Sunday, May 28, 2006
One, they kill so many of us that we stop protecting ourselves and accept servitude to them as the lesser of two evils.
Two, we kill so many of them that islamists abandon their Ghost Dance in the face of insurmountable evidence of their proven falsehood, and accept westernization as the lesser of their two evils. (I suppose I need to insert the mandatory disclaimer here that I find no pleasure in contemplating this option...)
Three, a reform movement emerges within islam itself and through a combination of re-definition of certain terms, removal of certain beliefs, and insertion of new doctrines, a modernized vision of a 7th century faith may survive the recent arrival of the 21st century.
Four, postponing finding a solution so that our children and grandchildren can have a hobby.
Optimist that I am, I look to option three, and reform, as the solution to work towards.
Poking around the internet lately to inform myself as to how such reform may be brought about, and if there are groups trying it that I may support in some way, I was sobered to read the following expert opinion on the subject.
A reader asks a perfectly valid question regarding the obvious need to make a change to an old law, and is greeted with a learned Saudi response.
[Emphasied comments, as well as profound disillusionment, mine]
Does Islamic Law Need Modification?
[Question:] I would like to raise the question of compensation in the case of accidental killing. I want to know why Islamic law seems to discriminate between Muslims and non-Muslims. My studies confirm that compensation paid to the family of a Christian or a Jew accidentally killed is half of that paid when the victim is Muslim. How can this be applicable in modern societies where all citizens should be equally treated?
[Answer]....I am grateful to David on two counts: 1) his interest in Islamic law, and 2) his open and clear questions that reflect a genuine desire to understand Islam and Muslims. His questions touch on some thorny problems, but these are only thorny because of our failure to understand Islam properly on the one hand, and the unwillingness of some of us to admit that views other than those we have learned could be acceptable from the Islamic point of view. .....
Our reader’s study... led him to the conclusion that Islamic law, or Shariah, is a divine law, which means that it is not man-made. To start with, any amendment to any law can only be by an authority that is equal or superior to the one that put that law in place. In any democracy, the repeal or amendment of any law enacted by Parliament requires a new act by the same Parliament. In the US, when Congress approves a law, the president can express his objection to it by sending it back to Congress for review or amendment. He cannot amend it himself. When a bill is signed by the president, it cannot be repealed except by a new bill that goes first to Congress before it is signed by the president. This is both logical and necessary. Now, since the Shariah, or Islamic law, is divine, who other than the Divine Being can amend or repeal it?
God sent down His message to mankind through revelations received by the Prophet Muhammad .... It was God who decided that Muhammad will be His last Messenger. God is aware that human life progresses as they learn more about their universe. His knowledge of this fact is not the result of any advancement human beings make. He knew it before He created man. Indeed God’s knowledge is perfect and cannot be related to time or experience. Therefore, when He issued His law, the Shariah, He made it suitable for all times and communities. Otherwise, He would have indicated that this law would be subject to amendment, and would have outlined the procedure for such amendment. What all this means is that no legislative, executive or judicial authority has the power to amend God’s law, which must be implemented in full.
The term “Shariah law” is nowadays used by Western media as though it is a mere penal code. They always speak of it as a system of punishments that are no longer suitable for modern human society. This betrays clear ignorance. The Shariah, or Islamic law, is a complete system that caters for all the legal needs of human society. It provides legislation on all aspects of human life. These are detailed where the degree of human progress and advancement is irrelevant, and given in general terms where different conditions have substantial bearing on the needed legislation. Thus, on social economy, Islamic law provides a general framework based on a few basic principles, while on inheritance, it gives a detailed legislation that cannot be changed.
What this means is that we cannot use the time factor as an argument for changing the divine law. We have to operate it as it is, knowing that we can determine the details of any aspect where only a framework is given, while we have to stick to the law as it is where it gives us detailed rules. Thus, we cannot change mandatory punishments God has specified for certain crimes, but these are only seven according to the majority of scholars. Some scholars with profound insight say they are four. The three discounted ones are drinking, rebellion against an Islamic ruler and apostasy. For the rest of offenses people may commit, the punishment is discretionary, determined by suitable enactments that may differ from time to time, and from case to case.
...We all believe that the Qur’an is God’s word which will never change, and that it is binding on all mankind for the rest of time....
You'll have to read the actual answer to the question about the relative worth of muslims, Jews and Christians, at the Gulf News website. Our focus here is more on the process of altering and hopefully amending the instructions offered throughout the koran.
In one brief sentence, the entire balloon of hope for islamic reform from within gets punctured by the very religion itself: "...since the Shariah, or Islamic law, is divine, who other than the Divine Being can amend or repeal it?" Who indeed? God decided that Mohammed will be his last messenger... meaning, I suppose, that any mere mortal of sufficient authority to create an alternative understanding, comes too late to the party to offer their insight.
Revealingly, the admonition that legislation is "...detailed where the degree of human progress and advancement is irrelevant...", becomes the model to follow for dealing with the earnest reader's initial question concerning treating all citizens equally. Equality, according to this islamic scholar, is irrelevant, as is the progress towards equality.
"Equality", a means of recognizing the universal attributes and aspirations we all share, while not blinding ourselves to our unique differences, has always been an unnatural covenant, which may account for its rarity; the Natural Way of things is for someone to be at the top of the food chain, whether Pharaoh, Tyrannosaurus Rex or Leo, king of the jungle.
Equality arrives from one side giving ground, having power but not using it. The humility involved in the stronger sharing with the weaker is not natural, to be sure. So where has this notion of partnership come from? Mankind seems to have invented a half-solved mystery to account for the emergence of the humility not to eat or enslave the weak, but to enjoin with them as partners, and celebrate life together.
The model of parenthood primes us for imagining a god to be father or mother to the whole human race. Yet the judeo-christian model of "god" allows for subtle differences that as far as I know, other religions do not. In the west, the guiding role of the parent is a temporary one, or at least an intermittent one. On some subjects, age and experience suggest that a child should defer to its elders if it wishes to survive the many choices all must make on a daily basis; the child has little past to measure against, making the future a blank void indeed. Yet, the child possesses one traditional strength that tends to elude their parents: an affinity for the present. It's no accident that children know more about, citing a common example, computers, than their parents do, and that children in general are more interested in cutting edge technology in general than their parents; to the child all is new, equally. It takes a partnership, of shifting leadership, in order for both parent and child to gain maximum advantage and emerge as triumphant as possible. A definition of partnership established by our relationship with the ultimate parental figure... our god.
Western Civilization's ongoing and unparalled shared prosperity, makes it even easier for our equal sharing of responsibilities, since it is possible to now imagine even greater prosperity awaiting us; we're going up, not down.
To truly celebrate the experiences that life has to offer us, to participate in life as an act of ongoing creation, requires a belief system that the above imam's response announces as impossible. To enact any change to the koran and to the belief system of its adherents, the first change must be the ability to change. A parent wanting the best for their child, allows moments where the parent humbly lessens themselves down to the child's level, treating them as equal, to learn from them. A parent wanting as little as possible for their child, never lets go of nature's leadership role, making the child walk behind them, rather than dance hand in hand alongside each other.
I will continue to dream and engender what I can, for self-initiated islamic reform, for despite their differences, muslims are still human, and surely must aspire to a life as melodious and balletic as has been discovered by the West. Meanwhile, I can be grateful for the insight offered by the recent messenger, C.S. Lewis,
[Christians] believe that the living, dynamic activity of love has been going on in God forever and has created everything else. And that, by the way, is perhaps the most important difference between Christianity and all other religions: that in Christianity God is not a static thing--not even a person--but a dynamic, pulsating activity, a life, almost a kind of drama. Almost, if you will not think me irreverant, a kind of dance.
