Most of you will already know about the WAP song. It's by an American singer, Cardi B, and could not be more sexually explicit. It's a strange thing to listen to, as there is no modesty left in it at all, no sexual restraint.
I've already written a post exploring the link between Cardi B's songs and the philosophy of female empowerment. The link is clearly a strong one, but I'd like to look at things from a different angle in this post, this time delving a little into human psychology.
The starting point is the recognition that we as humans often find ourselves subject to necessity, i.e. to being placed in a condition in which we do not make the rules by which we must live, in which we must follow a particular order of life and so on.
This feeling of being subject to necessity has most likely intensified since the beginning of the industrial and technological ordering of society. We live by industrial work routines under the supervision of a managerial class tasked with using techniques to constantly raise productivity; at the same time, there has been a decline in the place of the home as a private realm insulated against the market forces ruling over public life.
There is a psychological reflex, I think, when individuals feel overly subject to necessity, to find a way to assert some level of individual freedom. The most low grade way of doing this is via moral transgression. It is a way of breaking the rules governing our existence, to relieve the sense of being subject to necessity, but it is maladaptive as it is ultimately harmful to ourselves, to the common good of the society we belong to, and, as has often been observed, it makes us slaves to our own moral vices - and therefore less free than where we started from.
There is a political dimension as well to this struggle to assert freedom when we are placed within the realm of necessity. Even in the ancient world, there were those who saw a solution in rejecting civilisation and social convention, in favour of a more radically simple life within nature. This has been a recurring theme throughout Western history, from the Arcadian ideal, to the noble savage, to Wordsworthian romanticism, to the hippy communes and perhaps even to the anprim (anarcho-primitivism) yearnings held by some younger people today.
Radical leftists have responded in a different way, through a kind of Edenic politics. In the Biblical account of creation, Adam and Eve initially are less subject to necessity, being able to freely and innocently wander the Garden of Eden. It is only when they commit original sin that they must accept burdens such as that of ploughing the fields and childbirth.
Early leftists like Shelley hated Christianity with a passion for suggesting that we must, as fallen creatures, accept necessity. In his utopia, humans would return to an Edenic existence, wandering around poetically within nature, much like Adam and Eve before the fall. Shelley believed that the only reason this wasn't a reality was the existence of social exploitation. If you abolished power structures, you would return to Eden.
Marx's utopia is similar. To give credit to Marx, he did believe that there would still be a need for productive labour. But in his ideal community, there would just be individuals wandering around choosing to do whatever work they wanted to, when they wanted to. It is Eden with a bit of fishing and carpentry and the like thrown in. Again, Marx thought you got to Eden by abolishing social distinctions and therefore structures of exploitation.
The echoes of this live on in the leftism of today. There are feminists who believe that men are not subject to necessity the way that women are, i.e. that men get to do whatever they like, thereby preventing women from doing the same. Their solution is to abolish patriarchy. Whiteness theory runs along similar lines.
It would be better if we accepted that in this life there will always be a realm of necessity that confronts the individual. There is no political or lifestyle solution to abolishing it. We can deal with it instead from two different angles.
First, there do need to be limitations put on the demands made on individuals in the workplace. If people spend all their time and energy meeting the demands of paid work, then their development is inevitably stunted. We need time to devote to family life, to physical health, to church and religion, to polis life, to the intellectual and creative life, to connecting with nature and so on.
If this is achieved, then work itself can potentially be seen in a more positive light, as an aspect of necessity that contributes to individual life rather than detracting from it.
Why do we allow paid work to become so excessive? One reason is that we have diminished, for ideological reasons, the other aspects to human existence. Our worldview is so materialistic that we see the earning of money and status within the paid workforce as the highest good in life. Therefore, despite our grumblings about overwork, when it comes to the crunch we accept what is demanded of us.
The first step, in other words, is to take more seriously the other aims and dimensions of life. And this requires us to have a different view of man and his purposes than what we have today.
The other way of dealing with necessity is to integrate it with our own will, so that the two are aligned rather than set apart. When this happens, necessity impinges less on our freedom. If anything, we achieve a higher sense of freedom when we successfully cultivate our will to move and to act within the realm of necessity.
If you recall, I started all of this with Cardi B and her WAP song. Let's say that necessity gives to women the task of preserving their dignity, modesty, beauty and purity. Cardi B has two basic options in response to this. She could see it as something "external" and therefore imposed on her as part of the realm of necessity, so that freedom is to be found in the act of rebelling against it. Or she could see it as a given of life (and so as part of the realm of necessity) that expresses a good of womanhood that she would rightly be ordered to. Her will, in other words, would seek to align itself with this good, and it is in the successful ordering of her will toward these goods that freedom is achieved and necessity is no longer so burdensome (because it is no longer felt as "necessity" but as a free act of our own will expressive of our personhood).
For men, this should be even easier to comprehend, as it is part of our masculine nature to seek to order and to build. We have to "make" something of ourselves; it is not enough for us to preserve what is gifted to us. So this self-disciplined ordering of ourselves as a microcosm of the ordering to be found within the larger reality of the macrocosm should come more easily to us.
One last point. The liberal mantra that a person can do anything or be anything they want does not help with the process of reconciling freedom and necessity. It solves the issue artificially, by pretending that the realm of necessity does not exist, that there is only an absolute freedom. Pretending only defers dealing with the issue, it does not overcome it in real life. Arguably, it makes people angrier when they do ultimately find themselves subject to necessity, and more likely to blame the malevolent intentions of others.
A note to Melbourne readers. If you are sympathetic to the ideas of this website, please visit the site of the Melbourne Traditionalists. It's important that traditionalists don't remain isolated from each other; our group provides a great opportunity for traditionalists to meet up and connect. Details at the website.
If people spend all their time and energy meeting the demands of paid work, then their development is inevitably stunted.ReplyDelete
I agree. It's harmful for people to define their self-worth and their identity by paid employment. It would be better to see paid employment as a necessary evil, but not as the thing that gives our lives meaning.
I think that's been one of the great failures of the political Right. To a dangerous degree they have embraced an extreme materialism in which the only things that matter are work and money.
That kind of extreme materialism is one of the things that the counter-culture of the late 50s and the 60s was reacting against. The counter-culture was wrong about a great many things but they were right in being suspicious of extreme materialism.