Survival of the Fittest: Teaching vs. Normalcy
Every society, without exception, tends to harden its founding presuppositions and hopes into a set of stated and unstated rules for living. Gradually, the great character and thought needed to bring a society into being give way to the forced teaching and rote learning of the simplified and simplifying rules deemed necessary to preserve that society. And this in turn reduces maturation to a process of accommodating oneself to the rules, and the individual human being to a part well-measured and properly honed to conform to his assigned role in the social structure. To summarize, then, we may say that every virtue and strength of soul and body required to forge a good society in the first place is inevitably undermined, and gradually devalued, by the developed society itself.
A society has reached its point of final decay when its self-protective tenets of subordination and conformity become so all-encompassing that there is nowhere left within the social entity to stand apart, no room for the individual to stretch out to his full length and see what his fingers might touch. In such a society — and again, this is every society, to varying degrees — social existence is effectively a locked cage, and the occasional non-conforming soul that emerges in its midst is a pariah, pushed to anxiety and urged to self-loathing by the continuous and ubiquitous call to Normalcy. It is for the survival and encouragement of such souls that there are teachers.
From the above, it may immediately be seen that by “teachers,” I do not mean government employees and related agents, who, though always having co-opted the title, are in principle the very opposite of teachers in the proper sense. “Teachers” in the service of social Normalcy — from the Greek sophists to the modern academics — are in fact mere spiritual-submission trainers and social-belonging facilitators, whereas a genuine teacher is precisely and essentially a force for the preservation of some semblance of abnormality. A teacher is a person who encourages others to preserve and cultivate their “anti-social” inclination, i.e., to think and develop largely without reference to society’s reductionist and soul-diminishing rulebook. His aim is to find individuals of the sort that could in principle bring a new society into being, which is to say pre-social individuals — this pre-social character being a sure sign of one who has suffered enough to grow — and then to keep them there on the fringes, even while society, the monster of Normalcy, strives to swallow these somewhat indigestible ones at last.
To be clear, when I say that the teacher is seeking souls that could bring a new society into being, I do not mean that he has any plans to do any such thing. Knowing what he knows about the nature of all societies, such a fate is not something the true teacher would ever wish upon any soul in which he had an interest. On the contrary, my point was that he is seeking evidence of a soul that somehow, against all odds, has retained some measure of its natural (pre-subdued) state of self-developing independence, so that he may guide it closer to its full maturation, and further from the spirit of mindless social compliance. Toward this end, the last thing he would hope to do is bend that soul’s will to the simplifying rulebook of any society, old or new. The goal of teaching, in effect, is to foster and maintain a permanent oasis of freedom, available only to those who have suffered enough to crawl that far into the desert, beyond reach of the gaping maw of all society as such.
In order to engage in such a dangerous and often disappointing activity, the teacher must first himself survive the grinding teeth of Normalcy, and finally overcome that assault altogether. Only then, with whatever strength and blood he has left, may he claim to have earned the right to live as a teacher in the full sense — an emancipator of souls — at which point his mission, unrealistic but nevertheless compelling, is to guide perhaps ten or twelve others through their own private Normalcy gauntlets, into freedom. A genuine teacher, then, being a philosophic soul of the dialectical and ironic type, is essentially a promoter of abnormality, and consequently a natural enemy of the Normal. He must therefore be killed, exiled, or imprisoned — at least spiritually, but also materially if possible — as may be easily observed in many instances throughout the degenerating history of Normalcy.
All living things seek to preserve themselves, and of course that certainly includes monsters. Hence, Normalcy will attempt to destroy anything it perceives as an existential threat, which is to say any signs of developing abnormality in its midst. In fact, monsters, organisms that by definition exist exclusively for the sake of devouring and digesting all in their path, are more maniacally focused on self-preservation than any other lifeform, since in less monstrous creatures, the self-preservation instinct (the metabolic urge) will always be moderated by, and perhaps eventually even subordinated to, more expansive or spiritual goals. Hence, Normalcy, which is to say unfitness for healthy growth, actually has a natural advantage in the purely survivalist aspect of life — exactly contrary to the Darwinian hypothesis, as Nietzsche correctly noted at the onset of Darwin’s popularity. Darwinian evolutionary theory, inseparable from the concept of “the survival of the fittest,” is in a sense nothing but the conveniently delusional self-assessment of those who are fundamentally least fit for life.
To protect and preserve itself, then, Normalcy will inevitably and consistently damn, stigmatize, and vilify abnormality — all evidence of non-compliance, non-submission, or “failure” to live in accordance with socially approved conceptions of the good life — judging it as a deadly parasite to be expunged at all costs, and therefore countering it with the most effective weapons in Normalcy’s arsenal:
- Acceptance, comfort, pleasure, and the exploitation of the weak man’s corresponding fear of losing each of these.
- The recasting of spiritual abnormality — i.e., health — as illness, and then as immorality, and ultimately as an object of universal terror and hatred.
Meanwhile, the innate impulse of the few toward abnormality — the drive to psychological individualism — is mollified and supplanted within the leviathan of Normalcy with regular and ever-increasing doses of synthetic abnormality therapy. “Individuality,” “Self-Expression,” and lately even “Self-Identity” are popular brand names of this ersatz abnormality treatment. In every case, the purpose of such therapeutic methods is to satisfy the “sick” (i.e., healthy) soul’s natural quest for “something more” without ever allowing a glimmer of what such a “something” might actually be to penetrate the darkness within the ever-digesting monster, Normalcy. Until society at its worst finds a method of preemptively expunging the “something more” impulse from men’s souls outright, such substitutes will always be necessary.
Meanwhile, however, the main practical threat, the necessary source of courage that allows the rare nascent individual, even while suffering the daily and relentless grind of the monster’s jaws upon his life, to continue struggling through to himself in spite of the pain of crawling forward, and the corresponding pleasure of surrendering to the comforts of the collective, is the teacher — the exemplary predecessor who has evidently survived the bloodbath and escaped the jaws of Normalcy, and therefore stands as a witness against the nihilism and sense of futility that Normalcy relies on to extinguish the individual’s last embers of resistance. The teacher is the archenemy of society’s monster, Normalcy. He promotes health, which society has relabeled illness. He promotes independent thought, which society increasingly regards as a cancer. Most of all, he encourages one in the process of being pierced and crushed by the jaws of a monster to grin and bear it, to keep straining forward, and to redeem the suffering by reinterpreting it as a necessary step on the soul’s hard path to freedom.
A society that wished to survive as a community of free individuals would crave teachers as a drowning man craves air. But there is no society — none that has ever existed, at any rate — in which the weak, self-protective allure of the rulebook, the siren song of Normalcy, has not quickly reassessed the genuine teacher as at best an obsolete man and social nuisance, at worst a public enemy. Hence today, at the low point of a cyclical decline, civilization has more people called “teachers” than ever before, and, inevitably, less teaching than ever before. The inherent social impulse against the existence of precisely the sort of individuals who would make the development of a healthy society possible in the first place — the digestive process of the monster, Normalcy — exemplifies the true rule of earthly evolution, “the survival of the unfittest.”