Society Against the Individual

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Society Against the Individual

Unread postby Zo3R3tZo » Fri Sep 11, 2009 6:19 am

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (by Robert Pirsig)

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (by R. Pirsig) is not a novel for the Hollywood story reader (or movie watcher). It does not have a fancy ending, and is not likely to be read to the end if misunderstood along the way (reading about the author's life may help to take advantage of Bob's first novel, as it is a psychological autobiography of the first part of his life). However, if one does dig deeper and take in the over-analytical bifocal mind the main character offers, there is much this story critics. Among other things: the way society destroys the individual...

The main character being schizophrenic is split in half. One side of him was liberated, but restrained by the limits of society; the other enslaved himself through fear, of the stereotypes of society, but found some kind of freedom in his mind- a location no one could ever really find him, despite how hard some looked or wanted to find him (Chris, his son, for example)...

I found this social critic rather interesting, because indeed society, governments, elites, religion, media,.... all this repetition around us, all these impressions of what truth is, and how people should appear to be, look, think.... the methods of oppression are numerous; so are their consequences.

At what cost and extend are we allowing society's different aspects to mold (at times even sacrifice) our individuality?
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Re: Society Against the Individual/ Zen and the Art of Motorcycl

Unread postby Azmodan Kijur » Fri Sep 11, 2009 12:49 pm

I have not read this book as yet, but one does not need the book to comment on the philosophy that it pushes. According to sources that I have read, he was expounding on the "Metaphysics of Quality" for the most part. Your question refers to a specific interpretation of the meaning behind the text which is itself interesting.

On topic, you are referring to the act of being in a society and the means through which this "destroys the individual". I have never found arguments that pursue this line of thought to be very convincing - I doubt that his is anymore than the other philosophers that call attention to it. My problem is with the definition of individuality that is advocated here.

What is individuality? What does that even mean? Most refer to it through a laundry list of philosophical components - that it is a philosophy that stresses independence and "self-reliance". This view considers that an individual is the sole agent of society and that one must pursue their own desires / goals free from the pressures of any outside influence. All sounds very nice - but it is, in operation, non-existent. To act and choose without outside interference - when in you life do you choose freely or even wish to? I am not talking about society, I am referring to everything that influences choice. From your best friend, lover, parent, spouse, child, to your physical attributes, personal power, capabilities, and the relative degree you desire individuality. Much of your ability to act as an individual is freely given away to the opinions of those you like, love, respect, admire, or read about in a book. If you really like a movie critic and he hates a popular movie, you will likely hate it as well, refusing to exercise your individuality at all in that matter. The same for your choice of clothing or you choice of occupation in many cases - you solicit the advice of other humans in making these decisions. This is not the oppression of the state - it is not even classifiable as oppression. You are actively relinquishing your capacity to decide.

One must also think of the consequences of trying to pursue an actively "individualistic" philosophy. Most take the notion to the extreme, implying any acceptance of the components or products of society is an oppression. This is due in part to an conflation of the idea of being an individual and being "free". Both are often interchanged philosophically - for one to be free, they must act like an individual and so forth. Interestingly, the components of being "free" have been determined by groups that pursue freedom and push those components onto others. Interesting that to be free and individual, one tends to conform to a prescription for that freedom. Back to acceptance - I have come across these "defenders of individualism" that speak deeply and thoughtfully of "removing the yoke of oppression" from their lives. They refer to society, the State, Government, Corporations, Laws, and Social Norms. They say it all with a straight face as they sip their triple espresso from Starbucks and text message a friend. Say it straight faced as they type away at a computer at home in suburbia. Cry out for freedom in their designer clothing and drive home in their Japanese car afterward.

What I am driving at is that most of this supposed pursuit of individuality is terribly egotistical and amazingly hypocritical. This idea that they are oppressed comes from people that have seen little hardship in their lives - many of the young that adopt the philosophy find it easy to rally behind as they sit at home with their Parents most if not all of the bills. They have this notion in their minds that the System as it stands is some kind of alien growth inside humanity, that it is useless to them and that because it was started before they were born, they shouldn't have to follow it as they never expressly agreed with it. And they do all this from middle middle to upper middle class positions. Flip it to an country in which the young work like dogs to get a slice of bread and the thought of having a society like ours is a dream. Even worse, the thought of trying to break any of the social bonds that they have in their society is tantamount to suicide. My argument is that it is very easy to get smug and demand all sorts of personal freedoms to pursue your individuality when you view the world through the rose colored glasses of Western Society.

