As an individual subjective intelligence, you wake up in innocence and look around to get your bearings. You concentrate on discovering your situation, where you are and what’s going on around you that bears on your welfare and prospects. In that process you discover culture and politics, and you discover that you are in the middle of a raging war that is, in effect, a great secret because hardly anyone notices it. It is a psychological war, a war of incompatible visions, and it looks like the bad guys have the upper hand.
This blog, In the Blind Spot, generally explores the history and current state of that war, the rivalry and combat between two visions of the human situation, two very old enemies. On one side is the philosophical vision of people as individually transcendent intelligences, the tradition of humanist rationalism and Stoicism, for example. My attempts at interpreting and extending that tradition are typically in aid of clarifying the overall situation of individual subjectivity: in aid of self-discovery, self-possession, personal empowerment, and voice. Postings of that kind include:
What is being called thinking?
The transcendence of intelligence
The brute actuality of nature
If we can characterize modernity roughly as the era of state sovereignty, science, money, human rights, and proletarian literacy, then the presence of the last two items means the vision of individual transcendence has not been utterly defeated. In humanism, the legacy of classical heroism is manifested in a narrative of the dignity and sanctity of individual self-invention, classical heroism turned inward and made universal. That has been an influence against the legitimacy of slavery and abuse. We could not call any society modern that accepts slavery. The ownership class claims the freedom to enslave workers (value them less so to achieve and depict radical inequality in material displays), but in modernity the freedom to enslave confronts humanist individual dignity. Literacy also has been crucial because voice has always been a marker of individual intelligence. Authorship engraves and extends a voice beyond the ephemerality of conversation and speech. The literary voice is both public and private, internal and external, straddling the distinction. Reading and writing, literacy, has been a technology of honouring individual voices. Having a voice is godlike, that is, transcendent. Holy books have been thought to carry the divine voice.
The opposing vision in this great war is the religious vision of monotheistic divine dictatorship and the radical inequality that follows from it. That vision of divine dictatorship is cultural malware which infects and infests the great human interconnectedness. With the spread and dominance of the monotheistic religious traditions over the homelands of Hellenistic humanism, there descended a philosophical dark age that began under the Roman Emperor Theodosius I (347-395 A.D.). The dark age extended roughly from 380, when Theodosius declared Catholic Christianity the only legitimate religion of the Roman Empire, until well after Martin Luther (1483-1546) began a revival of something like Stoic humanism. That long age was dark because there were insane punishments for thinking unorthodox thoughts. The thirteenth century struggle in which the Roman Church exterminated the Cathars of Languedoc was a defining moment in which the Church revealed its mission of death-grip social control. In the case of the Cathars, the Church first applied its old technique, launching a crusade (1209-29), and then followed up with a special invention for the purpose: the Inquisition (1233). The murder of Giordano Bruno (1548-1600), executed by burning alive by the Roman Inquisition in 1600, is a late example of that same vicious repression. Stoics, Epicureans, and Skeptics as such did not burn anyone, no matter how much disagreement there might be. Burning people was a Christian speciality.
The debate or war between the monotheistic worldview of divine dictatorship and the philosophical tradition of individual transcendence is a clash of cultures within western civilization itself. That culture clash is as lethal as any between different civilizations. It is also asymmetrical warfare, since the divine dictatorship fable was, from the beginning, and continues to support, a projection of the archaic alpha-trophy-looting model of predatory masculinity. The war is not a contest for power, but rather a lust for and possession of power on one side against an urge for self-possession and freedom on the other. Capitalist alpha-trophy-looting culture (ATL) is the modern face of the ancient malware that is divine dictatorship, reinforced in post-Roman Europe with a glorification of looting by nomadic invaders from the north-east. Capitalist sovereignty draws its brutality, energy, and orientation from that tradition, and has been extending its dominance. Nothing is gained through stopping the vision-war by giving up, but only by defeating the oppression. Blog postings that map out that historical drama are:
The Two Traditions
Reality as a Construct for Concealing Class War
Gender Culture in the Political Situation
Origins of the Concepts of Equality and Freedom
Theological Black Holes
The war of visions is not a closed system, however. A third cultural force and tradition was identified in posting 9, October 25, 2011, Political Considerations, and then elaborated in posting 29, April 27, 2012, Gender Culture in the Political Situation, namely the female-carried culture of first language acquisition and nurture (FLN – first-language-nurture). First-language-nurture groups create the interconnectedness in the first place and work on it continuously day in and day out, so when the interconnectedness is poisoned there is bound to be some alienation and rage among people working to keep it vital. It adds another layer to the rage and alienation from having the work and persons of females disrespected almost universally, a situation that is made difficult to correct because of the immediate demands of nurturing work. That third force carries far more antiquity, energy, and potential than the philosophical tradition, and it would be hopeful if those forces could be allies in creating alternatives excluding the common enemy.
The raging of the vision-war came into focus in the original attempt to find bearings as a subjective intelligence, waking up in innocence and concerned about the prospects for a satisfying life. The vision-war is of crucial importance but is not the whole story in the problematic situation of any subjectivity. There is something like an innate subjective imperative to discover itself, arising from the fact that subjectivity seems to have a blind spot and in fact itself resides in that blind spot. The elusiveness of self-identification highlights the fact that both inward and outward investigations are crucial in the effort to establish personal bearings. A special sort of mirror is needed to show a blind spot containing a force with no face, but the project of inward investigation has been marginal among commonly respected human efforts. There is a cultural history in that as well, the same history that features the war of the two visions. A primordial failure to reflect on subjectivity, inwardness, maroons us on a kind of surface of subjectivity, stranded within external surroundings. Lacking the grounding of self-awareness, we are enabled to feel and grasp our own being only by accomplishing overt gestures and representations, often shaped by the needs of simple survival, and often grandiose demonstrations supposed to defy any hints of uncertainty, to express contemptuous rejection of elusive inwardness. That orientation became a shell, comfortable, habitual, and culturally normal. Within that orientation of strident outwardness the heroes and exemplars of confident human power would always be the alpha trophy accumulators, who then project their own version of personification onto the cosmos as the father-god, the ultimate dictator and war-god. The counterweight to that can be only the assertion of inwardness, and so we are brought back again to that first set of postings on interpreting and extending the tradition of individual transcendence.
This narrative is a small catalog of reference points for an alternative, elemental, orientation.
Copyright © 2012 Sandy MacDonald. The moral right of the author is asserted.