Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life | Tags: freedom, how to live, ideology, Leaves of Grass, love, poetry, Walt Whitman
Here is an uncorrupted description of the idea of American individualism and freedom, which of course has been so utterly debased to be unrecognizable: randian selfishness, libertarian isolation, war and hate and poverty.
It’s a recipe for a lovely dish. Do these things: love all beings, commune with the marginalized, spurn ideology, read poetry, resist authority; and you will become … a great poem: distilled calm, revealed truth, aspect of beauty, before your tribe, for people to see.
This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.
—Walt Whitman, “Leaves of Grass,” 1855
Filed under: brave new world, chronotopes, departure lounge | Tags: cold war, ideas, ideology, Zoe Williams
In the last cold war “there is only one idea”: deadlock, posturing, weaponizing of ideas, contrasting worldviews, territorial expansion, Brezhnev, Nixon. The threat of violence and extinction.
In the new cold war “all these people are as bad as each other”: rapacious, dishonest, opportunistic, narrowminded, vulgar, ungenerous, mercenary, ignorant, Putin, Obama. Is the threat of violence missing this time? Not for long.
If the last cold war was bad enough, for the deadlock, the posturing, the way ideas and discoveries were used as weapons, the very opposite of what human ingenuity is all about, it had something, at least, on the combatants of this round: they were arguing about different worldviews. Now, the fight is about who is the most rapacious, least honest, most opportunistic, least far-sighted, most vulgar, least generous, most mercenary, least cerebral proponent of one worldview. Depressingly, it looks as though both sides have a point. It is a very short journey from “there is only one idea” to “all these people are as bad as each other.” All the rhetorical flourish of international conflict is utterly recognisable: you can listen to Gorbachev’s intervention today, and hear his optimism of the late 80s, the way his “democratisation” seemed both sudden and inevitable, the way the “new political thinking” he embodied was understood at the time as the most graceful possible capitulation to western ways, but in fact was something different and more ambitious, overshadowed by all the walls coming down, and subverted in the end by the oligarch class. You can trace a straight line from 18 years of Brezhnev to 16 years of Putin, just as you can trace a line from Nixon to Obama.What I find impossible to imagine now, though, is the raw physical threat that lay underneath the last cold war: the Bay of Pigs stand-off, weapons placed strategically to wipe out citizens in their millions. There could have been no cold war without the underpinning of violence, not only in the service of territorial expansion, but the threat of a definitive clash to wipe out the world. Those were its foundations. As Johnson said in his 1964 campaign ad: “We must learn to love each other, or we must die.” Could we manage, in our new triangulated politics, a cold war without the threat of violence? This seems like a feeble and unlikely hope; the fact that it’s unimaginable only means it probably won’t happen tomorrow.
At least the last cold war was a clash of ideologies – now there are no big ideas by Zoe Williams, Guardian
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: america, Christianity, ideology, judiasm, nathan schneider, nationalism, religion, terry eagleton, United States
More unvarnished critique of the American religion from an interview with the British academic Terry Eagleton. I think the best definition of vanity, from the point of view of Christianity, is to use scripture to cover for your largely errant belief system. I’m using child labour; let me stress this passage on talents. In fact let me move the talents passage to the heart of what I believe, and conveniently forget the rest. It would also be useful and soothing to work in my nationality and its state of blessedness over all other people. That way consequence is diminished as I do whatever I want. Easy peasy.
Eagleton, in a mini jeremiad, says God won’t be used that way. He won’t let you use his name in that manner. He won’t let you take it and use it in vain for your vanity. From the interview —
NS: Though of course the Christianity you present doesn’t sound like a lot of the Christianity one hears in the public sphere, especially in the United States.
TE: I think partly that’s because a lot the authentic meanings of the New Testament have become ideologized or mythologized away. Religion has become a very comfortable ideology for a dollar-worshipping culture. The scandal of the New Testament—the fact that it backs what America calls the losers, that it thinks the dispossessed will inherit the kingdom of God before the respectable bourgeois—all of that has been replaced, particularly in the States, by an idolatrous version. I’m presently at a university campus where we proudly proclaim the slogan “God, Country, and Notre Dame.” I think they have to be told, and indeed I have told them, that God actually takes little interest in countries. Yahweh is presented in the Jewish Bible as stateless and nationless. He can’t be used as a totem or fetish in that way. He slips out of your grasp if you try to do so. His concern is with universal humanity, not with one particular section of it. Such ideologies make it very hard to get a traditional version of Christianity across.
–Religion for Radicals: An Interview with Terry Eagleton, Nathan Schneider, The Immanent Frame
author: Terry Eagleton
website: The Immanent Frame