I figured it was about time that I actually got around to posting some kind of a manifesto of what I actually stand for around here, and why you should give a damn; ultimately, it’s about human Freedom, and the happiness that comes from being an Individual.
Although honestly, if you haven’t more or less figured it out from my existing articles, you really haven’t been paying attention. I mean, you’ve probably gotten the whole Individualism vs. Collectivism thing, right? And, as a subset of that, the whole thing about irrational tribalism being stupid: there are no sides except those who stand up for the Individual versus those who want to impose the dogma of their Collective, there’s no virtue at all in defending, excusing, or justifying some stupid idea just because the person saying it is allegedly on “your side.” Even if the guy whose doing the talking is suggesting fighting against the same people you can’t stand, even if he’s talking about imposing values on people that happen to be values you personally agree with, the very nature of the fact that he wants to IMPOSE those values through the force of Government would make him the enemy.
Source: Power Line
(It’s not even about Left or Right; it’s always about whether you’re with Han Solo or with The Empire.)
But what does being an Individual mean? And why is it actually better than just being on-board with the Collective? Does being an Individual just mean being opposed to any kind of group activity at all, and wouldn’t that make you just an anarchist who wants to bring down civilization itself? Doesn’t being an individualist actually make you more isolated, and reduce your chances of being happy?
It doesn’t seem to me that being part of collective-culture has done a lot to make most people happy in their lives. Numb, sure. But not happy. Happiness is based on finding your purpose — your purpose, not one imposed on you; to do that you have to first understand what your own true will really is. And to have the chance to do that, you have to manifest your freedom.
And to do all that, you have to have some kind of advanced social structure: government. But to avoid slipping from anarchy to oppression, it has to be “small government” (as opposed to big government or no government). There is a proper place for a system of collective governance, and that’s really what differentiates us from barbarians; but the real philosophical/spiritual purpose of having a civilization (which allows us to do more than just spend our days foraging for food while trying to avoid freezing to death and eagerly awaiting the day we die of dysentery) is so that we can use the comforts and opportunities of civilization to become something more than animal or robot. To become Free, in a philosophical sense.
The baseline of civilization is ‘robot’: which is frankly a step up from ‘animal’. But it’s still a description of someone who buys into the collective, doesn’t question the paradigm they’re born and raised/conditioned in, and everything they like or everything they hate or everything they think they ‘believe’ in is really just a product of outside-influence: something that was told to them when they were too young to question it, or even to remember that it wasn’t really their own thought. But, contrary to some of the conspiracy-theorists and tear-it-all-down utopian-back-to-nature idiot-rebels out there, I get that the creation of robots is NOT the ultimate purpose of a successful civilization. The robot is an intermediate step, it just happens to be one at which far too many people are comfortable stopping. It’s easier to be part of a mob, to not have to go to the effort of thinking.
The real virtue of civilization is that if it is a stable solid and successful civilization, it creates the environment by which people can choose to be more than the robot, to actually step up to the responsibilities of being a fully realized human being and declare the freedom of their own will. And the more successful a civilization is, the more people it allows to do this: the very earliest civilizations, the first city-builders, came about largely as a vehicle to allow a really, really tiny group of people (say, the chief and his family, and the high priest of the local storm/sky/sun/whatever-god and his assistants) to have the leisure time and personal comforts and education necessary to individuate, at the cost of everyone else actually having a slightly crappier quality of life than they would if they were still hunter-gatherer barbarians.
As you go along through history, however, you start to see civilizations that are able to allow a larger and larger subset of people to potentially individuate. A tiny group became a whole caste, a caste became a social class, and then you see a huge ramp-up of the potential for individuation after the industrial revolution, and again now, at the start of the computer age. We have the astounding benefit of living in a civilization where potentially anyone has the opportunity to manifest their true will as an individual; anyone has the potential to be free now, and therefore, they have a duty to do so.
Unfortunately, not all do, not even most do. But the possibility now exists, and so the goal has to be to maintain a civilization that preserves the best possible conditions for the most people to potentially individuate, to fulfill their true will. This means creating a culture of personal freedom and a sense of personal responsibility.
The goal has to be to create an environment that is not some kind of utopia but that provides the best possible freedom for every individual to develop, allowing the most possible personal agency, and an intellectual arena that allows for the widest possible varieties of perspectives and ideas.
Thus, freedom of expression, freedom of speech, freedom of personal choice. Every individual must have the equal freedom to say what they will, the opportunity to be exposed to the widest possible amount of knowledge and the broadest possible number of perspectives, and the liberty to make what they want to of their lives. Crucially, this includes the freedom to make sub-optimal choices, even the freedom to quickly or slowly destroy themselves, if they choose. The limits to this extend only to the ability to consent, and that the exercise of their freedom doesn’t actively impinge on the freedoms of others.