Those that pursue the individual push the notion that we as humans were more free before now and that society and all the components I mentioned above have been removing these freedoms one by one. To an very specific extent, they are correct. Society places limits on the actions of humans - but these actions are rarely the freedom crushing nuggets of evil that they are made out to be. For the most part, they are falling into a logic fallacy - the appeal to antiquity. A fallacy wherein the old ways, the earlier times were "better" than the now. That ancient people lived in harmony with each other and nature, that there was no oppression and that we were totally free. Totally free, to die at age 25 of a common infection, to suffer deep bouts of hunger, to sleep in the cold, to worry about the local wildlife. Freedom to follow the chiefs orders or get kicked out of the group - which would kill them. This is the freedom that people are calling on, but they color it over. "You had total personal freedom" - to do what exactly? To die young and terrified?

"No, no!" the advocates say, "That is not what we mean. Society oppresses the individual now and we would be better off without its influences". Really? What are those influences? In that book, the man and his son takes a cross country trip on motorcycle for 13 days during which they expound on an individualistic philosophy.

Individualist philosophy.

While riding the technological fruits of our "oppressive" society. Repairing it with parts manufactured in our "oppressive" society. On roads maintained by our "oppressive" society. If one had gotten hurt, they would have taken him or her to the hospitals supported in numerous ways (training, facilities, capital, wages, technology, research) by our "oppressive" society. Across regions free of bandits, roving packs of barbarians or murders, secured by the might of our "oppressive" society.

Do you see my point? That is the problem with much of these "WE NEED FREEDOM" ideals - they are divorced from the simple realities around them. The simple physical reality of trying to live out your days on this planet among 6.5 billion other humans means that being in groups is practically unavoidable and that is a good thing. Sewer lines do not erupted out of the ground nor the goodness of someones heart. Roads do not lay themselves. Technology is not developed nor is research conducted by people that need to till the ground to eat. Tilling the ground to feed these humans is not possible with simply digging at the dirt.

This is the "cost" of society - an integrated system that provides you food but does not require you to grow it. Provides you with medical technology though you need not be capable of operating it yourself. It provides you the security of large numbers of humans and the anonymity of that same mass if you choose. It gives you mass communication and it provides you the opportunities to pursue intellectual goals rather than toiling endlessly for the basics.

"That is not freedom!" Sure it is. I am free to buy a car if I want one or not if I don't. I have that choice in this society and if I buy one, I have the assurance that someone else does not have the freedom to take it or destroy or it is limited. That's a bad thing?

"You believe society is perfect!" Not at all - like anything, it needs constant tweaking and close monitoring. Vigilance is the price of having the freedom that comes with a structured society. One must be willing to protest anything that would harm the operation of the System.

Does society mold individuality? Perhaps, though the automatic undercurrent here is that such molding is bad by default. When society threatens a pedophile with jail time and death behind bars at the hands of the other inmates, it is molding individuality. When society limits the speed on a road, it is molding your individuality. But these are not unreasonable limits. And when there are unreasonable limits, the limit should be impeached and until it is, it is ignored. Copyright law is a good example - many believe it is too generous to the holder and they respond with ignoring it entirely.

Remember, too, that society is the collection of humans operating together. When it molds us, it is us molding us. Society is not an alien growth among us, it is US, plain and simple. It needs us to maintain ourselves through the act of operating its systems. I am an auditor for the Government - I watch the books of government and poke at the programs to ensure that it is doing what it is supposed to with the money society provides it. I acquired this position not because I was oppressed into it. I do it because I want to aid the effective operation of the system and I want to partake of the many benefits that the System can produce for you if you help it alone. We are the System, we are society - if we are oppressed, it is we that are doing the oppressing.

"But, but, but.......politicians...." and where do they come from? Mars? Hell? No, they are humans in our society that we elect to management positions. They are us. They are the best we can do.
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Re: Society Against the Individual/ Zen and the Art of Motorcycl

Unread postby TheBlueFalconX » Sat Sep 12, 2009 8:51 am

My god Azmo. Excellent post. I enjoyed every single second of reading it.

I shall shake your hand now, but not before buying you a drink. :geek:

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Re: Society Against the Individual

Unread postby Zo3R3tZo » Sat Sep 12, 2009 5:13 pm

Azmo, azmo, azmo... I am honored at such a post. You make it difficult for me, or any of us, to reply to you adequately- a nice little challenge. Where to start?

