Cleanness and the man-project

by Ana Bazac

Between the everyday external goods man needs not only as a living being depending on the permanent exchange of matter and energy, but just in order to fulfill its specific function – the exercise of reason – according to Aristotle, there is one matter-of-course and which is so integrated in our routine habits that, when we consider the necessary external goods to be allocated to every human fellow as a right, we simply do not think to: cleanness, the need of cleanliness.

But this matter-of-course character of cleanness signals, and should signal, not only the necessity of the external goods, but also that they are not only material assets (easy) to give to the oppressed – food, a tent, blankets – but rather social relationships: whose lack/ lack of their suitable character annuls not abstract human rights but the specificity of the human being, and even its existence.

The need of cleanliness is – as all the other needs, besides – an historical/cultural need. And when this need can not be fulfilled not because the individual does not feel it but because there are no material conditions for fulfilment, we should understand that the social relations must not oppose culture; and when they oppose, even stop it, the solution is not to wait for their casual improvement so as some needs to be fulfilled, nor to cover them with humanitarian slogans begging to the rich to sponsor “what they can” (as Thomas Pogge does[1]).

We were taught to focus on our individual soul: and to consider all the human beings according to our unique individual being. For us, we were taught, our uniqueness is the most important; and indeed it is. But we were taught to consider all the other human beings as the Other, the Exterior to our humanity, and not to think that 1) as we are unique, as the others are, each of them, unique; and 2) that if our uniqueness is the most important, their uniqueness, of each of them, is the most important too; and 3) that  the others are not exterior to us, separated from us, but that we discover our uniqueness just through their eyes, just within the strong relationships  with them, just by recognizing their uniqueness, of each of them.

Thus, we were taught to be indifferent to what it happens to the others; and for this indifference does not fit to the entire ideology of self-adulation we are immersed within, we were taught to season our deep egotism with charity in the name of humanitarianism. More funds for refugees – but never enough since the global warfare never stops –, more tents – but never enough –, more food – not enough even though it is in great proportion the result of artificial agriculture and livestock generating a junk food but one that is a big business of the Big Agri-Chemi-Pharma –: we were taught to be overwhelmed by so many funds and discussions related to the disadvantaged – “they are guilty because they are drunks and doggies, and smoking, and preferring the homelessness/ have supported the terrorists/are they themselves terrorists: and actually they are too many, including too many old-aged” – and to support the laws that lead to the destruction of the disadvantaged, and thus to the reduction of their number, just what the powerful want.

We were and are taught to be mum and to not see what would shaken the indifference transmitted as the only correct position of a citizen, our indifference.

We were and are taught that by compassion we show humanity: but that too much compassion is not good[2].  We were taught to be practical in our processes of consciousness: “well, we feed them, what to do else?”.

Well, again, we must to think to them as human beings, and not as dogs. Human beings need to humanly enjoy their meals: to wash their body and enjoy their bath, and to enjoy their sleep in their human home, and to enjoy their effort and creation so as to enjoy their holidays and vacations, and to enjoy their  ideas because these one do not harm the human mind – and first of all, do not violate its righteousness that is the first virtue and proof of the divine origin of humans (as the Greeks, including Aristotle, have considered) – and stimulate it, its logic and its enthusiasm; and to enjoy the society they live, and to enjoy the future of children, and to enjoy being citizens of the world. So many needs!

Yes, just the multitude of needs show that humans can not be reduced to hungry mouths, and that the human needs are intertwined, can not be severed, and in fact one can not fulfill  one  of them without fulfilling all of them. If nevertheless this happens, the humans are reduced, impoverished, and their humanity is wasted.

When we enjoy our bath and feel good because we are clean, when we feel good because we have our particular teloi and we realise them, we ought to think to those who do not enjoy their life.

But as we all see, neither we do preoccupy nor the world is a good place to live for much more people than those pleased: for if we would do, the world would not be a hell for most of its inhabitants.

We are more or less satisfied with our cleanliness, but we are indifferent towards the defilement many of our fellows are obliged to live within: but this defilement contaminates us, too. We are all dirty and wasted: because the world appears to us not as our logic would lead, but as the clichés received from the institutions at the top of the relations of power frame it. (This is phenomenology: how do things appear to us).

And as it seems we cannot understand not only the world – since we feel at a certain moment that it is absurd towards our expectations fuelled by both the pink clichés and our deep needs – but nor our position within and towards it, and neither phenomenology can. Both we and it want to clarify the appearance, the phenomenal, but neither we nor it can arrive to the reasons (and causes) of them. And if we and it – do not forget, phenomenology is a philosophical method – are satisfied with the appearance, and the appearances being disparate and separated, neither we nor it can relate them.

Concretely, both we and it (but it is not the only species of philosophy which behave in such a manner) are indifferent towards the facts that are exterior to our clichés that close the world at the level of the “I who”.  Because: once more, the attitudes are judged according to their results.

And if so, our cleanness is wasted: it is not related to the action to clean the world too. Our cleanness is wasted because only the benevolent words, or even intentions not followed by actions – and not disparate and separated, as we all experience from decades[3] – are not sufficient at all: the world remains dirty.

I used in this short paper the word cleanness/cleanliness both literally – as a main aspect of the external goods – and figuratively. In this last way, cleanness concerns not only the understanding as such, aiming at going to the rational manner of logic all the way, but also the content of ideas, and especially the social ideals which show the capacity and to what extent people relate each other and relate things.

The late modernity in system crisis we live in has imposed – as a means to strengthen its propaganda clichés – the doing away with the social ideals, which have been the driving forces of the birth and even first stage of modernity (the liberal ideal of progress, and overcoming of the dark pre-modern mentalities and social institutions), as well as which have incited the social theoretical and practical critique of modernity (as the communist/socialist[4] ideals). As a result, man’s power to see, to anticipate, to have motivations to live and act has decreased. Because man is his project, as Sartre has formulated,  only when it projects not its individual deeds abstractly thought, severed from the social milieu and consequences, but its worries and decisions and will to act related to the other people.

But what does a project mean, besides the methodological standpoint to anticipate and to act according to this anticipation connected with society? It does mean that the intention put within the design of the future action has the quality to push forward the fate of man in the world and the world, the social relations. Otherwise, and though people could act – and even consciously, voluntarily – in order to put a brake/even to stop every man’s desire to feel good in the world, they are not project, but “retro-ject”: something which, though generated by/based on the social power relations and the dominant ideology, is strange for man’s rational character and has malign consequences.

2400 years ago, Aristotle has observed: “Men think that it is in their power to act unjustly… But really this is not so… to do them as a result of a certain disposition of mind is not easy, and is not in one’s power”[5], since this violates the rational and moral character of humans. So, “choice is praised for being related to the right object or for being right[6], and when people infringe this rational and moral/social specific, they determine troubles in their own mind and psychic: and certainly, they are deviating from their projective nature.

###notes###

[1] See Ana Bazac, ”Global injustice: what is known, what is assumed and what is promised?”, Studia UBB, Philosophia, 58 (2013), No.2, pp. 145-157.

[2] See Marc Weinreich, “90-year-old Florida man arrested for second time in a week after feeding the homeless again”, New York Daily News, November 10, 2014, http://m.nydailynews.com/news/national/man-90-arrested-week-feeding-homeless-article-1.2002790.

[3] For example, there are n ecology foundations and initiatives – even arriving at some positive results – but overall the environmental crises  have deepen.

[4] Here the difference between the communist one and socialist one is not important.

[5] N.E. V, 13, 1137a 6-7, 10-11.

[6] N.E. III, 2, 1112a 5-6.

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