MAKING THE MASK – IDENTITY AS IDEOLOGY (2)

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Ideologies are masks. And if we add to this Althusser’s idea that “Human societies secrete ideology as the very element and atmosphere indispensable to their historical respirations and life,”[i] then we start to get an image of the veiling process of human society in the falsifying process of mask-making. It is through the creation of masks that society paints (in a secreting way) its own suitable, fake reality around itself. Any reality that is secreted or painted on must be regarded as a false one.

Once we have recognised the existence of the ideological mask we must ask ourselves: what is the real condition under that mask? Is it so ugly or so drab that it needs a mask to make it interesting or presentable? Of course the mask bearer erroneously thinks he or she is looking at his or own reflection in the mirror – and in this way we must see ideology as a bewildering hoax or scam, and the society as a clever grafter who has its subjects in its pocket. But why is it that the subjects are so susceptible to this hoax?

The first mask is the name which itself comes out of a language that frames us within that name. And here we have the paradox of language: it frees us by allowing us to communicate but enslaves us by making us subject to the requirements of the other’s communication. Without language our society and culture, indeed humanity itself, would be inconceivable, but it is not until one can escape into another new language that one can ever be aware of the power contained in the mask that we were given in the first place. Language unites but also separates us. It makes us different to those who speak other languages and unites us with those we immediately understand. They who speak our language are our own, but this is another restriction. If language is our most human trait, it is also our most anti-human as being the prime cause of human division and our lack of species consciousness.

The masks of cultures make demands on us and ultimately strive to condition our existence, pushing our self-perception towards a sense of belonging to a part of humanity that is different to, separate from and better than the rest of humanity … and this is the fundamental error.

Emphasis on difference is always there whilst the dividing lines are clearly and deliberately drawn, and emphasis on differences engenders the competitive spirit – the struggle against the others; the creed of us and them; the multifarious masks of isolating identities.

Ideologies grow like mushrooms, sprouting out of the damp earth of separation and the fertile soil of competition. Ideologies look for their antithesis to give them purpose, furbishing them with the power of dialectic against the rivals and enemies. Ideology needs to coexist with its ideological antithesis in order to give itself meaning. “We only makes sense whilst we stand by Them,” is the unmasked motto of all ideologies. Ideologies coexist in order for them to compete and clash, and it is in this coexistence that these opposing forces seep into each other, muddying each other and forcing each other to evolve into hypocritical absurdities that eventually become unsustainable.

The falsity of the mask can only be maintained for so long. Eventually all lies must be seen for the fictions they are. Reality will always push its way through to the surface of the artificial cover that is hiding it. Our own Moloch system is a massive ideological mess of a mask which is rapidly starting to peel and crack.

[i] Louis Althusser, FOR MARX, London, 1969, p.232

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OUR GREATEST MISTAKE

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Is competitiveness a part of human nature or is it our first great mistake? When our needs for survival evolved from the mere need to adapt to our environment and became a desire to take complete control of it, we were suddenly geared toward a will to want to take control of our own species. From this came the suspicion that we no longer liked our neighbours very much and that, in fact, it would be better to control them. Eventually the desire to be better than all those around us became so widespread that struggling to get on top of the tribe became the only logical way to act, as if it were the only natural way to behave. Of course when everyone wants to be on top the result is competition. And when the competitive spirit really hits in then the human condition becomes reduced to a life of a constant struggle between winners and losers, between masters and slaves.

That this is now deeply ingrained in all human society there is almost no doubt, but its ubiquity does not mean that it is good or essential. All of our envious, greedy evil stems from this competitiveness and humanity as a practical, workable concept is impossible whilst the competitive mood is dominant in societies.

THE CHEATING GAME

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It is obvious that the triumph of Western liberal democracy[i] and its subsequent process of Globalisation has done very little toward bringing humanity more closely together. Quite the opposite is true: we all seem to be drifting further and further apart. But, if it has failed with humanity, what has two centuries of liberal democracy achieved with the individual? How successful has it been in its attempts to forge a society of strong-selves? If we have failed with the whole, then surely we must have succeeded with the individuals who are the antithesis of the whole?

