Fireporkers are an Excellent Way of Winning Debates by Peter Kiernan

There is no freedom to decide whether one is involved in humanity or not, one simply is. That is to say that our being amongst one another is an indisputable feature of our existence, unavoidable in every way. We share the same bewilderment, the same problems, the same world of significances and not by co-incidence, or perhaps rather by a kind of necessary co - incidence of the same phenomena in the one space. We are at a basic level the same kind of phenomenon, the same kind of consciousness suddenly awake, anew amidst a world that does not explain itself nor relinquish readily its secrets - this fact alone, that though we are spatially disparate we are linked inescapably by virtue of all being one kind of life, this will draw us back to one another always. It is this necessary character of our 'being together'; that is that it is how things are, that it is as much a feature of the world as the wood beneath my fingers at this table, the opalescent pallor of the moon, or the hard tar laced with dirt of the estate roadways outside my window - I cannot deny it: This necessary character means that I confront it as a reality everyday, as much as I run into my own waking and being, and must in some way deal with it. To talk of society thus is talk of the way in which we deal with what is the case, that is our being amongst one another.

The 'togetherness of our existence'; this means that it is an aspect ofwho we are that we are in multitude. This is not the same however as stating that we are around each other, near each other, that there are objects, which perhaps seem people, littered about us. There is a closer, more fundamental link then proximity of location. We are not simply of the same species, we are quite literally the same kind of thing, the same phenomenon, the same flowering - conscious life. Our experience of the world, always unique, is what transforms us into individuals, that we accumulate by living. At the root of the issue however we are one. One phenomenon present in a multitude of cases. If I was to scribble down a simple equation, such as one plus one plus one is equal to three, the number one should have appeared three times while remaining still a single 'thing'. It is, regardless ofwhere it appears on chalk boards, calculators, table books, and licence plates, still the number one. We are, though spread out across the globe, though disparate in terms of location, still the one phenomenon. This links our destiny in a way which is impossible to deny. In the same way that when I indicate by a downward slash that 'here is the number one' and 'here is the number one also' I mean that here are two collections of the same properties, when I say that here is a human being, and here another also, I speak of something fundamental that is shared between them. An entire world of significance, the resultant product of the meeting between brute, total being and consciousness. We are connected to one another by far more than our material need for one another, we are connected in the same way that every iteration of the number one is - linked without need for actual contact, without rope or wire, I can roam to the very ends of the universe and place tremendous distances between myself and others, and still not be free of them. My link to them is not spatially present, so no outward adventuring will place strain upon it - that is I am a person, no distance or act can rid me of this. Everywhere I will remain an example of conscious life. Therefore drawn to others ineluctably, for only to them does my language make sense, do my feelings find resonance, only to them can I truly share this existence as a meaningful occurrence.

This I think is why we start with the community as given. A glaring fact. Our togetherness is a solid feature of our existence. Therefore there can be no talk of a voluntary union as one might find in the work of Locke. To believe Locke is to believe that one day, when finally it is possible for each to attain a personal autarky where all needs are met, that everyone will simply turn away from each other. Leave. This is to fail to grasp what society is. Our livelihood. Though it is I believe an accurate diagnosis of what has happened in our society, over recent centuries, guided by misconceptions as to the nature of the community. Some of what we need to live well is only realised, only rendered worthwhile within the communal context. Let me offer an example. Why does one write a poem, or compose a piece of music? It is not for others specifically, but it is only the promise that it will be heard, read - this must be present otherwise the poet, the composer, the artist will rot inwardly. It is all messages in bottles. All desire to express, but expression is fundamentally public - who knows who it will reach? The point is that it does reach someone, or that it at least carries with it the potential to reach someone, that a private, intimate experience with a most public potentiality is transformed in its expression into something said, and therefore something which is liberated. Something communicated and thus freed from being internal and closed off from discussion and the open air. In this way art is not directed towards others but is nothing without the promise of others. The man who is truly alone lives every day only because he hopes that he will be discovered as real, and not as an obstacle to a busy city-dweller, or background to one whose ear is being sucked in through a mobile phone. That is the promise of love. That we see each other. As human beings, as real people and not as part of some larger game that we play ourselves, to gain or advance, or get through.

Fragmentation, that is the splitting off into individuals which has marked the 'modern' experience -"One thinks of all the hands/That are raising dingy shades/In a thousand furnished rooms" - is not a natural occurrence, we are not free individuals who have formed a social union at will, this is attested by the violence which has accompanied our loss of a sense of community, its exchange for a sense of anonymity and meaninglessness. Rather fragmentation as a social phenomenon is a result of our sudden ability to fulfil all the basic necessities for living within certain societies whose underlying philosophical structure is that of Lockean liberalism - that is the belief that we work together only so far as it profits us. This is somewhat of a Socratic paradox because it will always profit us to exist as a community, but the literal reading should be 'we should gather together only so far as it directly profits us, and when there is nothing to be gained for us from the community, then there is no reason to be involved with the community'. Now of course Locke does not give this exact account, but his safeguards to the principle of private property are meek enough to place some of the burden on his political philosophy. In a society in which we no longer need each other in an ostensive, obvious way, where the government can, from an elevated stance, work to ensure the provision of all basic necessities, then the political philosophy which much of our society is raised upon dictates to us that we no longer have any reason to associate with one another as a community.

