Friday, November 27, 2020

Fiat Authority Has No Power A Competent Man Is Bound To Acknowledge

counterpunch |  In effect, the governor used his authority to pull us into an alternative narrative in which we were people who watched out for each other, not only for ourselves as we ordinarily do, when chips are not down. Just as on the Right, people follow their talk-radio-supplied narrative of Big Government and elites out for themselves, people on the Left must have a larger narrative; in our case one that can authorize for us the Truth (I capitalize in order to designate the highest, most inclusive Truth) of interdependence – unless our aim, like that on the Right, is to keep capitalism going no matter what. 

Long ago, we lost the unifying myth of religion that now is replaced in liberal reality with unchecked anti-authoritarianism and its correlative, cancel culture. The function of myth is to unify, to provide a kind of “immunity” that allows people to hold contrary realities in imagination, without having to cancel the other or oneself. Contrarily, with no persuasive reason to “stick together,” each existing in our frail “micro-realities,” like catty girls on the playground we have to make objectionable people not exist. A healthy immunity that could allow us to stop reflexively fending off “otherness,” will not come from Big Pharma, but only from expanded imaginations.

Without a narrative of inclusion, a narrative of hate is all our imaginations are left with to feed on exuberantly. Last week I read one of those smug editorial pieces in the NYTimes that serves to keep divisiveness alive and well in stunted liberal hearts, rather than to encourage healing (that doesn’t sell papers!). Columnist Frank Bruni took on Ivanka and Jarrod, seeming to delight in imagining their being friendless in NYC, and “getting theirs” after Trump’s loss. And it works! As I read, delicious feelings of sweet revenge rose up in me: Yes! Bring them down into the mud! Let them see what it feels like!

Whether or not our leaders can resist politicizing it, and despite the massive anti-mask rebellions going on across the country, feeding on Fox news, talk radio and social media-spread theories, the pandemic crisis calls us unambiguously to that Truth of interdependence that not only makes an injury to one an injury to all; it makes one’s own good and the good for all the same, not artificially kept separate as they are in “normal” liberal reality. That people must fend off the Truth that puts the common good first is due as much to liberalism’s unchecked, reflexive anti-authoritarianism, based at its core in deep wounds inflicted by a rudderless, profits-driven zeitgeist that rewards individuals with the emblems of success (NY Times columnist!), as to uneducated Trump-followers’ resentments.

Though one could be forgiven for thinking liberals had just recently heard of it, the Truth of interdependence is not new, even in western civilization. Religious tradition gives us beautiful phrases like the “Kingdom of God,” the “brotherhood of man,” the “body of Christ” that point to this all-embracing inclusivity. The words are metaphors for realities only imagination can grasp, but not beyond the capacity of the heart to experience and to hunger after. Scripture, after all, is poetry put to the use of the institution. Western societies, sacrificing poetry for power, failed to attain the inclusiveness that was basis for their own religions. We became top-down missionizers, conquerors, colonial settlers and exploiters, always capable of exclusion and cruelty in the name of a higher, civilizing purpose.

Contrary to popular “wisdom,” surrender to the truth of the “Kingdom of God” is not sacrifice of individual freedom. It’s not simply the opposite of selfish egoism. Rather, this highest most inclusive truth favors individuality as the expression of freedom. Under its uncompromising terms of wholeness and interrelatedness, action one takes on behalf of genuinely “selfish” concerns, say, for personal meaning and occasional joy, is not egoistic; serving soul it serves the whole. Equally, action on behalf of oppressed others follows naturally from the prior liberation of one’s personal soul, that, in liberal reality has been deemed inferior and goes undefended (i.e., the “original injustice” that impels us to forsake our creative spirit for bourgeois rewards).