The situation in which any person seeks to clarify or define his or her personal identity is inherently political. Even before the beginning of any individual’s existence there are external claims of ownership (sovereignty) over the individual, both religious claims and secular political claims, and those include claims on the right to define and identify the individual. Such imposed definitions of identity make it difficult for individuals to recognize their personal freedom and the transcendence of that freedom.
Collective rights are usually claimed by religious communities, such as Roman Catholicism, for example. It is claimed that the collective culture has the absolute right to perpetuate itself, to force its children to embrace its religious and linguistic heritage, all overseen by a leadership structure, the supervisory control and power hierarchy of the collective. Such claimed collective rights have no grounding in anything but the institutionalized power of hierarchies, and they are clearly parasitic on innocent new arrivals. “Collective rights” always translate into the rights and privileges of a faction practicing the supervisory culture, the pinnacles of the controlling hierarchies. Collective rights are just rights to perpetuate parasitic inequality in the name of leadership. Individuals are just as much colonized by the “mother” culture as they might be by any “foreign” culture, and a foreign culture might distort reality less, might legitimize human-on-human parasitism less, and might enable more self-possession.
It will be no surprise to anyone that religion is a cultural background that influences the public discourse and thinking done in communities practicing religion. It is more of a surprise, although exactly parallel, that the ideology (for example, myths of meritocracy or good breeding ) by which the economically dominant faction of a community legitimizes its powers, immunities, and privileges also has profound influence on thinking generally and on the security prospects of people who communicate anything publicly. Efforts at thought control always begin with utterance control, restrictions on speech, often informal sanctions in support of a political correctness or politeness. (That is based on a false belief that thinking is limited to language, that thinking is a function of language.)
Politics is the struggle among factions to gain control of sovereign law and law enforcement, the struggle for institutionalized powers of sovereignty, including the sovereign monopoly on violence, a monopoly often conceived as unlimited. Although those terms of politics bring to mind the social stability based on law codes, books of regulations, questions of compliance in behaviour, and armed hierarchies such as police and armies to supervise and enforce compliant behaviour, there is vastly more, a demand for spiritual and psychological subordination of the individual, sometimes called patriotism, allegiance, civic duty, patriotic duty. That duty of spiritual subordination or submission, a quasi-religion of the nation-state, is an issue of self-definition for every individual.
Personal unfreedom is the condition of self-alienation caused by the suppression of innocent personal identity as elemental intelligence-as-such, replaced by a definition of personal identity drained of personal transcendence, and instead limited to ethnic group membership, nationality, religious tradition, and the economic situation determined by competitive placements, trophies, and grade of parasitism in the mountainous economic/ production hierarchies cultivated by those collectives. The primal crime against the individual is the suppression of innocent personal identity from a personal intelligence.
Based on these observations, ordinary life, and especially identification of personal identity in ordinary life, really is full of illusion, as claimed by ancient philosophers such as Plato, for example, in the narrative of the Cave of Shadows in his Republic. Day to day life in hierarchical societies really is a fallen condition for us, unworthy of intelligence-beings. Only, the illusion, the misidentification of what is real, is not imposed by nature or by human nature (and not by metaphysics) but instead is imposed politically through an accidental culture which distorts reality. On that interpretation, the state of disgrace, the fallen condition, is the one in which culture, poisoned with legitimations of parasitism (collective rights) by the most powerful groups in the social structure, has alienated every individual from self-possession or self-knowledge as transcendent intelligence-as-such. (By “pure reason” Immanuel Kant plausibly meant much the same as intelligence-as-such.) Philosophy, to the extent that it is elemental re-orientation or elemental thinking, is an intrinsically political and personal act, an act of self-possession as intelligence in the teeth of cultural claims of sovereign possession. The discontinuity between an elemental identity definition (for example, the construct of actuality and non-actuality in personal agency-in-time) and a cultural identity definition reveals the ordinary illusion of everyday experience.
Elemental and Innocent Orientation
Although there are lots of internal parts and distinctions within nature, subjective intelligences, and culture, none of them can be reduced, translated, or broken down into one or both of the others. (Well, culture does break down into projections of intelligences onto nature, but culture is so important in connecting elemental intelligences among ourselves, and in mediating between elemental intelligences and nature, that it merits mention as being itself elemental in some relevant sense, maybe as the category of primal combination of the other two categories.) There is an irreducibility to that set of categories. There is an elemental simplicity about them as a set and as such they are crucial reference categories in an alternative and innocent framework of orientation. You unplug from culture by paying attention to something else, to pre-cultural reality which has never gone away and is always still there.
The situation of subjectivity in terms of an elemental orientation is this: subjectivity is intelligence embodied in nature but with the power, peculiar to intelligence, of overcoming nature’s absolute particularity. Subjectivity is embodied in nature but as intelligence attaches with a vast interconnectedness of other individual intelligences, largely through culture, but always grounded in the individual interiority of intelligence, the inwardness of subjectivity.
Every individual has an innocent grounding of experience that does not depend on the cultural constructs in the human environment. Neither a personal orientation nor creative self-assertion is dependent on cultural constructs. Every individual has his or her own questions, curiosities, doubts, and means (a body) of investigating the surroundings to construct an orientation and launch personal vectors into the brute actuality of nature. Intelligences have inherent powers of transcending actuality, simultaneously pretending many non-actual variations of what might be made actual. That is the freedom of an intelligence, and, given the completely pre-determined nature illuminated by science, freedom is the transcendence of intelligence.
Copyright © 2013 Sandy MacDonald. The moral right of the author is asserted.