“Your money or your life?!” is an ultimatum that most of us may never hear from a bad guy, with a big gun, and a bandana covering the lower half of his face, but that doesn’t mean that we won’t avoid those dark alleys of our city where it’s more likely to be heard, and that doesn’t mean that we don’t live in fear of a night where we might encounter such an ominous ultimatum.
“Your money or your freedom?!” is a question that most of us are not likely to hear from a good guy with the only bandana being a proverbial one that covers the lower half of his agenda. We may learn of a message that pertains to the overall theme, but by the time we hear it, it will be shaped and formed in the sausage grinder, until it comes out so appealing to us that we want more! and more! and more of it, and we race out in a state of hysterical euphoria to vote for it.
These messengers don’t seek the anonymity of a dark alley, but the lights of a well-lit auditorium that they hope will eventually be awash in a sea of red, white, and blue balloons. They will attempt to appeal to all of the people all of the time, but if one listens closely they will hear the crux of the message. Most of us won’t listen that closely however. Most of us won’t hear the ultimatum. It will be as silent to most of us as a tree falling in a forest, that gets lost by those that can’t see it for the trees.
What’s more important to you economic freedom or economic equality? It’s a question that begs to be answered anytime a politician opens their mouth. If you are more concerned with resolving the economic inequities of life, you’re willing to relinquish some of your freedom to follow the politician that promises to pave the way for greater economic equality. If you’re more concerned with your economic freedom, and you believe that having more money equals having more individual freedom, and more power over your own life, you’re willing to accept the idea that life has some inequities in store for you. Very few politicians will inform you that the decision is this stark, and they will tell you that those that do, only seek to polarize.
A friend of mine answered this question by saying that he didn’t want to lose either his money or his freedom. I informed him that this was simply a scenario that some used to illustrate what they believed to be a greater truth of modern politics, and the underlying effects of some policies. I informed him that, to some, it spelled out the differences between the primary motivations of liberals and conservatives, and that when you go to the voting booth you are making this decision, whether you know it or not.
“I still wouldn’t want to lose either,” he insisted.
“Ok,” I said. “You’ve found a loophole in the scenario that no one has explored. Let’s develop another scenario. Let’s say that you had to decide. Let’s say that you had two politicians that honestly portrayed this dilemma that starkly.”
“I still would not want to lose one,” he said with a little more urgency that suggested that I didn’t understand his desire not to lose one the first time.
At the conclusion of our poor man’s attempt at an Abbot and Costello routine, I could’ve grown frustrated with him, but I didn’t. This little exchange actually told me more about my friend than any other answer could have, and if my friend could be called representative of the American public, his answer probably tells us as much about the American public as we need to know. So, with the assistance of my esteemed colleague’s newfound loophole, I now tell anyone willing to listen, that if a shady character approaches you in a dark alley, and prompts you with that ultimate, ominous ultimatum, “Your money or your life?” Tell him that if he’s leaving the option up to you, you would prefer not to lose either.