Society

The Faith Question

                                           Sergei Kirillov’s A monk at prayer

I remember arguing with a teacher upon the topic of defense of religion and how one should not be so much against it. It is actually like blaming your parents for everything wrong within your life. But then I also remember being looked down upon as an atheist (which I am not) at home and how I felt alienated from all those people who foolishly sat in front of stone idols, mumbling this and that.

Never was I, a fan of categories but nonetheless, as a project of self-awareness, I am really curious about the set of ideology that I will finally bank upon in the face of calamity. A survey claims, if you cannot challenge God with certain quantity of blasphemous words, you are certainly not an atheist. I say, why does deviation from traditional religious path has to be so violent? Not in my world anyway.

Russian paper for one thing has helped me solved this problem of identity that has started to pinch me lately.

Yesterday I finished Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. Those who are familiar with the text will know that this is a story about a man (Raskolnikov) and his conception of the idea of murder which, based on sound logical arguments, excuses him from the guilt or responsibility of committing a murder of an old pawn-breaker woman. The argument of this gentleman, apart from his impoverished condition, is that, certain people are above law for they are going to be future law-makers and are hence, allowed to break penal codes as they like, be it in fact a murder. Therefore, the act is done and the blood is let. An innocent is also killed as an accident although not contemplated at all and almost forgotten by the murderer.

Crime is indeed a constructed category by people in the power. But this is not the only message that the novel is trying to impart. In fact, the question is: how is one able to live with crimes and if not, why not?

The answer is as simple as is the difference between theories and practical. Now, you know killing is okay logically (say you firmly believe in Darwinism), yet you can’t live with it at all. One thing this tells us about ourselves is that the mind is not a coherent entity at all. One part wants you to read this essay and the other part wants you to—I don’t know—play video games all day?

So again, you can’t murder someone and live with it. 

 

Blame your parents.

 

I am not even joking. If you are familiar with my old articles or if you are simply familiar with Freud’s ego, superego, and Id, you’ll get my point. When you were busy enjoying your childhood, your parents and other considerable elders, packed their boxes and came to live inside your head. When you grew up, you thought you can move away from them, so you left for a big city (sorry to make it sound so theatrical but it sure is fun to write) so that you can forget all about them and their nasty prejudices. But when self-reflexivity attacks, first to speak inside your head, is your parents. In a war between you and them, it is very seldom that they lose. You say murder is alright but they’ll only cry for Jesus Christ. But you can no longer separate yourself from them and thus your history fails your logic. 

 

And this is why being an atheist is the hardest job in the world. It is a constant inner torment of defying people and betraying people all around you (unless you grew up in a happy circle of atheist people which is rather rare, at least in my country). Then to paraphrase something from Dostoyevsky’s book, you can’t even wait for them to get smarter because religion is anything but intelligent or for the lack of better words, scientific. 

 

But is that all? What if we were to end religion at once and for all. Dostoyevsky very skilfully imagines this very world without any faith and without any  gods to worship & model after. This is done through Raskolnikov’s (the murderer guy) ‘nightmare’ (and man Dostoyevsky is some Stephen King when it comes to writing nightmares). The dream goes as:

Earth is invaded by very intelligent micro-organisms (By the way, this reminds me so much of Stephanie Meyer’s The Host, at least at first glance. Inspiration much?). These micro-organisms then go onto possess all the human beings on the planet and as this ‘infection’ flares up, everyone go on to become intelligent and insane at the same time. Also, every human being develops a personal sense of good and evil which is in disagreement with the sense of good and evil of the other. In other terms, the very gene of ideology ends and anarchy is followed through. (Read up Althusser, this book has so much of lit-theory analysis written all over it). Now that’s not very nice. 

 

Actually, the whole book is a very simple lesson in ethics (my favorite sentence to say in almost all blog posts). The question as I read it is: what if crime was not illegal as logically it should be not. The answer then is: society will not be able to exist. Because then everyone can kill everyone. Therefore, in order to preserve itself, society creates certain rules. These rules are fundamentally attached to ‘religion’, ‘conscience’ and ‘fear’ and her hence embedded in your superego. You cannot escape them even if you’ve got the brains. These concepts also preserve us from existential crisis and are helpful in maintaining the harmony of inner self. But it is also true that this is a very temporary harmony and that there is no logical way that you can prove that the reality of after-death or even entities like God exists (never absolutely). This also implies a factual reality that they do not after all exist.

 

Then comes the difficult choice. Can we live with this factual reality? For one thing, believing in this factual reality comes with a consequence of anarchy. I read this quote somewhere, ‘if there is no god, nothing any one does really matters’. I know…I know… good post-structuralism figured it out before me, but I’m just gonna say that I did prove that the machinery of religion is important or at least a structure which is similar to religion and requires blind devotion of the people. 

Leo Tolstoy had similar opinions. Simple faith, however stupid it is, can help both personal and public peace. Walking blindly is sometimes easier. But how long will this last?

