What is freedom?

I used to want to be a poet until I realized that striving to become great when I had nothing to say was a supreme act of vanity–was useless, was like swallowing plastic, was tearing up my insides.

I think in another world that would still be something like what I would want to do, but we do not live in another world.

I am not free to be the poet I would otherwise be, because there is no world full of the people whom I would love and for whom I would create art, or create whatever it is that I would want to create for them because I loved them.

Instead there is a world full of people who eat plastic and do not realize it, and they are all torn up inside, and they have a thick film of plastic over their eyes. And so do I, because I have eaten so much plastic, and I am still so addicted to so much of it that I nibble on it every day, all day long.[1]

If I am free to eat all the plastic I want, am I free? If I am free to have sex with all the plastic-eaters I want, am I free? If I can listen to all the plastic music I want, watch all the plastic films I want, if I can go anywhere in a Lego world, am I free?

No, I am not free because the world–especially the world that made me–is almost empty of humans. These humans think they are Legos. They have been threatened with violence if they acted like anything but Legos–and so has everyone else around them. They have no reason to suspect they are not Legos, except that they are deeply sad, and often frightened, and often have anger they don’t know what to do with.

So what liberty do I have, what can I become in a world without people? What can I become in an enormous and empty spaceship library, full of texts and films and empty of people?

It’s not that there are not other communists out there, and other people who have not yet realized they are communists. Among them I am more free. But no, this is not actually a world that I am living in. I live in a dimly lit hallway crammed in with a few other people, most of whom I barely see, and when I see them, I barely see any of them. And we in the hallway all have death sentences hanging over us that we do not know when they will be carried out.

No, I’m not saying I’m oppressed, nor that I am like a prisoner. But I am saying that my freedom is a formality, because freedom for a human being is only meaningful inasmuch as we are around other free human beings, and who among us is really free?

1. “I got hunger pain that grow insane / Tell me do that sound familiar?”

If it do then you’re like me, making excuse that your relief
Is an upvoted comment on reddit and a much-retweeted tweet.

See also:

Marx’s theory of alienation | Wikipedia

And this seems right, too: Character mask | Wikipedia

The Right To Be Greedy: Theses On The Practical Necessity Of Demanding Everything (I haven’t read most of this, but I think it’s sort of related to what I’m talking about):

The perspective of communist egoism is the perspective of that selfishness which desires nothing so much as other selves, of that egoism which wants nothing so much as other egos; of that greed which is greedy to love – love being the “total appropriation” of [humyn] by [humyn].

I was talking with a friend about the post and managed to say that I think that the emotional significance of different options is what creates freedom, not just a proliferation of options. And I think that’s right.