Ethics

An Uncertain Will

“Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.” George Orwell

I am disturbed by the fact that people have turned animal rights into a fashion statement, telling the world around them to ‘be yourself, be an individual’ while pouting their lips and taking selfies, where advertising ploys utilised by the globalised marketing industry to entice people to purchase products has subliminally replicated to define the identity of the masses that they are no longer able to distinguish between what is morally and ethically genuine and what is a mere superficial display of appearances. This pervasive youth culture of buying and selling themselves has now firmly solidified into an inescapable cycle where taste, thought and opinions, even the mode of expression has become virally duplicated that it has diminished the opportunity for people to reach a genuine state of moral well-being. People are becoming the same ‘thing’ as though the sanctity of their existence is nothing more than a mere product with no substance and where there is quite a lot of talking but no one is really saying anything. And how are we able to ascertain that line where the boundary between subtle conformity transmogrifies to a society that demands conformity hidden behind the agenda of a falsified ‘good’ – that injecting your lips or getting other forms of cosmetic surgery is justifiable as long as you like animals, since if you like animals than you must be a ‘good’ person and since you are a ‘good’ person then cosmetic surgery must be a ‘good’ thing and the more people approve of it, the more ‘good’ it becomes.

It is clear that a capitalist is solely driven by profit and ultimately power since it is power that strengthens capital gain. Whether we would like to admit it or not, our world contains a profoundly dark reality where capital gain has through the expense of people, the environment and a number of species that are now extinct, fuelled civil wars by supplying weapons, enslaved children for clothing, poisoned our seas and clear-cut our forests that has – I dare say despite the wilful ignorance of our O so delightful conservative morons – permanently damaged our ecosphere. History has shown to us that power through domination and the exertion of force fails to be sustainable for long enough to influence the longevity necessary to stimulate capital growth, necessitating the strategic process of finding the imbalances and vulnerabilities of a given society and exercising the conditions necessary that use these divisions against them as a matter of control. It is an unintelligible power because unlike coercion where resistance follows, our adversary appears to be our friend and we appear to be making our own decisions since what ‘I’ buy is ‘mine’ that negates the reasons for the complicity and desire for the object in the first place. True power, therefore, is not something acquired, it is an ideal that speaks without a voice and whispers invented beliefs that people conform to, when vulnerabilities cause people to trick themselves to think that they are making the choice as a free individual and to avoid ever confronting their own deception they will defend their ignorance tooth and nail especially when at risk of being exposed. “That’s the power of fear… and you always fear what you don’t understand.”[1] When the Master imperceptibly manipulates and convinces a slave to gradually and willingly choose to be his slave through enticements of pleasure – the pleasure being the avoidance of pain that the Master is causally responsible for giving in the first place – it gives the Master the sustainable permanence required to attain maximum capital, particularly since the willingness additionally amounts to a more productive slave.

The Master – i.e. marketing strategies – constructs the perceptions of what is unattractive and what is attractive, utilising the vulnerabilities of people against them and strategically exercising the conditions necessary to falsify a sense of independence in the decisions that compel people to purchase in order to feel beautiful. It employs the strategy that alienates the person from reality and develops within them an insatiable ressentiment[2] that the Master actually makes you feel ugly and you in turn are compelled to purchase as a way to feel beautiful. Over time, this conformity enlarges and as each person submits, they defend their ignorance so as to never confront their self-deception by treating those who fail to adhere to the customs as outsiders as though forcing them to either comply or be ostracized and thus in turn subjectively justify their submission. Think of it like this; in the Sudan, women who are circumcised are considered ‘attractive’ to men and despite the sheer immorality of female circumcision, if it is a custom and the majority are performing their duty, the practice itself must therefore make it ‘beautiful’ – the submission to the custom that is – and those who choose not to participate are ostracized from the community. Nietzsche’ theory of ethics purports that conventionalism, namely that value is created by the will of the greatest number of individuals, weakens the independence or power of our own individual will. “The moral ideal is a person who is not great, but a ‘herd animal’, who seeks security and comfort and wishes to avoid danger and suffering.”[3]

