Universality

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.

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13 responses to “Universality”

  1. alex jay says :

    “Pragmatics trumps principle, in other words, …”

    Adding to your Roma example (there are hundreds, in fact, it is almost ubiquitous these days), take this recent mind-boggling statement made by Supreme Court Justice (an oxymoron to say the least), Sonia Sotomayor at an appearance at the University of Denver, when asked a question about First Amendment rights and the recent Wikileaks controversy.

    Her reply: “That was not the beginning of that question, but an issue that keeps arising from generation to generation, of how far we will permit government restriction on freedom of speech in favor of protection of the country,” Sotomayor said. “There’s no black-and-white line.” According to Sotomayor, the balance between national security and free speech is “a constant struggle in this society, between our security needs and our first amendment rights, and one that has existed throughout our history.”

    (Bullshit! – ignoring the special circumstancs during the Civil War and knee-jerk reactions to WWII, which were rectified and the stupidity apologised for)

    Contrast that remark with one of the most influential Supreme Court Judges of the 20th century, Hugo Black on the Pentagon Papers issue:

    ” In the First Amendment, the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell.”

    How far have we declined, even in my lifetime, to endorse Nietzche’s “all higher values devalue themselves” within a generation – though the process has devolved incrementally. Yet, it’s not only values, but speech itself.

    Take the top 3 parroted distortions in my list of late: 1 – “national security” (punted around by the likes of the above (Judge Sonia – Judge Judy has more sense then her), Barry Obama, his predecessor and the Bernays/Goebbels social engineering machine – the media); 2 – “anti-semitism” (a misnomer if ever there was one); 3 – “conspiracy theory”.

    They have lost all context and meaning ( their former “universal” relevance) only to placate a Pavlovian constructed automatic reaction from decades of mind-control through education, the media and chemical toxicity in food, water and pharmaceutical dependency (Aldous Huxley and George Orwell simply served up the starters before the main course – after all, they were not privy to Moore’s Law of exponential growth in technology at the time).

    Suffice to say – without getting into detail – that “national security”, “anti-semitism” and “conspiracy theory” are throw-away sound bites, simply meant to demonise honest, free-thinking, inquisitive and sceptical perceptions of the “Machine” in order to quell dialogue and sufficate facts, since “truth” is just too Platonic for Pavlovian laboratory specimens : ).

  2. Scott says :

    That is a great quote from Hugo Black.

    In other respects, I take Nietzsche’s position, when he gave that “I am far from blaming the individual for what has been the folly of generations” (or words to that effect). Most of us flow with the current of time. Others try to get out of it (James Joyce referred to history as a nightmare from which he could not awaken). But our society and civilisation have been a project of long-standing — the work of centuries and many generations, and to many the situation seems quite normal because they really aren’t aware of the greater historical context in which our present times are a continuing saga or episode. As the band Supertramp once put it “Crisis? What crisis?”. (Those boys seem to have had an excellent sense of the times, judging from their hit “The Logical Song” which touches on many of the themes we dealt with in the Dark Age Blog).

    When i was young
    It seemed that life was so wonderful
    A miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical
    And all the birds in the trees
    Well they´d be singing so happily
    Oh joyfully, oh playfully watching me
    But then they sent me away
    To teach me how to be sensible
    Logical, oh responsible ,practical
    And they showed me a world
    Where i could be so dependable
    Oh clinical, oh intellectual, cynical

    There are times when all the world´s asleep
    The questions run too deep
    For such a simple man
    Won´t you please, please tell me what we´ve learned
    I know it sounds absurd
    But please tell me who i am

    Now watch what you say
    Or they´ll be calling you a radical
    A liberal, oh fanatical, criminal
    Oh won´t you sign up your name
    We´d like to feel you´re
    Acceptable, respectable, oh presentable, a vegetable!

    At night when all the world´s asleep
    The questions run too deep
    For such a simple man
    Won´t you please, please tell me what we’ve learned
    I know it sounds absurd
    But please tell me who i am, who i am ,who i am.

    “The Logical Song” even has its own Wikipedia entry (in which it’s recorded that Rolling Stone described it as a “small masterpiece”). And, of course, the sentiments expressed here resemble those in Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”.

    In other words, a lot more people after James Joyce now feel that history is a nightmare from which they are trying desperately to wake up.

  3. InfiniteWarrior says :

    Scott: “Exploiting events as they unfold is somewhat different than actually causing them….”

    alex jay: “How far have we declined, even in my lifetime, to endorse Nietzche’s ‘all higher values devalue themselves’ within a generation – though the process has devolved incrementally.”

