Slaves of desire

Freedom is a meaningless word. It is cursed with such ambiguity in the modern era that it has lost all significance. It is without form because it it takes many shapes. Ask a thousand people what freedom means to them and you will get a thousand different answers. To the poor man it means being able to have enough money to quit a job he hates. To a rich man means being able to use his wealth however he pleases. It is bent by the whims of whoever interprets it.

Many take advantage of the sorry state of this word. It is a popular platitude for those who wish to been seen favorably in the eyes of others. Countless ideologies, movements, and politicians have hijacked ‘freedom’ as a rallying cry. Don’t like where you live? You simply haven’t been given enough freedom to escape it. Don’t like who rules over you? They are tyrants who have taken your freedom. Do you feel powerless to change your life? Don’t worry, it isn’t your fault, you’ve simply been oppressed.

Freedom is effective as a political tool simply because it shifts the blame away from the individual. It moves it on to shady cabals and devious oppressors who seek to destroy all of the good things in life. The problem is that these people simply do not exist. Every election and revolution starts out with the same premise: liberate the oppressed and crush the oppressors. The outcome is always the same. Not everyone can be “free”. Some men are born to rule and all others must follow.

In modern society, many see freedom as a synonym of permissiveness. It means the freedom to do whatever they want, whenever they want it. It does not matter how it effects the external world. This attitude can be seen every time nature is crushed to make way for a new freeway, every time a couple aborts a child to extend their prolonged adolescence, and every time politicians kick today’s problems further down the road for future generations to deal with. Let the good times never end. It’s not our problem. It will just go away if we sweep it under the rug and keep it there long enough.

To be free in this sense is a desire to live in a world without consequences. It is to be responsible for nothing except your own whims. This is a form of cowardice. Those who run away from responsibility do so because they are scared of it. It stems from a complete lack of self esteem. When you are responsible for something, it means you have the power to create or destroy it based on your actions. When one runs away from responsibility, he is essentially admitting he is not up to the task. He is afraid that by taking responsibility over something, he is more likely to hurt it than help it.

The tragedy of this mindset is that it destroys any possibility of having a meaningful life. If you look towards your ancestors and search for what gave their life a purpose, you will see that every great accomplishment required taking on a great responsibility. Whether that takes form in preserving a culture, defending their land from invaders, or making a home and raising a family in it. Modernity’s complete rejection of these values has created a vast wasteland without purpose. Reclaiming the world so it is full of meaning once more requires us to give up on the illusion of false freedom. Only then can we take responsibility for the things that matter most in life.

The blind leading the blind

Humans are social animals. We face many problems that are too big for any one person to accomplish. As a result, we form groups to solve these problems. Once a team is formed, roles are needed for each individual. Without them, it is impossible to divide labor in any meaningful way. The most logical way to form roles is based on the strength and weaknesses of each team member.

This is much easier said than done. It takes a great deal of foresight and leadership to reach this optimum balance. More often than not, it seems like the most incompetent get put in positions of power. This is nowhere more apparent than in modern society. People today are deeply dissatisfied with leadership at every level in society, from their bosses at work to their national politicians.

The root of this problem comes from modernity’s core values. It values appearances and words over results and action. It values popularity over actual competency. Only those who appear the most confident are able to convince the masses that they are able to lead. The truly wise are in constant doubt of what they know. They know that they know nothing. When you are inexperienced, big problems appear small. You can only know the true size of any problem when you fully understand the smallest parts of it.

Every individual only has a very limited set of knowledge about reality. Even the smartest physicist knows next to nothing about almost every other subject. Ignorance is the natural state of all knowledge. Very few people actually understand what it takes to be a great leader. When everyone gets an equal say in who rules over them, it naturally follows that most leaders will be chosen for superficial and unimportant qualities.

This can only be overcome by silencing the ignorant and promoting the wise. We must start speaking truthfully about the limitations of everyone. The modern tendency to pander to self-esteem and inoffensiveness is in direct opposition to this. As a consequence, honesty takes a back seat. Reality is subverted. What people want rules over what actually is. People having the courage to call out idiocy is the first step towards a healthier society.

