Are we truly free?
Capitalism is often espoused as an economic system that liberated people from Serfdom. Linear models of history tend to place it after Feudalism as the most free of social models. Fukuyama even went so far as to say it marked the end of history.
And yet when we compare 2011 with 1848, which looks more revolutionary? Neither resulted in the overthrowing of existing theories. Both spread ideas far and wide. And 2011 was a lot bigger! So if we assume that 2011 and Occupy was largely about Capitalism then it seems that many are far from happy with the amount of freedom that they have.
Your immediate thought may be that people are unhappy because of the Great Recession. At this moment there are more 16-25 year olds in the world who aren’t in education or work than there are citizens of the United States. These people clearly have reason to think that the system let them down. But what about those protestors with a job? What about those who wanted to protest but feared that they could be fired for doing so, or that they were working so much that they didn’t have time to protest? Movements as big as Occupy don’t result solely from recessions, no matter how big they are.
This now brings me to my main point. I saw a Dilbert cartoon some months ago, and it stuck in my head. Dilbert kept looking at various animals kept in captivity, each time deriding them for their stupidity in allowing themselves to be virtually enslaved. And then in the last strip he went to sit in an office booth and tapped away on a keyboard; a slave, or so we are to think, of a faceless corporation.
Capitalism says that it permits labour freedom of movement, so they can work where they want. But critics say that Feudalism at least protected one from being fired and/or unemployed. And of course you are only free to choose where you have a choice. Where’s your freedom to quit if you know that there aren’t any other jobs out there? After all how many people have you met who work in their dream career? How many people have you met who work for who they want to work for? In a Capitalist system you generally need capital in order to be your own boss.
So what is it that we have right now? Freedom of labour movement? Freedom to choose which company you enslave yourself to? Or worse still rigid slavery to an entire system that we cannot escape, and serves only the 1%? Are you truly free? Or will our grandchildren look back on these times with pity?