What if I told you that you were a slave. Would you be mad? Think me a liar? Be repulsed by the notion? Just what would be your response?
Shouldn’t the initial and proper response be to determine its truth or falsity? I admit that some claims are so fantastical as to not warrant a response, but what is so fantastic about the idea that all of us may have become “completely subservient to a dominating influence,” to use Webster’s second definition.
Most people deny enslavement with the seemingly irrefutable fact that they are FREE TO CHOOSE the course of their lives. And that would be a stubborn “fact” indeed if it were indeed a fact. Freedom, however, is a broader and more elusive notion than simply will or choice, while slavery is the necessary condition of those not vigilant enough to avoid it.
Financially speaking, few, if any, of us are truly free. Conversely most, if not all, of us are slaves. Though I will use the financial field to prove this case, the analysis is equally true for nearly every area of our lives. To prove this, I will rely on the fact that contradictories can not both be true (or false) at the same time. Therefore, if I prove satisfactorily that we are not free, then by logical necessity, we must be the contradictory, namely, a slave.
So are we free? Black’s Law Dictionary defines “free” as one “not compelled to involuntary servitude.” Here, I believe, is where the confusion comes in. Most people equate “compulsion” solely with a whip and a lash AND “involuntariness” as patently against one’s will.
The easiest way to dispense with these erroneous views is to recall the famous allegory of the donkey, the carrot and the stick. In that story, the driver would tie a carrot on a string to a long stick and dangle it in front of the donkey, just out of its reach. As the donkey moved forward to get the carrot, it pulled the cart and the driver so that the carrot would always remain out of reach.
Though the donkey is being “compelled” to act by manipulation of its known, natural desires rather than by whip, it is compulsion none the less. Further, the donkey is not walking (or more to the point, NOT walking as might be its desire) where its true will would take him “voluntarily,” but rather where his master wants him to go. And, should the carrot cease to work, the stick is sure to follow!
In my practice, I see men forever chasing the carrot of wealth and “retirement,” while dutifully, drearily performing the varied and sundry tasks that forever keep them on that quest. The only trouble is that the deck is stacked against them and the carrot stays “just out of reach.”
Honest Pay for an Honest Day!
But to prove the final point, that should we decide NOT to seek the carrot anymore, that a stick is sure to follow, one needs only to try changing one’s course. Stop working. Do something you WANT to do. Forget about retirement and spend your 401(k). How long will it be before you lose every possession you “own”? One year, two, ten…and do you know why? Because we do NOT “own” what we believe we do and we are not FREE, but slaves. Sorry, the truth hurts, but the truth can set us FREE.
Our immediate goal should be to unhitch the wagon from our backs and ignore the inducements, pipe-dreams, lies and carrots of selfish and sinful masters. My company’s planning begins with that end in mind.
But our true and final goal should be productivity, familial self-sufficiency, communal charity and trust in Divine Providence. When we have done this, we will once again be FREE men, as free as any man can be this side of eternity. And while the continuation of the blood, sweat and tears will remind us that we are never free of the consequences of the fall, the proper Master will comfort us with the sure knowledge that “my yoke is sweet and my burden light.”