The return of nothing

“From desire I rush to satisfaction, but from satisfaction I leap to desire.”
–Goethe

Go outside right now. Wander off your concrete porch and go find that patch of ugly part of your yard where nothing grows. Reach down and stick your fingers into the barren earth. Pick up a dry clump of dirt. Hold it in your palm and look at it closely. Squeeze your hand tightly and crush it. Feel the filth compact and break into a million little pieces.

You’ll get an urge to wipe your hand clean on your pants. When you wipe away the dust, you’ll be getting rid of millions of life forms from you. Among them are thousands of small worms known as nematodes. Even the most doubtful can get a powerful enough microscope and see them.

To think nematodes have a purpose just doesn’t make sense. They sit in a larval state for the majority of their life. They emerge in a single day. They mate with other worms. Afterwards, they quickly die. This cycle has been that has been perpetuated throughout aeons, billions upon billions of years. An innumerable amount of these minuscule worms have lived and died without any record of their existence.

Their life doesn’t add up to anything but more worms. No one judges them. Nematodes don’t dream. They don’t love or hate. There is no afterlife for them. They appear to be only an slightly interesting, self-sustaining chemical reaction. Eat, survive, reproduce, and repeat. Give them the right environment and they multiply. Pour liquid nitrogen on them and they all die.

Humans are different in only superficial manners. We like to think we have a purpose. We might want that new job that will give us more money for doing less. We might want that new house that is bigger and better than our cramped apartment. We might want to go on a date with that girl you’re always hitting on at the bar. We all want to prove we are worthwhile.

The truth is, these all come from the same place. They all come from the will to persist. This is plainly evident in single celled organisms because they are so simple. We are often so caught up in our own little lives that we fail to see the same behavior in ourselves.

Look into your own desires. Examine what brings you satisfaction. Is any of it lasting? We all are born and we all die.  We are all given desires to want.  We all have dreams to chase.  Surely, they must serve some purpose. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be there.

Atavism

Conspiracy theories are far more common than we give them credit for. Everyone harbors some belief that the majority rejects. We live in a world where we only see an incomplete picture of reality. You only have one set of eyes.

For a narrative to be compelling, it must be complex. Everyone has tried to interpret a dream at one point in their life. The best ones are the dreams where you only remember bits and pieces. Meaning comes when you try to formulate a cohesive story out of the dream.

Our worldviews are created in a similar way. Wars spring up on every corner of globe. Genocide is a regular occurrence in history. We hear about another mass shooting every month like clockwork. Some people are so rich that they couldn’t be bankrupted from spending a fortune each a day. Others are so poor they can’t even afford food. All of these are begging to be explained. They must have a reason.

Understanding is the basic purpose of consciousness. It is the interpretation of the past to predict the present. The smaller the system, the easier it is to understand. All scientific knowledge is gained by isolating a phenomenon down to its essentials. This sort of thinking is not universally applicable. Treating life like a science experiment is a recipe for disaster. A person is a infinitesimally minute part of a much larger system.

Despite this, we are still implanted with the desire for understanding. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t smart enough to connect the dots, you are going to anyway. Much like the trope of the obsessed detective scouring through random clues to break a case, we search the world for meaning. You see that shady figure behind the bush in this photograph? That isn’t a smudge on the negative, that’s the real the killer.

Modernity has made the world more complex than most people can handle. People want to know why they can’t find a job. They want to know why their kids are so fat. They want to know why their country seems to get worse with each passing year. Most people have a hard time staying awake in history class. Why should we expect them to understand global politics?

What they end up with is nothing more than patchwork. An ideology based on appearances and intuition rather than reality. Some people put their faith in God for these answers. Some people put their trust in a charismatic politician. Very few are honest enough with themselves to realize that truth isn’t a birthright.

Horror vacui, nature abhors a vacuum. Meaning and purpose have always been a useful mechanism for survival. Even if modernity has made it irrelevant, the urge lives on.

This is my rifle

I’ve made up my mind. I’m going to buy a gun.

