Saturday, September 4, 2010

Extremism

It's probably not the first time, nor the last that I will treat this subject, which is an extremely important one for me.
On a little trip through blogland, I stopped by for a visit at a place where I occasionally hang out.
I have been there before. Several times. Over a period of one or two years, but I am NOT a regular.
One of the things that struck me today was the increasingly strident, agressive rhetoric of this author, who resorts to scapegoating more and more often, as his disillusionment, frustration, feelings of helplessness, even despair, increase in the current U.S. economic and political crisis.
I have warned him that he is beginning to sound like someone who had a volcanic impact on 20th century Europe : Adolf Hitler. An extremely intelligent man, Adolf, with pertinent and perspicaceous political and economic analysis about the maelstrom crisis HE was caught up in. A man who, contrary to current public opinion, fought... earnestly and hard against the... EXTREMISM and RADICALISM that was eating away at his spirit. A man who fought against the all too human tendancy to scapegoat, to find a flesh and blood person, or class of people : Jews, but perhaps also.. Roms ? or.. the rich ? to INCARNATE the bad guy, the OTHER responsible for OUR predicament.
A man who... LOST that fight. With the consequences that WE can LOOK BACK ON, and SEE NOW, over 70 years later, from a point of view that DEFINITELY was not that of... Adolf or the millions of OTHER PEOPLE, Germans, Jews, communists, Roms, Christians, homosexuals, French, whatever, who were affected by this PERSONAL (to Adolf...) and COLLECTIVE tragedy (because it could NOT have happened without, shall we say... THE HELP of lots and lots of people in addition to Adolf. People who were.. LIKE ADOLF, caught up in a maelstrom of seething, raw emotion, despair, rage, hate that made the appeal to reason... inaudible).
If I say this today, it is because, Heraclitus notwithstanding, I am ill at ease with what appears from my vantage point to be an increasing radicalism, and extremism in the U.S. social body in response to a relatively new economic situation for the country : massive unemployment in spite of increased "objectified" productivity.
The situation that Western Europe, at least France, my home, has known for quite some time now, and which is eating away at ALL of our spirits, causing frustration, despair, and a desire to scapegoat almost EVERYWHERE these days, I'm afraid.
I think that it is extremely important to say these things because...
Well, the very idea of history, of locating something in the past has some unfortunate, and unintended consequences. Among which... the consequence of making us feel that no way in hell could WE ever behave the way those people back there in 1939 behaved.
THAT was the past. WE are not in the past. WE could NEVER do the things the GERMAN people, those INHUMAN, ANIMAL, BRUTISH NAZIS did from 1939-45...(!!!!)
THAT was then. THIS is NOW. WE have made PROGRESS since then.
See ? Look at.. all those LAWS, those declarations, those INSTITUTIONS we have set up to INOCULATE OURSELVES against THE IDEA that WE could behave like our ancestors did.
(In France, this is particularly true, how about in GERMANY, TOBY ??)
This particularly... RATIONAL way of looking at the metaphysical problem of HOW AND WHY WE can commit atrocities (REAL EVIL) WILL NOT stand up ALONE to the beating that it is getting right now.
Unless we can find a way to REINTEGRATE, REINTRICATE reason AND emotion, for example.
Unless we stop telling ourselves lies about what WE (not "they"...) are capable of BECAUSE WE ARE HUMAN, and this is a part of being human.
Unless we learn to become an INCLUSIVE society, NOT an exclusive one. Not one that labels... "Jews", "the rich", "homosexuals", and slants people off into little boxes to keep them.. outta sight and outta mind in some instances, or... the constant objects of our hate and attacks in others.
Unless we ALSO learn to CONTROL OUR tongues, our speech, and learn how to BELIEVE IN something/someone ? to give meaning to our lives. Using our tongues and speech to GIVE HOPE. To comfort, for example.
Unless we REALLY learn what it means to become.. MEN and WOMEN. Fully human.
With our weaknesses, that we can look in the face without turning away, or sweeping under the carpet. With our STRENGTHS, AND OUR BEAUTIES that we can also see, and not disparage.
I tremble for my fellow Americans these days...
There is so much at stake.
For US all.

