This title is not rhetorical. How do we?
Looking for the salient points that define this present moment what strikes me is a profound surrender to events. The kind of thing we’ve seen in hindsight at the beginnings of cataclysmic wars. Everyone “losing their minds” and accepting that the only way left open to them is to surrender any sense and rush after the crowd. That they rushed directly towards violence and death was more than an unfortunate consequence. It seemed to have been the point.
There is a strange linkage between the calls to sacrifice people actually heed versus those that fall on deaf ears. Requests for a rather modest sacrifice by limiting immediate desires to slow down the train of ecocide, for example, floats away on clouds of exhaust. But when it comes to embracing hatred and picking up the gun?
What makes all this hard to pin down, even now, is that it’s hard to talk about this mental phenomena without being interpreted as a defender of rationalism, “They’re crazy!” Must mean that they are irrational. And the counter to irrationality is more rationality.
This is the hard point: This seeming dichotomy is a trap.
Rationalism and irrationality are points on a circle. Rushing towards either one will take us all the way past it to its opposite and then back around again. An exercise in futility. Futile action wears us out and prepares the ground for surrender.
It’s easy to point to the way those who embrace violence and hate are surrendering. What about their opposites?
In a catabolic collapse – remember, this term describes the process of being eaten from the inside out not a toppling from an external force; though this may be the official cause of death. A catabolic collapse occurs when a structure corrodes itself. This is corruption. Corruption, at its root, means decay.
Structures and institutions – all the fossilized habits of thought and action that channeled people’s strength into a particular path leading to a particular culture – begin to destroy themselves from within. Corruption is the decay that results from bad-faith.
Bad faith on the loud and violent side is easy enough to see. On the other side it comes across as a quiet surrender of efficacy and agency.
This begins early-on in the ascendance of a culture. People, drawn by the lure of power, abandon their direct agency and sacrifice their inherent strength, “For the cause!”
During the period of ascendancy this process is masked by the easy-pickings power brings its devotees. A semblance of integration is maintained by the false-sense of community hidden behind themes like teamwork, “We are all cogs in a wheel!”
Sacrifice is still taken more or less for what it is, a necessary give-and-take between the demands of the self and the pressures of contingency. We get a “Greatest Generation!”
There is a ruthlessness to such times; but in retrospect it’s almost endearing. Ignorance can still parade as innocence in such a time.
As the collapse takes hold more and more of those doing a culture’s work lose faith in the enterprise. This loss of faith is not considered, witnessed. It is suppressed and denied. It finds its way to the surface as a shadow. Part of this shadow is power reflected onto a Nemesis unleashing Nightmares of Reason. Part of it goes into the corruption, the decay, of the institutions and structures these agents inhabit.
“Going through the motions….” “That’s not my job….” “Checks and balances….” There are countless excuses for an abdication of responsibility for our own actions, “The Invisible Hand….”
In place of a faith-in-living – not to be confused with the corrupt remnants of past failed institutions: churches, monarchies… – we get bad-faith hiding behind a faux-team-mentality, “I can. I must! Limit my view to a narrow sphere. I must trust that others will look out for what I willfully ignore.”
“That’s being realistic!”
Or so we seek to delude our selves….
We get the rot of corruption in its endemic, undramatic form. We condition our selves to resist our deepest instincts to pay attention and have concern for what-is. We indoctrinate our selves into disintegration. We get used to giving-up.
Intoxication and addiction, all manner of self-induced illness results. The organism is hard to suppress. It doesn’t give up without a fight!
When it does surrender, it knows what this means. It is an acceptance that our destruction is near. Depression results. The merciful numbing that falls upon creatures at moments when death is imminent becomes a chronic condition. We push our selves into an existence as one of the UnDead.
The way we face – well, the ways in which we don’t face – the Enormity of our situation illustrate this surrender. Every exhortation that “Somebody do something!” that we must, “Save the World!” demonstrates the gap we’ve fallen into between knowing and doing.
Rationalism pushes us to find answers to what we insist to be problems. Chasing answers we tire our selves out. Displacement, intoxication, and addiction dog our steps.
Afraid of our shadows; of all those who more easily express our general fears onto objects of hatred; they become objects of our hatred, “It’s their fault!”
And around it goes….
This surrender to ineffectuality angers the haters. They believe in something. However intemperate and delusional those beliefs may be. They still believe in power.
Probably because they lack it.
Those on the other side are losing their belief in power; but have not put in the work to discover anything more substantial to replace it. Futility has schooled them/us. Even if we wish not to accept its lessons they are reflected in our hesitation to return to the demands of power.
Those with power act as if they cannot effect the conditions of their/our own lives, “What can we do?”
What could be a moment of Joyful Disillusionment becomes a further reason for despair. Misunderstanding the distinction between power and strength they/we fail to see that our loss of faith in power is liberating. The first step towards reconnecting with our capacities.
Instead we despair. We despair that the only path open to us is either destruction at the hands of our “enemies” or falling into active hatred and acting out of our corruption in open violence.
This was the path available to the Greatest Generation™. They could oppose hatred by hating and killing without much cognitive dissonance. Those of us still wielding power can’t. Instead we do it via surrogates and under masks that do violence to language, “Shots were fired…” “Drones hit their targets…”
Anger and hatred are useful; but not in the ways we think are valid. Anger is the sign that we are projecting. Proprioception opens us to see this. Hatred is the metabolic end-product of projections that we’ve suppressed and denied.
To consider this, “An interesting opinion… A nice theory…” is a symptom of our disintegrated state. This sophistry is the wedge of our guilt at our own complicity, “I’d rather deny my strength to see clearly, to act rightly rather than admit I’ve been complicit.”
That’s if we put our surrender into the most charitable light.
Strength and clarity are always available to us.
They are one deep breath away.
One moment of suspension-of-our-fears away.
A moment of witness away….