The Political Situation of Any Human Consciousness
Any subjective intelligence will find itself within a social interconnectedness that includes a polarity between the culture-pods of alpha-trophy-looting (ATL) and first-language-nurture (FLN). (Please see posting 29, April 27, 2012, Gender Culture in the Political Situation.) Any political theory which does not identify the ATL cultural heritage and its relation to the FLN heritage is ignoring the most important division in the body politic. The gender based ATL – FLN polarity operates biologically and culturally within every family, and that patriarchal, alpha-dominated, family is universally used as a default model of ideal social and political arrangements in general, at all scales of organization. Confucianism is possibly the most straightforward declaration of that principle. A political philosophy, or any attempt to illuminate the situation of individual subjective intelligence, must recognize that there will always be ATL culture supporting a certain segment of the population to act out narcissistic compulsions to appropriate everything, and there will always be the FLN-based great human interconnectedness for ATL culture-pods to use as their medium of acting out.
The FLN culture has an intrinsic tendency toward promoting equality because it is common knowledge within that culture that huge investments of loving care, personal attachment, energy, strategy, and work go into the survival and linguistic engagement of every human being, and it is bestial and criminal to waste any single one. Disrespecting any person is disrespecting all that sacred investment of nurture.
The political polarity between the culture-pods of alpha-trophy-looting (ATL) and first-language-nurture (FLN) is going to exist in any human society, but philosophic humanism, individual-focused humanism, is strictly a European tradition with a unique origin in ancient Greek culture, in the two strongest vectors of ancient philosophy. Those vectors of philosophy are still elemental points of orientation and definitive of secular humanism. The first is a project to remove disembodied personifications from explanations of events in nature. “Nature” here refers to the material world conforming to the laws of physics, laws of thermodynamics, electromagnetism, conservation of mass-energy, and gravitational attraction, for example, and not nature in the sense of wildlife. A lot of wildlife is embodied intelligences, and so transcendent with respect to pre-determined nature. There is no denying the beauty and wonder of nature, but it is absurd to personify it. The second vector is a project to understand subjective intelligence as transcendent, to become self-aware as transcendent intelligence. The vector of ancient philosophy to understand the transcendence of personal intelligence (sometimes conceived as ‘mind’) is the flip side of removing capricious personalities from explanations of nature. The ‘understanding subjectivity’ vector was a recognition of subjective intelligence as a primordial blind spot in experience, a blind spot with the potential to be mirrored by some deliberate reflexive self-awareness. Philosophic humanism is not a claim that humans are more important than animals (since humans are animals), or more important then brute nature, but rather that embodied intelligence is always transcendent in every individual without exception and not more so in some special individuals, and strictly absurd in incorporeal entities. (Please see posting 8, October 19, 2011, The Transcendence of Intelligence.)
Confucianism sometimes claims to be humanism, but Confucian humanism is anti-egalitarian, like all Confucianism. Confucian “humanism” promotes the patriarchal family as a divine revelation and as the law of nature, and as such the only legitimate framework of personal orientation at every level of social organization. Confucianism is a variant form of father-religion in which any father figure is god-like. The force of European-style humanism is very different from Confucian filial piety toward father figures, and also, incidentally, from Buddhist pessimism (“All life is suffering.”). The message of European-style humanism is: “Nature is impersonal and individual subjectivity is transcendent.” Patriarchal forces (ATL forces) are currently on another offensive against alternative visions and so, if the future is to be saved from oppressive Confucian-style hierarchy and from the gloomy passivity of Buddhist-style pessimism, then it is time that philosophic humanism was re-asserted.
There are opposing visions of individualism, each an active political threat to the other. One is the alpha-trophy-looting vision of winner-take-all star systems, in which only the most victorious get to be valued as individuals. That ATL vision is profoundly anti-egalitarian, based on trophy accumulation from defeating people. Although that is what Americans and market-commerce enthusiasts in general have been trained to promote as “individualism”, it is unworthy of the name. Authentic humanist individualism asserts the transcendence of every individual intelligence, founding value on subjective inwardness, and on bringing the freedom and creativity of inwardness out in projections into the shared world of physical determinism and political control. Humanist individualism is egalitarian, achieved in self-awareness and personal agency. Neither star systems nor egalitarian humanism can imagine surviving without the system of human interconnectedness forged in the endless working of the first-language-nurture culture.
