Tuesday, August 26, 2014

On The Purge, State of Nature and Autonomy

The Purge series seems on the surface to be incredibly hammy movies (there both labeled Horror but the sequel seems to be far-more in the action/thriller department) that posit a certain kind of Left-wing anti-gun, anti-Capitalist view so poorly that it seems to mock the view rather than a serious defense of it.  Just like Ayn Rand’s novels function far-better as satire of the Libertarian Right (“the public interest be damned!”) than an actual argument for it.  However, what The Purge series (particularly the second) seem to express quite well is a critique of the Hobbsian view that we require a State and Absolute Sovereign to protect us from ourselves and so we can safely pursue collective endeavors of science, construction and other good works.  It may seem to some to actually be positing the necessity for a Hobbsian view, but I’ll explain why they’re mistaken.
Firstly, it is the government that not only is sanctioning a night of the year for murder but is endorsing and supporting murder.  It is stated near the end of the second film that not nearly as many people are killing as the government would have liked, so the American government murders the poor to compensate for the populous’ morality.  Secondly, those who do wish to kill and use this night to murder have been conditioned by the State, commerce, religion and various other forces in society, and therefore is not Man in a State of Nature.  What we truly see is how some (if not many) human beings are deformed from their original nature and potential by the Nature of the State and would very-likely be more harmonious if not ignorant in the State of Nature.  Rousseau quite effectively despite his flaws shows that Hobbes himself is nasty and brutish for claiming that rights (though Hobbes is frequently using the word in an odd manner) are essentially non-existent save the right for self-preservation, and that it is allowing humans to do as they will rather than the interests of State and commerce that is the source of the majority of humanities’ ills.
Most of course realizes implicitly that murder is wrong, while it is the rich and government agents in The Purge:  Anarchy that participates in the annual night of death.  This of course can be seen as analogous to the true sources of not only murder, but ignorance, mental illness and various other of Man’s ills comes not from his freedom or nature, but on the nature of his formation by State Capitalist and religious powers; this is seen in the regime of the New Founding Fathers clearly being a fanatical Right-wing Christian Evangelical one – “may God be with you all.”  An odd thing to say to those who you realize not only will not be surviving the night but who won’t be because of actions you have taken.  Reverting it seems to the mentality of God endorsing class, racial and nationalistic warfare which is a highly predominant view throughout human history that is only validated once one reads the Scriptures.
Though the film is somewhat effective (the dialogue to gain anything political or ideological in the film is atrocious as I’ve previously stated) in its Anti-Hobbsian views, it is rather ineffective in showing us the ideal counter-example for structuring society – the three main ones being Rousseau’s, Kant’s and Marx’s.  It also is an effective critique of the Social Contract in having something we have the social obligation to do being murder – but the stupidity of the Social Contract is self-evident for any independently thinking person so I’ll be focusing on various responses to Hobbes being the originator of it – leading up to the correct frame of mind to break both the psychology and politics of SC thinking.  Rousseau would have us simply return to nature and reject not only society but its fruits being science, the fruits of science, art, the fruits of a cultured society the essential one being reasoning.  Marx takes the best of Rousseau but chucks away the Primitivist sentiments (which is one of the main things I like in Marx) and instead has us focus on class and creating the structures for personal freedom and development.  Kant’s anti-Statism is not explicit but nonetheless existent in his essay “What is Enlightenment?” defining it as a mind free from all external authority.  This is the very essence of not only intellectualism (and I would argue a main element of Existentialism) but seen to its logical conclusion in the political philosophy of Anarchism.  Many Anarchists have been inspired by Rousseau (somewhat reasonably for his condemnation of Representative Democracy and Capitalism.  Though Kant should be appreciated for proto-Anarchist thought as well) but one must remember that one cannot reach their highest potential (being a right as is labor and education under Anarchism) in the State of Nature, that is without some degree of technology.  That science, reason and art are some of the highest endeavors of man as Nietzsche and many others will point out.  So to condemn these fruits of Man and both the aspects of Man that create them and the affect these endeavors have on Man both to the man producing and the man consuming is to damn a majority of what is great in Man while highlighting in their stead virtues that one can easily find in an animal.  Rousseau is proper inspiration for an Anarchist-Primitivist, but not for Anarchism as being found on the principles of Reason and freedom being understood as Positive and Negative Liberty.
Sapere aude! (Dare to be wise) is what Kant views the nature of Enlightenment and therefore the politics of the Enlightenment to be.  He correctly follows from this to say that it is the essence of the intellectually mature mind to be autonomous and autonomous thinkers is the main goal and achievement of Enlightenment philosophy and politics – I’m of course extrapolating somewhat but also merely bringing out Kant’s best ideals in ethical and political philosophy.  This above-all-else is the essence of Anarchism.  Kant’s brilliance and continuation in allegiance with Anarchist thought continues when he says that revolutions may destroy despotic rule but can never foster an age of free and rational thought – wise revolutions in-fact are predicated upon the latter though to my knowledge he doesn’t make that distinction.  The amount of credulity that existed in the USSR and exists today in North Korea is evidence enough of said claim.  He continues to say that new prejudices will replace the old and be a new leash to control the unthinking masses.  This perennial truth rings clear in contemporary society with the use of modern technology, propaganda demonizing the poor and having the general intended effect of keeping the human population the mental height that it was in the Eighteenth Century when Kant was writing.  The very nature of the State as is the nature of God, religion and commerce is antithetical to the nature of Intellectualism; that is, the Virtue and realization of the unrestricted mind and autonomous man.  That is why the cultivation of Man is dangerous to the King’s legislation despite what Kant insists.
Today, just as in Kant’s age we live not in an enlightened age but an Age of Enlightenment with religion (the main source of poor reasoning as Kant points out) slowly dying out and the Age of the Internet with its access to news free from corporate or State influence – though the path of least resistance and towards ignorance still exists in people getting their news from Social Media and even more its very abominable existence.  And though faith in God may be dying the latter two of the trifecta of God, State and commerce are as strong as ever.  It seems we won’t have time to see this occur, though if reason and knowledge is to once-and-for-all triumph over superstition and fear of original thinking, we must through education, culture and material conditions create those who will resist and change the factors of material and cultural conditioning so that they can be used to propagate wisdom and beauty rather than ignorance and stupidity.

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