Fragment 192, word count: 537.
tags: dystopia, oligarchy, metaphysics, nihilism, drama, meaningless Being, acts of spirit, teen angst.
Every person reaches a moment of recognition and decision, as a teenager usually, when they have learned enough of the world to assemble the complex fact that the society in which they live is a dystopia. In dystopia the economic and cultural systems are dominated by a parasitic wealth oligarchy which brandishes bogus metaphysics as proof that oligarchic social organization is inevitable. Dystopian metaphysics asserts the realty of primordial commanding heights: willful divine spirits, eternal templates of form, or necessities derived from physical nature, imposing hierarchies which inevitably replicate themselves everywhere including as biological, economic, political, and social systems. The individual’s moment of recognition that, as metaphysics, this is self-serving and wildly implausible fantasy, is a shock of personal isolation because great public media effort is devoted to evading and disrupting any such recognition. At that moment of facing the darkness of the cultural and economic superstructure with which we must live and somehow work, most of us see no alternative but to submit to oligarchic metaphysics and devote ourselves to the values, symbols, and competitions for its markers of self-worth. The choices are stark: first, submit to the oligarchy as we see people doing all around, to enjoy if you can some of the pleasures it boasts of. Alternatively, espouse a resistance or revolutionary ideology which is likely another oligarchic system based in equally bogus metaphysics, or become a nihilist and live entirely through unprincipled impulses.
The question: What is real? is typically a search for a world of stable and measurable forces and structures that exist whether or not they are engaged and interpreted by any limited and ephemeral subjectivity. However, what is undeniably real in the context of this or any question is subjectivity itself, the spirit of questioning, searching, learning, and the personal assertion in every tilt of curiosity. The reality of this spirit is personal uncertainty of survival, the inescapable anticipation of a future reconfigured constantly by loss and a rain of novelty, with personal harms and benefits always at stake. As such, the realities of any such spirit are dramas of caring agency that creatively appropriate the forces and structures at hand, binding them within this spirit’s orientation and bearing in a world now furnished by this work with ground and sky, water and forest and growing things that can (and must) be consumed for pleasure and power, a world with crowds of other embodied spirits, among whom are closely attached family and friends, expressing their own questions and dramas. This individually embodied questioning, interpreting, and intervening is no cosmic commanding height. Meaning, relevance, and portent do have to be conferred by acts of spirit onto primordial meaningless Being, the structures and forces that are simply given, and it isn’t any kind of oligarchy or commanding height, neither human or cosmic, which does that work. Rather, it is the dramatic conceptual agency of individually embodied subjectivities.
The first philosophical act is to recognize dystopian society as a reality-distorting cultural force field. The next is to abandon dystopian metaphysics, along with oligarchic markers of merit, through direct acquaintance with personal creative power, recognizing the transcendent reality of spirits moving through the uncertainties of their time as effective intervening agents.
Fragment 129, June 15, 2018, Two Quick Notes on Culture (word count: 430)
Copyright © 2022 Sandy MacDonald.