Your Choice…Your Freedom
A Sunday Drive into Mindfulness
By: J. Marlando
This article was inspired by an article published by Scientific American with the title “Understanding the Psychology of the American Idea of Choice.” (8/28/2012).
The particular article penned by Daisy Grewal became controversial and even angered a few readers. I thought the article was interesting and of value.
With the above said Grewal begins her piece saying, “Choice is a fundamental value that often lies at the centers of heated political discussions. For example, disputes about the Affordable Healthcare Act have hinged on whether buying health insurance should be a personal choice.” She tells us that research has suggested that living our lives in terms of choices may reduce our support of public policies that promote greater equality in society.”
Wow, this is major consideration as it is actually asking should we simply follow and thus surrendering our free will as other people, living under tyranny do?
In regard to this, Grewal says that “thinking about choices may lead us to feel less concerned about the growing gap between wealthy and poor.” She mentions that people who think about their actions in terms of choice were less likely to be alarmed by this. Later in the article she explains how choice making for Americans reduces their empathy—for example, caring about the health and welfare of an African child facing starvation.
All in all, the Scientific American article seemed to make more (American) readers angry than contemplative. One person responded with a brash reminder that Americans are the most generous nation on the planet and mentioned how much we give to other nations and so forth. Well, I am an American and I know well that our generosity is very…very seldom altruist and there is always, as is said, “Strings attached.”
As for the gap between rich and poor, another reader snapped back a sassy response reminding Ms. Grewal that it was America’s wealthy that give less affluent Americans jobs and other benefits that they wouldn’t otherwise have. Well, in a democracy, this is a natural (and necessitated) result of business/corpororate success not an altruistic intent.
The article also offers that we Americans who like our freedom of choice have less support for “laws that limit individual freedoms such as banning violent video games or levying environmental taxes on fuel-inefficient cars,” but that we were in favor of laws that uphold individual freedoms such as “legalizing marijuana.”
At bottom line the article suggests that because of our desire for and determination to have freedom of choice we lose empathy and so caring for others.
As much as we hate to admit it, with few exceptions this is true—we are a nation that way back in the mid-1800s weaved social-Darwinism into our way of life. This does not mean that we do not have loving, caring and generous Americans among us. This only refers to the country’s general political and institutionalized attitude. And if you happen to be in denial about this take your next Sunday drive through any slum district and observe the homeless, the very poor, the hungry and the despaired. None of those states of pain and suffering are necessary but our typical consensus is in the absurd notion that those people are poor because they want to be…thosepeople “choose: to live like that…these people are the boozers and losers, dopers and no-hopers all by choice. This is the mind of the social-Darwinist in all its guises of justifying its non-empathetic attitude and self-centeredness.
In regard to this the minute anyone makes reference to the inequality of wealth in the U.S. (The richest 20% of people own 85% of the wealth) they are called socialists or communists—well I think there could be a greater equalizing of America’s wealth and I assure you that I am a patriotic American.
Forgetting impoverished adults, we have approximately 16.2 million children who live in poverty with 1 out of every 5th child living in a household that struggles to simply keep food on the table. Lots and lots of kids go to bed hungry every night.
Do I think we ought to become “Robinhoodish” taking from the rich and giving to the poor? No. But I do think there could be a big reduction of nepotism, cronyism and self-indulgence in politics and business where those in the highest ranks are overpaid and those in the lowest ranks are underpaid. This is the smartest and easiest way to reduce poverty and therefore hunger in our nation.
Here are some statistics to lift your eyebrows: The average CEO in 2011 earned $9.6 million while unemployment in the U.S. remained around 8%. CEO pay contributes to increasing income inequality but to the gap in poverty as well. A signal of this is simply over the past 30 years CEO pay increased 127 times faster than the average worker’s pay did but then again, Fortune 500 CEOs average 380 times what the average worker did last year.
Do you still think people are poor by choice or are you seeing how the system creates a lot of the stark poverty you’ll be driving through next Sunday?
There will always be the poor and the rich of course and this is how it should be—some people work very hard and conscientiously to gain wealth while some people don’t really have the desire to go beyond a good living. There’s nothing wrong with either type. What is wrong is when the person with the wealth decides to build that wealth by paying his employees less and by giving them minimum benefits. Employees after all are the cogs that turn the big wheels!
Take Danny, he’s been working at Wal-Mart for five years—he’s almost up to $10.00 an hour. Who can live even a normal life, these days, on that? I am guessing the Wall-Mart CEOs earn between 300 and 400 times that amount and, as far as the chief executives…do they really need to wallow in money like flies wallow in…sugar?
Prices don’t have to be as high as they are either: American manufacturing could start returning jobs to people if the greed factors were simply left by the wayside. For one thing, American companies need to start making more for less as they once did, as opposed to making less and selling for more as they basically do now.
Another thing is that while government is much too egocentric and self-serving to ever stop its unnecessary and over spending to reduce taxes, what they could do is at least see to it that interest rates are minimized on credit so that ordinary people don’t end up paying off purchases that have long since been deflated and thus have not only lost value but, in many instances usefulness.
Do I believe that all or even any of the above would solve America’s problems? Of course not! It is all more complex than this; all too interweaved with globalism and back-scratching politics but what I am suggesting is that we absolutely have CHOICES as individuals, and since our nation is but a collection of individuals, we can DECIDE to make it better and more conscientious. It isn’t equality that should be our goal, it is simple compassion: we need to restructure capitalism itself into a “compassionate capitalism” which would indeed make positive changes from top to bottom and from the bottom up.
In regard to all this, I believe that one thing that the Scientific American article was saying is that our idea of choice has been corrupted and I agree with this. We have been socially engineered to somehow believe that social/business Darwinism is fundamentally American; that the good neighbor policy went out with whalebone corsets and high button shoes. It hasn’t, we’ve just been told that it has—we could, if we wanted to, have a nation that eliminates all hunger, homelessness, stark poverty, give our ghettos a healthy facelift and recreate the great American dream. All it takes is…well, CHOOSING to change our minds.
Read the August 2012 issue of Scientific American if you can find a copy. Incidentally, I have nothing whatever to do with the magazine or the writer, Daisy Grewal. The above article was written in response to the Grewal article with title, Understanding merican idea of Choice. An article I believe if you can find a copy it is worth the read.