In memory of my Father Steve
His eternal words after reading one of my high school essays… “You need to do something with this Bob.”
After the Individual
First, there was the word, then came the power, then came the individual. For language is our power over nature. Through our conscious minds fixed in the present comes our ability to take control of our environment.
Despite being from nature, we are perhaps less connected to it than other species. Has this been taken away from us? Has our synthetic society and man-made environment disconnected us to the feeling of nature and the natural wonders of our disposition. If we consider our ancestors they seemed to have talked about a much closer relationship to nature than perhaps the one we have today. We do see a connection in some ways however; for the true human tragedy is not that we are victims of nature but that we are constantly aware of it.
What is important in this story is not where or when it took place. What is important is what you take away from it after your reading. For when one views a piece of art or reads a book, who is to tell you how you should feel?
It is up to you how you interpret it. You cannot control what you see, feel or hear in a lot of cases but you can control what and how you learn from your experiences.
We will follow the story of Chester. Chester was a passionate lecturer in philosophy and politics. He was respected throughout the academic world for his ground-breaking studies and philosophical papers.
Away from his work at the university, Chester’s other love was photography. His comrades would often joke that everything he liked started with the letter ‘p’. Well, everything except his wife’s name: Suzanna.
Chester saw photography as the ability to freeze time; the ability to present a snapshot to form a memory of something you have lived.
A picture contains a thousand words; it holds a deeper reality.
Chester’s true passion when it came to photography was clicking pictures of solitary trees. He admired the way they stood alone and proud. His favourite scene was a ploughed field with a huge defiant tree in the middle of it.
Chester had, over the years, clicked many pictures of trees – always on their own, all unique but all loved.
Of course, it was not only trees that Chester captured. He was a devoted family man too.
With a plethora of photographs portraying his fondness for his family.
‘A perfect trio of three, Suzanna, John and me!’ he would often say. John being his son, who is only a couple of years old as we begin this tale.
Suzanna and Chester met in their later years.
Both had been involved in previous relationships.
Suzanne was a student when she met Chester.
She had heard Chester lecturing on theatre. She wasn’t a theatre student, I might add; she was interested in the field of psychology as a former student who now taught their part-time. Suzanna always saw her aim in life to develop others so her interest in psychology was to dismantle and understand the ways in which people were the way they were. Alongside this she had a keen interest in Buddhism and the flourishing of all life around her. She also, like Chester, had an insatiable drive to understand the human condition.
She had heard, nonetheless, the bolshie, brash brute who commanded the attention of the room.
They had subsequently met at a live-mic night in the local student bar.
Chester had been sitting at the bar reading when Suzanna came up to order a glass of red and some olives.
‘Olives, eh, they’re my favourite,’ said Chester. ‘Yes, me too’ chimed Suzanna.
Their eyes locked and, from then on, they began to grow and intertwine.
It helped in sharing pleasantries that Suzanna was already aware of Chester and could enter the conversation armed.
They met again a few times. What really united them was their view of others. It seemed as if everyone else was asleep and they were awake.
Every time they met, they discussed more and more how the world was headed down a perilous path.
Their bond was so instant and so intimate that they started looking upwards. They hadn’t necessarily been believers of a higher power before, but their connection felt more than of this earth, more than of their bodies.
Every time they looked up in those initial nights and saw the moon, they knew there had to be something higher. They definitely felt it. There was something connecting them.
Upon graduating and getting herself out into the real world, Suzanna decided to follow a less academic route than Chester.
Chester had become riddled with theories and baffled by the world around him. He could see an unstable world building around him. Suzanna just wanted to bring joy to the world and ease Chester’s troubled mind.
She set up her own floristry business. The family house was always filled with elegant arrangements and enchanting smells.
Suzanna was a graceful, demure and divine woman. With her calming ways, she could ease Chester’s wandering and busy mind. They formed quite a team, a picture-perfect arrangement.
