Babies Can't Walk
Part 1 – I as Authority
Like all articles this will get progressively more abstract and… foggy.
This most definitely isn’t a self-help piece… Clarity – so many people seem to possess clarity. They’re so sure… They KNOW, and their understanding is unshakable. They know the climate needs to be changed now, despite the jobs and economies that will suffer… but for the last fifty years they knew the scientists pulling their hair out in frustration at the lack of interest in this approaching global catastrophe were all a bunch of whack-jobs. Equally, all those leaders of industry and politicians… seeing this bigger political and economic problem… knew all those scientists were whack-jobs, too.
Don’t worry… this isn’t yet another piece about global warming, economics, politics, or any of the myriad of topics people are so very… sure about. This is an article about… many things, for writing about one thing seems so very – inhuman. If I had to give this piece a name (apart from the mildly cryptic title above), I would have to say it’s related to… frustration… and freedom.
I wrote an article a long time ago about the queen of frustration: Cassandra, when I was younger and less advanced in my journey into growing confusion. The myth of futility, of impotence, of… frustration. She and I differ a little – she knew who was going to die, and her words went for naught, she knew her powerlessness and yet… she didn’t stop trying. Me, I just observe… perhaps Cassandra was written by a younger soul…?
I was asked yesterday about a simple topic – something about a company usually charging a huge amount of money for a certain service, and someone, with the kind of ingenuity we see in all walks of life, these days, copying their data and selling it of at a vastly reduced cost to anyone with an internet connection. I won’t go into too many details, but we all know the kind of thing… the music you can download from free sites, the movies, the books you don’t have to pay for, or the sites that charge you less. When I was a boy you could find ‘bootlegged’ video cassettes at the market for about a fifth of their shop prices, and when I moved to China, I bought Xbox games for a pound…
People see two sides to this argument: On the one side there are the companies employing many people, incurring overheads and paying bills, logistics of shipping and distribution, being cheated of their profits by these… entrepreneurs. On the other side people argue these products cost far too much… let’s face it, more than ten pounds to go to the cinema, fifteen pounds for a blue-ray, etc… (if we actually thought most of that money was being fairly distributed some of us might baulk less at paying the bills, but we know – or suspect – the vast majority of that money goes into the pockets of a very few people).
Brief aside: Wealth is now almost criminalised… If you watch television the rich are almost always decadent and immoral/amoral. They indulge their boredom in crime and perversion. I’m fairly sure they don’t all do that, and as many of the ‘poor’ would do exactly the same if they had the means, but the criminalisation of wealth in popular mediums is a fairly good sign (and should be a powerful warning, though that’s a Cassandra moment), to an oncoming crisis.
Returning to the propriety topic above… The two, black and white, sides of the same coin seem fairly clear. On the one side people making profits for their efforts, and on the other people feeling justified in cheating the system in what they see as innocuous ways, because they feel those profits to be unjustly large…
If we were to more evenly distribute the wealth (we’ll come to communism in a moment), would the system still work? We live in a tiered environment of competition with wealth as the score. I live next to Bob, Bob, just bought a new car… this car has a little logo on the front that in this society says ‘he’s cool’. The logo on my car is a bit cool, but his is cooler… I want to be cooler. People will sniff at that… they will say, as they dress in products decorated with labels and as they pay for goods with a better ‘reputation’, these signs are meaningless. However, tomorrow I redouble my efforts at work, or I look for a new job, or… I cheat a customer. If my work is in the field of research and development, perhaps I invent a device to make our lives easier, if I look for a new job, perhaps I make space for a younger person to take my job and improve their life a little (maybe they’ll buy my semi-cool car when I buy one like Bob’s), and if I own the company, perhaps I shall make a thousand people’s lives a little harder for charging more than I should for a certain product.
The alternative – the absolute alternative (obviously failing and any attempt for countries to claim they still hold to its philosophy seems a sign of significant denial) – communism… we pay everyone the same, we teach everyone they are working for the general benefit of society, we encourage the selfless acts and intentions. Even if we manage to indoctrinate an entire society from infancy they are still looking out at other societies where ‘I’ holds supremacy over ‘us’…
Perhaps when organic mechanisms were smaller, when we could see our individual impact on society for our selfless actions, we might have been able to hold to the idea ‘I’ have had a particular and unique effect on this social organism, but today, when societies number in the hundreds of millions… generating pride in individuality through the sacrifice of individuality is, at best a delusion and at worst, a bad joke.
