Personal choice. It’s a good phrase. Rolls nicely off the tongue. Fills you with positive energy. Makes you feel empowered. In a ‘free’, ‘civilised’ society, most things in everyday life are a personal choice. Or so they say. Vegetarianism. Yoga in the morning. Celebrating Diwali. Living far from work so that you can save some money. Living close to work, so that you have an easier life. Choosing your partner. Writing in a blog. All ‘personal choices’. No?
“You always have a choice”. “It’s always on you.” “You build your world.”
We live in the Universe of the Butterfly Effect. But we seem to have stopped asking ‘why’ enough. We live in an era where social psychologists are rubbing their hands gleefully together and declaring us as more psychopathic than ages before (which sounds to me the most nostalgic view of history possible; or as Dad says, criminally distorted).
Where apparently ‘personal choice’ has little to do with our pre-birth memories, or our life-long experiences, but is an idea adhered to by a new being created from both, which owes nothing to its parents.
Is ‘vegetarianism’ really a choice? Or a bias born from childhood traditions and beliefs. Or discovered by us somewhere along the way because the more ‘man-like’ the thing we consume, the more revolting it is. To see blood spurting from the severed neck of a chicken and partake in it, is, to us, not the same as chopping down wheat or cabbage. Or slicing a tomato. Reason why cannibals are reviled as complete human outliers.
And because we don’t ask why, we create these moral hierarchies of choice. Whaling is a terrible act, but chopping down trees hundreds of years old are, given some circumstances – ‘necessary.’ The irony is mammoth.
Or my other favourite: things women do out of ‘love’ or ‘choice’ which also conveniently fall into perfect line with the fatwas of patriarchy. The change of the last name. The keeping of fasts to invoke a long life for the husband. The touching of feet. The automatic assumption of roles. The rearing of a child.
Or the things we men do out of ‘love’ or ‘choice’, or even my usual alibi – ‘safety’ & ‘peace of mind’: the dropping home. The picking up of heavy things. The opening of doors. The paying for food. The choosing a lifetime of work.
Too few of us make the connections between the genders we attach to words and things; the things we play with or wear as children; the segregation we face from a a young age; the length of the hair we are allowed to keep – all these things and many more, and their link to the gender related choices we make in our everyday lives.
And like this, the millions of threads, that connect every choice we seem to make in ‘civilised society’ in a web of the systems and worlds we occupy – the capitalist one, the sexual one, the patriarchal one, the primitive one, the scientific one, the high-school one, the bed-wetting one, the child-abuse one, the happy laughter on a swing one, the promises-to-keep-out-of-love one.
Does it really make sense to attach all these moral hierarchies to things when clearly all we do is operate between the corridors of what is permissible and impermissible.
While the definitions of these two keep shifting, from incident to incident, age to age, person to person; I only wish we attached less moral value (positive or negative) to this idea of ‘personal choice’ and our ability to exercise it.
Our right to choose, underpins free society. But let us not be under any illusions of how free that society really is. Or our minds, for that matter.
Does your act make you happy? Maybe. Is it legitimate/permissable. Maybe. Are you doing it out of free will? Not a whole lot. Is that a terrible thing? No.
Just don’t be so naive about it, thats all. After all, this isn’t the Matrix. Machines aren’t feeding us this shit through feeder tubes and farming us,for you to be allowed to believe it so much.
But you are a vegetarian by choice right? Because it suits your stomach more, right? Good for you. It’s a more humane way to live. Have you thought of going organic yet?
A lot of my friends may read this and wonder why I am stating the obvious and not saying anything new at all. This post is not for them.
Some of you have heard me drone on about this for too long. Thank you for your patience.
Some of you are the reason I feel I can write this down and not worry about the labels and brickbats that will follow (if enough people read it). You, I love.