Disobedience is our truest virtue
May 23, 2010 Leave a comment
Those who follow whatever conventional political observance is currently in vogue, whether nationally or internationally, always tend to see any alternatives as being utopian. I grant them that it is always easier to explain or argue for any political system or ideology that is widely employed. The results and benefits of any such system always seem self-explanatory – especially if any dissent towards it has been more or less silenced or ridiculed.
The problem with such an orthodox frame of mind, however, is that it is reactionary and at odds with all attempts at any true progress. To truly believe in the infallibility of the powers that be and the ideology that they promote or follow is in effect to believe that all that is, is all that will ever be and that no further progress can be made. As George Orwell wrote in 1984, “Orthodoxy means not thinking — not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness”.
Instead, doubt and the questioning of all ways of thinking and all ways of structuring and imagining our societies is the precondition for true progress. With progress I do not mean the god-given and already outlined progress of some religions or that of rigid Marxists or neo-liberal fundamentalists. I am speaking of doubt and hope. Essentially, I believe that there is no need to think unless there is doubt and there is no need to live if there is no hope – and that all hope essentially boils down to hoping for something better, whether it is a better situation for an individual or a better world. “To hope for a better tomorrow, to dream of a new world, that is what is human”, as Ngugi wa Thiong’o wrote while imprisoned in a Kenyan jail as a political prisoner.
Now as most if not all people who have imagined or dreamt of a better world have experienced, this hope seldom starts out as being very specific, indeed it is often merely opposition towards something one feels to be wrong with the world; what John Holloway calls a “scream”: opposition, negativity, struggle. But as he further maintains, “we do not need to have a picture of what a true world would be like in order to feel that there is something radically wrong with the world that exists”, and as Oscar Wilde wrote more than 100 years before him, “disobedience, in the eyes of any one who has read history, is man’s original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made and through rebellion”.
Those with an orthodox frame of mind (and I am speaking of any orthodoxy, be it liberalist, socialist or religious), especially those orthodoxies that are generally accepted to be true, always tends to ridicule the “scream” of opposition that I am speaking of, explaining that the world is too complex for such utopianism. But in reality, as Haruki Murakami has pointed out, the truth is both complicated and simple, and that which seems complicated is usually banal when properly understood. Therefore, the unenlightened are not those who see the world and the motives that control it as simple but instead those who cannot but see it as hopelessly complex, and by seeing it thus, help perpetuate the current orthodoxy.
Maybe the urge for orthodoxy and belonging is inherent in us, maybe it is culturally determined, and maybe it is the result of an unfulfilled urge for belonging and a sense of community that is more or less inherent in us all. If the latter is the case, then the present way of arranging our societies that has prevailed throughout most of the world during the last 20-odd years is at odds with human nature, and we therefore have to find a way to rearrange society to better suit us – not to mention to rectify the serious political and economical injustices that the present world order is responsible for.