Sunday, 17 October 2010

A touch of modern superstition

All model moderns pride themselves on their lack of superstition. They eschew irrational manipulation of the cosmos, being content instead with what they hold to be the rational, cosmic manipulation which science and reason have in part secured for them. There is of course a brand of contemporary irrationality which is happy to use the language games of postmodernism to paint a more vulnerable picture of man before the universe, or they would, if they still believed in 'man', which they generally don't! Still, the fruit of western individualism is the sense of our power and control over things, and if over nothing else, then over ourselves. Hmm, or at the very least some power and control over our choices.

This entire position is of course wrongheaded. God alone holds us in the palm of his hand. We can calculate to the nth degree, and generally do. But I not sure that a rational belief in the manipulation of the universe doesn't in itself amount to a new kind of superstition. I'm not thinking here about the coming feast of Halloween (Halloween from Old English grocer's jargon: 'hallow' = hello and 'een' = gullible parent who buys tons of ghoulish sweets and facemasks made from the same rubbery substance for the purposes of entertaining brats on 31 October'). I'm thinking rather that rationalist or materialist reductionism is as poor an account of the universe as any theory of malevolent gods. Worse, it posits a kind of faceless, intentionless cosmos to which we are entirely vulnerable without being at all accountable. Is it clear what I'm saying? This is a kind of superstition. It is the superstition of Stooge who attributes his first vision of Jacob Marley to a piece of hard cheese that he has eaten for his supper.

So, coming to my point, my belief is that the massive, impending public spending cuts, which are going to be announced in less than 48 hours in the UK, will in some ways be shaped by this modern superstitious belief in the righteousness of certain economic mechanisms. I'm all for thrift; crikey, I'm all for closing down a useless education system tomorrow. But the kind of cuts coming will be those that help categorize our goals as a culture and a nation. And, God help us, these goals will once again be defined as the useful, the expedient and the most productive, rather than as anything which might show us to be the free men we hopelessly hold ourselves to be.

Freedom too is a superstition. It hangs in the trees like the agricultural instruments of western settlers the death of whom has left the natives without any understanding of its uses.

2 comments:

okie said...

Hello good sir! This is your friend from Oklahoma (now Kansas) USA finally checking out your new blog format! I haven't got to run through all the new posts, but this post hits the spot. I have tried to point this out to people before. Catholics are wierdos for believing in Angels, but have you ever noticed when folks start talking about "genes" in the evolutionary process, they sure as heck start to sound like immaterial rational intelligences, do they not? Also, Adam Smith on one side and Mr. Marx on the other sure sound like the economy is some sort of "Dominion" or "Throne" to me, and lets not get started on class consciousness...

Ches said...

Welcome back, Okie!