Friday, February 13, 2009

Self in Society: Ethical Possibility As Lived Practice

Not Self and Society but Self in Society.

The non-duality (advaita) of Self and Universe of the Upanishad (800 BCE) meets neuroscience with Damasio's "somatic marker hypothesis."(1994).

What an engagement across eons of awareness. I am conceptually locating that momentous engagement in the study of the PSYCHOSOCIAL, which sits at the crossroads intersection of sociology, psychology, quantum physics and cognitive neuroscience but which cannot be collapsed or subsumed within any of them.

First and foremost as an ordinary and reflective person, then and only secondarily as a postcolonial sociologist who teaches foundational theories in Psychology, I am fortunate to have developed for myself, in spaces of academic institutional resistance, and in digital spaces such as this blog, the opportunity to conceptually bring the individual "I" and situate that i within the collective "We", an examined union of the natural and the social-cultural.

There is no lived distance between Self & Society. Such a constructed divide lacks temporal possibility because in real time there is no Self without Society. There is no Society without Selves. It is Society that makes Self human. Though we arrive, at infancy, in Society equipped to be human, to BECOME human, we need Society. Those very few selves who were unfortunate enough to be placed outside of the human social context failed to become human.

Though we are free to mentally manipulate the two, Self and Society, as distinct conceptual categories, in order to further our thought about Self and Society, Self in Society, each necessarily constitutes the other. That symbolic manipulation is a necessary intellectual scientific endeavor in order to contemplate, affirm and establish the interweaving and inseparability of Self & Society, Society & Self.

It has become my life's work and such work is not dependent on the US academy which pays me meagerly but sufficiently for my own frugality, but continually attempts to limit the ethical intellectual scope of what I may do. Therefore most of my work must be unpaid and conducted outside of the US academy. Neither the US academy nor its macro-context, the US nation-state nor its surrogate institutions, define who I am or who I am becoming as Self in Society.

In my own lived practice, I accept full responsibility for my thoughts and actions. Therefore, I cannot ascribe my thoughts and actions (which I concurrently experience or perform in real time), to others OR to magical forces (religion vs. ethics) or fictitious circumstances or fabricated representations, outside of myself.

I am responsible for my thoughts and actions, I am fully accountable for my own thoughts and actions, which may be shaped and influenced by the above, but I still am responsible.

It is my responsibility to myself, my family, my ancestors, my universal civil society to develop my intrinsic motivation and limit the influence of extrinsic motivation in the ethical pursuit of my own lived possibility.

Others are not responsible or accountable for what I myself think and do. I must importantly accept the responsibility that my thoughts and actions may influence and impact others, sometimes to their detriment, therefore I have an ethical responsibility to anticipate how I may affect these selves, these others who are also equally human and have the same ethical potential as I. This is the goal of the Self in joining with other selves in the pursuit of establishing the Greater Collective Good, an indispensable constituting force of Society.

By the same token I cannot accept responsibility for the thoughts and actions of others, including the thoughts and actions of individuals, financial institutions or governments. These I feel absolutely free to examine, challenge and oppose or support, according to my evolving understanding of my own ethical possibility as a moment-by-moment, daily, seasonal and lifelong lived practice.

It is fortuitous for me to have an opportunity for reflection on Self in Society, on this anniversary of Gandhi's assassination.

Chithra KarunaKaran
Ethical Democracy As Lived Practice
Self & Society: Ethical Possibility as Lived Practice
01/30/09 Gandhi was assassinated on Jan 30, 1948

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