happens we are able to deal with it. My friend has been physically enslaved by arbitrary rules that society has deemed okay (or at least accepted) and that politicians have decided will get them reelected. And he’s still functioning!
The other night I was talking with another friend who is currently (luckily?) living outside of prison but still thinks he’s a slave, and I kind of get it. Every one of us is a slave to our inputs. Our environment defines our experience of life. Our subconscious minds are constantly being imprinted by what we don’t notice. Our conscious minds can only process about zero percent of everything we’re blasted with. We can aim the processing but They’re paying to make that harder.
Trillions of dollars are spent every year to make us believe that Coke is happiness, that the Middle East has always hated us because we’re ‘free’, that you need to own a house, that you need to go to college to be worth anything, that the golden murders are justified, that the food pyramid wasn’t paid for by shit-as-food companies, that the income tax is legal, or that I will finally find peace in impressing the vagina attached to the double-d’s. This is not speculation.
Some believe that we are, as a society, being enslaved like those in the feudal days. They just made the pasture bigger. Now we can trade our time in our cubicle of choice for a home of our choice. There is some ancient chinese proverb that says something like, “The best way to lead people is to do so without them knowing it. Give them a pasture large enough where they can no longer see the fences.” Where do I see fences? Every time an act that hurts nobody (except maybe the actor) is punished. I see the fence in a federal reserve that takes value out of your money and gives it to banks.
Most of the fences are the ones in our minds though. They are the ones we default to because of the subconscious imprints of our surroundings. Humans have been on a mission for millennia to find true freedom – the kind that looks a lot like enlightenment. But I see the fences in anxiety about this post mattering to anybody and the fear of it pissing someone else off.
My ‘free’ friend sees the shackles everywhere in the physical and mental worlds. And he’s seeing them clearly because they are there under his definitions. But Viktor Frankl found meaning – and what he’d call mental freedom – in Nazi concentration camps. Buddha found freedom sitting under a tree. Jesus found freedom on his cross. Maybe they just altered the definition of freedom so they could feel it. If you die feeling free then were you? I would say ‘no’ to the people who saw the system of enslavement. I would say ‘yes’ as far as it mattered to you.
Physical freedom, though, went out the window at the first sight of society. Total freedom to act in any way you choose cannot happen when there is a chance of your total freedom smashing another’s.
How are we being enslaved and how can we break free? I don’t know if there is any truly objective ‘freedom’ until death. I don’t know all the ways I’m enslaved every day. I’ve seen some, I’ve killed some, but mostly they are invisible.
We should help each other out. Why do we want to put other humans in jail so bad?
Why the fuck is my friend in jail for a victimless crime? Why are 86% of people in prison there for crimes that, by definition, had zero fucking victims?!
Total freedom might be unattainable physically. It might not even be there for us in the mind. I know one thing though – we can get a lot closer than this.