Individual conscience, imagination and morality

Individual conscience is the foundation of a society.

Our society is technologically advanced, but morally narrow. The end result of technological thinking is to treat human individuals as means to ends, to cultivate a nihilistic, mechanised, systems-based way of thinking about ourselves and others. At best the arts, ideas of beauty, the concept of philosophical contemplation, all become simply curiosities, lifestyle choices and distractions for a leisured bourgeoisie.

This kind of thinking robs individuals of their potential, and leaves society resting on an unstable balance of power between fear and security.

Individual conscience is made up of the following:

1. Resilience
2. Imagination
3. Mutual recognition

Resilience

Resilience is the sense that one is capable of confronting difficult challenges, and meeting those challenges.

Psychologists call this the ‘internal locus of control’. The opposite of this is feeling completely beholden to exterior events, and at worst, feeling like a victim of circumstance. A resilient person, however, has experienced enough moments in their life where they have witnessed their own strengths and has enjoyed the feeling of seeing their willpower confirmed as a problem-solving force in the world.

We are not born with an internal locus of control, but personal development is about creating this sense of emotional power. Crucially, none of us has entire control over our circumstances, and none of us is a complete victim of circumstance. Healthy personality is a balance between recognising things out of our control, and recognising our personal strengths.

Undeveloped personalities lack the self-esteem to take on challenges because they have not had the validation of seeing their willpower in successful contest with the world. A child has to be brought along slow, completing small tasks, and expanding the scope of their confidence over time.

Often, people with low self-esteem will try to compensate for their feeling of powerlessness by taking on new, ambitious tasks. This often ends up in driving their personality back into victimhood, because they lack the internal locus of power that will sustain them.

If we are to cultivate individuality, each personality must be treated as unique, and development must be slow, careful and measured. Like athletes, skill and confidence are developed over time. The internal locus of control is a muscle, and it takes training.

If people don’t believe in their own power to affect change in themselves and their environment, they will never be fully functioning individuals. Replacing this agency with state agency is dangerous and is the opposite of human flourishing.

Imagination

Imagination is also a muscle. Rather than being a chance offshoot of evolutionary neurology, it is the vital advantage human beings have over other beings. The ability to penetrate the unknown, the dark realms of uncertainty and powerlessness, by constructing possibilities from experiences, is the very basis of creativity.

This is not a scientific theory, but it is an observable fact. If our survival depends on adaptability, then adaptability depends on our ability to confront many possibilities at once, and to do so in the realm of death and uncertainty.

We cannot rid ourselves of the anxiety of death. We can however, use our imaginations to explore the unseen, the best and the worst of what’s possible, and to anticipate a multitude of outcomes. The cultivation of creative abilities, then, is essential to the fully developed individual.

Through the worlds of myth, theatre and stories, we ritualise our relationship with the unknown, with the darker, more hidden aspects of ourselves as well as the darkness that exists in front of us.

The map may not be the territory, but the imagination kicks in when all we have is the map. The mark of a healthy and sophisticated imagination is the extent to which an individual conscience can review and correct their imaginative map of the unknown as they confront the nothingness of their future.

The artist’s role in society is to do just that for the culture, to push the boundaries of the possible, to confront the darkness of death and infuse it with creative excitement. Without the imagination, human potential collapses. And imagination can only be cultivated through the individual.

Attempts to control the imagination from the top-down, often require thwarting the individual in order to succeed. The historic crimes of institutional religion are perfect examples of this. Political ideologies are another. The result creates selfishness and narcissism, as the individual struggles to reassert its own experience and faculties onto society. Cultivating the imagination means cultivating the power of the individual. Cultivating the power of the individual, means cultivating responsibility.

Mutual recognition

The term comes from Hegel. Morality starts the moment we recognise the same conscience we know in ourselves, in other people. This is a leap of the imagination, and speaks to the importance of that faculty in social relationships.

The more subtle and sophisticated our own sense of self, the more likely we are to project that same sophistication onto others, and in doing so, the value of human life becomes a keystone of society.

To deny the depth of conscience in another, is to deny it within ourselves. The essential importance of mutual recognition is that it can only occur through the prise of individual conscience. You can’t rationally argue the equal depth and value of other individuals in an abstract way, you have to experience it through your own experience of yourself.

