Wednesday, 14 February 2018

The Question of 'Rootlessness' - and 'Identity Politics' : Wilberg on Wednesday

Further political and philosophical notes and reflections

Part 3. The Question of ‘Rootlessness’ - and ‘Identity Politics’

“Thus, both [the imperialistic-bellicose and humanitarian-pacifistic way of thinking] can be used by “international Jewry” to proclaim and accomplish one as a means for the other [their common end of a rootless, leveled, homogeneous, technological mass civilization] — this machinational “history”-making entangles all players equally in their webs.”  Heidegger

The association of the Jews in particular with a “rootless cosmopolitanism” has a long history, which Heidegger here reaffirms. But it was after WW2, which resulted in the displacement, driving out and uprooting of so many Germans - both from and within their homeland - that Heidegger came to consider rootlessness (loss of ‘autochthony’) as something “caused not merely by the circumstance and fortune, nor … only from the negligence and superficiality of man’s way of life” but from “the spirit of the age in which all of us were born”. More significantly, he came also to associate this rootlessness with a growing attachment not just to financial calculation but also to technology, “which everywhere and every minute claim, enchain, drag along, press and impose upon man under the form of some technical contrivance or other”, and “whose accomplishments come speedily to be known and publicly admired”.

At a time when information technologies, computers and the now ubiquitous ‘smartphone’ had not even begun to encroach upon human life and activity, this was an extraordinary example of Heidegger’s historical prescience.

“What we know now as the technology of film and television, of transportation and especially air transportation, of news reporting, and as medical and nutritional technology, is presumably only a crude start. No one can foresee the radical changes to come. But technological advance will move faster and faster and can never be stopped. In all areas of his existence, man will be encircled ever more tightly by the forces of technology.”

Heidegger did not seek to deny the usefulness or even necessity of technical devices, but warned of the way in which they threatened the complete extinction of another type of thinking to the dominant mode of “calculative thinking”. It was in his Memorial Address on the death of the composer Konradin Kreutzer that he called this other type of thinking “meditative thinking”. Indeed he spoke of man as being literally “in flight” from thinking in this meditative sense. 

“Yet you may protest: mere meditative thinking finds itself floating unaware above reality. It loses touch. It is worthless for dealing with current business. It profits nothing in carrying out practical affairs. And you may say, finally, that mere meditative thinking, persevering meditation, is ‘above’ the reach of ordinary understanding. In this excuse only this much is true: … meditative thinking requires a greater effort. It is in need of even more delicate care than any other genuine craft. But it must also be able to bide its time, to await, as does the farmer, whether the seed will come up and ripen. Yet anyone can follow the path of meditative thinking in his own manner and within his own limits. Why? Because man is thinking, that is, a meditating being. Thus meditative thinking need by no means be ‘high-flown’. It is enough if we dwell on what lies close and meditate on what is closest - on that which concerns us, each one of us, here and now … now, in the present hour of history.”
Heidegger goes on to ask a fundamental question:

“Even if the old rootedness is being lost in this age, may not a new ground and foundation be granted again to man, a foundation and ground out which man’s nature and all his works may flourish in a new way…?”

For if not:

“Then there might go hand in hand with the greatest ingenuity in calculative planning and inventing an indifference towards meditative thinking - total thoughtlessness. And then? Then man would have denied and thrown away his own special nature - that he is a meditative being. Therefore the issue is the saving of man’s essential nature. Therefore the issue is keeping meditative thinking alive.”

To all this we might add that it would have come as no surprise to Heidegger, that within all the New Age cults and literary trash that would come to promote ‘meditation’ as a practice, one will never once come across the term ‘meditative thinking’. Instead ‘thought and meditation’ are treated in New Age culture as total opposites. Hence the pathetic degree of dumbed-down thinking - if not complete thoughtlessness - that finds its expression in the jargons of New Age literature, as it does also in both empty corporate jargons and the worship of technological science - what Heidegger called “THE new religion”. Nor is it a surprise that Twitter alone has become a principal technological instrument for the dumbing-down of human thinking - promoting unthought, knee-jerk reactions to the latest bits of informational ‘news’ that can be used to confirm with the existing beliefs and prejudices of its users without any deeper thinking or research.

That said, is there an answer to Heidegger’s quest for a new form of rootedness - one no longer reducible to the old fetishes of ‘Blood and Soil’, ‘Race’ and ‘Tradition’? For as a result of the now almost total dominance of calculative thinking:

"The world now appears as an object open to the attacks of calculative thoughts - attacks that nothing is believed able any longer to resist. Nature becomes a gigantic gasoline station, an energy source for modern technology and industry...The earth now reveals itself as a coal mining district, the soil as a mineral deposit … Agriculture is now the mechanized food industry. Air is now set upon to yield nitrogen, the earth to yield ore, ore to yield uranium … uranium is set upon to yield atomic energy.