Marx defined this as a type of alienation from our own nature or free will and our capacity to explore activities of our own choosing.[4] Just as Rousseau believed that the state of human nature is good but corrupted by civilization[5], Marx believed that this alienation is formed as part of a historical development – though I myself have the preferable opinion that it is more a subjective alienation to our own consciousness – and that a class war develops between the alienated and the forces of capitalism.[6] The individual is thus presented with a choice to either become a nihilist – a signal of the despair in the soul of the individual[7] incapable of breaking away from the herd – or the new philosopher,[8] the nonconformist who has the strength of will to challenge the blind submission. If we strip down the nature of the individual, what exactly is slave morality? Is it a mere mindlessness such as being told what to do and how to think, further still being convinced that happiness can only be found in truths that are – whether moral in nature or not – popular in its conventionalism and that value in our own existence is therefore dependent solely on the approval of the majority, or is there a subjective agenda, perhaps the intensity of our fear of aloneness – anxiety being a form of subjective pain – that we sacrificially choose to abandon our will to exercise independent rational thought to allow others to think for us. From a cultural perspective, some groups illustrate the strategy of ostracising ‘dissidents’ or those members of the community who refuse to adhere to the regulations required of them, thus leaving them isolated and unaided with the threat of poverty, violence and other angst-inducing potentialities; those who submit enjoy the pleasures that come with such obedience including the welcome approval, the economic satisfactions and social warmth that communal environs enjoy. So then why exactly is this submission wrong since the desire for the latter pleasures is only natural in its normative structure? “The formation of a herd is a significant victory and advance in the struggle against depression.”[9]

Let us assume that morality is universally inherited yet its properties are merely interpreted differently relative to social circumstances [including the cognitive constitution of the individual etc &c.,] if moral judgements are motivated not by an independent, self-reflective consciousness but merely the photocopying of the requirements as dictated by the social environment, self-knowledge and awareness becomes limited. With such limitations, a person is unable to feel empathy as moral judgements have not properly formed and as – instinctually – fear is imbedded in our nature, they become susceptible to conformity to anything, including evil. If advertising and marketing is capable of influences mass opinion, Propaganda is by extension the next phase of advertising, that the fascist man is a ‘strong’ man and with the right appearance, including the clothing worn and other ritual behaviour? What is the difference between wearing the swastika armband to prove your social position and wearing the Nike tick to prove your social position? What is the difference between wanting to be Aryan and wanting to be a Kardashian? As the current social conditions necessitate an element of ‘good’ in its advertising, it is no wonder neo-Nazi’s themselves are now beginning to design a promotion of hate utilising the globalisation of this type of perfunctory culture, making hate to appear cool and attractive. “Experts have noted that the German neo-Nazi presence on Tumblr and other social networking sites has become sleeker and more sophisticated. Neo-Nazi clothing has become more stylish and difficult to recognize. There’s even a vegan Nazi cooking show.”[10]

I remember seeing the dismay of a man who seemed to believe it unfathomable that I own a $50 Microsoft phone that I purchased from Woolworths several years ago and despite that it consistently causes technical issues when browsing online that appears to make decisions on my behalf, I am nevertheless content in its utility. “Why don’t you have an iPhone?” he said, looking at me as though I were an unknown species. “Why an iPhone?” I replied to which he stared out blankly into space, whilst speechless his expression appeared to be saying ‘whoa’ as though my question instigated a deep philosophical and spiritual awakening. Conversely, there have been several instances where I have met people who contain within them an ingenious form of hatred, a type of spiritual hate[11] as though conscious of having conformed to the social conditions but troubled with their capacity to take an independent command of their own existence. This powerlessness substantiates the presence of a subjective weakness that emasculates him and he slowly begins to hate himself and again, if ever confronting this reality – the truth that he merely follows others and therefore has no identity of his own – he begins to confront an unbearable anxiety that to prevent this from happening develops ‘games’ that he essentially is playing with himself to trick his conscious mind from ever facing this emasculation. Eventually, he begins to inject himself with hormones to build muscle as though the larger the physical attributes the easier it is to hide the smallness he feels within, office politics and the conquest for power, even being ultra-nationalist, fascist or right-wing politically that supplants an opportunity for aggression against the Other and thus projecting the hate he has for himself onto something else. Personal identity becomes a given rather than a developed and the genuine properties that make him who he is are concealed, crushed, silenced as though his heart were a creature attempting to find safe ground and the owner seeking to murder it with his own feet, depriving himself of his own natural and inherent qualities and irrevocably changing his human nature from a living organism to a heartless machine. It is why Confucius believed that a ‘superior’ man is one who ceases to emulate others. “What the superior man seeks is in himself; what the ordinary man seeks is in others… The mind of the superior man is conversant with righteousness; the mind of the ordinary man is conversant with gain.”[12]  It challenges the notions of what we consider to be masculine and feminine as the moral properties and intrinsic conditions are challenged by subjective contradictions; that is, how is a ‘man’ someone who actively exercises his rational capacities rather than his physical? How is a ‘man’ who turns the other cheek stronger than a soldier?

