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

Friday, August 05, 2005

Nullity After 911

Alastair Hannay, from his book _On the Public_, summing up in some way the modern predicament. Discussing Ground Zero 911, he says:

"We need occasionally to step aside. Or meet in some public space where we are put in mind of how little of what we do or achieve counts, seeing things directly and without the interfering spins and refractions of the media or of their influence on our current perceptions. One such place is Ground Zero, where the Twin Towers once stood; these are to be replaced not only by a new tower, this time of Freedom, but also by something less rhetorical, a grove named 'reflecting absence'. It is only a fitting symbol of the position from which reflection over the nature and setting for human fulfillment can take place; sight of the levelled terrain and memory of the terrible events that caused it can free the mind for a moment from its normally healthy addiction to the world, a addiction that easily creates enmity and division. It is a prospect that can produce a sense of human levelling. Kierkegaard said that coming to the point where all you can say positively of yourself is that you are a human being reveals the fundamental nullity of selfhood, the ultimate anonymity, a ground zero in which you stay put but at the same time move on, letting it educate your everyday. He predicted we would end up there and that it would be a good thing if we did." (p. 122)

n : the state of nonexistence [syn: nothingness, void]

It is this state which Hannay alludes to to. It is perhaps, akin to the Buddhistic concept of no-mind or no-self. But Hannay, following Kierkegaard is also talking about the state of nothingness that the current Zeitgeist of Americanism propagates as it makes its way around the world destroying cultural identity, religious systems and world-views, political systems, and various traditional notions of self associated with these cultures and traditions.

This such that the type of traditionally psychological definition of "self" and personality simply lose any meaning. Indeed, the bane of the times is the amount of self fragmentation and alienation that occurs within "modern," secularized societies. How many people require some type of medication to simply get through a day in America? The alienation self characteristic of American culture grows--it does not diminish.

So how can allowing this type of culture to continue its world advance be a good thing? Because it deos return the human to his/her basic facticity of being human--at least that is the hope. All dogmas, ideologies, socio-cultural constructs simply fade away into a world where all values are equal and none means anything.

This is the nullity that Hannay talks about. Its goodness is obviously a two-edged sword. It poses the possibility of engaging with the nothingness of the world and thereby constructing a self or simply allowing oneself to die--to go with the times, accept one form of nihilistic response or other, ie, passive bourgeois selfsatisfaction where one lives like a cow or destructive nihilism where one believes that through acts of destruction one will reach some rock solid base of authentic and real existence.

What is the alternaitve? As Hannay notes, it is to accept one's humanity and try to work from there--recognizing one's nothingness while at the same time discovering what exactly that nothingness means in terms of living a human life. Read more!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Who's responsible?

I do not think it is constructive to pin all responsibility on the troops. While some may reflect the Manson-types you draw, many (if not most) are just young men and women who either out of a sense of duty or a free ducation (and what's wrong with that) or some other concern signed up to defend this country. All well and good. I congratulate them for their sacrifice.

In this war, they have been caught between a rock and a hard place. They have been deceived like the rest of us by a corrupt, soulless, amoral regime whose only interests are consolidating power in the US and extending moneyed interests thruout the world. This regime manipulated the fear generated by the attack of 911 into a false and bogus war on some ill-defined, amorphously slippery notion of "terrorism." With the threat of a terrorist behind every bush (bad pun, sorry), the American public has been hoodwinked and deceived into believing that this regime is out to save its skin.

As Simone Weil wrote about so well, war makes objects of those who engage in it. It turns baby-faced farm boys into brutal, ruthless killing machines. There is the ugly fact that some (if not many) humans, once they get a taste of blood, like to kill. This is simply a fact about the innate bestiality of human beings. (Think fo the film _Dogs of War_ or _Lawrence of Arabia_.) It is the work of "civilization to hold these forces in check--only unleashing them in the direst of circumstances and for the most plausibly ethical reasons; self-defense being ultimately the only ethically plausible instance.

To generate a war on the basis of lies and deceits is therefore the height of evil. It brings into existence this ruthless beast in humans and unleashes it not only on "enemies" but also on innocents who die for no other reason than that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. The culpability of leaders who perpetrate this ultimate crime is beyond question and must be revealed for all to see.

In the fog of war, the soldiers commit crimes and acts of brutality that most will never be able to come to terms with. They will go to their graves with images of horror and death in their memories. They will feel responsible--no matter how many parades or how many medals they may receive. If the leaders laud themselves for their fight for freedom or some other empty phrase, these men and women will always hear the hollow ring of those phrases.

This is why you find that many of the homeless on American streets are Viet Name veterans--they simply have never come to reconciliation with their actions over there. It haunts them to the bones of their beings and they are spiritually and morally frozen in time.

The ultimate responsibility, however, lies with the leaders who sleep quite well at night. They feel responsible--but self-deceptively so. They should feel the same despair as those who kill and maim or are killed or maimed; they should suffer themselves for sending these young men and women into a place where they "had" to kill or be killed and where innocents lost their lives.

The US troops in Iraq know this as much as anyone else. Morale is low, the officers are questioning the rationale for strategic and tactical decisions, and the upper echelon are beginning to see that there is no solution to this war. As I have written in this forum before, there is a real possibility that the troops will begin to rebel against the idiocy of what they are doing. Certainly, they are spurred on to this by more immediate concerns: long tours of duty, extended time away from home and family, bad weather, sickness, etc. But under the surface there is the growing awareness that they are simply pawns in a farce that no one believes in any more and whose lie is becoming more and more apparent.

The moral imperative is therefore clear: support the troops by alleviating their suffering and pain of responsibility (this does not mean to say that one should simply turn a blind eye to it; but it does mean, I think, showing some compassion); find and prosecute the egregiously bestial soldiers and the commanders and civilian ringleaders who give the orders or simply stand by and let crimes occur; undermine the leaders and expose them for the frauds that they are.

We will never be able to understand the responsibility that soldiers feel for terrible things that they are compelled by circumstances to do. But we must never, in all fairness, condemn them to coninual guilt and alienation from our love and forgiveness. They recognize and ultimately accept in one way or another their guilt--we should be forgiving therefore and help them to forgive themselves.

On the other hand, the leaders--those who think they are not responsible for deaths; who cannot face their evil, because of their lies and cant about freedom and terrorism--must be made to realize and finally accept their responsibility for the evil they have perpetrated. The first step in this is to expose their lies as lies. The next step is to hold them accountable for deceiving us. Finally, their self-deceit about ultimate responsibility for the carnage and death must be punished, if only by being thrown out of office.

Expose the lies so that all can see what this war is all about. Support the troops but get the message out that their leaders are dishonorable cowards; the troops will convey the message to their families and their families will work to bring them home. The American public listens to honest voices of despair and pain when it is communicated by those at home who suffer it. Read more!