Meditation on Utopia (work in progress)
Let’s start with a few examples.
A mother during a walk adresses her daugher:
Why are you walking like that? Straighten your back! You are bent like a bicycle when in curve.
Streets are like rivers, squares are like lakes, stairs are like waterfalls.
A familiar similarity in these two examples is obvious, isn’t it? Here are some slightly less obvious similarities:
Tiles on the roof, scales on a fish.
This similarity is not obvious, but from the moment it is recognised, it is incontestable and more distinct than the other similarities which appeared more obvious to us.
Another less obvious similarity:
The cross-section of a pencil reveals a total sun eclipse.
Non-obvious similarities are exciting, aren’t they?
And the last introductory example:
Behind the word is paper. Behind us is the sky.
Let us consider the suggested similarity of the relation between a word and paper and the relation between people and the sky. Let’s also consider the different implications arising from this similarity.
On the basis of the examples above, as well as of hundreds of others which are easily given, we can immediately make our first observations about similarity:
– everything existing is inter-comparable
– due to continual changes, even the same thing or phenomenon is comparable with itself
– similarities can be obvious or hidden
– obvious similarities often hinder us noticing hidden similarities
– every similarity points to something, reveals something to us
– similarity is never literal (it always adds at least one more new dimension, at least one more new aspect)
– similarity generates meaning
– every similarity is important
Let’s hold on here for a minute.
Why is every similarity important? Why, in general, is similarity important? Let us demonstrate and substantiate this.
Nothing exists that is identical to itself. Nothing exists which could be identical to itself. Everything existing is different from itself. Nothing is the same as itself. As a poet Juan Ramon Jimenes said: „Yo no soy yo“. I am not I.
Even if it seems to us that everything existing is identical to itself, this is not so. Let’s look at it more attentively and think: what could be identical to itself? Check it please. So? Nothing.
Same is never the same. It’s not possible to be the same as oneself. Even a thing’s complete differences to itself are not the same as another thing’s complete differences to itself. Every person is unique, unparalleled, unrepeatable, singular. Every person is an embodiment of difference. And because of precisely that, every person is mutually comparable to another person.
What is valid for personalities is valid for cultures: every culture is unique, and because of precisely that it is comparable to other cultures. What is valid for personalities and cultures is valid for nations. Because nations are based mainly on identicality but not on difference. What is valid for nations is valid for ideologies.
Only different can be similar. This argument is the cornerstone of the similarity utopia. Why? Because only similar is different. If there is no similarity, there there is no difference. Only similar can watch over and care for different. Only identical cannot be similar. Only identical is not and cannot be different.
The guarantee of difference, non-parallelabilty, uniqueness cannot lie in identicality. Similarity as a basis is more constructive, older and wiser than the basis of identicality. Similarity is productive while identicality is reproductive and reductive. Similarity is creation while identicality is redundancy. Similarity is a challenge. An essential condition of similarity is our imaginative capability. Not always, but often, courage is needed as well as a vision for similarity to appear.
By our search for similarities and by our adhering to similarities we directly support and maintain difference. If there is no similarity, then there is no difference. From a developed inclination towards similarity, respect for difference is spontaneously born. The inclination, if not if it does not betray us, brings respect. And an inclination towards similarity never betrays.
The respect for difference can be a respect for a concrete difference or differences, but can also be a respect for difference in and of itself, i.e. for the sense of difference, i.e. for the principle of difference.
Similarities are always important, whatever differences they point to. Are there differences which are not worth respecting? Yes, there are. And again, this kind of difference we reveal through similarity. So what to do with the differences which are not worthy of respect, which are not justified? For example, class differences? For example, the difference between the market value and use value of a product? There are differences which are not justified because they are not needed. Are there non-justified differences which are needed?
Cultural differences must not hide class differences. Cultural differences must not hide class privileges. Cultural differences must not hide cultural privileges. Class similarities must not hide class differences (let us remind ourselves of observations that point to the fact that obvious similarities often hide or hinder recognition of hidden similarities and hidden differences).
If we search for similarities and adhere to the similarity of different social classes, this does not mean that we by this fact support them and thus stand for preserving class hierarchy in society, but it means that through this we better recognize and understand social classes and hierarchies.
We should not allow the discussion of cultural differences to serve to abolish discussion of class differences. Of course, as all other differences, class differences can be compared, mutually, or with anything else.
THE OPPOSITE OF SIMILARITY
What is the opposite of similarity? Without thinking, many would answer incorrectly: difference. The correct answer, however, reads: non-similarity. What is non-similarity? While similarity maintains difference, non-similarity maintains identicality. What is then the opposite of similarity? Identicality, but in no respect difference.
