[T]he ideal of the rugged individual opening up the American West is still applied as an essential truth to ten million citizens living in the small area of New York City, as if ten million bulls should and could be squeezed into a china shop. .
Just as the unleashing of ideas and myths in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries cleared the way for endless changes in state and social structures, so the subsequent pinning down and splitting up of language into feudal states has now made it impossible for the citizen to participate seriously in society. The inviting humanist irony of the early days has given way to the off-putting rational cynicism and sloganeering of our time. .
We talk endlessly of the individual and of individualism, for example, when any sensible glance at major issues indicates that we live in an era of great conformism. Our societies turn upon democratic principles, yet the quasi totality of our leading citizens refuse to take part in that process and, instead, leave the exercise of political power to those for whom they have contempt. Our business leaders hector us in the name of capitalism, when most of them are no more than corporate employees, isolated from personal risk. .
Thus the Age of Reason has turned out to be the Age of Structure; a time when, in the absence of purpose, the drive for power as a value in itself has become the principal indicator of social approval. And the winning of power has become the measure of social merit. .
Neither Capitalism nor Socialism can pretend to be an ideology. They are merely methods for dividing ownership and income. What is most peculiar for such theoretically practical , which are also theoretically opposed to each other, is that neither of them has ever existed, except in a highly tentative form. And even then they are invariably mixed together. Their mutually exclusive vocabularies have more to do with basic similarities than with differences. .
[S]hould we attempt to use sensible words to deal with these problems, they will be caught up immediately in the structures of the official arguments which accompany the official modern ideologies — arguments as sterile as the ideologies are irrelevant. Our society contains no method of serious self-criticism for the simple reason that it is now a self-justifying system which generates its own logic. .
A man who uses power to do evil is in theory judged to have been conscious of his acts and to be as fit for punishment as a perpetrator of premeditated murder. But the technocrat is not trained on that level. He understands events within the logic of the system. The greatest good is the greatest logic or the greatest appearance of efficiency or responsibility for the greatest possible part of the structure. .
This breakdown of social order — rules of dress, sexual controls, speech patterns, family structures — has been seen as a great victory for the individual. On the other hand, it may simply be a reflection of the individual's frustration at being locked up inside a specialization. These acts of personal freedom are irrelevant to the exercise of power. So in lieu of taking a real part in the evolution of society, the individual struggles to appear as if no one has power over his personal evolution. Thus victories won for these individual liberties may actually be an acceptance of defeat by the individual. .
Today, more than ever, women are occupying positions of influence. However, in the past they have been the exceptions to the rule and were usually obliged to hold on to their power by deforming themselves into honorary men or into magnified archetypes of the female who manipulated men. It still is not clear that women can successfully become part of the established structures without accepting these deformations. .
The pinning on of stars reaches its full cynical significance when sanctified valour and bereaved families are used to lend dignity to wars stupidly fought. The courageous and their families are drawn into a circular trap. The sacrificed soldier was valorous under the orders of a commander who has rewarded his effort. The battle was therefore worth fighting. Courage made it worthwhile. The basic rule of war — that it is fought to be won — has been forgotten. .
The rational elites, obsessed by structure, have become increasingly authoritarian in a modern, administrative way. The citizens feel insulted and isolated. They look for someone to throw stones on their behalf. Any old stone will do. The cruder the better to crush the self-assurance of the obscure men and their obscure methods. The New Right, with its parody of democratic values, has been a crude but devastating stone with which to punish the modern elites. The New Left, which will eventually succeed it, could easily turn out to be equally crude. .
Societies grow into systems. The systems require management and are therefore increasingly wielded, like a tool or a weapon, by those who have power. The rest of the population is still needed to do specific things. But the citizens are not needed to contribute to the form or direction of the society. The more "advanced" the civilization, the more irrelevant the citizen becomes. .
[T]he free market may be a good, bad or insufficient idea, but, in any case, it is just a crude commercial code. Now it is regularly equated with or given credit for or even precedence over the freedom of man. But the freedom of man is a moral statement on the human condition, both in the practical and in the humanist sense. To equate it with a school of business is to betray a certain confusion. An unconscious unease. .
[Modern capitalism] is masterful at producing services people don't need and in large part probably don't want. It is brilliant at convincing people that they do need and want them. But it has difficulty turning itself to the production of those services which people really do need. Not only that, it often spends an enormous amount of time and effort convincing people that those services are either unrealistic, marginal or counterproductive. .