Life was carefree. Like all couples, Suzanna and Chester had their small niggles. However, if they were honest, they enjoyed an idyllic lifestyle where they both had the freedom to pursue their individual passions and their collective harmony.
They created a loving home for their son, John. A perfect future follows when surrounded by that much love and pumped full of such belief.
Chester’s worries and views – although quite extreme to those around him – were perhaps not without foundation.
The world had grown cold. With freedom and an ever-expanding sense of choice came the growth of the individual; self-obsession, self-love, self-drive, self-worth, self-entitlement, self-wealth and all the things that followed such as arrogance, greed, selfishness, desire and envy.
One’s sense of individualism had never been so high as it was in this new world. For as choice grows, so does the sense of self.
In any tribe, one could be the fisher or the hunter. Now, one could be the gender-neutral cricket fan who is a socialist and who likes to cross-dress during the weekend.
So, from a person’s new sense of choice and liberty came an ever-growing sense of self. Such immense choice, coupled with the notions proposed across religions of pre-existing and enduring souls implied that people felt a great need to satisfy their uniqueness.
One’s sense of uniqueness makes one feel a great need to fill a void at all times. This need for fulfilment can be synthetically satisfied by anything from drugs, hobbies, relationships, theories, to conspiracies, even.
Chester had predicted this sense of self and the growth of individualism.
The message that he wanted to send people was that one’s sense of self comes from one’s surroundings and one’s community in the first place.
Chester found it highly ironic that the greater one’s sense of self becomes, the more a need to question society and the pre-existing establishment they are born into emerges. Ironic in the sense that society was created by man and should reflect an entity with their best interest at heart. Something had worn away at the fibres that held the individual and society in union.
This formed a great antagonism between the individual and the state. As people realised where they were located in the context of society, they started seeing the ways in which they are controlled; their vulnerability and the futility of their words were revealed to them.
From this, a collective movement began to form: an anti-government and anarchist movement. People started biting the hand that had once fed them.
The people started uncovering the controlling tactics of society: religion, capitalism, nationalism, icons, celebrities, news, media, advertising and history.
They started realising how these methods could create a vision of who you should be as a person or what you should believe. They began considering whether free choice existed anymore as society knew so much about them. They questioned if they were being controlled at every moment.
People’s minds ticked repeatedly with questions such as:
Why should others get the say on what is right for me?
Why were some born into more choice than others, more wealth, more opportunity?
If we are all equal, then why are we born into such inequality that we have no say over?
This was the mind of the individual: society had created this. Society had taught them language and given them choice. It had created a monster it couldn’t control. Being man-made, society was not perfect and people were aware of its shortcomings.
This birthed various groups. People tried to create their own collective harmonies stimulated by their own motivations and perplexities
Riots and protests became frequent and commonplace. More importantly, they also became increasingly violent. People were also better connected than before, making the grouping of masses of people in one place easy.
During this time, Chester’s students became more and more frightened for the world’s future. A large number of them, however, were joining in the riots.
He warned them of how it had taken many, many years and many, many lives to create the society they lived in and, although not ideal, it was the best they had.
Many of his students continued to disagree; they saw how the government was a facade for corruption and control. They saw it as a fake reality in which the citizen believes they have a choice yet they have no say in the conditions of their life.
Although Chester disagreed with them, he knew where their views had come from. He wanted to show them that it was their sense of self, given to them by society, which was causing their sense of suffering.
‘Society has given you the tools to dismantle it. It doesn’t mean you should do so’ he would say.
The futility of his words became clear, however, when people continued to rally and put the governments to rights across the world. People did unite, but it was to protest those in power.
People united on topics that had previously generated disagreement. Their individual governments created their disagreements in the first place, and the people started seeing through all of this. It was no longer “you” and “I” but “us” and “them” as a large number of people united under one common enemy.
One’s race, nationality, and religion no longer mattered. There was a new movement and a vision. It was time for those in power to listen; although the sentiment might have been justified, the movement was quickening and becoming more corrosive.
It was destructive in its design and people were rapid in their revolt!