Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Human Freedom is not a Cafeteria


    It is very important, for certain interests, that people everywhere continue to believe that the world is none of their business. A world full of people who believe that the operation of the world is none of their business is convenient for certain interests, who believe that the operation of the world should be their concern exclusively. 

    Some people, through a combination of fortune and bravery, come around to the idea that the world IS in fact their business, and could or should be everyone else’s business too. Sometimes, in order to speak clearly about their conviction, they invent language to discuss the world or certain parts of it, and theoretically to act on these discussions, and the names for these special vocabularies usually end in –ism.
    The emergence of one of these special vocabularies, these –isms, means that certain interests have failed to prevent one or more people from thinking about the world, which at least in principle means that their positions as Captains Of Everything is threatened. For situations like these, they have a trump card.
    They trick the people who are awakening to their participation in and stewardship of the world into believing that the –ism isn’t a vocabulary to discuss the world, but a vocabulary that exists to discuss itself… they convince these people, on the verge of birth into full humanity, that the people who invented the vocabulary don’t want to discuss the world as much as they want to discuss their new vocabulary.
    Even some of the people who helped invent the new vocabulary fall for this one. But not as many as do the people who fall for the –isms-are-about-isms scam, who started out with awake and hungry minds and end up suckered into ignoring their own lives and feelings.

    In practice this looks like an intelligent, perceptive, often quite rational person who makes the cardinal error of judging a “political” idea by the yardstick of the people they meet that use the vocabulary related to the idea.
    As if every person who laid claim to an idea could ever practice it perfectly.
    As if any person ever could embody the length and breadth of an idea.
    As if these particular foolish people were the only ones that believed in this idea, and no pleasant, reasonable people anywhere else shared their conviction.
    As if Joseph Stalin was proof that sharing labor is a bad idea.
    As if freedom and dignity for half the human species is a bad idea because this one girl picked on you in high school.

    In the world we live in presently, it is easier for people to analyze and abandon an idea based on the merits of the people they meet who support or discuss the idea rather than the merits of the idea itself. They are demonstrating their dislikes, which is a means by which people define themselves. It is the dynamic that creates the miniature communities that form at parties, or in cafeterias in high schools.
    This leads to negative consequences for everyone. Those that reject an idea based on its adherents live a smaller life, in which less is possible and less is meaningful, and significant portions of human experience, of their own experience, are not worth discussing. Those that adhere to an idea become shackled to a corpse; they are unable to translate their desire for a different world into real changes, because they are alone with their desires, left behind by those who learn to consider the world none of their business. Those certain interests continue, ultimately, to suffer from their own inhuman wealth. But not as much as the millions more, elsewhere, who suffer for their wealth.

    The pursuit of Human freedom is not a cafeteria. Or, perhaps, it doesn’t have to be. It could very easily be an art project, or a pilgrimage. (these seem to be the most popular choices at the moment.) It may continue to look and work so much like a cafeteria because we are collectively choosing it to, in a sense. It may be that we are more comfortable with cafeterias than with art projects.
    Maybe that’s the crux of their scam.
    Maybe we should make it our business to learn to spend less time in these parties and cafeterias.

1 comment:

  1. I am enjoying your writing, Kevin. I need my glasses to read the size font you have chose.