Here is a letter by an unnamed author. The manuscript was found on the steps of the Harvard Library one early spring, a sunny, yet chilly day in Cambridge. It is presented here in its entirety, and not knowing what genre it was originally intended for, I have assumed that of the philosophical letter–there were no other markings on the pages, themselves stapled, but untitled and without any other markings. Here are the words of this unknown-to-us author, presented as if it were a letter to an unknown audience . . . an essay, or what was once called a philosophical letter, as in the 18th century these had been in vogue from the most prominent philosophical minds, or what we may now call fictional minds, philosophy being an alternate literary endeavor, or another genre of fiction.
Here now is the essay, the philosophical letter, a fictional piece in away other than this being a thing made, as anything written is composed, thus made . . .
Intelligent people can come from anywhere. Stupid ones do come from everywhere. The Democratic ideal has been abdicated in favor of a pluralistic one, a hallmark of twentieth century politics everywhere, certainly; a current politique in favor among a broad spectrum of college educated administrators and fellow paper pushers (paper in the ether?) managing America’s affairs with a bureaucratic efficiency reminiscent of the best managerial traditions of our military. The military-social-complex is here. Intelligence in America is more in line with saying so than proving so. Democracy has thus been transformed in the image of the State, the newest form of God we worship, and worship we do.
Power in Democracy is numerical, we once believed. We deferred to the idea that the people were a powerful entity in any country, let alone a country like the United States with a unique tradition of liberty that we were once certain of, and tat I cannot believe we hope for any longer. We were once sure that the people were the only “institution” of governing that had the potential to counterbalance the weight of the state; We the People meant something to each of us. It was the people and only the people who were dense enough to counterbalance the weight and mass of the state, l’etat en soi-meme.
Now, all states serve themselves; a truth to be undenied today; a truth that had at least the potential to be countermanded in a time not so long ago; and is not something I’m sure of at present. They are, as fore-stated and after-stated . . . for themselves, by themselves, in themselves, of themselves, with themselves; self-contained for always. Every state for always the mortal enemy of what is best in the soul of the individual simple separate person. This person must remain macrocosm, however, even to the people themselves in order for the people to maintain in counter-balance with its power and density.
We who could be the People, though, are no longer the people as Jefferson had envisioned, as later ages have agreed needs expanding; there is no resemblance to Populus or to Demos, not in any way akin to how either maintained its distinction from what was public in antiquity, or what could have remained in the Jeffersonian We the people. And that remains an is true in spite of Jefferson’s contradictions or seemingly weak remedies for having taken the wolf by the ears; I don’t let slavery stand as a rebuttal for the truths of Jefferson’s maxims on Liberty; Jefferson spoke truth on Liberty in spite of how he contradicted himself by his actions. It was Jefferson’s self-evident truths on liberty that the anti-slavery movement used to help free the slaves.
Today we proudly parade ourselves as Publius, a great Public en masse, not Populus, conformity the first and last choice in our contemporary notion of being free. And with there being no truth, no allegiance to the traditions of Democracy in the world historically or in America culturally, any idea of the people as in We the people of the United States in order to form a more perfect Union becomes either suspect for being traditional or modified for succumbing to a hyper subjectivity, a kind of evolving antidote or answer for former totalitarian hyper rationalism.
You must know that public and people are not synonyms; I cannot count how many times I have to defend this statement no matter how often I use it in discussions of politics with friends and colleagues–imagining that people listen in our sound-bite culture, in a culture devoted to maintaining Twitter accounts as a means of staying connected, of saying something intelligent on what is trending, is absurd.
The masses who are everywhere alike as masses are also those who gravitate toward one form of pluralism or another, whether Bolshevik then, communist after, fascist or Nazis before or since; one totalitarianism successive with another after another in a long parade of political sleepwalking; pluralism can and has also become Americanism redefined inside multiculturalism and the political correctness of the new diversity, supposedly a rebuttal if not an answer for what has ben imagined the old universalism. Politics, therefore, for the individual, and throughout the twentieth century, has marched as one kind of sonambulism after another, and this remains true whether it has been American, Russian, or French; Chinese, German, or Chilean, every kind et cetera . . . Toi! mon hypocrite lecteur, le semblable.
They are always the same everywhere as masses are masses regardless of language, culture, history, political or religious belief; each mass is essentially ready to serve the state or squander the self-hood of its numbers as well in turn their collected identity as a people, the people for whom each is macrocosmically We.
I am we, politically. This has been abdicated for a lumpen, numerical existence, one most honored and respected by bureaucrats, collectively in themselves bureaucracy. bureaucracy is not something apart from bureaucrats; that’s a sleight of hand bureaucrats perform more expertly than any dealer in a game of three-card-monty, any magician would pay to perform with the straight face of your local bureaucrat. The problem is no state can do without them; they can conform to any state. You don’t think the Nazis or the Fascists in Italy or Castro got rid of all bureaucrats, do you? The horror of existence is the bureaucrats for Batista were the bureaucrats for Castro. Talk to any administrator who is your boss in any state-run bureaucracy or the likes and you will see the same people who went from pushing papers for Weimar in the beginning of 1933 and the Nazis at Christmas time.
They are present everywhere, these lumpen masses, especially present every morning in our reflection. Who is not willing to be less than himself at every other turn? Mostly we consider freedom to be liberty from responsibility, yet it is our responses, our actions, our choices, thus all in a set of our obligations that define us; so in our quest to be free, how could we avoid abdicating our responsibility and think we could remain free.
American pluralism is where being American now means that the people have lithified, where they have become a monolith of the most massive proportions. Pluralism here is a brand of politics seriously devoted to praying before the icons of our media, in imitatio de stelle. And we do look to our media icons for guidance, as some used to look to saints. We do pray in devotion before them, their images pressed as icons through our various media. What then are our TV personalities other than pseudo-live-motion saints, chapels in a box with an aerial tuner.
There is a ritual life in our entertainment world aligned secularly, one we gratefully participate in. True enough, for sure; but then there is often nothing more difficult to see than the truth.
The media president has been one thing every four years–and President Obama is as much a media president as any other, if not more so than many others; he is a media darling and therefore receives gracious treatment by broadcasters. But what about the media man and the media woman, the media American; the media person complete with media personhood, a media sense of self, a media informed sense of duty of obligation of freedom of liberty of pedagogy of voting behavior of ethical conduct et cetera . . . Warhol, Warhol, prophet of our future. What of the media fucker, one who fucks as the media wants him or her to fuck? Is that what it would be? If we are of the media, by the media, for the media with the media then they are there in the bedroom with us (or in the kitchen or in the bathroom or on the park bench or in the subway car when no one is in the last car or the car next to it and you have all the way from 59th Street to 125th Street to fuck).
TV evangelists have always bugged the American liberal establishment because the former are simply more overt forms of what the latter is politically, secularly.
Philosophy as another genre of fiction gives us different access to Plato’s Dialogues, does it not? What then must we do with what we have read, imagining all the while that what has been called non-fiction and what has been called fiction are intrinsically, integrally distinct and mutually exclusive, even in the ways we understand them? What then does that do for how we read and have read what we have called fiction? How does everything change; or, what is it exactly that does change, if anything at all?