The only relevant differences between people are in thinking, in imagination and in the responsibilities which arise from there. Only people are capable of recognising a similarity. Only cultures can recognise a similarity. Where there is no receptiveness and inclination to similarity there is no culture. Where there is no responsibility for differences, there is no culture.
One should gravitate towards similarity, but not identicality. Because similarity is incomparably more interesting than identicality. Because similarity is incomparably more important, more noble than identicality.
PLEASURE IN SIMILARITY
Similarity is not only rewarding intellectually and creatively, but also gives pleasure. The pleasure in similarity comes from a pleasure in being human. The pleasure in similarity comes from an indirect confirmation of difference.
The pleasure sometimes gets reduced by an accumulation of similarity, because the effect of recognition and self-recognition becomes anticipated. But then the pleasure comes at the next level of consciousness, bearing in mind that confirmed differences only seem to alter the unique internal logic, the unique regularity. What is that logic, what is that regularity? What is that substance of being human? It is exactly the one which would not be possible without showing itself in numerous multifaceted individualities and non-repeatabilities and various manifestations. It is the very regularity which disappears if the differences through which it shows itself so magnificently and excitingly disappear.
If there were no difference in manifestation and appearence, but only sameness and uniformity, that would mean that the regularity we care about would be permanently dead and non-functional. In identicality being human is under threat, under deadly threat.
And how can one make this break-through – spiritual, mental, cultural, political, civilizational – from similarity as a recognition of more or less curious comparisons and formal analogies – to similarity as a recognition of the unique and indivisible underlying connection without which being human is threatened?
Just by the fact that the recognition of similiarity and comparison leads to questioning the reason which brings about those similarities, kinship and unifomity in differences. It is easier to understand this reason from two or more examples than from only one. From identicality, i.e. from one case of self-tautology, we cannot get to knowledge (which overcomes this tautology). But in similarities here there are two or more singularities, from which similarity appears through comparison, the pattern appears so that it is easier to see its function and aim. Because the pattern is always here to protect and secure certain value, something important, something really relevant to people, which otherwise is prone to disappearence, distortion, being forgotten, hostility, exhaustion, devaluation, loss… And then one can see that something that is important is important to all people equally.
Manifestation and articulation of differences through similarity is always an act to secure a certain description or conviction – thought and conception – in order to make desirable and noble effects, i.e. the consequences of those convictions and descriptions. Without shaping, without an act of comparison, our convictions would be under threat, and the consequences would be undesirable. What convictions and description does the question concern? The question concerns freedom. How?
By the fact that similarity is in the domain and in the competence of imagination. Since imagination is the domain and the competence of freedom, that means that similarity is the domain of freedom. Louis Buñuel: “La imagination es libre, el hombre no”. This means, in fact, that pleasure in similarity comes to pleasure in freedom.
Cultures and communities are divided into two main groups: cultures and communities which control convictions and cultures and communities which control the consequences of convictions. Control of convictions is inevitable in cultures and communities of identicality, and control of the consequences of convictions is inevitable in cultures and communities of similarity. The difference looks small, lying only in one word: consequences. But this difference is fundamental. In this difference is freedom maintained?
Identicality threatens our freedom. Identicality is in the domain of tautology. Identicality lacks any kind of content. Identicality is non-functional and passive. Identicality cancels the need to think, to imagine and to be responsible. Insisting on identicality we lose freedom. Insisting on identicality we lose our base instead of finding it.
DIALECTICS OF COMPARISON
The way of similarity leads through comparison. To compare means to research and to detect and to recognize similarities. It is important to emphasize that the comparison does not search for the same, but for the similar. So the comparison does not require identicality, but difference. Towards difference via different, that would be the dialectics of comparison.
Comparison does not see different by looking for the same, but it sees the same (i.e. two separate identities, equal to itself and tautologically defined) by looking for the different (i.e. similar included into the seemingly separate and independent identities).
To translate this dialectics: comparison is not the process by which we look for an identity that would identify two or more incomparable differences, but it is a process by which we seek for a similarity that will bond the two at first glance unrelated and seemingly self-sufficient identities (things, phenomena, people, ideas, etc.).
If established by comparison, the similarity takes care and maintain the difference, otherwise revoked by the identification. So far, the concept of subject has been identity-based, but the we should be similarity-based.
If we are all the same in a world where everything is the same, the urge and need for subject, or for subjects and for their functions become redundant. But if we are, then, not the same but all alike, in a way that we must relentlessly try to recognize patterns and aspects and modes of those similarities, in a world where everything is similar, then the urge and need for subject or subjects and for their functions becomes vital.
