Cultural Sameness versus Creativity

Living in society creates a constant preoccupation over the way that others act, whether those actions directly affect our own lives or not. ‘Others’ can be annoying or kind; friendly towards us or antagonistic; threatening or helpful; dangerous or loving. Our attitudes towards them will run between an apathy and an absolute concern, but it seems unlikely that any individual in society would be able to regard the rest of the members with complete indifference. Even the fully-fledged narcissist measures his or herself by how they differ from the behaviour of others.

The same is true regarding how we organise our environment: the houses we live in and the rooms in those homes; the clothes we wear; and even the accents we speak with are designed and refined according to our relationship with the others. They are organised according to the way others organise their spaces. This is how cultural sameness comes about. We compare, we initiate, we learn, we improve on, we invent from … and – at the higher level of progress – we enhance it again.

On the other hand, change can be feared. We compare, we imitate, we learn, we are comfortable and happy – why change?

RELIGION AND THE ANTI-HUMAN

Despite our fears and our desire for comfort, accumulation of learning mixed with the inevitable decadence caused by stagnation, makes change necessary. Human beings want to live in reality, and that means we want to live according to our own concept of truth. This is why Christ was said to have said “I am the truth”.

For religion to work it has to be accepted by the faithful as true – as real. Scientific truth has always been a thorn in the side of religious reality, as has free-thinking. Religious-truth’s claim is to make us comfortable and happy because we have found the absolute truth and, consequently, there is no reason to change, no need for progress. If accumulation of learning makes change necessary, then that is a dangerous element for religions. And this also means that religions are dangerous elements in progressive societies.

Discovery is a fundamental feature of the human, and discovery always implies change. Any absolute truth must deny the possibility of change, unless that Absolute Truth is that everything must change. Although this idea of transformation is not anathema to all religions and we see it embedded in Buddhist philosophy, nevertheless, it is abhorrent to most monotheistic dogmas. Where change is an abomination, however, we always approach anti-humanism, because, by denying the virtues of progressive transformation we also negate a fundamental human trait and, by doing so, deny humanity itself.

So, to return to our earlier interrogative: why change?

By changing we affirm our own humanity; and by progressing we make humanity purposeful. Our sameness with the others can only make sense if that sameness is always evolving and open to progressive transformation. Humanity only makes sense if we live in creative orientated societies and cultures.   

Society of Control (Part One)

We live in a society of control, but not because of the Covid-19 lockdowns. With the pandemic the control is obvious, what we need to remind ourselves of now is that our control-society existed a long time before the coronavirus spread. Of course, the rationale of lockdown in a pandemic is perfectly understandable, it is common-sense logic, the worrying thing is not the present but how easily we swallowed the perverted logic used to justify control before this actuality. The fact is that we have been in Orwell’s 1984 society for some time and the pertinent question now is, for how long have we been here?

When societies accept the controls of searches and inspections, the same society becomes immersed in a neurosis – a fear which is, for the most part, illogical.

We have been enduring compulsory inspections at airports and the entrances of government agencies or large corporations for decades. Any visitor is symbolically treated like a potential terrorist, and this treatment is in itself a form of terrorism. The best way to cope with the military control dished out at society’s checkpoints is with acceptance, which is resignation, which is the same as submission. We are told the control is carried out to ensure our safety. But is this is a valid reason for our uncritical submission?

For example, in order to discern whether or not the incarceration-style controls that we are constantly forced to endure at airports really do ensure our safety, we would firstly need to examine statistics concerning plane crashes before and after 9/11. If we do, we see that the numbers are more or less the same with a slight increase in accidents after 9/11. For while intense security-checks were made the new normal in all airports, the safety standards on the mechanical state of many planes worsened rather than increased. While society concentrated on stopping potential terrorists from boarding planes, it has been neglecting the vigilance of the emotional and psychological level of the pilots, or the thoroughness of inspections on the planes themselves.

Under any dictatorship, the first victim is always the truth. Power will only tolerate its truth, and control is a tool for turning its truth into the truth. Once established, the fact that its truth is actually a lie, is covered up by the acceptance given to that lie. If everyone accepts the lie as the way things are, then it no longer remains a lie, it is transformed into the way things are.

