Slavery Is A Choice

In the picture above, we have some “free-range” chickens.

How can this be?

Before I explain, let me tell you a related story about one of the most surreal nights of my teenage life.

It was the summer before my sophomore year in high school.

A buddy asked me if I wanted to make some cash catching chickens that night.

I said I did… clueless to what that entailed.

Before I knew it, I was standing in a commercial chicken barn, ankle deep in a sea of chickens.

My buddy advised I put a drop of cologne in my dust mask to cover the stench.

And then we began.

On the face of it, the job was straightforward: grab chickens, put them in cages.

But the devil, as they say, is in the details.

The foreman instructed us to grab six chickens at a time (three in each hand) and cram them head-first into the transport cages.

Each time you seized the birds, there would be a burst of wing-flapping as they tried to rear up and peck our gloved hands.

I still remember the feel of tendons popping as the full weight of the birds’ fattened bodies hung from their atrophied legs.

After that night, chicken (to me) tasted the way that barn smelled.

I didn’t eat a bite of chicken for months afterwards.

I thought of that night again when I read Michael Pollan‘s excellent book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, where he exposed an outrageous deception commonly practiced in the food industry.

Which brings me back to the chickens in that photo.

You can’t see it, but there is a small door at the side of the barn…

A door that leads to a fenced-in strip of concrete, along with a few blades of dry brown grass.

This is the “chicken run.”

If you could see it, you’d notice that there are no chickens in this “chicken run.”

In fact, no chickens have set foot in that sorry run for some time… or ever at all.

You see, as Michael Pollan pointed out, by attaching this “chicken run” to the barn, the company that owns the operation is thus able to market their eggs and poultry as “free range.”

Never-mind the fact these chickens are systematically conditioned from birth to never set foot outside the barn.

No matter: because these chickens are technically able to access that sorry strip of grass, this little charade allows the operator to charge a premium for their “free range” eggs (which are anything but).

I bring this to your attention not to decry the chicanery.

I point to the chickens to show you that you and I are the same.

Powerful institutions have, over the last century, spent trillions creating an infrastructure of buying rituals, habits, and social norms… engineered this Standard American Life for us in the hope we will cheerfully, dutifully bleed into their buckets…

…Hoping we’ll live our entire lives within the cozy confines of their abattoirs.

They cannot enslave us outright. After all, we are too “progressive,” too enlightened, too smart for that.

So instead, they line our cages with endless enticements.

They work to convince us that the barn is, in fact, our true home… that the green pasture outside is a wet, wild place… that we are better off staying in the cozy shelter they’ve built for us, though it be strewn with the corpses of our kin, and rank with the stench of our own unshoveled shit.

And, by and large… incredibly… we believe them.

The point is NOT that institutions treat you as meat for slaughter:

It’s that the door out exists.

Though they make its opening exceedingly small, and place it in a far off corner, silently begging that you never find it…

The door, and the green grass it leads you too… it’s there.

They cannot hide it from you. They cannot nail it over. Not without making themselves the slaver. Not without risking outright revolution.

Their entire operation depends NOT on you keeping you in chains, but in blinding you to the fact that you have none: that the doors of the cage are wide open.

The freedom you crave in your belly, deep as starvation… it’s there for the taking, now, THIS MOMENT.

All it requires is the eyes to see the flap, and the stones to walk through it.

The way you live, love, fuck, teach, learn, trade, work, explore, create… NONE of it’s set. NOTHING about this Standard American Life is inviolate.

“Normal life” is them taking the staggering, infinite splendor of the universe, cutting it down into pre-packaged pellets, and dolling it out into your trough.

Disintermediate the wonder.

Reimagine everything.

You’re just a few steps away.

Bryan Ward is the founder of Third Way Man and author of the LIT Black Paper


  1. So true, man! So true!

  2. Jason Grimsrud says

    Amen to that. Very well said…

  3. Arthur Glover says

    This is interesting! We are slaves to societal norms. Do this and you’ll be successful. Quit while you’re ahead. Winners never quit. Stay in your box. Etc.

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