Charting Freedom’s Descent Into Forgetfulness

Curtis White at Lapham’s Quarterly:

AFernando Pessoa reminds us, our lives are lived inside social fictions: “I tried to see what was the first and most important of those social fictions…The most important, at least in our day and age, is money.” But money is just part of a much larger complex, what Wilde called “the slavery of custom,” in which we have no choice but to live. As the January 6 insurrection and its aftermath have shown, we tell ourselves stories about patriotism—patriotism with no content other than its own fury. Whether it comes from the rioter in chief, the rioters themselves, or the House members impaneled to investigate them, uncritical love of the nation-state generates unfreedom, violence, and, too often, death, as dear Mother Russia has shown once again, in Ukraine. As John Dos Passos dramatized in The 42nd Parallel, patriotism and the rioting that too often attends it are no new thing, as when a “cordon of cops” sweeps up ideological combatants of left and right: “Look out for the Cossacks.”

Of course, knowing that we live in social fictions and knowing how to escape them are different things.

more here.