News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Night and Day of the Living Dead

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.

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