Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Velvet Fascism (2): Povertarians.

After rummaging through a "free clothes" bin in a local church basement, Joe found what he considered a good score. He put on his new duds and went out into the cold. Out on the street he met a "social activist," a lady who looked him up and down and said, in as sneering a tone as she could muster: "Nice coat, Joe," turning his three letter name into a two syllable word, scorn dripping from her lips like a syphilitic discharge. The lady in question is what I will forever on now call a "Povertarian."

Dear reader, you will well imagine my disappointment when you find that I'm not the first, as I had hoped, to use this term. It might come from India, referring to the ascetics there who idealise poverty as some sort of path to religious and spiritual enlightenment. The ethos itself is old, likely as old as Man's search for meaning in a cold, hard universe. To the povertarian, poverty elevates one beyond the cash nexus of the mundane, lifts the spiritual seeker to heights the lowly masses can only admire from a distance, knowing the glory of asceticism only at second hand, if that. Poverty. It's the real thing. The rest of us are faking it. The povertarians want us to -- no -- demand that we follow their spiritually and socially enlightened lead. If we don't, then we are selfish, greedy, rich, racist, inauthentic, and so on till my nose drops off. To those who are povertarians, "Life should be," not "Life is what it is." And if it should be, then it must be. If life isn't what it should be, then someone is at fault, MAKING it not what it should be; and those people are bad: they are Americans, they are Zionists, they are capitalists, imperialists, globalists, and so on till my nose drops off. If life were as it should be, then I alone would be credited with the coining of the term "Povertarians." If you too coined this term and don't get right credit for it, let's start a mutual support group. We can sue someone and get a government grant to spread the word that we're discriminated against by a vast Rightwing conspiracy. "Povertarians." If I must, then I'll share it with others. No, don't thank me. It's just the kind of guy I am.


The primitive weltenschauung of the povertarian hardly needs explanation to most of us, it being the stillborn thought of those who live emotionally in the Middle Ages. Theirs, as we've written about in essays on Rational Agriculture and Ecology, is, or used to be generally, that of the feudal "limited pie" idea of wealth, that there is only so much in the subsistence economy of the commune, and that if one takes more than his fair share, then everyone else will starve to death. Now all but the most dense of hippy socialists grasp that wealth creates wealth, that there is no "pie" that exists as all there is and can ever be. Well, not quite so: The neo-feudalist has changed the story of the limited pie in light of the obvious continued growth of economies in the capitalist reality. The shift in the limited pie story now confesses that there is more to reality than the never-ending cycle of subsistence and starvation within the confines of the commune. But the pie is now expanded beyond the commune of old to include the whole of the Earth as the pie, ours being a finite and limited planet, it being constricted and non-replenishable. If, the neo-feudalist argues, we in the Modernist West eat all the Earth, then everyone will die! Capitalism might work for the few in some parts of the world, but to work it must take from those who don't share in it, those who are exploited by the global capitalists, those who destroy the limited pie of the Earth with its non-renewable resources. Old pie in a new tin.

What possesses these povertarians to go on so? Of course they're "spiritual" in ways the rest of us cannot begin to grasp, they having a Gnostic vision of reality and the inner truths of the realms of the Philosopher Kings. The neo-feudalist is one who has a vision of reality that transcends that of the average person. That vision is one limited to fear of freedom and independence of Humanity. It is the herd view of Human reality. It is the fascist view of Man. And those who cling to it see themselves as enlightened, more aware of reality than "the masses" whom the enlightened povertarians have a duty to tend for the good of all and the Earth itself. Thus, those who are povertarians must do for those who cannot see the cosmic Truth of the Gnostic what must be done. The masses resist, the masses must be made to follow, must be shown the errors of their evil ways, must be made to know their guilt, and must atone and pay for the sins they commit by virtue of their very consumptive existence. In the Modern West, the masses must pay tithe-taxes to the Gnostic minders who will create for the masses an equitable society good for all and in harmony with Nature.

