Thoughts on Being a Slave
What the slaveowner knows.– A society of strong and virtuous men would never make a great cause out of liberalizing so-called “recreational drug” laws (nor would they ever have to make a cause out of it), since they would be too busy enjoying all the more essential forms of liberty to care much about such things. By contrast, if a society does make a great cause out of liberalizing drug laws, you can be sure that those men have already succumbed to illiberalism in every essential arena. For men do not use drugs (let alone demand them as a human right) to enjoy life; they use them to escape from life. Free men love to see their world clearly; slaves crave the comforting fog of oblivion.
To say this a different way: An escaped slave is a happy slave. Every intelligent slaveowner understands this, and therefore actively encourages any form of “escape” that does not disturb — and that may even reinforce — the fundamental order of the household.
There are many kinds of drugs. Men who wish to hide reality, whether from themselves or from others, have always been highly inventive in concocting and promoting new forms of reality-masking pleasure and comfort, and the more addictive the better. In every case, the goal is to obscure something that has been deemed too painful to see, or too inconvenient to allow others to see.
Freedom in slavery.– The slave desires an escape from bondage. How is he to achieve this? Escape into fantasy is no escape at all, but merely, at best, a temporary salve or balm for the weary or frightened soul — beneficial only in a conditional and transient way, as the imagination’s brief respite before the inevitable return to harsh reality — or at worst, evidence of a mind’s complete surrender to the leash and the lash. Hence, all escape into fantasy, and particularly into those fantasies offered as gifts by the master, serves only to highlight one’s enslaved condition, or even to strengthen the bonds. Where, then, is the well-tethered slave to look for his life-sustaining hope of escape? Where? Why, straight at his bonds.
No slave escapes through the front gate on a sunlit morning. He must take the rocky, treacherous, pre-dawn route of course. Likewise, our freedom, somewhat paradoxically, lies in rejecting the tempting weakness to deny our reality. It lies in knowing we are slaves, refusing to identify with our master and the goals of the household, and deeply understanding that no comforting illusion is a friend to one whose clarity of thought is his only light. In our moment of global totalitarianism — it will last two hundred years or more before it burns itself to the ground, but in cosmic terms two centuries barely comprise a full “moment” — there will be no physical place to run, no material condition of relative liberty worth seeking. Our free world will be the cosmos itself: our clear-eyed awareness of what we are, what our master is, and what this oppression means in the context of the Grand Wheel. This world, though existing right under the tyrant’s nose — it is in fact what he would proudly call his world — is forever untouchable to him, since the tyrant is by definition and constitution oblivious to anything that lives beyond reach of his all too material grip.
We are not free in the lower, secondary sense. Our bonds will continue to tighten for the remainder of our earthly lives, and there is nothing we can do about it, since there is no longer a general will to resist among us, but only a collective desire to hide our heads under pillows of various shapes. But in this enslavement resides the doorway to our higher freedom — not through false idols and revolutionary fantasies, but through living our inner lives as ones who fearlessly search for an understanding of what this moment means, and what it does not mean.
Refusing to see the world or yourself through the lenses the master has cut for you is freedom. Rejecting the rhetoric of tribal parades in favor of preserving your independent mind at all costs is freedom. Seeing clearly what the crowd really is, even while they are chanting their hatred of you, swarming you, or begging you to join them, is freedom. Seeking your comfort in self-knowledge stripped of all self-satisfying veneer, and in unflinchingly observing your true fate — political, spiritual, and historical — in its full context, however disquieting or difficult, is freedom. In the end, there is rarely any other kind of freedom possible on this Earth, or at least no other that can be expected to last. And in fact, this intransigent clinging to the imperatives of self-knowledge, by those few who are capable of maintaining it against all surrounding oppressions, has also proved, historically, to be the only path to whatever glimpse of that lower, more practical form of freedom has ever been achieved.