If there was just one idea I could teach a classroom of children. An idea that would help create a better society around them wherever they go, it would be this.
To see society as an individual.
Over the years I’ve learned it’s one of the fundamentally different ways I perceive the world from others.
I spent years trying to explain my motivations to others and they would just stare at me. I gave up.
Over time I finally figured out where the disconnect was. Our fundamental world views were totally different.
An extrovert who lives within the social body sees society as reality itself. If fuzzy hats are in fashion, they can’t criticize or argue with that because it is a natural law, like the laws of physics. We all have to have a job or own a car because that’s just how it is, seemingly as constant as gravity.
A well-adjusted person always uses words like ‘we’ when referring to a sports team, a nation, or a corporation. In fact, I find one of the best ways to blend in with people is to use the collective ‘we’ in a sentence.
Ever noticed how anything in life considered mandatory by extrovert belongers is referred to as a ‘track?’ In their minds, it’s literally a mechanical rail from which life cannot deviate.
An outsider, meanwhile, learns to think of the society they live in as a single large entity they must co-exist with. And over time, as an individual sitting across from them at a bargaining table.
Every day, I see this shadowy individual sitting across from me in a bare white room, like an interrogation room. Between us, on the table lies a chess board on which we make our moves. Every day is a new day where we negotiate terms at that table. Any agreement, tacit or explicit is subject to sudden change.
This game is very challenging because I am weak and small while the being I’m playing against is immeasurably powerful. It puts the terms on the table, but I have only a little power to reject or change the terms set before me. Most of the time I have to rely on guile to get my way, looking for any crack in its defenses. Existence is precarious. At any time, it is capable of crushing me like an insect. Its strong limbs are created by the power of belief of countless millions. In spite of its overwhelming power, though, I am winning.
Compare my attitude now to a plugged-in person who simply takes whatever terms are handed to them and calls it ‘reality.’ There is no prospect for improvement or a better life. Even if they become among a few who are rich in wealth or status, they can never escape the rules.
Worse, every person who uncritically accepts the world around them is a threat to every being of awareness and agency.
At the bargaining table, society has some limitations. It can only offer an individual what most individuals are willing to accept. If society isn’t offering what you want, it’s because most other people are willing to settle for less.
Every unaware person functioning as an unwitting tendril of Society is like a scab filling in for strikers, a liability to the common good.
We see every society is only as rich or poor, peaceful or violent, enslaved or free as an expression of most members of the group. One could move them all to a new continent, even another planet, and all the same traits would quickly reassert themselves.
The society we must bargain with is exactly what we collectively deserve.
The character of Mr. Society sitting across the table from you tells you exactly how much most of your fellow humans are on your side. Sadly, when I look into its face, I cannot doubt that it is The Enemy, as I knew by instinct even as a small child. It is a sad perversion of what it ought to be.
The perspective of the introverted outsider, is similar to the Kantian concept of a moral imperative. To consider what the world would look like if everyone did it.
To not steal from a supermarket, for instance, because no supermarket could stay open if everyone stole. And because every theft passes the cost on to those who pay.
The outsider understands a burden of responsibility that is inherently alien to Belongers. This, however, gives a matured outsider incredible freedom and power to act on the world. The ability to do things that most others on their predestined tracks cannot even imagine.
The ability to face society at that table and engage in battle, knowing that you’re not just fighting for yourself, but for the sake of everyone around you… That’s what sets apart a free being from the perpetual slave.
Many times in life I’ve simply found ways around the typical ‘achievements’ and status trinkets that are considered essential, not because there’s anything special about them, but because people are mortally afraid of ostracism from the tribe if they fail. Afraid of losing access to mating partners. Afraid of being broke and losing status. Afraid of ending up out on the streets. Afraid of being turned away by their friends and family…
But when you turn and meet The Enemy face to face, you stop being a small terrified thing just reacting to capricious threats from cradle to grave.