One of the print world’s proudest traditions has finally come online as Kenneth Smith has begun to blog at TCJ.com with a breezy little squib called Privatism, Idiotism, “Atomism”: Modern Isolationism. A philosopher/artist who did some covers for EERIE and CREEPY back in the day, with a pointillist/Virgil Finlay/Corben-esque style, Smith is best known these days, if that is the term, for his dense essays on philosophy that have run in the back of The Comics Journal since Tor first hunted Mammoth. His first blog post is up — we’ll give you one paragraph just as an appetizer, but we know you will want the full 10-course meal, so dive on in!
Decades ago, I heard my first penetrating, apt and enduring general characterization of the reigning delusions of the modern world: moderns are witlessly afflicted with a self-flattering but morally and spiritually chilling preconception that their basic mode of existence is an “atomistic individualism,” a condition of Cartesian insularity and Kantian autonomy also known as “mutual alienation.” Moderns yearn so desperately to “belong” precisely because, more profoundly, they truly belong nowhere (as “strangers in a strange land,” i.e. anomalies in all the natural world): as John Muir observed, “Most people are on the world, not in it.” We are eminently, obligatorily, detachable creatures: it is a point of profoundest faith (what was once called mythos) that we are utterly self-possessed, self-purposing, self-interested, i.e. “egos” that morally speaking are grounded in and directed and gratified by nothing other than themselves. Our culture of supposed “autonomy” more truly verges on something like autism.