Homoerotic Sublimations

It started with my use of the word enantiodromia. It sounds made up, but in Jungian psychology it means people or things unconsciously transforming into their polar opposites through time. Concerning the Taliban, Bin Laden, and the towers from my previous postings, Jeff Spencer writes:

"The twentieth century is a rich source of combatants attempting to demoralize their opponents by smashing a prestige target believed to possess magical attributes connected to the morale of the opposition's leadership and people. Thus, the Germans exerted themselves mightily in 1915 to try to bomb London with their new strategic superweapon, the military zeppelin. One canny zep captain actually creamed The Bank of England with a salvo of bombs. The Lon- doners were agreeably demoralized, but, due to the hurried air defense measures taken by the alarmed Asquith govt, the zep's season was brief. This same panic recurred in 1917 when the new Teutonic superweapon, the large bomber airplane, arrived over London and caused terror and panic. Alas for the beastly hun, not enough to knock John Bull out of the war, and British air defense measures largely rendered the bombers ineffective. Throughout the 'twenties and 'thirties there was a universal consensus in the West that hundreds of bombers arriving over the great European capitals raining incendiaries, high explosive, gas shells, poison, and biological agents would instantly result in the surrender of the nations.

"In 1940-41, Hitler assayed an attempt to prove this concept on London using high explosive and incendiaries. He caused great misery, but he never put England on the ropes. In 1943, the English were able to knock the Italians out of the war by blitzing Milan and other northern Italian cities. The air raids discredited completely the tottering Musso- lini govt, and the King was able to throw him out, form a new govt, and surrender to the Allies. Finally, there was an incident to prove the blow to the brain theory of strategic warfare, but, alas for the allies, the Nazis stormed through the passes and occupied Italy. Undeterred, the English tried on the grandest scale possible to knock Germany out of the war by destroying Berlin right after their ephemeral Italian triumph. Starting in the summer of 1943 and rolling onward through the winter of 1944 the English mightily exerted the resources of their bomber forces to knock Germany out of the war by destroying the ultimate German prestige target, but they could never hit Berlin hard enough to force German morale into critical mass. In 1945 it was the turn of the Americans to try, but, they, too, failed to crush German morale. The English tried once more by hitting smaller cities like Dresden and scored a knock out---on Dresden--- but the damage did not cause the desired German morale collapse. In fact, until the atomic bombs, bombing never managed to cause the desired failure of will in any of the combatants, and the massive efforts were largely a waste of time and a diversion from more productive operations. The atomic bombs were the coup de grace to a compre- hensively defeated country which refused to surrender. As one sage historian stated, the Allies didn't beat Japan once, but several times: by sinking their merchant fleet, by destroy- ing their armed forces, by destroying all their major cities by conventional bombing, and with the atomic bombs. The atom bombs were hardly a swift blow to the brain on a prestige target.

"After the war, it was the turn of terrorists to take up the challenge of the blow to the brain theory. Terrorism broke the will of the French over Algeria but failed to break the will of the English and the Northern Irish Protestants over Northern Ireland. Bin Laden is only the latest cheapskate to believe one whack at a colossal nation state can bring it down. Except for the cases of the already demoralized and miserable WWII Italians and the effete frog wusses who lacked the will to stand up to aggression in the '30's and the '50's, the blow to the brain theory and the prestige target theory have had a less than successful record. As a historian noted several years ago, no matter what the blow to the brain theorists believe, it has always been huge armies which win wars by destroying the enemy's armies, taking territory, and occupying the beaten enemy's country. Recently we have seen yet another bunch of theorists try to win on the cheap and end up sticking their hands into a beehive--- the so-called "shock and awe" of the recent Iraq exercise which relied on speed and violence to bring the Baathists to heel. As usual, these blow to the brain methodologies fail if the users can't follow them with massive ground power to occupy and administer the target nations in the event their theory did not work. Bin Laden foolishly thought he could brain 280 million by blasting a couple prestige targets. Bush and Co. foolishly thought they could pacify Iraq by running a classic 19th century English Liberal's war, i.e., war on the cheap relying on pyrotechnics and speed to subdue violent and vengeful primitives. Not a chance.

"As for the hoary old canard that applied violence is simply a psychological error in which a victim emulates the aggressor due to a lack of consciousness of self, all I can say is that the believers in such a theory were not in a very challenging environment in school where young males faced with the tyranny of aggression quickly learn the arts of balance of terror and alliance building. In addition, I might add, Mr Dent quickly mastered applied violence and alliance building after I and Schneider tried our exercise in terror in 1972. Maybe a course review is necessary."

My reply to what the thinly veiled swipe in his last paragraph:

Jeeez...what self-serving historicity. When the mullahs come and swoop you up for re-education in the Lodi madrass, will you fight, Jeff, or be frozen in fear at Cumberland?

