Slaves in a free world

The philosopher Cugoano (1787) sees slavery as depriving people from their freedom and autonomy and is sometime found in the form of physical exploitation. Slavery would of course be the worst possible state for men: “no freeman, however poor and distressing his situation may be, would resign his liberty for that of a slave” (Cugoano, 1787 p.17). When we take this definition of slavery, we can wonder if we ourselves are not a slave to ourselves, products or society. We are raised by our parents and surroundings to think in a certain way and believe certain things, when we grow older we choose to read and watch and talk about that certain point of view. In other words, we start thinking within a certain box, without really exploring the other options of seeing something in a different way. We will even be stimulated in only seeing our own point of view by the social media we use. Take facebook for example who saves all our information and subsequently shows us the information we are interested in. This way we will see our own point of view while other perspectives are filtered out. Thus when we are not aware of this and we do not invest in proper research we lose our autonomy and become a slave to our own box in which we think and with that a slave to ourselves. When we think about products we might have a certain autonomy or freedom to choiose which products we will buy. However, when we look at our surroundings again we might notice things that will influence our choices. Hereby we can think about the way stores choose to arrange their products, they do it in a way we are more tempted to buy the products they want us to buy or think about all the advertisement that tells us on what we should spend our money. This will influence our behaviour in a way we might lose some of our autonomy, however this is just a mild form of how we can be slaves to products. When we look at an extreme form of slavery to products we can think about addiction. When we suffer from addictions like drugs we will be completely dependent on those drugs and we will do almost anything to keep access to these drugs. When this is the case we will likely lose all of our autonomy and freedom and might suffer from physical exploitation. Even when we end up in rehab we will always have a risk of falling back in our addiction because of one temptation. Finally, when we think about our society we think of a society full of freedom. However, we might wonder how much freedom our society really gives us. First of all we have laws that tell us what we have to do and what we cannot do, but within our society and class system we also have a lot of unwritten rules that tell us what choices we should make. Take for example our terms of high educated people and low educated people which implies high is better than low. Because a society tells us high education is a better option we might go to the university when we are capable, only because we feel we have to fulfil a certain expectation from the society. We do this even when we rather become something else where we don’t need a high education like a hairdresser or a globetrotter. Here we might also feel like we don’t have the freedom our autonomy to choose our own path in life. So the question remains, can we fight all the choices our surroundings oppose on us and truly be free or are we always slaves to something?

Cugoano, Q. O. (1787). Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil and Wicked Traffic of the Slavery.

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