Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Importance of Community

Everyone seeks community, in varying degrees. Sometimes that community might be as small as two married people, or two friends. How many people can live totally alone, as recluses? Perhaps there are some, but how happy are they? People who are truly isolated are known as schizoids, and it’s listed as a mental/emotional disorder.

It’s not just community people seek; there is also meaning and importance, the feeling of being truly alive, of having weight to their lives.

People have to feel emotionally connected. Unfortunately, this can be a good or bad thing, depending on what they’re connected to. If only it was a good thing! But it’s not, because people are inherently flawed.

The word “religion” means “to tie together, to bind.” In other words, to connect. To give meaning and importance, to make people feel alive, to give weight to their lives. The true meaning of that word, “religion,” is why I have decided everything is a religion, for good or bad.

I divide communities into two kinds: those based on force, and those based on persuasion. Neither kind exists purely today; they are mixtures of both force and persuasion. But, ideally, a community should be based on persuasion only.

Alfred North Whitehead, in his book, “Adventures of Ideas,” had this to say about the difference between persuasion and force: "The creation of the world -- said Plato -- is the victory of persuasion over force...Civilization is the maintenance of social order, by its own inherent persuasiveness as embodying the nobler alternative. The recourse to force, however unavoidable, is a disclosure of the failure of civilization, either in the general society or in a remnant of individuals...

"Now the intercourse between individuals and between social groups takes one of these two forms: force or persuasion. Commerce is the great example of intercourse by way of persuasion. War, slavery, and governmental compulsion exemplify the reign of force."

Albert Jay Nock in “Our Enemy, the State,” called these two kinds of communities ones based on the Political Means of force and fraud, and the other on the Economic Means of persuasion and liberty.

So, then, we have two kinds of communities: one based on liberty and persuasion, and one based on force and fraud. The first is the free market; the second is always political.

The word “sin” comes from the archery term, “hamartia,” and really means “to miss the mark.” The word “virtue” comes from the words “power” or “strength” and also “man,” and means “the powers and strengths of Mankind.”
Communities of force embody the Seven Deadly Sins of pride (what’s the Greeks called hubris), envy, wrath, ennui, lust, greed and gluttony. Leftism, in fact, is a political ideology based on little more than envy, and trying to get rid of it through force.

Is not the leftist idea that man can be remade into a god on earth the worst kind of hubris there is? Or the fascist idea that all people should be absorbed, Borg-like, into the State, the worst kind of greed and gluttony? And how many people javr become Communists or Nazis out of ennui, their joining eliminated their meaningless and despair?

Communities of persuasion ideally should embody the Seven Heavenly Virtues of prudence, justice, temperance, courage, faith, hope and charity. None of these strengths can be instilled by the totalitarian State.

No society today is either one or the other, and, since people aren’t angels, there never has been such a society in the past. And even if there was a society based strictly on persuasion, there will always be people trying to overturn it and establish one based on politics and force. And that is why there will always be some force in society, to remove politicians and other lesser criminals, such as child molesters and murderers.

Some more analysis is in order. There are other ways to tell one community from the other, especially since some people claim slavery is freedom and war is peace. These people, poor in character, will always be with us.

The Russian writer Dmitri Merejkowski (1865–1941), believed all religions could be divided into two basic ones: in the first one, Man sacrifices Man to Man. In the second, God sacrifices Himself to Man.

The first religion, Man sacrificing Man to Man, is always associated with the Political Means of force and fraud. Even in a supposedly “libertarian” writer such as Ayn Rand, there is Man sacrificing Man to Man.

All political communities sacrifice Man to Man. To prove this, you need look no further than the Communists in Russia, China and Cambodia, or the Nazis in Germany. The 20th Century, with 177 to 200 million people dead from the Political Means of war, was the Age of Man sacrificing Man to Man.

Political communities always believe in Pure Good and Pure Evil, which is always associated with Man sacrificing Man to Man. When people see themselves as good and someone else as evil, only then can they convince themselves that force – a lot of it – is necessary to human sacrifice other people, in the belief evil can be eradicated from the world.

Political communities ultimately become totalitarian. They do not believe in freedom; they embody the Seven Deadly Sins; they believe in Pure Good and Pure Evil, and they believe in sacrificing Man to Man. All this, together, means political communities see violence as redemptive, as believing in what Mircea Eliade called “the Myth of the Eternal Return,” meaning a return to a Golden Age. Only they believe in returning to it through the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Because political communities always believe in Pure Good and Pure Evil, they idealize themselves as good, indeed sacred, and believe themselves to be Saviors, ones who have to save the world by force and violence. Those who oppose them, being defined as evil, must be destroyed.

The people who believe in these political communities are asleep. They are Dwellers in the Mirage, and one of the original meanings of "dwell" is to "deceive, hinder, delay; to err."

Communities of persuasion, on the other hand, should ideally embody the Seven Heavenly Virtues, should not believe in the fairy tale of Pure Good and Pure Evil, should not believe in themselves as Saviors through violence, and should not sacrifice Man to Man. And their belief in a return to the Golden Age should be based on freedom and persuasion.

True communities, ones that are alive and vibrant, with true meaning and importance, can only be based on liberty and persuasion, not on force and fraud.

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