As I understand it, we are a collection of continually shifting identities, modifying others and being modified. In addition, we are continually modified by our environment and in turn continually modifying our environment. A continual dance between duality and oneness, between being and nothingness and perceptions of reality. We are a continual succession of interplays between our own internal and external versions of ourselves, and others’ versions of themselves and of us. While the suggestion that identity is fixed is absurd and easily disprovable, equally to insist on the absence of identity, to seek to erase its existence by ideology or philosophy, is as easily challenged by our persistent rebelliousness to coercion whether by state or by the actions of others.
Even in the most transcendent egoless experience, whether through sudden moments of crisis, intense meditative experience, or through altered states induced by external means, all of which can change us fundamentally and with far-reaching consequences, we return to some sense of an identity, an “I”, as illusory as it might be in a metaphysical or even scientific sense. To deny this expression of an individual will as a healthy phenomenon, to deny our sense of personal agency and autonomy by insisting on some nihilistic absence, can very easily present itself as sociopathic and can lead to all sorts of projections and damaging behaviours to onself and to others, depending on the person’s own personal power and ability to effect change in their environment.
At the other end of the spectrum of being, for the individual to be placed under the will of an ideology, which asks the person to subsume itself to a greater material body such as the party or the state, which is in reality only a a substitute for the authority once held by God, is also deeply problematic. The European Enlightenment, if it was anything, was an attempt to do away with the need for a higher authority in the form of a metaphysical being administered by a religious authority and to liberate the individual.
The advancement made by reason, was to recognise that the individual could find freedom and autonomy by connecting first to that authority as something greater within, trusting in one’s own intuition and experience, with no need for an intermediary. This was truly liberating and put man at the centre of the universe and also allowed for these liberated individuals to collaborate from the ground up. It was anti-hierarchical, and it led to the growth of commerce and trade and a challenge to monarchical and clerical power. This presented other problems, those connected to industrialisation and colonialism, but the liberating power of the individual has persisted throughout history and been taken up willingly throughout the globe running parallel to imperialist enterprises. This materialist view, this extinguishing of the soul, had in turn its more spiritual component in the form of nondualistic eastern philosophies, which also ironically led to solipsistic thinking, which denied external reality and suffering and even in its most virulent form, a denial of the one’s personal existence and free will.
Further, this secular liberalism also led to a reaction, or rather a development, which was to subsume the free agency of the personal will to a greater cause, that of independently existing materialist forces. Eventually this led to the creation of ideologies, such as Marxism and Atheist Materialism, which sought to impose its supposedly objective idea of the greater good onto the individual, which paradoxically was not supposed to exist, but was nevertheless coerced into subsuming itself to the greater good of the state or to scientific materialist authority. In this sense, both Nazism and Stalinism, come from the same fundamental error of thinking, which sees the individual only existing to serve the state, emerging as one ideology imposed on its people. This is the fundamental mistake of historical materialism, which led and can only lead inevitably to the gulags and the killing fields, to the concentration camps, to state coercion, psychological suffering and environmental destruction and madness.
The only politics that can work that will unite people is one that recognises humanity as an interdependent set of identities, which encourages personal agency, and sees one’s personal identity, as illusory as it may be, in a greater cosmic sense, situated in an environment and universe which is itself alive and in continual communication, which acknowledges a responsibility to that interplay. No one can have the complete picture. The picture, to be a healthy reflection of the individual and collective will, must be continually shifting and being modified, in a great, big, joyful dance. The aim must surely be to encourage personal sovereignty and autonomy as well as interdependence with other autonomous beings and a deep sense of respect and reverence for oneself and one’s environment. No one above, no one below, no god, no masters, and no coerced obedience to any state apparatus, which must exist, if at all, only to serve the people, to mediate in the lightest and most benign way possible disputes between individuals and groups, and whose existence must only serve the will of the collective, itself a collection of continually shifting patterns, known as human beings.