Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Becoming critical, competent, conscious, & compassionate

"Such a Body We Must Create:" New Theses on Integral Micropolitics Daniel Gustav Anderson INTEGRAL REVIEW December 2008 Vol. 4, No. 2 Anderson: New Theses on Integral Micropolitics

Leo Strauss (1973), the intellectual forefather of American neoconservatism, accurately frames this problem from the perspective of the subject-at-large:

What is called freedom of thought in a large number of cases amounts to—and even for all practical purposes consists of—the ability to choose between two or more different views presented by a small minority of people who are public speakers or writers. (p. 23)

If anything like the Habermasian public sphere exists now, it is effectively rigged, much as the game of brand preference is for any kind of commodity. Whether one chooses cigarette X or cigarette Y, one chooses cancer rather than any kind of fulfillment; if democracy as it is known in any given Western state is the final-perfect form of government, then the scope of one’s choices is effectively foreclosed.

I propose instead that everyone attempt to take up the discipline of making new values, and that those who master this practice first must go further and make space for others to learn how. Transformational practice demands one take responsibility for what one can be responsible for. If a comprehensive transformation is to occur, one must be able to take real responsibility for two factors, the means of production and reproduction of established society, and subjectivity, political consciousness (Marcuse, 1969, p. 56).

Ortega y Gasset (1993) takes responsibility of this kind to be "the Herculean task of genuine aristocracies" (p. 21); by contrast I take this to be the task first of a critical vanguard working from the bottom up—working, precisely in Ortega y Gasset’s formulation of effortful servitude and discipline (p. 63), or in Gurdjieff’s famous summary of his own practice, conscious labors and intentional sufferings. This is real responsibility, or becoming-responsible.92

Becoming-responsible is a practice that includes both interventions and takes many forms. One can see from this discussion of transformation and intervention that a responsible vanguard or agent must have at minimum the following four characteristics:

  • Becoming-critical. One is able to read one’s moment clearly, without misunderstanding.
  • Becoming-competent. One is able to take self-directed action toward an intelligent (critical, conscious, compassionate) aim with increasing skill; one is willing to learn.
  • Becoming-conscious. One is able to intentionally disabuse oneself of mechanically-acquired habits and attitudes that lead to misunderstanding, incompetence, and incomplete or distorted compassion, and take action that is creative (novel) rather than merely recreative or repetitive.
  • Becoming-compassionate. One is able to select aims and actions not for the sake of one’s regime-investment or personal narrative but for the benefit of one’s community and, ultimately, all of animated nature diversely framed. This demands critical intelligence, life competence, and disciplined consciousness.

89 In theological language, one might say that the first intervention corresponds to the "turn" of one’s intentions to the divine in recognition of the divine that Buber (1958) describes.
90 According to Marcuse (1969), "radical change in consciousness is the beginning, the first step in changing social existence: emergence of the new Subject" (p. 53), suggesting that the emergence of this new subjectivity is the task of the second intervention. [...]

Ziporyn (2004) gives four characteristics of the actions of one practicing revolutionary desire, a charismatic: inexplicability, absolute confidence, sacrifice, and meaninglessness. 10:08 AM 9:33 PM 9:35 PM 8:30 AM 10:53 AM

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