H

(A U a of the revolutionary Terror in his Phenomenology—and even the for-

l- mula proposed by some Zen Buddhists ("the identity of differenti-

u ation and equality"15) cannot fail to remind us of Hegel's famous speculative assertion of the "identity of identity and difference."

® Here, however, the difference is clear: Hegel has nothing to do with w such a pseudo-Hegelian vision (espoused by some conservative

® Hegelians like Bradley and McTaggart) of society as an organic har-

1 monious Whole, within which each member asserts his or her 3

"equality" with others through performing his or her particular duty, occupying his or her particular place, and thus contributing to the harmony of the Whole. For Hegel, on the contrary, the "transcendent world of formlessness" (in short: the Absolute) is at war with itself, which means that the (self-)destructive formlessness (the absolute, self-relating, negativity) must appear as such in the realm of finite reality—the point of Hegel's notion of the revolutionary Terror is precisely that it is a necessary moment in the deployment of freedom.

However, back to Zen: this "teleological" justification (war is a necessary evil performed to bring about the greater good: "battle is necessarily fought in anticipation of peace"16) is accompanied by a more radical line of reasoning in which, much more directly, "Zen and the sword are one and the same."17 This reasoning is based on the opposition between the reflexive attitude of our ordinary daily lives (in which we cling to life and fear death, strive for egotistic pleasure and profit, hesitate and think, instead of directly acting) and the enlightened stance in which the difference between life and death no longer matters, in which we regain the original selfless unity, and are directly our act. In a unique short circuit, militaristic Zen masters interpret the basic Zen message (liberation lies in losing one's Self, in immediately uniting with the primordial Void) as identical to utter military fidelity, to following orders immediately, and performing one's duty without consideration for the Self and its interests. The standard antimilitaristic cliché about soldiers being drilled to attain a state of mindless subordination, and carry out orders like blind puppets, is here asserted to be identical to Zen

Enlightenment. This is how Ishihara Shummyo made this point in almost Althusserian terms of direct, nonreflected interpellation:

Zen is very particular about the need not to stop one's mind. As soon as flint stone is struck, a spark bursts forth.There is not even the most momentary lapse of time between these two events. If ordered to face right, one simply faces right as quickly as a flash of lightning. ... If one's name were called, for example, "Uemon," one should simply answer "Yes," and not stop to consider the reason why one's name was called. ... I believe that if one is called upon to die, one should not be the least bit agitated.18

Insofar as subjectivity as such is hysterical, insofar as it emerges through the questioning of the interpellating call of the Other, we have here the perfect description of a perverse desubjectivization: the subject avoids its constitutive splitting by positing itself directly as the instrument of the Other's Will.19 And what is crucial in this radical version is that it explicitly rejects all the religious rubble usually associated with popular Buddhism, and advocates a return to the original down-to-earth atheist version of the Buddha himself: as Fu-rakawa Taigo emphasizes,20 there is no salvation after death, no afterlife, no spirits or divinities to assist us, no reincarnation, just this life which is directly identical with death. Within this attitude, the warrior no longer acts as a person, he is thoroughly desubjectiv-ized—or, as D. T. Suzuki himself put it: "it is really not he but the sword itself that does the killing. He had no desire to do harm to anybody, but the enemy appears and makes himself a victim. It is as though the sword performs automatically its function of justice, which is the function of mercy."21 Does not this description of killing provide the ultimate illustration of the phenomenological attitude which, instead of intervening in reality, just lets things appear as they are? It is the sword itself which does the killing, it is the enemy himself who just appears, and makes himself a victim—I am not responsible, I am reduced to the passive observer of my own acts. Attitudes like these indicate how the famous "Buddha's gaze" could well function as the support of the most ruthless killing machine—

£ so, perhaps, the fact that Ben Kingsley's two big movie roles are ^ Gandhi and the excessively aggressive English gangster in Sexy Beast 0 bears witness to a deeper affinity: what if the second character is the full actualization of the hidden potential of the first? The paradoxical Pascalian conclusion of this radically atheist version of Zen is that, since there is no inner substance to religion, the essence of faith is proper decorum, obedience to ritual as such.22 What, then, is the difference between this "warrior Zen" legitimization of violence and the long Western tradition, from Christ to Che Guevara, which also extols violence as a "work of love," as in the famous lines from Che Guevara's diary?

