Back in the 1600s, we experienced “The Enlightenment” and in it we learned of a new goal, universal man. This is an ideal human archetype toward which every man can work, and possibly achieve it, through “reason” or logical thinking ability which is equally distributed to all men. But as we look back on history since that time, we come to to a striking conclusion: We like to think we can each be a genius, but when we make that assumption, we see that we are transferring a fear of socioeconomic reality into a projection. In this projection, we claim we are all equal to avoid the strife that arises from inequality.
The democratization of genius
Traditionally, genius suggests a man of broad and complex ideas and states that exceed the knowledge of his time. Time must be understood as a specific place in History, delimited by a set of economic and cultural circumstances. These in turn determine the world that is created by its inhabitants, as humans work toward expectations and by doing so, make them come true. The genius is the peak of this structure and as innovations come through his vision he transcends time, but it is actually his genius that transforms the world through leadership in thought. The creativity of the genius rests then in his ability to overcome the consensus around him; his rich, wide dimensions shine upon the reactionary nature of his peers through an idealistic pro-activity of his internal reflection. The genius is intrinsically rare, a combination of blood and divine grace. The genius creates History while others live in it. The Marxist perspective of equality seems to be out of date, specially after the fall of the USSR, yet its thought remains prevalent in the “common sense” of modern man. Modern social thought is defined by the denial of natural hierarchy, and this feature explains the roles of human actors as constructed faculties. The genius is no longer a congregation of higher powers in a man, but a series of human-made environmental requirements, which are ultimately represented in their most foundational form as economics.
Now, it is important to notice that these environmental requirements do not extend to natural causalities. In order to every man to be potentially a genius, nature is to be understood as a scenario where human takes place, as an inert provider of resources that man is able to exploit in function of consensus: some agree to rule because some agree to follow, like a Rousseauian fall of grace. Man is a product of nature, but in this egalitarian view, man necessarily overcomes nature so he can freely organize nature. Therefore, the organization that makes the genius is nothing else than the result of a long chain of unfair consensus, which must be reverted to fulfill most people desires. In this mind, the genius does not achieve a certain position thanks to innate talent, but the genius has talent due to his position. Consequently, every man is an unpolished marvel who has the seeds of change; every man is a genius if the right conditions are meet. Hierarchy, being a social manifestation, is dependent to the place we start to run for the price.
In a 100 meter footrace, if we start at the same point, we all will be winners. This ludicrous example turns out to be “common sense” if we understand the starting point as wealth and the standardized tracks on the 100 meters as an equal education.
It is like this: in a 100 meter footrace, if we start at the same point, we all will be winners. As ridiculous as it seems to be, it is certainly a Marxist logic, on which the “outdated” communism prevails. It turns to be “common sense”, if we understand the starting point as wealth, and the standardized tracks on the 100 meters as an equal education. This is the democratization of genius, and it becomes a common trait in the different forms of socialism. The alternative is to bring natural hierarchy again back to the game.
The description of the genius we make here is more practical than it may appear. The genius is not a mere indefinable singularity that pops out, but a model of creativity and discipline that some humans are closer to; while the limits are set by people like Goethe, Beethoven or Aristotle, the social class that collectively embodies these qualities is the aristocracy. Genius is the peak of aristocracy, the aristocratic art and science are the food of the genius. The genius is not a random hero, without any background, a peasant idealist.
Modern man as one dimensional man
I have just suggested that the concept of alienation seems to become questionable when the individuals identify themselves with the existence which is imposed upon them and have in it their own development and satisfaction. This identification is not illusion but reality. […] There is only one dimension, and it is everywhere and in all forms. The achievements of progress defy ideological indictment as well as justification; before their tribunal, the “false consciousness of their rationality becomes the true consciousness” – Herbert Marcuse: One-Dimensional Man, (Boston: Beacon, 1964)
Contemporary man operates in a single dimension, in the reduction to slavery by his own productivity. Whether this occurs in abundance under consumerism, or in strict enforcement under socialist totalitarianism, the ideology is swallowed and tamed by the products, and all human proactivity, is softened, made propaganda or a good of consumption. The individuals are actually satisfied, like a Nietzschean last man, and they are simplified in this satisfaction.