As you have limited the definition of enantiodromia to the application of violence against an aggressor that is unconscious, you have selectively made a cartoon out of the concept to make your own point about the problem of cowardice and losing nerve in the face of evil. There are lots of ways two cultures can engage in a unification of opposites other than by war. There is nothing that two parties can do about an enantiodromia. It just IS. For instance, when we have to defend ourselves against the islamo-fascist hordes by curbing civil rights to ostensibly beef up our security, we become more like THEM. When we invade their countries—rightfully I might add, they become more like US through exposure to Western trade, press, etc. It's a culture war rather than a hot war.

And, the smashing of icons analogy I used vis-a-vis the Taliban and the flag-burning amendment, I think, stands as an argument for a via media. It's illiberal to smash religious icons in an attempt to control what people worship, just as it is reactionary to propose that Americans with First Amendment rights be punished for expressing a thought by a symbolic act of flag burning.

By the way, did you hear about Fallaci?

Jeff's counter-reply:

"What I am getting at is that that so-called concept, like all literary criticism applied to history, rests on the assumption that the existence of similar-but-discrete conditions between nationsor cultures signifies absolute equivalency, which is exactly why the lit crits have failed to understand historical phenomena for decades. Believe me, I know, I was there. Knighton used to come up with the most bizarre formulations. The problem with the Jung/Campbell/etc. school is that it ruthlesslyforces superficial parallels from the level of what Pynchon rightly calls "cute coincidences" into the level of principals of history. Violence does not escalate in times of war because of some incomprehensible literary theory of human behavior, but because each side is seeking a means to neutralize the other.

The Patriot Act has not made us equivalent to Iran, it is a defensive measure adopted by a democracyunder threat of infiltration by enemies from without. If a fox is sneaking into your garden and devouring your fat cute bunnies, you put up a fence and try to blast the fox with a shotgun. You have made the decision that the liberty of your fat cute bunnies must be circumscribed temporarily because otherwise the fox will eat all of them. Iran's tyranny has not been temporary, and is not in reaction to dangerousaggressors. Iran's tyranny is to vainly try to stop the intrusion of Western political and moral philosophy.

"We do not give a hang what a person thinks as long as they do not commit a violent act. Iran's mullahs are terrified of ideas. A nation in the time of war often, and not unfortunately, grows fond of its symbols. Only a decadent, rat's ass hellhole of a country like the '60's USA could have citizenry so gone in self-loathing that the burning of the flag could be seen as a festive adjunct to mass meetings. When you burn the flag of your own country, you have declared war on it, and be prepared to be considered one of the opposition---the daft Left thinks appalling acts which cause absolute horror to those fighting a war, their families, and the loyal citizenry of a nation are acts without moral substance. OK---thenwhy do it? As Solzhenitsyn rightly argues, it is this kind of thinking that led to the rot which underminedthe social fabric of Russia and led to the horror of nihilism. In 1905 socialist nurses proudly refusedto treat the war-wounded returning to Russia from the war with Japan because they considered them dupes of the monarchy. In the '60's people spat on soldiers. I called a soldier in uniform a war criminal (remember that little "trifle"?). I understand why the people who love their land detest the destruction of the flag.

"No. Wasn't aware of Fallaci predicament. Incredible. Considering the beatings, etc., she has taken reporting on oppression all over the world, that is an incredible insult.

...to which I replied:

"Everything is the opposite of what it is." —Lennon

Too axiomatic and simplistic, eh? I can understand. There are...gray areas...vast gray areas, mushy, swampy stretches of soft underbelly.......

Ron Stringer told me the same thing, that I was applying a literary theory to politics and history. I guess I'm trying to apply it more to society and culture. I just think that there's some truth to the concept that all human beings are basically the same psychologically and that it's possible that we could actually become more like, for instance, the Iranians. I realize that it's unlikely that a liberal democracy is suddenly going to adopt sharia law. We didn't become like the Nazis by warring with them (the existence of the New Age movement notwithstanding), so enantiodromia isn't true in every case.

I find it interesting that one of the big gurus of the Left, Noam Chomsky, put forth the idea in linguistics that there is an inherent structure to language that is innate to the human brain, an argument for nature over nurture—supposedly the conservative's domain. I think this may explain the thought template for today's Left.

If all peoples of the world have the same structures for linguistic logic, then we in the West are forever only a perverse twist of logic away from adopting our opposite. It's Chomsky's great Marxist leveling principal, that the specific ideas of each culture are just the inconsequential flotsam that pollute minds and that underneath, there is a tabula rasa. Overlay the opiate of religion and you get an addicted culture, but overlay sound principals of labor and you get productive citizens.

None of this takes into account the power of tradition. Ancient tribal feuds keep two opposing cultural groups from becoming exactly like each other, even though they are mostly similar. Chomsky doesn't want to acknowledge our atavistic core. He thinks that ideological "isms" can be imposed on the structure. The longing for wholeness or being one with an ineffable God, the unquenchable desire for the unattainable, or the lust for what our neighbor possesses—apparently none of these things is innate. The atavistic core doesn't fit with historical materialism, which is the trap that many like Fallaci fell into in bashing religion. Now she's subjected to the opposite. In an increasingly multicultural Europe, she finds that radical secularism provokes radicalism in the other direction.

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Posted at 3pm on 06/25/2005 | comments are closed Filed Under: Daily

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