The problem with these imposed realities is that they are full of cracks. Problems are controlled rather than solved. Sometimes this is because the problems favour the measures the System wants to impose. Terrorism creates a need for maximum security controls and allows State repression of freedom. But the roots of the problem are created by the injustices provoked by the voracious appetite of our very same system-of-perpetual-growth (e.g.: capitalism or the neo-liberal economy). Because of this, no steps can be taken to properly eradicate poverty, which is the real root cause of most of our social problems, creating a breeding ground for most fanaticisms and, in fact, almost everything most people fear.

Likewise, the System, which is imperialistic, will not take measures to restrict the imperialist nature of its corporations, and neither will the neo-liberal financers combat the impoverishing effects of its debt-creating loans that are impossible to pay back.

The result is that nothing can be really done to fight the problems created by the System itself.

Society and Causes

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Our cosmological-philosophical investigation has led us to the conclusion that our Universe is driven by a final cause: the comprehension, appreciation and preservation (love) of itself. From this, we conclude that the final cause for humanity has to be the same, i.e. the comprehension, appreciation and preservation of the Universe — beginning with the comprehension, appreciation and preservation of our ourselves in the world, not only in the physical sense, but also in the social and ideal (artistic) senses as well. The final cause of humanity, and all human societies, should therefore be the comprehension, appreciation and preservation of itself, with the understanding that that same final cause is necessarily entwined in the cosmological final cause of the comprehension, appreciation and preservation of the Universe.

On causes, Aristotle proposed that once a final cause for anything has been established, then other causes, which he grouped as material, efficient and formal, will follow by necessity. For example, the final cause of a table may be dining; the formal cause would be its design; the material cause would be the wood its made from; and the efficient cause is the carpentry needed to fashion the table into the form from the design and the material.

Now, if we apply Aristotle’s four-causes to society what do we see? The material cause of any society should be the people that constitute it; but, if this is so, what is the efficient cause? Who are the builders of society? Isn’t it the people too? And, isn’t the formal cause, or design of society, also done by the people? If so, this would mean that society is a purely democratic, self-sufficient autocracy: but it’s not. So, something is wrong.

In fact, in the real sense, none of the causes of our societies are the people that constitute them. The final cause of our nation-state societies (and our global village community) is an economic one; an accumulation of wealth. The final cause is Wealth. The material cause, therefore, is Money, which is the material (albeit abstract material) used to define each individual’s status within the world and subsequently it is what Wealth consists of. The formal cause is the political and economic systems that work together to design ways of moving Money ever-upward for the preservation and benefit of Wealth. The efficient cause are the organisms created to exploit the masses, an exploitation needed to preserve Wealth, and, in general, we can call the conglomeration of these commercial and industrial organisations Power.

Power is constantly changing its forms, but the essence of its objectives is always the same. Its identity is based on facilitating its own ability to acquire most of the fruits of society for Wealth and Wealth’s enjoyment.

Nevertheless, because society is a thing that is constantly becoming, there is always a potential to change the final cause and by so doing change all the necessary other causes it engenders. A new kind of society with different causes is both logical and fundamentally desirable for its members, and this makes it not only possible, but logically necessary.

Remember, in order to be harmonious with existence, the authentic causes of society have to be based on the comprehension, appreciation and preservation (love) of itself. Once this is appreciated, true revolutionary action can begin to take place.

 

EQUILIBRIUM

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In the dystopian sc-fi-action film, Equilibrium, directed by Kurt Wimmer, we are presented with a totalitarian regime that controls society by abolishing feelings. In this dystopia, each member of society is provided with a drug, to be taken at regular intervals, that inhibits, like Prozac, the human side of humans – our feelings.

On a superficial level, this seems to be a critique of all dictatorial regimes, and of the evolution of power. Nevertheless, the real manipulation by the most powerful regimes today function quite the opposite: power today is ensured, not by inhibiting human feelings and allowing the logical mind to flourish, but rather by letting our sentiments and desires dominate us and, by so doing, inhibiting effective critical thought which would challenge the authority of the regime.

