Recognition of a pervasively poisoned culture calls for a recapitulation of the journey pioneered most famously by Rene Descartes (1596 – 1650), who was forced by rigorous skepticism to reach the elemental thought that could not be doubted: “I am thinking, therefore I exist.” He was brought, in other words, to the interiority of his own intelligence as a secure grounding of reality, and from there undertook to re-think back outward by searching for other elemental features of experience. In the course of the meditations posted on this blog, we also have been driven back to subjective interiority, but via a different route from Descartes’. With Descartes it was systematic doubt about what can be known with certainty. A century earlier, Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) had been similarly forced, by the uncertainty, unprovability, of the claims of Christianity, onto the grounding of “justification by faith alone”. “I am thinking, therefore I exist” has crucial common ground with “justification by faith alone”. Both Luther and Descartes were making a fundamental appeal to the interiority of personal intelligence in a humanistic affirmation of its power. (Calvin, by contrast was anti-humanist in the tradition of Augustine, completely denying the power of the individual.) Luther created massive cultural turmoil throughout Europe, and the tendency of his thinking was certainly known by Descartes, which makes direct inspiration very probable.
However, right here and now we are forced back to the interiority of intelligence as bedrock through a process of cultural analysis of the historical and political situation of every individual, revealing that our ambient culture is pervasively poisoned by legacies of legitimized top-down human-on-human parasitism, distorting the whole cultural discourse of reality in which we operate. Instead of searching for certainty, as Descartes and Luther were, we are searching for something un-poisoned by ambient culture, reality undistorted by culture, namely elemental experiences of innocence.
Itemizing the Parasitic Legacy
There are a number of layers and features to the cultural legacy of top-down human-on-human parasitism, each of which must be counteracted one by one by powers of innocent or elemental intelligence.
There is the predator-prey alpha-trophy-looting cultural worldview of the capitalist ownership oligarchy. The culture of top-down human-on-human parasitism is sometimes misleadingly called “the class war”, conceived by the ownership class as the harvesting of prey by predators, all ordained and sanctified by God or nature.
There is the liberal ideology (mind-set of the business/ professional/ liberal class) that individuals are economic atoms, determined by nature to jockey for a place in the hierarchical structure of a meritocracy molecule, individually value-identified by the results of competitions, often team or group competitions. (The meritocracy is a food chain of ever more concentrated parasitism preying on ever increasing subordinate layers.)
Inseparable from both ideologies just mentioned, there is a general cultural emphasis on radical inequality, hierarchical organization throughout the economic system, for example. Culturally institutionalized inequality is always inherently parasitic, always includes top-down parasitism. Competitions, and assignments of personal identity based on them, are mechanisms for justifying parasitism.
There is the dominant culture of ideals of masculinity: alpha-trophy-looting. Part of that culture is a requirement to trivialize and denigrate the vital importance of the predominant culture of femininity, the first-language-nurture culture which is actually the source of stability in the human interconnectedness. In other words, the gender culture war is another legacy of efforts to legitimize and normalize top-down human-on-human parasitism.
There is also patriarchal religion, including the father-figure personification of abstractions, the attribution of disembodied super-intelligences to inappropriate entities such as nation-states, tribes, teams, and collectives of all kinds, the cosmos, a creator of the cosmos. Emotional attachments to fictions and falsehoods are created from such cultural systems, and those attachments are used to justify the enslaving bloodbaths of war.
There is the military-terroristic institutional mechanisms for declaring, exercising, and projecting sovereign power: lethal weapons held in hair-trigger readiness by rigidly organized formations of people drilled in subordination. The very idea of sovereign power is legitimized parasitism, and war is its ultimate exercise. War is an ultimate slavery because it is legitimized by appeal to supra-individual abstractions, the sacredness of which is enforced by law. Nation states are defined by organization for war.
The consequences of the economic, political, and social dominance of groups who reap benefits from parasitism include other cultural distortions of reality, such as the externalization of transcendence. There is a cultural glorification of economic activity and a trivializing, obscuring, and marginalizing of the interiority of individual intelligence, especially in the definition of personal identity.
There are the everyday concepts of inequality, executive power and privilege, organizational hierarchy, property ownership, capital concentration, sovereignty, employment, civilization, …, many of the concepts that link ordinary language to culturally determined social practices and forms of life, and to individual identity-definition.