Saturday, May 27, 2006
Canada's largest retail bookseller has removed all copies of the June issue of Harper's Magazine from its 260 stores, claiming an article by New York cartoonist Art Spiegelman could foment protests similar to those that occurred this year in reaction to the publication in a Danish newspaper of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed.Business people need to be sent a message that there is no appeasing Islamic crazies, and no excuse for trying. My business has now switched fully to Amazon and whatever independent booksellers are left along my way.
Indigo Books and Music took the action this week when its executives noticed that the 10-page Harper's article, titled Drawing Blood, reproduced all 12 cartoons first published last September by Jyllands-Posten (The Morning Newspaper).
The article also contains five cartoons, including one by Mr. Spiegelman and two by Israelis, “inspired” by an Iranian newspaper's call in February for an international Holocaust cartoon contest “to test the limits of Western tolerance of free speech.”
In a memo obtained by The Globe and Mail that was e-mailed to Indigo managers yesterday about “what to do if customers question Indigo's censorship” of Harper's, employees are told to say that “the decision was made based on the fact that the content about to be published has been known to ignite demonstrations around the world. Indigo [and its subsidiaries] Chapters and Coles will not carry this particular issue of the magazine but will continue to carry other issues of this publication in the future.”
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Some news services seem quick to mock the National Post for being both pro-Israel and quick to tar the Iranians (as if one could be too quick). Al Reuters writes:
The conservative National Post ran the story on its front page last Friday along with a large photo from 1944 which showed a Hungarian couple wearing the yellow stars that the Nazis forced Jews to sew to their clothing.Ha'aretz, however, gets to the heart of the matter:
The story, which included tough anti-Iran comments from prominent Jewish groups, was picked up widely by Web sites and by other media.
"Is Iran turning into the new Nazi Germany? Share your opinion online," the paper asked readers last Friday.
But the National Post, a long-time supporter of Israel and critic of Tehran, admitted on Wednesday it had not checked the piece thoroughly enough before running it.
"It is now clear the story is not true," National Post editor-in-chief Douglas Kelly wrote in a long editorial on page 2. "We apologize for the mistake and for the consternation it has caused not just National Post readers, but the broader public who read the story."
The report emerged as false on Friday evening. Yes, the parliament in Tehran recently passed a law setting a dress code for all Iranians, requiring them to wear almost identical "standard Islamic garments" but it has never passed a decision to mark the country's Jewish citizens.So you see, Iran, which now wants to portray itself as the victim of slanders from a western, Jewish-owned paper, only wants, for the time being, to make all Muslims wear the same uniform. What a nice idea that is, eh? and it still guarantees, does it not, that all Infidels will be identifiable in contrast to their Muslim compatriots?
According to Iran expert Meir Javedanfar, Tehran has yet to fix the dress code for Muslims in the country, let alone for minority ethnic groups.
(Photo Credit: BL)
Anti-Semitism, (a relative neologism coined by a German in the 18th century, can't recall his name off-hand,) began in earnest with Christian Jews and Greeks rebelling against their Jewish debts. I think it's in the Gospel of John that one finds the vitriol against "The Jews" beginning in Christianity. I'm sure a Christian will be able to correct my assumptions. The psychology of it is common enough. I saw it vividly in a town in Britsih Columbia, Canada where a sawmill town went bankrupt. The majority of workers waited for the sawmill to return like a Polynesian cargo plane, and when it didn't and there was no more government relief coming either, the workers abanadoned a lifetime of living and moved to another failing one industry town to work thesame despairing routine. But they had a chance to break out from it. They did not have to replay their failures.
There was an Austrian cabinet maker who told the townsfolk that they could turn their village into a tourist town and they could all make a good living buy painting the town with giant murals such as he'd seen in Europe. There was a stoney reaction from the audience. The best the guy could do is get some people to offer that school children might be willing to paint a brick wall. OUr friend said no, that they had to pool their money and pay a professional to make some great artwork that would attract tourists to the town. More stones.
The man, Kurt Schutz, as I recall, entered a city beautifaction competiton. He put up potted plants on lamp posts. He won a fair amount of money in the competition judged in NYC. He used the money to hire a professional painter who came and did magic. Next year three came to compete, and one of them won a prize. Today the village is crammed with cafes and tee-shirt shops and ice-cream parlours and so on. And the man who made it all possible is hated outright by all.
The ones who left hate him for not letting them be a part of the new venture. The ones who came hate him for being the one who made their success possible.
The man was a carpenter. He was Germanic. He was nobody. Anybody could have done what he did. They would have done it better than he did. They hated him, though at some point he will go down in the local history books as a hero. Not yet. Chemanius is not quite ready, to my knowledge, to proclaim that he did a great thing for the good of all.
So it is with the Jews, I think, who did it and carried on and never let go. There are three revolutionary steps in the emancipation of the Jews that seem not to have caught up with the world at large: the American, French and Industrial Revolutions.
I think Truepeers can enlighten us further on the notion of resentment.
I'll conclude with an observation that Islam hates both founders equally, Jews and Christians, and it fears and envies them. Muslims are sick to death from fear that we are founders of their evil religion and that we do not care about them.
I hope Peers can let us no more.
That's very interesting, Dag, I never knew the story behind the Chemainus murals and now I wonder why.
Resentment, as I understand it, is something universally human, unavoidable. A lot of people will deny that they are resentful, but I think we all are resentful and loving to some degree and that it is best to admit this as a way of opening ourselves to understanding and mediating our resentment, so as to better encourage our loving side.
We are resentful because we are the species with language and religion, i.e. with the means to create order by representing things and places as sacred, i.e. untouchable and at least temporarily beyond the grasp of our desire (this alienation from the desirable is what we resent). Doing this helps us to regulate our competitive appetites-cum-desires, and to divide and distribute goods in ways that animal pecking orders cannot.
If, say, our tribe makes the salmon sacred, as a means of first making it temporarily untouchable, but also - at an initiation ceremony or a sacrificial feast - of controlling how the resource will be used, distributed and consumed, our tribe creates a period of time between when we first imagine consuming the salmon and when we finally get to eat or to lead the fishing. In this period of deferral, when my desire is both provoked by the thought of salmon - as represented in our language, art, ritual, etc. - and the time when I finally get my piece of fish or my leadership position, it is likely, as with any student or desiring child, that I will feel some resentment towards whatever or whoever I think it is that alienates me from the thing that is both sacred, i.e. desirable, and, for a time, untouchable.
Now if we are a primitive tribe, this resentment will not be as sizeable and notable as later in human history when kings and emperors emerge with the power to expand the number of things in this world that are both desirable and untouchable. Still, as long as I have no reason to ever invest much in thinking that little old me could one day become the king, the level of my resentment will not often approach that of the modern consumer who is continually told he can and should desire everything under the sun.
Of course, as long as consumer society is able to regularly sate the desires it stokes, the system remains more or less stable and it encourages everyone to become more productive to the end of sating the desires it provokes. Similarly, we can think of all religions as being systems that both engender resentment at our alienation from the sacred represented by the religion, and at the same time systems that mediate our resentment by providing us both ascetic disciplines and ascetic satisfactions, and also feasts and holidays, initiations into rights and responsibilities, etc.
In other words, a religion can be understood, from this anthropological perspective, as a technology for controlling or recycling the resentment it also helps generate. The better our technology is at doing this recycling of the desire and resentment it engenders, the more creative and productive the people of the religion are, and the more likely they are to survive through wars, famines, etc.
In discovering or inventing monotheism, Judaism is a leap forward in the ability of people to mediate their resentment. The anti-idolatrous and anti-sacrificial lessons inherent in monotheism – however much these lessons are not immediately or ever fully discovered - engender a sense of a personal relationship with the one God who makes of us personal demands that entail a responsibility for our own resentment - we can no longer sate it in idolatry, scapegoating, or bloody sacrifices - and consequently an imperative that we develop either the ascetic or materially productive disciplines that allow us to feel satisfaction in recognition that our relationship with God and his world is what it should be.
