A Disturbing Example of Eternal Recurrence, Research Time, 28/06/2017

I’m making a joke with this title, but it does genuinely allude to a curious feeling I kept getting as I read The Federalist Papers. Alexander Hamilton will describe a major national debate that was gripping the country in the 1780s.

And it will be pretty much the same ideas tearing at the country as Americans face today. I have a feeling this idea will appear somewhere in the Utopias manuscript – How can we believe in progress if we can’t even solve problems with literally centuries of effort?

Mike Pence is experiencing an odd recurrence of his own. I don't
know how meaningful this coincidence is, but I find it funny. Pence
once represented Indiana's 2nd Congressional district, the same as
Earl Landgrebe in the early 1970s, one of the most dedicated and
slavish Nixon loyalists.
I don't want to lean too much on the old idea that eternal recurrence is a straight-ahead ontological principle either. There’s too much about what we know of reality itself – I’m talking actual cosmological and physical knowledge – for me to say that cyclical time is the truth.

I don’t mean the idea that cyclical time is true, like a fact. I mean, the idea of cyclical time being the truth, a fundamental definitive aspect of a whole way of understanding the world. Let’s leave that stuff.

If Nietzsche is an inspiration for Utopias, it’s in how he tells us what real social progress amounts to. His story of the donkey, lion, and child is the model. A donkey accepts his lot and lumbers along though life. A lion throws off his shackles in rage. A child looks around those ruins and builds a new world.

We want to recognize that we can fix the injustice in our world, not just labour under it in hopelessness. You have the power to overthrow an unjust culture and society, but to lock down your victory, you need to build a new culture together.

American history can make you seriously pessimistic about this power. Despite centuries of activism, no one can even manage to throw off the shackles of racism. They only overthrow one version to see it replaced. America isn’t a slave society, but they went through nearly a century of Jim Crow and instituted mass incarceration.

Can we imagine for ourselves a force so
powerful in our souls that we can throw off
the burdens of the cosmos itself? Must we
always be donkeys before the cosmic
insignificance of humanity?
The return of injustice happens when people can’t or won’t build a culture of justice.

Specifically, what freaks me out in this instance of Hamilton’s wisdom? He describes the argument, as Americans were fighting over the country’s new constitution, against the federal government having strong taxation powers. It’s the same libertarian argument I hear so often today against government taxation powers.

Not the consistent, nuanced, and complex libertarian argument you’ll see coming from think tank philosophers. I’m talking about the mass media talking point – which drives so many ordinary folks to the voting booth and the public squares – that the federal government must be starved of taxes.

The argument: Federal government powers will inevitably be abused, used to oppress people instead of set them free. Even if the federal government avoids corruption by authoritarians or thieves, it will still oppress people by crushing local cultures and individual citizens under a single ideology and identity for all Americans.

In the 1780s, opponents of a strong federal government made an argument of cultural diversity. Not cultural diversity with our divisions today – differences of religion, ethnicity, sexuality, gender. Back then, it was the cultural diversity of the peoples who composed the Thirteen.

Rhode Island, Maryland, New Jersey, and all the others. These were each distinct societies, deserving of their independence from the homogenizing identity of “America.”

Today, we call it state’s rights. Am I onto something?

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