Thursday, February 24, 2005

"I made you! You made me!"--The Joker, to Batman

Mark Crispin Miller blames something he calls "projectivity," which he distinguishes from hypocrisy, and which he tries to ground n psychology (although I don't believe he is a psychiatrist):

Hypocrisy means "dissimulation" pure and simple. A hypocrite does one thing privately while playing a very different role in public. Insofar as he's capable of happiness, he's happy just to live such a divided life. What he does not need is to have some demon-figure(s) onto whom he can relentlessly project those aspects of himself that he unconsciously detests. This is the animus that drives the Bushevik movement--more than greed, more than oil, more than imperialism. The movement is, ultimately, pathological. Which explains its compulsive hatefulness. Every time the Bushevik vents his spleen against "the liberals," he's actually referring to himself. "The liberals," he insists, are lying, bitter diehards, who would do anything to stay in power; they steal elections; they are "a coalition of the wild-eyed"; and on it goes forever. If the movement weren't relentlessly projective, it would just disappear. They have to stay on the attack against the demon, which they can never finally kill, because that demon is inside them.

So this episode is not anomalous. Guckert/Gannon is no oddity, but just another fine example of projective nastiness. He's by no means the only gay homophobe in this movement, which appears to be the work primarily of closet cases. There are others who have not been outed, but should be. The rest of us should be taking this quite seriously, not just because it might enable a political advantage, but because it cuts right to the heart of what this Christo-fascist movement's all about.

William Blake, and the early Romantics generally, more or less following Socrates and Hellenistic thought generally, grounded it in the paradox of the contraries:

O Rose, thou art sick!
The invisible worm
That flies in the night,
In the howling storm,

Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.

Socrates, of course, argued from contraries in the Phaedo, to prove both the existence, and the immortality, of the soul. So it is an old method of proof, and of epistemology. Both Socrates and the Romantics recognized the contraries as fundamental to existence.

And so Jacques Derrida makes the same connection between religious fundamentalism and the modern world, which he recognizes as a "double and contradictory structure:"

Religion today allies itself with tele-technoscience, to which it reacts with all its forces. It is, on the one hand, globalization; it produces, weeds, exploits the capital and knowledge of telemediazation: neither the trips and global spectacularizing of the Pope, nor the interstate dimensions of the 'Rushdie affair,' nor planetary terrorism would otherwise be possible, at this rhythm-and we could multiply such indications ad infinitum. But, on the other hand, it reacts immediately, simultaneously, declaring war against that which gives it this new power only at the cost of dislodging it from all its proper places, in truth from place itself, and the taking-place of its truth. It conducts a terrible war against that which protects it only by threatening it, according to the double and contradictory structure: immunitary and auto-immunitary. Jacques Derrida, Religion, tr. Samuel Weber (Standford: Stanford University Press 1998), p. 46.

Tele-technoscience, of course, is a product of the modern world, of rational thought. But then, just as the worm dies without the rose, but the rose dies because of the worm, so too religious fundamentalism dies without the modern world. It may seem an ultimately pathological relationship, but clearly fundamentalism decries the modern world even as it uses it to justify and spread its message. Jerry Falwell and James Dobson rely on telecommunications science, and decry the cultural products of that science: Teletubbies and Sponge Bob Squarepants. Al Qaeda decries the economic and technological power of the West, and uses that very power as a weapon, and a method of disseminating its message. Derrida points out that there is no hope for the future without the possibility of repitition; if the future is wholly unknown, we cannot trust in it to amend the present. But if the future is repeatable, or even possibly repeatable, then faith in it is faith that everything already is "technical, automatic, machine-like supposed by iterability. In this sense, the technical is the possibility of faith, indeed, its very chance. A chance that entails the greatest risk, even the menace of radical evil."(emphasis in original)

It is the modern world that created fundamentalism. The Enlightenment insisted on a bright line between "mythology" and "reality." What couldn't be proven "true" according to Enlightenment standards was, myth, and had to be discarded. Up until that time, no one read the scriptures of the world religions as literally true or literally false. In the richest period for imagination and understanding in Western Europe, the medieval mind moved comfortably in allegory. Dante's Divine Comedy was not read as a road map to the after life, but as a metaphorical description of divine justice, no more real or unreal than Ovid's Metamorphoses, or the descriptions of Greek battle and sea journeys in Homer. No one worried seriously worried whether a fish could swallow a man and keep him alive; they read Jonah for its metaphors about God and redemption and repentance and prophecy, and above all, human obduracy. The medieval mind moved fluidly and comfortably between the allegory of Dante or "Everyman," and the invention of eyeglasses and many another technological innovation. But when "reason" insisted on primacy of place and the right to judge all aspects of human existence, even the "metaphysical" ones (Ovid's Metamorphoses is not about fantasy and gods, but about human passions and how individuals change) and the metaphorical understandings, an irruption was bound to occur. And that occurence, in religion, was fundamentalism.

It is, of course, inherently unstable, as well as unhealthy. Calling it a pathology is not an inapt metaphor. It is our Ouroboros, the world snake devouring its own tail. This is visible in our cultural life, and in our political lives. It affects the way we understand the world, and understand others in the world; and the way they understand us. Mark Miller is right: in its excess, in either the Bush Administration, or "Focus on the Family" or even Al Qaeda, it is pathological. But until we understand the basis for the problem, we won't understand how to respond to it.

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