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.