In The Theatre of the Absurd: Powerlust
We’re now over a week into Canada’s “Long March” to a federal election on October 19th. And there’s nothing like an election campaign to bring out the very worst in people. It’s the powerlust.
If you begin with the premise, however perverse and corrupt it may be, that “politics is war by other means”, you are very likely to come to perverse and corrupt conclusions also — that nothing is prohibited, everything is permissable. And one of “Stone’s Rules” of ratfucking (which we might also call “Ratfucker’s Rules”) is: “”Unless you can fake sincerity, you’ll get nowhere in this business.”
“Faking it”. That’s life in “the new normal”. For all practical purposes, “duplicity is the currency of the day” (Pope Francis) and the so-called “new normal” are equivalent. And it’s not too difficult to come to the realisation that these are also connected to Christopher Lasch’s “culture of narcissism” (the book is also available online if you please). It’s hard not to come to the conclusion, then, that “the new normal” is only a euphemism for “decadence”.
This is not just crying wolf. We note, once again, that the very word “sincere” means “without” or “against decay” (Latin sin + caries). So, if you have to fake sincerity these days, something is obviously amiss. Mr. Hyde and his powerlust rules while Dr. Jekyll has become merely his mask. Truly, as Mr. Greer has eloquently observed, it is “The Era of Pretense“. That’s also been called here “The Psychopathology in Canadian Politics“.
This situation has become so ubiquitous — not just in the United States, but also in Canada, and not just in those locations, but also in the so-called “Anglosphere” more generally, and not just in the Anglosphere but elsewhere) that I have concluded that the Modern Era is turning round and devouring itself from within, undercutting and subverting in the process its own originary foundations and ideals. That’s what we call “decadence”, and decadence is but one of the forms of nihilism. So, yes, I agree with Nietzsche’s forecast for “two centuries of nihilism” in which “all higher values devalue themselves”. The loss of integrity that is implied in the word “duplicity”, and which is also multiform in terms of “double-talk, double-think, double-standard, and double-bind”, is dissolution and dis-integration and decoherence.
That “politics is war by other means” is one of those inversions and devaluations. For if you instead begin with the healthier premise that politics is, rather, the art and science of how different people can live together relatively harmoniously despite their differences (which is the real art and meaning of “statesmanship”), then you must come to very different conclusions about the means. As mentioned, the social philosopher Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy called this harmonisation “synchronisation of antagonistic distemporaries”, and that is very much a feature of his “grammatical method” and his Cross of Reality.
If the decadence of the civilisation of the Late Middle Ages was owing to the Church’s “lack of caritas“, as Rosenstock-Huessy described it, then the equivalent disease of Late Modernity is “lack of sincerity”. Everything comes wearing a mask disguised as “principle”, but behind which lies raw powerlust, predation, and the will to dominate. That seems especially true of this aberration and ruse that describes itself as the “new” or as “principled conservatism”. But in fact, more generally, everything that calls itself “neo-liberalism”, or “neo-conservatism” or “neo-socialism” is simply politics that has adapted and adjusted itself to “the new normal”.
While it’s still possible to take the high road in politics and social life (and isn’t that what “carry the fire!” means in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road?) , I think we missed the opportunity to avoid the kind of “global catastrophe” that Jean Gebser anticipated and that Seth warned about some four decades ago, which I noted in “The Most Haunting Words in All Literature“, or indeed what W.B. Yeats’ also noted in his ominous poem “The Second Coming“.
We will, it seems, have to “pass through the crucible”, as the Alchemists once put it. An interesting symbol is “the crucible”. The word is derived from “crux” or “cross”, all related to the meaning of “crisis”. In other words, “the crucible” bears a striking resemblance also to Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality” and other models of the fourfold human and fourfold cosmos. It seems that, like Dante’s journey through Hell, the only way out is through. “Breakdown is breakthrough” is also the very meaning of the word “apocalypse”. Of course, I’m assuming we survive the passage through the crucible, which is the real stress and tension of our times is and the source of the Era’s anxieties and Angst. These are, as Gebser wisely noted, connected to the meaning of “narrowing” (in the word “angle”), even into the narrow-mindedness of the “point of view” and the contraction of our horizons, also what Nietzsche derided as being our “nook-and-corner perspectives”, ie, the “opinionated”.
I think if you honestly assess those things to which I’ve linked in this post, you can’t come to any other conclusion but that we live in an Age of Decay and of the dissolution and disintegration of that Age’s consciousness structure. Spiritually speaking, the situation really does already look a hell of a lot like McCarthy’s The Road.