The masses in the West are greedy and racist and sexist and homophobic. They are bad. They are guilty. They must pay, give money to the minders who, having infantalised the poor of the world, now turn their sights to the ones who have taken so much from those who have so little, having had it taken from them by the global capitalists, the Americans, the Zionists, the imperialists, the post-colonialists, and so on.... The greater world's population of the starving poor, having been infantalised by the Left fascists, the Modernist is now stuck with feeling guilty about the wealth it has -- seemingly because the pie is grabbed by the greedy. Give back to the community to atone. Give back to the community enough to first pay the social activist $104.000.00 per year, and then, after making $0.80 per hour in food stamps redeemable only at a skid road daycare centre for the dysfunctional, give back more -- to the community. And do not dare flaunt the wealth of a nice-looking coat from a church basement clothing bin. Hide that bourgeois tendency if you can't outright rid yourself of it. Look poor, think poor, identify with the poor. Pay your taxes and actually be poor. You'll be a better person for it. Of course you will. You won't be so guilty: You'll be poor. Don't worry about it. The Gnostic minders will take care of you. Like vegetarian food? Well, get used to it, it's good for you. Unlike you, they know. They're povertarians.

You who have taken from "the poor" on a global scale are guilty. "Property is theft." Those who do not have are noble. They are noble savages, and you and we should idealize them in their purity and oneness with Nature. We should all be philobarbarists if we wish to attain to morality at all. We should idealise the most outrageous and dysfunctional of the world's people, the Palestinians, those ultimate victims of Modernity. We should at least give more money to those who make their livings from minding at the U.N and the E.U. We are the world, we are the children. And naughty children we are who do not like to share with the global community. Guilty children. Give back to the world community that which you have stolen. Don't take anything more. The world is finite, and the wealth you take is not sustainable. The Earth will become warm and we will all starve to death because of your greed. Be poor. Listen, mind the povertarians. They know. Pie thief, you are: Guilty!

If you have the means to conduct your own personal affairs in a state of privacy, then you are not likely a povertarian. All of your public contributions are the fruit of theft from those who have now nothing because of you. If you have those means and you use them to conduct the affairs of others, very likely you are a povertarian who lives from the taxes shed by those you mind, at least morally, the ones who do not share in any real sense the idea of povertarianism. Those who do not share in povertarianism are guilty. To assuage their guilt they must pay for those who are "poor." And they must also be made to feel guilty. Wealth is a sign of sin. So is privacy. It is against the community. It is anti-social. It is selfish. It is immoral and sinful. Give back to the community, sinner.

Surely the povertarian is not without sin; but the povertarian is aware of his state of fallenness; he tries to deal with his racism and greediness by acting on behalf of the world's poor, by being active in the causes of correcting social injustice and stuff. No, it doesn't make a profit, a bad thing, that profit, profit that would have to come from the mouths of others, stolen from them; the povertarian relies for his $104.000.00 per year salary on the guilty parties who do make a profit. The moral povertarian then acts to lead the world flock to a better future where there will be no social inequities, no racism, no sexism, no bad stuff.

Those who live in a state of privacy are individual. They do not rely on the goodness of the enlightened povertarian to manage their guilty and inauthentic lives. The Modernist individualist who lives in a state of privacy is not infantalised, not subject to the minding of the Gnostic Philosopher King. But the free man should pay for his privacy. He should "give back to the community" to assuage his guilt, he who has only at the expense of those who are poor, who have nothing, who got their pie slice grabbed.

The Gnostic povertarian is Moral. He works for the community's best interest, for the good of Mankind, for the general welfare of Humanity. The individual is not social. He is "free from" as Erich Fromm writes in Escape From Freedom. For one thing, he is free from the Gnostic minder, the povertarian. The free man is a revolutionary. He lives in the revolutionary world of Modernity. He lives outside the community. In his freedom he who revolts against the community, he is immoral.