The individual has been allowed out of his socially constructed cage. That, at least, is the contemporary myth. What is not clear, however, is what that liberation has to do with the fulfullment of individualism. The lessons of history seem relatively clear. Societies on the rise are simple, unadorned and relatively uncompromising. Those on the decline are given to open-mindedness, self-indulgence and the baroque. .
Superficial nonconformism... leaves our rational structures indifferent. Questions of moral action and of physical appearance are increasingly irrelevant; they are categorized either as justified self-expression or conversely as suitable subjects for agitated public debate. In either case they are harmless vents. .
The idea underlying such endless discussion and dreaming about the physical act is that sexual expertise confersand is therefore part of becoming an affirmed individual. This is a curious suggestion... Sex is many things — a need, a desire, an emotion, a release — but it has nothing to do with worldly sophistication, character building or even existential action. Sex, in general, is more of an obstacle than anything else for those who wish to free themselves and act as individuals... [W]e aren't dealing with a successful affirmation of responsible individualism in the real world. We are creating private dreams which compensate for the fracturing of the individual and the castration of his or her power in public life. .
There is little to envy in the woman's position either. For perhaps the first time in history, she has a general sense of herself as an individual apart from men. This self-confidence gives her drive and makes her want to succeed. As a result she is eager to join the system. She does not have a clear idea of what it will do to her. Her focus is on her own past and on what men did to women — not on the male structure and what it does to men. .
In helping the arms industry to work with the Pentagon to work with the security agencies to work with the oil industry to work with the environmental agencies and so on, he encourages nationwide stability. If successful he will have indirectly eliminated interference from that rival system — citizen-based democracy — which technically maintains legal control over the constitutional structures of the Republic. .
Happy family: The existence and maintenance of [this] is thought to make a politician fit for public office. According to this theory, the public are less concerned by whether or not they are effectively represented than by the need to be assured that the penises and vaginas of public officials are only used in legally sanctioned circumstances. .
An important newspaper baron...explains that the cause of poverty throughout the world is indolence. Ten per cent of Americans would not be on food stamps if they simply worked harder.... If only they had followed his father's advice, they'd have "stuck it to the bastards" and become really rich. This image of hundreds and hundreds of millions of millionaires sticking it to each other, there no longer being any other category of citizen to stick it to, is so all-inclusive that there is no need for others to concern themselves with this word. .
[W]e have more than two options... a critique of reason does not have to be a call for the return of superstition and arbitrary power.... [O]ur problems do not lie with reason itself but with our obsessive treatment of reason as an absolute value. Certainly it is one of our qualities, but it functions positively only when balanced and limited by the others. .
In the humanist ideal, the mainstream is where interesting debate, the generating of new ideas and creativity take place. In rational society this mainstream is considered uncontrollable and is therefore made marginal. The centre ground is occupied instead by structures and courtiers. .
Left to its own devices the market is capable of the most miraculous of inventions and the silliest of self-delusions. It is an extreme romantic. It also has a real purpose — the same one it has always had. That is to organize the supply and exchange of goods or to finance the production of goods — thus facilitating and financing the economy. But the market cannot achieve in a regular and lasting manner its own purpose because it is only an unconscious and abstract mechanism. The factor which must be added in order to create the restraint, balance, and consciousness necessary for long-term prosperity is human leadership. That leadership takes the form of effective regulation. .
Moral crusade: Public activity undertaken by middle-aged men who are cheating on their wives or diddling little boys. Moral crusades are particularly popular among those seeking power for their own personal pleasure, politicians who can't think of anything useful to do with their mandates, and religious professionals suffering from a personal inability to communicate with their god. .
Panic: A highly underrated capacity thanks to which individuals are able to indicate clearly that something is wrong.... Given their head, most humans panic with great dignity and imagination. This can be called democratic expression or practical common sense. .
The transnational corporations and the money markets have declared the era of human-designed regulations over. Now the market must reign. Because few people in the business community are paid to think about phrases such as "Western civilization," they don't seem to realize that they are proposing the arbitrary denial of 2,500 years of human experience. .
Venereal: From Venus, the goddess of love, this word refers to the reality of desire. With the rise of Protestantism and science, the word "disease" was tacked on in a revealing combination of categorization and moralizing. "Which disease?" "The disease of love." .
On June 22nd, [1633,] in the morning, in the great hall of the Convent of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, Galileo was found guilty of holding a false doctrine. He went down on his knees and both abjured and condemned his own errors. He swore never to argue such doctrines again. It was thus definitely confirmed that the sun did rotate around the earth...Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. Saint Mary Over Minerva. Power over wisdom. .
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