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How to unite and conquer
He who refuses to learn deserves extinction. — Rabbi Hillel.
The other day somebody said that Batman became a hero and named himself after his biggest fear. The game was to name the hero you would be.
On my stoic journey and working with first order epistemics, I am also becoming a better listener. I am giving time to subjects and people I ordinarily wouldn’t. I am working to integrate a larger body of human experience into my self-love. I am literally taking the ‘thou art that’ path instead to taking people for granted. It’s not easy because I’m full of myself. Nevertheless, I occasionally become inspired enough to write something down.
This morning I spent the better part of an hour listening to women talking about empowerment of self and while it was mostly upbeat and facilitated an instant sense of collaboration and warmth, I sensed the shadows pushing them into the light of the moment. The topic was ‘Hiding Behind Your Story’. Although I could instantly interpret that from my IDW / Heterodoxy point of view as the bugbear of ‘lived experience’, the discussion was illuminating beyond that. Terms like ‘inner child’ and ‘chakras’ were used. These would ordinarily make me do a scientifically pre-meditated spit take, but I was not only being patient and tolerant, but I was making sense of the terminology in the context of mindfulness and psychology.
The more I listened, the more I was drawn to consider the times that I and people in my life hide behind their own personal narratives. I recall learning that people don’t have weaknesses so much as they overuse their strengths. They double down on what has worked for them in the past, and the confidence they have that '“I’ve got this” alleviates their anxiety. Think of it as comfort food for the psyche or chicken soup for the soul. It’s a go-to pep talk that we feed the wolves of the self in a predictable way. It might be the resume we trot out onto LinkedIn. It might be the letters behind our name. It’s the dog we can always pet. It is our self-medication in times of trouble; so you know it can be misapplied or even destructive. We might crawl down into a psychological cave of familiarity when change becomes too tempestuous, dislocating and causes our pain and suffering. We withdraw from discomfort, sometimes at the risk of increasing our fragility. We hunker down behind a shield of “Well, that’s just me.” At the extreme end is our 1000 yard stare. We can no longer be hurt, we endure everything. It becomes our super power. We are the great suffering saint and we wear our weary resignation as a badge of honor. It becomes the reason we yell back “Don’t you know how I’ve suffered?” or “You couldn’t possibly understand what it is like to be me.” You have your horror story immediately available in your shirt pocket, blocking the view of your heart.
The Fascist operates well amongst the population of human beings who have lost their capacity to deal with change. When we lose our human dynamism, when we retreat into habits of safety, when we eat that apple a day to keep the doctor away, lest he find something about us we didn’t already know. When human beings become afraid of change, when they doubt their ability to cope or adapt, that is when the draconian steps in. He has a cunning plan and he proposes one last final change that will set things in order once and for all. His is the discipline of the pointing. As his power grows, the pointing and picking becomes pruning which in turn unleashes the purge and the pogrom.
The Fascist is fixed in place, focused on the fixations of the broken. His appeal is to the broken man who hides behind his story. The Fascist only needs to convince his followers that there is but one story which is common and so seeks to unite the collective of weak individuals into one powerful union. Now the broken man can hide behind the same story as everyone else and be recognized as a true patriot for it. Now he can wear the medal of the Fatherland, the uniform of the Motherland, the face of the future now inoculated from dynamic change. The broken man can now utilize the weasel words that have become official ideology. The destructive self-medication is now the prescription of the Fascist.
I fear the Fascist for his ability to do what few in our current political class are willing to do, which is to encourage the people of this nation to work things out on their own. The President of the US at all times needs to remind us of our own obligations to ourselves and to our fellows. This he could do without any prescription or program. We will have enough ideas and enough of our own personal genius to work through. That is the difference between presiding over a government of the people and becoming the fearless leader of a nation united in purpose. There is too much wisdom and knowledge and creativity in the world for us to be united in purpose, but there is more than enough for us to be inspired and energized by a common spirit. If that is the spirit of personal challenge met by personal growth, then we won’t need to be seduced by ideological promises of Hope and Progress.
Never forget George Orwell in his 1940 review of Mein Kampf:
[Hitler] has grasped the falsity of the hedonistic attitude to life. Nearly all western thought since the last war, certainly all "progressive" thought, has assumed tacitly that human beings desire nothing beyond ease, security, and avoidance of pain. In such a view of life there is no room, for instance, for patriotism and the military virtues. The Socialist who finds his children playing with soldiers is usually upset, but he is never able to think of a substitute for the tin soldiers; tin pacifists somehow won’t do. Hitler, because in his own joyless mind he feels it with exceptional strength, knows that human beings don’t only want comfort, safety, short working-hours, hygiene, birth-control and, in general, common sense; they also, at least intermittently, want struggle and self-sacrifice, not to mention drums, flag and loyalty-parades…. Whereas Socialism, and even capitalism in a grudging way, have said to people "I offer you a good time," Hitler has said to them "I offer you struggle, danger and death," and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet.
A nation of individuals lacking the personal agility manage themselves through change, even dislocating change will inevitably be suckered by the Fascist who promises to manage change for us. (If we would all just unite behind my plan) This is the ugly ulterior motive message you should be hearing behind “Never let a crisis go to waste.” It defines the opportunity for the Fascist to unite and conquer.
So where does this leave us? Surely there are obligations we have to each other to collaborate. Don’t underestimate how much we do this all the time. Even to get a haircut you are collaborating, certainly my daughters don’t braid their own hair and when they were younger I helped them unbraid the old. We are appropriately proud of how we respond to natural disasters. It is our better nature to dedicate ourselves to getting people through their difficult times by encouraging them to dig deep within themselves. When the excuse of a comfortable story shies us away from facing a tough reality, that’s when we need a spotter, not a plotter.
Uplift. I love it.