The Wolf Inside Us

“From the very start there is no innocence and no singleness. Every created thing, even the simplest, is already guilty, already multiple. It has been thrown into the muddy stream of being and may never more swim back again to its source. The way to innocence, to the uncreated and to God leads on, not back, not back to the wolf or to the child, but ever further into sin, ever deeper into human life.”

—Hermann Heese, Steppenwolf

Why do leftists fight? Leftists claim to cancel each other over ideological differences but this is not why. It should be noted that I am very much for canceling the right wing, just not any part of the left. The reason leftists choose to fight each other rather than the right is not from ideological purity even if this is consciously how it appears to be for the left.

The real reason the left fights each other is because fighting the right means being severely punished while fighting the left only loses you a few friends (no small thing but not quite the same). When leftists stand up to corporate rule, especially in defense of the environment they are often murdered, jailed, or saddled with a criminal record that makes it hard to make a living. At the very least they lose their particular job. Even effective altruism if done for the purpose of truly giving rather than accumulating money for one’s self takes a toll on the leftist who is without the time or energy for self-care when she helps others.

So it is easier to blame each other. And even for this we must forgive ourselves. We must forgive each other for lapses into reactionary politics. We often lapse into right-wing politics for the same reason the right-wing does. Because being a leftist is terrifying. If one actually follows through on one’s ideals then fate is death. It is far easier to pretend the stakes are lower by retreating into ideological struggle.

Of course, ideological struggle is necessary and all resistance is born out of ideology. All effective resistance is born out of able ideology. However, ideology for its own sake without its fulfillment leaves the person making it outside of their argument and alienated from it.

Ideology is not useless. This is because it is extremely difficult to lie to one’s self for a long period of time. If one has internalized an ideology it often is only a matter of time until something is to be done about it. In the same way when we need or want a break or retreat we don’t just say that. Rather, we shift our ideology to a more conservative one because we are fundamentally honest and we need to justify our move to ourselves.

I am not interested in why leftists fight. I know why. We fight because we must retreat. Why do we retreat? That is obvious too. We want to be alive and well. There is nothing wrong with that! Is it wrong that we must make the ideological justification for this retreat? I would argue no. But it is something we have to understand in order to forgive others and (more relevant for the left) ourselves.

At what moment do we retreat and at what moment do we fight? It comes down to the subject of the left vs. the object of the left.

The left arises from a subject with the freedom to think and act. This subject is able to realize a goal beyond immediate survival and aims for the liberation of all people who cannot realize this for themselves. This underclass is the object of the left, not the subject.

Before we go into detail let’s make clear the two stages. There is the leftist subject (intellectual who thinks, activist who does) and the leftist object (oppressed person unable to actualize their own freedom). There is a third factor. The arm of punishment from society upon the left.

I am going to make a Hegelian point. As soon as the leftist subject acts to free the leftist object the leftist subject immediately becomes the leftist object precisely through this punishment by said society. When society punishes the leftist for acting left, the leftist subject is no longer a subject with freedom but rather the leftist object who must be liberated by the left.

In previous writings, I had sided with the working poor against the left. I was correct to see a certain alienation there. But I was wrong to see these interests as opposed. In fact the working poor is an oppressed class that the left becomes through the act of being a leftist. To go against the left would be to go against the working poor. If the working poor can rise up to the point of relative freedom they too may become leftists and repeat the cycle. In other words, the working class can become bourgeois enough to become a leftist who turns back into the proletariat through their own free will.

Such a change is only possible when one acts with clear conviction, not thinking too much of said dynamic. The leftist only becomes aware of their new role as leftist object after they have ceased to have the power of leftist subject. Any leftist who believes what they say is destined to this fate but it is at this very moment that the fate is fulfilled that the freedom of the leftist is no longer possible.

We find the same dynamic in sexuality among the classes. The bourgeois figure will not and cannot be openly sexual because this would entail being vulnerable to a fall in class status. Allowing one’s sexuality or even vices in general to take hold of one’s self implies a fall from the controlled repressed bourgeois accumulating subject who is free to have private property and the like precisely because they repress their desire.

The moment this desire is unrepressed the desire takes over and ruins what the bourgeois subject has built. This person then is able to be the kind of proletariat they were desiring, inheriting the freedom of their desire while losing their possession of bourgeois freedom, and therefore they lose their subjectivity as well. They become, like the proletariat a moment ago in their eyes, an object, a sexual object or an object for exploitation for the purpose of accumulating capital.

The bourgeois subject is left out of sex and may purchase it. Through this purchase, they can experience sex but not sexuality. They can experience sex as a product but not in its human form. However, there is possible redemption even in this exchange. The bourgeois subject, while desiring to be in control of the exchange, may lose it and fall from secular Grace amidst the experience itself.

The reward for the bourgeois subject, if they were to do this, would be in heaven, but they would have lost what they see as their freedom which is this control. Freedom to control one’s self is no freedom at all and only proves unfreedom. Therefore the proletariat, or the bourgeois subject fulfilling their destiny, even with all their formal restrictions on freedom through law and money, remains freer than the bourgeois subject who controls themselves enough to have the rights of freedom.

In this same way law and order politics create crime. In one obvious way there is no crime without a law to break. In a deeper sense, the point of law and order politics is to create an object outside of the law and they will be punished for freedom.

Everyone obeying the law will necessarily resent the law for it limits the freedom this person has. They therefore will endorse the punishment of the accused lawbreaker not because it makes the law follower safer but rather because it justifies the law follower’s decision to follow the law in the first place. If there wasn’t such punishment for the law breaker the law follower could reflect on how they are less free than the prisoner because they choose to participate in a law that is not their own.

The law follower is not free until they break the law which is the point in which they reach the prison. In the same way, the leftist is not a leftist until they stand in solidarity with the proletariat and this is when they become a proletariat. The bourgeois subject imagines their sexual freedom but only becomes sexually free when they too become a sexual object and lose this sexual freedom. They must fulfill their desire to be free and it is at this point they no longer have the liberty to desire. They are not doing what they want but rather following their desire to the end and therefore they are the object not the subject.

Follow the law, repress your desire, delay your destiny. All must be done in order to continue this slog of life. But do so at your own peril. There is a cost to fulfilling one’s own fate. This much is made clear. But the cost of not doing so is denied by all of us participating in the inside game. We are not to be trusted because we are miserable and we want out.

The illusion of freedom is what binds us. We regret our actions as if they were our own. We act as if we chose a life that was given to us. We are obliged to the Other and we fulfill our freedom when we give ourselves over to this obligation. To quote Steppenwolf again “As a body everyone is single, as a soul never”.

If humans invented God the invention was God not as the object of our invention as subjects but rather an invention of God as the inventor, as the subject, with us as the objects. If God was not invented then we are the objects, as we desired, and God is the subject, as we desired.

The question is not if God exists but rather why did we invent God exactly as She could exist rather than something we could control.

Why do we want something more than bourgeois freedom? Why is existing not enough? Why is ambition towards death so courageous and ambition in life so pathetic? This life, as currently constructed under capitalist relations, is one that is not free and we want out. How do we get out of capitalism without going out of life completely? Is there somewhere between the end and the present? Or will now be now until now is then?

Nick Pemberton writes and works from Saint Paul, Minnesota. He loves to receive feedback at