Very brief aside: In China… the final flailing death moan of communism… there are hairdressers EVERYWHERE, ranging from a pound to hundreds. Why? If the subjugation of the ‘I’ is truly a national sentiment why would they make such constant efforts to have a unique hairstyle in their almost uniformly black locks…?
The rather obvious irony is even in a society where this philosophy managed to succeed the individual still holds supremacy – and it should be no other way. We think ‘I’, first, and ‘we’ second, and the further removed the ‘we’ – partner, children, family, extended family and friends, village, town, county, country, continent, race… the harder it is to equate with the ‘I’.
The truth, at least of the moment, seems to be capitalism dragged itself to supremacy through the nature of the ‘I’, and socialism struggles along on the liberal hopes of the weak and poor, are knee-jerk reactions for perceived failures of individual ‘I’s. It’s interesting there don’t seem to be any democratic communist nations… they apparently need authoritarian states, and the nature of authority will always be the creation of rebellion, for, as we move further from the ages of belief in external authorities, as we become more based in the authority of the ‘I’, we need to know why someone feels they have the authority to tell us what to do (and control against the established authority demands greater and greater monitoring and punishment)…
Part 2 – I as Frustration
Where do we put our frustration…? You might hear spiritual speakers or psychologists telling you it’s unhealthy to ‘keep things bottled up’, shit, you might even hear liberal parents teaching it to their children in the hopes they will tell them their secrets (not really considering they may beat the crap out of Jonny tomorrow on the playground…) – opening up, talking about our emotions… are these really therapeutic or just a manipulative methods enabling people to nose around in our lives…?
How many times a day (or as a continuous entity), do you encounter frustration? There are the [seemingly] innocuous moments when the wires have tangled themselves over night, when our keys aren’t in their place and we’re late, when people don’t understand the urgency of our important existence, rather spending time on the worthless, or less important, tasks their less significant ‘I’ drive them to waste their time on…
There are the more important events… someone won’t acknowledge our superior argument, the pre-eminence of our actions, our greater right to a thing or an action…
There are the world-shattering moments when for some reason this world simply doesn’t, for whatever misguided conspiracies and excuses, pave the way for the success of our endeavours, our hopes, our desires…
How does the world not simply recognise my ‘I’ is more important (at times is it even possible for us to recognise the ‘I’ in others… are they not just automaton going about preprogramed actions, almost all seemingly at intentional odds to our own wants and needs…)?
Aside: People and their desires and intentions – however closely related to their ‘I’, may actually be good for the greater whole… A politician, furthering the drive of his or her ‘I’, may be working towards the greater good (whatever that might be on a Tuesday), and while their gratification will be intimately entwined with that intent, the whole might be served… but then the short-sighted ‘I’ in the corner shop hates him on political principle, the feminist ‘I’ might have perceived a slight, the opposition ‘I’ wants to corrupt his or her popularity, etc… all those competing ‘I’s with all their agendas, all convincing themselves their ‘I’ is for the greater good.
We’re all born equally ‘I’… some in societies that subvert the ‘I’ to another philosophy, some in societies where the ‘I’ is encouraged, but tempered by aspects of the ‘we’… or is there even such a thing… to the ‘I’ is the ‘we’ not really the ‘they’…? Are those encouraging us to find outlets for ‘I’ frustrations simply giving us permission for rage and hate… for the application of pain in whatever way the ‘I’ can dominate? ‘I’ couldn’t turn left, so I lash out at the weaker soul travelling in that direction because… ‘I’ can/must…
I was talking to someone yesterday about idioms and self-help sayings… they had watched something or read something with the famous ‘live like it’s your last day, love like you never have before (they didn’t mention the ‘dance like no one is watching’)’. The conversation turned to Protagoras and sophistry – ‘I can make the best appear worst and the worst appear best’ (did you know if you type that into Google the first hits are – movie quotes, a storm in England, Covid news, a series of stupid architectural efforts created globally, etc… - the Internet, the greatest repository of knowledge and information… so overwhelmed with drivel you can no longer get to what you really want…).
