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September 29, 2021

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Wayne Northey

Thanks Brad.

Your musings made me think of René Girard's Battling to the End: Conversations with Benoit Chantre (https://www.amazon.ca/Battling-End-Conversations-Chantre-Violence-ebook/dp/B007SWZXV4/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=battling+to+the+end+girard&qid=1632968826&s=digital-text&sr=1-1); also of Can We Survive Our Origins? (https://www.amazon.ca/Can-We-Survive-Our-Origins-ebook/dp/B00VYG6EL8/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=can+we+survive+our+origins+girard&qid=1632968888&s=digital-text&sr=1-1). In the second, former Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams strikes a hopeful note in the Foreword:
***
Girard is thus pointing out a double sickness in our culture. We do not take symbolism seriously and so are inclined to ignore the fundamental cultural fact that our linguistic communication is rooted in the question of how we limit the destructive effects of imitative desire. At worst we speak and act as if there were no crisis of imitative desire, no problem of stopping the spiral of mimetic competition. We risk reverting literally to a pre-human state in which we have not yet worked out how to contain aggression. Equally, we have lost our familiarity with the myth that exposes the arbitrary and irrational nature of the primitive symbolic concordat—the myth of a voluntary and innocent death that unravels the exclusionary sacrificial illusion, the myth (and fact) of Christ’s cross. We deal in discourses about war that pretend that technological advance makes war rational; but the analysis of what Mary Kaldor and others have called “new wars” shows how the pattern is actually one of vastly increased moral and social confusion, in which the question of legitimate authority in the public or political handling of violence has become worryingly obscure. The refusal to recognize the primitive symbolic character of modern conflict, the radical un-modernity of our warfare, is one of the most dangerous illusions of our time. And the equal unwillingness to see the symbolic workings of exclusion in an era of dramatic gaps between rich and poor, when unrestrained competition and unlimited “growth” are taken for granted as intelligible values, is no less of a time bomb. . .

It is as if we had gone back to that evolutionary turning point at which we first properly recognized each other as centers of desire and found that we had no means of negotiating it except by struggles for power. And of course unless we begin by acknowledging the need for symbolic resolution, we shall not come to the point of acknowledging the necessity of having our initial and brilliantly successful symbolic answer turned inside out by the counter-myth of divine nonviolence. . .

That is why we so badly need careful work on the frontiers between Girardian theory and other currents of critical thought—biology and neuroscience, anthropology, war studies, economics, and, not least, the specific stories of conflict, scapegoating, self-recognition, and transformation that emerge from the conflicts of our time, from Northern Ireland, the Middle East, Sudan, and South Africa. As Girard indicates, the stakes are very high at present. But it is possible also to see—as he repeatedly points out—that the arbitrariness of “sacral” violence is harder and harder to conceal for those who reflect seriously about conflict in our world.
***
In its being "harder and harder to conceal," brutal Empires like the U.S. are increasingly put on notice that the "righteousness" of their violence needs to give way to the "counter-myth of divine nonviolence." But will that ever happen?

And if it changes with the U.S. (but not a chance I think!), China is already displaying the same in worldwide brutality. Not to mention Russia; Brazil; Israel, etc., etc., etc. So I wonder with you that this will be "after a complete end, rather than a real and complete END."--if I get your meaning.

One can only live in hope . . .

Brad

So painful. Needed to be called out.

To be honest, if I were leading an evil empire, I would certainly opt for more drone strikes rather than boots on the ground, and more targeted assassinations rather than cluster bombs, and more drones rather than other-worldly expensive aircraft. I would do this to assuage my own guilt and to appease my own citizens and to avoid even really admitting we're at war.

Now, of course, these would be delusions of a lesser evil but it would seem expedient and utilitarian and even "progressive" to my imperially deranged mind. I would imagine it saving a lot of lives on 'our side' and pretend I'm reducing civilian casualties on theirs (overall), and most of all, I could reduce the military budget significantly ... which is precisely why the Generals would never allow it. One simply doesn't mess with the growth industry of a military complex that relies on permanent expansion, including both occupying more foreign soil with military bases and, just as important, never ever slashing budgets. The tension the bases themselves create is necessary to perpetuating a felt need for a bigger budget. And now that we're out of Afghanistan, where can we press the panic button to fuel arms expenditures?... oh, there it is: Southeast Asia again and the Chinese threat (who are working from similar premises). In any case, what's a few 'minor' drone incidents to give the peaceniks something to rail against? A convenient pressure valve at best.

It's a dark world. I see no reason to think we won't be extinct before 2200 AD that does not involve magical utopian OR chosen remnant thinking (including dispensationalism). If indeed God is non-violent, there will be no dramatic left-behind Armageddon intervention that rescues humanity before it crosses the redline. And no humanistic turnaround has enough buy-in to avert our annihilation by climate change, pandemics, or a final war. If Christ is to restore all things and resurrect all people, it now seems more likely that this will only come to a real and complete END. Just as it is for all of us anyway, given the current death rate is 100%.

Bradley

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