Anarchic Isolationism Essay

Posted by on December 5th, 2009 at 4:01 AM

No man is an island, entire of itself;

every man is a piece of the continent,

a part of the main . . . .

—John Donne

Moderns believe profoundly in very little, and most in spite of their self-puffery may not even have any idea what such a thing would mean:  but they do believe utterly in something they can barely understand, namely their doom of isolation, of insularity, as an unconditioned right to dissociate themselves and to frame their desires and beliefs in stark raving “self-certainty”—the “truth” of an addictive absolutism, a protonically potent need-to-believe—by means of the exclusion of all others’ perspectives and criticisms.  “Other people” are all too evidently idiots who have never really learned anything from the synthesized or pooled culture of their society, and therefore “I” set all their views aside and invent my own all-neglecting views—all of which to the other monads around me looks just like another case of idiotism.

Idiosyncratism is for us a true scheme of somehow-universalized and supposedly-reciprocated “rights,” a worldview that says we accept and we endorse an all-engulfing Babel, an idiocosm or modus vivendi of moral-normative eccentricities where each person thinks and feels and judges in his own “private” language or code:  we are presumably “our own property,” morally or conscientiously no one else has any valid authority over us.  What we do with our own lives, minds, resources, etc. is just “our own business.”  Unlike the economic or legal or political spheres, in morality no one can claim rationally to be the boss of us.  This means as well that no one else deserves the truth or deserves an explanation or justification from anyone, nor is it at all clear that such compulsively covert personalities have even a splinter of a notion of what truth might be.  But this is what one gets when it is, in truth, not “values” but only species of self-interestedness that are normalized as ultimate reality.  Moderns’ “privacy” is sacrosanct to them, although they rarely hesitate to violate the privacy of others when they suppose it can be done with impunity.

All cities, all geography, even all art and music and writings and inventions are fastidiously subdivided into parcels of proprietary claims:  all the world, under the virtually theological rule of modern egology (“ego” taken as a ruling principle), is meticulously defined as “mine” versus “thine,” “ours” versus “theirs.”  We use our homes as we use our bodies, as we use our faces and our words as well:  as a mask and a shield, a barrier to exclude others.  Kafka captured the nightmarish dementia of man self-considered as an obscure and obsessive sort of reclusive mole (“The Burrow”), paranoiacally banking up involuted underground labyrinths against the anxiety of being invaded.  Kierkegaard, whom Kafka esteemed, had already written intricate expressions and symptomatologies of an “esthetic” type of personality hellbent on retreating from the public, natural or social domain, living a pathologically secretive life of perverse games and exploitative self-interestedness.  And Marx as well saw the capitalist or bourgeois class in toto as a constitutionally self-concealing and mendacious character-type, doomed always to relate to language and action only as a way of systematically misrepresenting their true purposes and qualities of personality.  The bourgeois world-construct is functionally complete when its underclass has been systematically and intimately hemmed-in by its ideological virtualities, the contrived and projected “false consciousness” in which it has been axiomatically catechized.

From moderns’ manic phobias about socialism and communism it is patent that this is a civilization of paralytic egologism, of psychotic proprietarism:  the American aborigines who were genocidally extinguished by waves of whites saw most sharply the truth about modernity’s manias—“The love of possessions is a disease with them.”  In moderns’ culture of abstracted ego and intensified but destitute “consciousness,” the aristic ethos not just of sharing and generosity but also of open communication, forthrightness, honesty, and candor has demonstrably perished.  There are utterly not enough aristic personalities surviving to make a commonality of culture feasible any longer:  “politics” has become a dark euphemism for organized deception, hi-tech manipulation, and Olympian Machiavellian intrigues, and “democracy” in that world-order is so moribund it can be little more than a pious verbalism, a rhetorical fraud.

[©2009 Kenneth Smith]

Be Sociable, Share!

Tags: ,

One Response to “Anarchic Isolationism Essay”

  1. Uland says:

    I see American style isolationism, or a Libertarian ethic of independence, as an imperfect response to the kind of mass-man ideologies that our bureaucratized institutions deal in. It’s a simple way of asserting a *right* to refuse to deal in those soulless terms, and, usually, a desire for better. While this can lead to “man as an island” delusions, it can also force those who’re refusing, as well as those being refused, to search for better, defend, or clarify.
    I can’t help but think such severe criticism rests in fantasies of a lost age, where the enlightened will take the reigns. It’s never going to happen. All that is truly left is to opt out in order to search for better.