Just when I believe this year, this country, this society, our species can’t possibly get any crazier…….
We are pulling ourselves apart at the seams. And perhaps that’s OK in the end.
From both primary “sides” I hear the calls for unity. Calls for the “Good Old Days” when politicians set aside their differences and worked diligently for the common good.
Come on. Do you honestly believe that to be true? National Unity is a myth. Pure and simple. No different than the idea of Authority itself. It is a myth. An artificial construct that is not objectively real in any sense.
Even during the times that are projected by our public education as having been the most unifying. WWII. The Revolution. You name it, there was no national unity in any real sense. Even those movements were deeply unpopular and were met with tremendously loud dissenting voices.
What’s the difference today? Why does it feel so chaotic?
Individual. Independent voices. And damn is it weird and painful right now. Nobody can even tell what is real or what is truth, even about those topics that are primarily grounded in science.
That should tell you something. The truth is never black and white. Any scientist worth a damn can tell you that. As much as I am not a fan of post-modernist theory, they do get that part right. There are an infinite number of subjective interpretations of reality. True.
The often comical catch is, that almost all of those interpretations are not overly useful with respect to navigating your world in such a way that can actually be defined as productive.
In the age prior to internet and before the rise of social media we had no voices other than those carefully contained and defined by authoritarian structures, with the rare anomaly of an actual case of investigative journalism that might expose a slight crack in the narrative. Just enough to allow people to feel that what they were getting was truthful and oversight existed in the world.
We see now however, that was never the case. With the rise of independent, free thinking minds the world is not anymore chaotic than it’s ever been, it’s just that chaos is now plain for all to see and appreciate.
And just to make things even worse. The rise of these individual voices are consuming market share for traditional news outlets and venues. As their market share dwindles so too does their profit. Honestly, I couldn’t tell you the last time I personally consumed a traditional news show. Gross.
And how does anyone respond to dwindling market share? Aggressively of course. And that response is an effort to attract more consumers. The only way they know how to do that is to produce the most sensational content imaginable. This is the reason you see the traditional news agencies becoming more extreme to whichever political base they appeal. This is the reason nobody just reads “news” any longer. People need to get on air, project their charisma, and make alarming statements and headlines that literally turn heads.
This is where we are. It is painful.
Ultimately, I do believe it’s leading somewhere. Given the long-term trajectory of the human experience I’m still optimistic that it’s leading somewhere positive and constructive. Although this year has tested my personal resolve. I’ve even drank a few beers.
In the end I think this is all exposing a deeply rooted charade. I think our artificially manufactured and religiously adopted centers of violent authority will not survive this evolution in the long run. All Emperors are being shown as they truly are, starkly naked.
So what’s best for our species? What’s the right prescription for the overall collective?
My understanding of Collectivism is a focus on social cohesion, group goals over individual goals whether focused on a smaller group or a larger one, such as an entire nation. As a philosophy it’s easy to buy in to this, it sounds right. The problem is that this line of thinking often draws a very dangerous line where one does not need to exist. It often creates an “us vs. them” mentality that will, more often than not, lead to violent outcomes. These advents of ethnocentric mentalities have led to needless deaths since the dawn of civilization. My largest issue with Collectivism is that I don’t recognize the imaginary lines that have been drawn by so many, OUR country, OUR city, OUR religion.
Collectivist ideologies make a very dangerous assumption; that it understands what is best for any given group. The oversight by so many that fall victim to collectivist appeal is the failure to recognize that the GROUP is not making decisions. The GROUP is not prioritizing needs for itself. Individuals are doing that. Individuals that are perhaps elected or have nominated themselves in charge of any particular group and are making the decisions and aligning priorities upon which the collective should focus. Make no mistake that these individuals are setting these priorities and making decisions largely based upon their own individual values, subjective bias and ideals. They cannot think or act as the “GROUP.” The group does not exist in actuality, only a collection of individuals and the larger that collection of individuals become, the less capable individuals are of representing and making decisions that are truly reflective of the “will” of the people within the collective.
If the stated goal truly is to maximize happiness of everyone within the collective or maximize fulfillment, then the best course of action would be for each and every individual to focus on their own desires and accomplishing their own goals, then naturally the maximum number of people within any collective will achieve that fulfillment and happiness and thus, Individualism approaches more closely the stated goals of Collectivism. Not one person outside the consciousness of the individual truly understands the fulfilling needs of that individual. An individual may identify with particular groups, a Church, a Country, etc, however each individual will separate values upon which they prioritize what matters most to them. It’s your own, individual, intrinsic pricing mechanism.
