Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Class War and the Hope of Utopia

'It is now no utopian fantasy to suggest we can live in a world without waste or want or war, in which each person has free access to the benefits of civilisation. That much is assured. We certainly have the science, the technology and the know-how. All that is missing is the will – the global desire for change that can make that next great historical advance possible; a belief in ourselves as masters of our own destiny; a belief that it is possible to free production from the artificial constraints of profit and to fashion a world in our own interests. And how soon this happens depends upon us all – each and every one of us.'

I read the above over at Class War. What am I to think of it?

Well, I'm very sympathetic, to be frank. That said, I don't understand myself primarily in the political terms the writer does. So I don't feel comfortable sensing his or her desire that I interpret my positive response to his words as a signal that I ought to become a 'Socialist'. Moreover, I suspect my interest in the transcendent may leave him more than a little cold. Presumably, I am up to my eyes on opium and high as a kite in earnestly irrelevant ways...?

It seems often in life that people can agree about diagnoses, but then part company over prescription; when it come to the recommended courses of action, to suggested modes of alleviation, to routes out of the abyss.

The author is totally right that there is no material cause for anybody any longer to be starving to death on the blue planet. As I see it, that they do so is only because humanity, the collective, does not care about all of its parts, about all of its particulars. The negligence of holism at the collective level is evident and manifest.

Medicinally, we also now have the power to both improve and save many more lives than we do.

As for the so-called population problem. Firstly, this is a problem only in certain parts of the world. That in-itself means that through demographic mobility, it need not be a problem, as vast areas of emptiness can receive the excess. Secondly, where it is a problem, action through birth control, abstinence and education can drastically reduce the rapidity of growth. Thirdly, integral to the understanding that there is a problem with an an excessive demographic is an understanding of how human beings must live - that is, as exploitative consumers and destroyers of the ecosystem. And yet they need not live like that at all. That much is obvious.

'All that is missing is the will – the global desire for change that can make that next great historical advance possible'

Indeed, this is the case - in one sense. And in that sense it's certainly the case that many, many people do not care, for whatever reason, either about the present or the future of the human race - except insofar as it relates to their immediate environment, be that, at a stretch, their particular nation or tribe or local community, and more commonly, their friends and families only; if not, in the more extreme cases of narcissistic self-enclosure, nothing but their own egos.

But are we sure that the will is enough? Personally, I am not. Through a programme of State sanctioned coercion, for example, we could always brainwash the multitudes into having the appropriate and required, 'virtuous' will. Such has been tried before, in Russia, in China and elsewhere. Would we like to repeat the experiment? Are we sure?

Call me a pathetic dreamer if you like; but I'd say that what has to change more fundamentally than the will is the heart, that stony lump of unresponsive insularity within. That deathly heart, that makes us care so very much about our personal particular statuses and triumphs, and what we have to lose; or is it, what we only perceive we have to lose. That heart of ungenerous, defensive prickliness, that thorn in the rose garden of the possible.

With an illuminated and transfigured heart, however, with a will animated and restrained by its counsels, we might indeed then, and successfully, harness the resources of our practical knowledge to make this planet less of the disaster zone that it is.


Selena Dreamy said...

“ free production from the artificial constraints of profit”

Of course, of course. Doesn't everyone know that homo sapiens is the most moral of all the species on this planet, all pure motives, humane and compassionate?

Well, I shall here forbear even to hint at the extent of such hogwash.

Man is dominated by the making of money, by acquisition as the ultimate purpose in his life. Or as Adam Smith said, “We address ourselves, not to their humanity, but to their self-love.“ But rather than recognize man-the-money-making-animal for what it is, and develop it for the common weal - and there are ways for greed to be redeemed - you wish to change the nature of the beast!

The price of redemption, it seems to me, is somewhat higher than a wished for “illuminated and transfigured heart” or “a will animated and restrained”.