But again it is obvious that we haven’t? In Nietzsche’s terms, we have achieved neither the Human nor the Superman, just the Last Man. The pathetic Last Man, bumbling through a cheating-game world of relativity and conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories because, whether we accept them or not, they point an accusing finger at the basic fabric of the system, undermining all responsibilities and moralities with scepticism. How can one be morally responsible in a system which is inherently corrupt? The individual, rather than standing strong and finding a good position in the competitive world, finds him or herself immersed in a society of cheats. The system has now become a cheating-game and the strong-self has to be identified in such an environment as a morally irresponsible subject.

One can only be a strong, successful player in the cheating-game by being a good cheat. This of course makes all success seem suspicious. Eventually decisions need to be made in which “honesty” is needed, but… who can we trust anymore? A strong leader is obviously a good liar and a very good cheat. This kind of leader is useful at convincing us that we are happy in a world that in reality offers us very little… Useful that is until we start to understand the truth. And the simple truth is that we are being cheated.

The first great lie is freedom as individuality and its idea of the unfettered individual along with the creation of a passion for strong individuals. Freedom is now a term used to propagate the unfettering of power: freedom to dominate; freedom to manipulate. The second great lie is democracy itself. The lie of free choice. The lie of majority rule. The lie of the individual’s capacity for achievement in the system.

The only way to combat the lie is by establishing positive, human objectives. We must look beyond the individual and the tyranny of egos in order to establish goals that are out of the cheating game. Goals without any other reward except progress towards human fulfilment. Goals that would pull us out of the cheating-game into another game with real rules that we know will really protect us and protect the world we depend on for our survival. All the rest is petty bickering, which is inevitable when you’re playing the cheating-game.

[i] See Francis Fukuyama’s thesis THE END OF HISTORY AND THE LAST MAN http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_End_of_History_and_the_Last_Man

HUMANITY IS ME

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In his essay The Age of the World Picture, Martin Heidegger describes a series of paradoxes brought about by humanity becoming subiectum, or the subject, in “the midst of the world”. Heidegger’s paradoxes are these: firstly, the act of making humanity the central subject of concern is, in itself, an act of objectification by humanity itself (only by objectifying ourselves can we become the subject of our concerns); and secondly, the act of this objectified subjectification of humanity allows for the phenomenon of individualism to prosper and be resisted at the same time.

It is within the frame of this paradox that the great political conflicts and economic injustices of the last centuries have taken place. The struggle of the individual against the community-as-an-individual; of the community-individual against the state-individual; of the state-individual against another state-individual or against an individual unity of states.

The group individual struggle is seen clearly in the language we use around our team sports: when a club wins it is either we won or they beat us, although we did nothing except adopt some colours. The concept of the fan allows the individual to choose his or her own common identity, which is the large part denied us in the birth-right-condemnation of nationality.

Globalisation amplifies this paradoxical condition. The individual-community-subject suddenly finds itself made more vulnerable and isolated than ever before in a vast ocean of  competing individual-subject forms. No longer is one’s neighbour the principle competitor, the new enemies invade without even crossing the horizon.

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Globalisation is a conquest, the ultimate conquest of the world, but a conquest by whom? The only positive and logical answer to that question is by humanity; by us as humanity. Any other conclusion is absurd, for it is an actual denial of the prize won. In order to escape the pernicious effects of Heidegger’s paradox we need to embrace it. Globalisation must imply, in its own definition of itself, the ultimate subjectification of humanity – simplifying and enlarging humanity at the same time into the first person singular of the plural. With globalisation the We are Humanity becomes I am Humanity or Humanity is Me. The individual-subject does not have to compete with the individual-object because it is subject and object at the same time. When we realise this, anti-human barriers start to collapse and the authentic human being begins to take form.