Saturday, January 14, 2017

Primary Loyalty, Primary Identity

Can we have more than one fundamental, primary loyalty?  Consider that we could have at least four different kinds of primary loyalty e.g. to a person or persons (wife, children, family), to a group(Tribe, State, Race, Nation, Religion), to a geographic area, or to an idea/principle (God, freedom, justice, truth, honesty, communism). And if we were then to rank which of these categories of loyalty should  come first, we could have a significant discussion.  Should brother(person) come before freedom(idea) or Nation(group)?   Is honesty more fundamental than religion?  Supporting your wife more important than justice?

I suspect we assume our fundamental loyalties are NOT in conflict.  They clearly are in competition for one's time and devotion.  You could always spend more time with one or another of them.  I fail to see how there could be a right amount of commitment to each of several responsibilities.  It's a living in the moment problem.  It defines you.

Do we need a central organizing principle of our lives?  Do we have to know what it is?  Do we have to defend it against all change?  Are we blessed with it or do we have to find it?  Can we and do we need to rank our most important loyalties - to put them into consciousness say or should we wing it, so that we imagine we are supporting all our many hopes?

I reflect on the idea of highest virtue or greatest good because there are so many necessary virtues but not all can be first.  Shakespeare's Polonius counseled "to thine own self be true" but it is considered simplistic to think whatever is good for you is actually an optimal state of the world.  We cannot help but be selfish because whatever we think we are doing right is a product of our limited, flawed selves.  We are tangled in cross-cutting loyalties.  If our priorities today can change, and they do, then our hierarchy of values is constantly changing and we have no one essential guiding loyalty.  If we place God there and I very much think that is a good idea then we have still not answered any of the subsidiary questions about what comes next after God.  We imagine all our virtues as being connected to God and so are serving our highest good at all times--no matter what ranking value we place on it.  Is that a rationalization then?  We consider that today we are grateful--and serve God and tomorrow we are honest-and serve God and after that we are patriotic and so love our country--and so are serving God.  It is I fear a sleight of hand.  We are changeable creatures and not consistent.

It is thought that we should stand for something.  To stand for something, and change, is Inconsistent.  It was Emerson who suggested "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds".  But if we promised our wife to be true then a duty that calls us away or a change of affections may or may not be considered a "foolish" consistency.  It is not a condition that can be "optimized" unless one has a faith that there is always a best solution--definitionally.  But to never stand for anything is a weakness.  If we go along to get along and allow the group to define our tastes and the value of our efforts, we are as Nietzsche suggests herd animals with a slave mentality.

I would propose that the genius of gender is to allow cross cutting primary loyalties that are fused in the vows of marriage.  My wife puts persons (family) first and I could put Group (Religion) first.  God is, after all, more important than me (or my wife). Once you have decided upon your hierarchy of primary loyalty, does time and circumstance, change it?  If being American is more important than supporting Justice then we could say we are being loyal to the State because it is a transcendent organization that is the vehicle for delivering Justice.  Our individual assessment might be flawed and we defer to the greater wisdom of the representative group.

Almost by definition our primary loyalties are good (to us).  Nietzsche would call that value creation.  Our sacrifice to the values we promote creates their "goodness".  Could who we are be determined by what we believe we are and sacrifice for or is it equally determined by everyone else with knowledge or an opinion of us?  So we have heard a suggestion that we should "follow our bliss".  That's a comfortable formulation.  It is also suggested that we should recognize ourselves as sinners and repent.  Not just try and change--actually repent, fall down in humility and fundamentally recognize our inability to save ourselves and do something differently. That "saves" you. That's a less comfortable formulation to me because every time you ACT, you have to apologize for being flawed.  I do not quite "get" the concept of salvation--Jesus forgives us before God or atones for us and what we do is no longer on us.  I'll leave the problem of doing Evil in the name of God alone... There seems to me to be plenty of that.

How do we manifest fruits of the spirit?  We sacrifice for them as values and create their worth.

Are we ever off the clock so to speak?  We could have bursts of energy toward our goals and then rest time or me time.  When I look at the clouds I am not saving the whales.  I would prefer that someone not criticize me for what I am doing or not doing unless they are willing to share what they consider most important and why they think what I am doing is thwarting it.

Is your primary identity your primary loyalty?

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