The less sophisticated your individuality, the less sophisticated your idea of other people will be. The fastest way to cultivate a true brotherhood of man, then, is to cultivate the individual.

Selfishness does not arise from individuality, but from the stunted growth of the individual. The subtlety of our self-awareness, our imagination, and our ideas of what we are capable of, turns our experience of ourselves from powerless objects into active forces of moral power.

In this way, we cannot but treat our fellow human beings as moral ends in themselves, rather than as means to ends.

 

There is no perfect state of individual conscience. This is not a utopian argument. Suffice to say that the moral fabric of a society depends on the empowerment each individual, through their conscience, and we cannot do that in a society which actively robs children of their developmental resilience, and which treats individuals as means to an end, rather than as ends in themselves.

Education is the key here, and it must be an education that gives young people, not just the experience of a locus of power within them, but the sense of possibility and sophisticated experience of self, that gives life the meaning and value enough for them to value themselves and others.

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The most powerful show of solidarity is dissent

If something is right, it is not right by virtue of consensus. The popularity of a view has nothing to do with the truth of that view. The prejudice of mistaking popularity with goodness, and uniformity with love, is very primal, perhaps having its origins in our tribal roots.

Equally important to tribal unity, however, is the creative power of individual intuition, the ability of the human conscience to break free from the common habits of the flock. In many ways this defines what it is to be human. It proves we are not governed by instinct alone, that we can fight against our biology, and it is that fighting, ironically, that makes us supreme in survival.

Women's March On London

Some might say that solidarity is the chief virtue of the Left, that by dissenting from the collective one risks betraying the cause. This is, among many competitors, the most persistent and dangerous myth of the Left.

Solidarity is the ability find common cause, to see that other people, under wholly different circumstances, have their own struggles for self-realisation. Despite the differences in circumstances, I can empathise with them, because a core sense of human empowerment unites us.

Solidarity is what makes me able to feel invested in the struggles of Kurdish female fighters and working class men in the USA. Solidarity is a leap of the imagination that moves past and through the barriers of time and space.

None of this says that I have a duty to fall into line, and march in unison with anyone that I feel this solidarity for. If anything, the very thing that drives my sympathy and common humanity is the recognition of individual will versus the forces of conformity. Solidarity is a product of individual conscience, not collective thinking.

In many cases, the greatest act of solidarity is dissent. The most important thing is preserving the human ability to act upon personal conscience. Without personal conscience all morality and love is a sham.

Human rights are not the final end of any progressive movement. They are just a convenient approximation of what we need to preserve in order to maintain human dignity.

Human dignity, ultimately, comes from this very ability to conceive truth independently and to act upon our conscience.

Democracy is not good in and of itself, it’s good to the extent that it empowers us to act on our conscience. Human rights are not ends in themselves, they are just as close as we can get to making an institution of liberty of conscience.

The charge of contrarian is a conformist tactic. Perhaps the most insidious one. Dismissing those who insist on arriving at truth on their own terms, as being infantile, and reducing defiant conscience to a kind of adolescent tantrum, is a totalitarian reaction.

People tend to confuse dissent with mass protest. They think that it is progressive to join the march, to “unite” in crowds, show strength in numbers. Sometimes these things are good. One of the more heartening aspects of the women’s march after Trump’s inauguration was the sheer diversity of the women involved. It was just too big to be about one agenda, despite the best efforts of the lunatic organisers and desperate celebrities.

However, too often mass protest gives license to mob tactics. Collective action too easily becomes collective thinking. The many objections to the current state of the progressive Left are not always grounded in a distaste for change. Some reactionaries are jumping on the flaws of the psycho fringe, but most objections come down to a fear of purely ideological thinking.

Solidarity, or even love, does not require total compliance. It has become all to common to dismiss people as ‘alt-right’ because they have reservations about certain tactics of protest, and the way a commitment to one cause requires an automatic commitment to a range of other causes.

Too many people are being driven to the centre or the Right by the tendency for automatic thinking on the Left.

It has become too easy to dismiss progressive values now, on the basis of the mob tactics and conformist mentality of a great many protesters.

