Copyright © by Eric Goldman, 7/15/08
We value the individual in our Western society. It is known as the American Way to be unique and self-reliant. We live in a culture founded upon personal freedom. Most times, this spirit of the self is a virtue that drives us on to new creative innovations. Yet, in some places in this country there is an overwhelming spirit of rigorous individuality which even extends itself to an atmosphere of a type of addictive-selfishness where none matters but “me.” It is “I” who is the person of significant singular import. Indeed, selfishness lies at the root of every possible addiction, the motives and behaviors pertinent to which demand self-service in all its obsessions for more.
The group, or the herd, is meant to be secondary to the person except in times of social celebration—or social strife, for that matter—where the collection of individuals unite for a common cause, whether it be for a block party or for a riot on the streets. However, in other geographical zones in the same society the general underlying contention is that the herd is the most important social entity, ever overshadowing the creative efforts of any one person. This is seen in countless displays of social pressure throughout our land (although more prominent in conservative towns where a bohemian lifestyle is largely discouraged). This group tendency originates from a collective fear of those outside the group. The closer together we huddle around the fire, the less chance a lion will sneak up and get one of us. Since we no longer live in the “wilderness,” so to speak, these beliefs of total social reliance have slowly become antique.
In more realistic and forward-minded communities, places where the American dream of personal freedom is more actively realized, the ideal of individualism becomes more prominent. Naturally, what the danger in this individualistic psychological setting is the tendency for the person to feel as though he is the only one worthy of love and attention in all of worldly existence, selfish in all his affairs. In a social environment where all are focused on the evolution of the self there arises a cycle of individual despair in reaction to a personal sense of underlying futility. The social construct demands of the individual to be vehemently self-reliant, otherwise he will be left dissociated and depersonalized.
In a place where everyone is addictively-selfish, no real harmony can be found among them, leading the all-inclusive humanist to despair for lack of all social cooperation and goodwill. The depersonalized grow resentful at the fact that they too must grow selfish in order to belong to an utter non-belonging. The ethos which individualizes the person in an absolute sense is what is known loosely as solipsism, or in other words, when a person believes his is the only reality, that it is he who is situated in the center of the universe, he the only one with a mind of any sort of significance. He thinks therefore he is, yet he dismisses the possibility of anyone else retaining cognitive capacities such as his own. This is an admittedly precarious state of mind which is usually thought to exist only in theory yet in the instance of any sort of addiction this sense of ultra-selfishness seems to be the primary modus operandum. True enough, in a culture where solipsistic selfishness is the key to personal happiness, that is a culture of addiction—addicted to the self—and it becomes necessary for counter-measures to be instated with which there may arise a deeper sense of social awareness where the interpersonal becomes more of a governing civil consciousness. Just as with drug addiction, where the addict almost always must “hit bottom” to realize he must do something to improve his life, so it is with the selfishly-addictive individual. First, he must recognize he in-fact has a problem at all in order to realize there must be something done to remedy it. Herein lies the revelation.
The reasoning as to why a solipsistic stance is feasible as a working social structure begins with the fact that the addictively-selfish individual will do everything in his power to maintain the conditions in which he is regarded as the unique one, the real one. In this case the person will maneuver his way through a dreamlike social landscape (since others aren’t real) to create what seems like gratitude or disdain in others so as to artificially manufacture the closest conditions to the ideal social life where each human is interdependent. Only his animal instinct for an interpersonal community environment validates the true reality of what the addictively-selfish individual is attempting to synthesize.
The tendency, using solipsism as a general social base, is to assign perfect unity of uniqueness unto each human cell of the societal organism, otherwise what I call Universal Solipsism. This psychological construct must be enacted with the knowledge in back of the mind that each individual is a unique individual, yet always embodies the whole from which they come. Certainly, the leaders of a society in which this system would be initiated must be in full knowledge of this truth if the temporary state of Universal Solipsism is ever to be overcome and evolved out of at its proper time, at the conclusion of social crisis. This is an emergency social construct to be utilized ideally in the case of total social meltdown, in which case the herd becomes ultimately prominent, when humanity becomes a mob of each-out-for-himself—embodying all its related anarchistic drives and the behavioral expressions therein. It is when the mob begins to deteriorate in social disease like a class of school children swimming in a pool of acid rain. At this level of social decay (in which we are coming to find ourselves in the present) the gift of absolute uniqueness is most useful rather than being a detriment.
The challenge, of course, is to prevent the individual from doing anything he pleases, such as violent crime and pederasty. The challenge is to convince unto each that social harmony is most individually beneficial to their unique personal selves. It must be instilled that this attitude ensures the most interesting and satisfying life the world can offer. The awareness seems to be achievable only with the introduction of what represents the exact opposite of social harmony—absolute selfishness. As an example of this process revealed it self the other day when I was seated outside a café observing the drab faces of a seemingly sleepwalking populace passing by my table as I sipped casually from a cup of coffee, I myself probably looking equally as drab as they. This café is located on a busy street corner with a traffic light and a crosswalk. All of a sudden I heard a deafening siren but I could see no fire truck or ambulance near. It was a siren blaring from a bullhorn a woman was carrying with her so she could make herself heard in a world of deaf ears. A car had blocked part of the crosswalk so she couldn’t pass liberally with ample room on either side of her body, and she was protesting with her siren. She began swatting the hood of the car, yelling into the bullhorn, “Get back! Get back!!,” until the driver shifted to reverse and backed up a few feet so as to let her pass onto the sidewalk. This woman was so inside herself, so personally-oriented and so apparently miserable that the people in the surrounding area grew warm smiles from out their drab faces—as did I—and we looked to each other in friendly acknowledgement—humanity taking on a new precedence. In the face of someone hopelessly addicted to self, all others lit up and donned a new countenance of social affinity and cooperation. In this spirit are we to induce the public with the misery of absolute selfishness.
