News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Texas George Rex Judas (4c)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Texas George Rex Judas (4c)

I ended the preceding section on the idea that humans do not act in a vacuum; that all human actions and self-understandings are done in terms of social conventions and structures that have determined us from the time we come from the womb. The Great Man theory, however--one supported by Pres. Bush and his followers--supposes that we do indeed act as separate entities, as though our individualness is somehow isolatable from a socio-cultural environment.

I have argued that not only is this impossible but that it is dishonest and can lead in some instances to a form anti-ethical action that Kierkegaard describes as "demonic." The problem with most theories of individualism is that they isolate some essence that seems to be private and independent of others. Kierkegaard is sometimes interpreted this way, as I noted above. But what Kierkegaard discusses is not an isolated individual essence but rather a psychological state that critically assesses the values and customs of any socio-cultural matrix.

There is nothing like a soul or ineffable substance that does this. Instead, we as psycho-biological entities develop the capacity to critically understand our environments in a way that shows both inter-dependence and independence. As this shows, my own independence comes from interdependence just as my interdependence relies on my independence.

The soul is one aspect of the duality that we as bodied entities are. When I formulate who I am in terms of possibility and necessity, imagination and genetics, I take an attitude towards these two poles of my (past and future) history. This way of seeing or understanding the world is a third element whose nature is neither body nor soul. Its existence exists to evaluate how the two other elements interact and how one balances them. It does so by way of various actions and linguistic formulations that bring cognitive awareness as much as they do behavioral alignment. That is, through a process of formulating in words what it is I want to be and how I will accomplish that, I undertake to do what it is that I have formulated linguistically.

This way of putting the situation is obviously inadequate. It only gives a simplistic skeletal description of the way that we as humans act and think. Yet it points up several important dimensions for understanding what the nature of the Bush "revolution" is about. That is, these considerations show that like Genet and others, Bush et al. attempt to define their missions and actions in terms of isolated entities whose overall perspective is destructive of community.

This is so, because individuals are not isolated in this way, and when they act as though they are, they become ghosts and wraiths of real selves. Consequently, any society built around such actions and understandings will eat at the very foundations of any viable community.

Kierkegaard tries to outline a mode of facing life with courage and self-knowledge that short-circuits the this demonic way of seeing or understanding life means. As I noted in the previous section, one way of denying one's responsibility that Kierkegaard was keen on combating is to put the onus of responsible choice onto history.

This means that I say that I had no choice, that history and circumstances forced me to do such and such. This type of rationalization will go so far as to say that the choices I make are somehow substantiated by history to be; that history will somehow bear me out, that I will be vindicated by historical events.

In this context, Kierkegaard pointed to the politician who appeals to history to defend his or her decision. Kierkegaard writes:

When a headstrong person is battling with his contemporaries and endures it all but also shouts, "posterity, history will surely make manifest that Is poke the truth, then people believe that he is inspired. Alas, no, he just a bit smarter than the utterly obtuse people. he does not choose money and the prettiest girl or the like; he chooses world-historical importance--yes, he knows very well what he is choosing. But in relation to God and the ethical, he is a deceitful lover; he is also one of those for whom Judas became a guide (Acts 1:16)--he, too, is selling his relationship with God, though not for money. And although he perhaps reforms an entire age through his zeal and teaching, he confounds pro virili [to the very extent of his powers], because his own form of existence is not adequate to his teaching, because by excepting himself he establishes a teleology that renders existence meaningless. (Kierkegaard, Postscript, trns. Hong, pp 136-137)
It is this notion that one is only responsible to some abstraction like "history" that displays Bush's ultimate Judas self-perception. The impending chaos and meaninglessness of human life implied in such statements and view have become apparent, I think, in the destruction and human suffering currently visited upon Iraq by this man's actions. But these considerations--in the light of Kierkegaard's comment call for further analysis, which I take up in the next section.

Back to Index

No comments: