Even now in the middle of a very long and eccentric life I find myself sometimes wincing and grimacing over the rise of unbidden memories from random experiences that just won't go away in spite of whatever discipline I use to keep them away. Some ugly memories are scars that won't fade. One such nasty memory is of a repulsive young woman at a dance hall whose tee-shirt bore the caption: "I wouldn't wanna be you."
I can appreciate the idea of not wanting to be you. Regardless of who I might be, I'd rather be me than not. I don't want to be you. Fair enough. But I don't want you not to be you. Islam, for all its obvious faults, at least understands that no one is ever going to be the Perfect Man, he being, according to Islam, Mohammed, not to be repeated, only imitated. Islam, for all its totalitarianism, doesn't attempt to make anyone into the kind of person "we all should be." Islam settles for orthopraxy, for outward ritual behaviour. For the totalitarian Leftist, this is not enough. He not only rejects you as you but demands that you conform to his vision of the Ideal Man as you. It's one thing not to want to be me; but it is something creepy to not want me to be me. That's me The Individualist writing. I value Privacy. Muslims and the Left value Publicity. No, I wouldn't want to be you, but that's not a problem for me. It is a problem for the communitarian.
For the communitarian, the idea of Another not being a conformist in all ways, body, mind and soul, is an outrage against Nature. Communitarians, Statists, Muslims, collectivists of all sorts, they hate individuals and individualism. Usually this is of no concern to most of us. Unfortunately, there is a growing movement of middle-aged hippies in government and areas of social control, e.g our universities, who are fanatical in their drive to make all others "not themselves." We must all be One.
I'm rereading Matthew Arnold today. I read Arnold as a young man, ( not, at the time, realizing that in the doing I was preparing myself for marriage in middle-age,) from a sense of duty rather than passion. Today, for me, he raises the question of the benefits of Culture, by which he means High Culture of the mid-Victorian era. He writes of others as in need of the education they lack, an education which makes their philistine lives "hole and corner." Like most people, he doesn't like people not like himself. He writes of others: "Consider these people, then, their way of life, their habits, their manners, the very tones of their voice; look at them attentively; observe the literature they read, the things which give them pleasure, the words which come from their mouths, the thoughts which make the furniture of their minds; would any amount of wealth be worth having with the condition that one was to become just like these people by having it?"1.
Good grief! Would I want to be a man like him? Not for all the money on Earth. Wouldn't even want to be Elvis. Nor does Arnold, for all his obnoxious snobbery, intend anyone to think others should be him or like him. In that he is ultimately far superior to the average Leftist. Arnold's snobbery begins and ends with himself. He did not kill anyone in a futile and hubristic attempt to make a New Man. Such cannot be said of the Death Hippies who today rule our many nations of Modernity, lands of Sweetness and Light, where ignorant Leftards clash on sight.
Who then is the Humanist? He who doesn't want to be you is probably fine with not being you. He who doesn't like you is probably fine with that too. It is he who doesn't want you to be you who is the man we must not tolerate. I wouldn't be someone else for all the money on Earth. Nor would I want to make another not himself even if that someone is someone I'd gladly hang from a lamp-post. People have rights, innately, and the most basic right is to be their own Lords. Sometimes others are so disgusting I can't shake the horror of the vision of them; but that's my problem, not theirs. I can live with it. Can our collectivist Culture Curators? Can we live with them?
1. Matthew Arnold, Culture and Anarchy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 1869; rpt. revised 1933 and19 50; p. 52.