"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, December 09, 2017
The Authorities of Darkness
Saturday, December 02, 2017
Awakening to Evil
This has led to research into the spiritual beings that could be called the "authorities of darkness", those forces which Paul referred to as follows:
"For our part is not to fight against powers of flesh and blood, but
against the spirit-beings,
mighty in the stream of time,
powerful in the moulding of earth's
against the cosmic powers
whose darkness rules the present time,
against begins who, in the spiritual
are themselves the powers of evil."
Ephesians 6:12 (New Testament: A Rendering by Jon Madsen)
My research has led to the identification of these spiritual forces with certain brotherhoods, human associations that have interests far wider than the domination of the Middle East. I realize that many will find such a turn difficult to follow. Those of us who have achieved the higher degrees in the academic realm instinctively avoid association with what what previous ages called "spiritual evil."
Distaste for such concepts is both reasonable and politically cogent: By identifying a material evil such as the Iraq War with "spiritual darkness in high places", we risk replacing material factors that can be effectively fought through non-violent resistance with a mythology that could destroy our political effectiveness.
I fully recognize this fact, but nevertheless I am compelled by my own spiritual growth to recognize that what we are fighting in the U.S. imperialist wars is much deeper than nationalist capitalism. Further, I have come to believe that the conventional "left" may be as much subject to the rule of anti-human forces as the neo-cons.
Of course, the orientation of this blog has always been explicitly Christian, but clearly inspired by liberation theology. This theology has always tended toward identifying the spiritual evil with specifically material forces which could be resisted by the poor through political action, the only hope for the wretched of the earth.
But now such action seems irretrievably corrupted and not merely ineffective, but counterproductive. It is counterproductive because it reinforces an ideology that is the true enemy of universal brother- and sisterhood - materialism. The brotherhoods I speak of are the fountainhead of a philosophy that presents itself as the source of liberation from the religious mythologies which justified the power of the ruling classes for thousands of years. But these liberators have not delivered us into genuine liberty, but into a world rapidly abandoning all pretense at democracy.
What is unfolding is the replacement of democracy to structures focused on policing and management as enabled by massive surveillance systems. The constant stream of new terrorist outrages have shifted the philosophy of governance from democracy to the management of disorder brought about by terror. The word "security" as currently applied refers not to its traditional meaning of a restoration of public order, but to a permanent technology of government. The exceptional measures demanded by terrorist attacks have become permanent policy throughout the world.
Traditional leftist struggle is no longer realistic because its social and political underpinnings have been removed. The words of Giorgio Agamben ring quite true to me, "The growing extension to citizens of technologies which were conceived for criminals inevitably has consequences for the political identity of the citizen. For the first time in the history of humanity, identity is no longer a function of the social personality and its recognition by others, but rather a function of biological data, which cannot bear any relation to it, like the arabesques of the fingerprints or the disposition of the genes in the double helix of DNA. The most neutral and private thing becomes the decisive factor of social identity, which loses therefore its public character.
If my identity is now determined by biological facts that in no way depend on my will and over which I have no control, then the construction of something like a political and ethical identity becomes problematic. What relationship can I establish with my fingerprints or my genetic code? The new identity is an identity without the person, as it were, in which the space of politics and ethics loses its sense and must be thought again from the ground up. While the classical Greek citizen was defined through the opposition between the private and the public, the oikos, which is the place of reproductive life, and the polis, place of political action, the modern citizen seems rather to move in a zone of indifference between the private and the public, or, to quote Hobbes’ terms, the physical and the political body." (From the State of Control to a Praxis of Destituent Power).
In such a world, the purpose of the state is no longer to create order which allows the the human to flourish, but to manage disorder brought about by synthetic terrorism, "The state in which we live now is no more a disciplinary state. Gilles Deleuze suggested to call it the État de contrôle, or control state, because what it wants is not to order and to impose discipline but rather to manage and to control. Deleuze’s definition is correct, because management and control do not necessarily coincide with order and discipline. No one has told it so clearly as the Italian police officer, who, after the Genoa riots in July 2001 declared that the government did not want for the police to maintain order but for it to manage disorder." (Ibid.).