    Indeed. If there’s a better example of the mindset of “the ‘World Machine’ of the Global Economy” (ntm, the debased and degraded meanings of “productive” and “innovative”) than this leaked financial document (from 2005), I’ve yet to see it. From the section, The Death of Plutonomy:

    We make the assumption that the technology revolution, and financial innovation, are likely to continue. So an examination of what might disrupt plutonomy – or worse, reverse it – falls to societal analysis: will electorates continue to endorse it, or will they end it and why.

    alex: As an example of “in our lifetime”, my second “real” job was in the check-processing department of a regional bank that served two states. I’d already established my accounts with a local bank and saw no need to move them until it was bought out by Nationsbank which, of course, shortly became Bank of America. It was only a matter of time before the small regional bank was gobbled up as well. (Thankfully, my next and longest-lasting job was not a “real” one, as “real” is currently defined.)

    As an example of chaotic acceleration: That second job was secured in my early twenties. I’m now 46.

    alex: Yet, it’s not only values, but speech itself.

    I’m sure everyone (aside from most Americans) is aware of the infamous Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission ruling, which (officially) establishes money as “free speech” here. Of course, it would “take an act of Congress” to amend the Constitution, much less replace it as a few have proposed and “Congress” is the last bunch we can expect to count on. If “hope” hasn’t dwindled to nothing here, I imagine it shortly will.

    As for “Barry”, he can do nothing without the support of the American People and is still attempting to drum it up [vid]. (Of course, the phrase “foreign-controlled corporations” is interchangeable with “American corporations overseas” in most cases, but lumping them all into the “foreign” category seems to put Conservatives on the alert.)

    It goes without saying that Barry himself has played to corporate interests in far too many other respects, though I’m unsure he could do otherwise and expect to stay with us. Particularly problematic, though, is that the self-professed “Left” among activists here are willing to support absolutely anything he does whether it benefits people and/or the environment or primarily corporations.

    From the post:

    we must recover the authentic and true value and fuller meaning of universality

    It would appear we must recover the authentic and true value and meanings of pretty much everything, especially Life.

  4. Scott says :

    That Citigroup document was difficult to read (I downloaded the .pdf file, though). Isn’t that the same document that Michael Moore discussed in his recent documentary “Capitalism: A Love Story”?

    Thanks for the link to Move to Amend and efforts to rescind corporate personhood and citizenship rights for corporations. This is another one of those absurdities that characterise the rule of unreason, since the law not only grants corporations personhood, but immortality as well (insofar as they are presumed to survive the life-expectancy of individuals), which basically confers on these “persons” the status of gods or demi-gods.

  5. InfiniteWarrior says :

    Isn’t that the same document that Michael Moore discussed in his recent documentary

    I don’t know. The link was floated my way. I don’t keep up with Michael Moore, as he is as bitterly, rabidly partisan and “entertaining” as most. I’ve excused examples of it (for both “sides” when truly valid points were being made) in the past with the understanding that most American’s are “hooked” on entertainment (especially of the “bread and circuses” variety), but can no longer dismiss the “antics” for any reason and try to focus on bringing out the points themselves.

  6. alex jay says :

    Hi InfiniteWarrior — Are you eternal as well? : ) Like you, I also worked for a bank (an investment bank in my case, though in Blighty we refer to it as a merchant bank) for 13 years. Funny, I was thinking about just how much things had changed when the banks went tits-up a couple of years ago. I think the rot set in around the mid ’80s. If I was to be more specific, I’d pin-point it to October 1987 when the market crashed. Things were never the same after that. I only managed to last couple of years after that and ran out of the casino in order to save my sanity and my soul.

    IW – “Of course, it would “take an act of Congress” to amend the Constitution, much less replace it as a few have proposed and “Congress” is the last bunch we can expect to count on. If “hope” hasn’t dwindled to nothing here, I imagine it shortly will.”

    As far as I can tell there are only 3 (still not sure about Sanders?) congresspeople that show signs of any integrity: Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinic and Grayson. There might be 1 or 2 others? I’d put all the rest of the hyenas on an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico and throw in the entire Supreme Court to keep them company. As far as the executive, the whole bunch (excluding Warren, if she ever gets the job) should be made welcome in Guantanamo. And Barry can take a permanent vacation to make up for the lack of holidays he’s had so far, which will give him the opportunity to join his soul-mate in Crawford, Tx to shoot some hoops.