Judaism has survived for thousands of years because it works. Does it work better than Christianity, better than Islam? That is the question that the later entrants in the monotheism discovery must ask themselves. And the fact that many Jews don't drop Judaism and become Christians or Muslims can be a source of resentment, an implicit suggestion that they remain closer to what is sacred...
To my mind, Judaism works very well if you follow the laws and keep a good ethical head. But some of us always fall astray, make bad choices, have bad luck, and it may well be that for someone who has come to feel that they are immersed in sin, Christianity may be a more successful technology for redeeming and recycling one's resentment. It's not obvious to me if this is so, but it is surely plausible. It was Christians, after all, who invented modern science and free market capitalism, however well the Jews have since learned to adapt to them.
But what does Islam have to offer as a technology for recycling resentments? A license to war with the Infidel? Well, the infidel might not like it, but it may be that such a license has some things to recommend it, especially if you have a low opinion of human potential, or if you are among those whom history has left outside of the first two monotheist movements. However, I think history shows well enough that Islam is not as well suited to encouraging the productive disciplines that both Judaism and Christian have shown they are capable of engendering. War, booty, and taxation of the conquered, the competition among men to succeed in polygamy, and the abuse of women, are, historically, Islam’s preferred tools for recycling resentment.
Yes, it's true that Christians may resent Jews and Muslims, while Muslims resent Christians and Jews, and Jews also at times fall into the trap of resenting the other two. And while we all think we know which group is on average the more resentful, the ultimate historical test is not who is the more resentful, but which faith will prove the most successful at recycling its resentments back into itself such that the religion or society of which it is a part survives over time. History has yet to pass judgment on this. But, whoever will win (if not all three) – i.e. the more productive, the more warring, or some combination thereof - it is not, in my opinion, a pre-ordained decision. It all remains dependent on us, on our faith, good or bad.
Thursday, May 18, 2006
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Hippies in suits are making life in the West a thing of the past. The West is a place in the mind as much as is the past. It's all dreams reified in concrete and steel and microchips but it has the force of hurricanes for all its nothingness in origin. The West is an attitude, a making real of personality and opinion. The wisp of words and the force of tongues make cities and destroy nations. Today in the West the minds that make are encased in the bony heads of hippies dreaming of communes of the sixties, thoughts swirling like pot-smoke under black lights reflecting Filmore West concert posters.
No, no, no, please. I've heard it all before, and it hurts to have to remember that I ever liked the noise of the 60s. I have a head-ache. Retune, turn down, and drop it. Yuck! No, Tom, I want Hayden.
The West is a thing of the past. It is an attitude. I want it. That's what I want, and badly. I want Hayden and Socrates. I want a clean, well-lighted place, and a stoa to sit on to think. I want to live in the past. I don't want to live in the 60s anymore, managed and tended and infantalised by hippies in suits; I want the past of the past as it was before the hippies took over and wrecked the things that are our Modernity. I want those things not simply for myself and my sense of right and wrong but universally. And I will get this life of the past. I will get it because I'm not the sole person who craves it. I am one among the majority. I want to live in the past: I want to restore Modernity. I want Paine. I'm merely one of most. Quake, you rotten hippies.
We in the West have let ourselves be lead to a dead-end, and our leaders call it paradise at which we must build up more and call it good and getting better. It's a swamp, folks. It's time to seek a new path to the future, bright and shining. We need to strike out on solid ground into the aether of the future of the mind. Sod the hippies.
To redeem our Modernity we will have to return to the past of Aurelius and Zeno, to go back further-- to Socrates.On our return to the future we should stop along the way and reclaim or concept of Empire and its values, its values that allowed and required men to make an empire. The task, needing the men, made the men who made it.
We too can take that path to glory.
It's time for us to toss the cynical hippies of sentimentality and make our way forward into the future of men in the world. Slap those silly bitch-boys and let us go on. The gnostic know-nothings have left us lost. We can make our own future. Our path will make us.
Neil Postman quotes Freud's Civilization and its Discontents: "And finally, what good to us is a long life if it is difficult and barren of joys, and if it is so full of misery that we can only welcome death as a deliverer?"
Neil Postman, Technopoly. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1992. p.6.
This is not an argument for euthanasia. Not here. Here it is an argument for life, life round and hard and even short. It is an argument for privacy.
Our Revolutions are the over-throw of feudalism, that being the private ownership of the private lives of others by those privileged and entitled. Feudalism, the nature of the game for a thousand years and more of European history came to an end in revolutions, those in France, that of America, and the Industrial Revolution. The private ownership of one man by another as property ended and man became his own property, private property. That feudal state of economic relationship and social relation ship is creeping back and has never really been defeated. Today it is what Postman refers to as Technopoly. It is a neo-feudalism. It is an attack on personal life as private property. Today, the feudal manorial lords, the aristocrats, the Church, and the King are gnostic hippies. Today the peasants are grown into middle class serfs tied by obligation to the state. Today's Great Chain of Being is Determinism, Behaviourism, and social conditions. Today's feudal lords are hippie managers and experts and social engineers. What we fought to smash is being reforged to bind us again. Everywhere in the West man is born free, and everywhere he is in new and shiny chains. Man is infantalised and demeaned, his privacy usurped by the system of systems. It's time to regain the ownership of our private property, our own lives. Folks, it's time to revolt again.
In our democracies of the West we no longer elect representatives to government. Instead we elect politicians to work within bureaucracies. We cede control of our lives to experts and managers who will, we guess, do well because they are professionals. They don't, and we re-elect them because they are professionals, and we, not being expert, we, being busy paying taxes, bow to the authority of expertise. We don't know, we don't have time to learn, we don't really care so long as nothing too awful transpires, and we couldn't make it better or worse if we wanted to anyway. We pay taxes, we get services, we live our lives and cope in quiet desperation. It's not that bad. It's better than most places. We do our best. We do our own things. Everyone should do their own thing. We shouldn't interfere. And if others are upset with the way things are, then it must be something we forgot to do or perhaps we insulted someone hundreds of years ago and an apology and a few bucks will straighten it out. It's not really us to fault for the problem, whatever it is, it's the system, the way we did things, the corporations, the profiteers, the bad guys down the street. We'll just pay a bit more in taxes and they'll leave us alone to continue. We are the children, we are the children of the world. Take a cheque. We're no experts, we listen to the priests, the king is a good man, we defer to our betters, it's the nature of things and can't be helped. Yes, it's revolting.
We spend a great deal of time here discussing Philosopher Kings, Gnostics, feudalism, reactionaries, and fascism, to put it chronologically. To summarise it in relation to the hippies in suits we live with today we can see them as Philosopher Kings as Plato describes those. They are born superior and made near perfect by training. Look to the Myth of the Metals to see in detail how those less than the Golden Ones must live in the hierarchy of Plato's Republic. The Philosopher Kings see and know a higher and truer reality than the rest. In that sense they are gnostic, the ones who know more and better than the average low Christian who believes in the demiurge, the ignorant maker demi-god of the Earth. Being high and enlightened, knowing more and feeling more deeply than those below them, the Philosopher Kings, the gnostics, they have a responsibility to tend to those below them, to the point of shepherding and tending like farm animals the peasants. And so it was in an unsophisticated sense throughout the Middle Ages and across most of the world, even throughout most of history since the Agricultural Revolution five thousand years ago. A man's life was not his own possession but that of another. Personal freedom was a concept unknown. A man was the property of his family, of his clan, of his tribe, his chief, his lord, his king, his god. He was owned, and his owner had responsibilities to his maintenance. Man in a feudal world was a farm animal. With the rise of the privacy of land ownership and rational agriculture comes the rise of the concept of the privacy of ownership of man in himself. Comes revolution. Comes counter-revolution. Comes Reaction. And in the reactionary phantasies of the old world order comes the idea that the past was good and even Golden, a time that one and all must return to to save Humanity and Earth itself. This violent and irrational frenzy to return to a phantastic past of heroes and gods and noble savages and true and loyal peasants all living at one with nature is the fascism of which we go on at such length. It is the knowers, the Philosopher Kings, gnostics, who will lead us back to the Golden Age of right and moral living. It is they who will restore the balance of life.They are the experts, the managers, the ones with special knowledge who are above all common understanding. They are today the hippies in suits.
