Unfree Man

From Managed Child to Civilized Citizen

'Freedom from Want' (1943) door Norman Rockwell

Image: 'Freedom from Want' (1943) door Norman Rockwell

In Scandinavia’s North live the Sami, the inhabitants of Lapland. Despite modern influences, many grew up as a child in a self-sufficient society. Early on, Sami children learn to bake their own bread, get fresh water, catch fish or milk reindeer. Sami parents treat their children as human beings that possess the ability to take care of themselves. That way, they grow up to become independent adults that don’t need anyone to tell them what to do.

In the high North, there are no senior managers walking around to direct mediors and juniors. Also, there are no politicians that come to decide how the snow is doing. What business would politicians have to mind there? After all, the self-sufficient communities are able to provide for themselves. At the Tjäktja Fjällstuga, a remote mountain cabin in Swedish Lapland, I talked to a blond-haired Sami woman that had heard something about Britain’s ‘Brexit’ campaign. All day long, she had been thunderstruck by the power our politicians wield to decide so much for us, “Oh, those politicians, what use do they have?”

Modern Civilization

The contrast with modern ‘civilization’ could not have been bigger. Precisely in our highly educated, technological societies, children are no longer being treated as people, but as flawed beings that media and education have to bring up to become ‘citizens’. Citizens are a sort of afflicted people that, despite a high education, still cannot take care of themselves. At least, that’s not what is expected of them. After all, in every citizen houses the feared ‘angry white man’. So we ought to be glad the government steps in to decide what’s the best for us.

The matter that citizens might be angry precisely because they are not being taken seriously is never discussed. The government doesn’t exist to serve the citizen, but it is the citizen who is born to serve the government, like a farmer harvesting potatoes to feed his family. To a government, people are the potatoes. Such a potato person exists to work as hard as he can for the state. Through taxation, he is expected to donate his productivity to politicians and preferably willingly. Taxation merely serves to punish creative competence. To counter the rise of independent people, time and again politicians make up new rules that his potato people has to follow.

The Management Society

With the Sami, people exert a remarkably powerful resilience, but it is not the case that they first had to learn that resilience. On the contrary. All people are born with that force, but it is the potato citizens of the potato society that had to unlearn their self-reliance as a child. Without dependent citizens, there would not be much left to manage for the management class. It is no surprise, then, that modern parents have also begun to treat their children as mini citizens. Just like politicians, parents now ‘represent’ their children.

Officially, mini and grown-up citizens have a say in the direction of their lives, but in practice, all people who deviate from the central dogma are branded ‘stubborn’, or even society’s underbelly. The management society has weakened the naturally strong man to the point of debilitation

Know Nothings

Modern civilization has bred a generation of know nothings. Those who teach people they cannot take care of themselves, assure themselves of a lifetime of dependency on their care-giving. It’s what made socialism big. In our modern society, the less you know how to do, the more staff members you’ll need and the higher you’ll rise on social ladder. Above all, through their inertia, the most helpless citizens provide the economy a great number of jobs. Unfortunately, it is a sham economy, because the productivity lost could have been spent on much more important matters.

The modern economy that makes our lives so easy also robbed us of the most basic right to an independent and free life. Despite his riches, modern man is unfree. The economic progress politicians promise us has only led to human retrogression. Perhaps we ought to go back to those accursed nineteen-fifties when a more traditional man was still master of his technology, rather than the other way around.


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Unfree Man by Mathijs Koenraadt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.