If societal views are continuously in a state of flux, renewal is also possible but the frightful reality is that this renewal is potentially cyclic, thus historically repetitive in its continuity. That is, would it be honest of me to accept that much of society fails to adequately think with independence and thus requires direction, that the only fight necessary is hidden one, that sweet and gently voice that whispers all the wrong things and compels people to conform to immorality? If a man is incapable of being morally independent since “[t]hey who know virtue are few”[13] then would it be wise to promote what the sages have over the centuries, namely that it is better for him to cleave to what is ‘good’ by guiding him toward a system of ethics that structure a society which regulates general motives and wills toward conditions that compel independent thinking and thus moral well-being? “The aim to excel, if respected of all, approved and accepted by common consent, would appeal to every child and, logically presented to its mind and enforced by universal recognition of its validity, would become a conviction and a scheme for the art of living, of transforming power and compelling vigour.”[14] When one abandons their will out of the fear that the result in thinking independently may mean the experience of aloneness and separateness, that following their heart may mean losing their identity and place in the world, no falsification of being ‘good’ by pretending to ethics and morality can change the fact that they have conformed to something aside from themselves. It is undeniable that whilst all people with functional cognitive faculties are capable of thinking for themselves, our social and cultural environs dictate our value-beliefs and that what the majority deem to consider happiness must therefore be happiness. Aldous Huxley’ Brave New World exemplifies this thesis: “One believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them.”[15]

Or perhaps I should just go off to my own Island and in solitude and silence live out my days wishing that the clones of the earth – or even just one clone – had the wisdom to understand what it felt like having true passion, feeling love, experiencing danger, committing a sin, being aesthetically swept away  through the creative arts and sensing what it is to be truly free? Where are you, O wise man capable of love????

[1] Quote from Batman Begins (2005) when Carmine Falcone explains to Bruce Wayne the meaning of power.
[2] Gilles Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, A&C Black (2006) 107
[3] Michael Lacewing, Nietzsche on morality and human nature, Routledge: http://cw.routledge.com/textbooks/alevelphilosophy/data/a2/nietzsche/nietzschemoralityhumannature.pdf
[4] David Leopold, The Young Karl Marx: German Philosophy, Modern Politics, and Human Flourishing, Cambridge University Press (2007)  231
[5] Kenneth L. Campbell, Western Civilization: A Global and Comparative Approach, Since 1600, M.E. Sharpe (2012) 70
[6] Nicholas Churchich, Marxism and Alienation, Fairleigh Dickinson Univ Press (1990) 47
[7] Op. cit., Lacewing.
[8] Laurence D. Cooper, Eros in Plato, Rousseau, and Nietzsche: The Politics of Infinity, Penn State Press (2010) 230
[9] Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, III.18
[10] http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/heil-hipster-the-young-neo-nazis-trying-to-put-a-stylish-face-on-hate-20140623
[11] See Nietzsche
[12] Analects, bk. xv., c. iii and bk. iv., c. xxi.
[13] Analects, bk. xv., c. iii.
[14] The Ethics of Confucius, by Miles Menander Dawson, [1915]
[15] Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

7 thoughts on “An Uncertain Will

  1. Hello Sara, Thank you for another thoroughly researched, well considered and highly readable article. It’s a privilege to read your work.
    I was 10 in 1957, when the International Geophysical Year launched scientific study for understanding mankind’s impact on all planetary life — including the dynamics of ice in polar regions. At that time the beliefs of 97% of climate scientists received a hearing.
    It’s so convenient to believe that a breakthrough a day keeps each crisis at bay. Somehow. So let us change the subject to matters of fashion and appetite that future or futures markets require to generate a rise in ‘our’ standard of living, very gross domestic product and jobs, jobs, jobs and jobs. Hey, demagogues are economy builders too. A basis for confidence, right?
    Your discussion on marketers recalls a 20-year-old memory from my years at the local soap company — I retrieved a wrong-number telephone message from a marketer at the firm. It was two minutes of brainstorming on a ‘bold challenge’ for skirting legalities and bending truth for a marketing campaign. Could they get away with it, that was the question.

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    • The synopsis here is that there is a generation of superficial people who are utilising moral concepts as a fashionable tool rather than for any genuine concern; being a vegan is ‘cool’ and thus an image while fraudulently promoting products that is completely anti-animal rights and if not, certainly is lacking in morality such as cosmetic surgery. These same people talk of being an individual and ‘unique’ – a very trick in itself instigated to promote the idea that they have not actually submitted to this ploy – obvious since they are all doing the same thing. That is because they themselves have become a product.

      They are reverberating the same tools that has been instilled by marketing and advertising ploys; ‘marketing’ is basically the master indirectly telling the slave that he is ugly – thus making him feel anxious – before convincing him to willingly submit to his enslavement by offering him the opportunity to be relieved of the anxiety. He profits and since the slave becomes willing and thus more productive, the profits become sustainable.

