Saturday, 27 December 2014

The Wretched of the Earth

“Today I believe in the possibility of love; that is why I endeavor to trace its imperfections, its perversions.”
― Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks

Years ago I was introduced to Franz Fanon's writings (The Wretched of the Earth) by someone who was of that generation trying to "discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it." As a self-professed Marxist in a pre-USSR collapse he tried real hard to distinguish himself different from the herd but I think it was more indicative of a certain dissatisfaction with academia (ie, unfulfilled ambitions) than being in a counter-culture; what could not be articulated (conscious or otherwise) expressed itself as being-out-of-place by choice for its own sake, righteous indignation included―righteous indignation especially.

Looking back I don't think he was far off the mark. The terminology was only starting to gel: if the problem was the "establishment" then being "anti-establishmentarian" must be the cure; if the shots were in the dark, the motivations were nonetheless profound.

I think this unwitting profundity was an implicit recognition of how prophetic Eisenhower's Farewell Address really was:

We . . . must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for our own ease and convenience the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.

The only problem was that, being a self-professed Marxist, he could not bring himself to attributing such quintessential insight of the times to come as having been breath life by such a person as Eisenhower.

Now this conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet, we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources, and livelihood are all involved. So is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together. (ibid)

Or, perhaps he never recognized the archetypal struggle as such being that he insisted upon the differences in class as the defining factor of it rather than the existential nature (and outcome) of an unexamined value system. It is, after all, a rare thing this making of conscious choice especially when ideology blocks the vista of possibilities in the making of that conscious choice affords.

We do not, as a matter of course, make conscious choices. We instead respond to, react against and/or ignore choices we could have made:

Someone has likened emotions to the red light on the dashboard of a car indicating an engine problem. You can respond to the red light's warning in several ways. You can cover it with a piece of duct tape. "I can't see the light now," you say, "so I don't have to think about the problem." You can smash the light with a hammer. "That'll teach you for glaring in my face!" Or you can respond to the light as the manufacturers intended by looking under the hood and fixing the problem.

You have the same three options in responding to your emotions. You can respond by covering them, ignoring them or stifling them. That is called suppression. You can respond by thoughtlessly lashing out, giving someone a piece of your mind or flying off the handle. I call that indiscriminate expression. Or you can peer inside to see what is going on. That is called acknowledgement. (Neil T Anderson, 2000. pp. 173-174)

Making a conscious choice, then, requires an active and on-going examination of our value systems. This is a very hard thing to do, especially if like me, your handicap is an inherent inability to deal with strong emotions and thus prone to "flying off the handle" to rid of them.

I do not trust myself to make conscious, good choices. That is my cross to bear: most, if not all, of my unfettered thoughtless choices have resulted in "life experiences". Looking back, it's a wonder and a miracle I have survived thus far.

This is what makes me a Christian: I have had to assume the Micah principle (ie, Micah 6: 8 "He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.") and submit to the Lord in genuine humility because, on my own, I am truly incapable of making conscious choices without the guidance of the Christ's Gospel. This is my confession, my acknowledgement.

I know that "religion" turns people off. I have no religion; I lost it long ago. I do not go to church; I do not intentionally and unkindly judge people; I do not make public display of "doing good". I seek no status within the community. I'm really not part of the Christian community at all. The Gospel of the Lord is my meditation.

The literature of fishermen, tax collectors, and the generally rejected of the religious community makes me go "wow". There is something divine in that, in realizing that this literature was created by people of the most unlikely pedigree, The Wretched of the Earth.

Jay

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