5 comments:

Toby said...

This is typically what happens when concentrations of power and wealth exclude millions from the good life they see going on around them. Perhaps this time around it will be worse because the general population is so dumbed down. Reason as a skill is not 'out there' in sufficient quantities to ameliorate the coming storm. Anger is justified to a large degree, and impotence makes it all the more visceral, so I can understand why the conditions are once again threatening war. This sequence of events benefits a status-quo (military-banking-energy) which has been milking this beast in this way for some time now. Some sort of explosion is inevitable. Can the little islands of good reason to be found in the internet be enough to prepare for a different outcome than what, up till now, has historically been the case? Time will tell.

Germany has its recent past as a salient and ever-present reminder of where extremism and grinding poverty can lead. There is extremism here, but the political parties, the media and just about everyone else are so vigilant it would surprise me if Germany turns out to be the powder keg for WWIII. Oil-Middle East-US, aka The Axis of Evil, and Russia's still-bubbling global ambitions, that's where the real danger is. I'm not sure how China sees all this. Probably would want to sit it out until the benefits are clearer. Again, time will tell.

Debra said...

Anger is pretty hot in the U.S., Toby.
And as you say, the VISCERAL memory of WW2 is still quite strong in France and Europe itself.
But the U.S., Toby.. there hasn't been a war on ITS soil for quite some time now...
Long enough for the wrong people to forget what war means.

Debra said...

Ironically enough, Toby, I don't think that.. JUST POVERTY and IGNORANCE can explain, or allow us to understand what is happening.
It IS possible to be poor WITHOUT being resentful.
But in order for this to be possible, there has to be another ideology COMPETING with the idolatry of money.
IF... money makes the world go round, and THE BEST THING THAT COULD EVER HAPPEN TO YOU is to become rich, well then... being poor is being in... HELL.
But.. if being rich is NOT the supreme good, or not the ONLY supreme good for the social body, then people can ALSO find comfort, solace AND DIGNITY in poverty.
This is really not evident in the Western world at this time. But.. it IS possible to be poor and retain one's dignity.
And once we have started taking the road towards idolatry of money, well then... there NEVER is enough money. We can NEVER have enough...
History proves this. I believe.

Toby said...

I agree, things like this are always complex. Everything is complex in the end, thanks to the interrelated nature of nature.

Niklas Luhmann, a now-dead German sociologist, has my thinking at the moment. One of his observations is that money is necessarily about rich/poor, have/have-not divisions; it is about scarcity. Because it must perpetually 'grow,' more and more of nature must come under money's purview, which means more and more of nature must become 'scarce,' the rich/poor divisions broader and deeper, take in more and more of reality. Money is close to having taken over everything, and since we believe (wrongly) we can objectively measure value using money, everything becomes money-related, money-valued. In short, it is getting harder and harder to be poor and 'happy.' There's too little of life left not controlled by money for this to be possible. And still money must grow. And grow. All 'idle' resources must be turned into 'real' economic wealth.

Money is a metastasized cultural cancer and we're in the end game. War is a part of that, and yes, the US seems ripest for it, is indeed the planet's main war-monger.

Sorry for the late response. I've been very disciplined with my shoulder and it's rewarded me for it with considerable progress. It's just started complaining again. This healing will take some time. Expect me to be scarce!

Debra said...

I'm gonna post about the idolatry of money, and the consumer society, Toby, pretty soon, but not until the weekend, because I'm busy living in my flesh and blood body, and not on the Web.
Wading on through my Barzun book, and taking my time, I have just realized that I THINK that Hegel's ideas about thesis/antithesis/synthesis are related to what I've been trying to develop about words bouncing off each other.
But i think that narrowing meaning down to bouncing ANTONYMS off each other (the way that Hegel MAY be viewing it...) is an oversimplification of the meaning game.
This also ties into what I mean about being AGAINST. PHYSICAL PROXIMITY is at its most intense when we are... AGAINST.
That is important. Physical proximity is RELATION. We NEED relation as human beings.
Just some thoughts.
Don't start typing now... MAMA says.. be careful. ;-)