Thursday, December 22, 2005


The following text is excerpted from an email written to my father upon arrival in New Orleans on October 29, 2005:

I'm not certain what to think about an enlightenment type of rationalism, which was always prevalent in american history (ie founding fathers and DEISM). I professed adherence to this sect in middle school when mr. clapp demanded to know what halloween costume i was wearing, and i replied philosopher and then proceeded to name which philosophies i followed. however, i experience a marked shift in my ideological bent after 7th grade, when i definitely grew cynical of the power of enlightenment rationalism, humanism, classicism, etc. Turning towards postmodernism, surrealism, existentialism was a response to the failure of pure rationalism in desribing the world and making sense of it.

So, i definitely have a problem with coldy scientific-rational atheism because it is rootless and ultimately unfulfilling. i'm currently reading thru this tikkun magazine to determine whether spiritual progressives are on the mark. i dont think faith is bad. i think faith is good for society, as long as its progressive, open, tolerant...i think it gets people into trouble when they push their system onto others and develop attitudes of spritual and ethical exclusivity. but in terms of the philosophy we want to push in the new BIBLE (Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth), i think we just need to go shopping to see whats out there intellectually. because utlimately we have to place our system in the spectrum somewhere. while its nice to feign neutrality, objectivity, pure rationality, atheism, etc, i think this is an ill-advised course, replete with spiritual alienation and disingenuous motives.

Human life is ulimately and profoundly self-regarding. we exist to propagate ourselves. as an extension of this, we seek to reproduce our intellectual systems by spreading our cultural moeurs and ideas. so we certainly do have a stake in it all, and theres no sense pretending we don't follow a god (god being either the guy in the sky, one's guiding principle of PI, or just the admission that we can't really figure out WHY). so while logical humanism, positivism, and all those beautiful western constructs are certainly a central part of our social and emotional universe, they're so full of incorrect assumptions about human nature, economics, world history, civilizations...regardless, GOD is just an excuse that gives people a justification for how they wish to act. in that way, i wish fundamentalists would just admit that they personally dont like black, Arab, or gay people, rather than pretending that their authority is based on some textual or holy precept that issues them the right to exert moral suasion...god just describes anyone's vision of a controlling identity/entity, the super mover and shaker, intelligent design, original energy, higher power...but in an everyday sense, it desribes SOCIETY and the SUPEREGO.

Saying that god does not want me to steal just means that my society has a law forbidding this. god arose in the human consciousness when people began to understand morality as a guiding force and the idea that maybe their past and present actions had an effect on the present and future. so essentially, i dont think you can eliminate the word GOD from the discourse. to do so would be myopic. it doesnt matter how much people talk about god if their morality and worldviews are progressive. it's just that fundamentalists have monopolized the discussion of god. its the same thing with regards to "values." in america, values connote this traditional sense of nostalgia for some mythical past in which the family, state, and society were so much better. when it comes to rational-humanist discourse, the vocabulary always comes down to the words pragmatic, practical, secular, etc...i think this hurts the discourse because leftists and progressive try so hard to be objective, practical, idealistc.

But the truth is, leftists are pushing values too, they believes in a certain code and have a specific vision for human society. this is wholly subjective and a function of cultural, psychological, and personal background. i think we have to be partisan in this discourse. and not exclusive, hardheaded, arrogant like the traditional leftist-secular-atheistic-rational discourse. the leftist-secular-atheistic-rational creed implies a GOD no less than any other creed. it's just that this GOD is certainly contained in us all, since in the lockean-jeffersonian code (derived from a blend of renaissance neoclassical philosophy and protestant theology,) we are all created equal with the same ability to reason. so in our new BIBLE, our god might instead be some type of earth-shattering and novel conception. i think its just being honest to say that one's outlook, motivation, sense of purpose, equivalent to god. god is internal, external, everywhere. dont bother excluding god. its not only a waste of effort, but its embracing a different lie. while that lie isnt as blatant as the religious-fundamentalist-originalist lie, its a lie nonetheless. atheists just have a different god. they worship (among other things) civic duty, science, western culture, neoprimitive culture, etc. god is just a way of naming what is considered most important in life. if YOU believe that a viable, progressive code of ethics, personal happiness, and future generations are the most important things to you, then this is your god...that god happens to be more individualistc, compassionate, progressive, etc than the typical western-christian god, but this is nonetheless a god.

The fact that 90% of americans believe in god just means that 90% of americans enjoy being part of the herd. its just a group mentality. despite all the dispossession, spiritual dearth, and cultural alienation of modern life, people like to feel that theyre a part of something greater than themselves...and this manifests itself in a romanticized conception of the past (family, morality, country) and this has been monopolized by the religious right. americans are so outwardly religious because they are so overworked, brainwashed, burnt out that they must desperately proclaim faith in something in order to die knowing that they lived for some greater good. i read a great article a while back saying that bush won because people are way too overworked and that people wish they had more free they dont have enough time to think thru the issues and they vote for a simpler, manichean, binary candidate who addresses their spiritual needs. thats the republican way. brainwash people so they can all be your corporate slaves then in the little free time they have, make sure they worship the god of free markets and god of white christianity a little bit more and then they can die happy.

