The Abstract and the Conditional versus the Casserole of Duties

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All human activity and progress has come from our ability to conceptualise reality abstractly and conditionally. The future is not built on dreams, but on the idea of what is possible; of what we could do if …

Nevertheless, despite all the conditional possibilities thrown at us every day in a civilisation driven by publicity campaigns, contemporary society offers little room to let our minds wander into the now dangerous realm of the abstract.

The contemporary human condition is full of the obligations of the here and now: family responsibilities; work obligations; needs to find work; to buy; to pay one’s debts. Obligations that have their own spaces, but which seep into the other spaces, constantly mixing and creating a thick stew of obligations. And it is this casserole of duties that we come to call the System. A thick-stew system that gives us less and less space in which to look for the abstract and conditional.

In the casserole of duties, life is enclosed in the actual. Whenever gaps appear, they are quickly plugged by consumer needs or the indoctrinations of the games used by the System to divert thoughts that may start to wander, fixing them by immersing them in the actuality of the game, so that when the current match finishes the arrival of the next great sporting event is already immanent.

Everything is designed to promote the here-and-now and inhibit the conditional, and, by so doing, foster the real and the factual, extinguishing our thoughts until we are left empty of possibilities and full of the actual.

The modern man and woman is full of the System, and the irony is that our very social complexity in the System alienates us from our humanity.

While we are full of the System, we have no room to progress as humans; no room to discover our vital, creative potential within the future potentials of all imagined conditionals.

Organisation: A Human Obsession

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Human beings are obsessed by the way we are organised. We are obsessed by the family, the state, our religions; we live in a gossip loving, envious society that above all loves money … All these factors exert strong organisational fields over our lives. But while it is relatively simple, for some, to stop flag-waving and escape from the grip of their local church, or stop watching reality shows and disappear from their family radar, it seems impossible to remove ourselves from the gravitational force of money.

Money is the perfect form of organisation, itself perfected by the control methodologies implemented through the organisation of the great organiser – the economy.

We are a social-animal species. We are born vulnerable and dependent on those who can nourish and protect us. Until, in theory, we leave the nest, but the independence we imagine we gain in our maturity is a myth that is never truly obtained, because we never free ourselves from the obsession we have with that which is always organising us; an obsession which leads to blind faith, and that is the worst loss of freedom. The way we are organised is the way things are: we sense that; we implicitly believe it; but does that mean that we cannot change it? Is the way things are, the way things have to be?

Despite our obsession with organisation, we also need to believe in the anti-organisation concept of freedom. Most Westerners cringe at the idea of loss of freedom. Freedom is a symbol that all human beings should aspire to. But why? If we are so obsessed with organising our lives according to the way things are, and freedom represents that which is not the way things are, why do we place so much importance on this anti-organisation concept.

Certainly, if one lives under the singular-will organisation of a dictatorship, one can dream of the liberating effects that an organisation like the one we call democracy offers. But what happens when you discover that the free world of liberal democracies doesn’t actually offer you real freedom at all? Where does one go from there? Must we surrender to blind faith, and console ourselves with the absurd, illogical belief that the organisation that controls us actually allows us to be independent and free?

The real problem lies in the fact that we never truly organise ourselves: our lives are always organised for us; within a paradigm built in order to organise most of us in a way that allows us to be exploited for its own purposes. No matter how free we think we are in this world of unlimited possibilities, for the vast majority of us, our relationship is a submissive one, determined by the power that organises us. And yet, do you ever ask yourself why we are organised in this way; or how this organisation came to be taken for granted in the first place?

True, we are a social-animal and freedom from organisation is impossible. Nevertheless, it is possible to break free and escape the nest, just as some of us really do break free from the organisation of the family. Organisation can work for everyone, in a way that allows each one of us the power to develop our talents to the fullest. We don’t have to be organised and moulded according to the will of that seemingly random, abstract force we call the economy. Yet, for a liberating organisational force to be possible, we first have to deeply question the reasons why we have been organised in this anti-liberating way in the first place. In order to see the way out, we first have to understand why we really do need to escape.

