“It is just as difficult and dangerous to try to free a people who want to live in slavery as it is to try to enslave a people who want to live in freedom.” —Niccolo Machiavelli
Have you noticed the thick layer of Stockholm syndrome enclosing the current zeitgeist? Can you smell the scent of doom wafting up from a culture in decline? Do you see how things are done, not by consent, but by compulsion? Do you see how the law doesn’t protect your freedom, but protects the powers that be from you being free? Do you see how corruption is being rewarded and honesty has become self-sacrificing?
Do you see how voting for the lesser of two evils is still voting for evil? Can you hear the screams of the other rats in the cage, running in circles despite all their rage? Can you see how “the pollution of the environment is a direct reflection of an inner psychic pollution of millions of unconscious individuals not taking responsibility for their inner space?” (Eckhart Tolle). If so, then read on, with eyes wide open and with a full heart. If not, it’s time to open your eyes, and then rise up with a full heart.
The story of man’s enslavement hitherto, is as anarchist Emma Goldman disclosed: “Religion, the dominion of the human mind; Property, the dominion of human needs; and Government, the dominion of human conduct, represent the stronghold of man’s enslavement and all the horrors it entails.” Let’s break it down.
“You’re captives of a civilizational system that more or less compels you to go on destroying the world in order to live. …You are captives – and you have made a captive of the world itself. That’s what’s at stake, isn’t it? – your captivity and the captivity of the world.” —Daniel Quinn
Property is one of those catch-22 concepts that gets our brains all tied up into knots. It’s a clash of ‘I need space that’s mine in which to survive’ with ‘I won’t survive forever so that space is never really mine.’ Deliciously paradoxical. Delightfully absurd. Our minds go from ‘this is mine!’ flaring up with prideful ownership to ‘someday I’m going to die, so my ownership is an illusion,’ witch spirals out into nihilism.
It is in this way that the concept of property is proportionately entangled with the concept of mortality. And when the majority of people are unconsciously living their lives in denial of their own mortality, we get a situation where property becomes a hoarding process of egoic pride and overvalued one-upmanship. Bring economics and a culture that puts a price tag on everything into the equation, and you have a situation where the majority of people have the unhealthy worldview that anything can be bought, anything can be contained and turned into a product, anything can be held captive, and where ownership and a sense of entitlement go to people’s heads. It is then that the dominion of human needs is complete, turning men into slaves using the illusion of their ownership: a particularly insidious type of slavery known as debt-slavery.
“Two percent of the people think; three percent of the people think they think; and ninety-five percent of the people would rather die than think.” —George Bernard Shaw
So how do we square this seemingly unsquarable circle? First of all, we need to make sure we fall into Shaw’s “two-percent of people who think.” It’s all too easy to remain ignorant. It’s comfortable to just go with the flow of the ownership-based worldview of the status quo: the ninety-five percent that would rather die than think. The ability to think outside the box is rare for a reason: the truth hurts like hell. Indeed, if ignorance is bliss, it seems knowledge is pain. Especially when it comes to being knowledgeable about our own mortality and thus aware of the ultimate hypocrisy of property and ownership.
But it’s okay. Rather than give into cognitive dissonance. Rather than remain hypocritical. Rather than become nihilistic. Rather than wallow in self-defeatism. Let’s flip the script. Let’s reverse the illogical. Let’s turn the tables. Let’s come to terms with our own mortality and launch ourselves into a state of honoring Space and Place with an existential awareness that we’re all going to die and how that’s okay. It’s okay that ownership is an illusion. It’s okay that property is only ever temporary. It’s okay that there is no permanence. It’s okay to let go of the idea that anything can be owned. It’s okay that you can only ever borrow a space, a place, or a thing for a fleeting amount of time. The ultimate question is: will you choose to be healthy (treating space as sacred and interconnected) or unhealthy (treating space as profane and disconnected) with your borrowing?
“It is easier to find people fit to govern themselves than people fit to govern others.” —Lord Acton
Here’s the statist’s argument in a nutshell: Since none of us are fit to govern ourselves, we should vote for a few people who are not fit to govern themselves to govern us until we’re able to govern ourselves as well as they didn’t. Huh? It’s the ultimate tautology: People are bad so we need a government made up of people are bad so we need a government made up of people are bad… You get the idea. Classic circular reasoning. We’ve been conditioned to believe that the people in government are somehow fit to govern, even though, deep down inside, we all know that the only person anyone is fit to govern is their own person. And even that’s debatable.
Here it is, down and dirty: We’re a nation of disgruntled people who are ignorant to the underlying causes as to why we are disgruntled and to how the system is unhealthy. We’ve become so thoroughly immersed in our dependency on the unhealthy state that we can’t see the forest for the trees. We don’t need a government to watch over us. We don’t need to be governed by people that know nothing about us. We don’t even need a president, we’ve only been conditioned to think we do.
