dou·ble·think: the acceptance of two contradictory ideas or beliefs at the same time.
We Americans sure love our freedom.
But freedom has taken on many meanings over time. As a result, its concept has become increasingly abstract––dangerously so. Coupled with its deeply entrenched importance in the national conscious, it has morphed into a non-challengeable justification for acts of oppression, discrimination, and greed. These motives are the literal opposite freedom, meaning the term ‘freedom’ in America has become a case study in cultural doublethink.
Freedom really isn’t free
Freedom in its purist meaning is one of the most beautiful and inspirational concepts ever born out by humankind. It’s an ideal we can and should strive for – but that means intervening when its true meaning is distorted to fit narratives and bolster distraction politics.
Americans love freedom from an individual standpoint. To most of us, freedom means self determination and independence. If we had enough money, for example, we’d have the freedom to not work for a boss. Therefore, the boss’s would not be mandatory. The boss would not be able to decide how we spend our time. Owning a house — a linchpin component of the American dream – means we are not reliant on landlord for shelter. We decide how to spend every dollar of our money and every minute of our day.
On this scale, we also accept that with freedom comes responsibilities. We understand that we must respect the freedom of others to a certain degree – or we sacrifice security. For example, we do not have the freedom to vandalize a rival’s car, so they cannot make it to the interview for the job we want. We as a society agree there is an ethical boundary in which respecting others’ freedom creates an equilibrium.
Doublethink: Freedom as oppression
But that concept of freedom is taken to doublethink levels and grotesquely distorted when used on a political stage. In effect, the concept used to justify the very mechanisms and operations that deny people and even other countries of any self determination.
Perhaps the most obvious example of this was notion that American went into the Iraq war to ‘defend freedom.’
Here’s the deal: When one country invades another, that country is on the offense, by its very definition. The invaded country is, by definition, on the defense. Given the Iraq War was fought abroad, in the Middle East, Iraq was by default in the defending position. The U.S. was in the offensive position. This flip flop of terminology was achieved through deep conditioning by the media repeating the same messaging over and over. Doublethink is a learned psychosis.
That means our freedom did not need to be ‘defended.’ There was nothing on the offense to defend against.
Doublethink: Freedom vs. socialism
We often tout the free market as a golden standard. Yet, when corporations falter, its socialism all the way. Socialism comes in many forms: bailouts, inflation, taxation that is funneled into the pockets of private entities. The taxpayer funds the research and development of a product that is patented by corporations who reap all the rewards and profits of the socialized entrepreneurship.
The entities that accept socialist help (bailout money) are often the first to decry work wages and benefits as impediments to the ‘free’ market. Wall Street likes to pull the ‘freedom’ card to defend practices of blatant market manipulation.
It’s dog-eat-dog capitalism for the workforce. It’s plush socialist safety nets for corporations.
In another context: Those that defend the Second Amendment have every right to do so. But they need to address other Americans’ freedom to move about their daily live unafraid for their lives.
We are a ‘free’ country with 20%+ of the global prison population.
How did the meaning of freedom become so mangled and deformed? It is textbook doublethink at play.
If freedom is important to us, we must deal with the yin to the yang. How can we reconcile our personal freedom while respecting that of others?
For freedom to reach its purest form, it can not ignore its price: responsibility, tolerance, and respect.