Friday, March 17, 2006

Let's bite religion

Hello, boys and girls! *slaps thigh*. For your diversion, for your delectation, one thousand words of wank based on a page in the Orange notebook, which is not a pro-Ulster pamphlet. Enjoy x

'One of the most useful things about religion is that it gives you a backbone for moral discussion.' -Barbelith thread, 17th March. What's that I smell?

When George Dubya bypasses another piece of vital human rights legislation in the name of Jesus, it's easy for the liberal left to point and snicker and gingerly dismiss the entire ostensible basis for American foreign policy as fundamentalist nonsense. This, of course, is a dangerous self-indulgence. But the British spiritual self-justification of its international human rights record - polite, amorphous, tentative - has its own quiet terrors.

In last week's Parkinson, Mr Blair stated his opinion that 'God would judge' his actions in Iraq: view the interview here.

Of course, the broadsheets are in uproar. A British Prime Minister, bringing religion into politics? How very...tasteless. How very nineteenth century. The hysterics of the former colonies can be politely indulged for as long as jihad doesn't interrupt the cricket, but really, well, it's all a bit too much, isn't it? Pass the bread basket.

The Guardian and the Independent were, of course, the first to decry this lapse in Blair's previously golden record in keeping religion separate from political discourse, hinting at a Republicanesque political evangelism which, of course, any Guardian reader would no more condone than buy sub-quality foccacia, Not only are the columnists providing the left with pitifully superfluous self-referential moral wank-fodder, they are missing the point. Horrendously, and on two counts.

British politics is terrified of religion; to decry the muddying of the moral waters even in this small degree is certainly nothing new. Unlike our bonkers Stateside cousins, we've seen our country ripped apart by religion, brother fighting brother; there is an unspoken recognition of the human potential to take dangerous and dynamic religious fundamentalism way, way too far, which explains why, despite the varied efforts of the Jesus Army, British evangelism remains tepid and squishy; it explains why the established Anglican church in all its various manifestations is content to lack the visceral mysteries of the Catholic dioceses, the hyperbolic self-promotion of the American protestant denominations; it explains why, to get anywhere in British politics, one can profess only to token religious principles.

And that's the really, really scary part.

What the columnist have missed, of course, is that Blair's appearance on Parkinson was remarkable not the religious moral claims it did make, but for those it didn't. When asked if he prayed to God for guidance on matters of state, Blair quickly claimed that he 'wouldn't like to go into something like that;' even more gobsmacking is Blair's remark that while religious beliefs might colour his politics, "it's best not to take it too far". In the British governing dirigisme, the Christian meme has become the most dangerous form of tokenism; a meme by whose justification our leaders can abdicate measure of socio-political responsibility - if 'God will judge' Blair's decisions over Iraq, he certainly needn't bother judging himself- a meme whose discourses shape and are encoded in our legislation, our social and political policy making. It may be more subtle than American political bible-bashing, but at least the American left has something to shoot at, should it by some miracle so choose.

The British left and much of the American thinking classes are shameless spiritual cowards. A cringing, casual agnosticism has become the dopamine of the moneyed middle classes.
You hear it every time an educated person says that 'whilst they have problems with some bits of the bible, they agree in principle with the moral basis of Jesus' message.' Complacent, self-indulgent, apathetic acrid bullshit; every time Blair, Brown, your headteacher, your company director, gets down on his or her knees to pay token homage to a crustified Anglican after-image in which they have little or no spiritual interest, they are giving Jesus of Nazareth a juicy blow-job, not to mention failing to subvert any number of tempting paradigms.

This cringing religious tokenism is a neutering of the superego; the sentiment that 'God will Judge' absolves us from a degree of responsibility not only for our own actions, but, perhaps more vitally, of responsibility collectively and individually for our reaction and response to the actions of the society in which we cannot but invest some fraction of our being. In a Western culture in the process of affecting its own, tragic, blundering 'atomisation' (to bastardise Houellebecq), in a world with so much potential to gruesomely self-destruct, we cannot afford to undermine the cultural superego with the blunt blade of middle-class moral masturbation.

Is there an alternative ? Of course there bloody well is. Surprise, surprise, chaps, Western spiritual adventurism did not die with Timothy Leary. Our parents' generation may have abandoned Psychadelia, Eastern pantheism, New-Age magick and the searing self-scrutinies of Buddhism in favour of a complacent, sold-out, casual agnosticism or, worse, a grudging, flabby atheism, and these dangerous memes are precisely what we need to shatter. And we can do that simply by refusing to be complacent; by keeping our own spiritual juices bubbling by whatever means necessary; by refusing not to think.

