Tuesday, January 30, 2007

HEDGES FASCES

Chris Hedges sounds the alert about Christian Fascism (“Christianists on the March”, www.truthdig.com/report/item/20070128_chistianists_on_the_march/). He’s always a worthwhile read.

He had a professor 25 years ago at Harvard Divinity School who then, at the age of 80, had told his students that when they were his age they “would all be fighting the Christian Fascists”. The rise of the Fundamentalist Ascendancy, in the military’s enlisted and officer ranks and among its religious (chaplains) and legal (JAGs) professionals has been noted at various places on this site (see, inter alia, “Bishops Bombs” and “Warrior Professionals”).

The present concern is that proto-fascists have now found “a mask for fascism in the pages of the Bible”. This presumes that the Fundamentalists are proto-fascists. Such a presumption is hardly unwarranted. The Fundamentalist mindset and heartset share most of the characteristics of a pervasive and comprehensive immaturity (or of the maturationally-challenged, if you prefer). Persons thus afflicted do not handle stress well, such as the pressure of change and dealing with the consequences of change – whether that change be ‘positive’ or ‘negative’.

So given – on top of that – the profoundly negative economic developments in our society over the past 30 years (masked as much by conveniently distracting revolutions of the culture-wars as by Reagan-ish burblings), such persons are hugely agitated. Nor, given their core weaknesses, will their responses to those very real and dangerous developments be very ‘mature’. Instead, they will resort to the more primitive of the classic defense mechanisms, Denial, Fantasy, Projection being especially probable.

And when all this is done in groups, when a trellis is provided around which such persons and their anxieties can gather and provide mutual stimulation (‘support’ is too constructive a word to describe this dynamic), you start to see a real storm developing. Thus the role of the Bible Bhagwans who have provided (for a very large fee) just the trellis that will support – but also ensnare – these desperate folk.

Worse, if and as the economic situation worsens, then the middle-class itself will be endangered, and many persons who under even modestly good economic circumstances would be able to function ‘at the higher end of their range’ – as the social workers like to put it – will slide ineluctably toward ‘the lower end’ of that range, their falling spirits and souls raining down into the superheated maelstrom of agitated folk whose lesser range had already doomed them to the Fundamentalistic cauldron.

But such whackery – religiously formatted as it may be – is not sufficient for fascism. Fascism requires an idolatry of the State and an eager willingness to submit to it (ironically to be – in the gay argot – a ‘bottom’ to the State’s and the Leader’s ‘top’). But here too, Fundamentalism fills the bill. A shallow if vivid and jangling religious vision, it makes no more effort to plumb the heights and depths of existence than it seeks to explore (let alone master) the heights and depths and breadths and lights and darknesses of the individual human soul. Consequently, possessed of no comprehensive Vision, unable to penetrate beyond the appearances and the surfaces of this Horizontal ‘world’, unstabilized by and keel or any sail and unballasted by doctrine or sacrament or sustained theological deliberation and contemplation, the Fundamentalists scud and scutter along those surfaces, bewitched by those appearances, a true flotilla of the maturationally-damned, a plague of Sunday-boaters-from-hell. And, yielding to the ur-human need to believe in something, they raise up what they find in their shrunken world: the State.

Unlike Soviet Communism, Fundamentalism does not claim to eradicate ‘God’ and erect itself in His stead. Unlike National Socialism, Fundamentalism does not claim that it itself is the fullest manifestation of God (though Hitler shrewdly allowed such fantasies to persist in his Reich). Rather, Fundamentalism a) hides itself in the whackier, less mature approaches to the Bible’s difficult conceptual terrain, and thus arrayed in cloth of fool’s-gold, it then b) yields itself to the power of the State and the seductive, almost priapic, strength of its Leader (which starts to sound like a Rove-ian crush on said Leader, but in any case regresses the Fundamentalist societal and political vision back to the Babylonian, if not the Hittite).

Thus rather than replace “God” with the “State”, they sink God into the State by claiming that the State in whatever it does is doing God’s will. Thus the State is justified in its existence and in all of its actions (and any doubt or criticism of the State is pre-emptively not-justified). Or at least as many of those actions as conform to the fantasy that the Fundamentalists have created and draped over the State. When the State fails to conform to the actions they expect of it, they will first try to blame that on ‘subverters’ of the State and only in a last-ditch situation will they turn against the State (in which case they will need to be selecting and erecting a new idol pronto or else face the upwelling of all their anxieties, fears, and darker passions; the State (or the idol) serves to cap that gusher and tame the well of darkness for which they have never developed more mature modes of mastery).

So the Fundamentalists can be seduced and co-opted by the State and – as has developed through the workings and sleazings of the National Security State and the Reagan-ish oligarchical State – they can be made the pious (in a jangly sorta way) front behind which the promises and goals of the New Deal are undone. In this regard, Richard Slotkin in “Gunfighter Nation” discusses the early 19th-century argument as to whether the country and Americans are better being governed by Quality or Equality – by those who are ‘capable’ or by everybody since all are ‘equal’. ‘Capable’ would be a good choice, except that there is no guarantee that Jefferson’s ‘natural aristocracy’ (of talent and achievement) would not be taken over by the ‘legacy aristocracy’ of generations who simply inherit wealth and social position and political connection, or by the ‘corporate aristocracy’ of ruthless achievers who master monster corporations and become therein encased like Annikin Skywalker became trapped in the exo-shell of Darth Vader. Art follows life and vice versa.

