Tuesday, February 03, 2009

U B U 2 U

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.


truepeers said...

Seems to me what angers you is a secularized and heretical form of Christianity. The basic Christian idea is that we need to be born again when we come to understand our immersion in humanity's original, i.e never-ending, sin. In other words, there is no Utopia, no primitive innocence to rediscover: we all do evil to each other and when we see better how that evil works, we should try to grow beyond it: being born again becomes something we really have to do every day, not just once, as we strive to make ourselves truly free individuals in a long process of personal growth. For a Christian, we cannot be our true selves unless we are trying to grow beyond ourselves. But as I say, there can be no Utopia; there is a definite limit to how "Christlike" we can be in this world. We cannot fully escape our sinful natures in this world.

I wonder what you think of the Christian call to be born again. How else would you propose we deal with the guilt of knowing what we have done? And if we are to avoid knowing that guilt, don't we have to be raised with a strict ethical code, something like orthodox Judaism, that demands conformity to certain rules?

There is a paradox, which others have suggested to me is indubitable, that an increasing diversity in individual freedom will be predicated on an increasing understanding of what we all share. In other words, the better our anthropology/religion at allowing us to understand our universal or common origin as a species, the greater freedom we will have in being "ourselves". The only serious advocate of diversity is one interested in our fundamental unity.

This is why I am not surprised to observe that societies that have the most diversity in free individuals are Christian or somewhat post-Christian. But then there is also the heresy in post-Christian cultures that seeks to re-assert some conformity around the figure of one or another sacrificial victim (e.g. the cry of "McCarthyism"); in other words, the concept of being born again becomes corrupted, no longer tied to an expanded freedom but to a return to primitive sacrificial religion.

Dag said...

One might use the phrase "original sin" with some great profit, I think, even thee atheist. To dismiss it is to lapse into the utopianism of the fascist Rousseaueanism of the Left: that we are all perfect till we encounter corrupting civilization. It's not just a wrong premise, it's so wrong that it leads to horrors only realizable in the 20th century. Fascist "nostalgia" for the Golden Age, which is central to Plato, leads directly to mass murder, to the control of human institutions against the Human. The Gnostic can look back t the previous Golden Age of Perfect from which this age,any age, has fallen; and thus, the Gnostic, in his wisdom, feels compelled from Godlike visions, the need to restore at all costs the lost perfection.

To accept Man as a man is to be free to accept the possible rather than the Utopian with its endless murder of the innocent, the not-guilty. To accept agonism as the state of Man and as a good thing as Man is to grasp the endless change one i open to if one accepts the aporia of thought instead of the certainty of some Utopian poligionous eschatology. To leave people their privacies and to deal rationally with their errant publicities is to be a democrat. One can accept such only if one accepts the natural equality of all men. We know a bit now, and we'll make mistakes in finding out better later. Life is tough.

And because life is tough, it is a good thing to rue the past; to know that if one cannot be good, at least one can take consolation that one can live ashamed.