Posting 132, Word Count: 1,454.
It has been asserted as self-evident that individuals need, as part of a general need for felt supervision or authority, a dominant collective attachment, emotional and cognitive identification with the master narrative of a collective entity, something like a home hive, as a crucial element of personal identity and sense of meaning. That assertion is supposed to account for the fact that each modern sovereign state is still, in spite of liberal influences, a personified territorial power demanding reverent patriotic devotion, worship, sacrifice, and obedience enforced by an iron fist of law, tax, and lethal military force. Each state has its edifice of pageantry and symbolism to invoke the unity and sacred grandeur of the collective: flags, monuments, and anthems, oaths and pledges, officials and military officers encrusted with exotic glitter, august regalia and titles; state uniforms and weapons laden with national symbols and emblems; theatrical ceremonies of remembrance and renewal of devotion invoking the sacred and obscure “us against them” mission of the hive, synchronized movements in processions, special word formulas to be spoken in mass unison. Such things are not intended to encourage creative or rational thinking but rather to replace thinking with passive embrace of an orthodox official story line, a standardized hive-mind. The supposed necessity of hive-mind belonging is used routinely to justify nationalist propaganda and censorship.
The Enlightenment idea of human nature as having no intrinsic need for sovereign authority is now an old idea, the real core of liberalism, and it always went against the conservative dogma, from religion, that everyone needs supervision structured within the symbols, pageantry, and authoritative superego of collective solidarity and belonging. The historical endurance of the state as sovereign authority shows that the enrichment of the idea of human nature from the Enlightenment was effectively smothered by that pre-existing culture. That pre-existing culture of authoritative supervision was an entrenchment in institutions of the traditional rights of the father, an overt expression of the principle that the strongest has sovereign rights over everyone else, rights to the property of the weaker, rights to the lives of the weaker, generally the right to be parasitic on the weaker. These cultural assumptions grow from the traditional patriarchal family in which the father is the strongest and women and children are assumed to lack even a minimum competence. The Enlightenment and liberal conception of human nature was murdered in the crib by traditional patriarchal practices, and that is what accounts for the hive-mind efforts of modern states.
It is now clear, however, that there are multitudes of people with very elastic and insubstantial attachments to collective entities. For example, the globalization of capital has fostered an internationally educated and mobile professional and business class. Academics, engineers, medical practitioners, business and financial professionals are all educated in an international context and trained to have a cosmopolitan outlook, quite detached from any specifically national or territorial master narrative which is the normal core of hive-mind. Additionally, the loyalty and national belonging of the investor class generally evaporates instantly upon election of a socialist government, so is always largely a pretence. Yet, these groups and individuals conduct lives they find meaningful. They are not without a cultural framework of orientation, but it is more a culture of trophy property as primary value. A focus on possession of property always includes fear for the security of possession, requires protection by at least the readiness of force, and so includes a culture of reverence for intimidating strength and power, control of taxes, laws, and war, the organization of violence, all still core features of patriarchy. Obviously this property-based cosmopolitan framework still has a stake in maintaining the institutions of nation-state sovereignty, especially police, military, and intelligence agencies, but strictly as service providers, supplemented or replaced by private suppliers when convenient.
The cosmopolitan perspective of these factions shows that there are experiences of gratification, identity, and meaning, which make identification with a national collective completely unnecessary. Gratification from symbols and pageantry of collective identity, embedded in the narrative of national peril and exceptionalism, is not necessary for a meaningful life, as demonstrated by the contented lives of the masses of people with scant engagement with such things. Gratification from property possession is still part of traditional patriarchal culture, inextricably invested in organized force, and by far the most culturally dominant and celebrated gratification experience, but there are others. Nurturing children (or nurturing animals, even plants), socializing them into the linguistic community and having ongoing conversations with them as they develop is inherently gratifying. This nurturing sociability is an independent non-property based source of profound value, meaning, and sense of identity, in fact the most important source for most people, although studiously unrecognized as such. Still another realm of gratification experience is thinking, often in the form of ‘scribal’ ideality. Philosophers have frequently asserted that the greatest human pleasure, the most fun, is thinking. A great deal of human fulfillment is derived from following personal curiosity, learning, reading, writing, and synthesizing ideas, interrogating history and the relationship between subjectivity and objectivity, between subjectivity and subjectivity. This gratification is individually interior, the model of spiritual autonomy, although always with some important relationship with sociability, communication, and human interconnectedness. Yet again, craftsmanship is another source of value experience, expressing and performing creativity, knowledge, and skill in working with tools and materials, actualizing a previously conceived shape in observable objects. There can also be pleasure in experiencing any skillful power of the human body, but assigned donkey work is boring, dirty, sweaty, energy sucking, exhausting and that is why a ‘working’ class does not have an independent culture of value experience, whereas ‘homemakers’, certain kinds of scribes, and craftspeople certainly do.
The culture of property possession as primary value is part of a conception of human nature as a painful emptiness craving to be filled, a sucking pit of needs for definition and gratification from outside itself, a deficiency that grasps for acquisition, consumption, and competition; determined by biological and material laws. However, the importance of gratification from nurturing, from performance of creative craftsmanship, and from scribal ideality clearly refutes the claim that human nature is a consuming emptiness. The ubiquitous practice of nurture shows human nature as a fountain of empathy and compassionate caring. The intrinsic gratification in practicing craftsmanship shows creativity in projecting shapes from personally interior ideality into material actuality. Intellectual activity, a cultivation of ordinary thinking, is a fountain of personal curiosity, questions, directed impulses for relevant exploring, researching, learning, discovering, original conceptualizing, writing, reading, and synthesizing ideas. Every personality is a fountain of such goods, of spontaneous creation of curiosity, questioning, inspiration, and caring, a gusher of impulses to shape the environment and construct interconnections with others. These self-sourced experiences of value are profound enough to build lives upon, and many people do exactly that. In this light, each personality is a self-constructing idea of a life-in-progress actively opening the world by creatively thinking and working itself into the world. This recognition of human nature as self-creating from interior ideality eliminates the primacy of competition and conflict, as well as hierarchical rankings and trophy collections derived from competitions, crucial features of possession of property as primary value. It also means that individuals do not have any inherent dependence on experiences of belonging provided by hive-mind sovereign states or any similar collective entity.
The entire conservative conception of the human predicament, featuring an intrinsic grasping emptiness of human nature, property possession as essential identity definition, inevitable competition and conflict for scarce goods, celebration of strength and violence, the necessity of a sovereign authority to dampen the lethality of conflict (civilization), and the rights of the strongest to be sovereign and parasitic, all supposedly pre-determined by natural law, is a bogus and toxic cultural legacy, a mythical metaphysics to make the world exciting for aspiring heroes in their romantic dreams of a cosmically ordained struggle for dominance. This old mythology is a dystopian nightmare for most people. The way out is cultivating the gratifying activities which express personality as a fountain of ideas for interventions-in-actuality. That creates the alternative experience, acquaintance with a human nature that can trust itself in the complete absence of authority or any vestige of patriarchy, in the absence of any controlling hive-minds projecting sovereignty of the strongest, with no need for the kind of identity and meaning assigned by a controlling collective. There is a far better life after re-orienting outside nationalist hive-minds and also outside any other rat race for symbolic markers of self-worth and identity. Hive-minds make war and are made for war.
Copyright © 2018 Sandy MacDonald.