Wishful thinking is not the means to a renewal of human culture on Earth; it is going round in circles, perpetuating the impression that it is wedded to nothing but fantasy and self-delusion. It is time to rid ourselves of pious thoughts and to espouse reason, objective, sound and constructive, Jonathan - nor, if you’ll forgive me for saying so, have you come out from your head in the clouds, with a single practical suggestion!


Jonathan said...

Why thank you Selena for that kindly and constructive encouragement. My early evening finds itself deliciously spiced up.

I feel, nevertheless, that you have misunderstood me. And I think we agree with one another more than you think.

Had I either been asked for or promised to give any practical suggestions? So why be incensed that I give none? And do you mean practical suggestions regarding the transfiguration of the heart, or practical suggestions regarding what comes afterwards?

I am simply identifying the goal and the necessary direction. One must know where one wants to go before one thinks about how to get there.

My practical suggestions start at the level of the heart. I am a Christian, albeit a peculiar one perhaps. But not such a liberal one that I deny that the root of all our problems lies in our, for want of a better word, sinful nature, and essentially in our selfish and evil hearts, to put it bluntly. This interiorised existential blight is universal and shared by the powerful and the weak, the rich and the poor.

As I write I am not a socialist.

Ultimately I do, moreover, incline to that empowerment of the individual as against that vapourous abstraction, the State, that Smith and others 'on the right' represent. And yet clearly you are right to perceive a certain 'leftishness' about me, at least in my idealism. In any case, I reject the certain ability of either term 'left' or 'right' not to cross over and morph into the other, if one pursues the path of the freethinker, if one eschew's narrow party identification, if one rejects the rigidities of outworn thoughtforms..

But in the above piece I really wished to express two points. Firstly that I am sympathetic to the goal that communist radicals espouse when they speak of a world that, to use a Biblical idiom, could be referred to as that world in which rightousness and justice cover the earth as the waters fill the sea. And secondly I wanted to dissasociate myself from Class War radicalism as a path, an often violent path of course, because it is clearly animated to a great degree by Class hatred, and by a to me, flawed over-estimation of the innate virtue of the unregenerated human will.

I do not feel I engage in wishful thinking at all. I achieve the effects I can and in my own domain these are sometimes, to me anyway, delightful. I know that humans do not need conflict, but sink to it because they lose their focus at the spiritual level, falling asleep in dreams of inattention and self-unawareness.

But I am only one man...and yet I wonder if you expect me, alone, to have practical suggestions for solving a world's problems that I am not in control of, in that kind of a way in which I am in control of my own life (though I admit that here my sovereignty is not as extensive as I'd like).

Gurdjieff touches on this theme, I think, when he said: Look after the Universe under you. Let God look after the Universe over you.

Two more days in Suffolk and then off to Slovakia for awhile on a nostalgia trip.

Mu Tai Dong said...

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Selena Dreamy said...

"One must know where one wants to go before one thinks about how to get there."

I think we can all agree on that!

Jonathan said...

And what does PELOOP TM do, I wonder? Does it solve the problems of erections not appearing or erections not disappearing. No doubt both scenarios can be troublesome!

Alas, my erections are just fine, in both crucial senses, so regrettably I cannot service you with money in exchange for whatever manner of 'good' it was you were plying...if that indeed was your aim, as I somehow, as it happens, suspect it wasn't. But thanks for the suggestion!

A curious world indeed...

And yet, Selena, do we agree upon where we want to go, even if we all agree that destinations are required for meaningful journeys?

Selena Dreamy said...

Perhaps not! But seeing you've gone to Bratislavia - why not tell us more about it...?!

Bob said...

Hello Jonathan,

I beg to question the ever recurring argument that we can 'feed the world' or 'help all aids patients' if everybody just wanted to do it. 'Imagine there's no possession' and stuff.
It is true that the big bad pharmaceutical companies don't sell their medicin at prices that poor people can afford, but imagine what would happen if one company did just that. It would help a certain amount of people and then go out of business in no time, because it wouldn't make any profit.
As I see it, the only chance for these countries is if they get out of the mess on their own strength. You might argue that we don't give them fair competition, but then again, neither do they (e.g. China).