To the povertarian the community is sacrosanct. The community is dissolved in the state of Modernity. The community is dissolved in the city. The community is dissolved in the state of global capitalism. In the state of revolt from the ordinary condition of community the free man is free from the commune, but he is alone and immoral. The povertarian provides the means of return to the bliss and blessedness of the whole, of the community. The inauthentic man, free man, can rejoin the mass of Man and live as one again with Nature if only he submits to the poverty of the commune under the oath of fealty to the minder Gnostics, the Philosopher Kings, the povertarians. The free man, free from the povertarians, does well enough, but at such a cost, profiting at the cost of losing his very soul. There is a possible escape, the escape from freedom. There is the promise of the return to the fold of the povertarian's community.

In looking earlier at Fromm's "Escape From Freedom" we saw that man alone is possibly a man isolated from meaning. Without the certainties of being a set link in the Great Chain of Being, man being free to decide for himself, to work for himself, to think for himself, he is also a man who is in fear of his aloneness, who wishes for the security man had in the Middle Ages when life was ordered and meaningful and set by a higher authority one didn't question, the minders of the time being truly thought well-informed on questions of meaning and right. It is that certainty of authority of the moral and the comfort of certainty of meaning that Modernist Man sometimes is lacking, a paradise that some wish to regain even at the cost of personal freedom. Some Modernists will throw away their freedom for a resting-place in the palm of a velvet lined fist, only to be crushed by that false security promised by the Left fascist povertarian.

We'll return to this in our next installment.


truepeers said...

I'm wondering what you think are the historical or social preconditions for the kinds of free and independent individuals you like to see? Doesn't the individual who successfully embraces modernity have to come from a certain kind of family and, indeed, community? If so, the Gnostic is not so wrong in bewailing the lack of community, because he and his deluded legions unwittingly make evident the lack thereof.

It may well be that modernity and market freedoms can and often do erode the preconditions for their continued existence in their tendency (at this point in history) to undermine the kind of family life and sense of sharing in a continuity across generations that makes the demands on men and women that produces free, faithful, individuals (a family life to which individualism, paradoxically, must often defer in good faith if not to undermine both itself and the family). For example, modernity and freedom can and do create many "individuals" who spend all their "free" time consuming pornography and not making deeper sexual commitments, treating any dates they may have as commodities traded in service of individual satisfactions, and not as gifts demanding some form of reciprocity within a greater familial or communal exchange.

Thus I would argue that it is the communal preconditions for the free individual that it must become our project, in freedom and self-rule, to rediscover or recreate through our own families and a realistic and faithful participation in civil society. The Gnostic is at war with reality and a realistic understanding of community. But i think he is not wrong to want community. His idea of a cure - the centralized welfare state - may provide a temporary salve to a real wound via the monthly cheque, but this only deepens the underlying malady of infantilization in the long run.

dag said...

I began thhis approacch after rereadinng Fromm's Escape from Freedom, in which he claims that the rise of th individual from the base of feudalism is the result of Luther annd Calvin's theological understanding of man as soley responsibile for his personal salvation, and that it is not somethng one can do alone but only through God's grace. Man is alone, and man must do what he can with it, probably being damned anyway. Man alone must think for himself, not think he has freedom because he is told so but must think freely. That creates a community of men who are free. Fromm writes of men "free from" and continues to write that men must be "free to." If one demands community rather than a community of free men, the result is fascism. The model of freedom is in America for all to see. If they choose to see only the worst of unthinking excesses, then they will not think for themselves, and they will not be free to be what they could. So what does one get? More of the same old feudalism.

Yes, there is a need for a new covenant. I'm no Luthher. The Modern world needs such a thinker. Will someone please step forward.

truepeers said...

Dag, I don't think we will have another Luther; the new covenant will evolve from the countless anonymous interactions of many decentralized players like you and me.

