Last post ended up more into “rants and raves” category than a real well-developed thought or idea, and in many many ways the one before that, that gave origin to it, was the same (considering i wrote that at an emusic party, it’s just so appropriate), but the thing i was trying to say is better than that, i do not know if it could shine through in the end. “For a life less ordinary” — society-wide. Not only for all of the people living in said society, but for the society itself.
For, it should be clear by now, our collective self has become very affluent, very well-stocked in all manner of luxury and things, but it has also become monumentally ordinary. And i think this is a disaster for recipe.
To illustrate my point, let me tell you about contemporary left. Contemporary left has become despicable. It sucks. It blows. It does. Not to say that contemporary right is any better, it is probably much worse, i think, but assume that as a young idealistic man i should tend to largely align myself to leftist ideals. Now, what are those ideals? Today? Feed the hungry, protect nature and dismantle nukes.
They don’t even pause to think that maybe feeding the hungry is basically what is fscking up nature, which probably is the case, or at any rate it is the case that to diminish the amount of food dispensed means diminishing ecological footprint. The very idea that it is good for the poor to be “richer” means that it should be good for the rich to get richer, and the left just plugs this hole with ad-hoc ideas like «sustainability». That is, by their own terms, their rules are self-contradictory. I don’t mind contradiction too much, but, if you are making the rules, and even then you can’t make them good for you — if you create a discourse and this very discourse shows how clueless you are — the least that can be said is that the left has a dubious perspective on the whole of society.
The problem here is not the apparent conflict between their ideals, but actually the lack on a bigger ideal that makes it all coherent. In the end, what they do is just to pay heed to a biased, constrained, moralistic fairy tale. Something like “if we were not greedy the financial market would work”. If we were perfect people we would create a perfect world. This is not only bad policy — it gets to the point of being bad fairy tale: You would prefer Potter to that.
So, if the Left is adolescently clueless, the Right is childish, and the system tells you those are all the options, what then?
Did you spot the catch in the previous phrase? Something that was kind of dubious? An idea i did not defend previously?
Namely, that «the system tells you those are all the options». Does it? Are we forced to think there is no option between Blue and Red?
In Brasil, with our mosaic of small political parties, it is even easier to believe — if you want — that we have political freedom, that all the ideas are available, that if you don’t have a party for the particular point-of-view you assume it is simply because said point-of-view is impossible. But this is not the case.
Though i pretty much believe that intelligent life is impossible inside a Political Party (in the way they currently work), i still am not convinced that in order to think about politics you must give up your critical thinking and your understanding. Which is to say: I want to think and dream a society that would be less lame than all of that.
Back to the main line of argument, even the smallest parties, with the weirdest ideologies, even they still work inside the ideological framework that opposes Left to Right. That believes society is basically dualistic (and that actually puts forward even more loony notions, like that money moves the world or that we do what we do to have pleasure).
That they accept being trapped inside such a narrow set of ideas means that they are focused in making do, in getting a little better, in solving problems as opposed to dreaming a better world. In the first post of this series i phrased this as:
The catch being that, once we managed to diminish the ordinariness of life to an amount reasonable enough, only philosophy gives us the leverage to see beyond mere living better.
Our idea of society is this thing that will make it easier for us to buy bread in the morning and milk to feed our children in the afternoon and to find some cool party in the night. This is not enough. It is not enough because it is society that teaches us that bread is good food, that you should have that many child and not more or less, and that it is fun to stay at a place with this rhythmic repetitive loud noises and confusing lights. Contrary to what they want you to believe, none of the above is «natural», none is «just how it is», and much more importantly, this is not «the way things should be».
All of that, all of the world around us, is not a given. It is a choice. Our world is something that was built, and it was built for particular reasons, with a particular idea of what was good: An ideal of life.
Or more precisely, a messy set of ideals for life, sometimes contradictory, sometimes plain wrong, rarely negotiation-bent, and mostly OK.
The really, really worrisome point is that this ideal is, mostly, OK. Because if it was «bad» we could go at it as if it was a «problem» to be «solved»: Problems are easy, even the hard ones. Moral grey choices are much hairier.
Which, again, brings me to the point: We could have a better world. It would be even easy to get there. What is really, really difficult is to know what is a «better world»?
For example, if you answer this question with: Less wars, you have no clue what you are talking about. Violence, ergo wars, and many other gruesome stuff to tell the truth, is part of who we are. It is part of what we think as good. Generally speaking, if you hear someone talking about this subject and he comes to you with any supplementary notion, something you could frame as “like our world, but with…”, you can be reasonably sure it is a weak idea: And a very weak ideal. No, we need to go beyond «good enough».
But good enough is deeply, deeply entrenched in our whole ideology-of-society, in the mental models we deem appropriate to think about large clumps of people. Ever since Bismark’s welfare state, to just try and keep everyone um-kay is like the very essence of a good government. Just feed the poor and keep the industries running and everything else will happen by itself.
Just like it seems to many that if you have food, a good apartment and a beautiful car everything will be all-right. Unhappily, it is not enough.
It probably was enough back in Bismark’s day because most of the rest of the idea-of-society had already (through a bloody and messy process) been established in Europe in the century past. They had grown out of Feudalism (not abandoned it, but been forced to review it), and they had come up with general ideas that, mostly, worked. To be sure, i am talking here about a big and rich process, of many intellectuals and politicians and groups, that together created this complex big idea of the, for lack of a better name, Modern Nation State. My intention here is not an historical one. I mean to show that this process, as awesome as it was, is now to be grown out of. We must abandon this ideal.
And dream out something different.
“What then?”, you might ask, and this is a good question, but the margins are not big enough. I mean, i do not have ready answers for that. I do have some ideas, but even to introduce them i had to begin with this fat, messy, idiosyncratic introduction. Comments welcome!