Let me say, with the risk of appearing ridiculous, that the true revolutionary is guided by strong feelings of love. It is impossible to think of an authentic revolutionary without this quality. This is perhaps one of the greatest dramas of a leader; he must combine an impassioned spirit with a cold mind and make painful decisions without flinching one muscle. Our vanguard revolutionaries . . . cannot descend, with small doses of daily affection, to the places where ordinary men put their love into practice.23

Although we should be aware of the dangers of the "Christification of Che," turning him into an icon of radical-chic consumer culture, a martyr ready to die for his love for humanity,24 we should perhaps take the risk of accepting this move, radicalizing it into a "Cheiza-tion" of Christ himself—the Christ whose "scandalous" words from Saint Luke's gospel ("if anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and his mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple" (14:26)) point in exactly the same direction as Che's famous quote: "You may have to be tough, but do not lose your tenderness. You may have to cut the flowers, but it will not stop the Spring."25 So, again, if Lenin's acts of revolutionary violence were "works of love" in the strictest Kierkegaardian sense of the term, in what does the difference from "warrior Zen" consist?There is only one logical answer: it is not that, in contrast to Japanese military aggression, revolutionary violence

"really" aims at establishing a nonviolent harmony; on the contrary, authentic revolutionary liberation is much more directly identified with violence—it is violence as such (the violent gesture of discarding, of establishing a difference, of drawing a line of separation) which liberates. Freedom is not a blissfully neutral state of harmony and balance, but the very violent act which disturbs this balance.26

Nonetheless, it is all too simple either to say that this militaristic version of Zen is a perversion of the true Zen message, or to see in it the ominous "truth" of Zen: the truth is much more unbearable— what if, in its very kernel, Zen is ambivalent, or, rather, utterly indifferent to this alternative? What if—a horrible thought—the Zen meditation technique is ultimately just that: a spiritual technique, an ethically neutral instrument which can be put to different sociopolitical uses, from the most peaceful to the most destructive? (In this sense, Suzuki was right to emphasize that Zen Buddhism can be combined with any philosophy or politics, from anarchism to Fas-cism.27) So the answer to the tortuous question "Which aspects of the Buddhist tradition lend themselves to such a monstrous distortion?" is: exactly the same ones that emphasize passionate compassion and inner peace. No wonder, then, that when Ichikawa Hakugen, the Japanese Buddhist who elaborated the most radical self-criticism after Japan's shattering defeat in 1945, listed the twelve characteristics of the Buddhist tradition which prepared the ground for the legitimization of aggressive militarism, he had to include practically all the basic tenets of Buddhism itself: the Buddhist doctrine of dependent co-arising or causality, which regards all phenomena as being in a constant state of flux, and the related doctrine of no-self; the lack of firm dogma and a personal God; the emphasis on inner peace rather than justice. . . .28This is how, in the Bhagavad-Gita, along similar lines, the God Krishna answers Arjuna, the warrior-king who hesitates to enter a battle, horrified at the suffering his attack will cause—an answer that is worth quoting in full:

He who thinks it to be the killer and he who thinks it to be killed, both know nothing. The self kills not, and the self is not killed. It is

not born, nor does it ever die, nor, having existed, does it exist no l_ more. Unborn, everlasting, unchangeable, and primeval, the self is jjj not killed when the body is killed.

E O son of Pritha, how can that man who knows the self to be in

I- destructible, everlasting, unborn, and inexhaustible, how and whom

^ can he kill, whom can he cause to be killed? As a man, casting off old u clothes, puts on others and new ones, so the embodied self, casting

® off old bodies, goes to others and new ones. Weapons do not divide

I the self into pieces; fire does not burn it; waters to not moisten it; the

S wind does not dry it up. It is not divisible; it is not combustible; it is not to be moistened; it is not to be dried up. It is everlasting, all-pervading, stable, firm, and eternal. It is said to be unperceived, to be unthinkable, to be unchangeable. . . . Therefore you ought not to grieve for any being.