 

I dreamt a strange dream during my afternoon slumber (I take my dreams very seriously). A man placed two cut-outs of landscape in front of each other so they looked like a single landscape dowsed in sunset (I think this is inspired by a certain music video of Rihanna and Calvin Harris that I happened to chance upon). An ominous voice preaching a deceased relative of mine in a comical Indian manner loomed inside my head. But the voice said what I myself had predicted, ‘the marriage is no longer the same tied-up knot’. Before judging me for an orthodox, please do go on to read my hypothesis i.e. marriage is the smallest unit of the society. It is disintegrating. This larger message here is that the society itself is disintegrating (and not as a result of the marriage chaos which is but, only a symbol of the whole). So I do wonder where exactly we are heading towards.

My answer is: Nothing is absolute in a time period. There always ought to be odds to cancel out the conception of absolute reality. You will always disagree with your parents.

 

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The fear of emancipation

We are born in a bundle. Tied to piles of ideas the moment we understand what is self. That is, we do not even know if beyond the parent’s parenting or friend’s influences, an original self without a taint of influence, exist or not.

Of course, the name of Dorian Grey would pop into certain heads. For me it is the dilemma of the very existence that has become a phenomenon in the times and in the literature of Modernism. The lone self is a very deranged concept to study, whether it is the divided streams of consciousness or The Scream of Edvard Munch. For poetically and yet in philosophical ideologies that ring true–the self is not what it was yesterday. Holding onto it alone is like trying to catch hold of water. In isolation, the self realizes this and yearns for the society from where its  history begun. Now, what are the common advises for the patients of depression as recommended by psychologists?

Go back to your friends and family. Reach out to them.

A very sound advice, I must say. But why does the self cannot survive alone? Now, because of the so many existing cases of exceptions where people do in fact live alone–let me rephrase my question–Why is it harder to live alone than with the society?

Let me present you with an example.

As a part of a psychology experiment conducted on a scientific level by an educational channel, the individuals were locked inside an empty room with a simple clock. They had no smartphones, people or any other source of instrument.The experiment worked on a reward based system. That means, the amount of money which the volunteer was going to receive was equivalent to the number of hours they were ready to spend (without sleeping). All the volunteers were invited to stay for the whole day. But the best a volunteer could do was 5 hours.

I saw this experiment on my cable and for the rest of my life, I became intrigued with it. Alan Watts, addresses the same problem. Why are we not able to stay alone with ourselves?

The answer might be related to the tendency of self reflection. When a child is born and is in his toddler years, he is unaware of this torturing phenomenon of self reflection. Speaking in Freudian examples, he may snatch away the ice cream if he wants to and would not think twice about what it had led to. In other words, his parents are in charge of his superego while he gets time to utilize his Id. However, a mature adult do not have parents to look after their superegos, ironically born in a psychological system, where Id was in charge first. By this hypothesis, we all indeed are the horrible animals which Joseph Conrad imagines us to be in The Heart of Darkness. I like to put forward then, we are hardwired to rely upon society no matter how corrupt and hypocritical it can be in imparting its fundamental ideologies.

The society is everything which the individual self is not. While the self is impermanent and always changeable, a society is formed with a constitution whose core  values are not amendable in nature, not because ‘that’s how it is supposed to be-good for all’ but for the sake of human sanity which must hold onto fundamentals for the sake of existence. For example, if you refuse to believe that murder is wrong (anarchically speaking), your immediate relationship with other human beings will also change. But let us also suppose that it is not one but all the human beings who start to believe that murder is no crime, what would happen is, the Id will be activated and superego will fade away. Such a society cannot exist. Because such a society (to use the word, in absence of a better term) is like an individual in isolation, whose morals change by the date. It also helps us conclude that each society (cannibal or savage) must live with its principles for its existence, as discussed in several ethics lessons.

Now the question remains, we are more isolated than we were in past decades? How are we still surviving?

The definition of society is equivalent to a database, now. In an evolution of lifestyles, with the era of virtual medias, we have maintained a safe distance with the society whose judgement is hardly dictatorial. (I am not talking about the majority of population of the world. For many still don’t have internet or phones). This society is not a very congregated society as much as the non-social media users would like to think. In turn, it has in itself, a vast network of small societies divided through the choice and preferable genres of multiple individuals across the world. Not only does it expand the diversity of society but is also invested in granting participation to those who were traditionally marginalized and taboos.

This is revolutionary in a sense that it generates an immense scope in human discourse. The language is played with and weird art is produced. The society whose center is the platform itself provides utmost care to the individuals and naturally rebels against real time unjust authority whose ‘genre’ is perhaps shared by multiple societies of the platform.

However, this does not mean that real life is evaporating. We still have important decisions to make in our lives without the childhood shelters of parents. The individual who is hardwired for self-reflections through the superego, targets society instead of himself. He recognizes the patterns obstructing him to do a certain thing, not realizing that emancipation is never 50%. In independence, it is like learning to walk again. This is when virtual media comes in. It is an easy medium to generate society on a small scale without having to do a French Revolution of your own.

We always find a way to survive. Though the imprints of fight for survival, the fear, remains.