28 January 2020

The essential struggle

A motto I've used from time to time on this blog is:  "Leaders come and go.  Political parties come and go.  Nations come and go.  The essential struggle continues."  Here is a brief overview of what I mean by "the essential struggle".

1)  The struggle for knowledge against belief.  That is, for an understanding of reality based on evidence and observation, as opposed to errors and misconceptions based on religion, superstition, spirituality, faith, tradition, wishful thinking, etc.

2)  The struggle for individual self-determination against external control (it used to be possible to just say "freedom", but various groups have now promoted such weird re-definitions of that word that I need to say "individual self-determination" to be clear).  This is the principle of non serviam, of disobedience -- the assertion of the individual's will and right to make decisions about his or her own life, against restrictions, commands, or interference from outside the individual.  It rejects any "higher purpose" imposed on the individual's life by any "god", government, or society, in favor of the individual's own choices about that purpose.  It rejects all restrictions on thought, artistic creativity, or expression of opinion.

3)  The struggle for individuality against conformity.  For the strengthening and emphasis of the individual's distinct personality and ego; against all schemes that brainwash the individual into conformity to an ideal or to the typical; against all philosophies and ideologies which advocate suppression of the ego; against the mentality of the eastern religions which long for "nirvana" or merging of the individual consciousness into some universal psychic blob; against any claim that there is just one correct or ideal way for a person to live and be.

4)  The struggle for compassion against cruelty.  Both happiness and achievement flourish most when people's default approach to one another is helpfulness and cooperation.  The more pleasure and the less pain the world contains, the better it is for everyone.  This opposes the view of suffering as somehow ennobling or conducive to virtue, the impulse to shun and exclude those who are different, the mentality whose first reaction to human need is judgment rather than sympathy.

5)  The struggle for the supremacy of the human will over the mindless universe.  Most other animals exist at the mercy of their environment; humans can work to control their environment and reshape it for their own benefit.  This has included the development of agriculture; the deployment of countermeasures against the epidemic diseases that once killed us in great numbers; the use of dams, solar power plants, etc. to collect and transform energy for our own purposes, and so on.  In the future it will embrace the Technological Singularity, the eradication of aging and involuntary death, and the spread of human life beyond our solar system.  The enemy here has been concepts such as "hubris", belief systems which view humans as just another part of nature which should remain subject to the same mindless forces that shape the lives of other animals, the "there are things man was not meant to do/know" mentality, the eastern philosophies which view desire as something to be brainwashed into oblivion rather than achieved, and above all the resistance of religion to the progress of science and technology.

Both sides of this struggle have been represented in most times and places.  The above points should clarify how I define good and evil, allies and enemies.  Taking the long view, we have made great progress over the millennia -- but there is still much to do.  The essential struggle continues.


Blogger Infidel753 said...

Note: Obviously I'm trying to avoid getting down in the weeds of transient economic or political ideologies in favor of broader principles, but these principles do have certain implications. For example, per point 2, concentration of too much authority in the hands of a government or too much wealth in the hands of a few individuals represents a "power-over" threat to the self-determination of other people, whose efforts to overthrow or drastically reduce such concentrations of power are thus a necessary defense of their own freedom.

28 January, 2020 03:16  
Blogger Sixpence Notthewiser said...

Oh, the struggle is real and ongoing.
It may be self-defeating on my part, but if we put it in terms of good and evil, every day I see evil is more prevalent. I don't know what that says about me, but I see humanity as rolling mindlessly down the path of self-destruction with a smile.
Am I being a stupid Negative Nancy? I surely hope not. But seriously, humanity needs to get a grip.


28 January, 2020 04:38  
Blogger Mary said...

Good post.
The essential struggle will always be with us as long as humanity lasts. In the past it has ebbed and flowed, but has always been on a upward projectory. But now, with the threat of climate change (if it is severe) and nuclear war (if it is widespread enough), it could put an end to this struggle for all time.

28 January, 2020 06:00  
Blogger RO said...

Powerful thoughts and words of wisdom. I'm all in for kindness and compassion and acceptance. Hugs, RO

28 January, 2020 07:03  
Blogger Debra She Who Seeks said...

Good summary!

28 January, 2020 10:25  
Blogger Mike said...

(1) The only thing that disproves science is better science.

28 January, 2020 10:57  
Blogger jenny_o said...

Applauding here.

29 January, 2020 11:30  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Sixpence: Don't mistake transient wiggles on the graph for major trends just because they are happening at the present moment. Looking at the last 1,000 or even 100 years, we're clearly making huge and steady progress in all five of the areas I mentioned. Trump? He'll be lucky to rate "a footnote to chapter 60 of our history".

Mary: Thanks. Really, the risk of nuclear war has been decreasing since the 1960s even while the numbers of nuclear weapons are reduced to a fraction of what they once were. Climate change is a serious danger, but nothing like as great a threat to civilization as epidemics and barbarian conquests once were (we do know exactly how to stop it, whereas our ancestors were mostly helpless against those earlier threats). The shift to non-fossil-fuel energy is well underway regardless of Trump -- remember that the United States is not the whole world.

RO: Thanks, I appreciate it.

Debra: Thanks!

Mike: And even that doesn't disprove science itself -- science is a method for finding out things. It just disproves a previous incorrect conclusion, which is an integral part of how science works.

Jenny_o: Thanks!

30 January, 2020 03:27  
Anonymous Professor Taboo said...

I like this very much Infidel. Your five principles/struggles hit on several of my own personal principles/struggles in American society today, at least in my "adult" lifetime, my time-period, and from my passion for extensive, fully contextual (equitable?) history about Where we came from, how, and why? And Where should we hope to be, how, and why? :)

#1 is of particular intrigue for me. You might be interested in reading or perhaps scanning-over my 4-part series on Agnotology called Games of Unknowledging. Here's the link:


I'd be interested in your thoughts/feedback when you have the time Sir.

30 April, 2020 16:19  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Thanks for the link -- see my e-mail.

02 May, 2020 01:54  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent but I would edit it to read the struggle for community against toxic individualism. Community can accpet and even nurture individualism up until the point that individuals place their well being, and beleif systems, above the well being of the community.
Cite Orwell's Homage to Catalonia, the Paris Commune and swiss watchmakers who embraced syndicalism anarchy.

05 January, 2021 14:32  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Depends. Freedom doesn't legitimately extend to actions which cause immediate, concrete harm to other individuals, such as refusing to wear masks during a pandemic for which they're known to reduce the transmission risk. On the other hand, when it's not an issue of harm but just well-being, of course I put my own ahead of that of the "community". I'm me, not them.

I'm generally suspicious of invocations of "community" or "society" as opposed to specific individuals who might be harmed by something. Those terms are just too dangerously expansive in the restrictions on individual freedom they can be used to justify.

05 January, 2021 15:44  

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