Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Illusion of Freedom

Unless you’ve been stuck in a different dimension over the past couple of years, you realize there is an enormous debate about the issue of freedom and the direction of our nation. A lot of people have been talking about it. In fact, many are saying we are losing our freedom. It seemed to start with the election of President Obama and the debate over healthcare. Who decides our future? Big government or do we? So the current debate has been framed in terms of choices and our freedom.

The conservative message is clear. Big government means you will lose your ability to choose for yourself as well as your freedom. Liberals believe you will lose your freedom and your ability to choose because big business will make those choices for you.

No matter who wins the argument or dictates public policy, we all have lost our freedom. In fact, freedom is only an illusion. Are we really in control of our lives? Whether it’s big government, big business, or the media conglomerates, there are forces at work within our society that have tremendous influence, power and wealth. And they are determined to stay in power.

Whether by accident or design, today we have a media culture that is capable of dictating and controlling practically every aspect of our lives. Whoever controls the media controls the culture. One of the ways that you control the culture is by defining the American Dream. Has the American Dream been hijacked? At one time, many people considered the American Dream as the pursuit of freedom and the ability to make your own decisions.

Today, I’m not sure that’s the case. Our media culture has led us to believe the American Dream is about getting everything you want whenever you want it. It’s now a self-centered world build on the ever expanding appetite of consumerism and materialism. As we pursue this lifestyle and this new version of the American Dream, we actually lose more of our freedoms. Our choices become limited as we are more closed in. We are encouraged to spend all of our money. And when that is no longer sufficient to meet the demands of a consumer-based lifestyle, we then start borrowing money that we don’t have. Does this pattern seem familiar?

It’s obvious that this is what Washington has done, and it’s the same thing that most of our society has also engaged in. We give up our freedoms for all of these material things that occupy our time and our interests. We no longer have a life of our own. We are forced to work at a job that we don’t like because we have no other choice. Does that sound like freedom to you? Or is it a form of bondage? Who convinced you to live this life? Who says that our society and the way things are ordered are the way they are supposed to be?

Maybe the best way I can illustrate my argument is a speech from Edward R. Murrow, one of the nation’s first pioneers in television journalism. In fact, he wrote the book. The speech was given in 1958 in Chicago before television and radio executives. Historians have called it the wires and lights speech. His words are chilling and prophetic and they should cause all of us to seriously think about the state of our own existence.

“This just might do nobody any good. At the end of this discourse, a few people may accuse this reporter of fouling his own comfortable nest, and your organization may be accused of having given hospitality to heretical and even dangerous thoughts, but the elaborate structure of networks, advertising agencies, and sponsors will not be shaken or altered. It is my desire, if not my duty, to try to talk to you journeymen with some candor about what is happening to radio and television. Our history will be what we make it. And if there are any historians about fifty or a hundred years from now, and there should be preserved the kinescopes for one week of all three networks, they will there find recorded in black in white, or color, evidence of decadence, escapism and insulation from the realities of the world in which we live.

We are currently wealthy, fat, comfortable and compliant. We have currently a built-in allergy to unpleasant and disturbing information. Our mass media reflects this. But unless we get up off our fat surpluses and recognize that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse, and insulate us, then television and those who finance it, those who look at it and those who work at it, may see a totally different picture too late.”

You have to remember that Murrow said this over 50 years ago. I’m sure he would be absolutely amazed if he could see the extent of today’s mass media and the rise of our media culture. The question is, are we being distracted from the truth. Are we insulated from the realities of the world we live in? Has it been done by design? Let’s put it this way. Is the media culture a form of a drug? I’m convinced we’re being medicated into compliance. For the most part, we really don’t understand what’s happening around us. We are told what to think in a nice way that suggests that we are making our own decisions. But are we?

I’m not sure who’s in control. Does it matter if it’s big government or big business? The point is your freedoms are long gone. You just don’t realize it. The media culture has made sure of that. There is only one way to exercise your freedom. And it’s not through the ballot box. Nor is it through revolution or political change. The only place you can be free is in your spirit. And you do that by accepting Christ. There is no freedom on earth. There never has been. Your freedom lies elsewhere, outside of this system. In fact, this world and this world system has never been our destination. That’s radical thinking. Are you ready to be free?

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