Alienation is, simply put, a spiritual detachment from the world. You can define spirit psychologically, or religiously, in the end, it describes the same thing under differing historical conventions.
When we are experiencing life, society, history and events, when we are experiencing the development and formulation of society, community and institutions through the detachment of observation, in which we are barred from meaningfully affecting the course of events in some way or other, then we are alienated.
When democracy is a parliament in which estranged celebrities sign documents and tell speeches on our behalf, when economics is a market in which estranged aristocrats make deals and lobby policy on our behalf, when technology is a media spectacle in which investors distribute term sheets and capital on our behalf, we are alienated.
When our labour becomes an endless cycle of rest, work and recreation, in which our role in the world is reduced to the pathetic condition of servitude, in which we are robbed of our importance, and reduced to a set of limbs that perform operations which are too complex for the machines that will inevitably replace us, we are alienated.
We live in the world, we build the world, we experience the world, and yet we are detached from it, because we lack any sense of determination in such a world.
This is when idealism festers in our minds like a hopeful delusion; Like the feverish mirages of a man lost in the desert.
Since your ideas, thoughts and considerations have no consequence, then you may as well think inconsequentially. You can make up endless rationales and philosophical conspiracies in which your pathologies, your fears, your prejudices and your assumptions are all correct, since this way, your thoughts will at the very least afford the utility of comfort.
Idealism becomes a kind of amnesia which permits the neoliberal surgeon to slowly harvest your vital organs over the course of decades, as you carefully fall apart in the wake of consumerism, work, psychological burdens and societal neglect. Idealism becomes the process which initiates this euthanasia.
My favorite kind of idealism is probably pessimistic idealism. In which a person, in some contrarian disaster, believes that by embracing cynical misanthropy rather than cynical philanthropy, they’ve somehow beaten the system. To me this shows just how we live in an extraordinary captivity under liberalism. How, by alienating yourself through hopelessness rather than hopefulness, you have somehow become less alienated.
What makes it amusing to me is because of how I visualise it. I see it as a rebellious individual who confronts their tyrants, and the tyrants make these flowery and stupid excuses about freedom and prosperity and markets and individual liberties and personal responsibility, and the rebel responds:
“That’s all bullshit, you’ve failed to indoctrinate me! I am much smarter than you, which is why I am going to come up with a better and more convincing doctrine, and then I am going to indoctrinate myself.”
If you drink the poison of vulgar inertia, then you are an idiot and a conformist. But, if you drink the poison of intellectual inertia, then you are an insightful visionary born ahead of your time.
When Trump talks about how everyone to the east of France is a barbarian and a rapist, people call him a fascist.
But when Chomsky, through the employment of colourful euphemism, describes the same peoples as barbarians and rapists, he is lauded as a genius.
In fact, there is a very interesting supply and demand between progressive and reactionary racism. Because the progressive racists are more than eager to back Hilary’s state department, and the military industry, and the technological contractors etc, they are more than happy to create refugees through corporate wars and oil dictatorships which the reactionary racists then are able to further exploit once they flee to safer countries.
It reminds me of a baseball game, the pitcher and the batter are not actually rivals; They depend on one another in order to play baseball. The rivalry is entirely illusory, as the higher purpose is the sport itself.
This is kind of how idealism works in liberal culture, it is the illusion of divided lines, the illusion of influence. In truth, the progressive and the reactionary is the same, they are both playing baseball.
And the real democracy in this metaphor would not be to choose whether you support the green team or the yellow team, but rather, real democracy would be to ask “Why do we play baseball?” the real democracy would be the capacity to play tennis, or football, or American rugby, or rugby, or cricket, or Texas Hold ’Em or whatever else. This kind of radical democracy is what idealism sets out to destroy.
By being idealistic, by being an extreme radical, you are the perfect subject for a liberal status quo. Because all your goals are impossible. When you want to live in the perfect world, and you want to be pure and uncompromising in your wish for it, then you want the impossible, which leaves you with only one course of action: To sit on your ass and do nothing.
The flowery and high mindedness of libertarian socialism is the perfect controlled opposition to capitalism. Because capitalists, upon witnessing the assembly of a socialist effort, are more than happy to produce the horrors of the Viet Nam war. They will drop napalm, and agent orange, and conduct massacres and mass rapes and burn children over campfires, they couldn’t care less.
So obviously a bunch of helpless and pathologically meekened intellectuals who consider themselves to be too good for violence, or compromise, or difficult choices, are the perfect people to lead the proletariat. Their incompetence and complete lack of understanding will be the death of any popular movement. Idealism permits liberals to pick out only the most pathetic of enemies.
Libertarianism is possibly one of the most stupid and contradictory words in the English language, because it is premised on the same permissiveness that it then proceeds to deny. Liberties are not natural things, they are produced by the relationship one has to the state, a state which they want to remove, and yet somehow maintain a relationship to.
If libertarianism simply meant “doing what you want”, then Mussolini and Genghis Khan would be two of history’s greatest libertarians.
In truth it is simply authority seen through an idealistic lens, in which it has been so carefully obfuscated by propaganda, as to completely detach its subjects from its meaning.
Rather, idealism in this instance is merely the expression of cowardice. There is nothing more obscene to me than people who see it as some kind of virtue to deny power, to say “Oh I could never be in charge, I do not desire power.”
Imagine what the world would be like if such moral cowardice was absolute, if it was a definitive force in our demeanor. If we had no surgeons to govern life and death, if we had no engineers to govern pressure and heat, if we had no inventors to govern yesterday and tomorrow, imagine the immiserating and pitiful condition of such a humanity, in which no one dared to attach their names to a difficult choice.
To me it shows another paradox of idealism, in which the adherent is too pure for the corrupting forces of power, and yet somehow, completely incapable of changing their circumstance. Power has already corrupted you; It has domesticated you into a self-righteous lapdog.
Libertarianism is, as such, merely the frowning expression cast upon a dog who is still dutifully carrying the master’s slippers in their mouth each morning.
And saddest of all is the presumption of failure, the presumption that you are either oppressed or an oppressor, that moral purity is a zero sum game, in which you either accept the burdens of tyranny, or imagine yourself as a tyrant.
This I believe is almost a kind of perverse aspiration, a sort of strange comfort for a broken citizenry, to envision oneself as a successful and powerful individual, and think “Thank god I am just a societal worm.”
To have this emotional safety blanket in which your uselessness and capitulation to bloodbath, misery, poverty and racism, is in fact a halo you may wear as you preside over the rueful wake afforded by such passivity.
This I believe is the real tragedy of the commons. It is not the people who fought and died, who attempted and failed, but rather all of those who stayed at home and imagined their way out of all responsibility and consequence through the cheap sophistry of an isolated mind.
This is why the Soviet Union fascinates me, because it is more than just idealism. It is a real and tangible thing which may be examined scientifically, it is more than just Marxist intellectuals endlessly arguing about how my author could beat up your author.
It becomes real, and as such it possesses with it a realism. Realism is the antidote of idealism, it is the intruding sound of the alarm clock, and what separates man from reformist is whether or not you cave to the desire to hit the snooze button.