Real freedom isn’t just doing what you want at any given moment; we’re only free when we fulfill our true will, when we can do what we’re really meant to do with our lives.
So this is not a call to anarchy, it is a call to personal responsibility. The mentality that says “destroy everything” (whether through brutal violence or through the subversion of the very values that maintain the civilization that grants us our freedoms) is anathema to this point of view. As is the mentality that says that people must be somehow protected from themselves, and conversely the culture that encourages the quality of learned helplessness or idolizes victimhood. There is an inherent responsibility in every member of civilization, benefiting from the quality of life and the liberties it provides, to do their utmost to encourage the maximum liberty and opportunities to their fellow citizens! It has to be done, to justify and to protect our own freedom. But it is essential, in order for the ends to be fruitful, that this responsibility be taken on as an individual endeavor, and not as a collective imposition (otherwise that very freedom is betrayed). You can’t make people into free individuals by a collective imposition and a restriction of individual freedom.
So we need to provide an equality of opportunity, as much as can possibly be done for our fellow human beings without impinging on the freedom of others. To what end? The advancement of the human species. Nietzsche had it pretty clear : we’re a bridge. In the long term, we’re a step between the animal and something bigger, and everything we do should be aiming to try to create as self-realized a society as possible with the goal of our social evolution (and eventually, in this age, we can see the potential for a literal technological and genetic evolution, in what some geeks call ‘transhumanism’).
We have to allow as perfect a freedom as possible for each person to find and fulfill their will, to live up to the potential of their “genius” (at whatever level that genius applies, whether they find that their genius lies in a lab or a library or a plumber’s van, with a paintbrush or on a keyboard or tilling a field). In that fulfillment, in that application of genius, drop by drop, our entire civilization advances, even if the advancement is on such a scale of time as to seem imperceptible within a single lifespan.
And we must resist always the temptation of choosing the comfort and security of the unambitious herd, of letting ourselves be governed by a collective paradigm as a way to escape our own fear of the easy way out of dozing our way into a lifetime of being just another warm body; and of that culture of Snuggies or Prozac or kitten-picture-sharing, or wasting our time worrying about health so much that we never actually DO anything with our lives; the culture of waiting to die, or of following (or re-tweeting) fashionable causes without ever actually questioning, talking a lot and planning a lot and never doing. That’s not happiness, that’s only comfort and the alleviation of drudgery, at best. It’s fear-based anesthetization; trying to be less inconvenienced while we do our best to ignore and avoid the fact that we’re all slowly dying.
We have to shout from the rooftops to every person that death is not the worst thing that can happen to you, and that it’s going to happen anyways, so find out what you love about life, and do it to the very best of your ability instead of just wasting your life waiting to die on your retirement cruise. Freedom isn’t something you have, it’s something you have to do. Bukowski said it succinctly: “figure out what you love, and do it until it kills you”; to which I would only add, do it so well that you regret nothing. This is happiness.
And no one owes happiness to you, no one else can give it to you, even if they tried. They can give you that cotton-wool-Snuggie of being another temporarily warm body, but they can’t make you free or happy, only you can do that for yourself, by doing your will. What civilization does owe you is the inalienable right to the pursuit of that happiness, the active manifestation of liberty. That is one of those rights we must defend, and can’t stop advancing ourselves until everyone has that right (and fight anyone who tries to tell us we have to subvert those rights for the sake of some collective cause or social betterment, because that’s always ultimately a lie). The rest is up to each one of us individually, to not just pursue happiness but to take happiness with rough abandon at a computer desk or in a classroom or a workshop or the middle of the woods or on the road or in a cheap motel or on the beach (or even on a battlefield, or a monastery, or at the end of a needle) or wherever it is you end up finding it, in the throes of consuming passion until you make something majestic out of your life, whatever that might be. And then, you get to be one of those people who old men that knew of you might remember in their dotage and say to themselves, “Crap, I wish I’d lived like them.”
You have inalienable rights and freedoms. USE THEM.
Kasimir Urbanski doesn’t write on a specific subject; he’s EveryJoe’s resident maniac-at-large. A recovering Humanities academic and world-traveler, he now lives in South America and is a researcher of fringe religion, eastern philosophy, and esoteric consciousness-expansion. In his spare time he writes tabletop RPGs, and blogs about them at therpgpundit.blogspot.com.
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