All totalitarian regimes have always identified their greatest enemies in the intellectual class. It is only knowledge and deep critical thinking which will be able to see through the lies they propagate and undermine the superficial veneers of happiness they have painted their societies with.

SOCIAL FREEDOM AS A FEASIBLE CONCERN

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Human societies are created around human activity and the requirements that come from the organization of that activity. Freedom, in a social sense, has to be defined by the freedom of choice that an individual has in deciding which activity he or she wants to pursue. A freedom-promoting society would, therefore, be constructed in a way that allows each person to pursue the activities they feel are the most suited to them.

Traditionally this idea of society is absurd: because the society itself has its own needs that must be met in order for the same society to function, and, as such, it requires a certain amount of its members to engage in tasks that would be of no interest to them. To compensate for this denial of freedom wages were introduced. In this way, wage-labour can be defined as a compensation for slavery.

Nevertheless, with the development of technology and especially robotics and manufacturing using 3D copiers, the idea of a social freedom can once again be imagined as a feasible thing. The implementation of automation should be seen as a process of liberating salary-compensated slaves in order to liberate their creative, sapiens potentials.

At the same time, the economy has to be adjusted that would guarantee the well-being of each member of society. The most logical evolution would be toward a non-monetary society, but before this revolutionary transition can be achieved, a universal basic-income is the most progressive economic idea. An explanation of UBI and some historical background can be found here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basic_income .

If it is feasible, the promotion of social freedom through the development of technology should be seen as a goal for society and a part of political parties’ programmes.

THINKING

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That we all think: this is what unites us and separates us. We all think – we are the same. But, how we think and what we think about – that is what separates us. However, while we are thinking, we are human; and when we stop thinking and act on instinct or by muddled logic, we are not acting in a completely human way.

The quality of humanity depends on the quality of our thinking.

Can we imagine, therefore, a quality of life based on quality of thought? For example: this place is good because it is conducive to clear thinking; that job is bad, for it does not allow us time to think; this other activity is good because it clears the muddled mind and opens spaces to think deeply in again. In such a quality-of-thought world, we would look for, and create, climates that are conducive to thinking; design cities that help us think.

The leaders of such a society would be chosen according to their merits as capable and clear thinkers who develop other thinkers and create a thoughtful society via their own thoughts. If we as a species are the animals that know; the homo sapiens; because we think; then having a world leader who makes decisions without thinking them through, is an absurdity. That this occurs, is a perversion of humanity that demonstrates that our present human condition is an anti-sapiens one, and, therefore anti-human. Humanity can only be rediscovered and societies can only become human again by thinking clearly about what we are and where we are going.

Thinking is an active way out of the decadent cycle of the simulacra culture in which we are immersed.[1]

How many of our best thoughts do we ourselves strangle or, at best, keep tightly locked away. Now, it’s time to let our good thoughts breathe, driven by human purposiveness itself rooted in thinking. It’s time to make thinking synonymous with an affirmation of the human and a negation of the anti-human.

What do you think?

[1] See our previous article DECADENCE AND STAGNATION: https://pauladkin.wordpress.com/2017/08/16/decadence-stagnation/

The End of Purpose and the Crisis of Creativity

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In his 1981 thesis, ‘Simulacra and Simulation’, Jean Baudrillard lamented the ruination of the university: “non-functional … lacking cultural substance or an end purpose of knowledge.”[i]

Perhaps we should not victimise the universities, the same can be said of our entire nihilistic culture, nevertheless, the idea that a university lacks a reason for learning is a tremendously sad one.

The crippling result of the lack of purposiveness allows societies to throw in their own self-interested crutches: the university becomes a simple place to prepare people for the work-force, or, on a more hopeful level, an environment that will stimulate creativity. But if there is no purpose or reason, why be creative? In fact, how can one be creative when nothing matters? Or the opposite is true: it’s very easy to be creative when nothing matters – too easy.

Either way, the result will always be a crisis of creativity.

“Today’s nihilism is one of transparency, and it is in some sense more radical, more crucial than its prior and historical forms, because this transparency, this irresolution is indissolubly that of the system, and that of all the theory that still pretends to analyse it.”[ii]

Baudrillard regarded Romanticism as the first great manifestation of nihilism; the destroyer of the order of appearances. The second great manifestation came through Dada, Surrealism, the Absurd, and political nihilism – corresponding to the destruction of the order of meaning.

