Hegel’s History of I and We

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"What generosity? The question we must ask is What kind of society are we building for ourselves? What kind of society do we envision for our collective efforts?"

From this article title “The Spirit of History?”, by Terry Pinkard [1], he describes the views of Hegel, in the philosophy of history. He writes of Hegel’s “three fundamental ideas”:

  • First, the key to human agency is self-consciousness.
  • However, even our often more distanced reflective self-consciousness is itself only a further realisation of the deeper and distinctly Hegelian self-relation: all consciousness is self-consciousness.
  • Secondly, Hegel thought that self-consciousness is always a matter of locating ourselves in a kind of social space of ‘I’ and ‘we’. Saying ‘I’ or saying ‘we’ is just speaking from one of two sides of the same dialectical coin. In many cases, ‘we’ seems to add up to lots of instances of ‘I think’ or ‘I do’, but in its most fundamental sense ‘we’ is just as basic as ‘I’. Each individual self-consciousness is fundamentally social. The generality of the ‘we’ manifests itself in the individual acts of each of us, but ‘we’ is itself nothing apart from the individual acts of singular flesh-and-blood agents. When I know what it is that I am doing, I am also aware that what ‘I’ am doing is, so to speak, the way ‘we’ do it.
  • It is a mistake to think that one side of the coin is more important: ‘I’ is not merely a point without further content absorbed completely within a social space (a ‘we’), nor is ‘we’, the social space, merely the addition of lots of individual ‘I’s. Without practitioners, there is no practice; without the practice, there are no practitioners.
  • Third, for humans, just as with any species, there are ways in which things can go better or worse for individuals within the species. Trees without the right soil do not flourish as the trees they could be; wolves without the right environmental range cannot become the wolves they could be. Similarly, self-conscious humans build familial, social, cultural and political environments that make it possible to become new, different and better versions of ourselves. But what we can make of ourselves depends on where we are in history.

In this sense of “two sides of the same dialectical coin”, are the concepts of “I” and “We”.

Now to the political in the modern era, this country proclaiming its valourious dedication to political freedom, we in the United States have learned to proclaim the rights of the individual. However, as early as the Pilgrims landing or a colony at Jamestown, these we immigrant groups, bound together with similar philosophies defining the group. This country was settled by “We”.

As with the rights of the individual, as expressly declared in our Declaration of Independence (corrected to John Locke’s original conceptualization in our Fourteenth Amendment) of the Rights to Life, Liberty and Property, we also proclaim the rights of the group, the “We”. As refined from the Declaration to our Amendments, from the First Amendment and the Right to Assemble we see the rights of the group. As well, the freedom of religion allows for Churches of various faiths and eschatology, each of which forms a group. The aspect of States Rights, recognizes that smaller groups in the minority as writ large, across our Land, may have a local majority as set forth the rules of conduct therewith.

The efforts to cure the poor of their afflictions are approached as a group doing ministry among the poor and downtrodden. Civic groups encourage business development in local contexts. Other groups have a National presence, but must operate locally. Consider political parties, a group of “We” in which local chapters conduct local operations to gain membership, inform and elect.

The point being that these concepts of “I” and “We”, as “two sides of the same dialectical coin”, each should be celebrated in these United States. The power of agency, dominion and authority are local in nature and so the celebration of individual rights of the “I” are connected to States Rights and Right to Assembly of the “We”. The combination of the power of individualism with the power of community, if enshrined in legislation, will lead to a renaissance of local politics and empower localities the agency, dominion & authority to fix local problems such as drug abuse and homelessness and despair of the working poor, as well as increase markets.

One possible political theory as to how a locality may manage and operate itself goes by the term “Anarcho-syndicalism” [2]. Another good source of modern philosophies as to the capability to thrive in the local context is the works of Abdulla Ocalan, most prominently the idea of “Democratic Confederalism” [3]. He promotes local democratic autonomy.

Living by the dialectic joining of the power of individuals and the power of communities, we would be able to remake society to care for those needy, which is expressly commanded to us by our Lord Christ Jesus.

Generosity on the street? Not much. Consistently, as I go forth in my efforts of Pastorial Care, I speak with many homeless, who fly signs for donations, or walk the streets and ask people for help. Most people, I learn do not give at intersections, nor when passing a man or woman on the street. At least that is the case in my town. Those better-off walking Main Street, I have asked and they do not carry cash with them to help out. Just like in Denver where office workers would come out to smoke but only bring the one cigarette for themselves, no generosity! Men and women spend all day flying a sign and may get Zero donations. It is a tough situation living rough. So I ask, at noticeable volume,

"What generosity? The question we must ask is What kind of society are we building for ourselves? What kind of society do we envision for our collective efforts?"

[1] The Spirit of History? – https://aeon.co/essays/what-is-history-nobody-gave-a-deeper-answer-than-hegel
[2] Anarcho-syndicalism – https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/george-woodcock-what-is-anarcho-syndicalism
[3] Democratic Confederalism – https://libcom.org/library/confederalism-democratic-confederalism-rojava

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