Friday, March 23, 2007

What do we do about the horror before us now?

So I'm watching the 1954 original cut of Godzilla, the non-Raymond Burr cut, Japanese with English subtitles and it gets to the part where they're trying to talk the scientist who invented the Oxygen Destroyer into letting them use his invention as a weapon against Godzilla. And the scientist gives an impassioned speech about how they can't do such a thing, because the Oxygen Destroyer would become another horrible superweapon in the hands of the world's politicians. And the leading man takes it all in, and seems pretty moved, and then says to the scientist: "But what do we do about the horror before us now? Do we just let it happen?"

And this is how I feel about liberal modernity these days. We know its failings and its horrors. We know about alienation and exploitation and imperialism and all the rest. But in the face of the rise of the terror of the anti-modern extremist right, a threat only liberal modernity seems prepared to face...

What do we do about the horror before us now?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Um, what exactly does thumping a bible have on the current phase of violent imperialism? Sure, plenty of people see Iraq-et-al as an opportunity for Crusading, but we know no religious conviction in the world would get us over there -- only money mobilizes armies. I think if you ask people in the global south who is worse -- the Evangelical pastor who denounces gays (while smoking meth and sucking dick behind closed doors), or the smiling banker with liberal sympathies who 0"restructures" their nation's economy into perpetual poverty and subservience -- their answer is clear. The "anti-modern" right has been so caricatured by the left that it bears little resemblance (with some exceptions) to the actual people who make it up (see Jesus Camp for a recent example of such conservative-baiting). The "culture wars" offer a convenient alarm to sound for liberals (and here I make a distinction between liberals and leftists) who seek to preserve their class privilege and right to mild hedonism instead of justice to endlessly hem and haw over those bible-thumpers' (aka "white trash" aka the lower class) supposed intolerance.

There are of course execrable Christian extremists in this country, but the only ones that worry me are the blithe capitalists that use the good book as a justification for their total lack of morals. Plenty of people of this stripe on the left too -- George Soros's current "generosity" doesn't undo the massive injustice caused from the financial speculation that made him rich.

I am extremely uncomfortable at how you sweep "exploitation and imperialism and all the rest" under the rug -- for what? What threat do these Others who speak in tongues through mouths untouched by modern dentistry hold for you? Can it really compare to the continuing misery of literally billions? These people are not "on the rise": the only rise is of a global capitalist elite, with membership on both sides of the aisle (further proving that the whole culture war debate is a scam to prevent class solidarity, just like our current 2 party system).

If you're referring to "radical Islam," you've bought the hype once again. Much of this violence is resistance against continued imperialism by the west via oppressive secular client dictatorships in the middle east (check the stated goals of Al Qaeda) -- not that the mainstream press (or liberal bloggers) would tell you that. And the resistance in Iraq is largely nationalist, against the occupation -- since 2003 75% or more of attacks have been on coalition forces, not civilians.

I'm no fan of religion, but one thing I admire about it is that in certain incarnations it IS prepared to face capitalism and imperialism -- it potentially gives a structure and a purpose and an ethical the eternally tempted left doesn't possess.

Sorry if I sprayed vitriol on you. I'm a tad over-caffeinated right now.