The patriarchal ideal remains unquestioned in all societies other than the European, in which humanist philosophy was revived and preserved as a minority report at the centre of advanced literacy by a peculiar Medieval institutionalizing of antiquarian studies, Latin literacy, conserving a fascination with ancient Roman and Greek history and thinking. That peculiar high culture of literacy was cultivated for centuries by the European network of universities from around 1088, with humanism as a stowaway within patriarchal Christianity. That fragile legacy of humanism has been the most effective counter-force against the effects of the patriarchal family model in promoting, explaining, defending, legitimizing, justifying, and excusing the crimes of alpha-trophy-looting dominance and empire building.
The Political Situation of Humanism
Humanism, recognizing individual intelligences as transcendent, as the only transcendence, still has a mighty struggle for survival. The humanist vision of individual intelligences, projecting markers of their freedom and creativity out into the shared world of nature and culture, is both common sense and elemental, and yet nearly unthinkable because of the lingering dominance of father-god religions, which monopolize creativity in the personified father-god as an unquestionable stipulation of official rationality.
When common sense humanism is almost unthinkable then we must conclude that nasty political forces are responsible, forces nasty enough to sustain a reality-distorting campaign of ideology which has been effective on a vast scale. (Not many issues could be more intellectually intriguing than that.) Egalitarianism is what sets humanism apart as a force that certain interests would want to repress by means of reality-distorting counter-ideologies. As such, humanism faces the wrath of anti-egalitarian interests which are completely bestial in their aggression against all potential threats to their dominance and control. That is the political situation in which we people of modernity find ourselves, all revealed by the near unthinkability of common-sense humanism: individual intelligences, projecting markers of their transcendent freedom and creativity, frequently building mutual attachments in doing so, out into the shared world of nature and culture.
The Political Intent of Disembodied Personality
Disembodied spirits are never anything but inappropriate projections of human intelligence onto inanimate pieces of nature, or onto nature as a whole, or even ‘beyond nature’ into incorporeal presences. The ideas of will, teleology, moral judgment, or caring, are all meaningless without particular embodiment. Personality without embodiment is absurd, and so the idea of a dictator-father god has precisely the incoherence of a nightmare. Nobody has a special or exclusive hotline to divine will, because there is no divine will, just nature, individual subjective intelligences, and the projections of intelligences constituting culture.
Inappropriate projections of human intelligence normally serve a political function by ascribing the alpha-trophy-looting type of personality to the boss spirit, self-aggrandizing for the control faction, and intimidating for everyone else. The father-dictator-in-the-sky, caring, reliably judging and evaluating but unreliably rewarding, delivering justice, and meeting needs, is a cultural and psychological control device to prevent anyone from orienting within the transcendence of their innocent freedom. The effort to personify nature itself, or an imagined creator of nature, conjures up an overpowering and terrifying super-person within whom all the boundless and unmanageable forces of nature are enlisted to intimidate. It is training in perpetual subordination, looking outward for the initiation of agency, direction, and mission definition. Fixation on an external father-in-the-sky-god combines the opposites of both vectors of humanism: personification of disembodied presences, and an outward focus for the identification of transcendence. That externalizing ideology has been a crucial force in a matrix of individual self-blindness and denial of self-possession, and also reinforces a universal oppression of women. Where the father-in-the-sky god is worshipped there will always be war and rumours of war and the basic military/ religious training to keep the general population ready for sacrifice.
War and Belonging
War offers an intense experience of belonging to a collective at the expense of personal agency and self-possession, and also at the expense of justice. In war much is looted from everyone. You are pushed around and disrespected. Your freedom is looted when you are controlled and supervised. There is a generalized operational assumption of radical inequality, secrecy, lies, and suspicion, and your personal agency is displaced upward on the organization chart, the chain of command. In military training, individuals have personal agency systematically undermined so that it can be replaced by totalitarian belonging to a hierarchical “brotherhood” of radical inequality. Posting 10, November 8, 2011, Employment as a Force-Field of Distorted Reality, describes the leadership myth which legitimizes the looting of credit for productive work. (Recognition of the situation in which credit moves up the organization chart, glorified as a “chain of command”, in which leaders are looters, is a useful point on an elemental re-orientation grid.) The corporate/ investment-friendly state is the war-making state that requires reverence and personal sacrifice from ordinary citizens and so requires the state to be accepted as a personified deity and leaders as his prophets. Authoritarian societies are good only for those who qualify to be advantaged, and such societies emphasize and value the radical inequality of separate social levels.
