Freedom and Independence

IMG_6844 - CopyOn Independence Day, we in the USA celebrate our country’s independence from England, and the freedoms we enjoy as U.S. citizens & residents. We like to say we’re the “greatest country in the world,” and that we have more freedom than the people of any other country.  However, there are many kinds of freedom and independence; freedom from want; freedom from debt; freedom from addiction, bad habits and/or compulsive behaviors; freedom from mental illness and toxic relationships; freedom from ignorance, from superstition, and from religions that teach false, limiting or pathogenic ideas. I think it’s fair to say that many “Americans,” in “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” are – in one way or another – slaves or indentured servants to someone or something.

I am addicted to computer games – one of my favorite and least embarrassing in a list of what could be reasonably be called “bad habits and/or compulsive behaviors.” Many people I know have at least one of the following monkeys on their backs: debt; addiction to Facebook, junk food, cigarettes, or gambling; schizophrenia; and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

One of the most newsworthy and talked-about problems facing the USA now is opiate addiction. It’s hard to get hard statistics on addiction, but according to the National Center for Health Statistics, deaths from overdoses on prescription opioid pain relievers in the USA tripled between 2001 and 2014, from around 6,000 in 2001 to around 18,000 in 2014.  Heroin overdoses during almost the same time span – 2001 to 2013 – quadrupled from around 2,000 in 2001 to around 8,000 in 2013.   (See graphic, below.)

CDC WONDER Data for Website_02-04-15.pptx

Consider the most recent reports about student loan debt:

Credit card debt is also a huge problem.  A headline on thestreet.com (March 2016) reads:  “Credit Card Debt Is at Dangerous Levels.”  The sub-headline says:  “U.S. consumers are compiling credit card debt far faster than they can pay it down….”  According to the Federal Reserve, revolving debt was $935.6 billion in December 2015, up 5.1% from December 2014, even though interest rates went up on average from 11.9% to 12.1% during the same period.

This means that average households owe almost $7,900 on their credit cards.  The U.S. hasn’t seen this much credit card debt since the run-up to crash of 2008.  According to Odysseas Papadimitriou, chief executive of credit statistics and analysis site CardHub,  “There comes a point at which credit card debt becomes unsustainable, whether due to an increase in unemployment and the corresponding decline in income levels or because the cost of interest on rising balances grows to the point that even minimum payments are no longer feasible,” Papadimitriou says. (More here:  https://www.thestreet.com/story/13505178/1/credit-card-debt-is-at-dangerous-levels.html.)
U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke out against financial slavery in his Four Freedoms speech (technically the 1941 State of the Union address) on January 6, 1941, when he proposed four freedoms that people “everywhere in the world” ought to have:
  1. Freedom of speech
  2. Freedom of worship
  3. Freedom from want
  4. Freedom from fear

Current government programs and fiscal policy in the USA do not seem to be addressing #3.  Perhaps pressure from “Democratic Socialist” presidential candidate Bernie Sanders will change that.

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About John Mears

I teach English, take photographs, play guitar, write, do yoga, meditate, hike, play computer games, and love (and try to serve) humanity. If anything here touches you, let me know! Leave a comment! Subscribe! Enjoy! If you like the photos, you might like the greeting cards we will be selling soon!
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