In late 18th century America we chased the bastards back to Europe, and in France they captured the bastards and cut their bewigged heads off and dropped them in baskets. In Britain they melded into the masses and made money by making industry. Those three revolutions, those are the pillars of Modernity. Today they are crumbling and in danger of falling. We are on the verge of a neo-feudalist triumph after all these centuries of attempt. We are ceding our privacies to the tenders. We are becoming by default and apathy and indifference farm animals again.
Slowly but slowly the West has slid back into a quite stupor of feudalism. We have allowed ourselves to believe on the strength of opinion from the Philosopher Kings, the intelligentsia, that we are needful of them. We pay heed to the media, to the professors, to the politicians, to the new priests. They offer us guidance and management in their fields of expertise. We sell off our privacies for the sake of security. We pay obligation and tithe for the certainty of the authority of those who know better than we. We strike a poor bargain in exchange for our lives. Rather than loyalty we accept multi-culturalism. Instead of morals we take determinism. Not responsibility but victimisation. Not truth but sentiment. We give up the good for the tawdry. We become animals in the process. Farm animals.
I urge that we take a path from the past to the future via Socrates, the Stoics, the British imperialists, the American pioneers and filibusters. I urge that we let the hippies sink in the muck and that we carry on without them. They have lead us to a dead-end, and in the night and fog of Left fascist dhimmitude, we must leave them. I urge that we pursue aporia through elenchus. That we reclaim our dignitas, pietas, and gravitas. That our progressive mission is universal and right and deserves the responsibility of just force. This path to the future is cut for us by Socrates and the Stoics, by the imperialist British, the Americans acting in the name of manifest destiny, our destiny, our right destiny. And yes, there will be those who complain. They will be ours. Against them we must have a revival of our spirit, a presentation to the world of our Melian Dialogue. Those we must leave behind. In our return to the past on our way to the future we must reclaim the freedom of man as owner of his own life. Those who would return to the past as an end in itself are our foes, and we must abandon them to the pot-smoke and paisley dreams of acid fantasies. Leave these fools and we must take a new path.
Our revolutions were gradual. They are fading just as gradually. Our world is splitting in two, between the Modernists and the fascists. Postman splits the modern world between the bookish and the televisionish: "The world of the printed word with its emphasis on logic, sequence, history, exposition, objectivity, detachment, and discipline" he writes, is in contrast to "the world of television with its emphasis on imagery, narrative, presentness, simultaneity, intimacy, immediate gratification, and quick emotional response." (Postman: 1992, p. 16.) Half of ours are falling asleep on the sofa. Those who remain awake, Postman writes of as having "...all the principles which invention succeeds: objectivity, efficiency, expertise, standardisation, measurement, and progress." Postman: 1992. p. 42.) Postman asks the why of it, questions the need of it, the moral of it. And we too, like Socrates. We ask because we are awake. Let the pot-smokers drift off to lotus land. Ours is the future.
Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold. Any sensitive person will be concerned. Animal rights activists will be upset that the falcon cannot hear the falconer because of increased noise pollution emanating from the capitalist mode of production. Too true, the moral centre of the West is empty. Our collective moral core is wormy. It is so because we have abandoned our vigilance to hippies. Whatever. It's time to reclaim our positions as people of power. We are being lead by the nose back to the farm of feudalism by back-to-the-land gigglers. I frown. I scowl. I say: "Take a hike, losers." It's time for a sudden come-uppance for the pot smokers.
As we are infantalised by the gnostic dhimmi hippies of the system of systems we find ourselves less and less able to act in our own interests, and therefore as less the owners of our own lives. Layers upon layers of bureaucracy crush the man. Where there is opportunity to control there are those who will control. Those who resist either do so intelligently or they are crushed fully and violently. The smart ones learn the levers and gears and rotations of the system and the system of systems to make it work in their favor, the machine being stupid, putting out and not knowing where or why. Most people seem content to move along the conveyor belts of the systems. The stupid are crushed. The smart are scammers. In all, it don't mean a thing. "Technology's bureaucracy has broken loose from such restrictions and now claims sovereignty over all of society's affairs.... The word "bureaucrat" has come to mean a person who by training, commitment, and even temperament is indifferent to both the content and the totality of a human problem.... Thus, Adolf Eichmann becomes the basic model and metaphor for a bureaucrat in the age of Technopoly.... I have no responsibility for the human consequences of my decisions. I am only responsible for the efficiency of my part of the bureaucracy, which must be maintained at all costs." (Postman: 1992. pp86-87.) Man becomes less than a child minded by a machine-like baby-sitter, he becomes a number and a corpse. Soul is lost, and soul becomes an obsession therefore. Without a meaningful entity to be a soul within, the soul obsession is a ghastly nightmare. The infantalised becomes the dependant, and the provider becomes dependent too. The more the need of the failed person, the greater the tasks of securing for him in the bureaucracy, and the further the rot spreads, engulfing the entirety of the body politic till nothing is left but machine and and crying mind shrivelled to littleness. Man becomes, within the embrace of the state a thing less than an animal. He becomes a piece of stuff. File him. Defile him. Such is the gradual creep of neo-feudalist fascism.
In exchange for lack of meaning and sense in the swamp of neo-feudalist Left dhimmi fascism we are bought with appange. We get bread and circuses by dint of life. We buy the life we have by selling the life we own. We relinquish our volition and judgement to experts who claim authority. We give up our rights to our own opinions, our own experiences, our own intuitions, our values and traditions to those who claim authority in the field in question. True, I practice brain surgery only on those I hate; for myself I see a brain surgeon. In terms of friendship and personal values I do not turn to experts in magazines at the supermarket check-out rack. I could and if so I would find no end of experts with fine advice, all of them holding Ph. D.s of some sort. Who am I to have an opinion about my own life and how to live it? If I don't operate on my own brain, why would I deign to act on my own friendships? Thus, giving up my mind to experts who are idiots I give up my idiotic life and mind rightly. And the more I give up the more I should give up because there is less and less to work with to the point I am a fool beyond compare, the very essence of a good citizen. Those who are experts in social engineering, those who know the unknowable anyway, the gnostic pot-smokers, they tell us, and they tell us nonsense that we believe. If we choose to believe. There are those who do not, and they are a pitiable lot. Those who reject the expertise of the system are outcast, sometimes sued for violating speech laws, ostracised for non-conformity, marginalised for free-thinking heresies. They are unlovely.
Society cannot bear too many outsiders inside itself. The Ali Sinas and Ibn Warraqs of society are a menace to the society they live in, even if that society is one sympathetic to them. Functional society requires conformity to norms and laws, regardless of their justness. Thus it is that when one calls for revolution in society, as I do here, one calls not for individuals acting against the state and the state of things, one calls for the movement of the mass of society to turn violently in one unified direction at once and then to cease and consolidate the change. There cannot be endless rebellion and non-conformity after a revolution. Then it's firing-squad time. Revolution is only reasonable in terms of creating a new conformity. After the revolution, then one must rightly shoot the reactionaries and, as Lenin calls them, the infantile.
