Your Desire is Not Even Your Desire

Your Desire is Not Even Your Desire

Human desire is like a frisky goat behind a hedge. It has more tricks, more un-thought, unspoken motivations than we can foreknow. Mostly these have to do with sex and appetite, aspects of our lives that despite sexual revolutions, gay rights, The Museum of Sex, and ubiquitous porn, many people aren’t comfortable acknowledging the extent of or the impact on their inner as well as relational lives.

When it comes to that goat, whim is a mighty force, in which good or bad judgment plays no part. While seemingly free, whim is the slave to desire and its demands for satisfaction. In complementary fashion; creativity, innovation, and imagination can be enlisted as slaves by the demands of desire, so to; manipulation, coercion, force, trickery and betrayal, the defining activities utilized by sex traffickers to entrap women, children and teens into commercial aspects of the sex industry, such as child pornography, an enterprise intended to groom customers for child sex tourism. It’s well documented that children are targeted on-line to be enticed to enter gateways to pornography through Internet sites intended for children. Thus begins the overt/covert grooming of not only vulnerable victims but future customers.

In its fight against human trafficking, The Polaris Project has constructed a new typology that identifies twenty-five forms of contemporary human trafficking with links to commercial industries (https://www.polarisproject.org). I think it’s important to sort out the impact of demands we each make on the rest of the world to satisfy our every desire. Haven’t we noticed the waste-heap, human and otherwise, the world has become? What keeps us from realizing not only our own contributions but that it’s really someone else that’s yanking our chains? The world is run now, partly on the labor of over 27 million unacknowledged, enslaved people. Economies of many first world cities and countries are dependent upon the creation and outcomes of wars for the purposes of entrapping civilian refugee populations for sale and trade in international markets, for weapons, drugs, minerals and enormous amounts of money. Not only are children and adults sold for sex and labor but for their vital organs, for sale by dealers to medical institutions throughout the world. Global economies exist and depend upon this kind of dark money that has links to much of what we engage in and encounter in our daily lives. If in our ignorance and ambivalence we think of the millions of disenfranchised, enslaved populations as expendable property, then we may apply our reason to this kind of injustice and see their suffering and deaths, as Smith wrote in The National Review, “Back in 1993 (Newsweek), I warned…that once killing became accepted as a solution to human suffering, eventually it would lead to conjoining the death procedure with organ harvesting “as a plum to society…” Worse, if society ever comes to see such people as so many organ farms, our perceptions of the inherent value of their lives could take a terrible and deadly turn.” (Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/446676/pushing-euthanasia-organ-harvesting). I apply this quote here as it has equal relevance to issues related to the commercial sex industries, which garner profits from human trafficking, pornography and child sex tourism, to fill the demand of created markets based upon the creation of desire for a human product as a commodity. This, I believe is one definition of pornography.

If we are not aware of what or who is driving our own desires, who then are the real slaves? How is it that so much of contemporary life comes down to the things we say we want or must have? At what cost? Is it always only about that something or someone that you must have? Is your desire the size of a chocolate flourless cake or is it Ferrari-sized or McMansioned? Is it for something as small as plumper lips or mink eyelashes, but bigger than bigger boobs; fewer wrinkles, more money, more sex, longer life, older steak, finer wine, younger wife, richer boyfriend, an unending erection, bigger cocktails, more buzz, shorter hours, longer legs, flatter tummy, higher butt, extra abs, thicker hair, double latte, extra cheese…

What would happen, do you imagine, if you stopped, simply stopped, and skipped to another register where you engaged yourself in an all-together different manner so as to see what it’s like to tolerate your own yearning without giving in to the pressures of satisfaction? Will you recognize this person? Do you like them or hate them? There is much to learn about one’s self in that open space as well as how it is we construct the local and global societies we live in.

If you have gotten this far in following this blog on sex trafficking, I commend you on your ability to tolerate very disturbing and often repugnant aspects of reality. But there is so much to learn about how the world is the way it is by knowing about our own tendencies of aversion, the other side of desire. That said I hope I’m not stretching it by telling a story from my life that involves an account of a truly revolting creature, the cockroach.

As an art student in New York City in the 1970’s, I took an elective art history class on Chinese Buddhist Art. I needed the credits. The instructor was a young, kooky kind of nerdy guy who worked in the enormous New York City Public Library on Fifth Avenue. His lectures were obtuse and as student’s we couldn’t make any sense of him. For example, after viewing slides in class on Tang Dynasty ink brush painting he gave us this homework assignment (remember please, that this was New York and Brooklyn in the 70’s, before billionaires and gentrification): we were to isolate one cockroach in our apartments, paint one small white dot on its back, then follow and keep track of its comings and goings over the length of the course. There is a reason I am recalling this fleck of history now, as it may have been an early teaching on desire and its equal/opposite aversion, followed by a teaching on aggression and the interconnectedness of all life. Now, here’s the truth as to why I’m recalling this seemingly pointless tale; I did not do the assignment. I suppose I judged it first as “pointless,” and was challenged by my aversion to more intimate contact with creatures who had already infested my tiny studio and who I habitually killed. Not kill a cockroach? You must be kidding. My desire to keep away from personal contact was equally as strong as the cockroaches will to survive. If I think of other human beings as being like that cockroach; to be avoided, less than me and of no significance then it is also my responsibility to acknowledge the killer I become. In this iteration of the world we now live in, ambivalence is deadly.

Now think back to the goat behind the hedge with its desires for; food, play, freedom, sex, trouble…and kicking up its hooves. We’re no different. But in our commerce-driven world industry has figured on how to court our desires with every imaginable gimcrack and false promises to fill every imagined nook and cranny, but only to fulfill their own desires for money. It is a vicious, unending cycle of human existence that tricks us and betrays us into thinking we are isolated individuals who hold no responsibility or impact on the lives of others, and that there can be an end to our desires.

Whether or not there can be an end to our desire, I believe is a question worth considering over and over again. Here’s a suggestion for an amended, less yucky version of that experiment from my art school days: take a quarter from your purse or pocket. Hold it in your hand and imagine all the places, faces, things that have been done to and with that quarter. Paint a face on it. Does this change how you feel about the quarter? Now, what do you want to do? Without acting on them, note each thought and observe where they go. Try this for a week or so, especially where money is transacted and change is involved. Notice your thoughts, feelings, and fantasies. We are so much more than goats behind a hedge. We feel for others. Our insights and fantasies also express desires for their safety and compassion for their suffering. And it’s those quiet, sensitive thoughts that once spoken and acted upon can simply make this world a better world for us all.

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