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On Loyalty

From Arkady Chernyshevsky's In Our Likeness: Essays on Humankind Reaching Adulthood:

What I propose, then, is that we are not born as entirely free agents, responsible only for ourselves. The very core of what we are, our sentience, separates us from and elevates us above the animal kingdom. As I have argued, this is not a matter of arrogance, but of responsibility.

However, this blessing also demands something else from us, something more personal than responsibility, and that is loyalty.

Our ancestors, less atomized than we are, experienced a crude version of this loyalty, swearing allegiance to tribes, races, nations, and other such semi-fictional concepts. This fragmented understanding was easily exploited and led to many conflicts. We can condemn them for that, or we can choose to believe these were necessary historical steps towards our growth; but above all we must stop indulging in such childlike behavior.

Our species can no longer afford to believe in Mother Russia or Uncle Sam. Neither, however, can we afford to indulge in the adolescent rebel's misanthropy, rejecting the many gifts we have been lucky enough to receive - not from above, but from the history of our species.

To put it simply: each of us owes a burden of loyalty to humanity itself, to the human project across time and space. This is not a minor matter, or some abstract issue for philosophers. It is a profound and significant part of every human life. It is a universal source of meaning and insight that can bind us together and set us on a path for a brighter future; and it is also a division, a line that must held against those who preach the gospel of self-annihilation. We ignore it at our peril.


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Chernyshevsky, like Drennan, stood by this belief to the bitter end. Without him, the Archive would not exist. As we owe humanity our loyalty, so we owe a more personal debt to those individuals who gave everything for our story to continue.