Sow the Wind, Reap the Whirlwind
How bad is the political situation in Canada? It’s very bad indeed. Those who still nurture and coddle some romantic bygone notion of Canada as “the Peaceable Kingdom”, as it was once known, should disabuse themselves of that delusion as quickly as possible. The situation in Canada reflects the postmodern condition more generally — disintegration.
Division, discord, strife, contention all feature as the “new normal” in Canadian public life and politics, and I was reminded of that again this morning upon reading of the deep, fractious, and rancorous political divisions within the veterans organisations. It’s just another symptom of a proliferating and cascading number of symptoms.
Of course, partisans of one faction or another are pointing the finger at everyone else as being the cause, oblivious to the fact that their own schismatic and sectarian hyper-partisanship is part of the problem and not the resolution, which is typical totalitarian thinking. In fact, I do blame Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his “new” Conservative Party for much of that rancour because of their penchant for playing “wedge politics” or “dog whistle politics” — the politics of discord and division and internecine strife.
“Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind” is pretty much the rule of wedge politics, and it strikes me as a chief feature also of our “post-Christian” condition that no one understands what this means any longer, or if they do understand it, ignore the precepts implied in it. You “reap what you sow” is little different than Seth’s “you create the reality you know”. In fact, the whole history of the last century up to now might be characterised as sowing winds and repeating whirlwinds — lurching from crisis to crisis.
The “wind” is, of course, the spirit. “Wind” is the original meaning of the word “spiritus” (Greek pneuma). “The Spirit bloweth where it listeth” is a corollary principle to “sow the wind, repeat the whirlwind”, and it means that the manifestations of the Spirit in its action may take many forms, even unexpected ones like the whirlwind.
Nietzsche foresaw that the “death of God” and then the post-Enlightenment disintegration of the “ratio” of rationality would leave nothing but raw “will to power”, even if it came disguised as something else. That “something else” is what Bertram Gross anticipated in 1980 as “Friendly Fascism“, or what I’ve referred to as Dr. Jekyll becoming a mere mask for Mr. Hyde.
It’s one of the ironies of postmodernism itself, I think, that the deconstruction of tyrannical metanarratives and the emancipation of repressed knowledges from repressive frameworks in the name of “empowerment” without a new framework for that may have the exact opposite outcome of what is expected, leaving nothing but raw and unrestrained will to power as dominant social principle, and then indeed you will have rat race and law of the jungle and an anarchy of competing interests that will eventually provoke a backlash in the form of totalitarianism. It’s what I’ve been alluding to as “ironic reversal”, and ironic reversal in the form of perverse outcome, unintended consequence, revenge effect, or blowback. These things are usually sure signs of a consciousness structure now functioning in “deficient mode”, as Gebser put it. They are all just other terms for “Nemesis”.
“Blowback”, is just another way of saying “sow the wind, reap the whirlwind”. That image calls to mind the myth of Cadmus, who sowed the dragon’s teeth, and up sprang armed men who fought each other to the death over a jewel. In a lot of ways, Stephen Harper with his wedge politics is the contemporary avatar of Cadmus. But also associated with the name “Cadmus” is a “Cadmean victory” — to win a war that also brings about one’s own ruin, or what we call “self-defeating”.
If you plant the little seed of malice, do not be surprised if it grows into the Lernaean Hydra. The Hydra is, in fact the most appropriate symbol for what is the postmodern condition, or even “Liquid Modernity” as Baumann calls it.
“Sowing” is, of course, the meaning of the word “propaganda”. So, there is great depth of meaning, multiple levels of meaning, to the precept “sow the wind, reap the whirlwind”, and the contrasting phrase was “salt of the earth”, the meaning of which most people also have forgotten. It means to be an enlivening and leavening agent, as in the baking of bread. Salt was considered a living creature, and was addressed as such — “Thou creature salt”.
Salt is a brilliant symbol, in fact. Our word “salary” comes from salt, from a time Roman soldiers were paid in salt (and, I guess, expected to sell it themselves as their pay). But salt is both an agent of change (leavening) and a preservative, so it serves as a symbol of coincidentia oppositorum, too, or both quickening and also of preserving.
The whirlwind is also the apocalyptic, and in that sense also “creative destruction”, the whirling dance of Shiva the Destroyer, but also the revealer of the truth in the very midst of the destruction, for Shiva dances upon the corpse of the dwarf of ignorance, which is the ego-nature. The vulgar interpretation of apocalypse (today is supposed to be the day, according to one fundamentalist sect — some human beings are an embarrassment) is that it is complete destruction. But that’s not what the word means. It means “reveal”, “disclose”, “uncover” — the shattering truth. Apocalypse means revelation, it means disillusionment and dispelling the Cloud of Unknowing. The ego-nature, which often doesn’t know better, experiences that revelation as shattering, as catastrophic, as calamitous. In effect, apocalypse is the deconstruction of the illusions.
Being “blown away” can be quite ambiguous.