I realize I’ll probably never use it. It’ll sit at the bottom of a drawer in my nightstand. It’ll be covered by miscellaneous junk that inevitably accumulates in drawers. If I ever need to get to it quickly, I’ll probably have trouble finding it. I won’t keep it loaded so I’ll have to scour the junk once more to find the magazine. The ammo will probably get jammed as I load it. The safety will be set on. With any luck, I’ll have a usable weapon about a minute after I needed it. I’d probably be better of defending myself with a 200-year old, single shot musket.

Owning a gun to “defend yourself” is mostly bullshit. Unless you are going to strap a gun to your chest every day, you are probably never going to be in the position to use it. No, I don’t want a gun for defense. I want it for peace of mind.

It puts you in another class of men. In every society, the people with real power have weapons, and they have the best weapons they can get their hands on. For the past 300 years or so, that has meant guns. In most third-world countries, the government is so ineffective that they do not rule most of their own cities. Some towns are ruled by a mayor and others are ruled by a crimelord. Most cities are a mix of both. They each have their own different set of leaders and laws. There is one sure way to see who has the real power. Just look for the people with the most guns, then you’ll know.

The state only regulates things that threaten its power. It should come as no surprise that guns are heavily-regulated world wide. In many countries like Switzerland and South Korea, gun ownership is strictly tied to military service. Compulsory conscription means that citizens will learn about firearms through their government. How to hold them, how to clean them, how to aim them, and when to use them. Subconsciously, it reinforces the state as the arbiter of destiny. If you want power, you’ll have to get it through them.

It’s hard to meet someone who doesn’t have a strong opinion about guns. This opinion operates on an instinctual and visceral level. Are you uncertian of how you feel about guns? I’ve got a surefire way for you to find to out. Simply hold one in your hand, take aim, and squeeze the trigger. You will feel something. If that target was a person, he’d be dead. Don’t knock it until you tried it.

That amount of power can be intoxicating. If you aren’t ready for it, it will frighten you. It is cathartic. There are a lot of uptight people in the world. I bet if there was a gun range on every corner, there would be a lot less stress. It’d certainly be healthier than a bunch of convenience stores. I wonder how many people are dying each day from cheap beer and potato chips that come in hermetically sealed bags.

That’s probably why my father has a cabinet full of guns. It’s probably why his father does too. I bet my great-grandfather had a whole rack of rifles back in his heyday . I doubt any of the guns were ever used. Besides the occasional target practice, they’ll sit down there and rust. There is something very human about just owning a weapon. You’ve got to prepare yourself if the world goes to hell.

Serenades of opposition

We live in an age of untruths. Far too often, we bite our tongues instead of speaking our minds. We have been trained to do so from early youth. There are certain things you can say aloud to anyone, certain things you can say only in confidence with close friends and family, and certain things you must forever carry alone in your own mind. The most well-adapted man to the modern age knows these boundaries well. He knows what to say, when to say it, and how to say it. For this, people think of him as clever, insightful, and witty.

Conversely, a man who does not follow these rules becomes a social pariah. His words become an albatross around his neck. If one is not careful about what he says and to who he says it to, he is branded with labels that forever stain his reputation in the eyes of others.

A man who gains this particular form of infamy is treated poorly by all. Every society has its own strain of ideology. When people group together, they need a protocol for understanding each other. History shows that if a society does not have an ideology from inception, it quickly acquires one. It is required for a sense of group identity. Without a shared ethos, a society crumbles into chaos.

Because of this, those who have the audacity to attack a society’s ideology are seen as the most vile kind of man. They become public enemy number one. Past societies had a multitude of names for this sort of man: heretic, blasphemer, infidel. These words have fallen out of fashion in modern society, but they are very much alive in their spiritual successors. They are needed more than ever.

As a consequence of diving deeper into the recent obsession with globalism and diversity, members of society continue to have less and less common with each other. The chaos this breeds requires a greater force to uphold it. You can see in action all around you today. Any time someone calls another out as a bigot, a chauvinist, or a extremist, it is an attempt to form social cohesion in this brave new world.

The basic concept remains the same today. It is no different than the shaming done in the past. If something goes against the grain of the lies that everyone else has agreed upon, it will be demonized. The primary difference is that you don’t need to kill, rape, or pillage to be considered a barbarian any more. In this form of modern insanity, words speak louder than actions.

