Tuesday, June 30, 2009

morality, when it is formal, devours

It's coincidental that while I happen to be reading about rebellion, the Iranian people are engaged in an attempt at, what I understand to be, massive reform. Although, to run for president in Iran, the candidate has to be approved by the Guardian Council, so I'm personally curious as to what change would really unfold if the protesters succeeded, much like people's legitimate concern of validity of Obama's claim for change. I don't know much about Iranian history. For me growing up, Iran's history began in 1978 with the overthrow of the Shah. Although, what replaced the Shah? I read an article by Reese Erlich that included this excerpt.

"From 1953-1979, the Shah of Iran brutally repressed his own people and aligned himself with the U.S. and Israel. After the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran brutally repressed its own people and broke its alliance with the U.S. and Israel. That apparently causes confusion for some on the left."

I'm sure that those few sentences will certainly evoke some responses regarding the condition of the citizens of Iran, the question of oppression, political freedom, etc. Although, for me, these demonstrations, as much as they ignite my interest in the history of Iran's government, it also presents a very current opportunity to consider the question of rebellion in terms of Camus says about it. What does rebellion, in its broad sense, mean? What does it imply? And furthermore, when rebellion becomes the catalyst for revolution, what changes?

"Rebellion is, by nature, limited in scope. It is no more than an incoherent pronouncement. Revolution, on the contrary, originates in the realm of ideas."

Camus has alluded that revolution is an attempt at unity, and in that there is no unity, there has yet to be a successful revolution. And if a revolution is based on principle, it will only lead to the justification of injustice when trying to uphold the reason of the revolution. Reason, as it is the pride of man, is also the downfall of justice. I am not only referring to secular ideas of universal reason.

"But a moment comes when faith, if it becomes dogmatic, erects its own altars and demands unconditional adoration"

"The revolutionaries may well refer to the Gospel, but in fact they dealt a terrible blow to Christianity"

God is absent from the public arena, and any claims for revolution, democracy, or tyranny based upon the foundations of Christianity can only be taken as a fraudulent and manipulative proclamation. God doesn't exist, only the abstract idea of God exists. The name of Christ, when applied to public policy which denies citizens rights or freedoms others enjoy, should be taken as a hi-jacking, if only for the reason that no one can understand God well enough to represent the will of God in the context of diversity. There are those who openly worship reason and the universal good, and there are those who substitute that terminology for the more western euphemism, Christ. Sarah Vowell made a good point in her book about the founding of the new world and the application of Christian morality in that movement. She pointed out that those who might humbly take upon themselves, the responsibility of leading a group of oppressed people into the hands of God and a new life become tyrannical in their brutally forced application of that morality amongst the people that followed him and his leadership.

"To ensure the adoration of a theorem for any length of time, faith is not enough; a police force is needed."

Revolutions, in so much as they do not succeed, merely perpetuate injustice. "Spartacus died as he wished, but at the hands of mercenaries, slaves like himself, who killed their own freedom with his." Once one succeeds in terminating the source of injustice, then what is left? Is he inevitably doomed to become the oppressor as he so desperately tries to apply his enlightened ideals through his new power? Do good intentions, whether they obey reason or God, only end up in what many would claim to be injustice?

"But virtue, in that it has too much pride, is not wisdom"

"But God is at least dematerialized and reduced to the theoretical existence of a moral principle. The bourgeoisie succeeded in reigning during the entire nineteenth century only by referring itself to abstract principles. Less worthy than Saint-Just, it simply made use of this frame of reference as an alibi, while employing, on all occasions, the opposite values."

I find myself surprised that I can find reason in those who strive for the suspension of morality in the public sphere. What is to be made of personal morality? Can they exist in different realms? Rebellion is born from awareness of injustice, and it so quickly loses its sight and focus, and then it can certainly become destructive. This is not a protest of Christianity, but I am putting Christianity on the same plane as the god of reason in terms of it's function in the public sphere, and not because of the injustice of Christ, but because of the idea that to be in any position of power can not align itself with the ideals of Christ, especially if one perseveres in keeping that power. It's all an "abstract principle".

