News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: July 2005

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Evangelizing the Terrorists

What is all this proselytization about and for? From my limited vantage point, what is needed in the world is not evangelization of the barbarians but evangelization of the heathen within our own midst. Jesus taught by example--were US Xtians who are out and about in the world preaching American relgion to stay at home and practice what the good book teaches in their own lives and in their own country, my guess is that that would be good news that others might take to heart and respect.

There is something seriously wrong with out culture and way of life--and the "cure" propounded by the good Xtians of our times simply does not address the real issues. And until they get it right, I do not think they should be out and about acting as though nothing is wrong at home.

The injunction to hate one's life does not imply suicide (nor did I imply this). I do not put it together with the other verse, as you do, to imply the notion that this life is meant that we are to recieve a good life now--but in the future life beyond this one. In the same vein, I do not think that it means blowing oneself up or others--the Christian notion of martyrdom, and all the examples from history, seems to show that it is an individual act that involves only the individual life. (and even this notion has moral issues that are not easily solvable.)

While postmodernsim has its serious faults (which I believe I am cognizant of), I do not see the characterization you provide as clear-cut as you do. There are so-called post-modernists who are very concerned about ethics and morality (I am thinking of the much-maligned Derrida, whose later writings are filled with profound ethical insights). Be that as it may, I am for relativism across the board--certainly not in a nihilistic sense but in the snese that one gets when one places all human moral and religious constructions into the context of original sin. This gives the lie to all human pretensions of formulating any system of values that might not be tainted by deception and self-interest.

"demanding that they follow our cultural norms...." What does that mean? Follow the laws, okay. Act civilized, okay. But to remain silent when injustices are committed in the name of these cultural norms? I doubt that you or anyone else think that a normal human being is not justified in speaking out against this. At least one impetus for "Muslim rage" is the hypocrisy of the west--while it speaks about civilized values with one side of its mouth it silently mouthes something else with the other side of its mouth. This "something else" is that unless you acculturate you are not one of us--if you don't allow your co-religionists to be slaughtered like dogs in the streets of Palestine, then you are being "unreasonable."

What I find amazing is that the same emotions and thoughts exhibited by the "terrorists" are those that we ourselves or others in our midst would feel and think were we to be in their shoes. Is this relativism? or simply realism? There is another commandment by Jesus that I think fits this context--

Mat 5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
Luk 6:27 But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,
Luk 6:35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and [to] the evil.

I have always been astonished that many Xtians, when they mouthe the commandment to love your neighbor, forget this part of the commandment. Why is that? Is it a convenient lapse of memory or simply an unconscious desire to make the gospel as easy to follow as putting on your shirt?

Did Jesus denounce or repudiate the terorists in his midst?* One can only tell what he did and that seems to have been to teach by example.

* The Christian testament notes that there were other terrorists besides Judas who lurked at the fringes of those who listened to Jesus' preachings. (Simon the Canaanite [also spelled Cananaean, Cananaean, Cananaean, or Kana`ani] and Judas Iscariot... Mat 10:4; Cannanite here is another name for the Zealot terrorists.) Read more!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Night and Day of the Living Dead

We are in a tyranny--it is just not a tyranny of one but of the many. Call it the public, the beast, the crowd--its amorphous shape takes on as many shapes as there are and yet it retains none--it is all but it is nothing. It is the "vox populi" that desires only bread and circuses and whose pit bull, the media, guarantee that no one gets any funny ideas that they are better than anyone else. Presenetly, this ghost only haunts the graveyard of western culture, upon whose carcass it currently feeds and from whose ruin it is cobbling forth an army of zombies which will march east, west, north, south... It is the day of the living dead, and we only thought it was a movie devised by the sick mind of George Romero!
Tyranny is indeed the dish of the day. Served cold or hot, I guess, doesn't matter? I suggest that becoming conscious of it is first. One might say that given the situation there is only the animal impusle of everyone for him or herself. But that only contributes to the tyranny and leads to one's own ruin and damnation.

What are "we" going to do? What is to be done?... I think the first point is to concentrate on driving home the fact of desolation as deeply and incorrigibly as possible. In some ways, this is a nihilisitc response. It assumes that nothing can be done unless and until utter desolation makes it plain for all to see that there is nothing left to salvage and the new beginning must begin. This is where Nietzsche left off, realizing that all that he could do was to serve as a clarion call for the future.

In less vague terms, there seem to be at least the following options: 1) Nothing 2) Fundamentalist religious response 3) A religious response not fundamentalist in nature 4) Some type of "new" political regime

What's wrong with doing nothing? Doing nothing is doing something. Perhaps there's a difference in how one does nothing. One form of nihilistic response simply exists at the sensory level, thrilling to the images of destruction and wiling away the time in empty exercises of self-satisfaction. The utmost one can do at this point is to weave out a regimen of incoherent and arbitrary acts that stave off boredom, much like switching channels on the TV randomly and without desire, simply to see how the different images and sounds impinge on the sensory apparatus.

As Zizek notes, this is what Nietzsche called passive nihilism. Nietzsche also noted a second form of nihilism: active nihilism. This is where "wanting nothing itself, .... this active self-destruction which would be precisely the passion of the real - the idea that, in order to live fully and authentically, you must engage in self-destruction." (Zizek) This is the preliminary notion I suggested where all must be leveled for the individual to come to birth. Faced with the desert of the real, a person begins to see and realize they are a person, but that that entails some form of task or journey that brings self-awareness and self-consciousness.

What tyrannizes these days is the belief that they belong to a group; that they are in fact simply integers whose destiny and fate go as the fate of the group goes. This can be seen in the rise of group identities, of which fundamewntalist religions and racist groups of all stripes are prime examples. What differentiates and maintains group identity sustains the integers within that group.

