The problem with linear thinking.

In talking about love, I’ve talked a lot about its opposite, control. It seems therefore logical to do the same with creativity. In fact, we run into similar hurdles. As I pointed out in my previous entry on the subject, assembly-line production is not necessarily uncreative in all aspects. Neither is the refusal to create. Creative and uncreative actions come together in making up the kinds of productions and creations that we see today (or in the cases where there is little or no creativity, creativity could be added to the system, and in an Anarchist society they probably would).

The opposite of creativity is, I think, not a specific sort of action but rather a way of thinking about actions, which I would call “logics.” A logic is a path that one takes, in reasoning or actions, which inevitably railroads us into specific conclusions; a series of consequences or conclusions which entail each other within a given framework. These logics generally exist as a side-effect of the existence of some system which elevates some principle as being more important than human values. Any system which does not have the expression of man’s values as its aim will inevitably subordinate or sacrifice those concrete values for some abstract objective.

To illustrate what I mean, I’ll use the example of the control logic, which I already discussed before (although I didn’t call it that). If one starts from the premise that people are innately evil, this leads us to the belief that people should be controlled, which leads us to the belief that there must be a controlling class which must also be controlled, which leads us to the belief in a total control society.

Note that I am not saying that everyone who believes that people are innately evil inevitably also believes in a total control society. In the same way, one can believe in religious dogma without getting to the point of supporting a theocracy based on the laws of [insert assumed source of dogma here]. But if one follows the natural path of reasoning, one will eventually get to such a conclusion.

The book Nowtopia gives more examples of another kind of logic, capitalist logic. It talks about various movements of self-reliance or joyful cooperation that are at least somewhat anti-State or anti-hierarchies in nature.

When these movements organize, there is a sort of natural progression that occurs. These people are well-intentioned, but as they spend more and more time on the organization, they spend more and more money on it and at the same time they work less and less at their job, so they need more money. The need for money leads them to gear more and more of their activities towards profit. But as they are small, that profit is unstable. The need for a stable inflow of money leads them to expand. To expand, they need more manpower (usually volunteers), and the new people coming in don’t tend to share the same goals, generally wanting to make the organization profit-oriented. The end result will be either the assimilation of the organization in the capitalist system, or the recuperation of the movement by the capitalist system, or both.

The capitalist logic is also demonstrated by the defense industry. As, in the capitalist logic, goods can only be supplied by a strictly hierarchical supply/demand system, the government positioned itself as the demand and the defense industry as the supplier, which lead to an industry completely depending on public policy and therefore the prime influence on that public policy. The principle towards which the capitalist logic railroads us, its framework, is the principle of profit; the more we accept profit motives, the more we are engaged in the capitalist logic, and vice-versa.

Another omnipresent form of logic is heteronormativity. Love relationships must express themselves as a hierarchical family structure, therefore homosexuals and other non-heteros who seek acceptance do so within the strict framework of a hierarchical family structure. In order to do so, they must therefore pursue marriage and child-raising privileges as well, pursue capitalist success in order to have their character validated by hetero society, and fight against “deviancy” within their own “ranks,” creating a whole new category of Others. Each of these, in turn, entail their own kinds of logic.

In the political area, other logics include the democratic logic (with votes as the ultimate goal) and nationalist logic (a vast one, which applies to war, immigration, child-raising, and other areas).

Many implicit false premises also come from logics. For instance, the belief that legal obligations or divine commands entail moral obligations is the result of a prior belief in a logic (in this case, democratic logic and religious logic) which claims to impose some moral obligation on the individual. Without the belief, the premise would not even come up, there’d be no reason to bring it up at all.

How does creativity fit into this? There are two roles that creativity plays in a free society: being the expression of a fundamental human need, and being the motor of progress. In both functions, and especially the latter, creativity is the opposite of linear thinking as I’ve described it. I think observing the way all these logics work shows well that they trample and obliterate all expression of one’s personality. Capitalism eradicates all creativity at work. Heteronormativity eradicates all creativity in one’s relations. Democracy eradicates all creativity in the political sphere. All our actions are railroaded towards a singular state of affairs.

I said creativity is the motor of progress. I have never really seen this expressed anywhere before, so I might need to clarify what I mean. First, I mean progress in the Anarchist sense, not in the capital-democratic sense. Progress not at generating always more resources, not at generating always more knowledge, not at generating always more agreement (although some of these things may be valuable, in moderation), but at generating possibilities for the individual. This, if anything, is the expression of actually existing freedom.

But whether we can conceive of new ways of doing things, and give them reality, is solely a function of our creativity and of how much we are free to express it. It will do no good to invent new ways for people to relate to each other, for example, if those ways are repressed by social norms or by laws.

Unfortunately, as freedom generates more freedom, control generates more control. It is precisely because we are trapped in these logics that we are unable to envision change. Most people have absolutely zero creativity in the relational and social areas of their lives, and minimal creativity in all the other spheres. They think the way they “should” think, and live their lives the way they “ought to” live their lives.

This is also the case in our social movements, especially politicized ones. If you look at the movements for women’s rights or gay rights or racial equality, there was a tremendous opportunity to create new ways of relating with each other outside of the heteronormative logic and the democratic logic that constrained people’s freedom through social norms and laws. But it is precisely those logics that prevented the excluded from being creative and fighting against the structures that were oppressing them. So instead of fighting against them, they fought to be accepted by them.

So now we have gays acting like heterosexuals, women taking on masculinity, and black people acting like masters (which is also accompanied by a violent rejection of one’s native state of mind). Because of this, the hierarchies that oppressed them are now amplified by the legitimacy brought about by these integrations. These movements have served to demonstrate to all that democracy does work after all (even though these movements existed almost entirely outside of the political process), that everyone, no matter your skin, sexuality or gender, can be an oppressor and have the chance to control others instead of being controlled. Those people who try to oppose this state of affairs are usually called “radicals” and “extremists,” while those who try to fit in the status quo are usually called “realists” and “noble reformers.”

What we gain, therefore, is not freedom at all, but rather the so-called “freedom to conform” (you have the right to complain, you have the right to vote, you have the right to write books against the system: you’re just not allowed to actually change anything). In this is implicit the notion of conformity to the norms and laws as being a highly desirable goal, and that the only evil is not permitting certain groups or demographics to be able to conform like everyone else. But this is pure insanity.

In a free society, where individuals are sane (that is to say, able to recognize their own values and respect those of others), there exists the possibility for a multitude of different economic relations and ways of looking at resources, a multitude of different ways for people to have relationships with each other, a multitude of different ways to look at the world and discover things about the world, a multitude of different ways to interact with the world, and so on. They must, however, be discovered, experimented upon, played with, and be made viable on whatever scale it is meant to operate. That is the role of creativity as motor of progress.

2 thoughts on “The problem with linear thinking.

  1. […] as the lifeblood of freedom. I’ve already briefly talked about creativity as social progress, but I think there is more to be said on this […]

  2. […] where all reasoning both starts and ends, stage two is an arrow that exists in a vacuum. I’ve discussed linear thinking before. Received ideas are the given, the background, and simple X-therefore-Y take place within […]

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