Canada is not immune to some of the uglier manifestations of the post-Enlightenment. As former readers of The Dark Age Blog know, I’ve never expressed an especial preference for one political ideology over another except as necessary to restore a socio-political equilibrium, being content to describe myself simply as a “counter-reactionary”. (In fact, passionately counter-reactionary). As a proponent of “integral politics” — ( that is to say, one who recognises some degree of use-value in all the formal political tools evolved through history, so painfully developed over the course of the Modern Era, for creating the Good Society, whether these tools be called liberal, conservative, socialist, or environmentalist) I have avoided hobbling myself by indulging in any strict adherence to a mere angular and narrow-minded nook-and-corner perspective that so often characterises the mentality of the vulgar ideologue or (what is equivalent) the politically oriented narcissist. Consequently, people who try to figure out my “political position” — the cliched term — often become frustrated with me.
But as you also may recall from The Dark Age Blog, too, I consider the present Prime Minister of Canada, Mr. Stephen Harper, as close to being the Devil incarnate — and as much a thorough-going, self-involved narcissist — as any Prime Minister the Dominion of Canada has ever seen. Certainly he is the most reactionary, being one whose politics crosses the line of what is considered proper conduct in a democracy, and whose politics slides down the greasy pole into the cesspool of crypto-fascism.
He is also one of the most unpopular Canadian Prime Ministers of all time. In these times, however, that makes no difference. In these times, in Canada, a politician and his party can be assured of victory at the polls if it gains scarcely greater than 30% of the vote. This is a scandal. But the electorate is so fractured between the socialists, the liberals, the greens, the Quebec nationalists, and the (very much mis-named) “conservatives” that 30% of the vote now constitutes a plurality (though not a majority) sufficient to elevate even the likes of an Adolf Hitler to power (in 1932, the Nazis won over 37% of the popular vote, effectively consolidating their hold in that fractured nation over the liberal Weimar Republic, which they subsequently dissolved and replaced with a fascist dictatorship).
In other words, the German reactionaries came to power initially by largely constitutional means (along with a little violence and intimidation), and thereafter used quasi-constitutional instruments to subvert and destroy the constitutional state, establishing a dictatorship. Democracy, with its considerable shortcomings, is very fragile, and seizing control of state power in order to shape society to one’s preference is often far too tempting for the ambitious — and the weak. If you are more committed to your own political “perspective” than to the democracy (which means diversity) as a whole, then you are a political reactionary.
Now, describing the Harper Junta (the PMO or Prime Minister’s Office) as being cryto-fascist may seem like exaggeration on my part. But when even many self-declared conservatives have become alarmed by the direction in which a so-called (and mis-named) “Tory” government is moving, then it is necessary to conclude that “Canada’s new government” (as the present Conservative government likes to style itself) has crossed the boundary of what is considered acceptable conduct even to traditional conservatives. And the only boundary this might be, one that even traditional conservatives fear to cross, is into the wasteland of right-wing reactionary politics — the twilight zone called “fascism”.
I will point out, also, that even Josef Goebbels, Hitler’s chief appointed propagandist, could refer to the Nazi dictatorship and the politics of the pure ethnic state (der Volksstaat) as being “authentic democracy” (as opposed to “liberal democracy”) and that this was believed by many gullible and naive people as being the case.
There is a close relationship between the words “demos” and “demon”. (Plurality, thy name is Legion). And it was that relation that moved Nietzsche, after much reflection, to characterise democracy as “herd mentality”. And herd mentality is just what seems to be in vogue, at present, in much of current Canadian politics.
However, I will let you be the judge of whether the acts of the present Canadian government constitute the politics of the reactionary through the following links (even though this may be of more interest to Canadians than the majority of readers of The Chrysalis.)
Kelly McParland of even the conservative National Post: “Tory bodies are piling up” (the only parallel McParland doesn’t invoke here is the Nazi “Night of the Long Knives”, which purged the more naive “moderate” conservatives and socialists from the Nazi fold. But the continuing purge of even moderate conservatives and conservative appointees and progressives from the new Conservative Party of Canada by Stephen Harper means that this party has already crossed a line). The National Post, August 19, 2010.