In our call for a Chronologic over-throw of the Left dhimmi fascist infantalisation of Modernity we expect a thorough abolition of the previous norm and its replacement with a maturity from the past. Ours is not a call for reaction but a call for the overthrow of Reaction itself as manifest in neo-feudalist Left fascism. We call for another round in the Revolutions of Modernity. And then nothing but progress thereafter.
Our first task is to regain confidence in our own lives and our abilities to solve our own problems without need of the pseudo-scientific experts of Left dhimmi fascism. Postman deals with this problem in a wonderful chapter in Technopoly, "The Broken Defenses," in which he concludes that experts, so-called "would have us believe that technology can plainly reveal the true nature of some human condition or belief because the score, statistic, or taxonomy has given it a technical form.... Sin and evil disappear because they cannot be measured and objectified, and therefore cannot be dealt with by experts." (Postman: 1992. p. 90.) Frankly, my dear, we do not need experts to tell us right from wrong, and when they go so far as to tell us there is no such thing, well, I opine that we should hang them from lamp posts. We gain nothing and lose nearly everything by privileging those who would, if we allow it, alienate our selves from our privacies. In matters of privacy experts are generally worse than nothing: they are poison. To live ones life wrongly is to be able to learn, if one is capable of it, to live rightly. Compassion is not a question of worth. To pour on more layers of bureaucracy is to further suffocate a society of private men. It calls for overthrow. Hang the "compassionate." God invented lamp posts for just that occasion.
We have models from our past on which to base our further successful progress as a race. Humanity has Socrates, the Stoics, Renaissance men, some philosophes of the Enlightenment, the British imperialists, and the American pioneers and filibusters. We have returned and move deeper ever more daily into a dark age of our collective past. Not Socrates but Plato; not the Stoics but the Gnostics; not the Renaissance men but the Scholastics; not the philosophes but the reactionaries; not the imperialists but the missionaries; not the pioneers and filibusters but the utopianists. We've lost Roosevelt for the rats of Tammany Hall. Our collective and social brains need a good wash. We require some adult and mature introspection after which we must regain our confidence in our own private opinions of our own behaviours and morals. We would profit by looking to the past for our models, a past of adult maturity. As is we are becoming moreso daily farm animals.
If we are men and not merely animals to tend, not things to be controlled by our made environments, things managed by experts, Then what are we? We will know not by accepting the considered advice of gnostic experts but by doing and thinking rationally in light of tradition as it is proven successful. If we rely on the experts, we receive nothing more than the echoes from the filing cabinet Having created a neo-feudalist machine in which to process the masses for the sake of the gnostics themselves we will only ever get the gnostic prescripitions of the experts, regardless of the obviousness of the counter intuitive answers they spew. If we continue to ignore the man behind the curain we willl further and more sell our privacies for piffle. No man, having done it, need continue doing it. Ones life is immanently redeemalbe without notice or invocation. The man behind the curtain is a scammer. You need never pay him any mind at all if you don't care to. And that, dear reader, is revolution. It is the immediate junking of trash culture. What seems sold is immediately redeemable upon demand.
If we junk the experts of idiocies in favor of our maturity, then what willl we have instead in times of need? What will we do if we quit the psychiatrists and the Dr. Phils and the pharmasists? How can we live rightly without Oprah? I would ask my grandmother but she died at 98 years. If she'd asked Dr. Phil I still doubt she would have made it to 100. And if she had? What then is the point of a long life if you don't live it yourself? What if your own life is nothing but an endless vacuum of silliness and feel-good? What if you live for a thousand years and all you do is drool? Will the world of science and technology give us more and better meaning than the life of my grandmother? Did Seneca the Younger require a computer to live a reasonable life of the mind? Did Marcus Aurelis need more memory to be a better person? Would Socrates have lived a more enlightened life with electricity? Would Britain have ruled the waves if only they had Trident submarine missles? So we must then ask what our reliance on experts has gained us. Yes, some of us live as long as my grandmother. Others live only as long as my other grandmother, a mere 94, my grandfather who died at 89, or the other who lived to 102! Yes, they were racist, sexist, homophobic Rightwing religious bigots. Except that they weren't. But nevermind. They didn't have ipods. They didn't know that Nike is a shoe company. They thought Nike is a Greek goddess. Not that they cared. They travelled around the world as soldiers and missionaries imposing their Western values on others, often by force. One can still ride the trains they helped organise across India. One may visit France free of Nazis. We, in spite of our learned dependence on frivolous experts of Swiftian science, are the same people-- who do not act of our own volition. We have everything and more that Zeno and Aurelius had. Everything but self-reliance.
We rely on our idea of the value of science and technologies, even though we have no real idea of the worth of such. No, we do not. Electricity might seem better than darkness but is it? In what way is our modern life better than that of Socrates'? What do we gain by gaining the world if in the bargain we lose our minds? What do we gain in the search and capture of comfort if we give up our lives for it to live in ease for centuries? What's the moral of this story, this boring, endless and vacuuous soap opera we live so long? Is it continuous scientific discovery that will ever increase our decency and meaning? We don't even get real science as we do from Bacon. Today we get scientism. Postman writes of social science as scientism: "[T]he methods of the natural sciences can be applied to to the study of human behaviour.... [S]ocial science generates specific principles which can be used to organise society on a rational and humane basis.... [T]hat technical means... can be designed to control human behaviour and set it on the proper course. [T]hat faith in science can serve as a comprehensive belief system that gives meaning to life, as well as a sense of well-being, and even immortality." (Postman: 1992. p. 147.) Oh, please behead me. Postman claims that social science is story-telling, and he asks: "why do such social scientists tell their stories? Essentially for didactic and moralistic purposes." ( Postman: 1992. p. 157.) In what way, then, does it surpass Homer? Folks, we are cheated, and the cheater is us. For shame!
All the values we ever needed, all the knowledge we ever required to be Human and good as such, are right within us and were and always are and will be so. Our future is right there in the past before us. It's the matter of path.
Modernity is not some magic formula of which there is one right way of making it from here on. Modernity is not that specifically. Modernity is not merely pseudo- scientific method applied to the people by gnostic managers. That is the reactionary version done in polyestre. Without Socrates, the Stoics, the makers of Modernity's freedom and its expansion world-wide, the imperialists, pioneers and filibusters, we are saddled with the gnostic managers. Postman writes: "They believe that without numbers thay cannot aquire or express authentic knowledge." (1992. p13.) Zeno and Aurelius are Modernists but Comte and Condorcet are not. As a gnostic narrative of reality replacing myth and religion and philosophy we gain not freedom or Humanness but scientism, a mere numerology of quacks. We get bogus religion, a priesthood of idiot hippies in suits with caluclators and flow-charts. What our experts know is no worth knowing. Worse, it's stupid and confusing to the masses who accept it as worthy of consideration. Ask who is more capable of living: The SNAG, the sensitive new age guy in touch with his inner child, or Marcus Aurelius? What has value? Prozak or accomplishment? Viagra or gravitas? Who is admirable? Cindy Sheehan or a Spartan Mother: "As someone was describing his brother's death to his mother, she said: 'Isn't it a disgrace, then, not to have gone on such a fine journey with him?' " Plutarch on Sparta.Trans. Richard J. A. Talbet. Harmondsworth: Penguin; 1988. p.160.
We are duped by scientism, and it need not be so. Because it is a mental construct, a mere habit of phantasy perpetrated by the elitist hippies in suits we, having little time to examine our own lives, fall for the authority of power in place. They must know, they are in power. And acceptance of this fallacy has lead us to the swamp wherein we slowly sink.