In the West, purchasing power became the grave of emancipation. As the lower classes reached unprecedented social mobility, their alienation grew stronger in direct proportion to their increased consumer clout. The economic lives of the people were enhanced, but their cultural standards were not. Culture, traditionally understood as the soul of the community, was left in the background of a materially oriented. The triumph of the “free-world” is a quantitative fact as a more efficient production system. However, without Culture or in other words with a surrogate culture that is entirely money-based, man is reduced to a buyer/purchaser. Our choices shrink from a wide open horizon to a series of yes/no questions about which product can match which need, desire or function. The revolution created materialism and consumerism from this surfeit of choices.
Acknowledging this fact, the Left assumes that it is not the lower class, but people at the top of the media industry who rule the institution of consumerism. Yet that industry is beholden to the desires of its audience, and the lower classes win by having a greater demographic presence, so they in effect rule the media industry. If we look at media, we can see that it like other business ventures is a statistical process. Products that sell are made in greater abundance, and those that do not sell, vanish. The supposed weapon of the media elites is not formed of malevolent intent, but a solid understanding of the reptilian brain of the consumer which needs new packages on a regular basis to satisfy an inner urge.
From that point of view, we can see how even the evil of Big Media is an empowerment for the average citizen. We have true equality because these products exist for us; the Right praises capitalism for this reason, for having brought us an equality of opportunity and lifestyle potential.
Genius as the multidimensional man
All in all, even without grotesque visions, every organic desire for improvement remains up in the air if the social one is not acknowledged and taken into account. Health is a social concept, exactly like the organic existence in general of human beings, as human beings. Thus it can only be meaningfully increased at all if life in which it stands is not itself overcrowded with anxiety, deprivation and death. – Bloch, Ernst (1995), The principle of hope. Cambridge, Mass. (MIT Press), 467
Hope — revolution is perpetual. Our search for utopia is like a long curve that makes an never-ending approximation to the zero, yet, we are there, in the way. Some Marxists, like Bloch understood that sociocultural outlook that cannot be fulfilled by automatic reactions to wealth; instead, changes demand a conscious and full-dimensional reason to seek both values and reasons to be, and only in that way recovers its full breadth of meaning. As noble as this idea might be, however, it is incomplete. The hope it advocates goes beyond our reptilian brains and simian attitudes and demands a hero, the genius and exceptional man, to implement it. Unfortunately, this man is not in the Crowd, and therefore any attempt to factory-make such a person through education or propagandizing of the masses is destined to fail.
In contrast to the universal attitudes of the egalitarian one-dimensional man, multidimensional man is naturally idealist because through Culture he transcends the consumerist dead-end that is inherent to materialism. Multidimensional man asks: money, what for? He realizes a number of priorities that are higher than money, which money and production must serve as means to. This multidimensional man is rare. He is not the universal man of the Enlightenment. He is not the ridiculous simplification of human capabilities in function of economic position, where economic position of the good noble oppressed people makes good culture. The multidimensional man is divergent in nature, as a Zarathustra among the crowd; he is the spirit of romanticism that revolts against the imposition of equality.
Where the Enlightenment in its failure deconstructed Culture to make all people equal, the romantic spirit keeps Culture far off in the stars, and struggles to reach it, even though aware that most men cannot touch it. Humanity is so complex in itself that it is a complex relation of distinct, unequal parts. Human nature is what makes humanity so rich and vast. From the vantage of the universal man, man has not fulfilled the infinite possibilities that his blank slate would appear to grant him, but it is reduced to be an interactive chalkboard that responds with the information put on it.
This egalitarian thinking reduces human complexity to a hungry, individualist parrot that accepts equality as a condition of his satisfaction. In such a “last man,” there is no human spirit with an imperative in his nature to manifest; there’s no wider self. There’s no nous (intellect), no thumos (passion), but only epithumia (appetite). In this unidimensionalization, man is all desire, and any intelligence or passion is surrendered as a “superstructure” of this individualist agreement among individualists.
If we want to regain our complexity, we must accept that the layers we make of society are a reflect of our intrinsic differences.