Do you believe in numbers? Do you believe in the power of the collective?
Me, I don’t. Not any more.
There is no collective; there never was; certainly not with global industrial, nor with any other civilization, for a civilization, by definition, is based on the story of separation, and the individual becomes the constituent building block of society, just like the atom becomes the constituent particle of matter. A collective in a civilized society is nothing but an illusory container full of particles in Brownian motion, confined by the jar’s walls which prevent the mass from moving outside. You may float up, you may sink down, but what does it matter? You don’t become one true collective by swimming in the same pool. What’s worse, as long as there’s no free influx of fresh water it is and it stays a pool full of excretions by the imprisoned particles. It’s suffocating eventually.
Immersing oneself in such a social container is an effective way of totally getting the notion – the culture medium – that drives a society or one of its subcultures, and drives it crazy. Up and down you float, left, right and center, until you’re sick and tired of the homogenous view and get the yellow blues. Unless you truly believein the premises that make up the culture medium, that is. Try nation states; try music genres; try street gangs; try corporations, try professional milieus; try academia; try political parties; try activism, for a change (that never comes).
The reason for incest and infighting, for bad breath and dirty deeds, is people’s confinement in separate containers, and the reason for exploding on contact with any of the other containers, again, is their long-standing isolation from fresh influx, so that their chemistries have become incompatible.
Let’s stop the metaphor here, as long as it’s somehow coherent. There are other forces at work as well, I know, and I don’t want to play down the benefits to be gained from interactions within a milieu, but in the end it just doesn’t satisfy my hunger for truth or community. Those are not to be had in groups produced from separation, within societies split and shattered along the personal interests of its constituent people-particles. The very notion of interest requires the exclusion of differently-interested others and the denial of inconvenient aspects of truth.
|img by Piotr Siedlecki (pd)|
When you are part of the atmosphere that circumvents the jars you cannot help but get drawn in and spat out somewhere sometimes, or react violently in other places. It’s what has to take place, to allow for a minimum of social glue that the incubator, the larger encompassing container, is too rigid to provide. Government and ideology, science and religion are partial themselves; they cannot do the job that each and every single one of the people-particles better did themselves.
There, the metaphor breaks down, just in time for pointing out that the responsibility for making sense of truth, for social coherence, and, last not least, everybody’s well-being and happiness cannot be outsourced to the greasy film on top. We better understand that if we try to fight our way out of the jar, each on our own, just like how we’ve been taught, we are never going to make it. What it takes is true community, a state in which people act from a place which is much stronger than self-interest: love and compassion for the other; in fact, the end of othering our not-quite-so-separate neighbour.
It cannot be done by force; it cannot be done by law; it cannot be done through reasoning; it cannot be done on large scale. International accords and nation states, even cities are too big for this. It has to be done one by one, face to face, right in the place where we are and nowhere else. The fact that I write this on a solitary blog hosted on an (anti-) social platform is kind of hilarious. Yet I got to work from what I have. I’m a writer, I’m an activist, among many other things. I live in a commune (does that make me a communist?), yet community is a state that sometimes has a hard time becoming realized; it’s because our minds, over decades, have been brainwashed into competing with each other. We have no other choice but to try again and again, day after day. So do I, in thinking, in living, and in writing about living and thinking. Words are but a medium; more often than not they fail to transport what’s meant But if you attempt to live a life both outside and inside the various jars you will know what I refer to. You are the one I am writing for.