But this site always maintains that the Fundamentalist urge to “dismantle the open society” was sucked into a national vacuum first created by the Left, by the Democrats’ fear-filled but voracious embrace of the assorted ‘Revolutions of the Identities’ after the Party realized just how much its achievement of the Glorious ’65 and the almost simultaneous conclusion of the postwar American industrial hegemony had weakened its demographic base.

Few Americans except the Southrons doubted the social value and almost-existential validity of removing the final hindering disablements then still imposed upon ‘the Negro’. Even though these were nonmaterial social and cultural issues about which ‘science’ could provide little dispositive evidence, there was a large consensus that what people around the country were seeing on television – Southron police and sheriffs caught in the act of enforcing the Jim Crow imperium – was definitely not what this country stood for nor what the American citizenry believed about itself.

Yet the premises, claims, and programmes of the follow-on Revolutions – and they followed pretty rapidly – enjoyed no such consensus whatsoever. Nor, being revolutions, presided over by revolutionaries or at least by persons operating out of the revolutionary mindset (although the fact was soft-pedaled to the point of being deceptively misrepresented), did they seek to be leashed to the necessarily long, slow civic process of genuine education and deliberation – at the end of which they might still not achieve a consensual majority among the citizenry.

Thus the end-run around The People and corrosive undercutting comprised of legal tactics employed in the ‘civil rights’ field, but ripped from the societal context of consensus which the civil rights movement (at least as it existed until that Glorious ’65) enjoyed. And thus the revolutionary zeal to stifle dissent and the open discussion of important issues through the strangle-hold of Political Correctness, which itself was presented not as the assault on democratic ethos which – willy or nilly – it truly was but rather as a noble rescue exercised on behalf of victims and in the name of sensitivity. Robespierre could have told them what they were doing: “Terror is the emanation of Virtue”. But perhaps they knew that. The Virtue of the Left fueled an assault on the open society far more sustained and procedurally corrosive than the Virtue of the Fundamentalists.

Against the perennial human need to ‘believe’, the revolutionaries of the Left (or whole-heartedly embraced by the Left) demanded a Flattened world where no Virtue, no Reason, no Tradition, no Common-Sense, and ultimately no God could judge their programmes and the results that they demanded forthwith. With the assistance of the voter-starved Democrats and a media who thought it was helping, the debatable programmes and objectives were quickly and forcefully emplaced, even as it was not permitted to debate them or even mention that no debate had been had. The People were denied access to the Truth in its most democratic emanation: public deliberation.

A vast abyss opened up, and into that vacuum there was no force to speak for ‘belief’ and for any ‘other’ world or any ‘other’ dimension to this life … except for the agitated, over-compensating Fundamentalists, whose Bhagwans shrewdly stoked and stroked them even as they delivered them into the maw of the State.

We The People cannot allow ourselves to be drawn into an either-or dilemma: either the Flattening world of the ‘secular’ Left ‘liberals’ or the Fantasizing world of the apocalyptic, State-idolizing Fundamentalists. Nor, repelled as many of Us may be by the sheer primitive violence of the Fundamentalistic ethos, should we simply rebound – like loose electrons – into the orbit of the Flatteners who created this vacuum in the first place.

We must create our own path back into the solid but fertile ground of mature belief and a civic culture grounded in a mature citizenry, in The People. And we don’t have much time for so large an order. I hold no utopian view that this can be achieved easily or fully, nor that once achieved we shall suddenly find ourselves on “the broad sunlit uplands” of perfect security and perfect freedom. The world – this life – will not hold still for such a confinement, and its wildness will always demand our disciplined but not agitated attention.

Neither Flattener nor Fantasizer be. Rather, be – as da Duke, John Wayne liked to put it – a ‘pilgrim’, and pilgrims together let us set sail to renew our world and our much-vexed Republic.

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1 Comments:

Blogger Davidco said...

I see what you're getting at but even the word 'pilgrim' is too freighted with undertones of religious certainty to be useful.

Today's pilgrims become tomorrow's violent, land hungry settlers and oppressors of infidels both on the American frontier as in Palestine.

I wonder what would have happened if, instead of the 'cowboy' that subservient wage slave of absentee capital, America had adopted instead as its national myth the fur trapper.

Coureurs du bois like the black Haitian founder of Chicago, DuSable, learned indian languages, the ways of flora and fauna, married indian women, lived exposed and diplomatically among many conflicting cultures. Those who survived offered themselves as guides to others when beaver hats went out of fashion.

The words 'mountain man' hardly convey the dimensions of this icon. I prefer his Canadian name: voyageur. Like Odysseus, his home was a trackless journey to new experiences and fresh vistas never before seen by other Europeans.

8:50 AM  

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