Something much different from the political struggles of the past is now emerging - the reduction of the human to its material constituents and the declaration that the human being is flawed hardware and software in dire need of an upgrade. Materialism in its modern form of scientism is now exposed as the basis for a spiritual control system of unparalleled penetration into the human heart and mind. The true forces of human liberation must now be sought the zone of spiritual freedom that can only be created by those delivered from materialist hegemon.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
Obama's Brilliant Speech: A Right-Wing Triumph
His first object was to minimize the right-wing role in providing the ideologically-based target for the gunman. The point was to absolve the right of any guilt for the effects of their violent rhetoric and anti-government conspiracy theories - clearly reflected in Loughner's internet postings. Just as he implicitly absolved Bush and Cheney for their crimes of torture and lying a nation into war, in this case, he absolved Beck, Palin and their frothing legions of the effects of their irresponsible rhetoric.
As the poster kivals pointed out "...it is absolutely essential for co-opting populist movements arising out of the growing anger and frustration of the little people" that such rhetoric continue. The right-wing hate campaign has been found to be a very effective way to divert anger from its real targets - the Wall Street bankers who looted the Treasury - to their preferred targets - those such as Gifford who might stand in the way of the new "austerity" measures that the corporate elite requires to safeguard their profit margins.
His second goal was to repudiate his liberal supporters, a technique he has nearly perfected. He implicitly denounced the sad, but experienced words of Sheriff Clarence Dupnik: "When the rhetoric about hatred, about mistrust of government, about paranoia of how government operates, and to try to inflame the public on a daily business, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, has impact on people, especially who are unbalanced personalities to begin with." Progressive demands for less violent rhetoric on the right were implicitly equated with the very rhetoric they condemned. Chillingly, he also implicitly nullified Giffords' own fears. Once again, Obama achieved the targets set by his corporate masters.
It was a brilliant success, as attested by its near universal acclaim, from Charles Krauthammer to Peggy Noonan to E.J. Dionne. Such acclaim reveals a key performance indicator in the green for Mr. Obama. After this speech, it seems a pity that the violence must continue, that we must fear ideologically-motivated killings more than ever, but we are happy to pay the price for the delights of oligarchy.
Sunday, December 05, 2010
The Earth and Its Fullness are the Lord's
The Global Abuser
"These are people who believe in entitlement. These are arrogant elites who believe the rest of us don't need to know what they're doing with and to our lives. These are people see truth as a danger." David Michael Green, "What WikiLeaks Really Reveals" Common Dreams, 12/5/10 (http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/12/05#comment-1686473)
The key word here is not "truth", which they do indeed hate but which is incidental to their main purpose, but "entitlement." The political elites and their ideological attack dogs reserve special savagery for whatever threatens to unravel their self justification. In the words of Derrick Jensen, "It all comes down to perceived entitlement. As Bancroft states, 'Entitlement is the abuser's belief that he has a special status that provides him with exclusive rights and privileges that do not apply to his partner. The attitudes that drive abuse can largely be summarized by this one word." The abuser has the right to lie and we must accept his lies and pretend that they are the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Doing this preserves the abusive family dynamic.
Again, Jensen, "Within an abusive family dynamic, everything - and I mean everything - is aimed toward protecting the abuser from the physical and emotional consequences of his actions. All members are enculturated to identify more closely with the family structure and its abusive dynamics than with their own well-being and the well-being of their loved ones and other victims...This 'well-being' is a particular sort, devoid of relationship and accompanying emotions, heavy on the kind of external rewards abusers reap because of their abuse (and of course precisely the kind of external rewards emphasized by a grotesquely materialistic culture), and most especially focused on allowing the perpetrator to avoid confronting his own painful emotions, including the pain he inflicts..." Derrick Jensen, Resistance, p. 564.
