zoo20snoozeWhat does it mean to be free? I was reading ‘The Life of Pi’ and Yann Martel makes an interesting point. He was talking about how people perceive animals in the zoo as being chained and imprisoned. People think that they are being denied their freedom because they are in a confined space. He argues however, that since animals are territorial, a biologically sound and spacious zoo enclosure just decreases the size of the animal’s territory. The zoo serves as the animal’s shelter, provides food and a safe place to procreate. It defends them from the diseases, predators and natural disasters. The zoo is actually a safe haven for animals. They might not have the freedom to go where ever they want to, but they automatically would not want to leave a place that fulfills all that they require.

I am not arguing about whether or not it’s moral to cage animals in a zoo. The thing I am trying to get is what it means to be free. Imprisonment is considered to be the opposite of freedom but as I showed in the earlier example, it’s not that obvious. We are told over and over again that we live in a free society. Freedom of speech, religion, education … the list goes on. While I believe that those are great values, I don’t think that having them makes us free beings.

Look at the society around you. Every one’s a victim of materialism and consumerism. Our men are slave to sex, pornography and gambling. Our women are slaves to fashion, cosmetics and weight loss. Young boy and girls are slaves to pop culture. Kids spend too much time trying to imitate their role models; Miley Cyrus and Jamie Lynn. A thirteen year old girl’s goal in life is to have a boyfriend. Young boys sit on their asses all day and play video games. Families are in debt that they probably will never recover from since they can only manage to pay the interest every month. People are so busy planning out their retirement that they can’t enjoy their present lives. They spend 45 years of their life planning out the 15 years they probably won’t get to live completely. No one can breathe without technology. Facebook and cell phones have taken over our lives. People aren’t as free as they think they are.

Our society is physically free but is intellectually and spiritually imprisoned. Every person from every walk of life is jailtied into some part of the materialistic web spun by either the media or the corporate world. You could be the guy who can’t think about anything else but getting buff or the girl who is addicted to breast implants and weight loss. It’s important for us to recognize these traps and rise above them. When your body is caged at least you can see that you are confined. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work the same way when your soul is a prisoner.

First published in The Silhouette (incorrectly credited on website)