Saturday, August 8, 2015

On Bureaucrats & Violence

 Image result for businessman icon

"There's something about a bureaucrat that does not like a poem."*

(Continued from Surviving On Miracles)

- Have you heard about the Center of Theology And Philosophy? What a group of religion professors are doing?
- What are they doing?
- They claim to expose the religion hidden within our supposedly religion-free societies.
- Our making things, moving them around, buying and selling. What do they say religion is?
- A story of where we start, where we are going and what we do to get there.
- And what is the religious story hidden behind our secular liberal societies?
- Doing for the sake of doing, doing this ever more efficiently but going nowhere. There's nowhere to go. We've arrived.
- At making things, moving them around, buying and selling.
- Yes.
- And only those things. Not directly helping each other.
- We can't agree on what helps a person. If we all try and insist in our different ways we'll end up killing each other. That’s why we keep religion out. In our private lives we can help each other or not. 
- The story of the hidden religion is that people before us used to kill each other a lot and now they don’t as much, and that is the end of the story, except that in addition to saving lives we do better all the time at making, moving, exchanging things. And what do the professors say?
- If we are going to base society on religion, and we can't help doing so, we could choose a better religion to base it on, one that told a story that would model more completely human nature and so be more fitting.
- What if the doers for the sake of doing are right? The other ways sound good but practically speaking never can arrive because they face violence before they can get started?
- The professors answer that much of the violence feared is the product of secular society itself. The people of secular society can lose everything in a moment. They are pressed and locked down into specialized roles. They make exchanges where the profit of one is the loss of the other, where they have to be enemies when they'd prefer to be friends. Of course everyone knows it is insane to do things for the sake of doing. That is why there's private life! Doing for the sake of doing is not their religion. Their religion is a claim that this combined public-private story is the best possibility.
- Except that we know the public moves into the private, progressively occupies it. Isn't there a story how to manage the two worlds' relation to each other?
- No, we're to assume they don't relate at all. The stress of enmity in trade, the specialized roles get in the way of caring in private life. And something else, much more  fundamental, is happening. Religions work to hold us together by involving a part of ourselves we are unclear about. Every hidden story of religion involves a lack of self awareness. The part of ourselves we feel in the grips of but are unclear about we assign to a god. Religions are models of right life involving states of unawareness, the model itself learned without self awareness. Religious models are of two types: violence, and love. Both violence and love occur without a direct awareness of self, in a very specific kind of social relation we humans have mastered, a kind of social technology very close to the technology of making things in the physical world.
- Religion is a spontaneous social technology?
- You think it's strange, inappropriate to speak of religion in terms of technology? Rather it is the physical world that has an unclear relation to technology. Material technology historically came after social technology and its derivative status shows: unlike social role, a physical thing is conceptually incoherent. We can’t imagine how separate things move each other. Some invisible force like gravity does it. A society of interconnected specialized roles is a kind of machine in which how roles are performed is decided under threat of force, not by the desires of the individual.
- We are not confused by social roles because the threat of force motivating them acts on the individual's playing the roles, not on the roles themselves which are not real and don't interact with each other any more than physical things do. How does the world force people into performing roles if they don't really want to? 
- Leaders issue threats and act on them. To get control of nature, we learn the habits of one part of the world, and set those habits into relation to habits of another part of the world. We look for the law or rule of what happens when something, doing what it does, is put into relation to another thing, doing what it does. 
- A master acts the master, the servant acts the servant, and doing their characteristic actions we know what to expect from the pair.
- Yes. We experiment, vary conditions, looking for more efficient production of the result we want from the combination of habits we've observed. In secular society we experiment with the habits of differently specialized people to get the result of producing more things, moving them around, buying and selling them.
- And the movement in the physical world is like the threat of violence in social life that keeps the characters playing their roles against their will?
- Yes. Force of gravity, the power of the pharaoh. Secular society is like such a kind of technology, with inherent violence in relation between roles. And the reason when we look for an explanation in the natural world of the relation between things and can’t find it is because it is not there, it is in the human life outside the technology that has deliberately put the world in a relation of habits of movement, as human beings are deliberately reduced to social roles. The power is external. In secular society, the religious story says that private life is separate from public life. But in reality, public life, that technology, results from a reduction of private life capacities, and the violence that maintains it comes at the loss of the human nature of the people involved.
- Excellent analysis.
- But this means private life, pressed into the service of public life, has its sphere invaded, it loses power. And this is aside from practical matters of threat to basic livelihood and the enmity of competitive profit seeking we talked about. The alternative that isn’t supposed to be there, is in truth there. It is love instead of violence, the other religious story that can be in hiding in support of society. In performing a ritual we see ourselves enter weak, we perform a known in advance series of actions in the company of others, and doing so we feel strong at the end from the security of knowing what we’re doing and others are doing and what we can expect from them and ourselves in the next repetition. We’ve already repeatedly experimented, have developed habits, and now can predict the outcome and look forward to it. We are in control of a social machine and feel its power. Doing this we are not aware of ourselves, we are in flux as we are transformed from the weak selves entering the ritual to the strong confident selves leaving it. We are the operator of a machine, we feel the power it gives. The bureaucrat is an operator of a social machine, is both cold while in the midst of ritual and his sight on the required ritual moves, and arrogant from the sense of power that he feels at or looking forward to the conclusion of the ritual. The bureaucrat monitors role performance done under threat of violence and is ready to guide government violence towards anyone who is disobedient, and even at times mount preemptive attacks.
- And love?
- Is also performed without consciousness of self. And is also a technology, and like ritual in that habits of doing are placed in relation to habits of doing, but to completely different effect. Take a man and a woman in love. They come home from work to the same house and do the same things. They feel safe and secure in each other's company. At home, in this lawful joining of habits, unlike ritual in this religion of love their sight is set on each other, not on themselves. They see in each other the peaceful, safe, regular relation they make for each, and look ahead to how the foundation made at home will give them the strength to make improvements in their lives outside the home. Unlike ritual in which public life exerts itself destructively on private, in this kind of religious story private life exerts itself creatively on public life.
- Too complicated. 
- In religions of violence, we feel strengthened by knowing we can do again what we've done. In religions of love, we are doing the same thing, putting our habits in lawful relations to those of others, but instead of thinking about what we are doing, we simply rely on the security of the situation and give ourselves over to freely imagining what else is possible for us together with each other's support.
- A little better.
- Social technology is managing my habit with the habits of others, physical technology is managing the habits of things with each other. Social technology can produce violence or love.
- And physical technology I suppose can do the same, help our practical lives take a form that encourages us to love. How does that look?
- We’ve said already: it allows people’s habits to effortlessly, peacefully, domestically fit with each other so they can go on with creating their lives with each other.
- If this is correct, violence is not an inescapable condition of societies secular or other. If you provide people a society with this technology, provide conditions that allow them to make homes with each other, they will love, not be violent.
 - Love will be the story, the foundational belief hidden below awareness, will be the religion of such a society.
* Jean-Luc Godard