COMPARISON VERSUS MIMICKING
Identicality is based on the eternal sameness and it requires the same in the same, by which it loses and forgets the difference. Identicality is mimicking (imitation, copying, cloning). The similarity is phantasy. The road towards the difference is, we saw it – similarity, and the road towards the similarity is, we saw it – comparison. Let us compare comparison and mimicking.
Comparison is a meta-act in relation to mimicking: it is mimicking mimicking. Similarly, mimicking is a meta-act in relation to the tautology of identicality. Mimicking is the first and unconscious step in gaining consciousness. At the next step consciousness performs an act of self-reflection and calls into question the identicality which originated in mimicking.
The first step in acquiring self-consciousness is comparison. An ability to compare is the grounding of our self-consciousness. Similarity appears when we mimic mimicking, when we mimic the different through the different, when we consciously mimic something which cannot be mimicked. By this we prove that we have overcome the blind horizon and the limits of identicality.
Comparison requires more refined, higher and stronger intellectual and imaginative processes than mimicking. Similarity is a higher and stronger concept than identicality. Comparison is more noble than mimicking. Similarity is more noble than identicality.
Comparison marks one element or view as being different, and yet it mimics it as if it is the same, through which, at the same time, it empasizes the overarching difference. Through this, similarity is established; this is the process of the birth of similarity. And by mimicking we mark one element or view as a different one, at the same time ignoring all possible similarities. By this an all-embracing sameness is established which subsequently wipes out every similarity in elements or views. This is identification, the process of the birth of identicality.
Similarity mimics the same in the different. Similarity, in fact, in this way makes the impossible possible. And identicality superimposes an exclusive difference on the ground of sameness. Identicality, in fact, superimposes exclusive difference on the ground of the seeming sameness. Identicality through this finds the impossible as the truth.
Apparentness in similarity is justified. Apparentness in identicality is not justified. Similarity lies in the domain of imagination, and identicality lies in the domain of repression. Similarity is in the domain of aesthetics and ethics, and identicality is in the domain of politics and ideology.
Similarity is aesthetic and ethical because it self-consciously insists on apparentness as its medium, emphasizes it, while identicality hides and neglects the medium of its apparentness. Similiarity does not just tell us: there is a kinship here, but at the same time also: I confess, this kinship is apparent. Through this confession it opens the possiblility of kinship and closeness, and makes kinship in living things possible.
Similarity points both to kinship and to distinction. The more similarity is distinguished, the better it keeps difference as a backgound and as a context. Similarity requires a vision. Identicality makes a vision unusable. Identicality requires blind obedience.
Similarity is superior to identicality because, it, ultimately, accepts and supports the latter as a possiblity. Identicality is inferior to similarity because it, ultimately, rejects and exterminates the latter as a possibility.
Similarity is, in the last instance, the possibility of identicality. Identicality is, in the last instance, the impossibility of similarity.
RULES OF SIMILARITY
There are four rules of similarity: resistance to the impossible, resistance to the apparent, resistance to the final, resistance to knownness.
Firstly, similarity successfully resists the impossible, establishing a connection where there isn’t any and where it cannot be. This is the first rule. Similarity shows that this ‘cannot be’ is true only at the first sight. Similarity successfully resists apparentness. But this is not yet the second rule.
Instead of the apparentness of non-relatedness similarity offers the apparentness of relatedness. Similarity would not be similarity if it did not have to point also to the apparentness of its apparentness. Similarity must make it clear that the truth is primary. So only this is its second rule. And similarity does it successfully. But this is still not enough.
We need the next rule. Not a single truth is final and incontestable. Similarity offers the test of being contested itself. Similarity emphasizes all the differences, it hides nothing. Similarity superimposes the eternity of its validity by offering the clear and unambiguous conditions of its preservation. So if these conditions are always fulfilled then similarity is always valid. This is the third rule, the rule of successful resistence to finality, resistence to limited existence. And even this is not sufficient. Because resistence to a finite existence secures knowingness.
Similarity, however, resists its own knowingness. Similarity would not be similarity if it did not convey in itself the risk of multiple meaning, openness, incompleteness, inaccessibility. Similarity is not similarity if it does not imply also some unspoken, always unknown conditions of validity and the procedures of verification. This is its fourth rule.
The fourth rule of similarity is bound to the knowingness of unknownness. Similarity would not be similarity if it did not resist the knowingness which it itself has established. Does anything related to being human come from this? Yes, only in this way can we gain freedom.
Similarity confirms that people live in fourfold resistance: resisting the impossible, resisting the apparent, resisting finality, resisting knownness. All these four „resistances“ are not located in identicality.