What the abuser fears above all is the sight of what he has done without his preferred moral justifications - justifications that allow him to carry out acts such as the murder of a million Iraqis, nightly drone attacks that kill far more women and children that supposed "terrorists", and gutting climate change to doom future generations to thirst and starvation.
DMG is right that they have little to fear from a pacified population, stultified with cheap goods, overwork, and hypnotizing spectacles. Jensen: "People will do anything - go to any absurd length - to hide the abuse from themselves and everyone around them." What Assange has done is expose the global abuser and his family members have rushed to protect his feelings.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
A Covenant of Justice
Thomas Aquinas, the man who made reasoned debate a foundational theological principle had this to say about anger, or ‘incivility’ as Wallis defines it,: “Anger may be understood in two ways. On one way, as a simple movement of the will, whereby one inflicts punishment, not through passion, but in virtue of a judgment of the reason: and thus without doubt lack of anger is a sin. This is the sense in which anger is taken in the saying of Chrysostom, for he says: ‘Anger, when it has a cause, is not anger but judgment. For anger, properly speaking, denotes a movement of passion’: and when a man is angry with reason, his anger is no longer from passion: wherefore he is said to judge, not to be angry. On another way anger is taken for a movement of the sensitive appetite, which is with passion resulting from a bodily transmutation. This movement is a necessary sequel, in man, to the movement of his will, since the lower appetite necessarily follows the movement of the higher appetite, unless there be an obstacle. Hence the movement of anger in the sensitive appetite cannot be lacking altogether, unless the movement of the will be altogether lacking or weak. Consequently lack of the passion of anger is also a vice, even as the lack of movement in the will directed to punishment by the judgment of reason.” ST II-II, a. 158 “Whether there is a vice opposed to anger resulting from lack of anger?”
The Christian tradition does not condemn anger as such, but only anger that is not in accordance with the order of reason. When reason and the passion for justice accord in righteous anger, then to lack anger is a serious sin. In the light of the tradition of the saints and doctors of the Church, I would say that not to be outraged “at this horrible juncture” is a mortal sin. We should beg God for forgiveness for our lack of rage and implore him for this gift.
It is not “political polarization” that is the dangerous threat, but the numbing apathy of Christians and others of good will in the face structural sin on a scale unknown in history. Jim Wallis, who has battled against this apathy his entire life, should recognize this and is rightly rebuked for his neglect of the passion for truth. Terrell rightly points out that the political polarization which liberal commentators denounce is a smokescreen for an utter lack of creative tension rising from outrage at real injustice. We should be fanning the flames of this discontent in every way possible rather than embracing the nauseating piety of mere “tolerance.” This will not preserve our humanity, but give comfort to those who would destroy it.
“A covenant not to condemn their crimes in the name of civility, however, does not help these perpetrators or their victims.”
Saturday, November 06, 2010
The Meaning of “Mine” and “Not Mine” in the Early Church
Why are the French rioting? Many of the governments of Europe now demand that severe austerity measures be imposed on public expenditures in order to deal with mounting deficits. The French government proposes cutting back on pensions to help balance the budget. Over the past fifty years, there has been an expansion of social benefits such as pensions that multiple generations have come to rely on. These benefits are now being rescinded to compensate for the hundreds of billions that were pumped into the banking system to stave off the collapse of major financial institutions whose risky investments had failed. Since these billions were provided by the public through taxes, it would appear that there has been a vast transfer of wealth from the public to the bankers whose malfeasance created the financial crisis. Rather than make up the shortfall in public revenues through increased taxation on the wealthy and corporations, these governments have chosen to cut back on the benefits provided by social programs. While other economic factors affect the current situation, these appear to be the essential facts concerning the “austerity” measures. The widespread perception of these facts by the French public provide the motivation behind the current strike actions and oil depot occupations which have caused fuel shortages throughout the country.
