12 June, 2009

Amer-al Qaeda

With apologies for my absence, I offer this forthright observation by Paul Krugman from this morning's NYTimes on the culture wars. As is abundantly clear to anyone in our United States, when cultural conservatives are out of power, the culture war becomes a shooting war. This has, quite naturally, got me thinking about my own little sub-corner of the larger culture.

At its most expressive, SM is a peak experience of self-responsibility, something grievance-minded individuals abhor, notwithstanding their contradictory rhetorical posturing. The having of grievances or the blaming of others for unhappiness is definitionally a repudiation of responsibility. The taking of action, the assumption of risks that attend such actions, and the constitutional strength to abide the outcomes of having taken the risk, without deflecting any part of it, is the operant principle of SM, morally and practically. It is also the definition of responsibility. SM is a context within which grievance does not function, for causality is unmediated and apparent to its participants. Thus the top who does not check and test the reliability of a club's suspension points cannot blame the club if they fail. Anyone for whom a scene fails is implicate in its failure for having freely consented to it; both top and bottom share responsibility.

When we feel upset and assign blame outside ourselves this I call personal irresponsibility. That right-wing fanatics should emerge now to terrorize their fellow citizens is indicative of not only their lack of common cause with the basic tenets of democracy which brought progressive voices to the executive and legislative branches of government and legitimized them, but it also betrays an understanding of the nature of action that begins and ends somewhere other than within. The "terrorist" is not a self-responsible actor; he or she nominates some conveniently external factor (political view, lifestyle, race, God-name, etc.) to inform their grievance, and then appeals to external authorities to legitimize prejudicial action, with the actions thereafter generally focused against an objectified form of the grievance, i.e., the target to be terrorized and/or purged. The pointedly amoral version of such terrorism calculatedly appropriates the mantle of free speech (or "common sense" or "spin-free") as the Trojan Horse by which it breeches the wall of personal responsibility.

The traditional fulminate to such action is religion, which advances its claims and power on the supposition of exteriority, individuation and otherness. Its value system is essentially negative in that some seminal lapse is its ontological starting point, and often the capricious enmity of non-immanent forces require appeasement (if it's God) or defeat (if it's the heathen infidel). Lapsarianism is a principle of resistance and victimization; cowardice articulated as salvation to a fevered, often homicidal, degree. In this regard, the supposition of exteriority in the context of religious belief may be viewed as a conventionalized form of insanity.

What little harm the principle of SM may be said to visit upon the world is mostly self-contained, meaning practitioners and believers hurt themselves (but take responsibility for doing it). As extreme as their proclivities might be they do not show up in public places and indiscriminately seek to harm others. Anyone who does is something other than a sado-masochist, and is doing something other than SM. Sado-masochists are, in other words, functional members of society, making their lives, enjoying their liberty, providing for their happiness.

People who do show up at churches to kill doctors, invade museums to slaughter Jews, erase hundreds by detonating truck bombs near government installations, or who use torture to gain an advantage over their presumed enemies, are not unlike an infection for which our body politic has yet to evolve antibodies, a social pathogen, with about as much regard for their fellow man as swine flu.

Religion pimps righteousness, while taking life, trampling liberty, and indulging grievance. Faith believes in one's fellow as one believes in oneself, and responsibly abides the entailments of so doing.