But, destruction is inevitable when appearances and meanings themselves are devoid of substance; when they are castles made of sand. It wasn’t the Romantics or Dada that destroyed meaning; they were merely realisations that meaninglessness had evolved around them. The real destroyers were those in the institutions themselves, trying to maintain a system which made no sense.

Such a condition can only be perpetuated by dissimulation, and only whilst society swallows the performance in the staging of an ersatz purpose that the system offers them. Once the society grows tired of the theatrics played out before them they will start to yawn, or grimace if they are injured by it, and through that yawn or grimace they will see through the stage-craft to the emptiness behind it. When this happens on a massive scale, real revolution or a brutal reaction can take place.

This awareness is happening today, it has been bubbling for some years, but the train is turning toward the Dystopia rather than any purposive Utopia.

Buadrillard observed a similar scenario in the student revolts of Paris, 1968. Why didn’t a revolution happen then? Why is a purposive revolution unlikely to happen now?

According to Baudrillard, the staging carried out by the media is no longer a staging. He calls the media: “a strip, a track, a perforated map of which we are no longer mere spectators”. All that remains, he says: “is the fascination for desertlike and indifferent forms for the very operation of the system that annihilates us.” [iii]

In other words, we are enchanted and enamoured by the same media that is strangling us and numbing our brains. We love to see the violence and perversion that the society produces so much that we would probably fall into a kind of spiritual crisis if the brutality of the system was taken away from us.

[i] J. Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, Michigan, 1994, digital version p. 98

[ii] Ibid, p.104

[iii] Ibid

POLITICS AS A DESIRE FOR NON-POWER

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The cry for Real Democracy demands a reappraisal of the voting systems that undemocratically favour two major parties, nearly always the centre right and centre left. liberal-democratic parties, who themselves ensure a continuation of the dominant capitalist-economy of the global world civilisation. Most Western-style democracies have cheating mechanisms which are designed, according to their supporters, to provide “strong” governments.

From a point of view of political comfort, the cheating mechanisms seem to be necessary for maintaining a desirable stability. We have seen in the last few years how the arrival of more radical parties into the governmental scenario (e.g.: in Greece, Spain and Italy) has done little to make any fundamental changes to the system. Anti-capitalist parties have been castrated by the global capitalist-economy. Because of this, the System falls into an impossible paradox in which winning power becomes political suicide for radical parties.

But what if the objectives of winning the elections were radically opposed to power itself: that instead of gaining power, the objective of the radicals is to create non-power? Can we imagine a political party with an anti-power ideology? Of course this sounds like anarchism, but let’s ask why anarchism is so scarcely seen in democracies? Why do we think we need power so much when, over and over again, we see how greedy and selfish it is?

The reason is that Power in our economics-driven society is inextricably tied to the flow of money. Power makes and distributes the wealth. It is an underlying belief in our society that without money we would die, and this means Power is related to survival, and only when Power threatens our survival, as it did in 18th century France or 20th century Russia and China, will major revolutions take place. That Power is inextricably aligned with Wealth is no secret, but when that alliance is seen as a threat by societies to our welfare and as an endangering force in our lives, it starts to be questioned, and the seeds of revolution begin to sprout.

However, a real revolution can only truly hope to succeed if it attacks the real source of the problem, which is the relationship between Power and Wealth, and which stems from the inextricable bond between Power and money. In other words, only by questioning monetarisation and envisaging societies in which money as we know it no longer has to play a part, will successful revolution or purposeful political change ever come about.

But for this to happen, political activists have to enter the political scene not with a thirst for power, but with a desire for non-power.

Anti-Fanaticism

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The world today needs great ideas. Human society needs inspiration. However, these very needs imply another necessity for extreme caution.

Our anti-human historical process teaches us that great ideas are embraced by Wealth through the apparatus of Civilisation and converts inspiration and creativity into ideology and dogma. For this reason, all good ideas have to be handled with protective gloves, not to protect our hands but in order to safeguard them from our own society’s greed.