The orientation grid of modernity is built on new variants of disembodied personifications, “brands” of national military states, political parties, and on corporate brands. That grid features national, class, and consumer pride, an economy of emotion where “brand” is a personification of something other than an individual human body, the same technique of political control pioneered by personification of father-spooks in the sky. The point of such strategic personification is to inspire emotional attachment between individuals and some personified fiction, disabling personal control over emotional responses. It is a technique for triggering the uncritical protective urgency normally extended only to family members and the closest of friends, which leaves emotional responses vulnerable to stealthy manipulation by the sophisticated agencies controlling every apparently benign brand. With the orientation grid of modernity, a control faction is operating a manufactured sensitivity to insults, threats, and injuries to national pride, for example, injuries to brands which seem to have extended a sense of inclusion, belonging, and personal value, as friends and family members really do. The control faction is establishing an orientation grid which, it calculates, will channel the emotionally-impulsive behaviour and psychology of people in exactly the way it plans and from which it benefits. If you are persuaded that you belong to a personified collective, then you abandon some crucial agency as well as your claim to credit for your contribution to the group product. The control apparatus relies on that psychological technique, but reinforced by police forces and prisons, as well as by military forces, spies, and police actions which bypass courts of law.
In modernity the animism of previous superstitions changed to personifications of national brands, class, linguistic, ethnic, religious, racial, commercial, and corporate brands. Western modernity is no different from previous spook-obsessed control arrangements in that way. The fundamental obsession with disembodied personifications is still very active and controlling. Personifying the ideas of such collective entities is the modern version of superstition, social control by the strategic use of spooks. Disembodied personifications are all malicious fictions. Ignore reports of your national or religious brand being insulted. It can’t be insulted because it does not exist. It’s a fraud. The alpha-trophy-looting ethos of radical inequality (inequality of control) is the driving force in all that.
Two Specific Assaults
Just as the alpha-trophy-looting god is a device to control adult mentality into subordination-to-external-authority and accompanying self-blindness, the selection of history we are taught is a device to legitimate the control structure that currently reigns, the status quo of capitalism, the corporate-military state, and patriarchal religion. Whatever noble values the control factions profess in public, their incumbents are quite openly dependent on two vicious and anti-humanist practices. The first is pageants of radical inequality, highlighting their own superiority. Inequality itself is the central incentive and reward of alpha-trophy-looting orientations. It is the origin of the need for so much money and conspicuous consumption. Trophies are symbols of inequality, and all the special occasions, the official rules, stages, costumes, roles, postures, gestures, speeches which legitimize the awarding of a trophy, are all the pageantry of inequality. The second anti-humanist practice is the technique of promoting brand loyalty, subordination of individuals to disembodied personifications such as corporate brands, religious brands, national, regional, ethnic, and linguistic brands. Such personifications are always fictions, spooks, created with intent to control people through fraud and deceit. Both of those practices effectively resist the egalitarian force of every individual’s coming to know his or her own personal intelligence as transcendent.
Political Consciousness: The Corporate Control-Ethos
It is no secret, and nobody could deny, that, very much like national states, religions and profit-driven commercial organizations do their utmost to control both their employees and the general ‘consumer base’ population. Developments in clinical/ academic psychology and social science have added considerable sophistication, effectiveness, and stealth to those control efforts. Academics do not work for free, and large scale investors and corporations control the money. The same impulse-to-control connects like-minded investors and holders of power, privilege, and wealth within an overarching control faction ethos. Messages from government, business, employers, schools, and nearly all other faces of wealth, authority, and power, are intended to glorify the eternal and exemplary superiority of the alpha-structure, the control faction. The parts of that system of emotional manipulation that touch us continually are the ads. “People will love you better when your life looks like this.” “Everybody cool thinks this.” “It is normal to need this surgical improvement, this medication.” We are manipulated aggressively and stealthily through advertising media. There is also a carefully pruned depiction, by big pervasive media networks, of the world and its troubles in a montage of news stories. There is the careful selection of research and scholarship that gets funded and celebrated. Behind all is a vast pool of organized wealth and old, semi-conscious alpha-trophy-looting ideology. Wealth is organized by the financial industry: investment ‘banks’ and various commercial and private agencies for speculating on owning debt, equity, or derivatives, with the intent to gain by buying cheap and selling dear, without adding value. Wealth is organized also by charities and foundations. The political wings of organized investor forces are not just delivering low tax and limited government, balanced budgets, precarious jobs, and shopping opportunities, but also radical inequality, war, as well as secret controls, secret operations, and secret intents in the processes of power. (Suggested reading: Google Plutonomy and the Precariat by Noam Chomsky.)