I argued if I were to live like today was my last day, I’d spend all my money on a back of smack and a room full of strippers… I’d be terrified to love like the first time as I’d be a sexually desperate, jealous and an inconsiderate lover… perhaps we should live for tomorrow… setting goals we can manage and achieve to enhance our self-confidence, experience and ability, steadily improving our lot in life… I should love with all the experience of successful moments of romance and understanding, all the failures in communication and partnership, securely in mind, stepping carefully to avoid past mistakes and fashion a relationship built on experience and understanding. They were quickly swayed to my argument – so I changed it… the winds of fate are so fickle… tomorrow any opportunity to delve into the precious experiences of life may have evaporated leaving us with nothing but regret. If I think there’ll be no tomorrow this rather ordinary meal may taste all the sweeter, I might notice those strangely shaped clouds inspiring my imagination, whereas normally I’d be hurrying on my way to tomorrow and pass them unnoticed. I should enter into a relationship leaving all the ‘baggage’ from before left uncared for at the station before I hop onto this new train of romantic experience – experiencing this person as new, rather than overlaying all the other dissimilar ‘I’s on their innocent self.
They became a little confused – to ease their frustration I gave them another alternative – something the sophists well understood (do you think these things were so natural for the Greeks because they lived them… the sophists were wandering teachers and orators, making a living and a life from their linguistic skills – linguistic students today read about it and then go home and watch the telly…): Words are meaningless… If ‘live like it’s your last day’, means something to you it’s because it means something TO YOU… if ‘set goals; baby steps’, means something to you… well… This tells you something about you, not about the words – act accordingly.
In the mouth, or at the fingers, or a great orator or writer those words can inspire… but they will only inspire those predisposed to those words (or predisposed to any words). They act as support and encouragement, but people are so very desperate for answers, so unaware of their authenticity, their pre-eminent ‘I’, they sacrifice all of the ‘I’ in an external meaning and attribute it to some other speaker, some other ‘I’.
An outlet for their… frustration…
Part 3 – I as Perception
The many I’s of perception are a complicated maze… This morning I looked into the mirror after I dragged myself out for an early morning run along the sea… during my run an I smiled at me while she was walking her dog – a ray of social light on a grey and drizzly day, I watched a lot of dogs frolicking on the beach and some old people braving the bitter sea for their traditional winter dips… Yesterday I looked into the mirror after drinking a bottle of something hard and cruel, something I subject myself to when I’m unhappy, as a form of… these days… punishment… tomorrow…? Each day I see a different ‘I’: one bitter and despairing, another positive and glowing with goodwill, tomorrow…?
Today, I met with my boss… he’s a dominant man, angry at things I don’t comprehend as I’m not his ‘I’, on any day, and I found myself slightly servile, even though I know his I is so very limited in relation to my I, but then he has the money, he pays the wages, and he’s irrefutably confident he’s my master, so however much I want to break his nose I don’t, I just listen, agree when I feel a grunt appropriate, and get on with my work… Yesterday, I met with the same boss… for inexplicable reasons he was in a good mood, complimentary and friendly… the ‘I’ in me found myself warming to the authority figure… and it disgusted me. Tomorrow…?
Today, I was caught in the middle of tearing ‘I’s… A good friend, a girlfriend, and a dog… The good friend and my his ‘I’ would share saucy jokes, engage in manly competition, and check out pretty bums, my girlfriend and my her ‘I’ would be tender, I would entertain with self-deprecating humour, and show myself to be a sensitive soul, and the my ‘I’ I give my dog is almost utterly free, with unadulterated affection, the occasional humour and a kick here and there, usually closely followed by the extreme pleasure of watching him devour a dripping hot roasted pig’s leg. The confusion resulting of being spun in so many circles, the discomfort of so many tears on different ‘I’s… split into three, torn in various directions, unable to drag my selves back into a whole… The pain was unimaginable!
‘It’s not what I do, it’s what they think I did…’
The evidence is clear… the memory unassailable… the facts all fit nicely into a particular perception expected by intractable ‘I’s… and you’re fucked… especially if your ‘I’ is one that considers… evidence is circumstantial, memory selective and flawed, and there are always possibilities the ‘I’ is in error. The solution… to maintain the ‘I’ at the expense of those so very sure… but is that the ‘I’ of today, yesterday or tomorrow?
The blue of the sky delights,
Or is it grey; I doubt my sight?
The rain is warm on my skin,
But my clothes are too thin.
So… being drenched,
Just causes the mind to wrench,
Between this I and that,
The wind in my hair thrills,
Defying my stylish skills,
Like silken fingers each stroke,
My fashionable outlook just broke.
So… inspired mess,
Just causes my mind to guess,
Between comfort and cool,
My muscles drive through the pain,
But my fingers are restrained,
From gaming at the expense,
Of health and sexy defence.
