The Conditionality Curse

Read in Dutch on The Fire Online

Freedom is the absence of conditionality. In this industrial, mechanical, technical era, however, conditionality is the ever-expanding center of existence. All of our appliances and software revolve around the concept “if this, then that” – it is conditionality that enables functionality. It is easy to spot conditionality in advertising: if you buy this, you’ll gain that. Contracts, insurances, marriages, they all define conditions, and so examples are plentiful. Conditionality has been spilling over from business into personal lives, where it is causing lots of emotional pain. It is increasingly obvious that conditionality has become a curse.

Conditionality once was a practical tool for business and commerce, a tool to be handled with care. It has now spread so far and wide that it has become the devilish center of personal life. The Dutch people protesting in the streets after last week’s parliamentary election are reminding their fellow citizens – their neighbors – of the conditions they place on them: “if you vote like me, I will tolerate you.” It is proving too tempting to place conditions on other people, as if they were technical appliances, with little to no regard for their boundaries, their experiences, their inner world or their values. If you do this, I will do that.

While the desire to break the Conditionality Curse is growing, the illusion of limiting and removing conditionality is successfully sold: “if you do this, that will be liberating.” By putting up solar panels, for instance, many people had hoped to gain more self-reliance, to get rid of some of that damned, red-tape conditionality to life. Politics and business then started making legal changes, revealing that the power networks will continue to set the conditions, not the people.

A more extreme example of the illusion of liberation is the idea that gender is a conditionality coming from nature. There is a push to believe that nature is conditional, and that therefore people must progress as far as to abide by an artificial socio-cultural reality – which happens to also fill the wallets of big business – that dictates that freedom and unconditionality can not possibly be found in nature, it has to be found elsewhere. Like all illusions, it feeds on the desire but accomplishes the opposite.

In nature, conditionality is absent. Things just are. They exist without conditions. The sun comes up and goes down again, and seasons change. Humans will therefore always experience emotional difficulties, consciously and subconsciously, when conditionality is dominating personal lives.

Modern life is not, and never will be, who we truly are at our core. Nature is the only place where the Conditionality Curse can be broken. In his poem Simplicity Jorge Luis Borges wrote that, possibly, heaven may one day offer us the highest thing: a place where we are simply allowed to exist, ‘like stones and trees’.

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