Having regard to your own duty also, you ought not to falter, for there is nothing better for a Kshatriya than a righteous battle. . . . Killed, you will obtain heaven; victorious, you will enjoy the earth. Therefore arise, O son of Kunti, resolved to engage in battle. Looking alike on pleasure and pain, on gain and loss, on victory and defeat, then prepare for battle, and thus you will not incur sin.29

Again, the conclusion is clear: if external reality is ultimately just an ephemeral appearance, then even the most horrifying crimes eventually do not matter. This is the crux of the doctrine of noninvolvement, of disinterested action: act as if it doesn't matter, as if you are not the agent, but things, including your own acts, just happen in an impersonal way. Here it is difficult to resist the temptation to paraphrase this passage as the justification for the burning of Jews in the gas chambers to their executioner, caught in a moment of doubt: since "he who thinks it to be the killer and he who thinks it to be killed, both know nothing," since "the self kills not, and the self is not killed," therefore "you ought not to grieve for any" burned Jew, but, "looking alike on pleasure and pain, on gain and loss, on victory and defeat," do what you were ordered to do. No wonder the Bhagavad-Gita was Heinrich Himmler's favorite book: it is reported that he always carried a copy in his uniform pocket.30

This means that Buddhist (or Hindu, for that matter) all-encompassing Compassion has to be opposed to Christian intoler ant, violent Love. The Buddhist stance is ultimately one of Indifference, of quenching all passions that strive to establish differences; while Christian love is a violent passion to introduce a Difference, a gap in the order of being, to privilege and elevate some object at the expense of others. Love is violence not (only) in the vulgar sense of the Balkan proverb "If he doesn't beat me, he doesn't love me!"— violence is already the love choice as such, which tears its object out of its context, elevating it to the Thing. In Montenegrin folklore, the origin of Evil is a beautiful woman: she makes the men around her lose their balance, she literally destabilizes the universe, colors all things with a tone of partiality.31 This same theme is one of the constants of Soviet pedagogy from the early 1920s onward: sexuality is inherently patho-logical, it contaminates cold, balanced logic with a particular pathos—sexual arousal is the disturbance associated with bourgeois corruption, and in the Soviet Union of the 1920s there were numerous psycho-physiological "materialist" researchers trying to demonstrate that sexual arousal is a pathological state.32 Such antifeminist outbursts are much closer to the truth than the aseptic tolerance of sexuality.

chapter 2

The "ThriLLING ROMANCE OF OrthODOXY"

Chesterton's basic matrix is that of the "thrilling romance of orthodoxy": in a properly Leninist way, he asserts that the search for true orthodoxy, far from being boring, humdrum, and safe, is the most daring and perilous adventure (exactly like Lenin's search for the authentic Marxist orthodoxy—how much less risk and theoretical effort, how much more passive opportunism and theoretical laziness, is in the easy revisionist conclusion that the changed historical circumstances demand some "new paradigm"!): "People have fallen into a foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy, humdrum, and safe.There never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy."1

Take today's deadlock of sexuality or art: is there anything more dull, opportunistic, and sterile than to succumb to the superego injunction of incessantly inventing new artistic transgressions and provocations (the performance artist masturbating on stage, or masochistically cutting himself; the sculptor displaying decaying animal corpses or human excrement), or to the parallel injunction to engage in more and more "daring" forms of sexuality? And it is impossible not to admire Chesterton's consistency: he deploys the same conceptual matrix—that of asserting the truly subversive, even revolutionary, character of orthodoxy—in his famous "Defense of Detective Stories," in which he observes how the detective story keeps in some sense before the mind the fact that civilization itself is the most sensational of departures and the most romantic of rebellions. When the detective in a police romance stands alone, and somewhat fatuously fearless amid the knives and fists of a thief's kitchen, it does certainly serve to make us remember that it is the agent of social justice who is the original and poetic figure, while the burglars and footpads are merely placid old cosmic conservatives, happy in the immemorial respectability of apes and wolves. [The police romance] is based on the fact that morality is the most dark and daring of conspiracies.2

