Free!

Or is it…?

“Free” by Andre Ribeirinho (Creative Commons)

Free… if…

I’m very picky about words and their meanings — and how context holds a lot of power in the equation. This doesn’t surprise me, I’m a wordsmith at heart and I learned early on that words have power, and context means everything.

I’ve had a degree of heartburn for a long time about the use of the word ‘free,’ particularly as it’s used in advertising.

“Free” is a powerful word that has cost a lot of lives over the course of human history. Whether we’re talking a people freed from slavery, our own personal freedom from sin, addiction, or other figurative monkey on our backs, the idea of being free is something that should be treated with respect and used carefully.

We’ve also been carefully trained (by the retail industry and their commercial psychologists) to think of “free” as “getting something for nothing.” And herein lies the problem: the “free” they preach isn’t truly free. It’s “free, if…” — in other words, something is “free” IF you do something first.

FREE Shipping!

There’s one huge online retailer whose use of “free” is particularly annoying, but the problem is by no means confined to this company. They’re just easy to pick on because they’re a prominent example :).

“Join our club and get FREE shipping!”

“Join our club and read lots of books for FREE!”

“Buy one, and the second is FREE”

None of the above examples are offering anything FREE. They’ve simply constructed a pricing strategy that allows them to meet a price point by offering two or more items or services for the price of one.

They’re only telling you something is FREE because that’s sexier than saying that you can get more stuff for no additional charge. If it’s sexy, people will buy it. And not ask too many questions. At least until later when they find out there was a price, after all.

Them’s weasel words. Gotta watch your six, folks.

What I’m Saying

We are living in a world that has become deeply and bitterly divided over words and their meanings. A lot of this division has happened because there aren’t enough people asking questions, and keeping asking until they get answers.

Case in point: Who’s in and who’s out in America (which doesn’t mean the same thing across the board).

I don’t need to name issues here. It’s very easy to see that, while it’s being said a lot of different ways, it comes down to being told we need to fear things that are different from ourselves and our way of thinking. And there are a lot of weasel words being used to justify a way of thinking that’s very harmful.

America, Land of the Free (and Different)

There’s a lot of truth in the statement that those who don’t remember history are doomed to repeat it. This is something that resonates very strongly with me because of my own heritage. In general, it’s Northern European, but heavily Scots-Irish and German.

If you check America’s history from the last 125 years, you’ll quickly find that these two nationalities weren’t much welcomed in America at first — and they’re not the only ones. They were DIFFERENT, and the more-established citizens didn’t like that… and treated them badly.

Now we’re being told we should fear Islam, gay people, liberals, conservatives, socialists, and anyone else who doesn’t want to raise a wall to keep “those people”out of our space. The word FREE is being used because, you guessed it, it’s sexy… something we respond to without a lot of critical thought.

Friends and fellow Americans, we’re being had. The ones who are stirring up all this conflict aren’t interested in any FREEDOM but their own, and they’ve turned FREE into a weasel word so we won’t look to closely at what they’re doing.

The idea of America being a great melting pot that is stronger because we’ve come from so many different peoples and places is getting drowned out by the manipulation of opportunists.

I don’t have a problem with things not being all the same. It’s less boring. Truth be told, I’ve had more problems with people in America than those who want in. That should tell you something… if you’re willing to look past the weasel words and really see.

We are a FREE people. FREE means that sometimes, things are going to be DIFFERENT, and that good things can happen. FREE means you can tell the manipulators that enough is enough and the war needs to be over.

Go now, and live the way you’re meant to live: FREE.