  7. alex jay says :

    Is it me? Or is anyone else finding it difficult navigating this format? Maybe it’s because I’m still used to the previous site, which was easy to follow … and you can’t teach old dog new tricks? Other then my shortcomings, it seems like the site has all kinds of bells and whistles, most of which escape me.

    Anyhow …

    My impession of Michael Moore is that he suffers from the same polemic trap ingrained and perpetuated in the American media, which focusses totally on a false left-right paradigm (democrat-republican, progressive-conservative etc.). Consequently, you have this absurd situation of adversarial who-can-shout-the-loudest inanity (Beck and O’Reily vs. Olberman and Maddow as examples). Perhaps this is to be expected in a culture that is programmed to pick sides – if you’re not with us you’re against us. The supreme irony in all this is that it’s all an orchestrated facade – a great hoax played on a gullible infotainment addicted public. Michael Moore, as genuine as his intentions are, still doesn’t get it (he is still waiting for the great “hope and change” messiah to throw the money-changers out of the temple – unaware or in denial that it was the money-changers that baptised him in the Potomac in the first place). Someone like Alex Jones does, though his style isn’t everybody’s cup of tea.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      I think the rot set in around the mid ’80s.

      Funny you should mention that. I introduced the concept of “globalization” to someone yesterday and, in search of a nonpolitical springboard from which to do it (a task I thought might be in vain), was surprised to discover an article on the subject at the excellent introductory resource that is the Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

      Since the mid-1980s, social theorists have moved beyond the relatively underdeveloped character of previous reflections on the compression or annihilation of space to offer a rigorous conception of globalization.

      Hmm. “Rigorous.” Not a word I would use in reference to anything social. {shudder}

      Apparently, there is a dualism inherent in use of the word “globalization” itself that is causing a great deal of confusion between the economic-political apparatus that is the “World Machine” and the connections in formation between those of us who comprise the “Global Community”. (I already had the impression the World Machine and the Global Community were living on separate planes of existence.)

      Perhaps this is to be expected in a culture that is programmed to pick sides – if you’re not with us you’re against us.

      I still think the whole purely dichotomous, “two-valued logic” — frankly bipolar — mode of thinking in the West, traces straight back to the Christian church’s faulty interpretation of the Garden of Eden story. Thing is, “progressives” and “seculars” don’t seem to realize the purely good/purely evil paradigm dominates their thought processes as well.

      Very much off-topic (and, so, apologies to the Captain), but I came across an article yesterday that, despite the title, explores how thought shapes language and was reminded of the fact (though the article doesn’t mention it) that some ancient and “native” (i.e. “natural”) languages inherently contain no subject/object dichotomies. (In fact, an Aramaic scholar was kind enough to confirm for me not long ago that “Aramaic has as much of a subject-object dichotomy as those who speak it express. It’s not something inherent to the language.”)

      The article also makes reference once again to don Juan’s “foreign installation”.

      The habits of mind that our culture has instilled in us from infancy shape our orientation to the world and our emotional responses to the objects we encounter, and their consequences probably go far beyond what has been experimentally demonstrated so far; they may also have a marked impact on our beliefs, values and ideologies.

      Thought you might find it interesting also.

      • Scott Preston says :

        Lots to comment on here, infi,

        Since the mid-1980s, social theorists have moved beyond the relatively underdeveloped character of previous reflections on the compression or annihilation of space to offer a rigorous conception of globalization

        I don’t know why they still think of globalisation like that, especially after McLuhan pointed out that it’s less about space dilation than time contraction. Everything speeds up, on the one hand, and different time-eras or historical epochs (pre-modern, modern, post-modern) suddenly confront each other in one planetary space. TDAB was quite insistent, in fact, that globalisation had essentially to do with an alteration of the consciousness of time and timing (rhythm of life) more than space. When it comes to globalisation, time is of the essence.

        Yes indeed, there is some ambiguity to the issue of globalisation which is consistent with the general Zeitgeist. TDAB highlighted the distinction that is sometimes made between “globalisation” and “globalism”. The former is the purely mechanical, juggernaut like aspect that describes the “World Machine” in operation, while “globalism” is often preferred by those who seek to actively create a global community — a planetary civilisation that is not founded on reductionist principle or a crass economism in which all human relations are mediated through the cash nexus or otherwise commodified, and being so mediated (as against im-mediate) are controlled by “gatekeepers” of all kinds, just as the priesthood once acted as mediator and gatekeeper.

