Singular and Plural;
Grammatical, Political and Metaphysical Number
American pluralism is where being American now means to have accreted into a monolith of truly massive proportions, or one where members of the public are most seriously devoted to praying before the icons of our mass media. The old Church liturgy was almost invariably the call of the rock; I had been reminded one night by a Hasidic student of mine that stoning is still part of Jewish law, but that they cannot stone anyone in America. Perhaps this is the progressiveness we should be most proud of; but here in America, we have always preferred ropes to rocks. Lynching has until very recently, historically, that is, the preferred pedagogy of punishment. There are many who link forms of capital punishment with instructing public morality, along with Seneca the Elder who held that this instructive benefit was the principal reason the Roman Empire should continue to use crucifixion.
Our diversity today is nothing other than the tracing of the veins in a monolith of marble, or creating new ways of genuflecting before the altars of entertainment. There was more individuality in the old universality, so long as the push was not universalism.
Isms are always mutations of our will and our ideas. Baroque Europe had attained a greater universalism coextensive with its ethnic and national diversities than anything we have today, as insipidly as we maintain cultural and linguistic awareness and respect either in this alleged moe sensitive America.
But today, our diversity has as much individuality as chicken does from a take out Chinese menu. Of course, you say that chicken is the essence, or the substance, from which the many flavors in sauces give diversity. But then this is the trouble with our sense of diversity. However, the Chinese take-out menu has come a long way from Chow Mein and Chop Suey, the latter which never really existed for anyone Chinese; but then, how much authenticity is there in our bourgeois American view of authenticity?
Individuality has been passé’ I can’t say for how long. Individualism has increased its ismistic referencing in our rhetorical strategies concerning the package of individuality over the product of individuality. It has become an abstraction on an abstraction.
How can I hope to understand what individuality can mean when true political and social individuality are so countermanded by one pluralism after another, contradicted by one determinism or another in assault against any or all notions of free-will, an assault backing up these aforementioned pluralisms.
And don’t bother to look to education anywhere in America for saving graces in the rituals of freedom.
We need numbers to advance our ethics and this is the scariest part of our society’s descent into a maelstrom of political mysticism, which is what we have in place of political rationalism. This displacement of our reason by our superstition, coupled with corrupted pedagogies, is why we have so many problems understanding the century that gave our nation its birth, the ideas and the ideologies and the intelligence that gave our politics form in thought. Today we don’t know anything except by divining it, and we wonder why the State is so savage in its assault on religion, and it is; there is no more ardent outcry for the death of John Barleycorn than from the mouth of a former drunk.
Religion in turn has been cleaved to by the most heinously reactionary of our politicians. Flip the coin of bourgeois secular civilization and you will come up with one side or the other of an anti-ecclesiastical minting. Would I prefer to live in a theocracy? No, I would not, but then neither would I like to live in an anti-theocratic state, which is ours. We have always paid lip service to religious freedom so long as we remain faithful to the dogmas of western, bourgeois capitalist Americanized democracy . . . but then, sometimes I’m not so sure it should be any other way, seeing as I am with Lincoln, that the United States remains the last best hope for humankind, which is why I am so anxious.
No government has ever had as much toleration for difference, in as much as no government in the history of the world has ever been the friend of its people; and that goes for the U.S. too. We succeed in being less the enemy of the people, but the people at their best, in their best, by their best, with their best, has always remained in opposition to the State of the State, by the State and for the Sate.
Who are any of us? This can only be answered in relation to a set of neo-stereotypes as new facts, those verified and disseminated, again, by our mass media of which Academia is becoming a part; the old universitatis of the middle ages has given way to the diversitatis of the bourgeois marketplace. Capitalist, though, only ever get together for the restraint of trade—they are enver in the market for a free market.
We used to think that the illiterate populations kneeling in the pews of the cathedrals of western Europe during the middle-ages were no better than automatons, and it was not that long ago that we were smug in our self-satisfaction as an advanced civilization, where we believed that ours was certainly the best of all possible worlds, especially when I was still in Public School in the sixties and the early seventies; this smug self-satisfaction has not waned, it has become more pervasive.
It is not only the dichotomy that exists between the divergent paths of public and private that we must show concern for in our socio-political consciousness, but how the mutually exclusive categories covered by the Latin Publius and Populus function in our political science. Too many of us see duality where mutual exclusion exists metaphysically; however, I know that just the mention of the term ‘metaphysical’ can turn many an educated contemporary away from the points I have made herein, or off completely, as if a switch had been thrown, or a doctor’s mallet swung.
The People, in order to remain untainted in their identity as the people, must always resist the lure of becoming the Public, but this is why all government jobs are good jobs; this is one of the ways every State seduces you, corrupts you from your individuality and your membership as one of the People. The best jobs in Cuba have always been in service of Castro’s despotism. In the Soviet Union, being a Communist made you more money; you, of course, had to serve the state, always against the people.
There are Russians I meet every day who cannot look me in the eye—and I mean are always diverting their gaze, either through guilt or shame, it has always appeared to me. Could you be a member of the Mafia or the Nazis party and not do things for your superiors? Could you be a member of either and remain clean. And don’t let too many Russians or Jews from the Soviet Union sell you the idea they had to be members of the communist party—there were plenty who made a choice, there were others who had no choice.
The State will always reward you for abdicating your personhood in favor of being one of the public.
Popularity versus publicity—publicity is merely the marketing of popularity without the organic essence of the latter. Remember, the popularity of an actor is always subsequently managed by publicity agents, as any politicians popularity is transformed into campaign publicity. No one sees the man Obama or McCain; they’ve been dead and buried in layers of the political for too long. Who will be a bearer of transformation, real political metamorphosis?
Every politician as President has the opportunity, but never much more than that—will is not something we manage except in forms patent in the Public good and the Public will, which as in the essence of State form and content, are always contrary to the best in the people. They are certainly contrary to anything good in a simple separate person.
Who then is this simple separate person?