[g8-sheffield] Freedom is slavery, war is peace, democracy is staying at home and shut up.

zerosevenfour two zerosevenfourtwo at hotmail.co.uk
Tue May 24 13:58:51 BST 2005

Indulge . . . & Undermine

Have you noticed—exhortations to indulge yourself are always followed by 
suggestions? Adherents of doctrines seek footholds to claim territory within 
you, salesmen grasp for handles to jerk you around . . . from new-age 
prophets to advertisers, from pornographers to radicals, everyone exhorts 
you to “pursue your desires,” but the question remains: which ones? The 
“real” ones? Who decides which those are?

This just makes it clear what’s going on: a war for your soul on every 
front. And those much talked-about desires are all constructed, anyway—they 
change, they’re dependent on external factors, culture, the whole context 
and history of our society. We “like” fast food because we have to hurry 
back to work, because processed supermarket food doesn’t taste much better, 
because the nuclear family—for those who still have even that—is too small 
and stressed to sustain much festivity in cooking and eating. We “have to” 
check our email because the dissolution of community has taken our friends 
and kindred far away, because our bosses would rather not have to talk to 
us, because “time-saving” technology has claimed the hours once used to 
write letters—and killed all the passenger pigeons, besides. We “want” to go 
to work because in this society no one looks out for those who don’t, 
because it’s hard to imagine more pleasurable ways to spend our time when 
everything around us is designed for commerce and consumption. Every craving 
we feel, every conception we form, is framed in the language of the 
civilization that creates us.

Does this mean we would want differently in a different world? Yes, but not 
because we would be free to feel our “natural” desires—no such things exist. 
Beyond the life you live, you have no “true” self—you are precisely what you 
do and think and feel. That’s the real tragedy about the life of the man who 
spends it talking on his cell phone and attending business seminars and 
fidgeting with the remote control: it’s not that he denies himself his 
dreams, necessarily, but that he makes them answer to reality rather than 
attempting the opposite. The accountant regarded with such pity by runaway 
teenage lovers may in fact be “happy”—but it is a different happiness than 
the one they experience on the lam.

If our desires are constructs, if we are indeed the products of our 
environment, then our freedom is measured by how much control of these 
environments we have. It’s nonsense to say a woman is free to feel however 
she wants about her body when she grows up surrounded by diet advertisements 
and posters of anorexic models. It’s nonsense to say a man is free when 
everything he needs to do to get food, shelter, success, and companionship 
is already established by his society, and all that remains is for him to 
choose between established options (bureaucrat or technician? bourgeois or 
bohemian? Democrat or Republican?). We must make our freedom by cutting 
holes in the fabric of this reality, by forging new realities which will, in 
turn, fashion us. Putting yourself in new situations constantly is the only 
way to ensure that you make your decisions unencumbered by the inertia of 
habit, custom, law, or prejudice—and it is up to you to create these 
situations. Freedom only exists in the moment of revolution.

And those moments are not as rare as you think. Change, revolutionary 
change, is going on constantly and everywhere—and everyone plays a part in 
it, consciously or not. “To be radical is simply to keep abreast of 
reality,” in the words of the old expatriate. The question is simply whether 
you take responsibility for your part in the ongoing transformation of the 
cosmos, acting deliberately and with a sense of your own power—or frame your 
actions as reactions, participating in unfolding events accidentally, 
randomly, involuntarily, as if you were purely a victim of circumstance.

If, as idealists like us insist, we can indeed create whatever world we 
want, then perhaps it’s true that we can adapt to any world, too. But the 
former is infinitely preferable. Choosing to spend your life in reaction and 
adaptation, hurrying to catch up to whatever is already happening, means 
being perpetually at the mercy of everything. That’s no way to go about 
pursuing your desires, whichever ones you choose.

So forget about whether “the” revolution will ever happen—the best reason to 
be a revolutionary is simply that it is a better way to live. It offers you 
a chance to lead a life that matters, gives you a relationship to injustice 
so you don’t have to deny your own grief and outrage, keeps you conscious of 
the give and take always going on between individual and institution, self 
and community, one and all. No institution can offer you freedom—but you can 
experience it in challenging and reinventing institutions. When school 
children make up their own words to the songs they are taught, when people 
show up by the tens of thousands to interfere with a closed-door meeting of 
expert economists discussing their lives, that’s what they’re up to: 
rediscovering that self-determination, like power, belongs only to the ones 
who exercise it.

Shout it over the rooftops: Culture can belong to us. We can make our own 
music, mythology, science, technology, tradition, psychology, literature, 
history, ethics, political power. Until we do, we’re stuck buying 
mass-produced movies and compact discs made by corporate mercenaries, 
sitting faceless and immobilized at arena rock performances and sports 
events, struggling with other people’s inventions and programs and theories 
that make less sense to us than sorcery did to our ancestors, shamefacedly 
accepting the judgments of priests and agony columnists and radio talk show 
hosts, berating ourselves for not living up to the standards set by college 
entrance exams and glamour magazines, listening to parents and counselors 
and psychiatrists and managers tell us we are the ones with the problems, 
buying our whole lives from the same specialists and entrepreneurs we sell 
them to—and gnashing our teeth in secret fury as they cut down the last 
trees and heroes with the cash and authority we give them. These things 
aren’t inevitable, inescapable tragedies—they’re consequences of the 
passivity to which we have relegated ourselves. In the checkout lines of 
supermarkets, on the dialing and receiving ends of 900 numbers, in the 
locker rooms before gym classes and cafeteria shifts, we long to be 
protagonists in our own epics, masters of our own fate.

If we are to transform ourselves, we must transform the world—but to begin 
reconstructing the world, we must reconstruct ourselves. Today all of us are 
occupied territory. Our appetites and attitudes and roles have all been 
molded by this world that turns us against ourselves and each other. How can 
we take and share control of our lives, and neither fear nor falter, when 
we’ve spent those lives being conditioned to do the opposite?

Whatever you do, don’t blame yourself for the fragments of the old order 
that remain within you. You can’t sever yourself from the chain of cause and 
effect that produced you—not with any amount of willpower. The trick is to 
find ways to indulge your programming that simultaneously subvert it—that 
create, in the process of satisfying those desires, conditions which foster 
new ones. If you need to follow leaders, find leaders who will depose 
themselves from the thrones in your head; if you need to “lead” others, find 
equals who will help you dethrone yourself; if you have to fight against 
others, find wars you can wage for everyone’s benefit. When it comes to 
dodging the imperatives of your conditioning, you’ll find that indulge and 
undermine is a far more effective program than the old heritage of “renounce 
and struggle” passed down from a humorless Christianity.

To return, finally, to the original question—yes, we too are making 
suggestions about which desires you pursue. We would be scoundrels to deny 
that! But we would be scoundrels not to make these suggestions, not to extol 
freedom and self-determination in a world that discourages them. Exhorting 
others to “think for themselves” is ironic—but today, refusing to oppose the 
propaganda of the missionaries and entrepreneurs and politicians simply 
means abandoning our society and species to their control. There’s no purity 
in silence. And liberty does not simply exist in the absence of control—it 
is something we have to make together. Taking responsibility for our part in 
the ongoing metamorphoses of the world means not being afraid to take part 
in the making of our society, influencing and being influenced as we do.

We make suggestions, we spread this propaganda of desire, because we hope by 
doing so to indulge our own programmed passion for propaganda in a way that 
undermines an order that discourages all of us from playing with our 
passions—and so to enter a world of total liberty and diversity, where 
propaganda and power struggles alike are obsolete. See you on the other 


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