My points here are not Randian in nature. Many confuse the point I’m trying to make. By stating that people should focus their approach and goals individually, I am not stating that this should or even will be driven in what anti-Rand groups perceive as “selfishness.” I think this is a very misunderstood misnomer. What many fail to recognize is that pursuing selfish ends often results in the most generous and empathetic actions. Many won’t believe that statement, but I know that individually when I provide value or assistance to those around me that cannot provide for themselves, it makes ME feel good. I feel good about myself and the act of helping others selfishly provides individual reward. So you have to ask, do I do these acts because it helps the individuals that I’m assisting? OR, do I do these acts because it is individually rewarding and makes me feel good personally? I don’t know the answer. Probably some combination of the two I would guess.
I believe that most people feel and act the way I do in this regard. I think people love helping others. This belief that people are mostly bad and the only way to provide support and assistance to those in need is through government or collective intervention and the forcing of goodwill is simply…….wrong. I don’t observe it personally in my understanding of the people around me.
Let’s take that line of logic one step further. Let’s pretend you are of the mindset that people, at their core, are inherently bad. I disagree, but let’s run with that. People are bad and can’t be trusted to do what’s right. If that’s so, why on EARTH would you allow people, who are bad, to have coercive power over other people? Such as in any collective?
And for those who feel that people in need wouldn’t receive assistance and support if not for the support of a collective or government, again I strongly disagree, but let’s say that’s the case; then you are left with a situation producing two possible outcomes: Either you are wrong and without collective actions through taxation to support the poor the people within the population have a desire to help those in need and do so in kind. OR, they do not, the poor do not receive support and you must then admit that the collective was not representing the true will of the people. Instead representing the sentiments of individuals within the collective who decided helping the poor was the right thing to do, but only with other people’s resources.
What I know is wrong is violence. And I personally interpret laws and forced compliance as violent. In other words there is the threat of violence against me if I do not comply. Confiscation of property, imprisonment, etc. Violence is always wrong and I will always default against violent intervention. I think if people are left to their own devices they will help those around them to the extent that they can. I truly believe that without government intervention there would ultimately be FAR greater philanthropy and compassion in our culture.
In the end I think we’re all starting to realize that there is no unity. There is a unique experience happening within each and every one of us. Not each of us exist within the same city, country or world. Or even within the same family when you get right down to it. I know for a fact that you can have siblings exit childhood from the exact same home and environment with one describing an otherwise blissful childhood experience while the other interpreted a neurotic hell.
I think that realization will facilitate a crumbling of the centers of authority that have caused so much harm and destruction across human history. From the Church to the Courtroom. In actuality one is no different from the other.
Every time in history that people have attempted to move forward collectively by force we have witnessed death and destruction.
Funny thing. We recognize as children and are instructed by our parents that we have no ability to control anyone other than ourselves. Why do we forget that when we get older and somehow don’t think that applies to politics, government, religion?
The path toward peace is through acceptance. I used to always say that to struggling couples as well. The path toward a successful, long lasting relationship is acceptance. Never through change. If you can’t accept them for who they are, then part ways now.
Same logic applies to society as well. With the rise of social media we’re now laying bare all that exists within our individual minds. To some it’s shocking. Neither these tiny details of one’s worldview nor the combative interactions between individuals simply never took place within the arena of polite conversation or family gatherings.
Frankly they still don’t when you actually get a chance to interact with people in person these days. People are still ordinarily polite.
Eventually we are all going to stop fighting so hard to be heard. Fighting so hard to be right. Fighting so hard to be perceived as virtuous.
Eventually we’re going to accept the fact that out of 7 Billion humans not one single other is quite like you.
Eventually we’re going to realize that that observation is not only OK. Not only acceptable. But, it’s beautiful.
We’re all beautifully divided and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s that very division that brings us all so close. We all know, deep inside, that we don’t understand the suffering that person next to us is experiencing. But we all would like to help if we could. Even something as simply as a smile or the investment of five minutes to listen to someone talk through a frustration even knowing that we aren’t going to have a solution for them.
It’s reassuring to know that so many, even strangers, are there for us as well when the time might arise.
Our individuality is the foundation of our existence. It’s also the foundation of our successes so far in this world.
Divided we Stand.
Together we fall…….
If you could, please take a moment to sign this petition to end the Afghan War. So many are suffering, at home and abroad. While all the wars need to end, let’s start here, with this one. I’ve even committed to one push-up for every signature. I like pain.