The New Barbarism: Death by Bean-Counter
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king
I like Tolkein’s poem from The Lord of the Rings. I inspires in me a measure of hope in these twilit times of looming darkness for, as many of you know who have been with me from the former Dark Age Blog and through into the present Chrysalis, I haven’t often been the bearer of glad tidings and good news. More often than not, a Cassandra in fact. But through some 1400 postings and short essays over a decade, I’ve yet to have had to eat my words.
It’s much easier to observe the signatures of a new barbarism in our post-Enlightenment era than to discern a fire in the ashes or a new light springing forth from the shadows, although I’ve attempted to draw some attention to that, too — that light springing forth from the shadows being the “irruption” of a new consciousness that Jean Gebser anticipated as “the integral consciousness” or “the aperspectival consciousness”; or, what Sri Aurobindo discerned as “the supramental”; or what Nietzsche referred to as the “transhuman”. Daily, like a Robinson Crusoe, I scan the horizons of our present world age, as well as the smaller universe of my daily experience, for those signs of life that might suggest a shorter, rather than longer, exile in the wilderness for us.
Tonight, on the CBC’s Fifth Estate, the Canadian public broadcaster will be presenting a investigative report called “The Silence of the Labs” about the ideologically-motivated suppression of science and knowledge in Canada by the present Conservative government of Stephen Harper — particularly of environmental and climate science, for which conservatives have a bee in their bonnet — along with their reversion to a more primitivist approach to economic policy once called “mercantilism” — the attitude of which was once famously lampooned by Oscar Wilde as the attitude of the cynic, that is, of “a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing”.
We can just call it, rule of the bean-counter, and call that by its true name — nihilism. (So perhaps also call it, “death by bean-counter”).
“The Silence of the Labs” probably couldn’t be more timely, given the destructive suppression of science and public knowledge conducted under the ruse of “deficit reduction”. It comes coincident with the government’s announcement that it has begun closing 7 of 11 Departments of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) libraries and has begun destroying most of those libraries’ physical research collections.
In other words, book-burning, Conservative-style.
There is no doubt that the “new conservative” in his attitudes, however bigoted in his opinions he might be, feels threatened by, and insecure about, climate science and environmentalism. Killing the messenger has become something of an epidemic.
And I say “new conservatism” because it has taken the “conserve” out of conservatism and replaced it with just the “con”. The “new conservative” has discovered the rhetorical value of “lip-service” for the conduct of mass politics (or what is now called “managing the optics”), while a nation of Rip Van Winkles blithely sleepwalks its way through the signature events of the day, confusing the rhetoric with the reality.
Just take the poo pill, and you’ll be re-inserted back into the Matrix.
Unfortunately, lip-service, as the social philosopher Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy pointed out, is a form of value nihilism — symptomatic of the social disease of decadence. And the present Canadian government and ruling party (and not just the present Canadian government and party) is very practiced in lip-service (which the studied practitioners of lip-service and perception — or “image” — management prefer to call “political truth” to avoid the self-incriminating implications of lack of integrity, dishonesty, and fraud). And for that practice they seem to have no lack of encouragement and support from partisan hacks and cynical media pundits who, as far as I’m concerned, are engaged in journalistic malpractice for promoting “a culture of lying” (as Andrew Coyne called it), or giving their blessing to the realities of a “post-truth politics”.
Moreover, I do not see a lot of difference among other national jurisdictions, judging from what I read there. It all seems fairly general.
Bleak is how I would describe the situation. And there’s no lack of considered opinion these days — backed by more evidence than I’ve presented here — that we have now entered, or are entering into, a new Dark Age and a new barbarism.
- Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
- The crownless again shall be king
When I read these lines about the blade that was broken, I think of William Blake and the lines from his poem Jerusalem,
I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land
Blake’s sword has been broken for generations, however, and he never lived to see truth — his “New Jerusalem” — enthroned again in human affairs, which was the whole guiding passion of his poetry and art, and of the hopes he had entertained for the French and American revolutions.
But perhaps the present revival of interest in Blake — at least since Northrop Frye’s 1947 study of Blake called Fearful Symmetry — might just be one of those small sparks amongst the ashes — and among those “signs of life” on the horizon of this age — that might indicate that Blake was simply born too soon to be anything but an enigma (or worse, a lunatic) to most of his contemporaries.
Although Jean Gebser, comprehensively surveying the events of his own life time, saw signs of the emergence of a new consciousness structure (equally, Blake’s “New Age”), he also sensed that it could be abortive or suppressed, in which case it might be delayed by centuries, or that it might fail because the human species would destroy itself and the planet beforehand.
That anticipation imparts a certain sensitivity to the edginess of contemporary events — a certain mood of suspense. Is it failing? Is it succeeding? Neither question can really be answered at the moment.