It is not difficult to recognize here the elementary matrix of the Hegelian dialectical process: the external opposition (between Law and its criminal transgression) is transformed into the opposition,

£ internal to the transgression itself, between particular transgressions ^ and the absolute transgression that appears as its opposite, as the uni-0 versal Law.3 One can thus effectively claim that the subversive sting of Chesterton's work is contained in the endless variation of one and the same matrix of the Hegelian paradoxical self-negating reversal— Chesterton himself mockingly characterizes his work as variations on a "single tiresome joke."4 And what if, in our postmodern world of ordained transgression, in which the marital commitment is perceived as ridiculously out of date, those who cling to it are the true subversives? What if, today, straight marriage is "the most dark and daring of all transgressions"? This, precisely, is the underlying premise of Ernst Lubitsch's Design for Living (1933, based on a Noël Coward play): a woman leads a calm, satisfied life with two men; as a dangerous experiment, she tries marriage; however, the attempt fails miserably, and she returns to the safety of living with two men.

In the very last pages of Orthodoxy, Chesterton deploys the fundamental Hegelian paradox of the pseudo-revolutionary critics of religion: they start by denouncing religion as the force of oppression that threatens human freedom; in fighting religion, however, they are compelled to forsake freedom itself, thus sacrificing precisely that which they wanted to defend—the ultimate victim of the atheist theoretical and practical rejection of religion is not religion (which, unperturbed, continues its life), but freedom itself, allegedly threatened by it: the atheist radical universe, deprived of religious reference, is the gray universe of egalitarian terror and tyranny:

Men who begin to fight the Church for the sake of freedom and humanity end by flinging away freedom and humanity if only they may fight the Church. ... I know a man who has such a passion for proving that he will have no personal existence after death that he falls back on the position that he has no personal existence now. ... I have known people who showed that there could be no divine judgment by showing that there can be no human judgment. . . .We do not admire, we hardly excuse, the fanatic who wrecks this world for love of the other. But what are we to say of the fanatic who wrecks this world out of hatred for the other? He sacrifices the very existence of humanity to the non-existence of God. He offers his victims not to the altar, but merely to assert the idleness of the altar and the emptiness of the throne. . . . With their oriental doubts about personality they do not make certain that we shall have no personal life hereafter; they only make certain that we shall not have a very jolly or complete one here. . . .The secularists have not wrecked divine things; but the secularists have wrecked secular things, if that is any comfort to them.5

The first thing we should add to this today is that the same goes for advocates of religion themselves: how many fanatical defenders of religion started by ferociously attacking contemporary secular culture and ended up forsaking religion itself (losing any meaningful religious experience)? And is it not a fact that, in a strictly analogous way, liberal warriors are so eager to fight antidemocratic fundamentalism that they will end up flinging away freedom and democracy themselves, if only they can fight terror? They have such a passion for proving that non-Christian fundamentalism is the main threat to freedom that they are ready to fall back on the position that we have to limit our own freedom here and now, in our allegedly Christian societies. If the "terrorists" are ready to wreck this world for love of the other, our warriors on terror are ready to wreck their own democratic world out of hatred for the Muslim other. Jonathan Alter and Alan Der-showitz love human dignity so much that they are ready to legalize torture—the ultimate degradation of human dignity—to defend it.

