Wednesday, 14 December 2016

The Reality of Child Trafficking Rings - a response

It's tough to say but, thanks for this video Sargon of Akkad. Suffering is part of being. If you want to live a full life, then obviating suffering isn't the way to go. People learn things from suffering. But evil is different. Evil is taking the parts of life in which we suffer and wrenching them to ridiculous levels while making the suffering pointless. Evil perverts the very essence of being, it poisons suffering. Evil is not a thing, it is a lack of a thing: harmony. One of my favourite people, Professor Jordan Peterson, says you have to fully understand how you too are perfectly capable of doing the disgusting sorts of acts Sargon talks about in his video. That travelling along a particular path, you too would become a Nazi prison guard, a Gulag officer or one of those in a paedophile ring. In each of us lies the capacity to do the worst evil. Only once you fully comprehend this, really let it sink in, are you able to move towards goodness.

I interpret Prof Peterson's ideas as setting the left and right-hand boundaries: if you know what can happen on one edge of the spectrum - how far you can and might go - you will be under no illusion about what that path looks like at the beginning. So don't go down that road. You don't yet know the most good action you can undertake, but you know you're capable of doing the worst possible thing. That is an extremely important concept, and it goes to the heart of what I mean when I say power over other people is magnitudes inferior to existential power - power over yourself.

Every small step in that terrible direction, even steps innocuous or quickly disappeared, pushes the world (yours and everyone else's) closer to terrifying destruction. But any step no matter how small in the direction of doing good pulls the world a tiny bit away from that horror. The point is: there are right and wrong actions AND YOU KNOW WHAT THEY ARE. Stop using silly post-modern deconstructed excuses and moral relativity. Kierkegaard says you have to resign yourself to the infinite in order to make the correct steps in the finite. This requires putting your faith in a power or concept - the eternal - higher than you and society, some omnipotent other. It doesn't matter what that is, it must be larger than anything man-made. And it must be outside of you. Failure to do this means enslaving morality and that path only leads to destruction.

According to Kierkegaard, this resignation to the eternal is crucial. Kierkegaard was not an atheist but a super-strong Christian. He believed when a man resigns himself to the eternal, to existing in eternity and gives up everything that ties him to this world he then becomes a "knight of faith" capable of great Christian acts (like self-sacrifice). When Kierkegaard wrote about a Knight of Faith, he contrasted the Knight of Faith to the weak Knight of Infinite, the "God botherer." What did Kierkegaard say the Knight of Faith looked like? Like this:
Why, he looks like a tax-collector!" However, it is the man after all. I draw closer to him, watching his least movements to see whether there might not be visible a little heterogeneous fractional telegraphic message from the infinite, a glance, a look, a gesture, a note of sadness, a smile, which betrayed the infinite in its heterogeneity with the finite. No! I examine his figure from tip to toe to see if there might not be a cranny through which the infinite was peeping. No! He is solid through and through. His tread? It is vigorous, belonging entirely to finiteness; no smartly dressed townsman who walks out to Fresberg on a Sunday afternoon treads the ground more firmly, he belongs entirely to the world, no Philistine more so. One can discover nothing of that aloof and superior nature whereby one recognizes the knight of the infinite. He takes delight in everything, and whenever one sees him taking part in a particular pleasure, he does it with the persistence which is the mark of the earthly man whose soul is absorbed in such things. He tends to his work. So when one looks at him one might suppose that he was a clerk who had lost his soul in an intricate system of book-keeping, so precise is he.
Kierkegaard's faith is a submission into a paradox. When you move beyond the ethical stage, you move beyond rationality and give yourself completely to absurdity (meaning, not reason) and passion. It is not an expectation, it is a driving force. It is what allows you to disregard the ethical (the juridico-communal ethical) without doubt or hesitation. It is Abraham drawing the knife without despair.

The "absurd" for Kierkegaard isn't quite the lack of objectivity, but more of an acknowledgement that Christian beliefs (an infinite God incarnated as a finite being) go against reason. Unlike other religious writers, Kierkegaard doesn't try to mediate human reason and faith, he acknowledges that faith is absurd.

Passion can be thought of in opposition to reflection. In another book of his, Two Ages (there is also an excerpted version out these days marketed as The Present Age: On the Death of Rebellion), Kierkegaard compares the "reflective age" with the "passionate age." Here's a sample:
The present age is essentially a sensible, reflecting age, devoid of passion, flaring up in superficial, short-lived enthusiasm and prudentially relaxing in indolence. ...whereas a passionate age accelerates, raises up, and overthrows, elevates and debases, a reflective apathetic age does the opposite, it stifles and impedes, it levels.... In antiquity the individual in the crowd had no significance whatsoever; the man of excellence stood for them all. The trend today is in the direction of mathematical equality, so that in all classes about so and so many uniformly make one individual.... For leveling to take place, a phantom must first be raised, the spirit of leveling, a monstrous abstraction, an all-encompassing something that is nothing, a mirage—and this phantom is the public.... The present age is essentially a sensible age, devoid of passion and therefore it has nullified the principle of contradiction.
Passion is used to denote a kind of driving force. Something which drives you to act rather than reflect so much that you never act at all. Kierkegaard is responding to the Hegelian idea that one must resign their subjectivity to be a cog in the machine, an idea he believes leads to complacency and spiritlessness. Why won't people act against the foulness of the deeds in the video? They can't give up the power this world has over them. They remain the Knight of Infinite, a sham. Rather than commit literal suicide, you must commit it metaphorically, by giving up and saying goodbye to everything to take on the very institutions that define your identity.

Watching that video suggests the other infinite: your own capacity for evil. If you fail for any reason to remember that Jung's shadow lies just ahead, you bring this world one step closer to implosion. Forget those pathetic people who say nothing is real, nothing matters. Throw away your Derrida. Grasp resignation to the eternal, understand that you do matter. Do this, do it in the teeth of evidence and argument. Because if you have faith in the infinite, then everything you do really, really matters. Your narcissism already believes this, but now it's time for the actual you to believe this.
And if you ever catch yourself saying, "I know this is a bad thing to do, but in this case..." really think about what's about to happen. You cannot enslave morality. Everyone else on this planet depends on you knowing that.

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