A thought occurred to me the other day as I read about New York Billionaire Mayor Bloomberg releasing the hounds on the protesters occupying Zuccotti Park. As the police evicted, assaulted and arrested both protesters and journalists, destroyed a 5,500 book library and blacked out media coverage I couldn’t help but think that the rich of this world seem to look at freedom a bit differently.
In a land where freedom is taken for granted, where the average man’s idea of freedom is waving a flag on Independence Day, I find it natural that as a man begins to amass wealth, his idea of freedom begins to change. Often, power comes with wealth, and in many cases those with power lose track of freedom’s importance to others, but not to themselves; this is how dictators are born. It is also why we see so many politicians these days getting into politics not to help the people, but to help themselves financially.
A good example on how the rich think inward was taught to me recently in a speech that was given by author Oliver DeMille. In his speech (and book “freedom shift”) he went on to describe how every hundred years or so there is either a “freedom shift” brought about by the people or a “force shift” brought on by the government.
DeMille used the revolutionary war as his example of a freedom shift, understandable as it led to American independence in 1776. His example of a force shift was the creation of the Federal Reserve System and the ratification of the 16th amendment to the constitution back in 1913. Guess what all three examples have in common? They all have to do with taxes, as if freedom revolves solely around the amount of taxes we all pay.
Throughout the hour long speech, DeMille made no mention of real “freedom shifts” such as the three million plus slaves freed during the American Civil War, the Labor movement of the 1930s and the civil rights movement of the 1960s. He also made no mention of other “force shifts” such as the war on drugs and the weakening of the middle class thanks to thirty years of Reaganomics.
He went on to say that we are currently in the midst of another “shift” and said education and community were the keys to make sure we move toward a freedom shift. For his part, he’s right about education and community, but one has to wonder given his views on taxes just what type of freedom he’s referring to. I doubt it was the 99% movement.
I’ve frequently said that the freedom of a rich man will often oppress the freedom of a poor man, knowingly or unknowingly. The indirect oppression I’m referring to usually comes in the form of greed; a wealthy man who refuses to give back to society in the form of taxes, charity or both. There are those who understand that with great wealth comes a great obligation, a duty to give back almost as much as they receive. Bill Gates & Warren Buffet understand this; the Koch Brothers and the Waltons do not.
I believe that the occupy or 99% movements are in response to those individuals who have everything, but give nothing and the corporations who are incapable of thinking like a human being with a social conscience. Whose sense of entitlement is more important in society anyway? The man who works hard, has everything, but gives nothing or the man who works hard, but can’t feed his family in part because of the man who gives nothing.
I’ve heard time and time again that in order to be rich, you must think rich. While that little bit of information is true, it’s just as important to be careful of where that thinking comes from or you’ll wind up on the freedom oppressing side of the 1% or worseâ€¦ a politician.
For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others – Nelson Mandela
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