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Self. A word for the elusive but ever-present enigma that is supposedly at the very core of our being. It is difficult, near impossible, to define, and yet few educated citizens of Western civilization would argue against the self's existence (unless they are a fan of Nietzsche). With this seemingly unanimous, universal belief in the concept, it must simply be accepted that the self is necessary and permanent aspect of each individual in society.

However, this is only partially true. Yes, the self is necessary to our capitalist society, creating the necessary competitive drive to keep the gears of our economic machine churning. However, the self is not necessary, and often detrimental to other systems and situations. Think of the French Revolution, it was an enlightened revolution against an absolutist regime. It marked the self-realization of the masses of Bourgeois who came to the conclusion that, as individuals, they were not getting all they could out of their current economic situation, whereas the aristocracy and the clergy were living the high-life. While the result of the revolution could be argued beneficial, it is clear that the concept of self is detrimental to absolutism. In fact, during this time, the sense of self in the Bourgeois proved to be the most destructive and subversive weapon against the Bourbon dynasty.

Also, the self is not a permanent facet of the individual, in fact, the individual and its subsequent self has historically been in flux most recently coming into existence at the end of the Dark Ages, with the advent of philosophy and early capitalism. Before the Renaissance, the masses of serfs were content to be just that, serfs. They did not consider that life could be better for themselves, because the closest thing they had to a sense of self was a sense of role, as an impoverished labourer. This shows a more universal concept which dominated society, not as a collective of individuals, but a single unit, operating as one with smaller parts. The same can be said of the former Soviet Union. With all Marx's talk of self-realization through labour, communism, at least in its impure "dictatorship-by-the-proletariat" form, proved to nearly eliminate the sense of self in labourers.

Let us ponder the state of the self in our technology-driven capitalist society. Some would argue that the self has come and passed, and remains only as an illusion in our society. Marx would claim that as slaves of the "God Money" we confuse our role in our society for our true self. That would make me an unemployed student. More and more when trying to define the self, we run into problems, attaching our roles in our society, our families, our friend groups, etc. to aspects of our self. In doing this we are defining our place in a greater community and in turn defying our individualism and the very concept of the self. Therefore, it must be argued that either, we once had a self and we have once again lost it (to technology?), or that the self never existed except as maybe an illusion.

If we don't have a self, does that make us slaves? Our government gives us freedom, but our state of being, existence, or whatever it boils down to, takes it away. It can be argued that we live in a constant state of slavery, under a fascist regime that ironically gives us absolute freedom. Few among us truly understand their self, and still fewer embrace their freedom. Maybe the only way to be a true individual is to defy all your roles in society.

Disclaimer: Defying your role in society can lead to infidelity, STDs, physical harm, incarceration, suicide-by-cop, etc. This blog does not condone illegal actions in the name of discovering one's "self". Really it is hardly worth it.

Related Blog: Along with self-based and community-based societies comes the idea of isolationism and Unitarianism. This is a good argument for why the latter is a fundamental and necessary part of society: Why Nietzsche Was Wrong.

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