        Yes, the language issue. And we again return to Orwell’s dictum that to control history (and consciousness) you must control and discipline language. Hence, we have (today) that practice called “perception management” (which, as you correctly note, recalls don Juan’s “foreign installation” erected in the soul, as well as Alex Jay’s earlier mention of Fichte’s formula for a modern education: to educate in such a way that the student cannot will anything but what you wish him to will, and without the student even realising that he is not willing from himself, but from this “foreign installation” otherwise called “False Self”).

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        I don’t know why they still think of globalisation like that, especially after McLuhan pointed out that it’s less about space dilation than time contraction…. globalisation had essentially to do with an alteration of the consciousness of time and timing (rhythm of life) more than space.

        Thanks for that. The ‘World Machine’ and ‘Global Community’ obviously occupy the same planetary space, though the mindscapes are completely different, which further recalls Rosenstock‘s commonsensical insight that “logic transports us out of time and offers the mind a stable, but unreal space”.

    • Scott Preston says :

      “Is it me? Or is anyone else finding it difficult navigating this format?”

      I have had to change the format on the request of a reader who had difficulty reading the text of the earlier format. I’ll be tweaking the theme/format of The Chrysalis from time to time to try and get a more consistent format for the blog.

      No comment on Moore. Not my cup of tea, but at least he raises some issues that need to be addressed. Whether he addresses them properly is another matter. But his last documentary on Capitalism (featuring Goldman Sachs and Wall Street) had some real eye-popping parts, like the “dead peasants” policies of corporations secretly taking out life insurance on their employees. In fact, it seems that the employees were worth more to the company dead than alive (somewhat the same theme found in Naomi Klein’s Disaster Capitalism, too).

      • alex jay says :

        Scott: “Capitalism (featuring Goldman Sachs and Wall Street) had some real eye-popping parts, like the “dead peasants” policies of corporations secretly taking out life insurance on their employees.”

        One of Walmart’s biggest profit centres. Why do you think they hire old-age pensioners (senior citizens in your neck of the woods) as greeters? They don’t have to wait as long to collect.

        Are you aware of the other scam going around with the Prudential witholding life insurance money on the deaths of military personell? That’s right. Instead of paying out the full amount of money to the beneficiaries of the dead soldiers, they send them a checkbook. Neat trick, heh. They keep other peoples money that could be gaining interest in the beneficiaries’ bank accounts and cream off the interest in their own grubbly little hands. And what’s the Pentagon doing about it? You guessed. Another fine example of the public-private parternship working for the benefit of the citizenry. : (

  8. alex jay says :

    Scott: “In other words, a lot more people after James Joyce now feel that history is a nightmare from which they are trying desperately to wake up.”

    It’s the August *Bank* Holiday in these parts ( we were well ahead of the corporate curve by dedicating commercial feastdays in preference to “Holy Days” unlike our continental cousins – what does that tell you that you already don’t know?/ rhetorical) and I’ve just come back from an afternoon libation at the pub (another dying institution -unlike most institutions, one that will be sadly missed), and guess what?: the “Wings and Wheels” annual glorification of our aerial triumph over the Hun is in full swing at our local aerodrome (especially this year as we mark the 70th anniversary of the “Battle of Britain”). Every plane you can imagine, both old and new, is doing an encore, as a beam of pride and triumphalism (very few remember the historical “nightmare” – except the families with faded medals and citations in their souvenir cases) permeate through the throng of spectators. For my part, as I sit and punch the keys on this machine, the planes rumbling overhead – directly over my house – create a sound that makes me shudder as it vibrates the building like a force 5 earthquake. And I try to imagine what it was like for the poor people in Belgrade, Iraq, Afghanistan and countless other unfortunate strategic geopolitical squares on Zbiggy’s (Brezezinski) chessboard with a bomb tailing the noise. Fortunately, nobody dropped a bomb over Surrey … but then, that’s where our bankers live, and “that wouldn’t be cricket, I say”.

    “Nightmare”? There is one you manufacture in your head and there is one that just happens to surprise you. The former is a spiritual problem (Nietzche, Schopenaur, Dostoyevky et al – I’m shit at spelling names other than Smith and Jones), the latter is Auschwitz or Fallujha. Which one did James Joyce have to encounter? And don’t tell me they are equivalent. For to do so, you would have to accept that we have attained transhumanism (your translation and not the techno-sci-Kursweilian – flavour-of-the month version) thus it would seem that we must have reached the “noosphere” (ahh, the wonderful Telihard de Chardin) while I was asleep. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I haven’t had a nightmare (nor a noosphere moment, except in my imagination) for at least 20 years. I shouldn’t have said that … I’ll probably have one tonight … probably about planes). “Crisis, What Crisis?”

    Bloody Planes! Who’s got the ear-muffs?

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