We've got Zazen, we've got Set Theory, we've got Chaos Magick. We are a generation of brilliant, broken creatures with easy access to our own conceptions of justice and humanity and we have a duty to ourselves and to each other not to be complacent, not to sell out. By abandoning religious tokenism, abandoning the polite political agnosticism of our parents, we are abandoning ourselves to the chaos of moral self-determinism, of belief as distinct from the judgements of approved organised religion. And yes, it can and should be fucking terrifying, because once we've accepted - as any intelligent, irrational creature must - that there is no religious precedent keeping our darker sides in check, governing our actions and judging us as a society, we assume the full weight of moral and spiritual self-determinism. And it's going to be tiring, and terrifying, and need constant energy input, because it's power; it's raw political energy; it's the right to reject the complacencies of our parents, our teachers, our leaders, its the right to create our own spiritual and moral universes with their own gruesome beauty, their own risks and rules. It's freedom.


At 4:50 pm, Blogger Sable X. Veins said...

Yes, yes, and yes once more.

Dagmar is sharpening the ferrets as I type.

God will judge your actions, will he Mr. Blair? Well I'll judge them too, and I've got Masai hunting knife.

Intrigued by your proposal that Republican moral agentism is less dangerous than Labourite sociopolitical amorality. It seems to me that Blair's assertion of posthumus moral evaluation, whilst clearly relieving him of a degree of accountability in This Life, is not nearly as careering as Bush's assertion that "Jesus told me to so I will" ((proabably) not an actual quote).

At 4:28 am, Blogger Oscillating Hazelnut said...

Good article, Kedazzle, whoever you are. Know I you?

At 10:50 am, Blogger kedazzle said...

I'm equally intrigued by 'sociopolitical amorality.' What I'm trying to argue is that the danger isn't the amorality - it's the empty and tokenist moral code itself. Personally, I think amorality is the only honest way to live.
And not less dangerous, perhaps - but dangerous in a different, and more upfront way.
Have you REALLY got a Masai hunting knife?

Mr Hazlenut, I don't know if you know me. Mr Black assures me that I don't know you, but then again, how would he know? Telling me who the hell you were would the conventional place to start, but the paradigm's yours for the subverting, sir.

At 10:06 pm, Blogger Sable X. Veins said...

Right. Clearly we have entangled each other by application of the word "amoral". If we accept that morality is subjective, then amorality can be defined as a selective betrayal of ones own values, for convenience, shits and giggles, whatever. Blair's claim of a posthumous moral evaluation allows him to abdicate a degree of social responsibility, but still holds him theoretically accountable eventually, so he can't be a complete cunt without blowing his moral cover. However, Bush's cryptotheocracy allows him to do anything he likes in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Oily Ghost, without having to occasionally pander to an endgame moral weighing, because if God says it's right, he's hardly going to come off badly at the Pearly Gates, what?

However, you have alluded to an intranational, inchoate "cultural superego" of the middle classes. So clearly we are referring to mass morality, which is a useful simplification, if a troublesomely loose concept.

Have I made myself at all clear at any point above, or am I just exhausted, drunk, and in posession of a large vocabulary and a diminutive reserve of logic?

At 10:53 pm, Blogger Sable X. Veins said...

Oh, and I do have a Masai hunting knife.

Two, actually.

At 4:41 pm, Blogger kedazzle said...

I never tried to claim that 'Labourite sociopolitical amorality' is LESS dangerous - merely dangerous in a different way. Gainful cryptotheocracy of the type expounded by Bush would simply not work in this country - the thinking classes work in a different way and would never countenance such abhorrent absolutism.
What is dangerous about Blair's stance is not simply that it is an amoral one, but that it proposes the subjectification of social morality - an idea that can easily be, and increasingly is, accomodated into the moral schema of the British thinking classes. Where American socio-religious self-justification, like American foreign politics, is log-headed and bullying, British socio-religious self-justification, in a similar manner, is cowardly - and it's a moral cowardice in which a great deal of the thinking classes collude, which is what differentiates it and makes it uniquely dangerous.
Sure, it's nothing so identifiable as subjective moral evangelism, but, likeyou say yourself, it offers Blair and his fellow liberal conservatives an easy moral get-out clause.
Ultimately, it boils down to which you think is more evil - a government doing very evil things whilst all the while convinced it's doing good, or a government that is aware of or at least has reservations about the moral sense of its abhorrent actions, but reassured that they will be judged, if at all, in a next life of which far fewer of them put faith.

At 7:45 pm, Blogger Sable X. Veins said...

Ah, so your argument is that the prevalent danger lies not in Mr. Blair's subjectification of sociocultural morality, but in thinkers' supplication to the same?

At 12:50 am, Blogger kedazzle said...

...AND not just that, but that the thinkers who supplicate include the intellectual liberal left. Who we really don't want to lose.

At 2:00 am, Blogger Sable X. Veins said...

"...the thinkers who supplicate include the intellectual liberal left..."

Do they? I haven't seen any intellectual leftists supplicating to Blairite culture in any way recently.

However, you seem to be arguing that this supplication to governmental inchoate moral dodgeball is something of an ingrained flaw within the British intellectual psyche. Is it true that the "thinking classes" (I don't like this term) genuinely fall in unquestioning line with parliamentary quasimorality? Examples, please?


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