Friday, March 11, 2016

A Contest For America

Not long ago I stumbled upon Mark Edmundson’s memorable essay, “One Nation Under Fear”, which echoed in spirit his previous essay that exposed the disappointing shallowness of the current poetry scene in the U.S.  What does American fecklessness have to do with its clear opposite, the apocalyptic high energy of Daesh, so-called Isis? 

Both, in my opinion, suffer from an undiagnosed disease; both are victims of unhealthy worldviews.  One major conflict today may be described in the following way: on one side, fear-ridden techno-chicken-hawks with unprecedented power – lined up against psychopathic apocalyptics, disaffected outcasts hungry for power and lusting for vendetta.

Both sides suffer from worldviews that systematically dehumanize their victims. We are of course in the subtle realm of metaphysical crime.  It seems correct to say that  history is the slaughterhouse where the victims of other people’s pictures of reality are continually piling up, and with no end in sight.    

In America, the dominant picture of reality is manufactured by corporate interests. Among the so-called terrorists, the working worldview is contrived by distortions of religious traditions. The disease infects both worldviews by systematically justifying violence.   

Sick worldviews that dominate the mass mind are the root causes of the growing misery and instability of the world.  Is there a way to cope with this epidemic of metaphysical disease?    

We may have to just wait for history to play itself out.   This is how it looks when we observe the world of nations at this junction of spring in 2016. 

The greatest power on Earth is on the threshold of endgame, suffering from what Vico called the “barbarism of reflection”.  That is when reason turns malicious and works to dissolve society. The sensus communis or common human bond withers on the vine.  Sect and schism multiply, individuals behave like raging beasts, the people descend to chaos and civil warfare. 

Roughly, in Vico’s model, barbarians inspired by a poetry that justifies atrocity will take full advantage of the empire’s divided, fractious self.

Or else renewal must come from within, according to Vico, through poetic rebirth of consciousness.  The present course of the nation points toward a downward phase of the cycle, driven as it is by a selfish minority with technical power and intelligence, but lacking all poetic sense.  Is there anything we can do? 

I suppose we could call for a National Contest.

A call to the American people to think about their working picture of reality.   What are our life-enhancing aims, ideas, values.   Do we cherish them?  Are we happy with them?  Are there weak spots, sore spots, or possibly sick spots?

What can we do to heal our demented life-vision?  Deconstruct and refurbish the American Dream?  How about a few new mock ups of the ugly American idol, Exceptionalism?   Surely, something must be done  about the moribund state of life, beauty, courage, justice, freedom, and other causalities of deconstructed virtue.   

The undiagnosed disease can strike when you least expect it. The calculated moves, the smooth routines you rely on suddenly fail.  In the excitement of novelty or terror, old beliefs are shattered and old skills dropped by the wayside.  The vertigo of existence is no longer a metaphor.  The ground tilts, you stumble, swivel off balance, feel yourself being pushed over the edge.

What then? Are your saving resources at the ready?  Any fortress (a cave will do) you can retreat to or mount an attack from?  A vantage point in your soul – a place where you can surmount the obstacles that seem suddenly to be rushing at you from all directions? 

How to come up with a saving vision? This is the main problem we face today. Let this be the chief challenge we might all respond to.  A competition meant to liberate the saving imagination.   It would be a contest where we all stand to become winners.

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