Sunday, May 18, 2008

At it Again: Political Myths - God nor Reason

Discerning readers may have noticed the blue Simon Says link in the sidebar recently. It leads to an excerpt from Lee Harris' book "Civilization and Its Enemies: the Next Stage of History." Although already published in 2004 regrettably it has only just now caught our attention. The e-book deals with the background of the events on 9/11 and posits a theory on the ideological origins of Islamism. It has some very important observations which are in line with the main content matter of present blog. We'll go through the text and comment where the two converge.

The description couldn't introduce the matter more poignantly, quoting the opening sentences of the actual e-book: "Forgetfulness occurs when those who have been long inured to civilized order can no longer remember a time in which (...) there has ever been a category of human experience called the enemy."

"That, before 9/11, was what had happened to us. The very concept of the enemy had been banished from our moral and political vocabulary. An enemy was just a friend we hadn't done enough for yet. Or perhaps there had been a misunderstanding, or an oversight on our part -- something that we could correct...." This 'evolved' attitude is still the default mind-set in international politics and is entrenched in global Leftist thought processes in the shape of Communist memes.

Harris continues: "Our first task is therefore to try to grasp what the concept of the enemy really means. The enemy is someone who is willing to die in order to kill you. And while it is true that the enemy always hates us for a reason, it is his reason, and not ours (...) our enemy -- for the first time in centuries -- refuses to play by any of our rules, or to think in any of our categories. (...) Most of us cannot give up the myth that (...) we can somehow convert the enemy to our beliefs."

So far the introduction. The excerpt of Chapter 1, "The Riddle of the Enemy" observes that a psychological mechanism kicks in when people are confronted by a culturally exotic enemy. "Our first instinct is to understand his conduct in terms that are familiar to us, terms that make sense to us in light of our own fund of experience. We assume that if our enemy is doing x, it must be for reasons that are comprehensible in terms of our universe." Let's ignore the subjectivism here as not relevant to the story.

Harris illustrates his point with the fatal coincidence resulting in the Spanish conquest of Mexico, as Cortes happened to fit the Aztec myth of the white-skinned god, Quetzalcoatlin in an uncanny kind of way. By the same mechanism native populations in Europe and America today are trying to fit Islamic features into their own frames of reference.

And so, the Koran becomes the Muslim Bible, Mohamed a Prophet in the line of Moses and Jesus (the latter no Prophet, but whatever ...), mosques fit the concept of churches, and violent scenes in the Bible are 'the same' as violent calls to conquest contained in the Koran. This ads to the already all-pervasive false equivalence with which the West is so well saturated.

Back to 9/11 Harris isolates two typical reactions to the terror attacks. On the one hand there's the Postmodern Left and a massive slice of public opinion, veering to 'solving the causes of terrorism', an intellectually lazy approach that couldn't be further off the mark, but which follows so comfortably the pattern of the dialectic.

On the other side there's the modernist reaction represented by classicist author Victor Davis Hanson: "it is irrelevant what grievances our enemy may believe it has against us; what matters is that we have been viciously attacked and that, for the sake of our survival, we must fight back."

And here we reach a more fascinating level in reduction: the assumption of the political rationalization behind the terror attacks. Harris: "Behind this shared assumption stands the figure of Clausewitz (1780-1831) and his famous definition of war as politics carried out by other means.

The whole point of war, on this reading, is to get other people to do what we want them to do: it is an effort to make others adopt our policies and/or to further our interests. Clausewitzian war, in short, is rational and instrumental. It attempts to bring about a new state of affairs through the artful combination of violence and the promise to cease violence if certain political objectives are met."

Enter irrational acts of the will as precursed by Rousseau and in Harris' argument set out by Georges Sorel (1847-1922). In other words theories how to manipulate and whip up the masses into violent eruption against the 'power structure': the now familiar meeting point of Left and Right Socialism in 'irrational acts of the will' through theme or myth-building. Harris concentrates on the Rightist side i.e. on Fascism and National Socialism, using the term 'fantasy ideology.' He highlights the psychological aspects how people can be made susceptible to the forces of anti-reason.

Sorel by the way may have laid the anti-reason ground-work for the idea of science being reduced to what Postmoderns today refer to as 'a meta-narrative': nothing to do with objective truth, but just another Western version of reality (tell that to the world's children who survive today thanks to the scientific invention of inoculation and the technological advancement of refrigerators).