Language is full of legitimations of top-down parasitism. Sidestepping those prejudices requires thinking elementally, thinking without language. Intelligence has a thinking “voice” prior to language. The primal, elemental, innocent voice is the sustained developing directionality of personal curiosity, pre-linguistic questioning, and the impulses that express it.
Cultural Identity vs Elemental Identity
(Sloughing off the distorted reality of parasite culture)
Anyone interested in undistorted reality, living in freedom, must sidestep the legitimizing propaganda of the parasites, streaming from the brain trusts of the owning/ controlling class and the liberal mediating class, but also built into enduring social practices and languages. By identifying those poisonous cultural influences, and rejecting them as references for defining personal identity, we follow Descartes to elemental and innocent experience. In the effort to slough off the distorted reality of parasite culture, the portal out is to personally re-orient by reference to the most fundamental elements of experience. The elements to live among in this project are not earth, air, fire, and water, nor the periodic table of elements, since neither of those is capable of comprehending time. Freedom and time are inseparable and also elemental for personal identity, for living life as a person. In that sense of elements, time is elemental, and so is the embodiment of intelligence as experienced in work.
The personal identities assigned by ambient society (tinker, tailor, soldier, beggar-man) are all imbued with the cultural poisons of top-down parasitism, and consequently are distorted and false identities. At the same time as imposing limits on, and sucking value and vitality from, every individual’s creativity, the poisoned culture alienates every individual from transcendence by restricting definitions of personal identity to the individual’s placements in tests and competitions which are externally controlled. Titles, height on the hierarchical organization chart (pay scale, credit for the work of subordinates), and material acquisitions are trophies from the competitions set within the propaganda streams of the parasites. Identities assigned by culture should be reframed as pre-scripted characters that people are induced to play by external incentives such as seniority (power) on the food chain of parasitism. Personal identity can, instead, be reclaimed in terms of the powers and transcendence of personal interiority.
Freedom and Time are Elemental
In sloughing off the poisoned culture, what we find as the innocent remainder is the interiority of time, time as a construct of the freedom of intelligence. Freedom exists only at the level of individual intelligence. (Posting 54, February 6, 2013, Freedom and Time) Time is crucial with respect to freedom. Past and future do not exist in nature. All there is to nature is the strictly exclusive actuality of an infinitesimal present. Time as complex structures of a different past aligning with a different future is entirely a feature of the interiority of particular lives, of individual intelligences, each surviving by projecting creative aspirations constantly onto the mutability of their future. Interior to every intelligence is a gushing horizon of pre-linguistic, pre-cultural, (innocent) inspiration, curiosity, and questioning. Freedom (transcending unfree nature) is in the mutability of an individual’s future under the force of inspiration, curiosity, and questioning from that interior horizon. Freedom depends entirely on a person’s self-adjusting his or her orientation by means of judgments of the probabilities of various events and developments in future time, judgments of a variety of personal powers and possibilities, and judgments of the means for projecting aspirations onto actuality now and in the increasingly remote and improbable future. There can be no freedom of nature since nature lacks the past and future of intelligence. Every human intelligence is, therefore, an autonomous interiority of orientation in time, crucially discontinuous from nature and pre-existing culture. Time is also part of the primordial or elemental connection between an intelligence and nature. The relentless approach of futurity and receding of accomplishments is one of those hard resistances by which we know nature, and yet past and future do not exist in nature.
Every adventure is some form of encounter with elements, and here, where transcendent freedom in time is elemental, we find an ultimate adventure. The adventure of elemental living emerges from recognizing just how much of what seems like a crystalline openness of perception to determining forces from nature and culture is instead interior to personal being-as-intelligence, a construct of subjective interiority, over which you can have a great deal of creative control, but which is also manipulated and stealthily influenced (often trivialized and dismissed) by (poisoned) ambient culture. You accept that you are seeing nature move but you aren’t. Your intelligence is re-orienting on the basis of accumulating memories (of events that do not exist in nature), in anticipation of a future which exists nowhere in nature. Time as movement must be interior because past and future cannot exist in nature. That sense of perceiving movement is, instead, an experience of the creative interiority of your intelligence. It is the feeling of the force of your intelligence re-orienting to the increasing remoteness of accomplishments relative to the ongoing projection of aspirations into actuality. Just because you don’t re-orient by discussing everything with yourself in language, does not mean the process is completely determined by outside forces, or that it is opaque.
