This is my column from yesterday’s Greenville News (9 March, 2009)

I have met a lot of slaves.  Not the kind who wear shackles and work in the fields.  That kind of slavery is, thankfully, a thing of the past.  But slaves remain.  We call ourselves free.  We believe we are free, because we are technological and comfortable.  We convince ourselves of the grandeur of our freedom when we go to the polls, when we engage in activism.  We worship at the altar of freedom on discussion forums, where no cruel remark, no shallow thought, no profane comment is ever considered unacceptable.

But this is still a nation of slaves.  I see many as patients.  I’m not talking about those people held against their will.  Children of abusive, addicted parents are not slaves, but physical and emotional prisoners, just like adult victims of abuse.

However, slavery abounds.  Some are slaves to incapacity.  For them, the Holy Grail of this earthly existence is the disability check.  Mind you, I’ve met plenty of men and women who need and deserve their disability payments.  I’m happy to help them with my tax dollars.

But I have met far too many who neither need nor deserve disability.  Some of them don’t even know why they get the hallowed check, and others can do everything but work; hunt, four-wheel, fight, or dozens of activities that would suggest the ability to hold a job.  Who is the slave?  The one who refuses to work or the tax-payer who supports his lifestyle?

Others are slaves to illness.  Not truly ill, certainly not seriously ill, they shop for diseases like others shop for cars or furniture.  They carry garbage bags and shoe-boxes full of medications they don’t need, many of which are simply to counteract the side-effects of other medications.  They are slaves to the numbness of pills, some taking three, four, five or more medications that leave them sedated day and night; perpetually lingering in the hazy world of near-coma, where everyone around them has to protect and provide for them.

Physicians, well-meaning, endlessly badgered or sometimes just greedy, add pill on top of pill because their patients complain until they are simply too sleepy to complain anymore.  Their families sit by their beds and electric scooters with red, tear-filled eyes, numb themselves.  They care for their zombies, but receive no reciprocity, no gratitude, no affection.  They, too, are slaves to the slaves.

But it goes on. There are slaves to communication.  They e-mail and blog, text, call and Twitter every aspect of their daily lives.  ‘I’m sitting in the waiting room.  I’m watching the doctor.  I’m bored.  I’m happy.  I heard this gossip, I saw that person.’  This stream of consciousness communication sends emptiness out to the world, in hopes that something will return to fill it.  I think, rather, they are slaves to loneliness.  But masses of electronic signals cannot cure loneliness; only true connection can do that.

Men and women are also slaves to sex.  Sexual imagery is everywhere.  The age of first contact with pornography is somewhere below 12. We love salacious, lewd photos and videos.  But it isn’t just the pictures.  Humans are slaves to sexuality without boundaries.  Sexually transmitted diseases are rampant; young people contract them and may suffer for their entire lives, or contracting HIV, may die too soon.  Inappropriate sexual expression and activity destroys families and careers.  Is sex a natural desire?  Indeed it is a great gift from the Divine.  But so is food.  One obsessed with too much food becomes obese.  But we embrace sexual license as something high and holy.  Sexual liberty, unchecked, leads to sexual slavery and suffering.

We are slaves to things, and become unhappy without the right phone, computer, car, clothes, shoes, vacation or house.  The mortgage crisis illustrates this phenomenon with rare clarity.

We are slaves to ideology, and are so fearful of any threat to our opinion that many cannot discuss politics without flying into a rage of obscenity.  And our intelligentsia, our body politic, our academy is so enslaved to conformity that the word ‘diversity’ is laughable.  We are slaves to entertainment, fitness and fashion.  We are slaves to the idea of prosperity; and equally enslaved to the lie that prosperity represents greed and inequity.

Do we really desire freedom?  And if so, who will ever set us free?  Who will free the captives, or release the prisoners from their darkness?  There was one.  But alas, we have proclaimed our freedom from him as well.


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