Lack of social connection, and by extension lack of community, is one of the primary issues of this era. Resolving it means building meta-communities. When these communities are being constructed, we ought keep an eye towards restoring/restructuring the vitality of many of our institutions through the transcendent energy of intrinsic connection presumably buffeted by the meta-community.
My dude David Chapman is so on point about a sensible approach to life these days. He’s not perfect, but his is the closest I’ll get to a guiding philosophy. Often my intellect can barely wrap itself around his points because they are so on the edge of where our society is at right now, I forget them, fuck up from how I’d like to live, but then return, presumably (so I hope) a bit closer to integrating the lessons into my body and behavior.
I’m in one of those oasis emotional points where I’m grasping what he’s saying, the parts that particularly resonate, and how it resolves ‘confused stances’ I’ve been enacting in the interim since my last ‘oasis’.
The idea is that the great cultural shifts of the 60s resulted in two competing countercultures – conservative family values (evangelicalism as the archetypal but not exclusive spiritual movement related) and liberal social justice/change (new age as an archetypal but not exclusive spiritual movement related).
These typified the baby boom generation, and, due to that generation’s frustrating, continued arthritic grip on our politics, still defines our country. In 2018. Fuck. You realize how far from 1968 that year is right, and we’re still in its grip? Christ, dude.
But does a political affiliation (which swallows up ones religious identity, ones selfhood, one’s local community, even) provide identity? Well:
Countercultural identity didn’t work well, because a nation-scaled group is too large a group to provide functional community; and because each counterculture merely suppressed and denied its internal diversity.
Both countercultures recognized the value of local communities, which the systematic mode had eroded. Both invented new local community models: monist communes and dualist megachurches. Communes failed quickly; megachurches remain vigorous. The subcultural mode developed subsocieties as another new model for community, which unfortunately did not survive atomization. The atomized mode provides virtual but limited community through internet social networks. Overall, the problem of community is still mainly unsolved.
- Baby-boomers and the counter-cultures, Social Justice Liberal vs. Family Values Conservative, which has failed because its way too milquetoast and generic to really supply many identities; sub-cultural identity became more appealing for…
- GenXers and the subcultures, i.e. SLC Punk. However [spoiler alert] just as the punks in SLC punk eventually died, got straight, or burned out, subcultures couldn’t remain a dominant force due to the fact that those identities were tenuous, we in reality have a multitude of identities, which was made clear as the Internet, globalization, etc. took hold bringing forth the era of…
- Millenials and atomization, the fracturing of identities, the infinite ironies and lolz and hyper-niche creation of Harry Potter / Mad Men fan fiction mashups starring the Care Bears that comprise 1/4 of someone’s identity.
The atomized mode provides virtual but limited community through internet social networks. Overall, the problem of community is still mainly unsolved.
- A politics still dominated by the counter-cultural inclinations of 60+ year-olds, the liberal communal form of which is largely long dead and the conservative communal form of which is something like the Walking Dead, full of false consciousness and empty calories (i.e. the Megachurch).
- A shadowy whisper of the old subcultures that were so cool in the 80s and 90s (sorry GenXers, you’re always overlooked) which provides a kind of identity through comic book conventions and the like, but which can’t really help people navigate the world and is more of an escape.
- Atomized modes of online community that aren’t addressing people’s needs (of which Meetup is perhaps the best because it at least gets people together in person)
- Reconnect to meaningful work
- Reconnect to other people
- Reconnect to Meaningful Values
- Acknowledge and overcome Childhood Trauma
- Restoring Status and Respect
- Restoring Sympathetic Joy
- Restoring a Hopeful Future
If we could find a way to build bridging meta-communities that bring counter-cultural (first bullet points in the two 3-bullet point list-sets), subcultural (second bullet points…), and even atomized (third bullet points…) communities together, I think that’s how we can start to find these solutions and address the aforementioned ‘unsolved’ problem of community.
So what might the three forms of culture I’ve talked about so far contribute to a meta-community that brings people together from all 3? Thoughts:
- Chapman points out that “The countercultures developed personal and small-group practices for personal emotional fulfillment, self expression, and “finding yourself.” These seem to me on the right track, but had limited success, mainly due to universalism—the denial of diversity.” If we could embed those practices within a meta-community, perhaps we can get past the denial of diversity problem. If an Encounter Group can meet within a community that also includes Bible Studies and an artist’s roundtable, and that makes space for getting to know people as people outside those emotional practices, too, then perhaps certain individuals could find themselves enjoying the practices without getting their entire identity wrapped up in them and thus either abandoning said practice altogether or just sort of not feeling great about it.
