Greed for All
Freedom will not be built on a politics of self-sacrifice. Instead of desiring less, we should become greedier for each other. In fact, we haven’t been stealing nearly enough.
We are constantly told to have less. That the virtuous work hard and go without. As a girl, I am told I am too much, that I need to eat less, drink less, fuck less, be less full of love and less full of hate. That if only I shrank my desires I too could be virtuous, good, pure, or at the very least not a fat hysterical slut full of silly anger. As members of L.A. ONDA write in the journal Hostis, “We’ve been told to live with less and less by not only Green Capital, but by the Church, by our liberal ‘friends,’ and even by fellow comrades.” And we’re fucking mad about it.
Our enemies want us to sacrifice and suffer. They have made themselves appear so total we almost start to believe not only that we deserve to have less, but we should willingly choose to give things up. Even comrades with the best intentions often espouse the virtue of asceticism.
Like the vegan straight edge punk boys I thought were sexy as a teen. They were so skinny, as if they were trying to keep their bodies pure for ‘The Rev’ they were sure would come any day now. They told me to make myself smaller, too. Or they didn’t say it outright, but they told me how good it felt to deprive yourself of the simple joys we find in this hell world – smoking, drinking, biscuits and gravy, pink sparkles and plastic tiaras. And they were older, and smarter, and more committed to this thing we call struggle. So, I talked less, pretended I knew less, and didn’t tell them I cooked all my food in butter.
Their position is understandable, of course. In a world where all joy that is not commodified is repressed, often violently, even I have to remind myself there are other ways to fight than sacrificing what us joy. There are times I feel the inevitability of the State projected so deeply into my body that I can’t imagine anything better than getting new bruises before my last ones fade. When all we can imagine is endless struggle without a chance of survival, it’s easy to think the best we can do is live the lives of tiny martyrs, hurting ourselves and each other, giving up more and more.
But I do not accept this. We all deserve more and better than a politics of suffering. While at times we must be willing to sacrifice everything in order to challenge the incredible force of the State, we cannot pretend for a moment that this is desirable. We are not good for having less. Those who have more have simply taken what’s ours. Many of us know more is taken through wage theft than carjackings, burglaries, robberies, and all other property crimes combined – not to mention that all profits are the stolen wages of the working class. This of course shows what we already knew, that our bosses are shit, but that’s only half the story. The other is that we haven’t been stealing nearly enough.
In one of his more salient moments, before being subsumed back into the absurdity of spectacle, Kanye West said, “beauty has been stolen from the people and is being sold back to them under the concept of luxury.” We can’t buy into this concept of beauty, but if in rejecting bourgeois notions of the ‘good life’ we opt instead for sacrifice, we are only wounding ourselves. We are striving for a world that is free, and freedom does not mean going without. It means creating the potential for decadence and joy unfathomable from within our current alienation.
To move past these constraints, we need to learn to live our whims. As the situationist text The Right to Be Greedy suggests, we need “a generous and expansive greed which goes beyond self-sacrifice and petty selfishness to encompass the appropriation of everything and everyone by each and all of us.” A greediness that moves past the ways this world has taught us to limit ourselves, to make our desires smaller, more legible, and less crazy.
This means a greediness not only inspired by the beauty of Greek anarchists regularly expropriating groceries from supermarkets in Exarcheia, the clarity of stealing food locked away as people go hungry. But inspired also by the wilder and less legible 2011 London riots, where teen girls told reporters they burned cop cars just because “it felt really good” and after staying up all night, drunk on stolen wine, said looting was “good fun,” “showing the police we can do what we want,” even as the left criticized them for their lack of politics. Let us take inspiration from friends who stole vibrators from a flooded Babeland; Oakland comrades passing around bottles of champagne at 2014 demonstrations; and anyone who has smoked communized cigarettes at a blockade, because they knew that we need pleasure as much as anything else. Let us take inspiration from anyone who abandoned optics and instead chose to live in excess, off the spoils of what has been stolen from us.
We must foster a greediness that provides for one another’s needs and is expansive enough to transform our desires into a way of living every moment of our lives. And this is not something one can do alone. It is only the myths of capital that would have us believe greediness means taking from others. Rather, wanting everything for myself is synonymous with wanting everything for my friends as well. I am greedy, I am full of too much hate and too much desire because I am full of love for those I call my family; capitalism is killing us and making us miserable in process so I want every joy, not for myself, but for us. Like someone writes in the zine Friendship Is a Form of Life, “as we are in relation to ourselves we are in relation to a friend.” Or as Moten says, “we owe each other everything.” A double meaning, it suggests we are both infinitely indebted to one another, and we must attempt to take everything for each other.