      The problem here is, if we have a generation of people who submit to this speciousness, then why would it be presumptuous to assume that they will soon submit to something like neo-Nazism where they too are now utilising an effective method of justifying their hatred through fashionable tools.

      Take a look at this:
      http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/german-neo-nazis-embrace-vegan-cooking-techno-music-hipster-clothes-n271576

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  2. Very nice essay ‘Dabbler’ 🙂

    I mostly agree with what you wrote. I am thinking about how norms are formed.

    I think many of the answers to our moral judgement precede our judgement. Similar to how Common Law is built on precedent versus case law. The judge (us) has a whole history of what has been decided in the past. He connects this historical/genealogical account with the present case in order to render a judgement that connects present with the past. Each decision we make is based on what we know, what we have done or learned in the past. As T.S. Eliot said about art: “The necessity…is not one-sided; what happens when a new work of art is created is something that happens simultaneously to all the works of art which preceded it.” Normative construction/deconstruction is an ongoing process.

    The tricky part here is viewpoint. Remember Hegel’s “No man is a hero to his valet. This is not because the hero is not a hero, but because the valet is a valet.” The universal’s (hero) authority over the particular, and the particular’s (valet) responsibility to the universal is a symmetrical relationship. The valet only sees from its pov, the hero’s view is that of the universal.

    “Where are you, O wise man capable of love????”

    Jack Lacan:

    “Woman have no secrets because they are the secret”

    Brenda Lee:

    “wise men never fall in love”

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    • Very nice essay ‘Dabbler’

      Gosh, it is a little difficult to explain a subject in such a limited post that I am forced to rely on readers who are already acquainted with particular areas of thought that otherwise may lend it to being mere psychobabble. And even so, it has often been iterated that my posts are way too long for readers to remain attentive though I feel like I have only half-explained myself ☹

      Whatever the case, I see myself merely practicing my level of written expression and I will slowly start to appease the majority by writing two posts – one brief, magazine-like and one my own essay so that both myself and the audience can be content.

      I am thinking about how norms are formed.

      I love the analogy vis-a-vis law and it reminds me of Nozick’ historical theory, but rather than delving into that topic of political philosophy I wanted to briefly focus on capitalism, hence the reason why I touched on Marx though I myself take the preference for something more individual, a subjective alienation to our own free-will of sorts as our unconscious decisions – whilst absorbed and adhered to – is nevertheless a decision; a belief in nothing is still a belief. Thus, though I appreciate the Hegelian view, I still believe that our own identity is more than just an ideal.

      And to my:

      “Where are you, O wise man capable of love????”

      Whereby you wrote:

      “Jack Lacan: “Woman have no secrets because they are the secret”
      Brenda Lee: “Wise men never fall in love”

      I must and wholeheartedly disagree only insofar as the understanding of love itself is flawed, hence why I said ‘capable’ of love since it is wisdom that elevates man from being one who merely absorbs and reiterates information to one who is genuinely aware of both himself and the world around him. This consciousness – hence why I have said for many years now that “love” is moral consciousness – is the eternal feature that renders the one to feel and appreciate with sincerity rather than convinced through desires, fears, even economy or social standing.

      Going back onto that person who has a “spiritual hate” or Nietzsche’ ressentiment, that is what I consider to be someone who has ‘awakened’ but has not yet reached the capability of leaving the herd that because of this failure begins to hate himself and in that subjective emasculation begins to play games that empower him from ever facing the emasculation. He becomes divided between what is right and good – but what will mean being alone – to the sweet and peaceful ignorance as Cypher from the Matrix clearly expressed that, to his everlasting shame, chooses the latter. Similar to ressentiment, the Marxian class struggle develops when people become conscious of their entfremdung or enstragement from their own nature, their true identity and capacity to think and make decisions for themselves but are not yet capable of abandoning the society to which they belong.

      And why not? Why would anyone in their right mind want to abandon everything that they understood to be reality, their friends, their family, their position in society to face a dark, frightful and lonely realm? It is the man that understands WHY he should that would be capable of understanding what real love is.

      Thanks Phil, I am going to write about this in my next post!

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  3. Pingback: An Uncertain Will (borrowed from Summa Amare) – billziegler1947

  4. Sarah, I am very impressed by this essay – you’ve hit on an number of important issues. I do believe we now have a generation for whom fashion and politics shape their moral compass. Their belief in ’causes’ approaches fanaticism and debate and compromise don’t exist. I in fact do hope this is cyclical because then there’s hope we can crawl out of this superficiality and maybe at that point, break the cycle.

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