Conformed to a Rootless and Placeless Monoculture

‘There is a paradox in all this, and it is as cruel as it is obvious: as the emphasis on individual liberty has increased, the liberty and power of most individuals has declined. Most people are now finding that they are free to make very few significant choices. It is becoming steadily harder for ordinary people – the unrich, the unprivileged – to choose a kind of work for which they have a preference, a talent, or a vocation, to choose where they will live, to choose to work (or to live) at home, or even to choose to raise their own children. And most individuals (‘liberated’ or not) choose to conform not to local ways and conditions but to a rootless and placeless monoculture of commercial exploitations and products. We try to be ’emotionally self-sufficient’ at the same time that we are entirely and helplessly dependent for our ‘happiness’ on an economy that abuses us alone with everything else. We want the liberty of divorce from spouses and independence from family and friends, yet we remain indissolubly married to a hundred corporations that regard us at best as captives and worst as prey. The net result of our much-asserted individualism appears to be that we have become ‘free’ for the sake of not much self-fulfillment at all.”

-Wendell Berry in “Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community” (from The Art of the Commonplace, Counterpoint, 2003), pp. 163-164

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