Dé Máirt, Nollaig 22, 2009

I've Been Thinking Lately

There's a good chance you've seen this old chestnut somewhere.

"The problem not only with fundamentalist Christians but with Republicans in general is not that they act on blind faith, without thinking. The problem is that they are incorrigible doubters with an insatiable appetite for Evidence. What they get off on is not Believing, but in having their beliefs tested. That's why their conversations and their media are so completely dominated by implacable bogeymen: marrying gays, liberals, the ACLU, Sean Penn, Europeans and so on. Their faith both in God and in their political convictions is too weak to survive without an unceasing string of real and imaginary confrontations with those people — and for those confrontations, they are constantly assembling evidence and facts to make their case.

But here's the twist. They are not looking for facts with which to defeat opponents. They are looking for facts that ensure them an ever-expanding roster of opponents. They can be correct facts, incorrect facts, irrelevant facts, it doesn't matter. The point is not to win the argument, the point is to make sure the argument never stops. Permanent war isn't a policy imposed from above; it's an emotional imperative that rises from the bottom. In a way, it actually helps if the fact is dubious or untrue (like the Swift-boat business), because that guarantees an argument. You're arguing the particulars, where you're right, while they're arguing the underlying generalities, where they are.

Once you grasp this fact, you're a long way to understanding what the Hannitys and Limbaughs figured out long ago: These people will swallow anything you feed them, so long as it leaves them with a demon to wrestle with in their dreams."

Matt Talabi

And thenyesterday came this nugget from Andrew Sullivan on the tranquil (for us) 1990's:

"...There's always a paradox in professional conservatives lamenting happy times, because it both encourages less government and increases their irrelevance as public commentators. But there's a strain in some neoconservatism that can sometimes appear actually hostile to tranquillity because it is seen as a cause of what Krauthammer calls ennui, of boredom, of decadence. "Trivial history" is another term, in some ways, for peace and prosperity, in which our private lives take center stage and the tedium of politics, folly of war, and grinding millstone of poverty are kept at bay."http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/12/conservatism-and-the-1990s.html#more

The human mind is,of course, hard-wired to focus primarily on other people. It is nearly impossible for the mind to form a self-imagethat isn't based on comparision against other people, and it is very difficult to produce an image of moral self-worth beyond that of better than.

Conflict with 'The Other' than, is not based only on ignorant assuming the worst of what we don't understand, but also on a concious belief that right and wrong can not exist without conflict with those things and those people who are clearly identified as wrong. Those who subscribe to Eco's ninth point of instinctive fascism " For Ur-Fascism there is no struggle for life but, rather, life is lived for struggle." do not consider a life that consists of eternal struggle to be a grim curse, rather they are thankful that the life of struggle has provided them with a meaning that could not otherwise exist. The existence of evil is the basis of morality, and good cannot exist in any other form except violent opposisition to evil. Those who pursue peace pursue nihilism. The murderers of Ghandi, Sadat, and Rabin believed that they were saving virtue from extinction.

When Don Quixote is brought back to his senses, he enters a despair that lasts until he dies soon after. Alonso Quixano would rather be dead than live in a world in which damsels are not being eternally threatened by giants.

It is only natural that it is the right who is most enamored with the idea of hatred of the enemy as the basis of both personal and social identity and virtue; because all traditional social structures are predicated on chivalry. Those at the top of the hierarchy earn their privledges by defending (In the case of the West) the eternally childlike poor, brown, and female from an uneneding stream of outside threats. In order for "The Man" to be justified in his power it is essential for society to be forever on the brink of collapse. Anything less than eternal crisis betrays the old gender, race, and class based distinctions as arbitary and imaginary, which of course is nothing but the truth of what they are.

This is why, with the exception of some riot-happy anarchist chuckleheads (who are just as enamored with conflict as the institutional right, and for largly the same reasons) the left has historically been so vehemently opposed to war. The opposition to war is not based merely on a squeamishness towards death, (though I for one freely admit to being squeamish towards death and am disgusted by those who brag that they are not.) but on the knowledge that war is the primary means of creating false conciousness.(Yeah. I went there) The essense of war is not conflict with the enemy but religious sacrifice to the ideal of conflict with the enemy. It is the means of engineering an existance that is both much shorter than it otherwise could be and also wholly fraudulant. War is the means for creating and perpetuating a fraudulant society, fraudulant loyalty, fraudulant identity, fraudulant love, fraudulant hate, and fradulant morality.

And at the risk of coing across as a hypocrite, it is a fraud that I fear we are stuck with forever. As long as humans are unable to accept life on its own terms, for as long as we are made dull by the mundanities of working, sleeping, and eating, for as long as we are aware that even joy, sex, dance and beauty will eventually become mundane, for as long as we are unable to look out of eyes and conclude, "we are here and that is enough." the fraud will be irrisitibly seductive. It is only the ability to feel and inflict pain that enables us to become heroes, and it is only by being a hero that one can become a god.


Anonymous said...

Keep posting stuff like this i really like it.

Rebecca said...

What do you think of enemies

that aren't imagined or created out of fear,

that aren't imagined or created,

is this possible?

- Rebecca

Joshua Beran said...

I'm not a pacifist. Mortal enemies can be and often are real enough, just as the need to violently defend oneself from them is real enough. The trick is being able to fight without romanticizing the fight, to accept that violent self-defense is a means of preserving life instead of viewing life as a means of preserving The Struggle.

Cancer is real enough after all, but where are the epic poems about oncologists?

Rebecca said...

Well you are a writer, isn't that something you should be asking yourself?

Anyway, what's wrong with pacifism?

Joshua Beran said...

If an individual decides for him/herself that they would rather die than kill, should the choice ever come up, then I can appreciate the nobility of that. At the national/societal level, well, cliche as it may be, the problem with pacifism at this level always comes down to Hitler and his ilk. Every now and again a psychopath will either gain control of a powerful country or devise some means of bringing pain to a powerful country, and the blood and suffering brought about by fighting this psychopath is ultimately less than the blood and suffering he would bring about on his own if left unchecked.

As for the first question. Maybe I just will be the one to write that poem. Why the hell not?

Anonymous said...


Rebecca said...

Why can't that psychopath be a pacifist too?

Joshua Beran said...

John Lennon and Brian Wilson would be the nearest things to peaceful psychopaths that I've heard of. Otherwise sudden and extreme volence is pretty much essential to the whole being a psychopath thing.

Which is a shame. The world would certainly be more fun if insane people were all cute and quirky like they are in the movies.