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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

The Last Chance

People need something outside of themselves to give their life meaning. Today’s liberalism in all its forms gives people nothing but the promise of endless consumption choices (see yesterday’s quote from a dumb starlet on feminism). It offers nothing but the idea that an individual is the source of all truth. Its recipe for every ill is to offer a chance to consume more. It cheerfully promises to maintain the basic biological survival and expects that to be enough.

But this isn’t enough. This doesn’t lead to happiness. This leads to depression, anger, and alienation.

Geert Wilders lost his election. This gives a chance to liberalism to start looking for something bigger than consumerism and bare biological survival as its big offer. Otherwise, people will look to other systems of thinking. Religion is dead – killed by that very liberalism because it was an obstacle to unbridled consumption and to the idea that an individual is the Creator. What’s left is nationalism and similarly scary things.

This is literally the last chance for liberalism to come up with something more satisfactory, something more collectively oriented, something less pedestrian and sad.

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15 thoughts on “The Last Chance

  1. “Geert Wilders lost his election”

    I’ve been following the policital scene there some… I don’t think he ever had a chance, I have the idea he was built up in the media so his inevitable failure could be heralded as some kind of triumph. His rhetoric is far from the accepted norms of the Netherlands that you know things are bad when he has any audience whatsoever.

    More tellingly, a lot of Wilders’s platform was taken by the current prime minister (who only started talking about the need for integration within the last six months). Also, his willingness to stand up to the deranged lunatics running Turkey made it seem like he had a backbone (for the first time).

    When you talk about consumerism I complain about infantilization – the way the media treats individuals like dull children who need to be spoon fed opinions.

    In a sense they’re related – what is consumerism for the sake of consumerism but a retreat to (an idealized version of) infancy where one’s needs are instantly met by benevolent and doting caretakers.

    The problem is that babies, for all their remarkable qualities, don’t have much in the way of… consciousness (for the lack of a better word) and the infantile state of mind that consumerism for the sake of consumerism creates is ultimately intolerable for those with consciousness (which leads to all sorts of self-destructive behavior).

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    • In Canada, a group of refugees was accepted last year with great fanfare and dozens of delicious photo ops. A year later, the refugees complain that they are completely isolated. They have been given a chance to sustain bare life (it’s a term invented by Giorgio Agamben), and that’s great. But it’s not enough. They sit there, completely isolated, lost, and resentful. People are saying, hey, why aren’t they more grateful for what we’ve done for them. But that’s not how human beings function. People need to feel like they are a part of something larger. In this case, part of the new society they joined.

      But here is the problem. If nobody in the host society knows how to be part of anything bigger because the ethos of isolated consumers in search of more private opportunities to consume has prevailed, they can’t offer anything bigger. Because they don’t have it themselves.

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      • “When you talk about consumerism I complain about infantilization – the way the media treats individuals like dull children who need to be spoon fed opinions.”

        • It’s a good metaphor because infants, indeed, cannot conceive of a world outside of themselves and their needs. For instance, I know that I sounded like an idiot whenever I asked Klara to wait because I was just about to feed her. She did not have the capacity to understand that. But she was an infant. When fully formed adults throw a tantrum because “Mamma, I have a boo boo and I need soothing right now,” that’s not good.

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  2. DWeird on said:

    This is a bit besides your more general point, but consumption and basic biological needs aren’t the same thing. I need fairly few of the things I actually have and buy to continue existing as an organism. In so far as I am a real thing among other things, the stuff necessary for me to stay a thing is basically finite.

    Consumption is partially about that, but it’s also about keeping score of how well you’re doing in regards to other people, or marking out things, places or ideas as something that’s yours. In that regard, there’s no real upper limit in how much of anything I need, so long as it’s more or rarer than what the other guy has.

    On a more personal note, what exactly does introducing a collective dimension add here? How are people in aggregate even different from people on their own?

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    • “How are people in aggregate even different from people on their own?”

      Are you a teacher? If so, how can you ask that?

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      • DWeird on said:

        I’m a warehouse worker, but fair point.

        Still – and I’m putting words in Clarissa’s mouth at this point – I’m not convinced a change to “the collective is the Creator” is a major improvement over the individual version of it.

        Plus, we’re already speaking at the level of countries and culture. There’s no one person who’s an individual, it’s a collective concept at that point. It boils down to “humans are creators” either way, and I don’t really see that going away any time soon.