We can use terms like Fascism or Stalinism to represent the idea of a total immersion in ideology, but likewise we could talk of Opus Deism or Mormonism, or we can unify all of these dogmas under the umbrella of Fanaticism.

The 21st century has arrived with its own peculiar narratives: the dialectic between Fanaticism and Anti-fanaticism is one of these; but this dialectic is itself swamped by a far more powerful squabble between the fanatics themselves. The seemingly age-old bickering between religious fanatics has made a comeback, in a brutal, violent way, and this is also fostered and favoured by a political ideology fanaticism, which is in truth an economic ideology. This creates a powerful and destructive dynamic that mitigates human progress and creativity whilst inflating Wealth.

Civilisation today is driven by an internecine struggle of alliances and enemies. On the one hand there are the champions of the spirit and on the other the upholders of the material. Both of these fanatical movements promise great rewards for their followers, and both of these streams create currents of wealth creating power that flow through and nurture each other.

Neither option keeps everyone happy, but together they offer a great alternative to each other: if you don’t want to be subject to one side of civilisation’s fanaticisms’ coin, then you can join the other side without needing to denounce civilisation at all. Only the fanatics are trying to escape now.

Of course this seems to be anti-intuitive: isn’t fanaticism a threat to Civilisation? Aren’t the fanatics Barbarians? This is what Civilisation would have us believe: but the real answer is “no” and “no”; Civilisation feeds its fanatics for its own benefit.

As for the Anti-fanatics: all people who are not fanatics are, potentially, anti-fanatics. However, the anti-human historical process has always shown us how easily the mechanisms of Civilisation can be used to turn non-fanatics into absolute “believers” in an historical blink of an eye. As for the anti-fanatical purist, they also have the fanatic in them: the fanaticism of the anti-fanatic. And in this sense the looming scenario is dismally pessimistic: one can only combat fanaticism fanatically. A new paradox emerges, and with each paradox a new challenge to overcome it. How do we overcome Fanaticism without being fanatical?

We imagine pockets of anti-fanatics, swimming lonely and anonymously within the great schools of ideologies; immersed because they have to be, but following the rules without conforming to the fanaticism. We think these anti-fanatics have to exist, because without them the dialectics of society would be self-contained between “spirit” and “material” and between each sections own inner squabbles; and this would have provoked a rapid collapse of civilisation itself.

Or, in other words, civilisation still exists today because of the true anti-fanatic current that flows within it.

The Anti-fanatics are cynics and scientists. They are sceptics and visionaries. They visualise Utopias and deconstruct the Heterotopias that dominate and disfigure our reality. They seem to be a tiny minority, but this may be an illusion created by complexity. Lines seem straight until we magnify them. Closer inspection always reveals an inner chaos, a deeper yearning for a more creative fabric forming existence.

Our Lack of Humanity

What Civilisation lacks above all else is precisely the one thing we all share; our humanity.

Without the binding force that humanity possesses, societies feel fragmented; there is a sense that things are not properly put together; that everything is a mess. There is a feeling that the System enveloping society has no feeling for the society itself. Many parts of civilisation seem to be unnecessary or purposeless. The relationship that the individual parts have to the whole is not palpable and things just seem to be there, ad hoc, for no significant reason at all.

The result of this lack is that society becomes a neurotic collective of neuroses, and it becomes incapable of seeing the inherent contradictions in many of the values it upholds. In fact, it is a society that cherishes opposing sets of conscious values, but fails to appreciate the absurdity of the contradiction. It will worship freedom, but champion the needs for ever stricter controls. It will strive for peace, but does so by warring against its enemies at the slightest excuse. It will harken to the need for more human rights and social justice whilst enforcing economies that ensure the flow of money in a continual stream upward to the most privileged classes.

Civilisation desperately needs a psychiatric cure from the terrible neuroses that afflict it. Someone needs to lie our System down on the couch and explain to it once and for all what it is lacking and what it needs to concentrate on and recuperate. The cure is not so hard once the patient accepts the facts and looks for the lack within itself; for the cure is there, and always has been. In fact, it is the material that constitutes the very basis of civilisation itself. We call it “humanity”.