When Alan Dershowitz6 not only condemns what he perceives as the international community's reluctance to oppose terrorism, but also provokes us to "think the unthinkable," like legalizing torture— that is to say, changing the laws so that, in exceptional situations, courts will have the right to issue "torture warrants"—his argumentation is not as easy to counter as it may appear. First, is torture "unthinkable"? Is it not going on all the time, everywhere? Secondly, if one follows Dershowitz's utilitarian line of argumentation, could one not also argue for the legitimacy of terror itself? Just as one should torture a terrorist whose knowledge could prevent the death of many more innocent people, should one not fully condone terror, at least against military and police personnel waging an unjust war of occupation, if it could prevent violence on a much larger scale? Here, q then, we have a nice case of the Hegelian opposition of In-itself and X For-itself: "for itself," with regard to his explicit goals, Dershowitz K is, of course, ferociously attacking terrorism—"in itself or for us," 0 however, he is succumbing to the terrorist lure, since his argumenta-

0 tion against terrorism already endorses terrorism's basic premise.

y More generally, does not the same apply to the postmodern dis-jj dain for great ideological Causes—to the notion that, in our postE ideological era, instead of trying to change the world, we should a reinvent ourselves, our whole universe, by engaging in new forms of (sexual, spiritual, aesthetic . . .) subjective practices? As Hanif 3 Kureishi put it in an interview about his novel Intimacy:"twenty years d ago it was political to try to make a revolution and change society,

1 while now politics comes down to two bodies in a basement mak-s" ing love who can re-create the whole world." When we are con-¡jj fronted with statements like this, we cannot help recalling the old lesson of Critical Theory: when we try to preserve the authentic intimate sphere of privacy against the onslaught of instrumental/ objectivized "alienated" public exchange, it is privacy itself that changes into a totally objectivized "commodified" sphere. Withdrawal into privacy today means adopting formulas of private authenticity propagated by the modern culture industry—from taking lessons in spiritual enlightenment, and following the latest cultural and other fashions, to taking up jogging and bodybuilding.The ultimate truth of withdrawal into privacy is the public confession of intimate secrets on TV—against this kind of privacy, one should emphasize that, today, the only way of breaking out of the constraints of "alienated" commodification is to invent a new collectivity. Today, more than ever, the lesson of Marguerite Duras's novels is pertinent: the way—the only way—to have an intense and fulfilling personal (sexual) relationship is not for the couple to look into each other's eyes, forgetting about the world around them, but, while holding hands, to look together outside, at a third point (the Cause for which both are fighting, to which both are committed).

The ultimate result of globalized subjectivization is not that "objective reality" disappears, but that our subjectivity itself disappears, turns into a trifling whim, while social reality continues its course. Here I am tempted to paraphrase the interrogator's famous answer to Winston Smith, who doubts the existence of Big Brother ("It is YOU who doesn't exist!"): the proper reply to the postmodern doubt about the existence of the ideological big Other is that it is the subject itself who doesn't exist. No wonder that our era, whose basic stance is best encapsulated by the title of Phillip McGraw's recent bestseller Self Matters, which teaches us how to "create your life from the inside out," finds its logical complement in books with titles like How to Disappear Completely—manuals about how to erase all traces of one's previous existence, and "reinvent" oneself completely.7 It is here that we should locate the difference between Zen proper and its Western version: the proper greatness of Zen is that it cannot be reduced to an "inner journey" into one's "true Self"; the aim of Zen meditation is, quite on the contrary, a total voiding of the Self, the acceptance that there is no Self, no "inner truth" to be discovered. What Western Buddhism is not ready to accept is thus that the ultimate victim of the "journey into one's Self" is this Self itself. And, more generally, is this not the lesson of Adorno and Horkheimer's Dialectic of Enlightenment?The ultimate victims of positivism are not confused metaphysical notions, but facts themselves; the radical pursuit of secularization, the turn toward our worldly life, transforms this life itself into an "abstract" anemic process—and nowhere is this paradoxical reversal more evident than in the work of de Sade, where the unconstrained assertion of sexuality deprived of the last vestiges of spiritual transcendence turns sexuality itself into a mechanical exercise devoid of any authentic sensual passion. And is not a similar reversal clearly discernible in the deadlock of today's Last Men, "postmodern" individuals who reject all "higher" goals as terrorist, and dedicate their life to a survival replete with more and more refined and artificially excited/aroused small pleasures?