"From the moment that eternal principles are put in doubt simultaneously with formal virtue, and when every value is discredited, reason will start to act without reference to anything but it's own success."

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Every once in a while I'll re-read parts of "The Grand Inquisitor" and remind myself why Dostoevsky is really really really good. If anyone wants to attempt some visual representation, or an image that is inspired by this piece of literature, please do so and send it to me so I can get it tattooed on my arm. Thank you!

"Nothing is more seductive for man than his freedom of conscience, but nothing is a greater cause of suffering. And behold, instead of giving a firm foundation for setting the conscience of a man at rest forever, Thou didst choose all that is exceptional, vague and puzzling. Thou didst choose what was utterly beyond the strength of men, acting as though Thou didst not love them at all--Thou who didst come to give Thy life for them! Instead of possession of men's freedom, Thou didst increase it, and burdened the spiritual kingdom of mankind with its sufferings forever. Thou didst desire man's free love, that he should follow thee freely, enticed and taken captive by Thee. In place of the rigid ancient law, man must hereafter with free heart decide for himself what is good and what is evil, having only Thy image before him as his guide. But didst Thou not know he would at last reject even Thy image and Thy truth, if he is weighed down with the fearful burden of free choice? they will aloud at last that the truth is not in Thee, for they could not have been left in greater confusion and suffering than Thou has caused, laying upon them so many cares and unanswerable problems."

Last night Jacob and Rob and I got into a discussion/debate, and for the sake of this post, the topic doesn't matter. Sometimes, these discussions are just internal debates that I am vocalizing to other people, bouncing off my opinion and seeing where it goes. And the worst thing that can happen in a situation like this, is to have moments of doubt myself, not in my ability to argue or debate, but when I wonder to myself, "why am I saying this, do I really believe this?"....and that reaction totally sucks. It's not as if anyone "wins" these discussions. For me, it provides a mirror, and I have to really wonder if I believe in what I'm saying, politically and spiritually. I do believe that if you claim yourself to be a follower of Christ, that excludes you from the business of America, and that was smacking me over the head over and over again last night. As I write this, I'm bringing into question my own rationale, or rather, looking directly at my irrationality. I read an interview with Aaron Weiss the other day, and when he was asked a question about the difficulties of staying "relevant" in the music world today (or something to that affect), he responded, "I'm increasingly content with irrelevancy and less and less concerned with 'expressing myself'".....everything is hard to swallow, as it should be whenever you are really seeing yourself. (When I say, "hard to swallow"...I mean that it can be crippling) And soon, if they care to look at all, everyone will see through me. I'm a human (all too human) who is fascinated with the fringe existence of Christ. Studying Christ as a cultural figure is insulting.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