So… health or fun,
Excited gaming or painful run,
Between ‘I’ or ‘I’,
You can’t escape from yourself for there’s always another you just waiting around the very next corner. You can’t maintain the you, you love, because another you is being supercharged by events and others, and that you is unstoppable… until it’s stopped.
Part 4 – I as Environment
This ‘I’ sits in a little room, hunched over a little computer, typing away at the mysteries of the mind. This ‘I’ has been alone for a very long time – always separated from humanity, but infrequently almost utterly detached from the ‘they’ – so it’s no great surprise this ‘I’ writes about ‘I’.
In another life this ‘I’ was a dynamic boss, flying from one place to another, taking good care of staff and customers, kind and sharing, but firm and decisive – that ‘I’ wrote about powerful beings capering about the universe in cosmic adventures… Are we sensing a pattern?
This ‘I’ lives on a very restricted budget… visits charity shops and admires the old styles no longer available. That other ‘I’ had a [relatively] unlimited budget and felt very uncomfortable even accompanying friends into charity shops due to a conception of social status… In another life a very different ‘I’ taught groups of young eager minds the complexities of morality and interaction between selves and society, or the rights of the ‘I’ and the demands of the collective ‘I’ and the pull and push encountered in that diametric being. That ‘I’ would have looked at the other two ‘I’s and asked them why they bothered with such trivial things as an individual ‘I’ when the collective ‘I’ needs educating on how to be individual ‘I’s… and the paradox might have even gone unnoticed.
An ‘I’ went running today and saw a nation on New Year’s Day ignoring a pandemic and congregating en masse on a beach. They chatted, children ran and laughed or wailed, they dove and waded in a freezing winter sea, they walked dogs paying them more or less loving attention (the dogs or the ‘I’s…) – the virus still pervades the world, numbers of infected are up again, but like good British people they have become bored with all this sickness nonsense… The ‘I’s have had enough and social separation is no longer a paranoid/careful necessity – soldier on and through.
The ‘I’s have it…
How much of ‘I’ is these walls, this food, this character created to interact with other ‘I’s depending on the persona created to manage to keep this ‘I’ getting up in the morning and going for a run…?
A very famous ‘I’ once spoke about changing one’s environment can allow a new ‘I’ to emerge. Given this knowledge, certain opportunities and desire, that new ‘I’ could be created. Another great ‘I’ once said the ‘I’ is a canvas to be painted upon as we see fit, as long as that ‘I’ possessed the willpower to hold the brush. Another ‘I’ spoke of a collective unconscious containing one-way streets and cul-de-sacs, preventing travel to certain places, prevented even a clear idea of what existed in those places.
Aside: clearing something up… the collective unconscious is not a shared psychic link between people, it isn’t some manifestation of humanity. You mustn’t, as I once did, fall into the shallow understanding as some communal essence. It is far more ephemeral: It is a series of historical events, of social eruption, of superstition, and of surrender (to mention a few of an infinite list), and these have created… tendencies. The collective unconscious exists in different circles… there’s the familial one, the one in a local area, the one in a nation, the one in this book club, in that group of environmental protestors… you get the idea. Not only historical perspectives, but anthropological development, and biological factors play their roles, and it shifts and changes with every social event as it creates externally shaping pressure on the bubble of this collective mind. Like all things it is in a state of flux and motion, and understanding it is a feeling and a deep breath rather than a text book explaining left from right…
So, where does that leave ‘I’…? Well, right here, of course… and later… when you have gone somewhere else and you have other things and know other people…? Well, right here, of course.
Conclusion… I as I
I could have written a great deal more, perhaps I shall return and add and expand, but for the moment my intentions are complete… ‘I’ is an infinitely complex entity. Self-help books and motivation speakers cannot address the ‘I’, but they can speak to need residing within ‘I’. Psychologists can delve into certain individual ‘I’s, possibly to help and heal, but there is really nothing wrong with ‘I’, and cannot be anything wrong with ‘I’, because there is no ideal ‘I’ to live up to. All ‘I’s, by their rather obvious identity, are perfect ‘I’s, and their misery and joy are equally perfect.
Understanding this in no way alleviates misery, or tempers joy (or perhaps you are the kind of ‘I’ affected by such writings and it might), it simply is ‘I’… there is no right and wrong to it, ‘I’ is… beyond good and evil, and ultimately… human, all too human.
I apologise sincerely if this gave you answers, clarity and understanding – it really wasn’t this ‘I’s intention!