A nation worth having

Lee Harris defines the enemy as follows:

The Enemy is someone who is willing to die in order to kill you. And while it is true that the Enemy always hates us for a reason — it is his reason, and not ours.

He implies that people who try to understand the enemy are confused about reason and agency. In particular, he implies that those who try to understand the enemies reason have forgotten their own. But, what is interesting about Transnational progressives, pacficists, appeasers, et al., people who keep trying to understand why the enemy hates us is that in many cases they simply dispute that we have reason for anything. They are people who seek to abandon individual self and individual responsibility for some immersive, more just, global whole. Nicholas Humphrey’s points out how dangerous this notion really is and how seductive it is to intellectuals.
Nicholas Humphreys argues that a sense of self is the thing that motivates us to get up in the morning, to survive, and to prosper.

Why should human beings need novel incentives to, as I put it, “get up in the morning and get on with life”?
[….]
In reality, new challenges — and new temptations to abandon the struggle — must have arisen with each advance in biological complexity. The fact that we and other living species are here today is testament to the fact that we have each evolved to find, on our own terms, reasons to carry on. And I think it’s obvious that our terms, human terms, are quite unlike any other.
[…]
Suffice it to say that I believe that about 50,000 years ago, the human species faced a crisis: human beings were in danger of becoming victims of their own mental evolution. Under pressure from ideas they were beginning to lose heart.

Human minds had been extending progressively — and safely — into areas never yet visited by our ape ancestors. But everything changed once intelligence and culture crossed a certain threshold. The critical event was the development of a mind that, on the one hand, demanded meaning and, on the other, was capable of the dreadful realisation that human existence ultimately has none — that life ends as nothing. From that point on, no one was safe from the destructive self-questioning: why bother? what’s the point?

The point is that species that evolve to be capable of asking these questions, but fail to find an answer die out. The survivors are the ones that get pursue continuation of their own identity, even if their net utility/pleasure/desirabilty of their life experiences are negative. If you read the whole article you will see that he is claiming that as we get smarter we need a self of self to distinguish our mind and its survival needs from that of others or to prefer reasons to live over reasons to die:

What saved us? I can do no more than tease you with my answer here. To balance the reasons for embracing death, human beings had to discover a good new reason to value life. And they found it, I believe, right in front of their nose: through reflection on the nature of selfhood.. In short, we were saved by phenomenal consciousness — or, at any rate, by a new-found relation to it.

Kevin Kelly clarifies:

The self is a survival mechanism for high intelligence. A rapidly expanding intelligence growing in power and dimension would be awfully confusing to a growing mind, particularly if it offered multiple views, and well… out of the body experiences. An emerging sense of self would be calming, focusing and attractive, a place to rest from wild ideas (like death and pain), allowing a more stable and effective human to survive.

An increasing intelligence would also reach a point where it became aware of its own intelligence — and that’s a highly dangerous spot because an intelligence that was naked and transparent would be susceptible to intellectual manipulation. The first thing that a mind smart enough to see itself would do is start to hack itself.

What was true of individual humans is also probably true of larger human aggregates. European civilization probably reached the critical point in the late 18th century with the advent of the French Revolution and the creation of nation states. The French Revolution reflected French society attempting to hack itself (hack off its heads?). The nation-state was the response. It gave geographic areas and cultures “a self worth having.”

The problem with the transnational progressives at the societal level and the transhumanists at the individual level is that they fail to pay attention to the requirements on intelligent organizations that they believe in themselves. Giving national power to EU or UN bureaucrats perhpas increases our ability to hack society or humans the power to hack themselves may sounds attractive, but absent the countervailing requirements of self-love, it is a recipe for disaster.

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One Response to A nation worth having

  1. MJ says:

    The point of understanding the enemy is to be able to fight him better, not some intellectual masturbation exercise. For example, if you understand that Al Qaida is a ideological, non-state entity with specific political goals to destablize the current regimes of the middle east and replace them with a totalitarian theocracy, then you might choose to, say, hunt them down individually without destablizing the whole region through a massive groundwar and occupation. You might take $20 Bn (less than 10% of war costs) and subsidize public education in ME to make recruiting future terrorists more difficult. You might fund Iranian student resistance movements. You might fund economic development. Not because you love them and you want them to love us, but because it increases stability, and stability reduces terrorism.

    Of course, if you are a rabid ideologue who believes (in good cold-war fashion) that a nation-state must be directly behind any terrorist group of consequence, you might think you can eliminate terrorism with tanks. And you’d be very, very wrong.

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