In psychoanalysis, perhaps the supreme case of such a reversal is the emergence of the so-called "anal character": what begins when the small child refuses to cede his excrement on demand, preferring to keep it for himself, since he does not want to be deprived of the

£ surplus-enjoyment of doing it on his own terms, ends in the grown-^ up figure of the miser, a subject who dedicates his life to hoarding his 0 treasure, and pays the price of an infinitely stronger renunciation: he is allowed no consumption, no indulging in pleasures; everything must serve the accumulation of his treasure. The paradox is that, when the small child refuses "castration" (ceding of the privileged detachable object), he takes the path that will end in his total self-castration in the Real; that is to say, his refusal to cede the surplus-object will condemn him to the prohibition on enjoying any other object. In other words, his rejection of the demand of the real parental Other (to behave properly on the toilet) will result in the rule of an infinitely more cruel internalized superego Other that will totally dominate his consumption. And this brings us to Chesterton's principle of Conditional Joy: by refusing the founding exception (the ceding of the excessive object), the miser is deprived of all objects.

Perhaps the ultimate example of this paradoxical reversal in Chesterton is the one between magic and reality: for Chesterton, reality and magic are far from being simply opposed—the greatest magic is that of reality itself, the fact that there really is such a wonderful rich world out there. And the same goes for the dialectical tension between repetition and creativity: we should discard the mistaken notion that repetition means death, automatic mechanical movement, while life means diversity, surprising twists.The greatest surprise, the greatest proof of divine creativity, is that the same thing gets repeated again and again:

The sun rises every morning. I do not rise every morning; but the variation is due not to my activity, but to my inaction. ... It might be true that the sun rises regularly because he never gets tired of rising. His routine might be due, not to a lifelessness, but to a rush of life. ... A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged.They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. But, perhaps, God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun.8

This is what Hegel calls the dialectical coincidence of opposites: monotony is the highest idiosyncrasy; repetition demands the highest creative effort. Does Chesterton not thereby provide the clue to the strange Aztec ritual of offering human sacrifices so that the sun will rise again the next day? This attitude becomes comprehensible the moment we are able to perceive the infinite effort that has to sustain such an endless repetition. Perhaps the fact that, apropos of this miracle of continuous repetition, he inadvertently uses the term "gods"9 is crucial: is not this attitude of perceiving repetition not as a blind automatism, but as a miracle of the highest effort of the will, profoundly pagan? On a different level, the same point was made long ago by intelligent Marxists: in the "natural" course of events, things change, so the truly difficult thing to explain is not social change but, on the contrary, stability and permanence—not why this social order collapsed, but how it succeeded in stabilizing itself and persisting in the midst of general chaos and change. For example, how it is that Christianity, the hegemonic ideology of medieval times, survived the rise of capitalism? And does the same not hold for anti-Semitism? The true mystery to be explained is its persistence through so many different societies and modes of produc-tion—we find it in feudalism, capitalism, socialism. . . .

For Chesterton, the basic Christian lesson of fairytales is contained in what he mockingly calls the "Doctrine of Conditional Joy": "You may live in a palace of gold and sapphire, if you do not say the word 'cow'; or 'You may live happily with the King's daughter, if you do not show her an onion.' The vision always hangs upon a veto."10 Why, then, does this seemingly arbitrary single condition always limit the universal right to happiness? Chesterton's profoundly Hegelian solution is: to "extraneate" the universal right/law itself, to remind us that the universal Good to which we gain access is no less contingent, that it could have been otherwise: "If Cinderella says: 'How is it that I must leave the ball at twelve?' her godmother might answer, 'How is it that you are going there till twelve?'"11 The function of the arbitrary limitation is to remind us that the object itself, access to which is thus limited, is given to us through an inexpli-

q cable arbitrary miraculous gesture of divine gift, and thus to sus-

X tain the magic of being allowed to have access to it: "Keeping to one l-ct 0 li.

0 sunsets. But Oscar Wilde was wrong; we can pay for sunsets. We can u 0

E happiness.When, exactly, can people be said to be happy? In a coun-0

a, try like Czechoslovakia in the late 1970s and 1980s, people were, in

0 0

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