Government, as it stands, is a giant pot of slow boiling water. The people governed are ignorant frogs enjoying the warm creature comforts therein. Now place that pot over a high heat of rich-get-richer-while-the-poor-get-poorer; stir in a shitload of cognitive dissonance; throw in a dash of anti-intellectualism and extreme nationalism, sprinkle some anti-dirty-hippie-talk on one side with some we-need-the-government-babble on the other side; and you have a recipe for authoritarian-craving, populist-loving, state-codependent people who somehow believe that people can’t lead themselves so let’s vote for some people who can’t lead themselves to lead us. Ding ding ding! Solution: We don’t need masters, or rulers, or presidents, or queens, or emperors –we need to learn how to lead ourselves.
“Do your own thinking independently. Be the chess player, not the chess piece.” —Ralph Charell
What the world needs is more self-mastery, not more obedience. Democracy through anarchy will always be more superior to democracy through plutocracy. Our problem is not that we have too many bad laws, necessarily, it’s that we have way too many people blindly following them. Given enough awareness of state corruption, and enough people willing to practice civil disobedience, those bad laws simply disintegrate. They only ever meant anything because of an outdated social contract to begin with. As Mark Passio said, “Order followers are the people that keep the system of slavery in place.” Don’t blindly follow bad laws. Learn them like a professional so you can break them like a master.
Here’s the thing: your imagination has been hijacked by a fundamentally corrupt cultural conditioning: the false idea that we need the government as it is in order to prosper as a species. But we can still have rules without rulers –through bottom-up leadership (people learning to lead themselves) as opposed to top-down leadership (people relying on leaders). In fact, we can actually have healthier rules without rulers inadvertently mucking it up by trying to maintain their own power. Plus, the ground-up leadership of anarchy prevents anyone’s power from becoming corrupt, let alone from corrupting absolutely.
So liberate your imagination from the prison of “this is just the way things are.” We must build from the ground up; reestablish healthy, sustainable, and interdependent modes of self-governance. It will be a marathon, not a sprint. We’ll have to struggle against corrupt power. We’ll have to tussle with codependent sheep afraid to discard their fur. We’ll have to flip the script with a complete constitutional overhaul. Sure, it’s easier said than done. But as Spinoza once said, “All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare.”
“You do not believe; you only believe that you believe.” —Samuel Coleridge
What is the function of religion? The presentation of the inexplicable by the impossible in order to steal the minds of the unthinking. Religion attempts to force our minds into transforming mysterious myths into unquestionable facts. Rather than allowing myths to be mysterious realms where our imaginations can play, religion turns them into fearful facts with serious agendas that end up causing unnecessary anxiety in the real world. Religion atrophies creativity. It shrivels up the organ of our imagination. As Deepak Chopra surmised, “The best use of imagination is creativity. The worst use of imagination is anxiety.” Needless to say, religion is a bad use of imagination.
But we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves when it comes to religion. Just as most of us were conditioned to be dependent on the state, most of us were conditioned to think religiously. And so it’s probably best to approach the subject with a similar attitude as Guy Harrison: “Hate the belief, love the believer.” Sometimes all we need to do to put things in perspective is to take a deep breath and realize that we are a very young and confused species in an otherwise ancient and fine-tuned universe.
“Belief is a wound that knowledge heals.” —Ursula K. Le Guin
Where religion clings, spirituality lets go. Where the religious mind is closed by belief, the spiritual mind is opened by wonder. Spiritual thinkers are those who are willing to use their minds without prejudice and without fearing to understand things that clash with their own way of thinking about things. They are free to be creative, to think past bias, as opposed to the unquestioning religious mind which is subject to the tyranny of belief. As Salman Rushdie warned:
“The moment you say that any idea system is divine, whether it’s a religious belief system or a secular ideology, the moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from criticism, satire, derision, or contempt, freedom of thought becomes impossible.”
Here’s the thing: with spirituality, God and No-god are not opposing forces; they are simply two ways of looking at the same force, for the drive of impermanence is as much the builder as the destroyer, as much life as entropy, as much existentialist as nihilist, as much theist as atheist, and spirituality subsumes it all as potential Experience for the astute and open-minded observer.
In the end, we are all predisposed to cultural conditioning. We are all subject to being subjected. We are all prone to being mistaken. We’re all going through the motions of being a fallible naked ape imagining it’s an infallible armored god. The trial and error of it all is arduous at best, and there are prisons and pitfalls galore, but if we can approach the core issues of our stumbling –property; government; and religion– with courage, a sense of humor, and the ability to sacrifice self-seriousness, then perhaps we can make the journey a little more imaginative and, God forbid, a little more enjoyable.