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Azmo Kijur wrote:According to sources that I have read, he was expounding on the "Metaphysics of Quality"


The metaphysics of Quality is precisely what is discussed in Robert Pirsig's novel. I would be interested to know what sources you have read. It would be appreciated, if you could gather a few in a list at some point, and post them here- to back-up your arguments/opinions, to encourage the book club (to become a useful and more-easily accessible resource), and to help guide others who'd be interested to read into it, as I am.

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Azmo Kijur wrote:What is individuality? What does that even mean? [...]


Individuality is indeed a catch-22 concept in this world and time.

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Azmo Kijur wrote:This is the "cost" of society - an integrated system that provides you food but does not require you to grow it.


I hear the humorous tone of your comment. Society allows us more freedom in some regards, but that is not the "cost" of society, that is an advantage of society, as well as a disadvantage, depending on how they produced it in the first place (buy paying fairly those who are making our food? or by buying off their lands at ludicrous prices like Mcdonalds, and paying little to those who are making multi-billion dollar companies possible?). The "cost" of society is all of the disadvantageous sides put together, not simply the illusion of the actual "good" this society allows.

In regards to this- I would ask everyone to take a look at Zeitgeist Addendum, and into The Venus Project. I have not particularly made that much research about it, and I do not particulary agree with everything spoken of in this movie, and in regards to this technology based society that is being pushed- however, I do believe it may be a good addition to these arguments/ and to this topic, and highly recommend those intrigued by it to use these resources to expound their knowledge, and perspective.

References mentioned/recommended: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (by Robert Pirsig), Catch-22 (by Joseph Heller), The Zeitgeist Addendum (made in 2008- after the success of The Zeitgeist movie), The Venus Project...see links below- please note, that simply adding resources as a post works as well! It will give direction, guides, ideas to readers!

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The Zeitgeist Addendum:

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid ... 695921912#

OR




The Venus Project:

http://www.thevenusproject.com/

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Re: Society Against the Individual/ Zen and the Art of Motorcycl

Unread postby Azmodan Kijur » Sat Sep 12, 2009 8:34 pm

And further to your request, I would strongly advise anyone reading this NOT to look at anything to do with Zeitgeist or the Venus Project. Both are the product of the same people I was condemning in my post - the efforts of people living in middle to upper class positions complaining about how society is organized to create a "revolution" without the use of violence. It simply is not going to happen - for a variety of reasons.

First among them is the simple notion that to effect regime change on the scale that they seem to desire, one needs to exterminate the defenders of the current system. People such as myself and anyone that willing works as one of the cogs in this system. "No, you can wait for them to die off and get the kids!" That would be true IF they did not live inside this system. Easy to attend some stupid rallies if you are being supported by Mom and Dad, but when the chips fall and you have kids and one needs braces and the other needs books and so forth, such lofty notions die swiftly. The system that supports these things is wanted then and wanted badly.

The other major problem with Venus is the basic assumption - under a technology resource based economy, everyone could have everything. No one would be want for anything. Pure fantasy. We cannot all have a personal island in the south seas - there are not enough to go around. We all cannot have enormous mansions - there is not enough room on the planet. We all cannot have a personal jet liner - again, there is no room. It is crap; granted, food should be at access for all and so should medicine. But the maw of human want is bottomless. Our economy limits want with money - what limits it in this other economy? People are not about to simply stop wanting because we have a new economy. They will want a bigger house than the neighbour, a bigger car, better clothes, better everything. "Keeping up with the Jones'" it's called and there is a good reason there is a term for it.


Zo3R3tZo wrote:I hear the humorous tone of your comment. Society allows us more freedom in some regards, but that is not the "cost" of society, that is an advantage of society, as well as a disadvantage, depending on how they produced it in the first place (buy paying fairly those who are making our food? or by buying off their lands at ludicrous prices like Mcdonalds, and paying little to those who are making multi-billion dollar companies possible?). The "cost" of society is all of the disadvantageous sides put together, not simply the illusion of the actual "good" this society allows.


Actually, the humor was tongue in cheek for the most part. The good of this society is many things, but illusion is not one of them. People become so negative when they think about our problems and in the right circles, this can spiral into discontent. But one should not simply group different and possibly isolated problems or errors of the system into a single dark element and call that a cost. A single corrupt policeman is no reason to doubt all of policing - it is cause for us to monitor it like we should all operations in society. A company that acts like a slave driver should not be used to support what is little more than an anti-corporate rant. If a company goes to china and treats them like ass, then do something about it! Don't sit here and play the sad bystander forced to hate all business. Most business is not trying to rob and control you - most are trying to provide a product or service for you and turn a profit in the meantime.