Heidegger’s own answer to the question of technology was that:

"We can affirm the unavoidable use of technical devices, and also deny them the right to dominate us, and so to warp, confuse, and lay waste our nature. We let technical devices enter our daily life, and at the same time leave them outside, as things which are nothing absolute but remain dependent upon something higher. I would call this comportment toward technology releasement toward things."

Further reflections come from the English philosopher Simon Glendinning:

… Flourishing, I want to say with Heidegger, does presuppose some kind of milieu which provides what we might call a “racinating function”. However, what we need to take our leave from is the disastrous temptation to represent every “nativisation” in “blood and soil” terms. Against Heidegger, I will want to affirm another nativisation – the being-at-home … that belongs, as Nietzsche stressed, to a human being who has achieved “independence of any definite milieu”.

This suggestion is given a further and even more pointed signification by Harvey Requiem:

“… there will always be outcasts who will find their autochthony and therefore pursue meditative thought simply through the necessity of it, because they cannot find an anchor in mainstream calculative society. They are not permitted a place in the calculative 'herd', which is how most people seem to find their meaning, therefore they must find their meaning elsewhere and are forced to meditate lest they lose their minds.”

Neither of these quotations are an answer in themselves. Yet they contain  the seed of an answer. We need only rethink Nietzsche’s attack on the “herd mentality” in a new way - as the cultivation of human beings who are not in any way bound or constricted by group identifications of any sort - whether ethnic, racial or gender-based, religious, political or ideological, regional, national or supranational. Such group identifications express a weakened and insecure sense of self, and with it a need to bury and confine the truly autarchic self - what I call ‘the deep self’ - within the restrictive and outworn baggage of group ideological languages and their symbolic ‘identifiers’. Thus I see no essential difference between, for example, the identity politics of the liberal and Trotskyite Left, and that of both Islam on the one hand and ‘ethnonationalism’ or ‘identitarianism’ on the other (including the ultra-identitarianism of World Jewry). Similarly, it makes no essential difference whether one seeks a basis for one’s sense of self by identifying as a feminist, gay, transgender, black, white (or even as a ‘socialist’) or doing so through a ‘them and us rejection’ of groups one does not identity with - which is just a form of negative identification and negative identity politics in which identity is entirely constituted by what one negates.

There is a dialectical relation between positive and negative identifications and identity politics, one which not only makes them inseparable but also serves globalist interests - through the ever-increasing polarisation and fragmentation of society into groups based on opposite identifications: feminism versus patriarchy, gay or lesbian identity versus ‘straight’ heterosexuality, traditional genders versus ‘trans-genders’ etc. etc. Such multiple identity polarisations are a globalist strategy of the 1% - and a useful distraction from focussing on it. It is important also to understand the connection between polarising group identifications and ‘self-identification’ in the sense defined by Gilad Atzmon. This is what he calls ‘ASA’ - for example the need to identify oneself primarily and fundamentally AS A ‘gay’ and AS A part of the ‘gay community’ - rather than just being homosexual, and not making a fuss of it or turning it into the core of one’s selfhood.  Do ordinary workers need to identify themselves AS workers? No, they simply find themselves in the position of having to be workers. In this sense, the common essence of all identity politics lies in the need to find a substitute for an authentic and autarchic sense of self in group identifications and identities, whether positively or negatively. I am not of course suggesting that identities, groups and communities of all sorts, including ethnic groups, are invalid or redundant. What I am saying is that groups and communities need to be composed of authentically autarchic individuals - those whose native soil lies in their own innermost soul - which both embraces and transcends identities and identifications. Only the ego and egotism, long cultivated in the Judaic tradition, thinks of itself as possessing identities as a form of private property. In contrast, the soul is awareness as such - a universal awareness field of which we are each an individualised portion and embodiment. The ‘deep’ self, as this pure, knowing awareness, includes an awareness of multiple roles and identities - but it is not itself an identity. That is why those insistent outsiders - foremost among them the German writer Ernst Jünger, close friend and correspondent of Martin Heidegger, - consistently refused to be bound by group identifications but embodied a truly sovereign individual. He himself called such an individual an ‘anarch’ - in contrast to the revolutionary ‘anarchist’. ‘Anarchs’ are simply aware, truly autarchic and self-rooted individuals without whose inner sovereignty there can be no free and sovereign groups, communities, states, societies or nations of any sort at all. 

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