What will save the Left is dissent. Though Thomas Paine and George Orwell were excommunicated in their own time for showing dissent in the ranks, their legacy was actually to prolong the life of socialism. Without them, it is difficult to imagine what the Left would have been like after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Embracing dissent means putting individual conscience before ‘the movement’. It means placing the individual before ‘the cause’. Why? Because dissent is a far better insurance against delusion and propaganda than consensus.

The voice of God: How Brexit restores British parliamentary values

“The liberty of man in society is to be under no other legislative power but that established by consent in the commonwealth, nor under the dominion of any will, or restraint of any law, but what the legislation shall enact, according the trust put in it. Freedom for man under government is not for everyone to do as he lists but to have a standing rule to live by, common to everyone of that society, and made by the legislative power erected in it; to have a liberty to follow his own will in things where the ruler prescribes not, and not to be subject to the inconstant, uncertain, unknown, arbitrary Will of another man.” John Locke

The voice of the people is the voice of God. As the Romans knew all too well, that voice is never measured or cognisant of worldly comforts and stability. The people, and the Gods, speak with tongues of dynamite, like the voices of trapped souls exploding from the underworld.

During the course of the debate over whether Britain should pull out of the EU or not, two central confusions seemed to exist. These had nothing to with economics, and everything to do with political philosophy.

John-Locke-660x350-1412917543
As John Locke said, the legislative performs with power entrusted in the ruler, by the people. If that executive power is misused, or fails to perform for the good of the people, then the tradition of British liberty asserts that the legislature is no longer legitimate; (c) Lodge Park and Sherborne Estate

The first was a confusion about internationalism and globalism. The two ideas seem to be synonymous in people’s minds, particularly those defending the EU.

The second, was a general misunderstanding of the meaning of sovereignty. To those in favour of the UK remaining in the EU, sovereignty was an archaic idea, a kind of party-pooping throwback concept that has no place in the peaceful, future-loving consensus of European state-building.

Internationalism and Globalism

Global capitalists tend to defend absolute unregulated free trade, and the free movement of labour, with the rhetoric of unity and open-mindedness. They claim their economic interests correspond to global solidarity.

Globalism, however, is an ideology, a principally economic one designed to keep wages down and maximise profits for big business. It seeks to erode the natural regulative effect that national borders and democratic sovereignty put up against rampant imperialistic capitalism. It’s a new form of imperial, privateering capitalism – expansionist, faceless and with no thought for the public order provided by communitarian, grass-roots culture.

Internationalism on the other hand, is the recognition that working class people across the globe share the same fight to ensure they are not exploited. It actually has nothing to do with government. It’s entirely grassroots. If anything, the working class small-c conservative vote in favour of Brexit was a resounding declaration of solidarity with the workers of Greece and Spain who have been equally abandoned by economic mismanagement and corporate favouritism on the part of the Eucocracy.

Internationalism recognises the borders and national identity. It recognises cultural diversity. The great achievement of internationalism is not the erosion of these markings of identity, but the acknowledgement that regardless of tribe, colour and creed, human beings seek the same goals of equality and happiness and community wherever and whoever they are in the world.

The globalist class of the EU and the corporatists they represent, have hijacked the nobility of this ideal. Like the corporate empire builders of America who hijacked the libertarian ideals of the US constitution to legitimise their unregulated takeover of the country’s economy, the European globalists hijacked the Churchillian “never again” values of a peaceful Europe to give credibility to an expansionist market-driven ideal of public life.

The people have rejected this. Just as they did in Greece. Just as they did in Scotland. However the media-types and dislocated Londonistas try to play these worker-mobilisations off against each other, the fact is that grass-roots rejection of the the globalist ideal is springing up on the right and left sides of communities across the world.

Brexit is the beginning of a wake-up call. Democracy has spoken. And as history shows us, once it opens its mouth, it rarely shuts it again without a fight.

Sovereignty

Sovereignty is intimately tied up with the concept of consent. All democracies are governments by consent. This is different from the arbitrary will of the crowd, or government by constant plebiscite. It exists as much in the institutions of law, due process and social management that perform the greatest good for the people, as it does in electoral votes.

