Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Advice for the Miserable #4

"There's nothing you can do that can't be done." - The Beatles.

Trusting pop music to be the source of all knowledge and wisdom - that and wikipedia - brings me to the topic today's rambling rant on societal ills as I find them: individualism and the value of the individual.

Personally, I am a big proponent of self-reliance, learning to live completely and everything else puddles in Massachusetts can teach you. Vaguely an anarchist when I wax political enough to spout ideals that have an ever diminishing place in politics, I am all for DIY, making your own way in the world, destabilizing hierarchies, & the triumph of the individual over society. Of course in practice that leads to a great many societal ills and despite what 15 year olds believe and Ayn Rand spouts, greed and self-interest are not going to solve the problems of the world, are not going to keep everyone fed, sheltered, &c. I don't provide many answers. I don't seem to find any. The problems with socializing is that it forces us to help the less fortunate, fostering a sense imposition on those paying in and a sense of entitlement on those being paid. Not that we don't do worse without it. Informertials with sad children do not make most care enough to send money that could be better spent on bills or just ourselves. But it's hard to see how anyone could be regarded as genuinely successful if the species dies out.

I suppose such seeming altruism strikes an odd chord for someone generally full of rage, ranting about plagues to wipe clean the slate of humanity that those remaining may prosper. Which is to say, getting on the subject of plagues shortly, it would be a lot easier to solve humanities problems if there were space to spread out and no shortages of food, clean water, and medicine. A plague that wipes out a large part of humanity (and I am unconcerned about which part, I make no claims to a selection criteria and disavow all selection bias) would make that easier. So would interstellar travel/colonization (gasp! what a hateful word) but a plague seems more possible given the propensity of governments and corportations to play around with pathogens they don't fully understand and cannot fully control. It isn't that I want the world to burn - not unless I'm in a mood - and I certainly couldn't kill individuals, but media innudation with death and destruction (both real and staged for the movie films) has made it easy for me to be so flippant.

Getting back near my original idea, I am all for the individual, the pursuit of individual dreams and desires, no matter how unconventional and "unneccesary" for progress. To an extent. I suppose following that track for too long would devolve into a semantic argument of what is and isn't neccesary and conventional and whose definition of progress. Failing that, I want to return to pop culture. Douglas Adams writes of the Total Perspective Vortex as a torture devise. It forces the individual to see and know their position vis a vis the totality of the universe, to gain some perspective on how insignificant the individual is. Everyone seems to come out of it raving mad. But I always thought of it in a somewhat more positive light. Knowing your insignificance is a rather liberating position. Your failures and shortcomings are meaningless, forgetable and forgotten. True your successes are as well, but those you can keep to yourself. I've always felt that success doesn't need to be shared to be valuable, but failure is all the more cutting when it is known, when one is reminded by others.

I don't think I've made a point yet. I'm pretty sure there wasn't any advice in their either. So let's see what I can sum up before I wander off to lunch. The individual should be measured apart from society, over and above society and not against the rules and norms of society. But only so long as the individual does not then triumph at the expense of society, at the expense of other individuals and their rights. Damn, now it seems I'm a libertarian. Good luck in the next election. But ultimately the individual is free of the strictures of society and regardless we are all insignificant in the big picture, so quit worrying. This is terrible advice. Not because I think it's wrong, but who is coopting my brain with Afterschool Special Bullshit? Next thing you know I'll be telling everyone just to be nice and get along and that sharing is caring (puff puff pass).

Stop.
So I guess what I wanted to convey was that "there is nothing you can do that can't be done", "it's all been done before", & "there is nothing new under the sun." But rather than seeing these as reasons to give up and get back to the meaningless grind, I see it as a liberation. If someone else can do it that is not reason to give up something you are passionate about but it is reason to give up something you hate that you are just working for the paycheck and weekend. The insignificance of all we do points in the same direction: if it isn't going to matter in the long run, make sure it matters in the short run. If history won't care or the universe won't recognize, then have fun while you can, do something true, meaningful, beautiful in whatever way you define that and to hell with anyone that says otherwise. Yeah, still a bit Afterschool Special. But that will happen sometimes. Maybe I was distracted by the call of lunch or the edits I have to make to the thesis. Eh. "Any way the wind blows."

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