An blog by a member of the Catholic peace movement, Pax Christi, to explore the nexus between contemplation and resistance. "The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.
Saturday, February 02, 2008
Resistance to Death
It has become chillingly clear that democracy is nearly dead in the United States. The government is now controlled by those who have ceased even to pretend to believe in it: "[Mukasey] repeatedly endorsed patently illegal behavior — including torture — and refused even to pretend that he cared what the Senate thought about any of it. He even told Republican Senators that they have no right to pass a whistleblower law allowing federal employees who learn of lawbreaking to inform Congress about it, because such a law would infringe on the President’s constitutional powers. In Mukasey’s worldview, the President has unlimited power and Congress has none." - Glenn Greenwald, "Mukasey’s Radical Worldview Is Now the Norm", Jan. 31, 2008.
Congress has come to the state where, when they learn of Bush lawbreaking, they simply vote after the fact to legalize anything he might have done. Indeed, you won't find any "partisanship" in this Senate. Their power has devolved to the point that legalizing the emperor's lawbreaking is their last claim to relevancy. As in ancient Rome, the senate's role is simply to put the Senate's imprimatur on whatever the emperor decrees. In their defense, they have little choice but to do nothing or cling to the image of power by ratifying whatever lawlessness the emperor chooses to practice.
The ruling elite is faced with a dilemma that they believe can only be resolved though the abolition of democratic politics and it's replacement by technocratic management. The mentality that sets the stage for this nullification of human dignity is the demoralization, in the most literal sense, that has been carried out over the past thirty years. The following description applies equally to American citizens and their representatives: "By now truly demoralized, they suffer no conscience and they risk no action...They have lost any expectations for society; they have no stamina left for confronting the principalities; they are reduced to docility, lassitude, torpor, profound apathy, and default. The demoralization of human beings in this fashion greatly conveniences the totalitarianism of the demonic powers since the need to resort to persecutions or imprisonments is obviated, as the people are already morally captive." - William Stringfellow, "An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land."
We are captivated by internal prisons that we have created for ourselves. In fact, the ruling elite can't build enough prisons to immobilize opposition, but they can use motivational techniques through visual and audio media in order to much more effectively douse the flame of justice.
The institutional engines of resistance have become completely exhausted: "Congress long ago decided it would do nothing about any of it, would acquiesce to it, and thus — as was predictable and predicted — it has all become normalized." Glenn Greenwald, "Mukasey’s Radical Worldview Is Now the Norm", Jan. 31, 2008. Americans who even take an interest in subjects outside the technical expertise that allows them to maintain the status and wealth of the elite will soon be marginalized.
Indeed, like Roman senators, we have now become suppliants pleading for mercy, for some pretense of human consideration, before the seats of power. And none is given: "They were supplicants pleading for some consideration, almost out of a sense of mercy, and both they and Mukasey knew it...Mukasey can go and casually tell them to their faces that the President has the right to violate their laws and that Congress has no power to do anything about it. And nothing is going to happen. And everyone — the Senators, Bush officials, the country — knows that nothing is going to happen." - Glenn Greenwald, "Mukasey’s Radical Worldview Is Now the Norm", Jan. 31, 2008.
Nothing can happen now because we have accepted our roles as technocratic tools in support of empire. A common tactic of the 60's involved an overarching risk that has now come to fruition - the encouragement of cynicism. The original purpose of this tactic was to encapsulate outrage and make the case that the powers that ruled America were never to be trusted, that they always pursued Machiavellian strategies of total power. The message was close to the truth, but the means - inculcating cynicism about politics into the masses - was self-defeating for a group that intended to challenge injustice through politics. Shortly after this cynicism became the norm in the early 70's, the movement quickly unraveled and evolved into it's opposite. The ultimate emotional impact it made resulted in the condition we see today - no effective resistance to power is possible because genuine hope has been sapped dry by cynicism. The cynical embrace of power and wealth for its own sake has become the norm. Thus the hidden violence of the 60's opposition has come home to roost.
"Virtually every Democratic Senator, after expressing some 'disappointment' in Mukasey’s answers, then proceeded to lavish him with praise, eagerly assuring him that they did not want conflict and were not attempting to be partisan or acrimonious." But resistance is partisan and acrimonious, as was Jeremiah and Ezekiel in similar situations. These are the noises made when submitting to autocratic power - to lavish praise on the emperor's minions and beg for his favors. "Mukasey would nod politely and acknowledge their pleas, assuring them that he wasn’t offended by their questioning, almost embarrassed at times by how obsequious they were." - Glenn Greenwald, "Mukasey’s Radical Worldview Is Now the Norm", Jan. 31, 2008.
Yet what the Senators and the emperor's minion were discussing was the systematic degradation of the human person, now sealed in a protective acronym:"EIT": "They don’t even use the euphemism 'enhanced interrogation techniques' any more. That phrase has been so normalized that they now all know and use an abbreviation for it — 'EIT.' So Senators ask questions about when 'EITs' can be used and the Attorney General outlines the elusive formula he applies to determine its legality and all controversy, all passion, all intensity is completely drained out of the discussion in the U.S. Senate of our torture policies. 'Torture' is now an EIT Unit." - Glenn Greenwald, "Mukasey’s Radical Worldview Is Now the Norm", Jan. 31, 2008. Soon the "nonpartisan" Senators will beg mercy from the emperor lest they themselves be subjected to the EIT Unit.
Another path could have been taken and is still possible now. It is the path laid out in the biblical text, which gave the anti-Nazi resistance of the thirties and forties much of its hope and strength. As with the earlier Resistance, our power of opposition has been systematically neutralized through a Matrix-like technological world-view that is unceasingly ingested by us and instills the sense that the world is far too complex for us to affect - that we are tiny, powerless units whose only choice is to attach ourselves (cynically) to the greatest power that is available and hope for its triumph. Thus our survival depends on obeisance.
We must reclaim our power, but not by pouring our God-given life into the channels which empire has provided to siphon off the energy of justice. "The biblical response - again, an answer which also has empirical authority - is that hope is known only in the midst of coping with death. Any so-called hope is delusory and false without or apart from the confrontation with the power of death, whatever momentary or circumstantial form at may have. It is a person's involvement in that crisis in itself - whatever the apparent outcome - which is the definitively humanizing experience. Engagement in specific and incessant struggle against death's rule renders us human. Resistance to death is the only way to live humanly in the midst of the Fall." - William Stringfellow, "An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land."