The ideology of scientism has few benefits for the average man. Medicine? We can accept that personal cleanliness, often a religious precription, is more than likely to keep a person safe from disease. Exercise and good diet keep people alive as long as my grandparents. Street sweeping and sewage control keep cities alive and healthy. Nearly everything else is not only redundant but layered bureaucracy that causes more harm than it ever prevents. Examples come from Vancouver, Canada, a socialist nightmare land of "Harm Reduction." Here, "Safe Injection Sites" for drug users, medical bureaucracies financed at public expence, allow addicts a clean, well-lighted medically supervised room in which to shoot up. Afterward, same drug-users go onto the streets to smash car windows to steal and to buy more drugs. Drug addiction is not a crime but a medical condition of victimised and marginalised people. They need counselling, available at public expense. And on it goes. Our educators train our children, and our media and higher intelligentsia train the general population in sensitivity toward said victims. We must understand the root causes of their pain. Yes, most citizens are rightly disgusted, but they are also intimidated by the power of hippies in suits. They are afraid to challenge the staus quo because it is expert and professional. The fact that it is dangerous nonsense and kills people wihile destroying the West inside out is not a matter of public discussion due to the tyranny of speech codes, of the concept that language must be politically correct. Elenchus and aporia, Stoicism, moral aggression and progress are not merely rebutted but are seen as grounds for law suits and criminal charges: racist, sexist, homophobic hate-speech. We gain nothing by adhering to these codes, and we lose our Modernity in the process of acquiecense. We become farm animals.
In the neo-feudalist farm of Left dhimmi fascism the man is reduced to number, and combined with other numbers he is a statistic. As Stalin said, "The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of a million is...."
Our Modernity is at risk of disintegration, and we can stop it, rebuild it from this moment on, by discarding our faith in number and the metaphors therefrom. We require a new narrative based on new metaphors, metaphors surpassing number.
We can begin our adventure down this new path to Humanness by considering ourselves as Progressive rather than as Reactionary. We can see ourselves as revolutionaries and as minority beings in the greater world, today and throughout alll of history. We begin rightly by casting off the yokes of animality. We do so by accepting the mantles of Greco-Roman stoicism and the walking surely in the footsteps of Socrates. It's a matter of attitude toward ones own existence, the acceptance of the privacy of ones own life as property. Once that is established, then the work of meaning is essential. Without meaning, the ownership of life is plot without seed. With ownership come boundaries and responisbilities. With ownership comes the need for authority. To have the private ownership of ones life is to have a moral to the plot or to have a wasteland of weeds. Ones life, owned privately, needs a moral that has authority in itself. That moral is private and it is also universal as surely as is mathematics. It's not a matter of doing but of being. What is the moral of the story and by what authority do we claim it is so? That is the path of Modernity.
Here we have examined the gnostic concoction of Left dhimmi fascism and the fools who've conjured this pot-smoker's phantasy of life as farm animal. We argue now that the first steps to our future must be to the past, to Socrates and the Stoics, to the movers and makers of our history of Modernity. We require a shaking off of the gnostic dhimmis, an intifada of Modernist man.
A fear we must all share is that with the adoption of gravitas we might well abandon Marx. How, we ask, can we attain to high seriousness as people and at the same time love The Mouse that Roared? How, one might as well ask, can we love Aeschylus and also Euripides, Sophoclese and Aritsophanes, Plautus and Seneca? We lose nothing if we grasp the essential nature of dignitas as positive. One nbeedn't sink into rigidity and pedantry to be serious. There is much to gain by wedding low anarchic humor with high nobility of mind, and the Marx Brothers have it. But we fear our loss of levity if we grasp for the heights of profundity. Empty pretention is obnoxious and unlikable, a vanity without pride. We need none of that. But anarchic amorality and nihilism, hippie-dippy daydream "anything goes" farce is horror in the works. Disapproval and judgement with discernment is a good thing. The emotional cripples of dhimmitude are disgusting. We need gravitas and a sense of humor. In the West of today we have neither: we have a neurotic introspection of hyper-sensitive SNAGs. We have feral children. We have feral chruches and criminal politicians, and no one seems to be able to say allll of it is wrong. To cast a judgement is seen as "judgemental." Yes, dear reader, we can hang criminals and still be decent Human beings with a sense of humor. It needn't be gallows humor. But seperately we do need both.
There is no humor in the state. There should be because the state generally is a joke. Rather, we value the state too highly, seeing that some are enemies of the state; and in truth, the state is often if not mostly the enemy of the people. The state is a mechanism for organising the public affairs of the collectivity of individuals. Not in practice, of course. In practice, the state becomes all powerful, a thing in itself with the power and powers to crush the mass for which it is orginally. The state is a machine that overpowers. The more power the polis, the less power the demos. It ain't funny. It's not funny because we have allowed our state to control our privacies. If we abandon our pursuits of gravitas and give up our personal ownership of our own lives, if we live with the state in loco parentis, then we suffer terminal infantalisation. If we will not grow up and act at least in the manner of adults, accepting responsibility for our own property, then we are nationalised. We, if we become farm animals of neo-feudalism, give up our private ownership of our own lives and are made communal property, milked and slaughtered and who really cares? The factory farm of Modernity as neo-fueudalism need not be the norm. We can end it instantly by not believing any longer in its authority and efficacy. It could be funny, and we could be proud.
Gary Larson has a cartoon of a sheep standing in a field with other sheep. The standing sheep yells to his fellows: "Hey, everybody. We don't have to be just sheep!" Of course they do. But we do not.
We are free to change our minds from being strict determinists to being full out free will maniacs. It takes a change of mind. It can be like lightening. Open your eyes to the epiphanies before you at all times and there you are, a whole new being. It won't happen, friend, because life cannot allow for it. Too sudden a move on the part of Man in society would rip out the moorings and cast us all adrift to the waves and rocks of destruction. We wouldn't last a day. Yet there will be change, and it will come suddenly, not to many but to a few who will and must lead the rest to antoher destiny than that which we now reside at so unhappily. Some few millions will see a new path and take it. It will be a path to the past that leads us into the future.
Those who fear and hate gravitas are wrong in their understanding of it as pomposity and insensitivity. Living lives of falsity of the mind, a sentimentalist nightmare, we see all else from the same sentimental distortions. We lose value by it. In continuing to clutch our sentimentalities we lose the chance to have gravitas.
If our West is a bureaucracy grown out of control of its makers, having superceded its reason for being, and at the same time it exists in a time of irreligion, then consider that "God's Plan" is now "The State." Postman desribes the bureaucracy as a set of techniques that is now the point-in-itself. The bureaucracy is God's Plan itself. We exist for the sake of the state, which will come as no surprise to any European. The state, the bureaucracy itself, is not a thing but a random collection of organised movements with neither purpose nor goal. It has no reason or value. It runs at the beheast of experts. They have the authority of expertise. They, having no value, give no value in return. At best they are people behind a curtain pulling levers to generate images and smoke and noise. We obey because we believe. Therefore we pay. We pay with our privacies, with the ownership of our lives given to experts to manage our details that we as adults with gravitas should manage according to our abilities and then our needs as we know them. We truly do not need these idiot hippies in suits telling us their expret theories and managing our lives so poorly. We are not children. We aren't even sheep.
We in the West have fallen into a trap of sentimentality and covered ourselves with a deep cover of moralism. We mistake ourselves for those with sentiment and morals. Not the same things. We confuse philanthropy, the love of people, with concern for people themselves. Dostoyevski sums it up brilliantly in The Brothers Karamazov: "I love Humanity. It's people I can't stand." Yes, one might well play at saving Humanity and meanwhile sit on the bones of the dying without a thought of it. It is sentimentlity. And to demand conformity to the philanthropy of the bureaucracy, to demand respect for the authority of the experts in charge, that is travesty and crime. We could change our minds about this in an instant. We could see it and accept it and annouce it in public as a scam. We could reclaim our gravitas and laugh off the shrieks of the philistines. Yes, millions of people would be unemployed for a week till they found real jobs and made real their own lives. It won't happen in a flash of epiphany, but the revolution will come to the minds of many millions and the revolution will change us from simpering fools to the men and women who will again take the lead in transforming the world into a greater garden of common decency. I argue that we might well have to hang a number of counter-revolutionaries. Those entrenched in the stystem of systems with nothing to gain and with everything they've worked for all their lives at risk will resist, and they are the enemies of progress and Humanity. We hang some of them. I can live with it. We cannnot live, cannot survive without this revolution of the mind and the taking of this new path.
