Clank Your Chains and Sing With Me

This wizard does not claim that we are slaves in name, only that we lack basic liberty in fact.

The masters of human freedom scarcely change across the whole of history, and it is only the forms which those masters take that are different. The most obvious ones are those you see all around you, the ones that—by all appearances, anyway—seem most to be forms of voluntary servitude. Of, perhaps, avoidable servitude. There are those who worship money and those who love power, both petty and great. There are those who are suckered by delusions of upward mobility. Then there are those who bow down before empty narcissism or triviality or, worse yet, live their lives in the grip of a kind of sleep, taking no wonder from life either inside or outside the places in which they work.

Our elected leaders understand these forces and manipulate them to their advantage. They, in turn, are manipulated by those who outrank them. Mostly, this leads to little but a tight circle of self-reinforcing communal bondage.

The fact that everyone is trapped in completely different ways speaks only to the aspect of genius belonging to the current circumstances. Yet, there are larger ways, broader ways in which it can be said that we are collectively bound. In the beginning of what little we know of early human history, humans hunted and gathered. This may sound to you like a tremendous pain in the ass, but anthropologists say the life of a hunter-gatherer held a percentage of leisure time we can’t even fathom today. With little competition and abundant food, all you had to do was go out and grab your food stash for the day, and spend the rest of the time just being cool or awesome, depending upon your preference.

Eventually, we moved on to agriculture, which is sort of a mixed bag since it involves way more work and requires, suddenly, that we be present in certain places at certain times. Yet the benefit of the security of agriculture must not be understated, and farming still involves a direct communion with the earth and its life. We work the ground and nurture the livestock because from these earthly gifts we obtain our food.

It can be said that the industrial revolution really threw a wrench in the entire thing, for it was this that disconnected us finally from the land. No longer would most humans work for food, but instead trade our time and labor for tokens to be used for food. Very far removed from the original deal, but an optimist would say that at least we were still producing things.

Now, many have been reduced to punching numbers into electrical screens in tiny boxes in rooms with hundreds of people and hanging fluorescent dome lights of death, and offices for the important people all around. So they can watch you without having to really mix with you too much. There’s no time to be cool or awesome, and we’ve got no connection to the land we walk and drive on. On top of it all, we don’t even make anything.

Maybe you think that you are still free to come and go as you please, and maybe you’re right. But maybe you can’t leave. Maybe there isn’t any place for you to go, or any other place with a job for you, or any way for you to conceive of “starting over” in any major way. The American Dream places a heavy emphasis on homeownership, but heaven help you if you’ve got a mortgage to pay—you’re basically an indentured servant right there. Not a slave, but bound to your land, bound to your masters at the bank and your job. Getting married is difficult because you may be using so much of yourself in your “work” that there’s nothing left for “family” or “life.” Babies are great for the powers that be, because they serve the same effect as a home loan. Same with student loans, which can’t even be escaped in bankruptcy. Same with car payments, which don’t do a thing to help us when the car craps out again.

Yet in the midst of all the disadvantages, we may comfort ourselves with the notion that the height of hubris belongs not to us but to those who actually believe themselves to be operating in a system not merely subjugating nature and the cosmos but existing entirely outside of it. This is not within the realm of possibility. Tell me I’m wrong.

There’s no such thing as “unnatural”.

To all things that exist, the response of nature and the cosmos to imbalance is always a grim adjustment, and no one is exempt from the rules. As you think on that statement this week, I hope it gives you comfort.

It is my hope that you think, as well, about those you see around you this week. Not the sheep and the dogs and the destroyers and the victims, but the Good People. You know who they are; they need no definition. Take care to see these Good People as your sisters and brothers, and carry on for their sake, if not for your own.

This post is Part I of a two-part series on the state of our collective freedom and liberty. Keep alert this week for the conclusion in Part II.

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