Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Voluntary?

I feel that I need to say something about the growing, Orwellian misuse of the word: voluntary.

voluntary
ˈvɒlənt(ə)ri/
adjective
  1. 1.
    done, given, or acting of one's own free will.
    "we are funded by voluntary contributions"
    synonyms:optionaldiscretionary, at one's discretion, elective, non-compulsory,non-mandatory, not required, open, open to choice, volitional, up to the individual; More
  2. 2.
    working, done, or maintained without payment.
    "a voluntary helper"
    synonyms:unpaidunsalaried, without pay, without payment, free of charge,without charge, for nothing, for free; More

I have a problem with people who stretch the definition of "voluntary" to include actions motivated by coercion. For example, income tax is supposedly voluntary. Yup, it's entirely up to you, whether you pay it or not. Only thing is, if you don't pay, you'll be fined or sent to prison. Say what!? No really; you have a choice. You can volunteer to pay, or you can volunteer to go to prison. I'm not making this up. Free market ideologues like to use "voluntary" as well, in describing their preferred social system. As in: "Free market transactions are voluntary." I can't figure out if they're stupid, or lying, or just have their heads stuffed so far up their asses that they've forgotten what the real world is. So, if I'm a poor person living in some third world hell-hole, I can volunteer to trade my skills and resources for whatever the market says they're worth, (less than a living wage) or I can volunteer to be homeless and starving? Just out of curiosity, what is the opposite of voluntary? That would be "involuntary", I suppose.

involuntary
ɪnˈvɒlənt(ə)ri/
adjective
  1. 1.
    done without will or conscious control.
    "she gave an involuntary shudder"
  2. 2.
    done against someone's will; compulsory.
    "a policy of involuntary repatriation"
    synonyms:compulsoryobligatorymandatoryforced, coerced, coercive,compelled,
    exacted, imposed, demanded, required, constrained,ordained, prescribed;
     More

Does this mean that everything I do, provided that I'm not being robotically controlled, is voluntary? If my only choices are obedience or death, is my choice still voluntary?


2 comments:

  1. I love this post! The best to you and yours as always

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you, Ron.
    I've been struggling with the worst case of writer's block ever! I'm still not sure why, but whatever it is, it seems like I'm not the only one. Here's hoping it's starting to pass.
    Best wishes to you and yours also.

    ReplyDelete