When we mistake gravitas with rigidity and humorlessness and when we mistake formality with restrictions on personal freedom we fall into traps of the mind that lead us into the domain of pot-smokers who equate Christianity to Islam, lumping both together as violence-inducing religion. It is a sentimentalist confusion. Priggishness is not gravitas. A man who cannot laugh at a Marx Brothers film is a prig. He is a sentimentalist. He is a dangerous fool. He is very likely a multi-culti moral and cultural relativist A Left dhimmi fascsist. He is a man who has no understanding of the real, the authentic, if you will. He is the man who will promote falsities and phantasies.
Postman writes that the system of sytems is a collection of technics applied to society for its benefit. He writes: "The transformation of bureaucracy [is] from a set of techniques designed to serve social institutions to an autonomous meta-insititution that largely serves itself.... As techniques for managing information became more necessary, extensive, and complex, the number of people and structures required to manage those techniques grew, and so did the amount of oinformation generated by bureaucratic techniques. This created the need for bureaucracies to manage and coordinate bureaucracies...the disease for which it purported to be the cure.... Bureaucracy now not only solves problems but creates them... it defines what our problems are.... Technopoly's bureaucracy has broken loose from such restrictions and now claims sovereignty over all of society's affairs." (Postman: 1992. p. 85-86.) Postman argues that the machine mind of bureaucracy has overthrown value, morals, tradition, and common sense and replaced it with information, facts, data, and statistics that mean mostly nothing. The "garbage in, garbage out" is merely garbage, prized by oracular experts who decipher it and proclaim it's meanings to the masses. It is garbage information made authoritive by experts, and because it is phantasy, because it is garbage, to prize it is to live in a phantasy world there and elsewhere. Our values are based on garbage, and therefore our values themselves become garbage. Based on falsity and fear, giving privilge to expertise in nonsense we allow ourselves to lose fineness in reality, in effect replacing value with tripe. We take on machine values, the values of bureaucies, i.e. value-free judgements, contingent morality, clouds of pot-smoke. And what might seem substantial in the face of that, graivtas, is seen as threatening and frightening, as a seriousness that hurts, as an assault on our permanent ironic detachment for the machine. In confronting our lack of seriousness we might see ourselves as losing our humor in reaction. It's a false equation. To abandon the moral vacuum of the machine societies we inhabit does not require us to pick up false values of moralistic humorlessness.To abandon the rigid controls of the bureaucracies in favor of personal authority is not to make us little Eichmanns. These are sentimentalist false dichotomies. It is not either/ or. But having lived in a machine-amorality of sentimentalist flow-charts and socially engineered societies of behaviourist frou-frau we might have lost all sense of the possiblities of reality and genuine feeling as individuals. We have some ideas that we can examine in light of the past. We can find values of worth in our currently despised history. Again Postman puts it nicely:
"I am suspicious of peope who want us to be forward-looking. I literally do not know what they mean when they say, 'We must look ahead to see where we are going.' What is it they wish us to look at? There is nothing yet to see in the future. If looking ahead means anything, it must mean finding in our past useful and humane ideas with which to fill the future." Neil Postman, Building a Bridge to the 18th Century. Alfred A. Knopf: New York; 1999. p.13.)
Here we must clarify the difference between the past that is reactionary and the past that is progressive. The former is sentimental, the latter authentic. In today's Left fascist state machine there is no morality but the orthopraxis and orthodoxies of political correctness. All morality is empty form filling for the sake of publicity rather than for the fulfillment of the person's privacy. For show rather than for shame. Shape without being. It is a sentimentality of machines. Sentimentalist reaction is likely worse. We must distinguish clearly between it and past progressivism.
Reactionaries, Right and Left, seek the past in the future. Progresssives seek the present in the past. What we call Modernity is a slow and oft times painful linear advance into an unknowable future. The future is not ours to decide, it being the aproia of Man himself, our efforts being the elenchus, our goal the dialectic of living. We try a bit of this, we try a bit of that, we see what happens, and we improve upon our successes. The fascist utopian concludes that the best is over, that all is future decline, and that to restore anything to the good one must recreate an imaginary past of the Golden Age in the far future when history will end. This pre-lapsarian quest for the perfectability of Man is reactionary. It is a murderous sentimentality. It is the stuff of pot-smoking gnostics with elimination lists, a reification of dreams funneled through gulags and lagers. Wrongly, the Reactionary is generally labelled as Rightist. In truth, Left and Right conflate. There is no difference between the past utopianisms of the two. Both hate Modernity, usually for the same reasons. Below we can see anti-Modernity and Counter-Enlightenment as anti-Americanism. We will see past as sentimental utopia, philosopher kings and gnostics, man as farm animal. We will see a denial of gravitas and privacy. We will find a lack of humor. We will find ourselves right back where we started.
"Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chains." J-J Rousseau, The Social Contract.
Some confuse Modernity with technology. I do not. Here, Modernity is privacy. Privacy is the individual's ownership of his own life as private property. It is perhaps the only Human right I consider legitimate. Everywhere, man is losing that right. It is the right of Man, and everywhere he is throwing it away. Man, in dismissing his privacy, loses his gravitas; he has no humor, replacing it instead with irony; no morality but prudence; no dignitas beyond victimhood and exceptionalism; no philosophy beyond mindless anti-Americanism; no feeling except sentimentality. Modernity is post-modernism in our current practice, and it devolves daily into neo-feudalism. Privacy is swapped for gold-plated chains, p.c. cliches, and pot smoke. Man should be free. Man is enchained. Everywhere.
I see a paradox approaching here, though it could be a flash-back from the sixties. Some people define Modernity as technology and the physical stuff of inventions. I argue that all the inventions of the past 500 years could never have been invented and we would still live in a world of Modernity. Modernity is not the stuff we have but the mind that makes the stuff likely. It is the attitude of the mind as free of fetters and owned by one person, oneself, that propels one to search for meaning in ones own life. That search for personal meaning might bring one vast wealth or high prestige or anything one is capable of and desirous of. The motivated man who is free to pursue his own life will invent the tools he needs to make his goal a reality. Here comes that paradox.
Those who think of Modernity as stuff rather than as attitude toward oneself must think of stuff as the reward of life itself instead of realizing the reward of life is life, and that stuff might come from it if one wants it. Thus, those who want freedom want it without self-ownership. Some seem to want freedom without definition of self. To focus on ones achievable goals and results therefrom is to exclude other possible goals and rewards. This is my cat: He sits on the stoop, watches a swarm of Starlings on the lawn, and rather than pick one he might get, my beautiful cat jumps on all of them, of course not coming out with anything but bewilderment. Or, as Lilly Tomlin once said: "When I was young I wanted to be somebody. Now that I'm older I wish I'd been more specific." Life is its own thing, and a meaningful life is what one makes of a life at all by ownes own private ownership rightly and usefully used for something rather than nothing-- or worse, for everything. Then, in the search for personal freedom, those who will not compromise in the pursuit of self-definition, wishing to be "free" might well find themselves as ephemeral and pointless in the end result. Modernity is neither stuff nor boundlessless of being. Modernity is the freedom to pursue ones one life as one sees fit. Even if ones goal is stuff, stuff is incidental. And freedom without limits and definition is murk and mire. The paradox then is that we give up our freedom to be ourselves in the fear of not being what we might be. To be one thing is to not be another, perhaps resulting in nothing from fear of containment and vitiation of freedom to be. The unlimited freedom of choice, then, becomes an unlimited infinity of blah. In fear of losing all, that being ones life and hopes of all that could be, one finds the loss very definite; therefore, to continue in the course of further blah one might redefine blah as wow. The emptiness of freedom without definiton is called freedom of all greatness, and is then turned into phantasies only the most desperate of fools will find satisfying. I use here by way of illustration the pathetic fool Chris, the Australian con-man who lies for a living in Mexico City. He's well-known to travellers, being the source of many nights of pub-crawling stories afterward, and even some broken hearts and lost wages. He is compleately free. He has no identity. He is one dream one day, a different dream another. I called him the Invisible Man, to his disgust and dismay. But why? He is exactly what his freedom demands of him. He is empty and remade on a continuous basis, nothing fixed or sure, free to come or go or lie down and die. Like my cat he grabs for the stars only to end up with someone's laundry in his paws. He is free to make of his life whatever he will, and he makes it nothing at all. I think of him as a joke, but I know some who hate him. I hang out with him anyway, he being a very modern man.