The pitch from the alpha-structure is that you don’t need much in the way of inward self-awareness to enjoy perfect freedom. All you need is an unregulated commercial market which produces some choice of consumer products to shop for, including policy packages from political brands, and a personal chance to compete for the scarce goods and treasures of life. (“May the odds be ever in your favor.” Thank you Suzanne Collins.) It is crucial to that alpha-story that the goods and treasures of life are scarce, and progressively scarcer as their value increases, so only the most worthy, divinely endowed celebrities, achieve the holy grails. It is such a beautiful story. The problem is that the greatest treasures of life are subjective intelligence and its expressive voice, powers freely intrinsic to everybody, and so the alpha-pitch is a total scam.
Capitalism Subsists on War
If you squint as you look, you can almost see capitalism without a war industry, without the financial industry laundered money from organized crime, without unproductive fortunes sucking value from the economy by financial speculation. However, capitalism, war, and organized crime are inseparable. Capitalism subsists on the war industry. Claims that capitalism is just the laws of nature organizing the human collective are insults to human creativity, as well as attempts to conceal the cultural/factional (as distinct from natural) forces sustaining capitalism.
The “business friendly” faction announces that it is leading the politico-economic situation of the world, the overall situation of adult experience and general welfare, toward a best possible state, a state of dynamic opportunity for human potential. In fact, the control faction has not the slightest idea of the reality of any such optimal condition. What the control faction actually does is disempower anyone who is not enrolled into supporting its ideology. The control faction is moving heaven and earth to strengthen its own controlling power. The current baby-boom cohort of the control faction has finally revealed the ultimate triviality of its mission and values. We know its addictions to self-aggrandizing, gambling, and the profits from war and from human vice and misfortune. It is impossible to progress to an optimal human situation on the basis of war, gambling addictions structured into the financial industry, laundering of profits from organized criminal trafficking in slaves, drugs, weapons, and money. The control faction feeds on all of that crime and truly has no other mission than to maintain the revenue streams as they are, and to increase them. We know that power chooses to dwell in conspicuous and grandiose material representations of its own glory. There is nothing of value to be learned there, nothing to envy.
The death-grip control intrinsic to alpha-culture is exercised by an obsession with objectivity, and contempt for subjectivity to discourage everyone from drawing the full potential of pleasure and action from inward intelligence and creativity. To objectify something is to remove it completely from any claim to transcendence. The result is a culturally-induced state of subjectivity-phobia, self-blindness, and disconnection from personal sources of creative power, not to mention political suppression of the natural social influence of the first-language-nurture culture which is considerably more subjectively focused.
In modernity, the other cultural force against the thinkability of common sense humanism is the ideology of science which asserts that everything is unfree and totally determined, that freedom and creativity are impossible.
Science did not begin as an anti-humanist force, but rather as one vector of ancient humanist philosophy. Science began as the vector to create ways of explaining events in nature without animism or personification, without ascribing personality to the causes of such events. That ‘scientific’ vector was only half of a duality, originally joined to the project to understand mind or intelligence as known subjectively, which was commonly experienced as transcendent in a way which inspired the kind of investigation possible by reflexive self-awareness. The scientific, “natural philosophy”, half of the humanist project revealed a great deal of power and became so successful that it attracted the interest of previously existing social control factions, forces for weapons development and military based radical inequality, and under that influence the collective culture of science came to the conviction that science was the only source for understanding everything. It lost the ability to be aware of subjectivity (where questions come from) as its blind spot. When military and commercial control factions took over science, the other vector, the more philosophical vector focused on self-awareness of intelligence as transcendent, simply became a liability because of its tendency to distribute transcendence universally rather than concentrating it in the controlling factions. So science became one of the four thugs of totalitarian, reductionist, objectification: father-in-the-sky religion, military-based sovereignty, market-culture, and science.
