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.


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