The oppression of choice.


These days a lot is being made of the word freedom. The freedoms that today’s democracies enjoy are heralded as some of the greatest achievements of mankind. We are free to vote, free to travel, free to read, free to write, free to charge fees to be free, and free to choose. Try and take any of these freedoms away, and people go apoplectic in their defiance. Many of the issues that came up in the latest American election were about various freedoms being given or taken away.

These freedoms have led to our vast consumerism and the choices that we have when ever we buy things. Not only do we have the freedom to choose whether to go to the food store or not, we can choose from a plethora of types of food stores. Big box groceries, health food markets, discount warehouses, convenient corner stores, are all available for our choosing… and then, in each one of these categories, there are hundreds of different brands… goody!

There’s nothing I like better than having to make a decision whether I should go to Granola Jim’s Organic Market, or Toothless Bob’s No Name Foodstuffs Warehouse… I like Granola Jim’s produce but I don’t like paying $37.95 for an apple, and I like Toothless Bob’s prices, but can’t help but notice that the genetically modified turnip snacks don’t seem to decompose.

After spending agonizing hours deciding which store to shop at, I have the crippling decision of which food to buy. Aisles and aisles and aisles of different products that we are free to choose from. I usually stare at the aisles until my brain leaks out of my ear.

Once I make the decision on what food to shop for, say breakfast cereal, I am free to gleefully collect the food and buy it for later consumption… except when I arrive at the aisle I am confronted with more choice. Hundreds of thousands of different breakfast cereals that I am free to choose from.

There’s one with a cartoon weevil on the front that changes your milk neon green, and another with a member of the Bulgarian Olympic team that won the bronze medal in Tiddlywinks. There’s ones with nuts, ones with fruit, and even ones with something called fruit-nuts. There’s flakes, there’s pellets, there’s shapes, and there’s marshmallows. One has the flavour of our favourite halloween candy, and another that has tree bark flavonoids. There’s even one that threatens to keep you regular. I usually choose that one because I would hate if the other ones changed me from a normal person.

Once I have my breakfast pellets, I go to find some food for my felines. Surely there is just one kind of food for them. Turns out that there are just as many choices for cats. I flag down a clerk to help me:

“Which one of these eighty pound bags of food are right for my cats?”

“Well, what do your cats like?”

“I DON’T KNOW! I DIDN’T BRING THEM WITH ME!”

“There’s this one that has the flavour of salmon, turns the water into blue gravy, and makes them regular”

“Oh… well, my cats are pretty strange, and it would be nice to have regular cats for a change. I’ll take that one”

I now have food for me, and food for the whiskered devils, so I head out to pay.

On the way to the cash registers, I pass the feminine hygiene aisle and the confused women who are free to choose how to be hygienic… I am free to go around instead of using that aisle as a shortcut.

When I get home, I am free to enjoy the food I have purchased and I fix a bowl of food for the cats that I was free to choose for them. I’m sure that in the future the kittens of the world will rise up so they can have their own freedom of choice.

They look at their bowls, confused by the choice of food I have chosen for them. I guess they will remain strange, because they don’t seem to like their pellets, as I eat my pellets that have turned my milk blue and have the slight taste of salmon.

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One thought on “The oppression of choice.

  1. Ha! That’s one of the many good reasons for living in Guatemala: the great relief of having so few choices, scarcity of choices making one’s life considerably easier.

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