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Enero de 2016

III - Esclarecimiento en una edad de destrucción - The vanity of resistance


Paul Douglas Fenn





As the dominant mentality of the Left today, resistance has indeed proven futile. It has chastised academic intellectuals into a scholastic political correctness, and lobotomized political intellectuals, particularly environmentalists, into a defensive, mimetic poverty: a coward before the industrial bully. A myopic night of the enlightened soul, resistance has quietly worshipped national, imperial idols while purging itself of meaning. At its feet we must lay both the triumph of American imperialism and its apocalyptic liberation of violence from the necessity of meaning: of techne from poesis. Purges and culture wars drown out a crescendo of meaningless technological destruction. Renouncing resistance, intellectuals must turn away from the masses and towards a reassertion of intellectual sovereignty. Rejecting empire, we must renounce the nation itself, and embrace municipality as the eschatological theater of an unbounded epistemology. Trespass and localism answer the failures of Marx and Plato: intellectuals must destroy, rather than reform, that idol: nation.


Resistance theory is implicitly premised on the assumption that democracy is impossible – that all power is simply violence, and that only resistance to power is possible. It is founded upon a principle, and sentiment, of futility. Denying the massive gains of enlightenment and oblivious to its democratic, participatory opportunity, resistance theory is an adaptive intellectual imitation of national and imperial power. Defensive in its bankruptcy, it is shamanic and paranoid; existentially negative, its world-view embraces futility as a cathartic liberation from an oppressive rationalism. Opposed as it is to all power, whether democratic or tyrannical, enlightened or not, resistance is an allegorical shadow of Jesus Christ’s spectacle of sacrifice: a Manichean rejection and transcendence of physical being: resistance theory echoes the power of self-sacrifice to propagate a myth of immortality.
In the final analysis, resistance theory fails to grasp its own nihilistic fundamentalist, passive-aggression. Anti-historical and competing with the past, resistance theorists are moral athletes of necrophilia. Resistance is dyslexic; its clarity rests in a blurring of the eyes and a turning away from secular responsibility in order to dissemble an untenable, ephemeral, misanthropic idealism. Oblivious to the dialectical nature of worldly politics, resistance theory cannot confront the democratic, rational system of the violence European republicanism has created, in which the rule of law has been perfected to allow unhindered access to the means of destruction.
Within a perplexing ironic imbalance that defines our time, 20th century resistance theorists like Derrida, Foucault, de Certeau, and Bordieu (before them Phenomenologists Husserl and Heidegger, and Romanticists Rousseau and Emerson, et.al.) ignored the molecular palpability of financial power and imperialism, and viewed all power sub-atomically as essentially cultural. Seeking to overcome the Platonic or “rationalist” errors within Marx by splitting every epistemological hair, resistance has become politically myopic. Trapped in the reified hypostasis of Cold War triumphalism, perhaps, resistance theory ignored the many conspiracies underway to undermine democratic institutions and control public opinion within democracies: threats to enlightenment that should have been obvious to all. Worse, resistance theorists became instruments of political resignation, as a just hesitation cognizant of the sins of Marxism caused a navel-gazing sterility and impotence. Turning inward, a suicidal archetype has shrugged off the corporate takeover of the media and universities as inherent or inevitable reflections of the nature of those institutions; it has embraced the idiotic representation of life as private experience: and has, in the end, abandoned the gang-rape victim of enlightenment as the whore who deserved it anyway.
Resistance theory is politically naïve. Specifically, it fails to perceive the physical nature of cultural practices, chief among which is surviving meaningfully, not merely creating or inhabiting meaning. Our urban culture of cleverness and technology is a thing we have made, and compulsively foster. It is the central cause of destruction. A con-venality drives the power of armies to destroy, and the willingness of imperially dependent civil populations to tolerate and forget its violence, which together enable democratic conspiracies of permanent warfare. Resistance theory has forgotten that our savoir faire is made, and that if we are to stop making our way of life we must make something else in its place!
Training society to embrace homosexuality, or placing women into military combat, are cultural revolutions imagined and motivated by resistance theory to do all the same things differently. By transforming culture, so it goes, we will transform society, and create the long-delayed political revolution later: a deferred promise reminiscent of the Kingdom of Heaven. Resistance theorists are not concerned with the ability of a society to govern itself through democracy, but with the entitlement of people to identities defined as cultural properties, and ideas reduced to values or beliefs.
But identity, like culture, is active; it is not passive. In Yet Another Contribution to the Philosophy of History, Johann Gottfried von Herder pointed out that the Philosophes of the mid-1700’s might destroy religion with their mechanistic views, but could not hope to replace religion. He was right: the philosophical parts do not, in the end, constitute a cultural whole. A tolerant society, and a sexually and racially just society does not constitute a democracy. Private freedom does not cause public liberty.


