Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Avatars of Monstrous Nature and Estranged Creators of Unnatural Worlds

Introverted social outsiders fortify their inner selves with philosophical reflections. Alienated from the rest of the world by their self-absorption, they redeem themselves by rebelling against monstrous nature, whether through artistic expressions such as aesthetically meritorious acts of asceticism or through prophetic calls for cultural renewal that periodically awaken the masses who are held in thrall to the institutions dominated by predatorial, sociopathic alphas.

But do the tragically heroic omegas, those who are furthest from being happy and who occupy a sort of cosmic vanguard, since all wise primates are outsiders in their relation to the indifferent universe as a whole—I say, do those enlightened few likewise have an obligation to rebel against the alphas, to oppose theocracies, kleptocracies, or neoliberal plutocracies as so many glorified biologically-driven dominance hierarchies that betray our capacity for godlike creativity? If the diatribes of enlightened outsiders have historically emboldened the domesticated human herds to seek to be more spiritual than animalistic, even if those scraps of wisdom are then typically misinterpreted and quickly coopted by the jealous gods themselves, by what C. Wright Mills called the power elites, as in Catholicism and in all other major religions, is that opposition to our corrupt “leaders” as important as that to the undead wilderness? Moreover, is the latter rebellion, which consists of technological and cultural re-enchantments and vivifications of zombielike, robotic natural processes, displacing the wilderness with artificial worlds embodying our intentions, purposes, and ideals and ironically vindicating the ancient mythopoeic visions of a spirit world—I ask is that rebellion not identical to the surreal means by which the sociopathic alphas deify themselves? Specifically, isn’t technological creativity consistent with the cancerous economics of infinite civilizational growth? Isn’t hostility towards undead nature a premise in the satanic argument of modernity and thus just one more metanarrative rationalizing the gross power inequalities between those who control antinatural systems and those who are degraded in their servitude to those systems? How, then, should the enlightened few distinguish their doomed but honourable resistance from the alpha’s monuments to hubris? Are alphas and omegas perhaps equally unwitting pawns in the grip of monstrous nature so that true existential resistance is impossible?  

The Existential Context

To address these thorny questions, we must first consider what the alpha rulers are actually up to. We can do this by placing alpha behaviour in its existential context, that is, by determining how the power elites deal with the broader, existential problem of human freedom. Our defining feature as persons is our ability to control ourselves, which is to say that in contrast with other animal species, we build up selves in the first place, a self being a mind that can detach from biological and social regularities, thus acquiring the limited freedom to direct its individual course. We’re not entirely free from nature or from society, of course, although the effect of technology is indeed to render us supernatural, to replace the natural landscapes with artificial ones that facilitate our autonomy by allowing us more easily to carry out our will. We’re still physical objects and are thus subject to physical forces and norms, although we use airplanes and spaceships, for example, to overcome gravity. Likewise, we’re masters of our reproductive process and thus aren’t as constrained by natural selection as are the unknowing animals.

In any case, partial freedom from nature consists not of any mythical, metaphysical or theological property, but of the building of an ideological wall around ourselves which gives us the cognitive space to choose how we should act. The wall fortifies us against some environmental pressures, functioning like an event horizon, being the public form of ourselves which encloses our innermost character. That character isn’t an immaterial entelechy but a set of cherished ideas or sacred beliefs which are themselves remnants of our formative acts of faith. Who we really are is defined by what we genuinely, consciously or unconsciously believe. We are just such thoughts and convictions, nothing more, and so we’re liberated when our deepest thoughts are the primary or sole causes of our actions, when our worldview is reflected in what we do so that instead of being merely a chapter in a larger biological or sociological narrative, our life is self-scripted. Whereas the members of most species act out their life cycle as organic vessels for their genes, we’re persons in virtue of our having mental and thus more original, even idiosyncratic control over what we do.