Friday, October 27, 2017

Religion and the Three Peoples: The Big Problem

Ever since I read John C. Wright's blog about "politics is downstream of culture and culture is downstream of religion," my mind has been in a tizzy. I wrote about it on Tuesday, but that is not enough.

See, I agree with John C. Wright, but I lacked the chops to put the issue in such stark terms. I mean, I've said that ours is a great age of religion, in which militant religions have been sweeping the world. Only, of course, the most obvious case has been socialism. But I have not had the genius to put my notions with such clarity.

But the story of religion is not just  the story of the transformation of divine religion into  secular religion. While we are not looking, Christianity has been making huge gains in China, in Africa, and in South America. Of course it has, because Christianity, like all the Axial Age religions is a response to urbanization. People need a new religion when they move from the country to the city.

Now, socialism and all the other modern secular religions are religions by and for the People of the Creative Self. But there is a Big Problem. To show why, we should start with the most characteristic religion of the Axial Age.

The religion of the People of the Subordinate Self is a religion of protection. You submit yourself to your Great Lord because he is the only way you can get protection from the dangerous, pitiless world. But this Great Lord, whether divine or mortal, does not really care about you, he only cares about his court politics in heaven. It's just the same in your hunter-gatherer village or landed estate. The Big Man doesn't care about you, but he protects you as his kinsman or his sword fodder, because it is convenient.

The religion of the People of the Responsible Self is a religion of responsibility, in which people are not helpless before the might of the Great Lord but able to do something about it. This is because when people move to the city, or enter the market economy, they must shift for themselves. Thus, Finke and Stark in The Churching of America, quoting a preacher during the Great Awakening in the 18th century:
When we began first to preach these things, the people appeared as awakened from the sleep of ages—they seemed to see for the first time that they were responsible beings, and that a refusal to use the means appointed was a damning sin.
On this view God has created the world and handed down his Law, and it is up to responsible city dwellers to figure out how to do it. But there is an interesting twist. The Religion of the People of the Responsible Self also charges its believers to care for the poor, the People of the Subordinate Self. The People of the Responsible Self are not to reorganize the world purely for themselves; they must also look after the folks that have not yet seen the light.

Enter the People of the Creative Self. The God of their religion is the Creative Ego, so, to a great extent, the religion of the People of the Creative Self is self-worship. You can tell what this religion is all about; it is all about becoming a writer or an artist, an activist or a revolutionary. Every young sprout of the People of the Creative Self wants to construct some original work of the mind, to create the world anew. And that includes human society.

And the religion of the People of the Creative Self is also concerned with the People of the Subordinate Self. It demands that society remake itself to care for the marginalized and the oppressed by promoting equality and justice.

But what the religion of the People of the Creative Self does not do is show any compassion for the People of the Responsible Self. In fact, from the beginning the People of the Creative Self have regarded the People of the Responsible Self as the problem.

That was what Marx and Engels were all about. They assumed that the new world aborning in 1850 was a world in which the old world of lords exploiting and oppressing peasants was in the process of transforming into a world in which capitalists would oppress workers. And so the religion they created declared holy war on the capitalists and the bourgeoisie that did not care for the workers.

Since then the People of the Creative Self have declared war on everything about the People of the Responsible Self, in everything from the market economy to the bourgeois family, to the idea of personal responsibility to Christianity itself.

And this is worse that a crime -- and it is a monstrous crime, perhaps the crime of the millennium -- but a blunder. I have descanted on this a number of times. In the first place, the bourgeoisie was perfectly happy to bring the working class, and women, and minorities into the political system and give them a vote. And then it turned out that the capitalists were not that interested in political power. So, despite the prophecy of Marx and Engels, the new world did not become a world in which the rising bourgeoisie ground the working class into the dust.

But the People of the Creative Self have assumed from 1850 to now that the People of the Responsible Self must be suppressed and their world view demonized as racist, sexist, homophobic. Because.

I think this is a monstrous blunder, as well as a monstrous crime.

And nothing will change until the People of the Creative Self reform their religion to tolerate the religion of the People of the Responsible Self. In other words, the religion of creativity should sit upon the shoulders of the religion of responsibility rather than attempt to replace it.

This ought to be so obvious that even a college snowflake terrified of microaggression should get it.

In my view, the notion of the creative ego is an outgrowth of the notion of the responsible ego, and obviously anyone proposing to change the world with their wonderful art and literature and politics and cool products should be deeply concerned about what their brilliant ideas will do to ordinary people just going about their business. Just as we all agree that the revolutionary bourgeoisie of 1850 should have been concerned about what their factories and railways and steamships should do to ordinary country folk and the country folk that journeyed to the city to plunge into the most reckless experiment in human history.

Let the record show that the Great Enrichment of the bourgeoisie has been the most sustained growth  in human prosperity ever, from $1-3 per person per day to $100 per person per day in 200 years.

Let the record show that the most significant project of the People of the Creative Self, socialism and communism, have been among the most cruel and violent disasters in human history.

So the time is now for the best creative minds of the People of the Creative Self to reform their religion and make the most obvious and sensible change possible. Learn compassion and tolerance for the People of the Responsible Self.

I argue this not just to take care of my kind, the People of the Responsible Self. I argue it because the next step for the People of the Subordinate Self is not to become artists and writers and activists. The next step is to become responsible members of the middle class in the city, according to the tenets of the religions that emerged 3,000 years ago with the birth of the city.

And on my view, the Creative Class warriors battling the People of the Responsible Self have set up barricades on the Road to the Middle Class that make it very difficult for people arriving in the city from the country to convert from their Subordinate culture to the Responsible culture that they need in order to wive and thrive in the city.

I would call that a Big Problem.

But fortunately it has an easy solution. Stop beating up on the People of the Responsible Self! Reform your creative religion so that it is compassionate to the People of the Responsible Self.

1 comment:

  1. "But fortunately it has an easy solution. Stop beating up on the People of the Responsible Self! Reform your creative religion so that it is compassionate to the People of the Responsible Self."

    This solution is simple. No-one with any experience of humankind would call it easy.

    Your analysis is incomplete. Each religion also has a CURRENCY.

    - The currency of the Subordinate Self is the power of the one you serve.
    - the currency of the Responsible Self is currency, and to a lesser extent community reputation.
    - The currency of the Creative Self is status.

    And so the Religion of the Creative Self is notable for its selling of indulgences, simony, and notable insensitivity to negative market signals when running organizations. See: NFL. Status > Money.

    What you are asking them to do with your "easy" solution is to bankrupt themselves *in their religion's main currency*.

    Many of them would rather die. The way things are going, that may be how it plays out for all of us.

    And this, boys and girls, is why a healthy society NEVER, EVER, hands significant power to its creative classes.

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