SIR – Many of us in the developed world have led charmed lives for some time now, our every whim being catered for by businesses keen to cash in on our compulsive fondness for disposable trinkets and short-lived experiences.
Perhaps these charmed lives of ours are not happy ones. Perhaps consumerism's talons have dug so deep into our flesh that we have developed Stockholm syndrome, leaving us with a conflicted grá for it.
It's possible, too, that those in the developing world – and thus at a remove from the extreme decadence taken for granted in the developed world – are happier without the trappings of consumerism and the technological age. But that's to oversimplify, as many of those societies are not as deprived as conventional wisdom suggests; furthermore, and conversely, many of them suffer to keep the price of our opulent taste down.
Whichever way you look at it, we have enjoyed choice, freedom, control. Some would say that that's not freedom, that the establishment gives us the illusion of choice and that it benefits from same. Indeed, for this school of thought, control is the ultimate illusion, a guardian angel we think has our back yet is actually more like a puppetmaster dictating to us our every move.
Conspiratorial concerns notwithstanding, I believe it is indisputable that we are presently enjoying unprecedented degrees of freedom. This will end.
We will be told by others, or we will tell them, that wastefulness or excessive consumption, and environmental vandalism, are no longer permitted: Sunday drives? Unnecessary pollution; instead, walk, but only in ethically produced shoes. Foreign holidays? The most decadent form of pollution.
Living alone? Communally doing everything reduces emissions. Own multiple gadgets? We can only use one at a time; do we even need that one? Plus the human cost of manufacturing it in terrible conditions is too great.
Technology might rescue us. Maybe a time will come when using energy and resources won't destroy the environment.
We had a good run of it, the everyday decadence of recent generations, but that's over now. We want our freedom, I hear you say! But which country will pass the strictest laws protecting the rights and freedoms and well-being of the citizens of the future, the people to whom we are bequeathing the ultimate poisoned chalice: a wheezing, burning planet.
A rare and precious thing, freedom is finished.