Shrug This, Atlas!

August 25, 2017

 

Atlas Shrugged makes for really, really good toilet paper. But so does the Communist Manifesto. And everything in between. Suck it.

 

You see, the world has been grappling for too long over two opposing views of human nature, i.e. the Hobbesian and the Lockean. Though both were social contractarians, the former saw human nature as forcedly social, plagued by a perpetual state of fear, one of dying a violent death at the hands of fellow hairless apes. Locke, on the other hand, was convinced that humans are social animals which, in case of conflict, can resolve it in a peaceful manner thanks to their innate sense of responsibility and truthfulness. Subscribing to one or the other, whether consciously or not, has deep implications for a person's worldview. Think about it for a second. Taken to the extreme, if one agrees with Hobbes, human existence is an eternal road movie peppered by nightmarish Mad Max scenes, and the only way out from perpetual chaos is a iron rule which Freudianly skims everybody's gorilla instincts. Hobbes' state ought to be strong and far-reaching so it can counteract human nature and enforce peace and arrangements. Locke is a sweetheart, in comparison, as for him human nature is essentially good, so in his ideal world the state is a tiny and slim facilitator channelling the better angels of our nature.

 

The main problem is that they're both right. And they're also both wrong. Let's unpack it, shall we? First of all, there is absolutely no vestige of the human animal ever being a loner, hence we can safely assume that at least for its self-conscious stage, humans have always been a social species. Also, if I am correct, humans are also the only animal who routinely and systematically looks after other tribe members' offspring. And no wonder. Humans are completely useless, dramatically fragile, and a nuisance for the first years of life. From the latter, we can infer with little doubt that humans are condemned to be band together. This, in turn, means that societal existence is a dual reality in the plane of each being, i.e. on one hand, the group is a facilitator, while on the other it is an oppressor. Like one of those protective cups used by baseball players, it keeps them from being deprived of their testicles by a fastball but it also squeezes them. If you want more liberty in the crotch area, then play baseball without the cup over your nuts, but the price to pay is that you will get your privates smashed --rather sooner than later. So, everybody sacrifices a bit of freedom for a bit of protection. This pact of non-aggression and mutual protection, where everybody chips in consciously or unconsciously, is a necessary precondition for a bit of room so everyone can flourish, if he or she so decides, and up to the extent allowed by the rules arising from such an understanding. Nature, or everyone that surrounds humans to use a better term, follows the same principle as well. Yes, the natural world is gorgeous and its plants and animals taste really good, but humans can also be easily wiped out by a hurricane, eaten by a bear, or poisoned by a little flower.

 

This is where the morality of selfishness crashes and burns. But it so happens with the indeterminism of neomarxism --the only normative position available to the hordes of postmodernists after the strident failure of historical materialism to see its predictions come to life. While humans can be selfish pricks, their duality both in their nature and their nurture swings them as pendulums, determining certain things which cannot be escaped. At best, they can shape themselves and their immediate surroundings within the confines of what their inherent and imposed limitations allow. Epistemologically speaking, humans come already loaded with a basic software which determines the caliber of their apprehension of reality. It does not matter how much a bunch of freaks claim that everything is relative, that all narratives possess an infinite number of interpretations, and that they can switch their social and biological givens at whim... it is bullshit to a very, very large extent. Sure, the self-conscious nature of humans, the awareness of their own mortality, make them capable of evil (something which animals do not have) and, simultaneously, of the capability of modifying a great deal of the objective and social world around. But there are limits and those simply cannot be violated. Their language is limited by their mouths, larynx, brain, capacity for retention, need for certainty, etc. Their morality has innate aspects which they show at tremendously young ages and that, if pushed too far, will emotionally devastate them. Their bodies are bound by decay and mortality, and so are their preferences and inclinations. Their whole society cannot go beyond bare minimums of a basic banding up for psychic and physical survival. Socially constructed? Kiss my ass. Just as the nature of humans is complexly stuck between Hobbes and Locke, their being is trapped between nature and nurture. And this is good.

 

Intellectual narcissism is the main trait of humans, as their self-aware brain power is what sets them apart from the rest of the creation. It is only reasonable that their most salient trait is both their blessing and their doom. It is the source of their creating capabilities and of their chronic unhappiness. What can be more frustrating that knowing the immense power one has, only to realize at the same time that it is fleeting? The last frontier of humanity is death and it cannot be conquered. I guess it is the same reason scorpions and cows have no wings. And faced with that reality, with a malleability married to determinism in a strange brew which is hard to decipher during a lifetime, the sugar cube of selfishness disappears in the bitter coffee of social needs. Only to explode in rebelliousness, in exasperating intervals, which in turn make the determinism of historical materialism an utter sham.

 

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