“Whatever gets you through the night ’salright, ’salright It’s your money or life ’salright, ’salright” – John Lennon Obsessions, compulsions and addictions have always been in play. Now we see a somewhat new twist in driven behavior: In a time of plenty, some seem to have become addicted to the act of choosing between this and that. This […]
“Whatever gets you through the night ’salright, ’salright
It’s your money or life ’salright, ’salright”
– John Lennon
Obsessions, compulsions and addictions have always been in play. Now we see a somewhat new twist in driven behavior: In a time of plenty, some seem to have become addicted to the act of choosing between this and that. This group has developed what amounts to a jones for choosing from a smorgasbord of options.Yet, as with any buzz, when it subsides the anxious feelings it allayed return with a vengeance.
Thus, choice addicts find themselves living in a continuous loop of making choices in order to cope with their habit. This is beyond consuming, it’s just about choosing.
Of course Madison Avenue, great facilitator in this shop-’til-you-drop scenario, has long depicted “choice” as utter bliss: Yowsah! Yowsah! Yowsah! These limited-edition widgets come in five designer colors.
Choice has also been a hot political buzzword for some time. To a person wanting to express a belief that a woman is absolutely entitled to opt for an abortion, choice is a useful word for a slogan. It implies that ending the pregnancy is a matter of a person having dominion over her own body, rather than submitting to an authority claiming to represent society’s collective will. Of course, those calling for “choice” in this case see the individual’s right to choose an abortion as trumping whatever damage, if any, might be done to society by the abortion.
The notion that it should be fine for any citizen to pull his tax money out of the funding of public education, in order to finance sending his own child to private school, has been called “choice” by its advocates. While this argument appears to be resting on a convenient logic, it ignores the long-held American tenet that everyone in the community has a stake in public education, regardless of how many children they have.
In both cases, the sloganeers show a telling awareness of the lure the word “choice” has today. Perhaps this is due to some new collective sense of powerlessness in the air. Or maybe the scam aspect of selling folks their own freedom is as old as dirt.
In “One-Dimensional Man,” German-born philosopher Herbert Marcuse (1898-1979) warned us in the 1960s about illusions of freedom: “Free choice among a wide variety of goods and services does not signify freedom if these goods and services sustain social controls over a life of toil and fear.” Marcuse’s keen eye saw the counterfeit aspect of the processed brand of freedom wielders of easy credit felt, even then, as they exercised their prerogative to select one set of time-payment obligations over another.
Marcuse’s hard-nosed take on what he saw as controls over modern society is out of style today. But his view of how language is predictably used by a few of us to manipulate the rest of us is still as valuable as ever.
French diplomat Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord’s (1754-1838) words on the topic of language remain crisp today. Talleyrand offered, “Speech was given to man to disguise his thoughts.” British philosopher/mathematician Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) went further: “Speech was given to man to prevent thought.”
OK, so tricky lingo has long been used to shape perception. However, as a true believer in the unfettered streaming marketplace of ideas, I expect tortured language and agenda-driven slogans to come and go. My point is that the act of choosing should not be so highly valued that it comes at the expense of appreciating what happens after the choice is made. (more…)