Ron Swanson, C. S. Lewis, and Manufactured Desire

Just stringing some random thoughts together on desire…

You can get a large audience together for a strip-tease act – that is, to watch a girl undress on the stage. Now suppose you come to a country where you could fill a theatre simply by bringing a covered plate on to the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let every one see, just before the lights went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of BACON, would you not think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food?

…One critic said that if he found a country in which such strip-tease acts with food were popular, he would conclude that the people of that country were starving… If the evidence showed that a good deal was being eaten, then of course we would have to abandon the hypothesis of starvation and try to think of another one… Everyone knows that the sexual appetite, like our other appetites, grows by indulgence. Starving men may think much about food, but so do gluttons; the gorged, as well as the famished, like titillations.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 96-97.

Of course, religious people and their spiritual advisors would be quick to admit that it is important that we direct our desires to God. But how can we do this when we are bombarded by so many other influences, which seek to shape us unconsciously? In a situation where the success of the economy depends on the production of the desire to consume more and more, we have less and less control over our desires, and it would be illusory to think that we can intentionally direct them. Note that no one is exempt here: all of us are subject to the formation of desire by forces that are becoming more and more aggressive, due to an economic phenomenon called the “falling rate of profit.” As profits keep falling in long downwards spirals,’ the struggle for influence over people’s desire must necessarily become more and more pervasive…

What is commonly called “consumerism” describes, thus, not a situation of freedom where people can do as they please, but a lack of freedom that is twofold: not only is desire produced in us and for us, but when we are in a position to pursue our desires without impediment, we are even less free because we are really following someone else’s script.

Joerg Rieger. No Rising Tide: Theology, Economics, and the Future (Kindle Locations 1537-1542, 1775-1777).

***Disclaimer: I am a huge fan of Ron Swanson and I also enjoy bacon.