UNKNOWN BUT CLOSE WORLDS
Through comparison, i.e. revealing similarities a new imaginarium is created, the world we never knew before. Through discovering similarities a relation is established, relatedness is established, mutuality is established. Through discovering similarities closeness is established. Through discovering similarities kinship is established. Similarity means to make common, to communicate, to understand, to bring closer, to accept. Through discovery and recognition of similarities understanding is realised, communication is realised, trust is realised, solidarity is realised. Similarity at the same time both maintains differences and unites.
In the world of identicality similarity is a cause of a conflict, violence and hatred. And in the world of similarity identicality is impossible.
THE FASCISM OF SAMENESS
Through the self-delusion of belonging to imposed identicalities exclusion and disintegration occur. Through the self-delusion of belonging to imposed identicalities misunderstanding, rejection of compromise, xenophobia, ghettoisation occur. Through the self-delusion of belonging to imposed identicalities antagonism, conflict, and violence occur. Through the self-delusion of belonging to imposed identicalities death occurs.
If culture and the community put similarities into practice every day at all levels, it can be foreknown that the realisation of closeness and kinship will ulimately lead to approving the assumption of incontestability of differences between us, and also to understanding that only one relevant difference exists between people: that is the difference in thinking and imagination.
In this case, people would be seen to fall into two main groups: those who don’t think and don’t imagine against those who think and imagine. Of course, in the second group people would differ according the variations in their thinking and imagination. And they would enjoy the benefits and pleasures of the world based on revealing mutual similarities, because those similarities would at the same time contribute to their individuality and uniqueness as well as to their relatedness and integration with others.
However, there remains a problem with the first group, to which those who don’t think and don’t imagine belong. They will never admit that they don’t think and don’t imagine, but will always refer to their identicality, which embodies what they believe in, what they think they think and what they imagine they imagine.
Unfortunately, they hate others, particularly those who think differently. Because the only relative measurement of difference is thinking and imagination (plans, ideas, conceptions, principles, regularites, understanding, interpretations). They hate those who think differently because they don’t think but fear. They fear, although they would never admit to it. And they fear us because we by our very existence, are different and differently thinking; we remind them that they don’t benefit from life or from themselves, they get nothing except that empty sameness for which there is no necessity to be conscious of anything, there is nothing to understand, nothing to imagine, nothing to discover, nothing to be capable of, nothing to desire, nothing to dare, nothing and nobody to be responsible for, nothing to create.
The base of their life is undermined by others and those thinking differently; in fact, this is not a base at all, but a simple illusion, a fatamorgana, abyss, vacuum, insignificance. That phantasmal base, that sameness which insulates them and barricades them in, has been and remains their alibi for all the emptinesses and all the unfulfiiled things and all the irresponsibities and all the falsenesses and all the artificialities and all the small and large crimes and frauds. In it, in that phantasmal sameness, there is not nor can there be any exception by definition, otherwise it would not be sameness, otherwise it would not be identicality.
So, even to the very hint of an exception from sameness, from identicality – that taboo of all taboos – they react mechanically, they have a native need – due to the instinct of preservation, due to the call of the herd; thus, due to an unarticulated and irrational call – to destroy that threat – which is direct and obvious to them, the threat to their sacred object and the taboo of sameness.
And that is why they are violent, hardened, that is why they are soulless, insensitive and thoughtless. And that’s why they are even more densily packed in a herd, which sends only one message: to hate, to expel, to remove, to destroy, to wipe out, to forget, to blame. And that is why: fascism.
SIMILARITY AND RESPONSIBILITY
Similarity has the capacity for prevention of conflict. In this respect similarity is like responsibility. The only acceptable identity is responsibility. Responsibility does not exist without freedom. Freedom does not exist without responsibility. Responsibility, like similarity, is in the domain and the competence of freedom. The only identicality acceptable for all of us is similarity.
But identicalities are established on precisely the opposite principle to similarity and responsibility. Identicality is a threat to similarity and responsibility. Identicality is a false and unsatisfactory substitution of similarity and responsibility, thus – it is a bad substitution for freedom.
Identicality is false and unsatisfactory (because nobody and nothing is created to be the same as anything or anybody else, including identical to itself, and nobody and nothing while existing remains the same as itself for a single moment. Identicality is a threat to freedom.
It will suffice to recall the main argument: only different can be similar. Some readers will probably also remember examples.
Behind the word is paper. Behind us is the sky, the sky of similarity.
We have a base.
We can make a difference.
Finally, at the very close, one question.
Similarity as a concept appears to have many advantages and similarity appears neither to be incomprehensible nor inaccessable. Then why are civilisation, culture, politics and human community still experienced as a utopia, if we can imagine them as based on similarity? Is the problem in the concept or in us?
MELA, Glasgow, 20.04.2012, Narratives for Europe
MELA Books: European Crossroads pdf