Of course, as leveling proceeds, the groups differences between each other begin to erode; to maintain the distinctness of group-identity it must destroy all that is different thereby hoping to become sovereign and isolated as the "only" true identity. Internally, the members suffer alienation and ennui and numerous other spiritual ailments. To provoke the illusion of action and separateness, the entity engages in bloodbaths and sacrifices, thereby hoping to sate the growing enervation of the crowds whose animal desire for life aimlessly flails for sustenance, but the reason why is not known--it is simple thirst, hunger, procreative urge. The blood sacrifice assuages the thirst for a time, until the next feeding.

In the meantime, as this surreal drama plays itself out, some individuals begin to despair to such depths that they realize a stark choice faces them: the either/or of existence, which entails complete submersion in the group or some form of existence that will assuage the despair. At first, it seems like ethics, a life lived in conformity to the old paradigms of right/wrong, family values, state religion. This is the level at which the current leaders of the nations, as well as the theorists of fundamentalist ideologies, exist. They believe that the old paradigms will stave off final extinction, not realizing that thse simply have been hollowed out from within and will eventually implode from internal emptiness.

(NB Yesterday's hippie who has been reborn as a yuppie is paradigmatic of this type. It's interesting to note how many of the leaders of conservative causes are former hippies who became disenchanted with that lifestyle. In this regard, it's instructive to read the personal accounts of Islamic terrorists and the tales of their conversion from westernized clones to fundamentalist murderer. Bin-Laden is of this type, as is George Bush.)

Yet, there will be those who realize the emptiness even of group ethics and state religion. They will continue to push the envelope of self-knowledge, and begin to break through to higher states of awareness that bring great suffering to themselves. Since the age is decadent and the assumptions required for spiritual rebirth have been annihilated by doubt and scientistic dogmatism, the rebirth of a new age will not begin until there begin to appear more of these individuals who have gone undergone this educative regime. Read more!

Friday, July 01, 2005

The E Word

A recent lecture makes a strong case for building and maintaining an American empire. This lecture is a sober assessment of the historical situation as it now stands, and as it appears to be on the verge of unfolding.

The lecturer questions, however, whether Americans have faced up to the fact of its imperial potential. As far as he is concerned, the historical factors are a "done deal": America is already the de facto empire, and its leaders and citizens just need to take control of the reins and ride the stagecoach to glory.

I do not agree with many of this lecturer's conclusions; specifically, I think that if America is going to rule the world it must clarify the moral principles that will determine the nature of this rule. This author makes it clear that these principles should be based on evolutionary psychological principles.

What would be wrong if America simply turned its back on imperial pretensions? Why would that be immoral, as this author asserts? Where does it say that a country must conform to some supposed historical inevitability? I disagree with this whole idea that America must, to be moral, take on the responsibility of imperial design.

I could see this country maintaining such a presence in the world as did pre-imperialistic Sparta: refuse to engage in any military actions unless it is attacked--and then only in defense and so far as the attacker is repelled.

Such a military isolationism does not preclude, of course, global economic activity nor cultural influence. (It is my contention that American culture is more destructive of traditional values than any economic or military activities.)

But the question remains: are Americans ready to take on the reins of empire? I think that Americans are not ready yet for this undertaking--and hopefully they never will be. But I think that the current political regime in power will try to accomplish this surreptitiously, and are doing so already (consider the numbers of "bases" being built around the world by the Army.)

In lieu of the average American supporting or denying the trend towards empire, I believe that there will arise something similar to what one might call "don't ask, don't tell" colonization. That is, the American public will not ask whether it is an empire or what it means to maintain such an entity, even though they "know" that this is occurring; and the power brokers simply will work this way, taking no questions as quiet assent. This form of silent assent will begin to burrow into everyday conscience. People don't want to know what has to be done to maintain the status quo.

Something like this is already in place--consider the lack of discussion, interest, or debate concerning the war in Iraq--the media simply have given Bush et al. a free ride and the citizens have simply been too lazy or preoccupied to care about what is happening.

The reason for this is that underneath it all, the public (that faceless, nameless non-entity) knows that the machinery of imperialism will help sustain the economic and social status quo. If I could draw an analogy: this type of indidious "don't ask, don't tell" silence is similar to the silence that occurred during Nazi Germany; that is, when one's next-door Jewish neighbor was being bundled into the back of cars and trucks, people simply looked the other way.

I know I will be accused of scare-mongering, but certainly there is what is commonly called a "disconnect" going on between what people in the US think is happening (and secretly know) and what is happening on the ground in "the colonies."

I think of the woman's daughter I had for class: she worked in the Army morgue in Iraq--what she saw and witnessed has so traumatized her life that (back here at home) she is drinking and drugging and waking up at night with nightmares. She has simply given up on bringing up her children.

It is these little "hearts of darkness" that are going to begin to eat at the fiber of this country. The question is, will we steel ourselves to the reality--continue to live as though nothing were happening?

So then who will run the empire? The "job" of colonial administartion will not fall on the "average" American. Instead, defense contractors will take up that slack. Private contractors will run the colonies either surreptitiously or semi-blatantly.

What incentive will they have? Consider the fact that the average pay for private security contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan is $100K/year tax free. That is enough incentive to make many soldiers in the conventional services take jobs with these companies when they leave.

On the other hand, there will arise a payment system that resembles what Heinlein called "citizenship" in Starship Troopers. Is this wild paranoia or simply a presentiment of a time when the "done deal" rises to public consciosness? Read more!