The divergence between the free and their supposed guardians

To vie with a rival or opponent often requires that one come more and more to resemble them. This is a truth of which I was reminded reading this profile of Stewart Brand, the founder of the The Whole Earth Catalogue, a sort of clearinghouse for ’60’s bohemian consumer culture. The reason is that, while of course a large distance separates communism from comunalism, ’60’s bohemians are not generally known for their antagonism to Soviet-style communism. Their political aversions were generally directed at the American government, and sometimes even wrapped around to identification with its foes, including the communist countries. But the article reveals that Brand was early inspired by a visceral fear of living in a individuality-crushing Stalinist state, and his embrace of the counter-culture indeed probably represents a more philosophically true rejection of that form of society than many of its more overt opponents in the ranks of business, government and the military. He seems to have felt, in fact, that not a great deal separated bureaucratic life in America from that in the Soviet Union, although presumably with the crucial distinction that in the U.S. one could opt out of that existence. Of course, without the legions of officials in the government, military and business American society could not very well have resisted Soviet hegemony, much less outlasted it. But those who might be inclined to view people like Brand as worthless to the well-being of society, if not actually subversive in some way, would do well to remember that one cannot wait until all of one’s enemies disappear before embracing one’s ideals. The philosophial ideal of a free society is supposed to be that it allows people to pursue their own inclinations and define themselves according to their own standards whether or not their actions contribute to the competition with its neighbors. For a similar reason I don’t have much sympathy for those who complain that Western society today is decadent in the sense of luxuriously self-indulgent. Isn’t that one of the main reasons why people work so hard to accumulate money in the first place, so that they or their families and offspring will have the chance to enjoy leisured, comfortable existences? That doesn’t mean that the resultant state may not contribute to the erosion of that wealth and power, because after all decadence can mean decline as well as luxurious indulgence, but that’s hardly an argument for shunning it entirely. No point in earning it if you never enjoy it.

2 Responses to “The divergence between the free and their supposed guardians”

  1. helen Says:

    Hi , it seems that you are talking about the Communism , I think I have words to say . First, I want to say , nowadays in china , we seldom mention communism this word , since 1970s , our government has attached much more attention on reforming and open to the outside world .And communism was the key word between 1950 and 1960 , which is connected with communal pot , iron rice bowl and little red book . I remembered that we were preparing the history test for the entrance of the college, our teacher asked us to avoid a lot about the communism, he said: As we all known, the disorganization of the Soviet is a huge strike on communism, and whether we can achieve the goal of communism or not, let us talk about it later .But remember, it does not mean we have given up it. Since then, I thought a lot between the communism or socialism and capitalism. At that time, we were also studying philosophy, from the view of it; I know we can not judge anything in an extreme way. And that means you can not get a right answer from anyone, since the things is objective, you must consider both the good coins and the bad coins. So I gave up thinking, but I was also thinking that why man has mind. If man has no mind, they will not think , and there is no right and wrong , so there is no controversy and contradiction .If that way , the society will not develop, but developed society needs minds of man , that will also cause a lot of questions which people can never figure out …….. Let us back to the point. In the current, there are two systems in the world: socialism and capitalism, I think you can never say which is good, which is bad. For me, I think, there are just backgrounds. Either socialism or capitalism, the most important thing I should do is to play myself very well. The world is like a large stage, and life is like a drama, everyone has his own role, no matter who is the director, my duty is to play my role successfully. And though there are leading roles and supporting roles, they are not good roles and bad roles. It seems that I am off the point again ,sorry ^

  2. Curt Says:

    In reality, I wasn’t talking so much about communism per se so much as about the difference between fighting for one’s ideals and exemplifying them. However, I think you’re right about communism in China from what I have seen in my short stay here. That ambiguity about whether society is socialist or capitalist now is ever-present but people don’t seem to talk about it much. And I’m not claiming that either capitalism or socialism is absolutely better, but remember that the necessity of creating wealth and power, not an abstract philosophical preference, dictated the embrace of Western-style reforms here, so I don’t think it would be possible to just arbitrarily turn the clock back to the way things were 40 years ago and maintain the same status in the world. Just look at North Korea, which has nothing while China is getting almost everything. That is the same logic, by the way, that is forcing, in a much more moderate form but probably no less reluctantly, free-market reforms according to “le modèle anglo-saxon” on Europe as well.  However, even if you accept the validity of the social “background” completely, you can’t help affecting it more than an actor in a play, because the future is not known, so you constantly finds yourself inflicting unintended consequences on the world.  That is why you have to have some ideas about the world you want to live and cannot trust yourself entirely to the direction of others.

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