Linda McQuaig: “Harper’s Foxy luncheon“. The Toronto Star, August 24 highlights the conspiratorial and secretive nature of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and Harper’s reactionary politics.
Lawrence Martin: “Is Stephen Harper set to move against the CRTC?” The Globe and Mail, August 19, 2010. The PMO’s genteel version of subversion, or “coup from above” as it is sometimes called. This hasn’t disturbed (as it should have) many of the True Believers in the True (reactionary) Faith one bit.
Chantal Hébert: “Public servants find their voice; Harper MPs and Senators silent“. The toadyism and cowardice of the conservative MPs and the meekness of the Harper appointed conservative Senators (basically Harper’s window dressing). From The Toronto Star, August 20, 2010.
Neo-conservatism failed in the United States with the George Bush administration. But it seems some naive fools (Harper amongst them) believe — even more improbably — that it can succeed in Canada where it was a manifest and embarrassing failure elsewhere.
But, as I remarked in the earlier Dark Age Blog, Canada is almost always — invariably — 10 years behind everyone else in the world. There’s a word for that lag — “retarded”.
You may recall from the former Dark Age Blog, that I traced the historical decay of the Enlightenment principle of Universal Reason into its presently completely objectified and quantified mode as the World Machine of the Global Economy. This is the exhausted form of Universal Reason which had formerly been considered as practically identical with the Mind of God — God being conceived by the Deists as The Great Architect, First Cause, and Grand Systems Engineer of the Great Cosmos in the form of the cosmic clockwork mechanism now actualised as “World Economy”. It also justified the proud (but ultimately faulty) definition of Man as “the rational animal” created in the image of Universal Reason (a.k.a. God).
In some ways, there was not much really new in this conception, since Norse myth (amongst others, including Buddhism) already conceived of the cosmos as a “Mill o’ the Gods”, or as the Great Wheel of Time and Space. We also find the cosmos imagined as a great machine and Juggernaut (the Hindu Jagganatha or “Lord of the Universe”) crushing everything beneath its giant wheel in some of the poetry of Omar Khayyam. It is also still the preferred image and interpretation of Albert Einstein who, as mentioned in the last post, confronted the paradoxes and ambiguities of Quantum Mechanics and probability theory with the objection that “God does not play dice with the world”.
As so much else, the secular principle of “universality” has its source in monotheism. It’s impossible to think of Universal Reason without that earlier foundation. This is why Nietzsche’s declaration of the “death of God” comes at the expense, also, of the secular principle of universality and attends his forecast for “two centuries of nihilism”. This was very prescient of Nietzsche, who (rightly or wrongly) many consider to be the first post-modernist. There is a certain irony in the fact that much of neo-conservative ideology claims (or pretends) to be influenced by Nietzsche. So did the fascists, of course, until Nietzsche’s patent detestation of racists and anti-semites became something of an embarrassing contradiction for fascism along with its radically perverse misunderstanding of Nietzsche’s “overman”. Nietzsche already knew that the incipient disintegration of the Modern Era and its table of values was afoot. “Incipit tragoedia“, he poignantly wrote. “The tragedy begins”. And much of what Nietzsche wrote was an attempt — an experiment — to formulate a viable successor to the disintegrating Age and to serve as practical guidance for those about to descend into the deep, dark woods of his two centuries of nihilism. “What does not kill me makes me stronger” was Nietzsche’s principle of faith — in fact, a new formulation of the significance of “faith” as a real power that guides us into an unknown future and as a principle of immunity against despair at the surrounding gloom.
It is this same conviction that the Modern Era was disintegrating which informs William Butler Yeats’ great and disturbing poem The Second Coming, penned just after the Great War of 1914-1918 (subsequently rebaptised as The World War). “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold/Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world”. What is that “centre” if not God conceived as Universal Reason, symbolised also in the poem as the Falconer?
(Former readers of The Dark Age Blog will forgive me for redundancy here, as it becomes necessary to revisit a few themes from TDAB for new readers to The Chrysalis).
