It happened again last night. There were no Celtics or Bruins games and the Red Sox had an afternoon game. So in the evening, I could find nothing interesting to watch on TV. I have hundreds of channels on cable but nothing to watch.
Obviously cable has not given me entertainment freedom. If none of the hundreds of channels is interesting, the freedom to choose among them is a false sense of freedom. If I had the energy, I could serve myself better by reading a book, or better yet write something or shoot the next viral video. But I did not have the energy, so I just vegetated on the couch staring at a meaningless screen as a faithful member of the Society of Overweight Americans.
What I just experienced yesterday evening probably is representative of a large segment of our lives: choices pretending to be freedom. In a world driven by monolithic giants, consumers are not really free, they just have the illusion of freedom.
True freedom is not measure by the number of choices presented, but by the diversity of capability generated those choices. Choosing between McDonald’s and Burger King does not generate a high degree of freedom. Choosing between a larger variety of food (e.g. Italian vs. Chinese) entails more freedom. Having the ability to purchase healthy food and cook dishes according to one’s particular taste provide significantly more freedom. Freedom is not measured by number of choices or quantity of products but by their diversities and capabilities. Freedom is not enhance by consumption, but by creativity.
Consider China. With the economics boom, the average Chinese have much higher purchasing power than she had a few years ago. However many of them have to flock to Hong Kong and even overseas to buy baby formula. They breathe polluted air, drink polluted water, eat untrustworthy food. Money does not buy freedom – trustworthiness and truthfulness do.
Here in America, we value democracy. However we are continually being taught a “democracy of consumers” instead of “democracy of citizens”. We superstitiously believe that democracy equal voting. So we believe we are free because we can go to the voting booth and select between a politician with an “D” and a politician with an “R”. When both parties are equally untrustworthy, are our choices truly free?
True freedom is not choosing between “D” and “R” the way we choose between McDonald’s and Burger King. True freedom is to be a citizen instead of a consumer. True freedom is to running for office yourself if your have the ambition or to love your neighbor when your ambition is not as grand.
Let us not be deceived by the false sense of freedom promised us by consumerism. Instead, let us truly exercise our freedom by being active agents of God in this land.
Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:31-32