So getting back to this blog today is very much an exercise in grounding myself again. Returning to a regular research and writing routine, as a habitual part of my day, making sure that even on the messiest days, I’ve got a calm space.
Ludwig Wittgenstein said that philosophy had a therapeutic purpose – He wasn’t the first one to say so, of course, but he was the first one I happened to come across who did. Therapy wasn’t the only purpose, of course. But it could serve that function if you needed it – a minimum expression.
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Here’s a paradox for you. It’s a political and conceptual paradox. Call it the paradox of totalitarianism. Those who are most afraid of losing their individuality will shed it themselves.
It doesn’t make much sense on the face of it. But it’s an old problem in political philosophy – not always phrased explicitly, but quite old. Spinoza was the first to ask it.
Why would a person fight so strongly for their slavery as if it were their freedom?
Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari tackle that problem themselves, thinking of the political context of their own time. It was dominated by the same currents as ours. Globalized liberal capitalism was kicking into gear. Ecological pollution was reaching crisis points. States, corporations, and other institutions were developing far-reaching control into the everyday lives of citizens.
In the 1970s, what did people in the heart of capitalist countries fear? Communism. The creeping embrace of an ideology that fused us into a unified, undifferentiated mass. The state and related institutions had total control over your life, down to the smallest details. Individuality becomes forgotten. Conformity is all that matters.
Not all people, of course. But it was a cultural tendency, which the right-wing politicians of many generations opposed violently and intensely. The North American examples are clearest to me, because this is where I live and this continent is the epicentre of the current movement in this direction.
Joseph McCarthy, William F. Buckley, Andrew Breitbart. These are just a few prominent people who aggressively advocated against any political or social ideas that would reject or curtail our individual freedom.
|Above is a perfectly reasoned argument.|
* Heavens to Betsy, we must never think of treating criminals with dignity! If we did, they wouldn’t be criminals. I kid, but sometimes I hear of something so sickening that sarcasm is my only way to keep from breaking down.
Here’s Ian Buchanan’s take on how Anti-Œdipus expresses the paradox of totalitarianism today. You become so afraid of an authority stripping you of your individuality that you suspect all political, ideological, or moral difference from your own individualist thinking.
If people have communitarian beliefs – like a notion that making a promise binds you to keep it – stamp it out as a betrayal. It’s taking advantage of your freedom to give yourself over to the enemy.
And in enforcing total discipline to defend yourselves against the enemy that would rob you of your individualities? There’s your answer.