The decay of Universal Reason into the reductionism of mere instrumentalising rationality (sometimes called “techno-science”) and its quantification as the World Machine of Global Economy parallels the debasement of the meaning of “universality” into signifying little more than universal homogeneity and uniformity, attended also by the confusion of the meanings of “integration” and “assimilation” (they don’t mean the same thing). The Global Economy is a deadening and fatal caricature of Universal Reason which now rather resembles Allan Ginsberg’s Moloch depicted in his famous poem Howl. And as the principle of Universal Reason has declined so has the power of propaganda increased correspondingly. Equally has the pursuit of entertainment eclipsed the goal of enlightenment. All these factors signify that the Modern Age is exhausted of all further possibility, and that its core values have decayed beyond recovery or repair.
This is a “withering from within”, as the Christian social philosopher Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy put it, and as he described it (much like Ginsberg’s Moloch) in his book The Christian Future, or the modern mind outrun, published in 1946:
“The future of our economic order and the future of Christians are in conflict. This conflict seems to be decided at the outset in favour of the economic order. For the great languages of Church as well as State, of the Bible as well as of the Constitution, are losing their power in a daily process of advertising, commercialization, mechanization. People become indifferent to the hullabaloo of all verbiage…. A powerful hand has lifted up the particles of the human race and now puts them down again under a new horizon of existence. We see this horizon as dimly as the eastern sky one hour before sunrise; yet it determines already the lives and livelihood of all of us despite our nation or denomination. Granted that twelve generations or so lived happily within “Church” and “State” (the very word “State” is not older than 1500) and got their orientation from these two sources of light; this no longer is true.
We are unemployed, impoverished, inflated, killed, moved around, in nations great and small, in Churches free and orthodox, because of a new ‘within’. Against this new ‘within’, the millions find little protection, either within their nation or within their Church. Global economic cooperation is the new ‘within.’ Neither the New Deal nor the GOP nor Hitler nor Stalin can guarantee prosperity because the globe is not governed by any one statesman. The Great Society, this speechless giant of the future, does not speak English (neither does it speak Russian). And it is this Great Society which claims all of us who have to make a living, as her material, her victims, her assets or liabilities in terms of capital and labor.
The two world wars were the form of world revolution in which this new future reached into everybody’s life; the nationalist and communist ideologies with their dreams of revolution were checkmated and are mere foam around the real transformation. The real transformation was made by the wars and it make the Great Society final. She is the heiress of State and Church.” (pp. 4 – 5).
More specifically, we might add, it is the Corporate form that is now the specific institutional heiress of State and Church, whose functions it now also assimilates and appropriates to itself (just as it has assimilated and appropriated virtually all scientific activity) under the guise of deregulation, privatisation, and of “private-public partnerships”, which are, in effect, a usurpation and co-optation. Needless to say, “economism” is the prevailing ideology and the new common sense of this “new within”.
In fact, it is this “common sense” that now displaces Universal Reason from the centre, just as Entertainment eclipses Enlightenment. Yet somehow, we need to liberate the value of reasonableness from beneath the dead hand of this new “common sense” and of a reductionist instrumentalising rationality that enslaves rather than liberates. At the same time, we need to promote the meaning of universality to a higher and more immediate experience of shared existence and life, which Nietzsche attempted to do by making the Earth itself this universal centre in human experience. “Be true to the earth”, he pleaded. It’s good advice, but seems to fall slightly short as a value for promoting a sense of shared existence. It is a consciousness of the shared mortality of all living things, including our Earth, that acts to arouse empathy and compassion as the direct experience of a universal adequate for our emerging Planetary Era.
But this development may well be forced upon our plastic conscience by future events if we do not now take steps to develop it within ourselves willingly and voluntarily. And nothing interferes with the realisation of universal compassion than the great problem of our day — human narcissism, also in large part only the decayed remnant and standing ruin of the Cartesian cogito.
As recorded earlier, an essential (and potentially dangerous) element of the Post-Enlightenment is the end of universality as a core value defining of the Modern Age. This is particularly true of post-modernism, with its rejection of anything called “Truth” in the universal sense. There are only perspectives.
