Monday, May 26, 2014

Totalitarianism, Public & Private




1.

- A totalitarian nation controls all of individual life in the name of perfecting social arrangements.
- Doesn't sound much like the United States.
- Another way to define totalitarianism is by the practice of continuous, unending ritual*. We are threatened by the communists, the Jews, the capitalists, we must be vigilant in eradicating these threats. We see ourselves as weak, we perform a ritual according to the known procedures, and come out feeling stronger.
- What are the known procedures?
- Depends on the country. War making, conceived as response to threat to security. Or exchange of goods and services between parties defined as adversaries in an economic transaction. Ritual in its basic form is an occasional means of recovery. Practiced too often, like a drug too often had recourse to, ritual becomes addictive**, for the same reason: our ability to lead ordinary lives is lessoned when not practiced, and with less ability the world become more inhospitable, making the security delivered by ritual more attractive.
- So countries limitlessly make wars, expand the realm of trade.
- Yes. Doing for the sake of doing***. The state institutions, originally the servant of individuals, become an end in themselves, administrators of the settled, unvarying practice of continuous ritual.
- Money making, war making.
- When this continuous ritual is turned away from foreign practice and turned inward to the state itself we have totalitarianism. The elements within us opposing the trade of goods and services, or opposing the ideal society of sharing we are in the way of perfecting, have to be eradicated.
- The actual achievement of the society of sharing, communism, or the actual achievement of free markets, capitalism, isn't important then, only the application of ritual to assigned obstacles?
- The United States is no more a country of free trade**** than the Soviet Union was a country of sharing.
- Still private life is very free in the United States. It is nothing like totalitarian countries in that respect. But maybe you'll say we're on the way there, with increasing inequality of wealth, monopoly ownership of means of communication and natural resources.
- Monopoly serves expansion by controlling markets. The danger is that the monopolists, with political power bought with their economic power, will not be satisfied only with economic ritual turned within, satisfied with the power to force everyone, like it or not, into transactions with them; that labeling holdouts threats to the nation, as truly they are obstacles to continuous practice of economic ritual, they begin to perform continuous rituals of war against them, step up practice within the country of what they have long been practicing outside. That economic and war expansion share the same form of continuous ritual encourages the transition from one to another, and this is true of all relations internal and external, economic and war making: between external war, internal terror, economic empire and internal monopoly.
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2.

- The same as usual? Medium coffee? You look tired.
- The Guru brought home the paranoid schizophrenic drug addict prostitute. You know her. The store threw her out twice, once for raving and making threats, the other time for dropping an unknown substance in the salad bar.
- You live with her?
- With the Guru. You know him too. He's always in the neighborhood, going around giving away money.
- He gives money to the prostitute.
- Yes. And keeps taking her home. But throws her out after a few days or a week.
- Why?
- Do you really want to know this stuff?
- You should write a book. It would be a best seller.
- I live with these people. I have to keep a distance.
- You'll make a fortune.
- Ok. This is what I can do. I'll begin with abstractions and work my way back to people. Like this: Totalitarianism is continuous ritual, of economics and violence, both inside the country and outside. The same idea can also be applied to individuals, economic and violent rituals in both private and public life. Take the case of the Guru. Every week he gets his allowance.
- From where?
- Family, trust fund. He gives it all to desperate people of the neighborhood.
- Why?
- He says he does it to cure himself.
- Of what?
- Mental illness.
- Is he crazy?
- Yes. Or rather, no more than our entire society is crazy. He tells everyone he is giving on principle, for god. He "looks after #1", isn't acting out of sympathy for other people.
- He wants to feel powerful. And that cured him?
- So he says. After he gives away his allowance he promises more to his "flock", he likes to promise to buy cars, keeping everyone around constantly demanding he perform on his promises, feeding his sense of importance. His phone never stops ringing.
- Did he promise you a car?
- Sure. Now economic ritual can just as easily be repeatedly making profit from transactions as repeatedly giving away money. To construct a ritual requires an enemy, a subject of violence. An empire will send its military to another country or bribe the rulers to open up markets and establish monopoly control. The same country could practice a totalitarianism of sharing where the violence was internal. The Soviet Union, after the violence of appropriating all property, made all of society dependent, begging a share in the giving back.
- I thought you said the Guru gets his money from family?
- They give him the money but they don't want to. He's violent in his insistence, raging and shouting as regularly as he hands out the money.
- A ritual.
- Yes. Violence required to get the money, followed by giving it away, over and over. That is the comparison to external totalitarianism, economic and violent: Economic ritual, the Guru giving away money and making promises buys gratitude and attention; Violent ritual: the Guru shouting and breaking things to obtain the money. The schizophrenic prostitute comes in in the comparison to internal totalitarianism. The last two times he brought her home, within a couple days he'd called the police and had her taken away.
- Why?
- He told her to leave and she wouldn't.
- Why not?
- He invited her there. She felt at home.
- Why did he tell her to leave?
- She didn't respect his authority.
- Did he want to sleep with her?
- Of course.
- And she wouldn't. Why not?
- He didn't perform on his promises of money and car.
- Why not?
- Maybe he's satisfied with the repeated rituals, violent and economic, of provoking the family's anger every time he brings home a paranoid schizophrenic drug addicted prostitute, and then the excitement of bargaining with her over her prostitution and the power of throwing her out.
- And she keeps coming back.
- She's desperate.
- Have you tried to talk with him?
- It's difficult. He admits everything: he has no sympathy for people, he gives away money as a self-therapy.
- But where did all this come from?
- God told him to. God is telling him now he will save the prostitute. I tell him he can't save her, he doesn't understand the world, he doesn't understand other people, he doesn't understand himself. He says he doesn't need understanding, god is looking after the success.
- What do you say then?
- That what he means by god is power and vanity, is the product of ritual.
- And?
- He doesn't understand.

P.S. The next morning, after the girl's calling, as she likes to do, the Guru's separated wife, threatening to cut her to pieces and gloating she had taken her place in the Guru's affections, the police arrived and dragged the girl off kicking and screaming. The Guru could be found later in the evening calling all his friends, inviting them to come over and have a good time with him.