Friday, December 03, 2010

Becoming Comfortable Living in the Open Society

The "genetic makeup [of humans] evolved over millions of years to work in small, closed, enduring, inward-looking, solidaric circles of 20-100 people. The unsubtle mind of band-man sees society as organizational, not a network of spontaneous relationships. It years for an encompassing coordination of sentment, not a cosmos of intersecting romances. It yearns for common knowledge, and is uncomfortable with disjointed knowledge. It years for social justice, and is not satisfied with merely procedural or commutative justice. It presupposes a configuration of collective ownership, not one of individual ownership. As the band passed to the tribe and the nation, the unsubtle mind was taught restraint, social hierarchy, and increasing complexity, and the closed society of the tribe and the nation eventually developed into the open society, and ideas of the subtle mind flowered in the 7th and 18th centuries and developed into what would be called liberalism" (Klein, Daniel B. "From Weight Watchers to State Watchers: Towards a Narrative of Liberalism" The Review of Austrian Economics (2010) 23:408)

Liberal here meaning "classical liberal," meaning someone who supports free markets. Please note that the "unsubtle mind" is definable as either Right-conservatism or Left-liberalism. The differences between those two world views are that the former sees itself as pre-capitalist, the latter as post-capitalist -- yet both in fact yearn for the same primitive state. Both want someone to rule, someone to take care of them, someone to tell them that everything is alright, just follow me and do as I say. The only difference between the two is that the former is exclusive, the latter inclusive (unless you disagree with them on ideology, of course, in which case they are as irrationally discriminatory as the Right is on race, religion, gender, etc.). But both yearn for a more primitive life.

They do so despite what should be overwhelming evidence that the open society provides greater wealth, well-bring, security, health, happiness, etc. than has any society to ever come into existence. They do so because they give into their primtive yearnings. Yet the soul of civilization itself is born from the repression of those yearnings.

What does it take to become comfortable with a spontaneous order not of our design, yet of our making? What does it take to become comfortable with the necessary depth and breadth of our ignorance, which we will never be able to overcome? What does it take to become comfortable with commutative justice, rule of law, and forgiveness? What does it take to become comfortable with private ownership, including that of one's self and one's mind, which were necessary for society to recognize for the very flowerings of culture and wealth?

I have already ventured an opinion on these questions here. If beauty is the answer, then we need a more beauty-based education. More, we need more beauty-based art. The anti-beauty movement that has dominated since the advent of Modernism, and especially in postmodernism, is part and parcel of the anti-market intellectuals' war against classical liberalism. We need an art and literature that helps make us comfortable living in the open society. We can evolve beyond our primtive drives -- and great art is what allows us to do just that.
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