THE SYSTEM AS LANGUAGE

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The System doesn’t merely speak to us: it itself is structured as a language with its own grammar and logic that we all now misinterpret as being “reality” or “the way things are” and “the way things must always be”. The language of civilisation is its gift to us that tells us that the System itself is ours.

But the gift is a Trojan Horse, as soon as we accept it we are enslaved to them. Once we have accepted the gift we must close our eyes to the consequences, because the truth is that our truth is an unbearable one. It is the worst of all truths: the most shameful side; the originator of all our problems, woes and stupidities; the reason why we are doomed to the cruellest separation from what we really are. It is the tremendous wall between what the System wants us to be and our humanity.

The Way Out of the Bubble

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In order to effectively criticise, the critic needs to have an alternative to the operating model. Herein lies the great impotence of the bipartisan system. Criticism is carried out in a basically sterile way, concentrating on the usual way that organisation is carried out. In other words, criticism is infected with Habitus[i]. This infection prevents criticism from attacking the structures of the System itself, and makes it impossible for it to offer any real alternatives to the bubble it floats in. Any real alternative has to begin with pulling down the house, but this is such a radical step that hardly anyone, except the most extreme groups, would be prepared to advocate it. “How could we possibly survive without the body that we occupy?” think the Leviathan’s parasites.

The idea is scary and it sounds impossible. Scary and impossible enough to dissuade any serious thought from forming in that direction. Nevertheless, as more and more people find themselves being fooled and lied to by the System, or become direct victims of its imperialistic and dictatorial reality, the need for demolition becomes ever more apparent.

But once one decides that we need to escape, the great paradox embedded in Systemology raises its ugly head. We need to get out of the System, but we need the System to survive. We cannot escape the bubble we are imprisoned in without bursting it. If we do we will surely die, won’t we? Psychologically then, in order for us to be strong enough to burst the bubble we need to have assurances that the atmosphere outside of the bubble will not be toxic for us. The first question leading us to liberation from the System must therefore be: What kind of atmosphere will exist outside of the System?

Criticism on its own, without the assurance of an atmosphere within which the alternative may be liveable, is always ineffective. Just as alternatives that offer solutions within the System itself are basically impotent and therefore also ineffective.

To see through the masks and the Habitus created by the System we need to analyse the ineradicable evils of that System – its necessary evils, so often blamed on human nature – and explain why those necessary evils are not necessary at all.

The will to change will come out of the need to change, which will become more and more apparent as the consumer-will society falls into deeper and deeper conflict with the atmosphere that sustains it. The consciousness allowing us to break the bubble will be a deeper consciousness of the greater bubble of the world that encloses the System’s bubble of economy. By breaking the economic bubble we don’t die of suffocation, quite the contrary, we expose our lungs to clean air and breathe freely again for the first time.

[i] See our entry on Habitus: https://pauladkin.wordpress.com/2015/02/28/habitus/

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.

NEUROSIS: OUR PARODIXICAL REALITY

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The power and meaningfulness of paradox is embedded in the unity of its own greatest contradiction: Paradox is something that reveals and conceals at the same time. But this could also be a definition of reality itself. Reality is something that reveals and conceals and hence, reality has a paradoxical nature.

It is certainly true of the reality propagated by the System. The System reveals and conceals. Watch the nightly news and that which is unveiled is at the same time concealing just as much information, if not more. In the same way, at the same time that we discover things we also repress our awareness of other things. Concentration opens our eyes to minute details by blurring the forms around it. This is not a contradiction but rather a paradoxical reality.

