The Value of Stardom
There are important organizations promoting the concentration and centralization of property, power, and esteem, in a structure that makes up the social star system. Those organizations operate to express the beliefs, values, and tactics which achieve those concentrations and so create stardom. Stardom itself is the dominant value, and the organizations promote themselves as opportunities to achieve stardom. Stardom doesn’t have to be fame as played out in popular culture, but sometimes it is. The exercise of power and influence is not always ‘in the limelight’. The security of that system requires a nervous vigilance for threats and alternative visions which might divert energy away. There is an effort to spread the beliefs and values of stardom, and to promote their dominance in the community at large. A tsunami of star-system glamour-imagery is washed over public spaces and communications media. The message put about is that the world simply works this way, that the stars with remarkable accumulations must be permitted special liberties and immunities, must be admired and followed because they are the leaders who create and develop the community culture. In that way the star system functions as a social control mechanism.
Right-Wing Oversights and Misrepresentations
The star system as just described is the core element of right-wing political thinking. Devotion to stardom is devotion to inequality. So it is that the basic idea of the political right-wing is inequality itself. In addition, the claim is made that inequality is simply natural, and uniquely represents the spirit of nature.
There are fatal problems with these right-wing claims. Perhaps most important is the evidence that people do not need leaders or contracts to create cohesive social systems, language, or meaning in their lives. The creation of those fundamentals is broadly decentralized and nonhierarchical. Leadership is generally parasitic on innocently created social groups. Individuals do not need to be provided with identity by a collective or culture since we already have it with our subjectivity as described in previous blog posts. Additionally, that subjectivity is not savage instincts, lusts, aggression, delusional imaginings, or a blank hole to be filled with outside influences. It is a specific intelligent questioning which accumulates. It does not require close supervision or hierarchical placement to prevent it from harming itself or others.
Right-wing political rhetoric claims to champion simple justice. The appeal is to individuals who have accumulated property through work, diligent application of their abilities and energy, and perhaps personal risk. Such people seem justified in not wanting the rewards of work and talent to be sucked away to support people who might seem lazy and stupid to them. Fair enough, but neither does accomplishment entitle anyone to control, exploit, or torment the less accomplished, and that is an assumption that typically accompanies such an appeal to ‘justice’. The star system as a social control mechanism lurks behind the rhetoric of rugged individualism, and meritocracy is a typical star-system. It is also important to acknowledge that nobody accomplishes anything without a lot of externalities provided by the contributions of many people, externalities such as the stability of law, health care, education, infrastructure development and maintenance, a fruitful and healthy environment, maybe summed up as a healthy human interconnectedness.
Rugged individualism as manifested in star systems takes just as much centralized administration and control as equality. That is why right-wing political forces always balloon the size, powers, and immunities of military forces, police, prisons, and secret intelligence operations and simultaneously reduce civil rights and the transparency of authority. Private property accumulators are terrified that their stuff is going to be revealed to public scrutiny, damaged, destroyed, or stolen. The more property a person has the more psychological coddling they need to feel secure, and the more pressure they can afford to apply to public officials to provide it. That becomes extreme as social inequality increases.
The personal use of thinking is to exercise and experience some agency, initiative, and control in a world where so much is beyond control. That was the point of Stoicism and Hellenistic humanism generally. Hellenistic Epicureanism, Stoicism, Cynicism, and Skepticism all developed ancient Greek heroism turned inward, the personal use of thinking to act as an individual force in the face of nature and the gods. Their teaching was not competitive, hierarchical, or star-system enabling. The message was a profoundly egalitarian call to exercise creative subjectivity no matter how small it may seem in relation to world-historical events. Feel the transcendence of your subjective intelligence. Find happiness in the freedom, creativity, and transcendence of it. Nurture yourself in happy creativity and Epicurean delight, even when the whole force of nature, gods, and culture works to drown you out and leave you silent. Cultural star-systems are important in those silencing spectacles. The personal use of thinking is still egalitarian. Philosophy has always been a presentation of the thinking of an individual person, not divine revelation or decree from occult inspiration or authority of any kind. It is thinking that can be considered and evaluated, and so thinking that is an invitation and portal to thinking for every individual. The gift of philosophy is validation of the power of individual thinking, and so the self-subsistence of individual identity, freedom, and self-possession.
Given the dominance and force of star-system culture and organization it is not too wild to characterize politics as psychological war raging around us and through us. The stream of messages from standard news and information organizations is a reality distorting campaign in support of systems of stardom. Star-system culture is an enemy trying to disable your agency and creative initiative. Inequality as a political value is an enemy to most people because it specifically discounts and writes off most people. That is the foundation of class war. In that psychological warfare the distribution of property, power, and esteem is far less important than the distribution of self-possession. That is the psychological battlefield on which the war rages between attempts to disempower and efforts to self-empower people at large. Stardom is the opposite of self-possession. The personal use of thinking is to wake up to self-possession.
Copyright © 2011 Sandy MacDonald. The moral right of the author is asserted.