Thursday, 3 March 2016
Leaves fall in Spring (4)
And on that grave, there grew a tree. Its fundamentalist, or militant, phase thus completes the life-cycle of a value system. Militancy is manifested only where a separation has already been effected between the system of signification and its original organic stability. The separation is achieved by transformations in material conditions, typically economic but sometimes climatic, to which the value system cannot adapt. The violent return to fundamentals, a subjective manner of accelerating the forward momentum of over-valued factors within an otherwise unresponsive environment, is staged as a compensatory gesture towards crossing back into an earlier state that has already been lost. The militant expresses the impossibility of return - the ground has shifted, those who once belonged are now reduced to mere believers in what has been removed from them. Their burden is also the only activity still belonging to them: the capacity to adjust the quantity of their belief. They are locked out from what they once were; that which was immanent to them becomes a representation and thus an expression of their distance from it. Militancy seeks to bridge the chasm between ideology and immanence. It is a project that must fail, the militant's belief, their commitment, is the decisive proof of the abolition of their world. Signification systems, such as religions, in their early state, have a capacity to respond openly to the order of familiar changes, even cataclysmic changes, that they were formed in response to; but they do not predict events, outcomes or future tendencies that might be extrapolated from the basis of learnt experience. Religion, even in its divinatory or prophetic modes, is the present consciousness of an eternalised life-world (the psycho-social integration of a community with its environment); what is prophesied is only ever the eternalised present in radical form, it is never directed to events that are yet to happen. Religion, as a regulatory mechanism belonging to a circumstance of general homeostasis, is a resilient form within certain contexts, but it is not absolutely resilient. For this reason, it cannot account for transformations in environmental type, what is called 'modernisation'. An appropriately compressed example of a signification system's passage into an accelerationist state, described in the manner of the Annales School, is presented in the events of The Wicker Man: Summerisle's fertility cult responds to unrecognised climatic change (the altering course of a warm North Atlantic current which hitherto had powered the island's fecundity) with an inflation in sacrificial acts. The cult's adherents are caught in a trap of self-misdirection, and are forced by circumstance to increase the intensity of the corrective measures that have already failed. They must also adopt a conscious, pascalian, policy of belief in the fundamental tenets of their system as the only feasible response to its failure. The strategem of belief seems to re-establish connection with the life-world but the relation has become alienated where earlier they had lived immediately within the system's mediations as the totality of their world. As soon as a value system must be sustained by consciously directed effort, also the point at which it has become denaturalised, it is reduced to a vehicle for other values that now drive the old practices from hidden recesses. This adaptability of systems, the capacity to be captured and utilised within other frameworks, as this echoes the economic bias towards the flexiblity of the labour force, is a virtue only in circumstances where abstraction has triumphed over what is lived. Elsewhere, the best of the signification systems die easiest. These least successful forms, overadapted and niche-dependent metabolisms, leave no trace to history; upon contact with abstraction, they pass rapidly from eternalised immanence to a blaze of militant desolation and are lost forever. Whilst the worst of them, those most adaptable, the emptiest, the most fraudulent and corrupt, those compatible with the template of abstract equivalence, flourish posthumously in the afterlife of ideology. Where a value system passes into history, and is thereby transformed into its representation, the object of its continued reproduction, the miraculous transposing of quality into quantity, becomes inseparable from optimising market share, and its circulation of the profaned images, texts, relics (the vestigial remains of a vanished world) that are now transformed into its commodities.