The historical problem you raise is deeply paradoxical. Will you agree with me that there is something Gnostic in the protestant reformation of Luther and Calvin? If so, then we would go on to suggest that modern individualism has depended, in part at least, on the Gnostic heresy that is also ultimately the cause of its erosion. The problem, today, is perhaps that that heresy has played out all its productive potential in eroding feudalism and now is nothing but an empty shell, as displayed at MAWO meetings where America and imperialism are the negative explanation for everything that happens in the exercise of power (replacing a scapegoat of old, papal Rome) and the proposed solution is rapster "resistance" (our decadent "free" and "individualistic" protestants).

Perhaps, today, the continuing expansion of freedom and real individualism will require a return to certain, not all, orthodoxies on which the self-rule of local communities and the erosion of the centralized welfare state and media class will depend.

You are right: one should not demand community of anyone; one should simply embrace and fight for a reality that is conducive to the kind of community that produces free people and the families that support them.

dag said...

Theeree are some fundamental postitions I stay away from discussing because I have nno idea how to rightly address them at this time. The gnositic roots of Protestantism comes to mind immediately. Hus is a gnostic by any fair description. It only becomes moreso from there. I don't have any idea how to addrress that coherently. It's one reason I don't adehere to my former Presbyterianism. I don't know how to approach many questions, and I rely on thee smarts of others to open the doors to me so I can at least look into alteernatives to my own confusion, from their points of view. I am stumped often.

One thing I see is the following cliches have in the public mind. Fromm points out that we are free from feudalism and auuthority based on simplee authority. There is more to that traditional authority than simple authority, as I see and understand now from our many discussions on this topic. But there is also a freedom to, as Fromm writes, and that freedom is for the individual to grasp as his own by his own efforts. Otherwise it's useless to pretend one has freedom. It's better to be wrong or to be unable to grasp the truth than to accept authority as given, regardless of how right it might well be.

The community we should desire is that of individuals. I look at a cafe full of diners. Each has a table of his own, sitting with family and friends, all sharing the cafe, all choosing what to eat, all contributing to the general publicity in their privacies. That's a community of individuals. We all follow roughly the same manners, using our utensils rather than our fingers, eating with our mouths closed, not flinging our food around at others. There's a dignity to be found in privacies acted out in public. There's a fineness to be brought to the table of individuals in public. And diif it's basedon unthinking tradition, if it works for us and we don't have to reinvent table manners each time we sit, so much the better. But to have someone say that because of this or that seeming whim all must do this or that ritual silliness, I have to say no if it infringes on my life as a man. I can always dine alone if I can't deal with the social scene. But if I'm press-ganged into a mess hall of dhimmis and povertarians, then I live in open revolt. They might well be better dineers than I, and I don't care. Until I come to that conclusion of my own accord, alone I would rather be.

dag said...

'[T]hat [Protestant] heresy has played out all its productive potential in eroding feudalism and now is nothing but an empty shell...."

I went off into another room and then I heard the shot that shattered my storehouse of illusions regarding religion and the general nature of things.

Well, well, well. Now what?

truepeers said...

Now what?

By a return to orthodoxy, I didn't mean to imply a return to "ritual silliness" - the Shriners are not my idea of orthodoxy. First, since Judeo-Christian religion is largely anti-sacrificial, its liturgy is not ritualistic in the sense of pagan or sacrificial religions but is more about symbolizing our faith in a meaningful relationship with a personal God. Orthodoxy in the West is more a question of theology (can we give God a name or figure? how do we mix reason and faith in an optimal manner? is the Lord's prayer a model for what praying should be? - in other words, many questions having to do with how we find the patience to defer the Gnostic desire to rebel against reality or to realize some new and improved kingdom here and now on earth) and a question of ethics (why should we be disgusted by polygamy or resistant to human genetic engineering or unrestricted abortion?) and of anthropology (why can there be no such thing as "gay marriage" or "animal rights" even if we think we want them?). To be orthodox is to love complete human beings in sync with reality, with a particular cultural-historical tradition, and with a maximal ethical self-understanding (i.e. one that maximizes freedom and human reciprocity in a way that is not self-destructive [all consuming]).