When confronted with similar situations in their own time, how did the great Christian thinkers respond? John Chrysostom, considered one of the greatest Christian pastors by both eastern and western Christianity, lived most of his life in Antioch, one of the most beautiful cities of the Empire. “In the fourth century the greater part of the municipal land there was in the hands of a few rich landowners - the proprietors of the fine villas described by Chrysostom in his works. The well-preserved ruins of these villas show them to have been large and solidly built, with stables and slave quarters on the ground floor and luxurious apartments for the owners and managers above. The wealthy owners represented only about one-tenth of the population. Living in the city, they had succeeded in concentrating in their few hands most of the agricultural lands of the countryside...Exploited by the city landlords, the peasants lived in extreme poverty.” (Charles Avila, Ownership: Early Christian Teachings. Orbis Books, 1983, p. 82-3).
Chrysostom’s response to the condition of the poor was unending outrage which he distilled into sermons that made him immensely popular with the Antiochian majority. But what is most interesting for Christians today is his radical theory of property rights. This understanding of property, shared by seminal Christian thinkers such as Basil, Ambrose and Augustine, became the traditional Christian understanding of property until the rise of capitalism in the sixteenth century. In a sermon he preached on Luke 16, Chrysostom defined robbery in the following terms, “This is robbery: not to share one’s possessions. Perhaps what I am saying astonishes you. Yet be not astonished. For I shall offer you the testimony of the Sacred Scriptures, which says that not only to rob others’ property, but also not to share your own with others, is robbery and greediness and theft...’Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house’ (Malachi 3:10 - John reads, ‘for the robbery of the poor is in your houses,‘ for the last clause). Because you have not made the accustomed offerings, the prophet says, therefore have you robbed the things that belong to the poor. This he says by way of showing the rich that they are in possession of the property of the poor, even if it is a patrimony they have received, even if they have gathered their money elsewhere.” (Avila, p. 83-4).
Chrysostom was not speaking rhetorically. His sermons directly challenged the legal definition of ownership in the Roman Empire which enshrined the absolute disposition of property as a sacred right. The rulers of Antioch found his “socialist” ideas so offensive that they deposed him as Bishop of Antioch and sent him packing into exile. The principle implied in his definition of robbery is that God has given all a right to the goods of the earth, rich and poor alike. For one class to usurp the gifts of God for themselves alone while others starve he defined as robbery in the strict sense of the term.
In the following sermon, the spirit that animated the Acts of the Apostles flowers again: “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.” (Acts 4:32). In this sermon, Chrysostom diagnoses the loss of tranquility which possessions inflict, “But what is the meaning of ‘mine’ and ‘not mine’? For, truly, the more accurately I weigh these words, the more they seem to me to be but words...And not only in silver and gold, but also in bathing places, gardens, buildings, ‘mine’ and ‘not mine’ you will perceive to be but meaningless words. For use is common to all. Those who seem to be owners have only more care of these things than those who are not.” (Avila, p. 85). Later, he proposes that the very concept of private property has no place in the Church. He says, “For ‘mine’ and ‘thine’ - those chilly words which introduce innumerable wars into the world - should be eliminated from that holy Church...The poor would not envy the rich, because there would be no rich. Neither would the poor be despised by the rich, for there would be no poor. All things would be in common.” (Avila, p. 85).
In this passage, he explicitly argues that the holiness of the Church requires that there should be no “mine” or “thine”, but that property should be a matter of social ownership. The vision of Acts 4:32 shows that the kingdom of God knows nothing of “mine” and “not mine”, but only recognizes the concept of “ours.” For Chrysostom, to be a Christian implies a deep understanding of the need for common ownership and the drive to incarnate this principle in daily life. Property was given to the wealthy so that they might grow in virtue by sharing it - that social goal alone justifies any particular ownership system. The early Christians had no illusions about rising tides lifting all boats.