AI: Counterfeit Intelligence versus Spontaneous Intelligence
The discrepancy between the pop-star buzz around artificial intelligence, AI, and the nearly total absence of discussion about common spontaneous intelligence reveals the self-blindness of science. Since developments in computer technology in the 1970’s, there has been a well publicized effort to create artificial intelligence. Nobody hesitates to discuss artificial intelligence, but at the same time nobody discusses intelligence that is spontaneously occurring in ordinary human persons. In respectable discourse, any approach to inward experience must be limited to concepts appropriate to the determinism of outward experience, a lethal reductionism operating on a cultural and political scale. Conversations that drift toward thinking processes soon drift onto something else. However, without the spontaneous intelligence we take for granted in ourselves and people around us, there would be nothing for the investor/ research community to counterfeit.
Spontaneous intelligence, subjectivity, is profoundly mistrusted and poorly understood. It is so mistrusted that we hardly ever want to face it in ourselves, to own and explore it, to face the subtleties and profundities of personal subjectivity. It is actually frightening, indeed one of the main terrors of philosophy. (Philosophy is absent from school curricula because certain people find it terrifying, not because it is imprecise or pointless.) We are largely disabled from reflexive self-awareness by the needs and demands of capitalist-commercial organization, demands to be “career oriented” and to live in imitation of officially recommended role models. Yet everyone is a personal instance of spontaneous intelligence. Everybody has privileged access to an intelligence unmediated by questionnaires, mazes, experimental design, and hypothetical assumptions.
The discrepancy between the buzz around AI and the lack of buzz around spontaneous intelligence is the result of the dominance of science. Spontaneously occurring intelligence is personal subjectivity, and personal subjectivity is creative, which is to say that it cannot be reduced, ultimately, to material cause-effect clockwork. Since science is nothing but the craft of removing personality by reducing experiences to material cause-effect, science hits a wall at spontaneous intelligence. However, only subjective intelligence generates curiosity, original questions, awe at patterning and beauty, and ways of overcoming its own particularity, and even though such forces are the entire foundation of science, science cannot account for the forces that are questions, for example, either for questions in general or for the particularity of specific questions: subjectivity is science’s blind spot.
The scientific effort to create artificial intelligence is another effort to reduce the concept of intelligence to materialist clockwork. Specifically, the effort is to create, in mechanisms crafted by human design, behaviours which are indistinguishable from what passes as intelligent behaviour in people. That effort is nothing new. Since at least 1600 and the emergence of mathematical rationalism within the European Ancien Régime, there have been similar intellectual projects. The reductionist intent of the AI effort means only that the subjective side of spontaneously occurring intelligence is being stipulated by Dr. Frankenstein as irrelevant to the game he wishes to play.
Intelligence is Situated Politically
Since the political forces just described perceive benefits for themselves in perpetuating self-alienation in every intelligence, the prospects for self-awareness or self-knowledge by any individual are largely a matter of political consciousness. The political forces bearing on intelligence must be identified and disabled on a personal level before self-awareness is possible. The ideological repression of humanism is the repression of freedom and creativity in every individual, and such an effect can be carried off only by rigorous training in self-blindness, self-alienation. Father-god religions (sometimes in the Confucian variant in which any father figure is god-like) and science ideology are two ways to accomplish that rigorous training, and both are impressively pervasive and sophisticated. Capitalism, the exclusivity of consumption and inequality itself as values in market commerce, is also a very effective system of training in anti-humanist inequality and self-blindness.
Each embodied intelligence is a separate universe of self-positioning (orientation, bearing), each vectoring within a personal grid of non-actuality, each an ever more complicated, self-elaborating question, and yet all marooned together within, and each passing like a storm system through, the same elemental world of natural laws, forces, and structures, and in that world building interpersonal attachments under the influence and example of language and nurture communities, ethnic communities, political forces, and intimate personal interconnectedness.
Each embodied intelligence is already a complete person prior to, and always transcending, engagement with and acquisition of cultural ways of living, language, and the issues of a time in history. We need the personal powers of embodiment and basic intelligence to build interconnectedness with others, and in doing that we enter the political currents and influences about assignment of values, roles, and tolerable appearances, for example. Those currents of influence and fashion within the interconnectedness almost alienate our orientation from its innocent embodiment and intelligence experiences, but never totally. Political inducements pull us toward conformity with certain general types or ideal categories, but we never completely lose a grounding in our particularity. We have a personal voice prior to, and continuing after, learning languages.