Harris explains the mechanism very well, but stops short of reducing it to the philosophical root: "A fantasy ideology is one that seizes the opportunity offered by such a lack of realism in a political group and makes the most of it. This it is able to do through symbols and rituals, all of which are designed to permit the members of the political group to indulge in a kind of fantasy role-playing. Classical examples of this are easy to find: the Jacobin fantasy of reviving the Roman Republic; Mussolini's fantasy of reviving the Roman Empire; Hitler's fantasy of reviving German paganism in the thousand-year Reich." This set of examples lets the Marxist dialectic of the historically 'oppressed' nicely off the hook once again.

"This theme of reviving ancient glory is an important key to understanding fantasy ideologies. It suggests that fantasy ideologies tend to be the domain of those groups that history has passed by or rejected - groups that feel that they are under attack from forces that, while more powerful perhaps than they are, are nonetheless inferior to them in terms of true virtue; they themselves stand for what is pure." This is fitting the Islamist fantasy myth to a T.

All this presumes a population that is fairly divorced from Aristotelian reason and a political elite willing to exploit it. In the West today these conditions exist thanks to the anti-modern philosophers of the Counter-Enlightenment movement, the familiar horror gallery made up of Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Feuerbach, Marx, Heidegger, and so on to the irrational postmodernists of today, who unseated the Aristotelian logic of shoppe-keepers and schoolmasters and replaced it with relativist and subjective principles.

They have transformed philosophy from a reality-check, a precision instrument to explore the world, into a pseudo religious, speculative parlor game in the hands of intellectuals who set themselves the task of transforming the world - by force, case need - into an image to their liking. It is that which made possible the grandiose disasters in modern history, and many more besides if we are not vigilant. A political ideology that has abdicated God as well as reason, can only be expected to portend trouble on a major scale.

Just how far the current crop have managed to deviate from the rational is exemplified by two creative productions. Earlier this week in "Pomo's Inside-Out, Upside-Down World of Moral Inversion"we presented the readers with a review of Nicholson Baker's pacifist endeavour, "Human Smoke."

It is a seemingly random jumble of statements and quotes related to modern history. There's no apparent commonality that holds the 'verses' together, other than an atmosphere of innuendo and staged indignation directed at any kind of war, full stop. Divorced from context, the isolated compilation becomes an irrational weapon that blindly, without rhyme or reason, stabs away at what we assume must be 'Western hegemonism.'

A video equivalent is currently making the rounds on Movies Found Online. Categorized as a Documentary, "Zeitgeist" is yet another "9/11 The Real Troof" conspiracy theory vid. Originally a German product, it consists of three unrelated parts, like its literary counterpart "Human Smoke" weaved together by faked outrage and contextless accusation.

It similarly lashes out at Western culture, that is based on lies and the false authority of organized religion. The producers have the viewer know in arrogant, exalted tones that typify the wannabe esoteric initiate, that Judeo-Christianity is actually plagiarized from noble, pre-biblical, sun-worshipping pagan minorities. This is accompanied by the usual theatrical caveats that the makers have no intention to 'hurt anyone,' but that failure to go all the way with their real truth, amounts to "messing with divine justice."

Part 2 deals with loose footage, street interviews with disoriented eye-witnesses, and the odd expert, who in the confusion characterize the 9/11 attacks as 'explosions;' which is why 9/11 was really a controlled explosion carried out by the CIA, see? Elementary, really! And whereas it is underscored that the Twin Towers were built to resist "probably several plane impacts," the real cause for their collapse was 'an explosion.' Least said, soonest mended.

Part 3 - dare I say it out loud - deals with shady American financiers to which I refuse to devote any more of my valuable time. And it is a public secret that George W. was actually born with horns and that Dick Cheney has moles shaped 666 on his ass.

Amusement aside, the omens are written all over the wall. Vast numbers of people are willing to believe anything the right kind of fantasy spinner is willing to serve up to them. The Middle East version is already well in place. It is up to The Man (now probably a committee) to galvanize the attention of the Western counterpart for the latest fantasy ideology to strike once more.

- Filed on Articles in "The Dystopia of Paradise" -


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