The word “freedom” has a different meaning for different people. In our so called post-modern society, it is difficult to say whether we are more free now or we used to be in the past.
What Exactly is Freedom?
Freedom is such a big term that it has different meaning for different people. Before we dwell further, let’s try to define freedom for a mid-income common man. Things like freedom for speech, expression, privacy, gun ownership, etc. we should leave it for the politicians and celebrities, as the common man has more important things to worry about.
Is Any of Us Really Free?
In today’s society, freedom cannot be taken for granted. Today if you look at a common man, we have lost our financial independence and are always bound by some kind of debt.
Living our life though our smart devices and consuming content via social media apps has created an environment of anxieties. The corporate world we serve, constantly keeps us in a state of stress and fear of losing our only income stream.
Our friends, family, neighborhood and society that we engage with constantly remind us of our failures and indignity. In this modern society, we have forgotten what it is to trust a human being. Moreover, our trust in technology and corporations is so high, that we live in constant fear of betrayal.
In the words of Jack Reacher, “Now tell me which ones are free. Free from debt. Anxiety. Stress. Fear. Failure. Indignity.”
How Can We Be Free?
Only once we define our freedom, we can truly attain our freedom. Personally for me, it took a lot of effort to achieve and maintain financial freedom. Things like home loans, systematic investment plan for mutual funds, EMIs, car loans, constantly keep us in check of our earnings. Most people who have just one income stream, get taxed with deductions as soon as they receive it. Under the pretext of savings, most of us are just losing our financial independence. One needs to be mentally strong to get oneself out of such shackles like monthly pay-out’s.
Even so, a common working middle-class person can really not attain financial freedom unless the companies we work for keep us in constant fear of being fired. For most of us, that fear is instilled in us everyday by our managers, even if we perform well at our jobs.
One of our biggest bondages is the smart phone that we are so addicted to. They provide us with vivid content, wide access to services and products that we are so habituated to that we don’t even want to step out of our homes. And when we do step out, we want to look like a superstar, and make sure our friends know this. Everyone seems so sexy, successful, famous and rich on the inter-web that I question myself, am I really happy or why am I so jealous?
With so much information bombarded at us, it seems as if we’re missing out on the next It-thing all the time. That fear of missing out (FOMO) is omnipresent, whether we don’t watch the cool new Netflix series, or aren’t in on the Avengers wave, or haven’t played Fortnite where a popular millennial pop star had a “virtual concert”. We can’t really choose our social events anymore, it seems they’re chosen for us by algorithms.
It takes a lot of courage to get rid of social media apps, but I can guarantee you, that it’s possible. I have just turned 40, and now that I see myself in the past more clearly, I don’t like what a show-pony I used to be, but who am I to judge myself.
I need to accept who I am. I need to forgive myself. Only then can I be free from my fears. I do feel like an imposter at times, but the bigger question is who isn’t.
In my view, one cannot attain absolute freedom. There is no such thing as absolute freedom. One can only be aware of how captive we are, and keep working towards our freedom. The world we live in, products & services can you their slave. Only you can fight it. Only you can free yourself, if you can define the freedom you desire.
Abhishek Sareen is a marketing professional with over 16 years of experience. He started his career as a management consultant and currently works in international business. He has set up businesses like Track & Trail, BrooksBicycles.com and created consumer brands like Montra, Machcity and Roadeo. He’s is a passionate cyclist and participated in several endurance competitive events like MTB Himalaya. His interests are in behavioral psychology, economics and chess. He is a graduate in Computer Science and an MBA in Marketing. He completed his executive education from IIM-A in 2016 focusing on business strategy.