A voice is not the same as the language or words uttered. A voice is also more than the sounds of physiological vocal organs. In addition to the language and the vocal organs there is a composed musicality to each voice, emotionally expressive qualities from an intelligence in a life-situation. The voice expresses a personal style-competence, a continuity of inventions and choices, deliberate acts of self-creation, self-declaration, and attachments. As such, the voice carries or expresses a character, persona, or avatar in addition to any meaning that might be denoted or connoted by linguistic sounds.
Since rocks and bushes do not speak, there appears to be a transcendence revealed by the speaking of subjectivity. The speaking of subjectivity has, therefore, inspired a great deal of interest in language. Language is certainly larger than any individual, but is also a kind of red herring. Curious investigators of the human situation have widely assumed that understanding language would bring with it an understanding of the transcendence of subjectivity, of intelligence, but it has failed to do so. It has also failed to explain away the transcendence of speaking and of speakers. Voices have instead been ignored, as bookshelves groaned under the weight of grammars, dictionaries, and theoretical linguistics. Without particular voices, language would cease to exist; but not the other way around. Voices have inspired study of language, but not the other way around.
Because of how important culture and interconnectedness are in our survival, “being in the world” is a political situation. Intelligences are embodied in such a way that survival depends absolutely on social attachments to family, friends, nurture and support providers, to opportunity providers. The necessity of attachment carries with it the learning of language and other cultural systems, “the way we live in our group”, always including a political situation that involves tension between gender cultures, specifically an ATL faction doing its utmost to own and control everything, and especially to control the FLN faction, in every family and at all levels of social organization. The challenges and obstacles that make self-awareness and thinking about “being in the world” difficult are mainly the political effects of father-religion, military-based sovereignty, market-culture, and science, constructed deliberately and specifically by ATL enthusiasts to distract everyone from self-possession.
The personal use of philosophical thinking is inherently political because it is self-possessing. It exercises subjective powers of self-directed re-orientation, including personal curiosity, gratification, questioning, skepticism, and rational doubt. In doing that, it is a direct rival to external controlling forces such as patriarchal families, schools, profession guilds, religions, employment organizations, and military states, all expressing alpha-trophy-looting ideals and controlling individuals by, for example, flashy incentives and by personifying various disembodied entities, often collectives. As a counter-force, self-directed re-orientation draws on an individual’s particularity of sensitivity, embodiment, and expressive voice.
Disengaging from the matrix of self-blindness puts all the certainties of ATL modernity into question. However, that is not to abandon or damage the great human interconnectedness, but rather to make better lives for ourselves and everyone by reducing the cultural and political oppression that is currently imposed within the interconnectedness. A crucial part of that oppression involves the dishonouring and disempowerment, by the alpha-trophy-looting uber-system, of all other cultural sub-systems, including even introverts. The interconnectedness needs to be nudged toward a new orientation.
Two oppressive practices by leadership collectives are specific assaults against individuals to defend against in building an alternative orientation. One way to begin is with the two vectors of humanist philosophy. First, remove disembodied personifications from your mental construct of the world. Disengage emotionally from the official grid, the current system of animism in collective ‘brands’ of all kinds. Second, come to know the transcendence of your own personal intelligence. Replace externals with self-awareness as transcendent intelligence, a personal creative process projecting constructs into nature and culture. You are an original, continuously self-constructing question, a surprise horizon, a time-well into non-actuality, a projector of particular freedom. The transcendent intelligence of all other embodied persons follows from personal acquaintance with transcendence, and that disables the value of inequality as an incentive and reward. Inequality is the entire substance of ATL motivation and value. Detach from a focus on property, consumption, and celebrity as achievements and markers of personal identity. Pageants of belonging through brand attachments, encouraged and rewarded by competitions for personal validation from trophies, are all unequalizing distractions from self-awareness as transcendence, and distractions from a universal distribution of dignity and respect based on recognition of intelligences in other embodied persons. Instead of attaching emotionally to spooks and icons of celebrity systems, build a more equal distribution of respect for ordinary embodied personalities. That is nothing more than the implicit program of ancient humanism.
