Saintly Thoughts

The Myth of Political Freedom

We speak as though we are a free culture in which we welcome many divergent and even antagonistic truths and viewpoints meet and interact.  I suspect, however, that it might be more correct to say that no culture has yet existed upon this planet which has a firmer grip upon our minds and souls that that of our democratically institutionalized capitalist civilization (note well that I say civilization and not society, this is intentional).  Why do I say this?  Because in proclaiming our society free, and internalizing it as such, we believe (insofar as we believe freedom to be a human good) that the civilization itself is by nature good.  This is caused by an unfortunate but natural tension of epistemology, for when we perceive freedom as good and our civilization as free we of course come to perceive that our civilization is good, but are apt to forget the part whereby civilization is good because it is free and not good simply (there is of course a good implicit in civilization itself--even the most brutal--but this is a good that merely touches on base survival and is thus, while unique to humans as civilization creators, by no means a good uniquely human, and thus hardly something to brag about).  Thus we commit the classic blunder of mistaking the subject for the object.  But what does this matter so long as civilization remains free (by now you may suspect that we may replace freedom with any number of goods commonly attributed to our civilization)?  The trouble is, in conflating civilization and freedom we become desensitized to the nature of freedom itself, and thus whatever we perceive within our own civilization (even the most terrible tyranny) we perceive as freedom.   Our civilization is especially good at playing this trick on us, for we have been duped (with the best of intentions) into believing that we, the people ourselves, are the system.  And we, of course, perceive ourselves as good (and none more so than those who go about the marketplace declaring their own wickedness).  Thus we are good (and free), our civilization is good (and free).  This is the game that both sides of our dialectical political game play; and there is really no other game out there in a system as structurally tyrannical as our own.

Do not get me wrong, I am not advocating communism or any other now existing political ideology; they create their own prisons of the mind.  But at least in the later stages of their brutality, we may recognize their mendacity.  The mendacity of our structuralized system is more subtle and thus all the more complete.  The promise of security is dangled in front of us along with the jewels of a civilization just out of reach.  Ah, that confederacy of things piled upon things!  And ever ascending the dialectic of housewares!  Please do not misunderstand me, I accuse myself more than any other!  I have been caught in this system like a fly buzzing too close to the light, one flit further all that stands between me and destruction.  But we must live!  We must survive!  We must thrive!  (We must appear sensible and tastefully upper-class).   And thus we are slaves, perpetuating our existence on the backs of slaves far meaner than we.  What a horrible thing to be a human being, a ghost in this machine of our own unconscious creation, our own civilization.