As a side note, our food is grown by corporations on large plots of land with machines doing much of the actual work. Our society provides the farmers with ample capital to keep the most basic structure running - agriculture. In some countries, the produce is derived from labor that may not be treated well. Protest it - stop eating their food.
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Re: Society Against the Individual/ Zen and the Art of Motorcycl

Unread postby Zo3R3tZo » Sat Sep 12, 2009 11:55 pm

Somebody help me. Azmo bites!

My provocations are working; but I unfortunately doubt I am capable of winning such a verbal battle alone. I'm being run into the ground for trying to push the book club into some direction.... I am very aware there is much I do not know, or understand. I stand on no solid grounds for most of everything, simply because I have very little of the big picture.

Illuminate us Azmo, or may someone help me find and denounce flaws in your statements, for I have a very hard time believing in our systems. The same, at times, goes for human nature itself as well however...

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ps. I'm not die hard about Zeitgeist and The Venus Project. It is simply a reference, that should be watched/read about with caution- indeed it is rather extremist, but some truth lies within if taken in with decent distance, and perspective. Same goes for just about everything. But to not watch it AT ALL... I don't quite agree with the advice, despite how much in awe I am of your words.

pps. Thank-you for the references in regards to the Metaphysics of Quality....

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Re: Society Against the Individual/ Zen and the Art of Motorcycl

Unread postby Azmodan Kijur » Sun Sep 13, 2009 1:04 am

Be not afraid! I do not bite, I.........naw. :lol:

Seriously, I was not attempting to run the book club into the ground. I really want to see this idea get off the ground and moving and you are the perfect person to do that. Lack of interest is a real killer for these things and I figured that my stances could aid the provocation of others to join, on my side or against. My words are what I think of these matters - in that way, one might call me a person rooted in the physical side of reality. For my part, that is all that there is and I pursue that point in discussions. I want to encourage everyone to join in here and I am sure I provided ample material to lash out back at me. Just the nature of how I post.

My comment on the Metaphysics of Quality was a passing reference. It was not the focus of that book, but was the focus of his next one. I wished only to note that your angle to the book was separate from what another might draw from the same tomb. No harm was intended and as it was passing, I gave it zero heed in lieu of references. If you wish to read up on the philosophy, try the central site at http://www.moq.org/.

On Zeitgeist and the Venus Project.........my suggestion was meant more as humor. That was the reason why it was phrased similar to your own. But, that said, I do not recommend that anyone ignore it, but I do strongly suggest that they view it with a deeply skeptical mind, not an open accepting one. Both the Zeitgeist Part II and the Venus Project sites list nothing of the inherent disadvantages, problems, errors, faulty premises and misguided conclusions needed to prop up the philosophy. They give none of the negative - why should they, all the material on it is persuasive in nature rather than informative. Such material should always be viewed with a mind that one needs to dig for the other side of the issue, to look where they are hiding the other boot so you can get it to drop. They have a paradise written up from this philosophy and no road map to reach it - it all happens when "technology advances" and when that technology is "given over to the movement". Not going to happen. The core proponents of this system have been predicting its inception for 50 years. Not one country has signed on.

One might take my humor as a warning. The arguments read like those of a conspiracy theory and unless you strive to keep you neck above the water, they will pull you deep inside their delusions.

You do not believe in our systems. That is fine - healthy skepticism of the system is a good thing. It keeps you looking for the flaws. Flaws are not fixed until someone points them out and complains. To not accept them at all is puzzling though. Do you not partake of them all the time? From street cleaning and garbage pickup to public service construction and operation? You are always in the System and you are always drinking deeply of its wares, whether you are aware of it or not. Your food, your clothes, your house, your job, you access to medical services, your access to roads. These and much more are the wares of the system and you use them without thought or comment. It is only those portions that do not function well that you notice and it is those that you focus on, creating a straw man of this system to attack. "Look, the system allowed these people over here to die! The System is evil!" Tragic, but what of the millions it has given life? No praise for that, is there? The deaths are not something to reject the system for, it is something to correct within it. Killing the system as it is now would lead to a brief period of anarchy and then a new system would take up the reins. Doing the same things and making all new mistakes. It is for us to correct them.

Remember, I am not attacking you. I only want people to join in. My lack of sources is due mainly to my defense of my opinions. When in opinion, I use no one save my own logic to defend them. Perhaps I should change that, but I have always believed that if the logic is sound, the point is very defensible. :)
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