The following passage from another homily might have been intended for the European bankers now enjoying unabated prosperity, “We do all things ignoring the fact that we shall have to give account of everything that goes beyond our use, for we thus misuse the gifts of God. For he has not given us these things that we alone may use them, but that we may alleviate the need of our fellow human beings.” (Avila, p. 92). No doubt erudite economists will explain why the prosperity of all requires the transfer of Europe’s wealth to fewer and fewer hands, but Chrysostom would not have been so tolerant toward wealthy bankers. He addresses those who would defraud the public and justify their theft by donating to charities with these words, “I do not ask you mercifully to render from what you have plundered, but to abstain from fraud...For, unless you desist from your robbery, you are not actually giving alms. Even though you should give ever so much money to the needy, if you do not desist from your fraud and robbery you shall be numbered by God among the murderers.” (Avila, p. 93). Murder was understood quite literally in fourth century Antioch.
Chrysostom did not believe that wealth was evil in itself. Wealth is a cherished gift of God. The economic evil that Chrysostom denounced was not “greed” as we think of it today, but the exclusive ownership by individuals of what was intended for the common good of all. Economic arrangements are just when they are ordered to the right of all to the use of the goods of the earth. Property rights are justified only in so far as they enable this common right of use. The absolute right of private property in Roman law was regarded as among the worst evils of “Babylon” by the fathers of the Church.
In his homily on Acts 4, Chrysostom presents us with a magnificent vision of koinonia. Koinonia means “communion by intimate participation” and in the social sense denotes sharing the wonderful gifts of God together. This vision is an enticing expression of what the kingdom of God meant to the early Christians: “Let us imagine things as happening in this way: All give all that they have into a common fund. No one would have to concern himself about it, neither the rich nor the poor. How much money do you think would be collected? I infer - for it cannot be said with certainty - that if every individual contributed all his money, his lands, his estates, his houses (I will not speak of slaves, for the first Christians had none, probably giving them their freedom), then a million pounds of gold would be obtained, and most likely two or three times that amount...What could we not undertake with our huge treasure! Do you believe it could ever be exhausted? And will not the blessing of God pour down on us a thousand-fold richer? Will we not make a heaven on earth?” (Avila, p.101). Note well that it is not the gold that makes the kingdom, but love for the common good.
“Hundreds of riot squad officers stood by in Lyon to try to prevent a repeat of Thursday's violence that saw security forces fire water cannon and fight running battles with rampaging youths in the east-central city.” - “French Unions: We Won't Pay For 'Failures of Global Finance'”, Agence France-Presse, 10/22/10. Chrysostom’s thundering outrage echoes in the deeds and shouts of the French protesters - “Not to share the gifts God has given for all is robbery!”
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Most of the left/liberal media seems to miss the growing irrelevance of our two-party political circus. We need ask a basic question about our political system: Why does it not seem to matter that candidates for public office don't even to pretend to engage the real issues such as global warming, the worst health care in the developed world, the catastrophe-prone nature of our financial system?
The really crucial decisions in this society are not made by the U.S. government, but by transnational corporations and the national security apparatus. The primary role of the government is to provide the necessary bureaucratic and legal infrastructure to ensure the interests of those who control these entities. Part of the reason that the quality of politicians has plunged so dramatically may be that they have fewer and fewer possibilities of modifying the real situation. As in the later Roman Empire, the legislature devolves more and more into a masque of what once had been genuine power.
In the current empire, the same applies to the president. The unseen irony of so much liberal commentary is that it is inspired by a belief that America as described in the Constitution still exists. How many liberal articles lament the cowardice and timidity of Obama and the Democrats in such florid terms? So many wail, "If only Obama had championed single payer, how different would the political landscape be today!"
Such commentaries misunderstand how power really works. Obama is not "the most powerful leader on the planet" as we hear so often. He plays an important role in a large array of power relationships, but real decisions are the result of continually evolving negotiations within that web of power. Obama's options are the product of these negotiations, not of his own principles, be they strongly held or otherwise. Because of this, politicians have evolved into rhetorical figureheads, role-playing symbols in the political theater directed by the media. They still wield real power, but this power is not the direction of public policy, whose conditions are foreordained, but act as negotiators between competing sections of the ruling class.
Where does the solution lie? In unity lies power. We need to seek out those willing to make the mental effort necessary to truly understand both the real situation and our options for changing it. Then we need to unite across all our differences, which may seem less important in the face of looming catastrophe.