I’m a weird mood today. Too much time in front of the computer fried the brain, maybe. So pardon me, this’ll be odd, even by my standards.
If you know the story of Faust, you might understand the analogy of the Faustian man, one who is bent on attaining rational knowledge at any cost, even that of his own soul.
Modernity is, in some ways, a sort of Faustian bargain. Rational thought has granted us tremendous powers over nature as a species. But, like Faust, have we sold our souls in order to achieve this?
One of my frequent criticisms of Socialism is its prioritization of rationality above all, as if humans were rational beings, and that a collective of humans would thus, likewise, be rational. Frequently, I find this is not the case. Human beings do not act in such a way as to make a thing like Socialism work.
It may be that a farmer must farm, so that many may eat. This is rational. But perhaps he doesn’t like farming. Perhaps he is not motivated to farm. Perhaps he doesn’t like parting with his crops. Many reasons may circulate in his cranium as to why he simply doesn’t want to do it. Capitalism is agnostic about this. If the farmer doesn’t want to farm, he goes bankrupt and loses the farm. Another comes to replace him. But Socialism must punish the person. There is no mechanism in place to automatically cut him off. And to punish him, you must breed resentment in him. Enough resentment from enough people, and your regime falls apart. Or you could just kill him for being uncooperative. That, of course, carries its own set of problems, both moral and practical.
Our leaders are invariably Faustians when it comes to humanity. They have it in their heads that humans can be manipulated in the same fashion as one might build a computer, or an automobile. That they might be steered toward a correct, and fully rational, materialist position.
This is, ironically, irrational. As all available evidence suggests humanity will stubbornly refuse this, regardless of whether or not the idea is wise.
But the Faustian nature of our Academics and Politicians creates a stubbornness in them, too. It is their nature to keep trying, regardless of the myriad failures the attempts continue to produce, because humanity must be made to behave according to rational laws.
Oddly enough, the principles they desire can, and frequently do, work in small enough groups. A family can be quasi-Socialist in its internal affairs. A village of Amish folks can be likewise. So it is even more insidious. Why, they ask, aren’t these ideas working on a large scale, when they are so beautifully perfect on a small scale?
Humans are well adapted to small groups. They will, over time, naturally gravitate toward a balanced use of their talents and abilities. And their compatriots will be generally supportive and reasonable. But this is because, in small groups, a man can know another at a deep, almost spiritual level.
Modernity has deprived us of knowing others at this level, often times. And without that knowledge, the system that works so well on a small scale utterly breaks down on a larger scale. But as Faust sold his soul to the Devil, for he knew and cared little for it, our leaders don’t account for the soul, or the spirit. It is religious mumbo-jumbo to them, the idle fancy of sky wizard priests and men in funny robes and hats. They can’t see it, they can’t account for it in the laws of nature, and so it is dismissed as if it weren’t even there.
Deprived of this variable in their calculations, they are surprised to discover that the equation doesn’t balance out. The two sides are not equal.
Artificial sterility is a sort of byproduct of this. How many folks truly pour their heart and soul into their work anymore? So everything is perfectly calculated, precise, and rational, but contains no spirit, or essence. So many people these days complain about feeling empty. Perhaps this is where the feeling originates.
Either way, humans are not well-equipped to handle things in the modern world, with its tremendous volume of people. The largest cities of antiquity would be dwarfed by a smallish one today. And all of our leaders think they are Hari Seldons, one step from developing the Psychohistory that will finally give rational meaning to human existence.
Me? I think human stubbornness is a reflection of our souls, our spirits, and regardless of where that soul comes from, or how it comes to be, humanity will always resist the Faustian bargain at some level. All else in the natural world might be made to serve man, wholly and completely, except his fellow man.