One thing that makes this adventure very different from Descartes’ is the outcome. Descartes was able to perform some mental gymnastics that assured him he had no reason to doubt everything in the first place, because God just wouldn’t be that twisted. However, that comfort zone is out of bounds for us. We can’t just make the adventure go away as Descartes did. Nothing we can deduce from the interiority of intelligence could have as a consequence that our ambient culture is not riddled with legitimized top-down parasitism. It’s rotten luck, but denial has gotten us nowhere. When we turn to the re-entry process and think our way back into the great wide world, we always know that we are venturing into hostile occupied territory, into a world controlled by the culture of the parasites, and that we have to think out strategically how to live a satisfying life there, and how to apply some moral counter-force against the legitimation of parasitism. The adventure of elemental life flashes into focus when you recognize that you are operating in a culture riddled with (false) legitimations of vicious top-down parasitism, laboriously accomplished by large-scale cultural distortions of reality, by “noble lies” (in fact just nasty lies) in common cultural currency; and in addition, when you truly recognize that orientation in time is entirely a construct of your personal intelligence, empowering your transcendent freedom. In learning this landscape of elemental reality it is important to get fundamentals right, such as how much is interior to intelligence, what is nature, and what is culture. It makes a difference to be aware that the freedom and power of interiority is sufficient to construct a personal self-coherence that is an expression of the inner growth of curiosities and questions, and impulses that express them.
The Elemental Hazmat Suit: Interior Identity
To exist safely within a culture that is viciously poisoned by legitimations for top-down human parasitism which normalizes a mass disabling and self-alienation of people, an individual has to construct a kind of mental hazmat suit. Such a hazmat suit is not an ideology, but rather a re-orientation to elemental experiences. The hazmat suit is re-interiorizing reality to include personal freedom as a fragile element, protected by being wary, politically conscious and informed, when venturing into the human interconnectedness. Since language is an important vehicle of the poisoned culture, the only way to get deeper than the prejudices embedded in language is to think without language, with elemental or innocent thinking. Intelligence, the engine of freedom, recognized as personal identity, is the hazmat suit.
Any claim that there is nothing interior to intelligence, that intelligence must always construct a fable of interiority from consciousness of objects which are entirely external to it, including the norms of ambient social practice, overlooks much of experience, and specifically parts which are politically grounding. (Please see posting 48, December 19, 2012, Rethinking Stoic Interiority and the postings immediately following it.) When you recognize that your identity is a particularly situated freedom, and a particularly empowered freedom, then you can sense the abuse there is in anyone’s identifying you in other ways, especially in externalizing ways which trivialize, marginalize, or deny personal freedom. The interior identity is freedom (intelligence) judging the navigation of time in a person’s particular situation of life. However, freedom is not a finished or determinate entity.
An intelligence is more like a voice than like a face, shaped through time rather then in space. Objects which are shaped and extended in space, and as such have an appearance, can display their image, a distinct force of presence, in a flash. Without an appearance, intelligence has to intentionally construct itself by exercising agency through a lifetime. The shape that a voice inscribes through time has to be assembled from memory by other intelligences. It exists nowhere in nature since nature is limited to the timeless actuality of the instant. Since intelligence has no flash-image as a bounded, continuous, and exclusive entity, it is vulnerable to acute self-uncertainty within a world of things which have appearances. Ever since the ancient Greek sage Heraclitus of Ephesus, who is famously quoted as saying of his thinking “I have searched myself”, a recurring intent in the personal use of thinking has been discovery of, or encounter with, the self-who-has-no-appearance, subjective questioning and intent in-the-blind-spot of day to day activity. When Heraclitus went searching within himself he found a river which was always different from one moment to the next. A river is a force and a voice. (From posting 17, January 20, 2012, No Stinking Badges (voices vs. political brutality).
An identity based on the interiority of intelligence and its freedom in time has political consequences. It means that there is no need for exterior assignments of identity, no need to identify with personifications of abstract fictions of the kind imposed by patriarchal religion, including the attribution of disembodied father-figure super-intelligences to inappropriate entities such as nation-states, tribes, teams, or factional collectives of any kinds, the cosmos, a creator of the cosmos. Your elemental identity excludes such things and all the emotional attachments to fictions and falsehoods they require. In addition, there is no need for identity based on competitions. As such, the intrinsic freedom of intelligence is an effective shield against the predator/ prey propaganda stream of the oligarchy, and against the meritocracy propaganda of the business/ professional mediating class. It opens a personal situation appropriate for the adventure of living consciously in a poisoned culture, for approaching culture with political consciousness.
Copyright © 2013 Sandy MacDonald. The moral right of the author is asserted.