"Even in the most socialized community, there must always be a few who best serve it by being kept isolated. The artist, like the mystic, naturalist, mathematician or 'leader', makes his contribution out of his solitude. This solitude the State is now attempting to destroy, and a time may come when it will no more tolerate private inspiration. State Socialism in politics is likely to lead to social realism in the arts, until the position is reached that whatever the common man does not understand is treason." (Cyril Connolly, The Unquiet Grave, p. 54)
A few years ago, I started collecting quotations from the early twentieth century about the state of the individual in the culture. Cyril Connolly has thought as much about this as anyone. This is my favorite of those pithy, two-sentence pronouncements on the topic:
How do you react to our slogan 'Total Everybody Always'? Have you at last understood that your miserable failure as an individual is proof that you pursue a lost cause? (TUG, p. 100)
I believe the whole "national security" scandal is bringing these issues to the fore again. The state would like to abolish privacy and this means granting no one a space of solitude. It also means replacing the arts with the social sciences in our understanding of who we are. Never again will we compare personal experiences; we'll just consider our "social graphs". We're no longer to be individuals, just members of groups (always several groups, but groups nonetheless). And who we associate with will always be a legitimate concern of the state, a "matter of national security". Since we're nothing but who we associate with, the state's domination will then be total. Total Everybody Always.
These days, I find myself agreeing with Terence McKenna. How do we fight back? "By putting the art pedal to the metal!" That is, we must learn to make a contribution of our solitude. If it takes a few milligrams of DMT to "get into yourself", maybe that's what you've got to do. Oh, yes, I forgot, the State has outlawed such things. Maybe this post is really an homage to Colorado and Washington and Uruguay. They're showing the way, friends.
(P.S. David Brooks sucks. As demonstrated ably by Andrew Gelman and, well, himself.)