an unmoving abstraction

When I think of God in a historical context, it is interesting to me that, whether He is referenced as a concept or a physically existing figure, he will always represent something that gives way to so many paradoxes of rebellion. Right now, I'm reading a book called "The Rebel" which, as I said in my last blog, analyzes the concept of rebellion throughout the history of different socio-philosophical movements. What I am beginning to see more and more (which is probably a testament to the counter productive nature of philosophy) is that Christ is used, and even needed, in order to lay out one's ideas. The concept of Christ has so permeated history and culture that he often represents a central totem pole which these sensitive, complex and lost masters of thought dance, tethered in disdain or adoration, around the phenomenal idea of "Christ" which is always present. It's definitely a phenomenon. It's easily understood that Christ is needed to prop up a philosophy which promotes the ideals of his teaching, but I laugh at the fact he is also central to ideas that are trying in vain to eradicate His influence from modern thought. Paradoxically, and frustratingly enough for such authors and thinkers, the idea of Christ is necessary in so many ideas that hope to "enlighten" modern man beyond the chains of "exclusive and oppressive morality" which is based on something which is either "non existent" or "inconsequential". I should be clear, this post is not one which is trying to make an argument for the existence of Christ, it is merely to point out the paradox that finds the Christian God at the root of philosophies which try, not necessarily to prove his non existent, rather to nullify, negate and dismiss, His influence. What a controversial figure, an unmoving abstraction, which even in attempts to destroy God, He is ironically and paradoxically vindicated as a cultural influence and phenomenon so strong that schools of thought are constructed and developed time and time again as a reaction to His "existence". There have been many concepts, political and philosophical, which have given rise to movements that exist in direct reaction, although Christ is different I think, because so many times he is a point of reference in those movements as well. His influence is unmatched, a true phenomenon, which, while He is manipulated, transformed, abused and misappropriated, He remains a cornerstone for understanding. Marx, Kant, Neitzche, Kierkegaard, Plato, Hume, Heidegger, they all existed. God, in addition to being important parts of each of the aforementioned thinkers, has never been proven to exist. That being said, Greek mythology plays a large roll as well...that is so interesting to me. Myth dances in such a controversial and fruitful relationship with factual history and social/political movements. Very intriguing indeed. Christ is justification of everything we know of, He is justification of charity, love, evil, oppression, genocide, murder, racism, and how often He is misunderstood, maybe he has never been understood at all. The fracture in his influence is the same thing which makes Him a phenomenon. The fact that Faith is required is the one thing that leaves that door open for the ugliness of humanity to hi-jack His intent, yet Christ can not exist without Faith. If God was indeed a creation of man, then the man responsible is worthy of intense study and envy in regards to his genius creation and prophetic intuition.

(Of course, Christ's influence is never understood across the span of history and culture as a unified idea, maybe Christ is created in certain minds, their own Christ, or their own understanding of Christ, and that personal definition is used to as a reference point in the construct of their world view. AGGHH, a phenomenon indeed.)

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

june 3rd

Sitting here with nothing to say after starting to read "The Rebel" is anything but inspiring, so far the book is mostly just a pill for justified indolence, but I'm only a few pages in. So far, it has touched upon the acts of suicide and murder and questioned whether or not those acts can be justified from an "absurdist" prospective, and you will all but happy to know that it is not! Whew!

I have read over my blogs recently, and I'm incredibly bored by them. They are not saying much of anything, so I've decided not to write about that kind of thing unless I have some reason to, and by "reason" I mean genuine newfound motivation, not some incited reaction to an inconsequent event or news story. It's becoming predictable and trite to protest anything having to do with the Church..blah blah.

I just got off of a "national tour", and I did this great thing. I bought records in strategic locations. Instead of having to carry the records in the van the whole tour (which is risky because they can get bent or warped during the trip, but also, it takes up valuable space) I had my generous friends in those "strategic locations" hold on to the records for me and send them to me when I got home. So I am patiently waiting for the records to arrive. I bought a whole lot and I can't even remember them all...but let's try.

Belle and Sebastian, NOFX, The Velvet Underground, Elvis Costello, Miles Davis, Chet Atkins, Patsy Cline...hmm, and I can't remember the rest...so obviously, I'm excited.

Is anyone who reads my blog an expert on Michel Foucault? I have tried to read some of his books, but admittedly, I can't follow it. What is funny is that Foucault criticized the deconstructionism of Jacques Derrida for being too obscure, so I'm not going to crack a Derrida book until I can keep up with Foucault. My point is, since I can't read Foucault's own text, I thought I'd read a book about him. Maybe that will give me some information to help me along. I also read the story of David and Uriah today. Someone tell me why, when I'm reading my bible at a coffee shop or any place, someone always comes up and wants to talk to me about it. I know it's an innocent and good willed gesture, but I don't like to be interrupted. I'm not looking for conversation, or a impromptu bible study when I'm reading. Does that make me sound like a jerk? So be it :-)

I've been listening to the new mewithoutyou album over and over again...ad nauseam. I am going to see them in Richmond on June 8th.