Once, while working at an unspeakably terrible job, I had a client/customer ask me, “Do you do this voluntarily?” What she meant was, “Do you do this on a volunteer basis?” and the answer was no; I was getting paid for it. But the way she phrased it, it sounded like she was saying, “Are you doing this of your own free will?”
That question really hit me in a tender spot of my soul. I had realized within the first three months (within the first hour, really) of working there that the job was a bad fit for me, but I stuck it out for four years–not out of loyalty or duty but because I had no savings or financial safety net, so I refused to quit until I had another job already secured–and it took me four years to do that. The only other alternative was going back home to live in my parents’ basement, which I would have considered a failure. It was prideful, perhaps, but I was determined to play the “responsible-adult” game and win it.
I stuck with it because it was convenient to do so while I was finishing my Master’s degree and going through my medical transcription training. As difficult as it was in some ways, in other ways it was the path of least resistance. So when Wembley says, “Some slavery feels like freedom,” what that means to me is that sometimes “slavery” is more convenient than freedom.
As a matter of fact, this is a theme with ancient literary roots. In the biblical book of Exodus, the Israelites are eager to be free from slavery in Egypt, but once they find out that being free means wandering around in the desert for decades and not always knowing where or when they were going to find food or water, they become somewhat discontented with freedom and start grumbling against Moses, saying “Why did you free us from slavery? At least in Egypt we got fed every day!” (I’m paraphrasing, of course.)
This whole theme of slavery and freedom could really be a blog entry all its own–and maybe someday it will be. In case I don’t have time for that, however, I’d recommend checking out The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle, because she has some intriguing thoughts on the subject.