The western corporate-governmental-bureaucratic-media-entertainement-legal-medical-scientific-intellectual power structure has gotten so much more exponentially powerful every single year for the past 100 years, especially in america, that people have no choice but to turn to the irrational, the faith-based, and the frankly stupid answer because it comforts them. and which side of this power structure are we on? do we side with the corporate-governmental-bureaucratic-media-entertainement-legal-medical-scientific-technological-intellectual elite? i think its comforting to identify with the dominant culture because it involves the path of least resistance. however, we both certainly have innate tendencies to resist this conformity. yet, insurrectionary intentions are not rewarded in our system. i tend to give credit to people who are individuals and can resist this power structure. i believe that this is what makes people unique, when their energies, creativies, imaginiations, can resist the allure of our oppressive social order. even if there cannot be a revolution at this point, there are little ways in which all of us can be progressive, compassionate, unique. i just fear that i will ultimately succumb to this power structure because it is indeed a mammoth. in my capacity as intellectual-journalist-activist-artist-social scientist-humanist-existentialist-postmodernist, the behemoth SUPEREGO is my enemy. my freudian ID does not appreciate the absolutist-totalitarian controls that the MAN imposes. but, the truth is, the only way to understand, then critique, and then vilify the SYSTEM is to get inside of it...

And the only way to get inside is to be a part of it. so my answer is to be simultaneously inside and outside. Is my perspective useful to the system in that its criticisms are constructive and can be used merely to strengthen the systemic controls over ordinary people? Or is my perspective parasitic in the sense that it attacks intellectually the source of its own material, social, and cultural heritage? perhaps this is eternally the role of the outcast-outsider-wanderer who is simultaneously so successful at beating the system, being the system, and bringing down the system.


Mike said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mike said...

Very well-written. However, I don't think God arose in human consciousness because people started to understand morality as a guiding force--rather, I believe that the concept of God was created as a coping mechanism for humans to deal with two things: One, to explain things in a prescience world they could not understand, and two, easing the finality of death with a promise of an afterlife. Morality wasn't taken into account until much later is "God"'s development, in my view. Additionally, how is the outcast so successful? What are you doing that is so much better than the system at hand? Furthermore, and this is what so many outcast-outsider-wanderers don't take into account--let's say you DO cause a revolution and overthrow the current system. What system do you implement, and how is this system going to be significantly better? The problem with any outsider discourse is that, while being intelligent and independent, its actual implementation may not exactly produce a better society (by all accounts, such "enlightened" outsider attempts have resulted in *poorer* ones), and in the end what you may visualize as implementing never gets implemented in actuality the way you imagined it. In other words, it's easy to talk about bringing down the system. It's another thing to actually do it, and it's a WHOLE other animal to actually make a better system. Whenever you deal with large masses of people, compromise is involved, which destroys the fundamental credo of the outsider philosophy. What is good for one is pretty much never good for all.

Bunny said...

I agree, Mike, very well-written. I hope you got an A on it. First, "coldy scientific-rational atheist[s]" are among the most moral and fulfilled people I know. They are committed to truth, the truth that can be proven, which makes them progressive. They are devoted to a continuing search for truth, which necessitates progression. A fundamentally monotheistic faith doesn't lend itself to that mindset. It discourages individualism, and seeks to destroy any beliefs that may rival or replace theirs. The idea of a great evil, outside ourselves, as some supernatural force is in place to scare people into submission and destroy their individualism. It is a tool that helps create and sustain societies. It isn't part of the system, it IS the system. That's why America is so desperate to hold onto it. How will "the Greatest Country in the World" sustain itself without a backbone of crazies creating fear to keep people in line.
Don't think in systems, think in people. Set your sights on some change that is attainable, be the change and hopefully you will inpire someone to do so as well, it's the the most rewarding path. To be so focused on making such an enormous, popular impact is exactly what the system tells us to do. It wants us so focused on the "big picture", whether that picture is Heaven or a new luxury vehicle or a promotion or a cultural upheaval, that we miss the details. Life is in the details, and that's where the best changes are made. And we can never truly be outside the system, anyone thinking so is delusional. The outcast-outsider-wanderer is an integral part. She provides a scapegoat, she can be vilified and used to keep the rest of herd in line. The only way to make any impact is to stay that black sheep, they're the one's who stick out, they're the ones people notice. And someday maybe, when someone is thinking, they'll see the truth she represents and, possibly, begin to question authority. And then maybe that person will spark the fire in someone else. It's sort of a revolutionary pyramid scheme, but one that makes everyone involved better off.

Lebson said...

I was walking n Flushing avenue and a homeless man told me that Ben Piven has a ghetto pass for life

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You're a well versed writer, I appreciate it, especially when the writings I come in contact with are of a previous generation of minds. It's comforting in an odd way, knowing that while I go about my daily habits, there are people who choose to enlighten themselves about the distinctions we encounter.

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