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."


Blogger The Triumphant Return of Paulie Walnuts said...

Good stuff Zach-attack...quite the thought-provocing read...pretty bleak and hopeless, sure, but very well delivered. My mind, it is, atwitter.

See ya soon, my friend

5:50 AM

Blogger Melanie said...

So, a better question in my mind would be what place does "morality" have in the law and is not all law an imposition of morality of sorts.

Christianity in particular cannot be legislated, as it is a matter of the heart. Self-regulation is always the best and most successful. A change in heart is really the only thing that works, but there also has to be some order.

What is that order based upon?

I happen to agree that trying to force someone into a mold based on one viewpoint can end in tyranny, but the other extreme anarchy doesn't work either.

So, where does that leave us?

2:31 PM

Blogger David said...

I don't believe that law should be based on morality. Some laws can be said to have a moral base (ie. laws against murder, etc), but I think laws should be focused on what makes a functioning society function best, where the citizens' rights are protected, weak and strong, and diversity needs to respected and protected. Racial diversity, economic diversity and social diversity.

8:57 AM

Blogger Ezekiel James said...

I'm not 100% sure that morality exists. Especially on the plane of Christocentricity. The central themes of the Gospel being of the paradoxical nature that they are, propel us beyond the mere "right and wrong" because according to the gospel of John everyone is wrong but Christ. We are bad but through Christ we are good. Christ was good but in that moment on the cross "he who knew no sin, became sin..." So how does the man/God who knew no evil become evil even for a moment? How are inherently evil people good through one man's righteousness?

This applies to your post because if we can accept the ambiguity and radical subjectivity of moral code than we can stop trying so hard to legislate morality and do what's "good" for the whole rather than for the parts and pieces.

That's my not so humble opinion...

9:00 PM

Blogger David said...

good call ezekiel.

6:15 AM


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