Friday, October 20, 2006

"Fear of chaos, randomness, of the essential inconstancy of organic life are part and parcel of the human inheritance, the shadow-side of our birthright. Small wonder that many, haunted by the fear of death -- which grows with age and is honed further in our rootless world by the loneliness of unbelonging -- feel a visceral tug, as if on some phantom umbilicus, towards a paradise of order and certainty, a place beyond change, decay, and the ambient chaos of modern life. Observation suggests that most of us crave, sometimes or constantly, a sort of terminal order, a destination beyond worry, fatigue and entropy, rising crime-and-interest-rates, the genral sense of galloping disintegration.

The hunger for certainty is as human as the hunger for love. And in recent years the growth of fundamentalism in various forms -- religious, political, scientifuc, nationalist -- has reflected a growing need and pandered to it. The allure of fascism in the thirties was precisely that it promised, in a time of upheaval and fragmentation, to inaugurate a new Heroic Age of forcefulness and order where the trains would run on time, where all cictzens would share the same wholesome purpose and values, and where everyone would feel and look like members of one vast extended family...But 'natural' or not, this deeply conservative fear of change and of strangers, with its correlative urge for perfect order -- this hankering after Edens and Heroes -- is radically anti-human and self-defeating, since people do change and are inevitably imperfect.

Despite the romantic blood and soil demagogy of fascist regimes, fascism feeds at the deepest level on a fear of blood and soil -- fear of the genuine body and the actual earth, not their poetic idealizations. And if a terro of the organic lies at the static heart of fascism, then the worship of the machine that characterized the ideology and art of totalitarian Europe in the thirties was an expression not of reverence but of fear.

How little things have changed.

Conservatism's fear of the organic -- fear of the body, and detachment from it -- flags itself most blatanly in the support of right-wing (and conservative left-wing) fundamentalists for...their opposition to sex education in the schools. And in their support for capital punishment, carried out by way of various expensive and ingenious machines -- the ultimate expression of a state's contempt for individual human life.

Conservative thought...betrays a fundamental mistrust in humanity, which it portrays as fallen, riddled with flaws, requiring a kind of paternal superintendency and the imposition of a stern, coercive order. The people I would call true or organic thinkers refuse to see human beings as either debased and fallen from some primordial playground or as perfectible and angelic; neither the stinking denizens of a Hieronymous Bosch hallucination nor the sweet, beaming townsfolk of a Norman Rockwell.

True thought is essentially realistic insofar as the mutability, fluidity, and interconnection of all things, which it takes as its grounding tenets, have been increasingly borne out this century by the work of quantum mechanics and nuclear physics. Conservative thought -- dualistic, hierarchical, normative, and static -- is based instead on neurotic, if natural, misconceptions."

-Steven Heighton, 1997

I found this exerpt from a longer essay to be quite interesting, not only in light of current developments (Bush, 9/11, Iraq), but on a personal level, because I tend to be somewhat conservative in certain matters.