- Chapman next points out that the subcultures (the GenX one) “made their greatest contribution [through] expressive communal practices for “DIY” exploration of psychologies, aesthetic culture, and social models.” In the same way as with countercultural personal and small group practices, these expressive communal practices could become the practices leaned on in ‘all hands’ type meetings of the aforementioned meta-community.
- Finally, I’d speculate that atomization could find a place here, though I’m not quite sure how, because if atomization is large enough in scale to meet in person, it’s by definition subcultural, and this seems to involve online forms of community. I suppose it gets down to the diversity, nebulosity, and non-judgmentalism of the meta-community allowing mostly millennial atomized types to find a comfort level of community that isn’t squeezing them into a mold that feels ‘off’. And, to specify, I think plenty of millennials fit into countercultures or subcultures, as those are still around, it’s just not a majority.
So let’s dream big. This meta-community succeeds. We start to remedy the maladies Lost Connections speaks of. We’re all feeling better. We did it! But that’s only the beginning.
At that point, we only have the foundation of connection and lots of good feelings and warmth from which to address the slow-rot of the institutions on which modern life relies upon. Back to Chapman on how the rot started with the countercultures:
Countercultures saw the misery of modern life as due partly to inadequate selves. Overall, though, the countercultures’ anti-rationality and subjectivism undermined effective systematic understandings, methods, and institutions.
Both countercultures tried to reorient society away from formal, systematic roles toward natural ones: family, unstructured friendships, and local communities. This was the obvious response to the painful gap between the private and public selves. However, it represents a partial reversion toward the choiceless mode, which isn’t capable of sustaining contemporary civilization. That could eventually become disastrous.
Oh and one final note – get yourself a high school style romantic tragedy. It does wonders for the creative juices. Maybe I’ll start doing this like monthly or something bros and gals and zirs, it’s great!
The below essentially resolved my exploration of Marcuse enough to where I doubt I’ll be motivated to read Eros and Civilization and have it lead me back into professordom or whatever. And it probably got lodged in my subconcious from an earlier reading of this very passage, even. Had I only remember these paragraphs already worked out the damn problem and resolved Marcuse with contemporary evidence. Goddamnit!
Herbert Marcuse was probably the most important New Left theorist. His Eros and Civilization rejects Freud’s pessimistic conclusion in Civilization and Its Discontents (which I discussed previously) that the self, particularly its sexual desires, must be subordinated to the social system. Modern political repression, Marcuse argued, is based on sexual repression. For the New Left, the sexual revolution was inseparable from the struggle against oppressive corporations and an oppressive state.
This program was partly successful. By the mid-1970s, when the monist counterculture petered out, a majority of Americans had adopted a much more liberal sexual morality than was publicly acceptable in the early ’60s.
The demand that all men marry and support a wife and children doomed many to an onerous and unwanted breadwinner role. The Beat movement—to hippies—was largely a revolt against work, which implied a revolt against marriage. Hippie men too wanted to sleep around, get high, and listen to music—not spend all their time in a mind-destroying job in order to pay for children they hadn’t asked for.
The loosening of social norms, particularly around sex, drugs, and family, which originated in the monist counterculture and which is propagated by the leftish upper middle class, has been catastrophic for the working class. Millions who might have led decent early-marriage strategy-2 lives have slipped instead into the underclass: destructive drug addiction, permanent unemployment, crime, child neglect and abuse
Old Christian communities: And, the Christian technologies of the self were designed to make the large-family strategy more emotionally bearable.
So Jordan Peterson can fuck off about artists necessarily needing to get married unless its one that works for said person and partner in a very uniquely thought out way (or else things seem to frequently go poorly, highly sensitive people (i.e. artists) have more difficulty having good relationships apparently), but I’ll accept that we’re outside the dominance hierarchy in our weird little shamanic world, which is another of Peterson’s ideas. We should watch out for romantic rebellion and instead focus on enjoyableness and usefulness.