In Charge and Autonomous
In America we are expected to be in charge of ourselves, each an autonomous individual. The promise of achieving our nation depends on our autonomous behavior. Nonetheless, it’s not easy for us to get up to speed when it comes to self-possession. Why? Because autonomy requires us to be in charge of ourselves — in charge of our performative behavior and our subjective ups and downs — all the time. Key to such mastery is the depth and reach of our autonomy.
Happily, though we’re not born autonomous — far from it, we do have the emotional and intellectual capacity to acquire autonomy. Still, its acquisition is a challenge because we must also dislodge ourselves from the supremacy of our immediacy. This reflexive, instinctive biological response to what is happening right now seems adequate in the fight-or-flee jungle. However, in today’s peopled world, evolution-honed instincts for life in the wild do not provide the autonomous individual with enough information.
In other words, in the modern world, here in America, we are expected to transcend the restricted reach of the naked animal in favor of responses born of thinking — the in-charge cognitive, communicative and performative behavior of human beings capable of and responsible for processing their individuality. And, we must create and express our self-possession within the enlightened framework (laws, rules, conventions, expectations) that has emerged in America.
Yet the cultural matrix of our social embeddedness is complicated. Our circumstances can be tough, competitive and often contentious. Moreover, America is basically unconcerned with each individual’s specific wants and needs. America has built its prosperous civilization on our biologically and culturally programmed willingness to live in its pressure-filled environment. We comply with its demands and to one extent or another accept its blows because that’s the world we live in. In short, we’re expected to find for ourselves a place where we can thrive and contribute.
Indeed, we must not only acquire the understanding and the know-how to order our responses to the social, economic and political demands of life, but must also rid ourselves of the illusions and foundational myths we haplessly harbor so we can be…