#19: What does it mean to be a prisoner of freedom?

A prisoner of freedom, taking the most face-value interpretation, is a freedom fighter or political activist who has been taken prisoner. There currently are thousands of prisoners of freedom. In Guantanamo Bay, in Ktzi’ot, in Hwasong, in Ulaysha, in Evin, and in Qincheng, to name just a few.

Perhaps the most well-known historical example of a prisoner of freedom was Nelson Mandela. Four years after his release from prison, he wrote his famous autobiography, The Long Walk to Freedom. I haven’t read it, but I’m sure it’s very good.

Still, this doesn’t feel like a very satisfying answer. So, let’s go a little further, have some fun, and get philosophical with it.

There is a fantastic TED Talk by Barry Schwarts where he discusses the paradox of choice. If you haven’t seen it, you should. But if you really don’t want to, here’s the gist:

It is logically self-evident that choice is an integral component of freedom. Having the choice of where to live, what to eat, do, say, and think, and what to believe; essentially, choosing how to live is integral to freedom. All of this is true.

However, there is a problem.

Our consumer culture is now so saturated with choice (predominately of a consumer nature, of course — funny that when it comes to energy companies or political parties or banking systems the vast ocean of choice quickly dries up) that it actually causes paralysis in many people, making them fundamentally less happy and, in essence, a prisoner of the very freedom they enjoy.