I’ve been ruminating on this matter for a couple of days now and wanted to post something on it but felt like the time wasn’t quite right. Just now I realised I’ve made 665 posts, so I guess making this my 666th is as good a time as any, with added titillation for numerical deviancy. I’d like to thank everybody who has seen fit to follow me. I appreciate that you’re interested in the same things as I am, and hopefully enjoy the occasional insight that I feel on topics I blog on.
Occasionally in my life people ask me why I spend time thinking about politics, what it is that motivates my politics or why I get in such a huff about current affairs. Usually it’s more a rhetorical question and they don’t really want a tirade in response, so I give a glib “it’s important to care” or some equivalent. Part of it, I think, comes down to the fact that I don’t spend too much time philosophising on exactly what it is that motivates me so this is an attempt to nail that nugget of self-knowledge down a little more solidly.
What I will say to start off though is, before this sounds like a self-important tirade of how great and awesome and impeccable I am, that I’m far from perfect. I don’t always live by my own ethos, much as I try, and especially since coming to tumblr I’ve realised what a steep learning curve there is and how little aware I was about a broad spectrum of issues. Unavoidably, an aspect of the privilege that I live within means that I’m somewhat blinkered when it comes to knowing the exact role I play within society. This is something I’m trying to change and improve upon, so I’d like to thank everybody that I follow on tumblr for playing some role within that.
So what is the ethos that I try to live by?
I guess this matter can be considered in two parts. The first part, which those who have read Kant will be more familiar with than I, is “Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end and never merely as a means to an end.”
Which is to say in simpler terms: treat people with respect and dignity and do not manipulate them for your own purposes. They have their own needs, wants, desires, purpose. They are not yours to use. Recognise this in your interactions with others and also with reflection to the effect your actions have on yourself.
The second part will be a little more convoluted to try and explain. An important facet of it links back to the recent post I made about time, space and the inconsequential nature of our existence. Oh, and it has a really cool picture of Orion’s Belt and the neighbouring Flame Nebula.
We are mortal. Our existence is limited at best by the frailty of our own bodies, at worst by the actions and inactions of others. We live a very short amount of time in comparison to the humongous nature of just about everything else. We come from nothing and we return to nothing. All that we build and construct during the time we’re here will, at some point in itself, return to being nothing. I’m an atheist; I find there to be no divine purpose in life, neither destiny nor fate, nor higher being with a plan which governs the path in life we walk. So then what, with no divine purpose and a finite, inconsequential existence, governs the actions we take in life?
The truth of our actions exists within the way we interact within society. The way that we, as inconsequential and finite beings, participate in our community is what creates the lasting positive or negative of our existence. There’s no point in doing things that only benefit ourselves or our potential progeny because that builds a house of cards that can collapse at the slightest nudge from conditions that exist outside or our control. Instead we must work to better the world we live in for those that are around us and will come after us. Only in doing so can we exist in a fashion that is positive and good.
It’s about creating a world that’s open and accessible for everyone, which isn’t exclusive of people based on arbitrary lines we draw between ourselves. Building a better existence by smashing through the boundaries of normative society we’re socialised into and rebuilding it based on a more productive and positive foundation. Through this we can see a real and tangible difference and have a genuine, lasting effect in our lives. Because being insular and thinking of our own needs benefits the world and society nothing once we’re gone, and everything we build for ourselves while we’re here won’t be brought with us when we go.
So, that’s what motivates me through life. It’s also what I look for in the people I befriend and spend time with, though in subtler ways. Sometimes I can come across as haughty or aloof and people get the impression that I think down on them if they’re not politically engaged. That’s not the case, and couldn’t be much further from the truth. In my time I’ve made some really good friends and continue to do so. Some of whom I can have in depth political discussions with, and others who couldn’t care less what Aristotle, Rousseau or whoever else had to say about something. And that’s fine because what I look for in the people I spend time with, and the people I enjoy spending time around, is that sense of selflessness, empathy and compassion coupled with a joy of living.
You don’t need to have an in depth philosophical outlook on life to be able to care about other people and not spend your time trying to manipulate them for your own ends. If you have a good character, do right by others and you live life well I will enjoy spending time around you, regardless of how intellectual you perceive yourself to be.
If you took the time to read this far, thank you. It took me a while to write and consider how I wanted to phrase things, so I hope it came out as I intended it rather than some wishy washy pretentious rambling. My ask is always open, regardless of TMI Tuesday, if ever you want to say something to me or are interested in my opinion on something.
Peace and love.
(Originally posted here)