STANDING BEFORE A GOD: OUR SYSTEM-SUBJECT PARADOX

pro818_hand Our relationship with the spiritual is also paradoxical. Whilst we seem to be destined to be searching for some kind of relationship with the without, the other that is without is incapable of satisfactorily confirming itself to us. The only thing that seems capable of solving this paradox is the concept of faith, which boils down to a belief in that which is impossible to confirm. Yet this is not just a spiritual problem. It also describes our political and social condition. The Other can be a God, can be the Universe, can be the World, or it can be the politico-economic System that we are immersed in. It is the big Other from our perspective but it is also the Subject with a capital S, which is the subject that is always there even when we are no longer around. Each one of us is a small subject, subjected to the Subject, but what must our subjection entail, especially if what the Subject claims to offer is freedom for the individual. The Subject must be freedom loving because that is the only way that we subjects could really feel comfortable with it. But in the idea of freedom within the Subject/System there resides another paradox: the individual can only become free by subjecting oneself to the discipline of the System. And, of course, subjection is the opposite of freedom. So, how can this be? The Subject/System liberates by providing the liberating infrastructures that satisfy needs. Thus God or the Universe has given us the World. As for the social Subject/System, that provides protection from the hostile elements in the world that the Subject-God-Universe failed to eradicate for us. The individual in the System therefore can free him or herself of a need for shelter by obtaining a dwelling made possible by the System’s infrastructure. But, in order to earn that entitlement one must make sacrifices. In order to obtain things from the System we must subject ourselves to the System’s mechanism of reward (money) obtained through the sacrifice of production (work). The simple idea of rewards given according to sacrifice is the basis (the basic contracted form) of the System. What is expected of the individual subject is his or her subjection to this contract. The governance of the System is therefore expected to design a relationship in which the interchange of reward and sacrifice is ensured and perpetuated. Governance falls down when it is unable to satisfy this expectation. Democracy should ensure an equitable relationship or an equilibrium in the design of this relationship so that anyone who is prepared to sacrifice for the System will be rewarded accordingly. But when this relationship breaks down, or is not attainable or simply dysfunctional, who is to blame? The System-Governance-Subject or the individual-subjected-subject? From the subject’s point of view the result is either self-criticism (a masochistic guilt complex) or a critical condemnation of Governance (rebellion). In either case the individual/subject finds him or herself unable to grasp the Subject/System which has become absurd through its dysfunction. The result is a feeling of alienation and absurdity caused by a fundamental disconnection with the System it lives and breathes in, that comes about because the subject is not allowed to sacrifice itself to the master in a truly productive way. The rewards that are necessary for the individual’s survival are either given reluctantly or withheld completely. Confusion sets in: “What does the Subject/System want of me?”; “Why has it forsaken me?”; “What can I do to win back its love?” Freud tells us that the ego will rebel when the demand of the master becomes too much to bear. Nevertheless, the ideology inherent in identity not only keeps us in our place through the sense of belonging or being part of the group, it helps make the unbearable bearable by making the alternative to belonging seem even more unbearable. The Subject has given us the World, and we cannot survive without it. It is through Identity that the individual is dominated by the Master-ideology. Submerged in Identity the individual is pulled away from that which her or she is not. In this way Identity has a double-edged gravity that draws us into a reality and pulls us away at the same time. Drawing us into a reality we are pulled away from the reality. By creating sense for us, identity also makes nonsense of our true relationship to the world.

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7 thoughts on “STANDING BEFORE A GOD: OUR SYSTEM-SUBJECT PARADOX

  1. Interesting as usual, although the spiritual/political analogy is sometimes smooth, sometimes bumpy for me. On the religious side of the freedom/obedience paradox, I think Milton’s Paradise Lost still stands as the masterpiece on that theme.

    • Thanks Gary. Perhaps the bumpiness is in the use of terms. Instead of a spiritual/political analogy try “theological/political analogy” and it might be easier to cut through the waves that way. The idea of the King and the God are closely linked. A king as a God, a Pope as an Emperor… then, our father/mother; our boss; the big Other; the Oedipus complex. The connections are all deeply rooted in our psychology.
      As for Paradise Lost: I’ve never managed to make much progress with it, but I need to … thanks for the reminder.

    • No, we shouldn’t. In no way should we forsake the individual. It is in the individual where all human creativity lies. The individual is the creative side of humanity. However much of this human creativity is lost in the ideological mask-making process that is involved in creating Identity. By overcoming our ideological identities (nationality, class, race, religion or club membership) and by assuming the more open identity with our species (humanity or Sapiens) we do our individuality a great favour. I think it was demonstrated in the Renaissance, when humanism was developed as a counterforce to theological dogmatism, that thinking positively about humanity was a great driving force for individuation, creativity and scientific progress.

    • Thanks. I didn’t know about any problems caused by excess tagging. I thought it was the opposite – the more tags the better. I’ll edit a few out. Thanks again.

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