The paradox is that the free are so free that it destroys them, oft times till they cannot cope with the choices of freedom. They become slaves to freedom itself, never deciding which part of freedom they will take with the responsibility that comes with the ownership of it. And here again, more paradox: that in defining limits, in setting boundaries to freedom, in making this ones own and setting in to make it good, that is restricting of ones freedom in that it requires dicipline, an unfree approach to living. This comes from the very wrong idea that another's authority to make one do as he will is to restrict ones own freedom. No, this is not axiomatic. There are so many variations of authority that one would need a full page just to list them by name. Here we refer to legitimate and relevant authority. In adherence to that is freedom, if one has the sense to understand it. This fine distinction, too fine for most, is lost to many if not most. Authority is seem as a priori a threat to ones freedom. It is to be shunned, even hated and destroyed. In rejecting right authority, one loses ones freedom to learn and to grow into ones own authority on the shoulders of ones mentor. In that, one becomes less, and in that one loses one gravitas, not being able to excel in the eyes of ones betters. One might be free but it is the freedom of the village idiot who roams and shouts at will.
Authority is seen as an intimidation rather than as a assistence to greatness surpassing ones mentors. The Western man, in rejecting legitimate and relevant authority as a threat to his freedom has given over his freedom to nothingness, and is therefore a slave to gnawing doublt about his own worth, rightly so. In denying the legitimate and relevant authority of the legitimate and relevant authority the free man is free and equal to all, they being as idiotic as he. He is unintimidated. All fools are roughly the same. Gravitas, being threatening to the fool, is hated passionately. It is mocked, lampooned, despised, and called down at every turn. Let us redeem gravitas.
Today gravitas is replaced by cool. Uh oh. Cool is from criminals. Gravitas is for hard men, men who struggle and endure and focus and win. Gravitas is freedom within bounds tightly restricted. Gravitas is not hippie-dippy. Nor is gravitas willi-nilly. Gravitas is rigid in some respects, in its refusal to be cool, for example. But gravitas is coolness itself. Gravitas is not hanging out in discos selling drugs and ordering the murder of rivals. Gravitas in not the stern-faced sadistic Roman committing suicide in the bath-tub--though it is that too, if need be. Gravitas is, if you will, The Philidelphia Story.
The parody of gravitas that today is "cool" is seen clearly in The Godfather movies, in Hannibal Lecter movies, in The Third Man. In each film or series of, cool is without personal dignity and self-worth that makes a man's choice his own free choice for the good not only of himself but for the many. Killing ones brother, eating people, not kiling a man who corrupts the lives of many in war, these are things of disgust. These are acts of cool. And conversely, Carey Grant, Jimmy Stewart, and Katherine Hepburn are examples of gravitas at its finest.
We can see high dignity and deep self-worth in the comic antics of actors who play at drunkenness, at stupidity, at follies of all kinds. For every flaw and failing there is a deep nobility that shines through in the being of dignified and decent characters. Dignitas in The Philidelphia Story does not manifest itself in self-sacrifice to the point of death, but one knows that the comedic designs played out could and would in times of need be exactly deadly and brave. We've allowed our rejections of authority to demean our vocabularies to the point we no longer understand the meaning of cool as opposed to its opposite, gravitas. If we think of cool as good and Romans as brutal bastards who killed at random for stoprt, then we will not see Carey Grant as a man of gravitas, or Katherine Hepburn as a woman of extraordinary personal depth. When we see authority as a personal threat to our individual freedom to be invisible men, when we see cool guys as admirable and don't understand the meaning of murderous mayhem in oppostion to rational order, then we are not free in any meaningful sense whatsoever, we are merely night and fog.
When we give up our right to our own lives for the sake of our misunderstood concept of personal freedom, a freedom that is a slavery to fear of restrictions self-chosen, and when we allow ourselves to be mollified by sentimentalities worthless, dangerous and even murderous, phantastic ideologies of equalities and equivalence that infantalise and dehmanise all involved, and on the basis not of authority legitimate and relevant but on the basis of pseudo-technologists' sociology reports, then we have lost our freedom to say no to idiot freedom of the farm animals free to choose to munch and gaze.
I'll return next time with a look at anti-Americanism as mindless slavery to fashion and emotion untrained and uncritical and stupid and disgusting. I'll continue with the freedom of authority as alternative. I'll return to the past, a time free of hippie gnostics.
Saturday, May 13, 2006
Among the quotes that Robert Spencer has lifted from the letters, we find:
Due to my religious motivation for the attack, I feel no remorse and am proud to have carried it out in service of and in obedience of Allah.But the queer thing about these letters is that they demonstrate a young man, who has spent most of his life in the United States, showing his facility with western modes of thought that almost verge on nihilism; one might call him that, if not for the fact that he is not a nihilist precisely because of his belief in a putative god and his Jihad.
Considering that I injured several people both physically and psychologically, who were also American taxpayers, I feel that I succeeded in obeying Allah's commandment to fight against the enemies of His followers.
Since I acted only in obedience and reverence of Allah, I could never be sorry for hurting the victims, unless Allah wanted me to be sorry -- which I don't believe is the case, to my knowledge.
I only read the first letter in full; it is an attempt to prove the existence of God:
it seems that all I can know to be true is "being," viz. existence of myself and existence of whatever has created myself at the time intervals which I write at. I don't know for certain that my experiences, viz. sight, touch, taste, hearing, and smell, really happen to be derived from sources beyond my imagination or if they are all merely things which I imagine involuntarily. This is based on the notion that experience itself may only be a figment of the imagination, and therefore not a reality. In contrast, "being" must necessarily be a real thing or force, because it remains constant and precedes all events in time. That is to say, before anything could have ever happened in the universe as we know it, there had to first exist "being" viz. something true and constant from time negative infinity... the objects of our experiences cannot be conclusively defined as real since they may only exist within our minds and therefore not in some external corporeal world.Well, I guess that may make it easier to think about killing people, then.
What we have here is evidence of a scary phenomenon. A young man, reasonably well-educated in the west, capable of carrying on a philosophical discourse like an undergraduate with intellectual inclinations, finding an answer for the sense of alienation and resentment so commong among young people. But this outlet is not the usual romanticism or nihilism. No, he has found a faith that allows him to kill. He quotes the Koran as calling for the "release [of] anger and rage from Allah's followers' hearts" (9:14-15).
Spencer asks, "is he misinterpreting the Qur'an? Here's 9:14-15"
Fight them, and Allah will punish them by your hands, cover them with shame, help you (to victory) over them, heal the breasts of Believers, and still the indignation of their hearts.Deadlier yet than a literalist Islam may be the mixing of alienated western youth and Islam. It's another reason we need a new covenant in Canada.