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        • “Still – and I’m putting words in Clarissa’s mouth at this point – I’m not convinced a change to “the collective is the Creator” is a major improvement over the individual version of it.”

          • There are three possibilities here:
          1. The Creator is the Creator (i.e. I have a role in life assigned to me by God. God is the measure of truth. What’s moral and acceptable is defined by God.)
          2. The collective is the Creator (i.e. I have a role in life decided collectively by us as a society or a group. What’s moral and acceptable is defined by all of us working together.)
          3. The individual is the Creator (i.e. I have a role in life assigned to me by me. I am the measure of truth. What’s moral and acceptable is defined by me.)

          The problem with the third way is that if everybody decides what’s good, acceptable and moral for themselves, the result is isolation, alienation, the market forces win, everybody is lonely, angry and lost. Admittedly, some people deal with “I’m a moral law unto myself” better than others.

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        • “Plus, we’re already speaking at the level of countries and culture. There’s no one person who’s an individual, it’s a collective concept at that point. It boils down to “humans are creators” either way, and I don’t really see that going away any time soon.”

          • In Quebec, there was a political initiative a couple of years ago to come up with a list of shared values that define “us” as a coherent society. The initiative failed because groups and groupsies were mortally offended that there might be a barrier on their road towards unbridled consumption.

          A culture – if it is to remain a culture and not a collection of unrelated individuals who happen to share the same physical territory – should be united by something. When the concept of a nation was invented, the idea was that people celebrate the same holidays, irrespective of how invented they might be, enthusiastically practice the same rituals, and work on defining “who WE are.” In the society of consumers, this is no longer possible because everybody thinks that their individual dislike of this or that holiday, value or ritual is far more important than the need to preserve the culture or the nation.

          The nation-building project of the 18-19th centuries also invented national literatures because people are brought together by having a list of important artists they can collectively venerate and take pride in. Now even this is eroded in favor of catering to consumerist, individualist choices, rather than the group needs.

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    • You are absolutely right, one doesn’t need all that much to sustain biological existence. But people who feel a void in that place where something bigger used to live try to fill it with objects.

      When a toddler enters the anal stage of development, he will be gathering all of the objects he can find and try to hold on to them. Children between ages of 1 and 2 constantly try to fit as many things into their little fists and later pockets as they can find. That’s a normal stage of development.

      However, by the age of 3, they reach the next stage of development, which is the oedipal stage (the names are not important here. We can call them stage 1, 2 and 3). This is a stage that is oriented towards relationships with others. A psychologically healthy human beings is the one who successfully passes through all of the stages without being stuck in one. But if the collectively oriented stage is absent, people get stuck in the previous two that are about eating and accumulating objects. They never fully develop.

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  3. anon on said:

    Aliens. When we discover aliens maybe we’ll get some collective direction back. NASA is our only hope. I’m kidding! Mostly. But I’d be interested in what people think would be a salient collective purpose these days that’s nationalism and the other scary options…

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    • It’s a joke that’s not really a joke. This is precisely why so many people are so fixated on the existing aliens, or so-called illegal aliens. Defining yourself as a group is easiest when you define those who are not part of it. And once all the positive symbols of shared identity are destroyed, the attachment to the negative identity (“I’m not the evil him”) is all that remains.

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  4. Stringer Bell on said:

    “There are three possibilities here:”

    Is it just me, or have you also noticed your shift away from Group C? I remember you hating the idea of a ‘collective’ in any context when I first discovered your blog six years ago.

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    • Intellectual and personal growth is a necessary condition for life to be life and not mere existence. 🙂

      Absolutely, I’m learning and developing. That’s why my blog will never be boring. I will be carted to the crematorium at the age of 90, and I’ll still be recording the new insights I just got.

      Hey, would anybody want to read the exact set of ideas on the blog for a decade? Even if the ideas were amazing and profound.

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  5. Stringer Bell on said:

    An actual Nazi in the white house.

    Q: ‘Are you literally a Nazi?’
    A: ‘No comment.’

    http://forward.com/news/national/366181/exclusive-nazi-allied-group-claims-top-trump-aide-sebastian-gorka-as-sworn/

    “Gorka — who Vitézi Rend leaders say took a lifelong oath of loyalty to their group — did not respond to multiple emails sent to his work and personal accounts, asking whether he is a member of the Vitézi Rend and, if so, whether he disclosed this on his immigration application and on his application to be naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 2012. The White House also did not respond to a request for comment.”

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