Once we have in this social model others become a source of privilege competition, and we rely upon the same government which procures our resources for us to protect us from the dangerous and elusive other who seeks to gain by taking from us. Now this is no endorsement on my part of any anti-state position, it is rather an explanation of how the fragmentation of a community occurs - instead of a community which has itself actualised in solid political structures, that is instead of beginning with the community, we begin with the individual. The government therefore stands above and between individuals, providing for them, protecting them, others therefore become sources of competition to you and what you want from society. There are very real consequences tothe ideals which we adopt as the basis of our political systems. Though the community is the natural model, or so I argue from this fact of our 'being together', when the political structure which is built up all around the natural, organic society separates and puts at odds its constituent members then the community begins to break down and fragment, which is traumatic for those who are a part of this dying community. Instead of living together we live against one another, tolerating a government out of practicality, and even fear of one another.

This is most prevalent in the USA, where there is little in the way of a shared culture, history and suffering to bind the people as a whole together. There people take from the community, participating in it only so that they can bring themselves to a position ofwealth in which they are no longer reliant on the community. Once this position is reached they can take from the community without any need to return. They are reliant on the community to produce the goods they consume, but know that the community always produces these goods because it is composed of those who produce out of the desire to eventually attain a similar state where they too no longer owe anything to anybody but themselves. This forms one cyclical structure whereby people agree to work providing services so as to reach a point where they can consume without having to provide any service - they work in the community so that they can escape it - however it is accepted that such a state is not open to everyone, else there would not be a sufficient supply of those providing the services - those who do continue to do so as they are in pursuit of the 'American dream'. This at least is my analysis of the situation. The society degenerates thus into a hot, moving mixture of climbers, who seek advancement and increased consumption accompanied by less responsibility, and of course those who are left behind at various stages along the way. Those at the top experience an almost total freedom to consume as they wish without any responsibility to any one else, those at the bottom experience slavery to work so that they can live.

Those in between exist in a kind of limbo, where the promise of real advancement is denied them but smaller victorious can still be attained which encourages them to continue to provide the services they do. That is the result of building a society on the principle of the individual and not on that of the community. That is the difference between the idea of the community as the basic social model, and that of the free individuals entering voluntary union as the accepted social model. There may still be flourshing communities in the USA, but the ultimate goal of that political structure, and this obviously impacts economic policy, is the gradual replacement of the community with individuals, separate from and independent of one another. My argument is that this is destructive to our happiness as so much ofwhat we are is invested into the community.

The notion that our 'being together' is a solid feature of who we are, based on arguments that go beyond statements of our material need of one another (quickly being rendered obsolete in the modern world) and appeal to an aspect of our existence which is fundamentally social, that is fundamentally in want of contact with others, this has interesting consequences for our conception of international law and government also. If it makes no sense to allow for this fragmentation and competition at the individual level then it also makes no sense to allow for this to occur on a national level. Nations too should not compete openly against one another in a struggle for power and resources unless they want to invite war and destruction. This is what poisons the EU, it is an institution that provides for the profitable interaction of individual European nations, not a community which asserts itself above each nation, there is no sense amongst Europeans of the pursuit of the general will, of what is good for the European community. Rather there is an institution which provides for dialogue and co-operation between free nations, and is therefore only an abstract space for their interaction, what is made of this space is left up to the leaders of the nations themselves - this is disastrous, we get a balance of national tensions as opposed to a united response to continent-wide concerns. A similar criticism could be levelled against the UN.

It could be easily asked, what would a society that recognises the idea of the community as its base look like? How would it actually differ from society now? This is a very good question, and will deprive me of any empty appeal to amphigory. Firstly there would be stronger public infrastructure, but this is not much different from the mode of social organisation seen throughout much of Europe - this is largely because the community in Europe persists against political structures because of a strong sense of shared culture and suffering, a shared history - more definite changes would include fundamental attitudes to work and life. No more labour for the sake of earning a wage so as to consume, instead work based about the value of one's contribution to the community, that is that one contributes. Our way of living will concentrate less on the idea of personal gain and survival, and more on the pursuit of oneself through actual living, something allowed for by the dispersal of the burden across the community. Education would have little to do with equipping individuals with the skills to advance in society and far more to do with complimenting this. International jostling will have to be done away with entirely - with stronger international structures in place where there is no longer direct competition for resources and power amongst the nations of the earth there will no longer be a need to concentrate power in the hands of presidents and prime ministers, cabinets and ministerial groupings. They will no longer serve any real purpose. I can imagine a political structure without a head of government, as the need for such disappears when there is no tension, no conflict internationally. This will result in a decentralisation of political structures with a clear division between local, national, and international forms of government.


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