As John Locke said, the legislature performs with power entrusted in the ruler, by the people. If that executive power is misused, or fails to perform for the good of the people, then the tradition of British liberty asserts that the legislature is no longer legitimate. The people have the right to build a new one.

The problem with the EU is that there was no semblance of a social contract. The mass centralisation of power, based on a trade deal between economic officials, was not in any way comparable to the establishment of a parliament like those of the great European nations. The EU has a judiciary, a parliament, and an executive and even a common security policy. It has all the trappings of a sovereign state, without one thing crucial factor: consent.

The European Commission constructs bills designed by officials, and then allows ministers of member states to review them. Parliament is a kind of second house, which reviews, amends, and suggests legislation.

The Commission does not govern by consent. It governs by consensus, a force which carries its own momentum, and which ignores the voice of the people, in favour of the juggernaut of ideology.

The free movement of people is a perfect example. The good of the people of a sovereign state was at best a secondary consideration to the good of big business, in the implementation of this policy. Economic growth put cultural and social pressures on communities, and by doing so eradicated their rights.

A government by consent prioritises rights – the basic needs of individuals and communities that are required for them to take command of their lives and propel themselves to their greatest potential.

The free movement of people pretends to do this for desperate workers in desperate parts of the world, but very often it serves only to prop up low-wage service industries, exploit poverty, and trap people in debt and servility.

If a government is governing by consent, it must prioritise due process, individual liberty under the law, public health, and community. It is the ideology of the day to think that you can’t have these basic rights unless you have a lucrative, explosive economy growing at the rate of a virus.

But this ideology contravenes the heritage of British liberty. The sovereign’s duty is to the welfare and happiness of the people first, and the economy later. The economy serves the community, not the other way round.

The EU, as opposed to any abstract notion of a united Europe, is fundamentally opposed to sovereignty. By “pooling sovereignty” you destroy it. Because consent becomes consensus, and at the very best you acknowledge that the will of the people takes second place next to the the momentum of consensus.

Within the EU, there is not even a pretence at a social contract. Legitimacy is assumed by the rulers, not entrusted to them by the people. In the interests of consensus, countries and their voters are expected to get in line, or be banished – as Britain will be from now on.

You cannot build a truly sovereign state out of the foundations of trade deals. This is the fundamental flaw in the European project.

Those who claim that centralisation and state-building are not the core aim of the European Union are living in a fantasy land.

If a political body has a judiciary, a parliament, a flag, a national anthem, a security policy, makes laws that can overrule local justice systems and has aspirations towards building an army – that is an outfit with pretensions towards statehood.

That the EU can claim to govern with consent is fatuous. The rights of the people have very little to do with trade tariffs and product regulations.

Consent is about entrusting the happiness, health and liberty of the people in the hands of a parliament that can be held to immediate account. The people vote against parliament if they disagree with proposed legislation. No such accountability exists between the European Commission and the people of Europe. You will be hard pushed to find the word liberty anywhere in the bureaucratic, executive documents of the European Union.

Without sovereignty, or the consent of the people, what is a state? It is not a state, in fact. It is an empire.

Closing thoughts

The general liberal conception of what the EU is, seems to to rely on mistaking European unification with a utopian vision of geopolitics.

Difference, bad. Sameness, good.

The tantrums and outrage still echoing through the halls of Westminster, and still plastered over every progressive’s social media profile, all converge on the belief that the eradication of national sovereignty and borders brings us closer to ending all wars, forever. This gives the bruised Remainers the aura of righteousness. Even in defeat, this ideology of world peace, is dangerously imperialistic.

In the parliamentary system as exhibited in the British heritage of civil rule, there is no claim to unity, world peace, or a brighter future. There is no supervenient ideology, however noble and progressive.

The virtues prized by the common people are embodied in the machinery of sovereignty. British people have themselves often wondered why there is no official constitution, like that of the USA, here in the UK. But there is a beauty the to the parliamentary system without it.

The core constitutional value is government by consent. The public good, and the public good only, is what legitimises power. The British have greater common sense than to try and stand for abstract visions like world peace, global stability and unity at all costs.

The hot mess of parliamentary contest and equality under the law are good enough for the simple common sense of the British people. This was proven by last week’s historic vote.