It’s better to vote third party and let people think you’re an idiot, than to vote major party and remove all doubt. This is my response to the party animals who are now trying to persuade me of the “necessity” to vote for either Democrats or Republicans in the upcoming Congressional elections.
To believe that I have a choice outside of the system, apart from the options prescribed for me by others or inferred by me from superficial appearances, leads to a certain liberty of the spirit. This liberty is, however, destructive of the intimate, voluntary relations by which people are bound up in their society at various levels. Thus it is rightly considered treasonous or anarchistic, or even atheistic to one who worships the institutionalized representation of social order called sovereign government.
[T]hat which liberty sets free is the psyche, that is, the conserved, largely hereditary demands and powers of a man or a society. If you are nothing liberty to go any where can’t do you much good.
George Santayana, letter to Peter Viereck, 8 September 1949
What is Santayana talking about here? He is distinguishing vital liberty from empty liberty. Vital liberty is the freedom to fulfill your potential; empty liberty is the freedom to dissipate your energy and let your “self” disintegrate.
Vital liberty requires a basis for natural growth, a foundation of character and belief, the roots of identity. If you don’t have character, beliefs, or identity, or cannot recognize them, it is useless. An uprooted plant dropped in the middle of the desert has almost unlimited freedom to grow and huge amounts of energy flowing to it from the sun. However, all that energy is just going to make it shrivel up until it turns into dust and blows away.
Empty liberty is the freedom to become nothing, to let everything flow out of you uselessly, like exhaling marijuana smoke while you numb your pain. Empty liberty is what you want when you are too afraid to grow. It is entropic and nihilistic.
It seems that Santayana’s vital liberty is different from the liberty to make choices not endorsed by society. They are judged different if the result of your choice is to waste your self and become nothing. If, however, your self is rooted in something outside of society and above it, your choice may result in freedom to grow.
For several years now I have been developing an appreciation for anarchism in many forms, such as left-wing, right-wing, Christian, primitivist, millenialist, cyberpunk, existentialist, and naturalistic. As one might expect, anarchists are not entirely consistent in their philosophies. For example, left-wing anarchists start out denouncing all kinds of bourgeois social constructs, and then end up proposing new, more “enlightened” attitudes to be enforced by a global thought police. Right-wing anarchists start out denouncing socialistic over-reaching central governments, then end up proposing arbitrary laws that require vicious authoritarian enforcement.
Ah, well…there won’t be perfection in this life, anyway. Perhaps that is where the problems start: the belief that one is personally responsible for developing a perfect system as an end-product. The whining of the worldly morons goads the naive philosopher on to overextend his analysis and propose a “workable solution,” as if all thought must be subordinated to pragmatic considerations. This is a foolish idealism, because real life is already full of workable solutions. That is what it means to live in the world: to find ways to make things work, to git’r done, to overcome supposed obstacles and impossibilities, to improve and adapt. Only a theory-soaked freshman engineer believes that working prototypes are miraculously formed from the graphite on his drawings with no intervening process of practical invention based on actual resources and pressures. Yet, the social engineers of every political stripe constantly agitate for a new working prototype based on their pet sentimentality. This is why modern politics should always be suspect, because every modern politician, especially in a democracy, seeks to birth a cosmic beauty fully formed from his hot little head.
*I will cite Ellul, Nietzsche, Zerzan, Kierkegaard, and Santayana to illustrate this thesis as it develops.