Indeed, the mindset of addiction has infiltrated the souls of most of us concerned. Regardless if a person is addicted to drugs or alcohol, many of us are likely addicted to something else—be it television, sugar, shopping, coitus, greed, vanity, anger, and all other obsessive pursuits. We must realize we live in an addictively-minded culture fully bent on our immanent destruction, as that is where addiction leads us, individually, and as a society. This is national security failed from the inside out. It is the proverbial Trojan Horse: the garden tended to, a tidy and properly disinfected kitchen, fresh paint on the wood serving as the structure of the edifice—but that wood is infiltrated by termites, and the garden is overrun by gophers in which there will be nothing left to defend with a vigilant Minuteman’s rifle.
In a world where everyone is out for themselves—in a “dog-eat-dog” world—crime of the heart prevails and we live in a personal state in which reasonable morality and spirit have expired. The addictive state of mind wants everything right now as if there will be no future with which to enjoy the benefits of the labors of today. Instant gratification is the more of our times. Headache? Take a pill—poof—it’s gone. Stomach acid? Take a shot of this—poof—it’s gone. Bored? Press this button—poof—the television screen illuminates, the hypnotic wormhole shooting through your soul like stale Twinkies through the intestines. Maybe if we had to turn on the television with the lever from a slot machine we would be safe from the remote handle’s gamble. I suppose not, since gambling—as we now understand—is recognized as a common addiction as well.
As social harmony becomes realized from out of the introduction of Universal Solipsism we can then begin to feel empathy for those around us, to sense the pain and joy in others as it is our own while still in a world of our own. A society based on a functional relationship between the group and the individual is then engaged in and actualized. The deleterious effects of addictive thought and behavior will wane since we will forge a new reliance upon the others around us. Addiction is a lonely existence which fully embodies the “dog-eat-dog” mindset, and so is the perfect place from which to theorize a peaceful future for ourselves. Once we realize that it is addiction itself that is the primary plague of our society and then are faced with it dangerously up-close, from there may we begin our social recovery.
We must indulge the addictively-selfish mind with pure, unmitigated selfishness so that we see it is leading us toward disaster in this life. If each person was in their own solipsistic world, every other person becomes another fictitious character in each person’s reality. If everyone was solipsistic, the addict-of-self would also become just another character in every one else’s living experience—never as important as anyone else. Once everyone realizes that absolute selfishness is the road to absolute catastrophe—and that they’ve been duped—only then can addictive-selfishness be realized as a horrible impediment to personal and social triumph as related to the individual as well as to the whole. Through this realization, the lonely suffering of others would decrease. My proposition is similar to the case of the young boy being forced by his father to smoke an entire pack of cigarettes in a half an hour in order to deter him from ever smoking as an adult. Of course the child becomes terribly ill, vomits, and makes a vow of health to his parent—who knows best. Only when we finally discover we are all “in” on this selfishness together may our real individuality be celebrated in a fully integrated manner alongside others’.
The spirit of Universal Solipsism is embodied also in the addict just off the street attending his first meeting of recovery. At this initial stage of healing, he must be completely selfish, removing himself from his life’s rotted infrastructure, and realize himself as all-important as a person who does not intoxicate himself any longer. Over time, his all-encompassing selfishness will illuminate the fact that everyone around him is also unique, even though he was not aware of it at first. When he begins to look outside himself and see that there are so many others who are solipsistic, he will experience an increasing social revelation that we unique individuals are necessarily interconnected. With the Universally Solipsistic social emergency procedure the individuals therein no longer cunningly manipulate their way through a seemingly lone personal existence. The person now instead becomes fully conscious that when he helps the other “characters” in his “theatrical production” achieve their goals, he is in-fact also helping himself. In time, these characters become positively human, which infers real fraternal empathy, most likely when they themselves begin to really help others in return. Service to the still-suffering becomes the primary objective of those who find themselves living in this new harmony.
The implementation of Universal Solipsism would require the usage of the same media propaganda and advertising systems that currently support our addictive culture. Billboards, television commercials, and radio advertisements must be invested in for this humanistic cause which would initially be shrouded by a malevolent façade. Statements such as, “Take everything you can. Only you matter,” will be broadcast for all to hear. “Get out of my way—I’m the only one who matters,” would tower on the sides of highways. “This world is mine—not ours,” on a billboard would bring the same warmth to people’s faces as does the maniacally irate woman with a bullhorn. By advertising selfishness we would in all actuality be inciting a spirit of cooperation.
In the case of any physical malady, there must first be a thorough examination followed by a precise diagnosis, proceeded then by apt treatment. Here lies the examination and diagnosis. These methods of raising collective awareness of goodwill will serve as the treatment. Among us lies the cure to the delusion of absolute self, or solipsism. All we must do is react in the way most natural. If most people embody a spirit of “good,” which I still do believe, the appeal to the converse of ‘good’ would be rebuked in the sweetest of ways. Eventually, out of Universal Solipsism there will actualize a functional individuality, that once we realize our intellectual potentiality in relation to others’.
I must stress that the transition from Universal Solipsism to true interpersonal, empathetic human life is hinged only upon the simple realization that there are many complete worlds (or minds) in one earthen planetary realm. It is with faith in humankind that I feel we are capable of this realization before we reach the ridiculous point of self-made social catastrophe, where Universal Solipsism would be thrust upon us, leaving us with no choice but for a cruel sort of self-reliance. It is through selfishness that selfishness is to be overcome. Then we can realize our human community for what it is, which will become a community comprised of truly free minds.
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