To find another example let us examine the psychological or psycho-pathological state of our society and consider the existence of neurosis. At the subjective level, neurosis is a removal of the individual’s narrative from public communication. However, on the social or macro-psychological level, it is the public communication that has become senseless to the individual. Alienation is the cause of neurosis and an alienating society will breed neurotics. Nevertheless, in the case of neurotic illness quite the opposite takes place: society sees the neurotic as ill and the neurotics will see that “illness” in themselves because the  society reflects it at them. But whose fault is it when someone feels disconnected from society: the fault of the neurotic or of the system that creates neurosis? In our System, it is a neurotic splitting of discourse from meaning that alienates the individual, not a particular moral weakness or infirm nervous system in the neurotics themselves. Nevertheless, the fact that society creates neurotics is not considered an important criticism of the structure of society itself. There are no political party agendas dedicated to the eradication of neurosis, because, in order to do such a thing a complete rethinking and restructuring of the fabric of society would be required. The existence of neurotics condemns the failures of society and yet the condemnation is covered up and loaded upon the victim. The truth concerning neurosis is therefore embedded in the mystification of its paradoxical nature and only by looking for the paradox that encloses the problem are we really able to see it.

It is the discovery of the paradox that allows for the unveiling of the real. Always search for the paradoxical nature of things, even when, or especially when, things seem perfectly straight forward.

Our Naked System

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Marxist doctrine argues a need for an emerging working-class self-consciousness capable of comprehending the aggressive nature of the capitalist system in order to liberate itself from it. But reality now demands that we look beyond the confines of any ideologies and their separations—whether class, cultural, linguistic or territorial—in order to become conscious of how the system infects us all, and how it uses the separating forces inherent in all ideologies to perpetuate its own selfish interests.

 

The best way to bring the oppressors down is to reveal the true nature of their nakedness. Like the Emperor parading his new clothes, the system is really quite naked of principles once we allow ourselves to open our eyes to what it tells us is there but in reality is not there at all. And once that nakedness is seen the next brave act would be to confront the emperor with the awkward truth of his real, pathetic condition. We risk stirring the emperor’s rage, but perhaps his shame will be so great that he will abdicate.

 

The world-view of the system, despite its globalising, empirical apparel, cannot tolerate any singular world-view that would be antithetical to its philosophy of dynamism. For this reason it demands separation and seems to move in a constant direction to ensure that borders will remain in some form or other. From the worldview perspective of the ideology/identity system, separations evolve into relativisms that are tolerated because they can maintain the spirit of separation and not alienate ideologies from the global empire in its entirety. But, relativism is also a step on the downward ladder to scepticism and from there to pessimism, which is always a numbing energy that invites a depressive fall into unconsciousness.

 

Of course the system ultimately fails again. It engenders a lethargy rather than a dynamism. But what the system calls crisis is essential to its own metabolism, and with the collapse, and the great misery resulting from that collapse, the system itself, driven by renewed needs and a renewed grasp of reality, will be able to catapult itself back into the dynamism that capitalism demands. A dynamism fuelled by the fantasy of perpetuity: continual growth is impossible within the closed system that is the Earth. And this is the ridiculous nakedness of the system. A farce that is no longer funny anymore, it has become emphatically dangerous.

KNOWING THE LIE – CONSCIOUSNESS (1)

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One cannot be free unless one has the power to change one’s circumstances in a positive way. One cannot change one’s circumstances unless one can see what needs to be changed. Consciousness is therefore an a priori necessity for freedom. Dictatorship can be achieved by simply making the people it oppresses unconscious of the reality that really dominates them.

Consciousness has to be an alert force, if it is not alert it cannot be consciousness. Its power lies in its ability to see through the veil of systemic mystification. Consciousness allows us the right to be critical, sceptical, or even cynical.

Of course consciousness can also be false. False consciousness lacks clarity as it is muddied by its own ideologies: ideologies that stem from identities. For consciousness to be clear it needs to transcend all ideology-mask identities.

False consciousness could also be called misguided consciousness – a consciousness looking for a reality which is simply just not there, and probably never will be, is a misguided one. Consciousness needs to see through the masks, but that does not mean it must cut through all still surfaces. The cutting open can have negative results if the process itself does nothing but churn already clear waters and makes them no longer transparent.

Can we say that reality should be that which needs to be? What about want it to be? If we accept the validity of both possibilities, which is stronger: want or needs? Desires must be subject to needs. Desires can only be gained when needs are satisfied. Likewise, in order to uncover reality and therefore find truth, consciousness must be guided by needs at first and desires only when those needs are satisfied or safeguarded. The first thing consciousness must look for is necessity.

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