The Différance between Unity and Totality

We live in turbulent times, in which many Americans consider 'Unity' and 'Compromise' dirty words. Considering the goal of St. Louis Strong is to unite people, I've attempted to navigate these murky and dangerous waters so as to examine whether or not our mission is tenable or even desirable. I gladly welcome disagreement and critique.

Unity and Totality arise out of the human impulse for moral clarity, pure justice, and pure freedom. The pursuit of unity and totality have resulted in disastrous losses of life (witness the 20th century and its wars). The desire for technological singularity may result in an even greater future loss. Yet, totality has warped the meaning of unity and abused it for its own all-consuming purposes.


Unity does not imply or require absolutism. To the contrary, unity requires an underlying affirmation and continual reconciliation of opposing elements. On the other hand, totality and singularity wipeout and consume points of difference. Unity resonates like a symphony (with accidents, flats, minors, and majors), while Totality blares like a numbing siren. Unity looks like impressionist art, while Totality stares back like a blank void. Unity is a never finished, on-going process. Totality is absolute completion.

“We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.” ~ William James

Whether you like it or not, we are united. Each of us shares the same air, genetic makeup, and walks the same earth. To call for unity is to call for recognition of our common humanity. Yet, our drive to become more than we are (our greatest strength and weakness) does not rest content with common baselines, it desires transcendence of these limits.

German poet Friedrich Hölderlin in 1799 captured the danger of seeking this singular transcendence through his poem, "The Root of All Evil." His words became tragically prophetic 130 years later.

Being at one is god-like and good, but human, too human, the mania
Which insists there is only the One, one country, one truth, and one way.

In a world of confusion, where values seem lost and idols found hollow, a sense of meaninglessness arises. To combat this vertigo we look back to deify the past in an attempt to provide ground for stable footing—or we deify the future in attempt to cling onto a rung that will lift us out of misery. Both of these drives arise from the rejection of the present moment. The present contains no meaning and so we look backwards to recover it or forwards to find it.

Enter progressive and conservative politics, which fill the present void of untrustworthy institutions. Each side begins in a rebellion, a declaration that, "Time is out of joint." They deify the concept of history and imagine a utopian ideal that they must run backwards to or forwards to—a point of pure freedom or a point of pure justice (both singular in their desires).

Yet, this rebellion, which begins out of a desire to create new values becomes 'all too human' and turns into a revolt—a revolution. To rebel is to resist violence and meaninglessness. To revolt is become revulsed by opposition and the present to the point of justifying violence as a means of attaining the ideal. Revolution is the nausea of now.

This nausea, this sickness, creates the desire to annihilate the object of its revulsion—the present moment and oppositional forces. It believes salvation can be found in unity of purpose. However, this sickness distorts unity into totality; for, humans perceived as harmful to salvation become the embodiment of evil objects. Opposition becomes unrecognizable and means become ends-in-of-themselves. If an opinion, an idea, a value, or a person resists, then they disrupt the total picture and justification for eradication easily emerges.

"Those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters. Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard." ~ Justice Robert Jackson, 319 U.S. 624

A unity is a whole made up of unique individual parts. A totality is a solid singular block. Totalitarians can be united and unified, but unions and unities can never be totalitarian as they imply the affirmation of multiple distinctions. Totality negates while unity affirms.

We must recognize our union to a common humanity, while limiting ourselves from seeking a total humanity.

I created St. Louis Strong because I believe humans prosper when we recognize our common humanity and work together in a united effort to make small adjustments to assist the lives of individuals in their pursuit of fulfillment through the thoughtful elimination of barriers, coupled with reflective protections of a baseline affirmative recognitions.

We cannot realize the pursuit of happiness (of fulfillment) if we believe our municipalities, leaders, or individuals are self-sufficient totalities unto themselves; for, they are connected to others in the deep. Likewise, we cannot afford to believe or pursue a singular system which wipes away subjectivity and demands absolute conformity.

We call for a united St. Louis, not a total or singular St. Louis. We can say 'yes' and 'no' at the same time. However, we will change our rhetoric to that of 'connecting' St. Louisans, so as to avoid confusion in turbulent times. We will connect people by searching for common values in digital and physical spaces.

*Ultimately, any abstraction or word can be turned into a tool of oppression and/or affirmation. Our fate depends on our ability to reflect and comprehend which is witch.*

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