Our ancestors drove an increasingly exotic division of labor into specializations and narrownesses unimaginable to the ancient world. Resistance theory is adapted to this specialization: as it’s handmaiden or co-dependent. Resistance is a specialist’s solution to being bullied, which is to say a solution that solves nothing, but neutralizes the urgency of answering the problem. In this sense, resistance theory amounts to hiding under the dead bodies of loved ones, not to survive, but to avoid being killed. It is self-instrumentality, a self-administration of failed democratic societies to minimize an uncontrollable destructiveness.
It is anger management at a mass scale. Clinicians tell us that the mounting depression consuming American society comes from our genetic past, and from hormonal or chemical imbalances. Yet we have every reason to feel depressed. Identity politics, the child of resistance theory, blinds itself to the depressing reality of our society and attends fanatically to cultural purification.
Identity politics hides in an idiotic privacy, and the culture war it espouses is at center of the failure of democracy: its puny radicalism threatens all. Conditioned to the hubris and destructiveness of manipulating people en masse, and oblivious to the damage being done to the progressive vision of American empire, culture warriors champion an apocalypse of intellectual absence as a cultural utopia. Stopping them is, however, pointless, unless a way forward is found in the manner that human society survives and runs itself: our complex problems are really simple, however unapproachable. A latent nationalist longing prevents us from facing this simplicity: imperialism, not Logos.
The lowest common denominator tracks visibly downward within cultural and juristic norms of contemporary civil society, and political cooperation is increasingly out of the question in a society that is comfortable only with financial and military cooperation. Without tribal cultural monism, it appears, we are simply unable to self-govern outside an envelope of simple venality. American society, and increasingly Americanized European civil society, is a cacophony of private culture – a lonely crowd that is unable to support any political system. Something has got to give: it is empire itself.
Empire has corrupted America just like it corrupted Britain, Rome and Athens, to become as backward as the imperial oppressors that republicans formerly had condescended to despise. Resistance theory fails to recognize the losses suffered under imperialism. Like the Christian fanatics, resistance theory recognizes only the abstract pageant of liberty that was the central sin of the Philosophes: the nightmare of cultural transformation. Born in empire, every enlightened solution we can imagine inevitably involves more imperialism: like international agreements to stop climate change or war.
Imperialism binds enlightenment in an existential venality, and resistance theory flees this trap into another: sexual liberation, drug legalization and free trade represent a new political axis transcending reproductive human culture, that will un-tether violence from the mortal coil of conscious, necessary aggression. It is, to quote the rationalists, “unnatural.” Resistance eclipses civilization and nature. Theories of resistance that project revolutionary potential onto cultural engineering provokes fascist tendencies among cultural residues, which we call “conservatives,” who are thus driven like suicide bombers to destroy the power of their own states. This is America’s version of the progressive empire of the British: a post-national mercantile imperialism whose political philosophy is the weakening of all state power everywhere, and ultimately democracy itself, in a word “to resist the resistors.”


Like Christianity and providential enlightenment, national democracy is an imperialist myth. We lay this sin at the feet of ancient Athens. As few Christians have ever imitated Christ, fewer philosophers have escaped the radioactive magnetism of power and wealth. But democracy, defined nationally is the ultimate fraud. The people, united, will never be defeated! is the empty popular slogan of a nationalist resistance: the people its central myth. For an enlightened democracy, we must self-govern. In order to self-govern, democratic sovereignty must first be municipal, not national. These are basic principles that we must take to be self-evident; it is only local government that can realize enlightenment culture. Enlightenment must disengage from imperial idioms and mores, and embrace a terrestrial particularity. In other words, intellectuals must engage each other, not the masses: in the generation of new knowledge, not communication or education. We must discover and invent our way to a municipal liberty.
The savoir faire required for participation in democracy is in part moral and social responsibility, but it is also epistemological. The intellectual must not only specialization but arrogate the right of epistemological trespass as the foundation of democratic know-how. This is positive dialectics.


A positive dialectic is the opposite of resistance. It does not stop, but segues. It does not resist, but posits. It does not attack, but competes. Nor does the positive dialectician claim to spring from the masses, or fetishize the masses to seek wisdom from them. His position is ironic and tragic. Recognizing that participation in democracy requires literacy, currency, and the privilege of know-how, positive dialectics requires that we acknowledge the intellectual, and not the common man, as the subject of history. It is the intellectuals’ role in democracy that has been abandoned, and must be taken up, in order to make an enlightened democratic culture possible.