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Connectedness

Part II

by Hart Williams 1998

Language is the giveaway: if we exist as truly sovereign "individuals" then we have no need of language. And yet, biologists tell us, perhaps as much of 80% of the functioning of our vaunted brains is directly taken up with processing language: translating sensory data into linguistic storage, etc.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This eye never sleeps




Our Story So Far:
"Individualism" has been used as the justification for every screwball political cause from the Tree-Sitters of June 1 to the "Freemen" of Montana. But where does the interface between group civilization and personal freedom lie?

There is a grand fallacy in our political thinking—namely that we exist as "sovereign" individuals, without reference and recourse to the rules and conventions of society at large. Perhaps the best way of illustrating this would be to take the example of the "Freemen" and extrapolate from their curve.

Let’s assume that they were right —that they owe "government," and therefore society at large, NOTHING. It stands to reason that they can, therefore, demand nothing of society, and we can start by taking back their pickup trucks, their satellite dishes, their gasoline, their barbed wire, their electricity and phones, their woven fabric and their processed building materials.

Given that they were holding out in a treeless region of Montana, what we would end up with, very rapidly, would be a group of naked, very cold "Freemen." They might slaughter their cattle (using rocks, of course—they didn’t mine any iron ore, nor smelt any steel, nor machine it into knives and guns) of course, and perhaps dress in Neolithic skins. There would be fleas, of course, and hopefully someone would know how to tan the hides.

But does any of us doubt that they wouldn’t survive one Montana winter? Further, would they themselves be capable of pulling off the minor feat described above without cooperation and without language?

We exist as a strange amalgam of monkeys and ants. Language is the giveaway: if we exist as truly sovereign "individuals" then we have no need of language. And yet, biologists tell us, perhaps as much of 80% of the functioning of our vaunted brains is directly taken up with processing language: translating sensory data into linguistic storage, etc.

Or consider the case in which NO government exists—criminal activity, say, drug dealing or even simple burglary. Cooperation is vital and necessary to the success of virtually any criminal pursuit. Drug dealing requires a vast network of growers, smugglers, distributors and buyers. Burglary requires at least a fence, or a garage sale, to turn the ill-gotten gains of the burglar into a profit. Without a victim, indeed, burglary would be impossible. Without money to exchange with other "sovereign" criminals, there would be no point.

In every arena that legitimate government exists, a "shadow" government exists—for it is STILL necessary to regulate activities outside the shadow of law. "Organized Crime" is nothing less than a government.

"Government," in fact, is just another term for our vital socializing functions. The myth that we can stand—proud, independent and alone—is just that: a myth.

And yet, Ayn Rand’s myth that a Howard Roark can stand ENTIRELY outside society continues to be embraced by our culture, much as the myth of the "cowboy" continues to drive popular fiction and film, as far back as Washington Irving (our first national novelist).

The conception that you can "withdraw" from our civilization is a delusion only fueled by the fact that this selfsame civilization provides automobiles, gasoline, radios, cheap machine-woven fabrics and shoes; radios, television and all the other "necessities" that no one in the history of the world has been able to avail themselves of.

The great failure of the "commune" experiments of the ‘Sixties lay in the ultimate inability of commune society to provide for ALL its needs, without recourse to the larger society. And, commune life was based on a cooperative society. Left to their own devices, "sovereign" individuals tend to starve to death, unless predators or exposure don’t get them first.

It is, therefore ABSURD to base a politics on a fallacious concept of "individualism" that has never been seen in the history of our species. Indeed, many Eastern civilizations have functioned quite well for long periods without ANY conception of privacy at all!

We have based our governmental system on a recognition of individual initiative and genius. But, ultimately, "individualism" is our tool for providing the greatest good for the greatest number. I cherish my individualism and my privacy, but in the larger context, they are NOT necessities, nor are they "inalienable" in any practical sense.

If we would cherish our individualism, we must remain vigilant WITHIN the political sphere—any number of totalitarian regimes exist as proof that personal freedoms are extremely tenuous and rare.

To withdraw from social interaction and political action based upon a false conception of "individualism" or "sovereignty" is the sign of the spoiled brat.

But we are "sovereign," right?

(continued next week)


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