Sir Barken Hyena writes:
Genesis of a Scoffer
My ongoing journey to uncover the truth of everything — and maybe hook up with the occasional pretty lady along the way — has been a long one. I started as your typical lefty, if always a bit more anarchist than most. But that couldn’t last because of my deep temperamental attachment, indeed thirst, for The Truth. That and pretty ladies. I think it was seeing the pro-Castro and Che posters at my local hippy co-op while buying almond butter that did it. Screw these phonies I said.
Around this time I started reading Will and Ariel Durant’s The Story of Civilization. Besides being a cracking good read, it raised a hell of a lot of troubling questions about the nature of mankind. It did this for the authors as well, as can be seen by their short book Lessons of History. What really is behind all of this turmoil, bloodshed and horror? Is there any sense, and movement towards something, some purpose or culmination? It didn’t seem so, and so the progressive dream must be false.
My brother, eight years my senior, had by the early 90’s become a bit of a conservative. He introduced me to Thomas Sowell, Reason magazine, The American Spectator and others of the like (let’s not get into Reason being “conservative,” ok?). This was all new stuff to me, I had no inkling that there was an intellectual side to the right, that it wasn’t all Pat Robertson. A lot of what was said was hard to argue with.
But, but…! There were always holes in the arguments that surfaced with time. Sure the 50s may have been prosperous and orderly, but no way would I want to live then. I’m a weed smoker, a fornicator, a happily refined hedonist. The endemic racism of the time was, and had to be lightly passed over. Also, liberal government had clear successes to it, and recent ones. For example, regulation had visibly improved the air quality in my town Phoenix since 1992 when I moved there. If the libertarian argument that market-based alternatives could be more effective at lower cost was intellectually convincing, still, the air was better, so what’s the big deal? Is it worth the wrenching change?
And there was always the “how.” How would libertarian ideas get implemented when a majority of people thought it was nuts? Persuasion! was this answer. So yeah, right, we’re going to somehow get enough people on board here, all pointing in the same direction and then it all falls into hand like a ripe fruit. When has this ever happened? I’m not talking about convincing the general public of the justice of a cause, which has been done many times. No, going libertarian means getting people to profoundly modify their behavior, just as communism does. Successful examples were not to be found in The Story of Civilization, though there were plenty of efforts.
In the end I just couldn’t really swallow whole any of the available ideological options, but then what do you believe in? You do have to believe in something, don’t you? Otherwise it’s nihilism!
Why is belief so important in the West? The world has been riven by sectional dispute from the beginning, but the West seems especially driven to monomaniacal belief, that everyone MUST get with the program. Perhaps China has been equally so, presently and in history but there’s not much in antiquity to match it, with the exception of Judea. Islam has its Sunni/Shiite/Sufi divisions, but a lot of that is ethnic or nationalist at bottom.
I believe the answer is the Western denial of limits, limits of any kind. And this because it’s the one culture that has really stared into the abyss of infinity and made its home there. The Greeks hated infinity, tried to stuff it in a box for safe keeping. Hindus imagined a vast cosmos of deep time, but it was cyclical in nature. The god dreamed for 480 millions years, then woke for another 480 million, then back to dreaming. Islam hasn’t got much to say here, since Allah sustains the world as he sees fit, without the constraint of law (logos, the tao, etc.), and investigation there is denigrated in favor of mysticism.
But the West had to go everywhere, into each and every corner of the cosmos, and of the mind, too. This has been great and terrible. This sense of the limitless means that as Westerners we can never, ever stop. And a limitless universe oddly leads not to infinite diversity, but complete singularity. God is limitless? Than he is all, one. And mankind as a part of god, is also one. And being one, we must naturally, properly believe as One. This is why the Reformation unleashed such deep fanaticism, it was the West maturing and shaking off the foreign middle eastern origins of Christianity and asserting its own true self, which took even Near Eastern fanaticism to new depths.
And from that One, that universal, there is no exit. The only problem is, it’s total hogwash, malarkey on an epic scale. The intellectual case for the unity of man might be airtight, but I believe there is not one person, now or today, who truly feels it and lives it. It’s a principal honored only in the breech. No, we all feel ourselves and our own as pitted against the rest, because in fact, we are.
Ideology = Civilization
Granted then that no ideology is actually valid, consistent and logical, what are they for? Why so much effort and turmoil caused for and by them?
Social control, pure and simple. Bushmen sure don’t have it and seem to get along nicely without it, or at least did until it was kindly brought to them. But then they have no large populations, cities, agriculture, organized religion. You can’t have that without an ideology. In the early stages it was in religious form, since it was found that fear of god was more inspiring of devotion than fear of men. I believe that ideology was the tool that unified and directed populations for the creation of civilization. Maybe we see the earliest sign of this beginning at Gobekli Tepe: there was a unifying religion before agriculture, to me because agriculture was one result of ideological unification, not a spur to civilization as currently thought by Materialist historians.
Not a pretty thought! Seen this way, civilization is a system of mind control for the purpose of willing slavery. But I think it’s the truth.
Where does that leave us, or more precisely me? I can’t believe any ideology, but do I need it? Maybe civilization needs it but Sir Barken doesn’t, he laughs madly at it. I can give $5 to the homeless guy burning up on the street corner without believing it’s my ethical moral Christian or liberal duty, because I’m human and so nothing human is foreign to me. Including suffering.
And besides, pretty ladies come in all ideological stripes, so why limit myself?