But as you may already know from the former Dark Age Blog, I prefer to render this by saying that truth is and remains singular and one, while what we call “facts” — as representations or images of the one truth we ultimately aspire to (even if we prefer to call it “Integral Theory” or “Theory of Everything”) — are indeed plural and many, for all facts are man-made (it is the very meaning of the word “fact”) while truth is not man-made. It is revealed because it is the essence of the real and not as image of the real. As we noted earlier: there is especially a great deal of difference between “the truth that sets free” and “the facts of the matter” (and so also between consciousness and ideology) and this difference is what really marks the relation between spirit and reason, (or soul and mind, if you prefer), and between the True Self and the False Self. And the reason many of us seek after the truth (if we do, that is) is because, in our heart of hearts, we truly want to be free in more than the superficial and even perverse way people presently understand “freedom”.
But a more immediate and current example of our Post-Enlightenment decadence, as revealed in the disintegration of Universal Reason and modernity’s principle value of universality generally, is the present mass explusion of the Roma (Gypsies) of France.
Now, you will seldom find me citing a columnist from, of all things, the neo-conservative Weekly Standard, but this article by Christopher Caldwell appearing in The Financial Times touches on the issue closely (albeit without much depth of insight), where he writes:
“France needs a pretext to crack down because its immigration policy is marked by an unwillingness to assert national interest. European governments squeamishly claim to be acting in the name of universal principle, or even in the interests of immigrants themselves. The French government describes its expulsions of Roma as an “action humanitaire”, while its Europe secretary, Pierre Lellouche, calls them a blow against “human trafficking”. ” (“Roma reveal a rootless Europe”, Financial Times, August 27, 2010).
(You can ignore the comments at the end of the article. It’s the Age of the Idiot and they are rather typical).
Pragmatics trumps principle, in other words, (which is fine for Mr. Caldwell, it seems, with his elliptical and obscure reference to “national interest”). Since the First World War, not only has confidence in the guidance of Universal Reason fallen into question and disrepute, but in consequence so has the principle of universality come under considerable stress, if not outright contempt and assault. That is to say, it is the same principle that found proud and confident expression in the American Constitution:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
But, oddly enough, it is the Pope who now defends the authentic spirit of universality, as Caldwell also notes in the same article:
“Last weekend, the Pope, speaking in French, urged politicians to “accept legitimate kinds of human diversity”. Clearly he was addressing the French situation, and he had the right conception of the problem, which is that there is a clash between the diversity of individuals (a principle that the modern liberal state upholds in an almost absolutist way), and the diversity of communities (a principle it holds in utter contempt).”
Now, this is sly and devious obfuscation of the kind I’ve come to expect from neo-cons, for it is precisely a conservative government in France, not a so-called “liberal” one, that now expresses “utter contempt” for this “diversity of communities” by executing what is, in effect, an almost fascistic kind of collective punishment against an ethnic community without any “proper” regard for individual diversity, difference, or the principle of universality. This is France’s own more or less genteel version of a “Final Solution” to the Gypsy problem. Once again, in other words, as in the fascist period, the principle of universality is stressed to the breaking point. This is the deeper significance of what is transpiring in this particular instance, (especially significant because France was home to the European Enlightenment). But it is certainly not the only instance today where the value of universality shows signs of disintegrating into a new kind of tribalism and ethnic narcissism that Mr. Caldwell is pleased to call “national interest” — the typical excuse of the reactionary.
Something similar is happening presently in Canada with the recent arrival of a shipload of Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka on the Canadian West Coast. It has aroused the indignation of the ultra conservatives and other reactionaries. The one difference — a remaining concession to the value of universality and generosity of spirit — is that each Tamil is (reportedly) being interviewed to determine their bona fides, as appears not to be the case in France.
The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Emma Lazarus, 1883
Wonderful poem. Very expressive of the “New World” Era now passing away. Now our world — called “Global Economy” — is very much like “the brazen giant… with conquering limbs astride from land to land”.
Next post… how “Universal Reason” became quantified and degraded as “World Machine” of the Global Economy, and the value of universality became debased as signifying homogeneity and uniformity. Remember Nietzsche’s formula for nihilism: “all higher values devalue themselves”. We will see this process in action. And it is precisely so-called “neo-conservatives” today who are the biggest post-modern nihilists of all — the spitting image of that against which they hypocritically rage. And against Mr. Caldwell’s principle of “national interest” (which is segregative and exclusionary neo-tribalism), we must recover the authentic and true value and fuller meaning of universality, and transform it into its higher expression and meaning, the seed germ of which already lay slumbering and dormant in the significance of “universal” from the beginning.