Humanist re-orientation eliminates the core pillars from the alpha-trophy-looting belief-system, pillars such as father-figure-worship, hierarchical meritocracy, personification of the military nation, and the self-sufficiency of science, which some people have cherished as substitute parental figures, as places to just stop in thinking about the complexity of being in the world and in assessing one’s own ability to make sense of it. Defenders of the military-Christian tradition, for example, focused as they are on generic “human nature” (as carrier of original sin) instead of on individuals, promote the view that common sanity requires externally provided supports for mental stability, adult substitutes for the unquestioning trust that children place in parents. That assumption is very popular and especially popular among the leadership faction, generations of which have been promoting it. That vision reaches a point at which the legitimacy of power or the truth of religious claims is completely irrelevant because, it asserts, without unalterable belief in external authorities and the certainties they proclaim, people would plunge into nihilistic insanity and complete social disorder. Fortunately, the alpha-trophy-looting vision of life is not the only one. The humanist journey is a place and orientation free from the lies, manipulation, and disempowerment projected from the control faction without being left with the wreckage, ruin, and powerless despair predicted by its conservative vision.
The guarantor and binding mechanism of social order and human communication networks is not the authority of the star-system meritocracy, nor police forces, armies, guns, or prisons. Social order and interconnectedness are products of the informal non-family collectives which groups of mothers form with their children to have the children play together and learn to speak the communal language: the first-language-nurture cultural system. Those groups build on and extend accomplishments from the countless hours that mothers spend engaged with their children, one on one. The whole first-language-nurture cultural system builds on the elemental pleasure and mutual inspiration that particular intelligences experience in connecting with each other. There really is a robust first-language-nurture culture providing real parenting, belonging within personal interconnectedness, language skills, and mutual adult support. Re-thinking humanism requires recognition of overriding importance in the first-language-nurture culture, especially in creating the human interconnectedness that is so easy (under alpha-trophy-looting influence) to take as merely given by nature. It is not a given, but a continuously constructed collective work of intelligences.
Renaissance humanism, unlike ancient Hellenistic humanism, existed in the Christian context of an overbearing idea of transcendence belonging to the father-god. The power of individual intelligence was conceived, in Renaissance humanism, as limited to self-specification or cultivation, the power to make something particular of yourself, or not. It was an alternative to total slavery to original sin and dependence on divine grace, but strictly limited.
Contrary to the promoters of external pillars of inward stability, there is far more reliable and elemental inward experience on which to ground effective sanity, namely the grounding of personal embodied transcendence. When personality is attributed to disembodied entities such as spirits in the sky, human collectives, institutions, or corporations, all efforts at understanding transcendence collide with an impenetrable wall, because there is no transcendence out there. When transcendence is recognized at its source, individual subjective intelligence, then the whole approach is altered. Instead of transcendence inspiring wheedling fear and cowering beneath an angry looming father, it now inspires creative self-expression, and the approach becomes, “we should all be having fun with this.” If disembodied personifications and inequality as such were to lose their celebrity status and reputation there would be completely novel opportunities for self-awareness and a more universal respect for human dignity and the value of individual peculiarity. Transcendence is a personal experience, subjective, inward. “I am here and elsewhere.”
Embodiment as a Political Grounding
We find our innocent grounding in embodiment experiences and the force of intelligence, basic positioning and active effectiveness in mobility and endurance, the energy flows of a particular embodiment. Re-orientation processes are grounded there. Intelligence is rarely aware of its own transcendence. Authentic self-consciousness is consciousness of the bearings of intelligence. The accumulating bearing is an ever more complicated question, with sensitivities, vigils, and directions of force. It is continuously renewing from a gushing fountain of pretend orientations, questions, curiosities, conjectures, and impulses to play with particularity. Transcendence is always the relationship of intelligence to the brute actuality of nature, but noticing that relationship requires a degree of active innocence. Innocence is a certain condition of intelligence, a frame of orientation bracketing out culturally (politically) stipulated features. Innocence and awareness of transcendence are the same region of experience. It is possible to think what innocence is and to reach it. There is an inner source and voice there at your personal surprise horizon, not just passive consciousness. The subjective surprise horizon fountains out a trail of breadcrumbs which has to be recognized, from a range of increasingly remote memory, as a voice. A voice exists only through time. Embodied intelligence is the ultimate innocence beneath social attachment, linguistic convention immersion, and cultural conditioning.