The worst kind of punishment comes when the heretic speaks the truth. The weakest of ideas are rooted in lies. People do not castigate an insane man, they feel pity for him. A society is only compelled to utterly destroy a man when he threatens it with truth. Look at any two examples of virulent persecution in history and you will see one overriding commonality between them, they dare to say that the emperor had no clothes.

Persecution is not something that can only be viewed through the obscured lense of history. It is alive and well. It will only grow stronger the farther we dare to plunge further into the ideas that have made the modern world. Look around and you will see witches being burned at the stake. There is much to be learned from their heresy. In a world increasingly ruled by madness, those that we deem insane are the only ones who dare to speak the truth.

Favored by misfortune

Our society is obsessed with status.  Thousands of movies, documentaries, and TV programs are dedicated to the billionaires, movie stars, and politicians we deem important.  They strive to answer what makes them great, how they reached such heights and places of power.

Some of them ascribe to to luck.  “Bill Gates was just in the right place at the right time.”  Some attribute it to innate ability.  “Marlon Brando was just born a great actor.”  A select few of these narratives choose to focus on hard work.  They emphasize the thousands of hours of diligence poured into their work.  They set them up as examples for the viewer to aspire to.  You too could be great, if you just work hard enough.

These narratives are always less than satisfying.  The audience is captivated by the idea of vast amounts of power, but they must continue on after it is over.  Everyone must go back to their average paying jobs and their unaccomplished friends when the weekend is done.  Greatness is too complex of a topic to be boiled down into a catch phrase.  All attempts to do so are doomed to fail before they even start.

One of the most noteworthy attempts in history to understand greatness comes from Renaissance Italy.  The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli was written as a study into what makes a leader gain and keep power. Its lessons have since been widely applied, to everything from business to warfare.

Born into 16th century Florence, he lived his entire life in an Italy dominated by political strife.  He begins off the treatise by directly addressing the ruler of Florence, calling for him to rise to an unmatched greatness.  Only then could he unite the warring states of Italy and bring peace to the land.  In the ensuing chapters, he describes, at great detail, how great rulers are made.  He cites both contemporary and ancient sources as role models and cautionary examples.

He deviates little from this formula throughout the entire book.  A notable exception comes towards the end.  There is a chapter that concerns itself with the good and bad luck princes must account for ruling.  Instead of citing history, he speaks in generalities and metaphors.

In this chapter, Machiavelli speaks of a force he calls fortuna.  Most English translation render it as the word “fortune”, but it has a much more profound meaning.  She is a force to be reckoned with.  She is one that brings both blessings and curses. No one is outside of her grasp. She happens to everyone, from peasant to king, though not all at once.  It is impossible when to predict when she will smile upon you or bring misery to your life.

Despite the fickle nature of fortune, he still finds meaning in it:

I compare fortune to one of those torrential rivers which, when enraged, inundates the lowlands, tears down trees and building, and washes out the land on one bank to deposit it on the other. Everyone flees before it; everyone yields to its assaults without being able to offer it any resistance. Even though it behaves this way, however, it does not mean that men cannot make provision during periods of calm by erecting levees and dikes to channel the rising waters when the come, or at least restrain their fury and reduce the danger.
The same may be said about fortune, which tends to show her strength where no resources are employed to check her. She turns her course toward those points where she knows there are no levees or dikes to restrain her.

Misfortune casts it shadow on all men at one point or another. It does not effect everyone the same though.  Those wise enough to prepare for hardship will be the ones affected least. The true virtue of a man is tested in these moments.  The ability to deal with adversity ultimately determines his position in life.  In times of plenty, there is enough for all to live on.  The strong only show their worth in the worst of times.

Modernity is a time of untold prosperity.  We see it in every obese person on welfare, every professor who raids the state’s funds with tenure, and every time an apology is demanded for hurting someone’s feelings.  These people have never known starvation, never experienced war, or put their life on the line.  It takes only a modicum of effort to provide for the basics of life today.  The further we proceed into modernity, the more this weakness shall rule.

Machiavelli offers this chapter as a warning. Anyone who depends on the great fortune of today will be the first to fall when misfortune hits.  All glory is fleeting.  A decadent society that does not prepare for the future is no different.  It too will crumble at the first sign of true crisis.