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Passing Judgement.                                                                        .





Once upon a time we said, ’the past stops here’; naïve, but signalling a clear intention to break with certain abuses seen as ‘history’ - that is, as inherited and past their moment of utility (if they ever had such). Now we argue, ‘the future stops here’… “so far and no further!” Signalling our disenchantment with progress and where we suspect it is taking us. But how to stop the machine now its motor has been fully wound up?


The future stops here... Everything begins with a critical recognition of where we are going… of the blind rush into a future already soured in many advanced economies… in others, those that ‘follow’, the ‘developing countries’, we witness the mimetic aping of the ‘fittest’, the ‘strongest’, the ‘most advanced’, without regard to their faults (or, if noticed, subject to the provisos of national agendas, the ambitions of governing classes). Yet the critique of present day culture, of its evolution, its line of destiny, its putative ‘dead end’, requires a position from which to pass judgement… from which to arrive at an awareness, a recognition of its problematic nature - let alone any possible ‘solution’.


Stepping back so as to be able to view the whole, to be able to see the big picture, even to go this far, to achieve simple perception and understanding, never mind diagnosis and prescription, even this nevertheless requires a viewing position. Yet if the visual metaphor used here (position in space) appears innocent of implications, it is because it hides the fact of language (position in ideas), forgets the priority of language and the modes of understanding embedded in it, our culture and its points of view (our ideologies, our value systems, our horizons of expectations). Because vision so easily dupes us into believing that its very immediacy is sufficient for our present orientation, so our total dependency on language, the steady accretion of past experience, ours and others, our culture’s and the world’s, is all to easily forgotten. Yet very little knowledge actually proceeds from vision. First hand visual experience (behind so many notions of empirical verification) is limited in its occlusion of the verbal aspects of human existence (our language and culture as preconditions of the comprehension of what it is we see) and worse, the conceptualisation and comprehension of any general social or economic process (for example) is always already beyond the limitations of simple vision… or even any individual’s experience… So if the visual metaphor is initially arresting, we must not forget that we are really dealing with ideas; ideas with implications, belief-systems, ideologies, religions, metaphysics…


The future stops here... So the critique of the fast approaching future proceeds by means of an ideal standpoint… but this critique, even the very perception of the problem involved, all depend upon the viewpoint adopted, no matter whether its origin lies within the orbit of discourses secular or sacred… and in the exchange relation, the price to be paid for this new identity; the loss of individual thought based upon a particular and unique context, vulnerable to pack thinking, the party line (an exchange of freedom for security… hesitancy for certainty… truth for Truth).


It is here that you must pick the cure… which is also your poison.


For the choice of critique (its position, our position taken) involves a blind spot (again the visual metaphor), an act of surrender, a sacrifice… what it is we lose… for what it is we gain…?


Moral righteousness: the path whose end excuses the means; the posture that excuses everything – the royal road (or dromos) to all forms of fundamentalist belief, to all acts of terrorism - last word in the justification of violence (from whatever source). The ultimate ego trip, final step in the dance of recognition, always to be right, always in possession of the last word, subject only to, and authorised by guarantees given by (some) god and underwritten by death. That of others, their sacrifice, willing or not - and ones own…


Cleanses everything… in the self: but not yet in others; those yet to be cleansed…


So if scepticism, disbelief, or its weaker sister, agnosticism, do not attract, seem altogether too weak, too provisional or too pragmatic; then making a strategic choice regarding which poison it is one will choose to water down until it can safely be used, might be the way to go (the position of liberal appropriation). Reforming the belief system of ones own home and regional history may the most direct route. Otherwise taking a principle from elsewhere and re-cutting its cloth until it fits in with ones home culture or civilisation may be felt to be preferable; a fresh start, permitting the evasion of historic, traditional accretions which maybe unwanted; an appropriation resulting in a position from which to step… Either way a stepping stone is placed in the lake of unknowing that stretches out before us up to the horizon of the foreseeable, providing the first step in the formation of a bridge over to an, as yet, unknown place: an option preferable perhaps to the closed certainly of a cast-iron foundation with its finished teleology of a always already predictable future.


One route to saving the best of the thought of the past from the cloaks and depredations of national superstition and organisational distortion (and so saved from becoming the handmaiden of place-seeking, the justification of hierarchy, the rationale behind violence).




Make your choice of philosophy or religion: choose your poison, your cure, your ‘physic, the bitter pill of your medicine, your metaphysic, your crutch… the goad and salve of your personal salvation. Your ultimate good, your necessary evil.




            Copyright Peter Nesteruk, 2008