In an elemental reorientation, the elements are individual intelligences, along with nature and culture, and within that ever-changing culture, the political factions and especially the first-language-nurture faction and the alpha-trophy-looting faction.
Humanist philosophy is an invitation to a personal journey of elemental re-orientation, and it puts at risk every part of a ATL-approved orientation, for example, your sense of your political situation. You were told it was an equal opportunity melee, a free-for-all competition, established and maintained because it is the only realistic mechanism to authenticate and legitimize the most worthy and ablest meritocracy. In fact, it has been a rigged game forever, with a control faction which acts to improve its own control, reaching down to the individual level. You are not the objectified avatar you have been influenced to assume, and the effective history of your world is not what you were taught in school. Instead, effective history has been the assaults launched by the self-perpetuating ATL faction against other cultural factions such as the faction promoting humanist personal transcendence and the faction of first-language-nurture.
The elemental orientation grid is a counter-force against standard cultural tags which impose a definition on each person. Let the outward tags of identity be muted, socioeconomic niche, job title, life-style, clothing style, neighbourhood. Identify subjectively your sustainable-life-building bearing, adjusting a personal path within the rigid structures of nature, culture, and personal attachments. Identify the surprise horizon in your subjective blind spot, your private doubts and curiosities, the kinds of play you find to be fun.
Having an elemental orientation grid is something like the experience some people have their first time seeing the night sky in really good conditions, with clear clean air and a total absence of nearby lights or tall obstacles on the ground. The milky way disk spreads out before your eyes. All your life you have been a creature of turf, mud, rocks, and bushes, held to the ground. Now you are a creature of stars and galaxies, of that mysterious black void behind everything. This is where you live. You remind yourself to breathe. It is an elemental enlargement of personal and human dignity. General improvements in dignity, such as that inspired by the spread of proletarian literacy and direct access to vernacular Bibles, have had great historical consequences.
Violence Doesn’t Work
Only crime families and religious cults benefit from anarchy, and they always combine to bring actual anarchy to a nasty end. Violent revolutions don’t work because they create their own elite of official criminal violence and have to defend the superficially successful new order against all conceivable forces of anarchy and counterrevolution, typically by repressive social supervision and force for a long time. That point is illustrated by the three great revolutions of modern times: United States of America (1776), France (1789), Soviet Russia (1917). They all end as top-down, centralized, and militarized societies. Such considerations shed some positive light onto certain aspects of the modern system of democratic legal jurisdictions with assigned responsibility to protect civic society and individuals against crime families, religious cults, and repressive supervision. Governments can be assessed on how well they remove those forces from their field of influence.
What Comes After Declining Capitalism
Capitalism is a mental construct which focuses attention on conspicuous consumption and transferrable wealth. It’s a massive distraction from self-awareness and self-possession. Changing that on a grand scale will not be easily done. However, consider that nobody had a pre-constructed alternative to the tyranny of Church and crime families in feudal Christendom, but the Christian construct lost moral credibility, and that liberated individuals and groups to invent alternatives piece by piece over a long period. The protestant reformation and rationalist philosophy eventually brought down the mental structure of feudal Christendom. Literacy and classical Greek humanism gave some reality to the idea of equality in the European cultural system and humanist elemental re-orientation is again a promising possibility. Cultural/mental constructs do change and adjust to events and developments, and capitalism is losing legitimacy.
In dealing with the question of the specific design of a better future, an approach might be borrowed from the movie, The Matrix (released in 1999, written and directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski). Near the middle of the movie there is a scene in which a child sits on the floor with a silver spoon in her hand. The spoon is bending into different shapes. Neo accepts the spoon from the child to try to do the same. Nothing happens. The child says: “Do not try to bend the spoon. It’s impossible. Instead, just try to realize the truth.” “What truth?” asks Neo. “There is no spoon,” says the child. In that spirit, we are in no position to design an entire alternative future right now. That should not be used as an excuse to restrain our thinking in re-orienting ourselves within our political situation. Building a better future will proceed as we do our best to realize the truth. The spoon will bend.
Copyright © 2012 Sandy MacDonald. The moral right of the author is asserted.