Killing Sophie Again

Sophie Scholl

haGalil, a German webzine on Jewish life, announced a demonstrative performance “under strictest observance of the mandatory Corona protective measures, including the testing of the participants” and “in close consultation with the appropriate authorities.” And thus, three days later, a spooky scene presented itself on May 9th 2021, the 100th anniversary of Sophie Scholl’s birthday, to onlookers at Munich’s Königsplatz (The King’s Square) as well as the viewers of a live video stream.

A definition of cognitive dissonance

At a distance of about twenty meters from the visitors, Dr. Hildegard Kronawitter, the managing director of the Weiße Rose Stiftung (White Rose Foundation Germany), was giving her emotionless opening speech by reading from her notes. She explains that she wishes the actors much joy at the performance and that Sophie Scholl may accompany them in their everyday lives. She thanks “the audience which has shown up in exactly the numbers permitted” by the authorities. Then she proceeds with reading a short welcoming speech from Munich’s mayor Dieter Reiter who couldn’t participate personally “because the conditions to be observed under Corona made that impossible for him.” His text honoured the theatrical artists’ upcoming performance as “a living monument” for Sophie Scholl whose actions “have broken the Nazis’ claim for monopoly over public opinion.” He proclaims that “Remembrance today means that we stay vigilant and do not remain silent when people get affronted, ostracized or attacked on confronting cheap propaganda” and closes his address by emphasizing how “fundamentally important it is to stand up for freedom, peace and justice – every day, and in every situation.” So far, so good. But then…

What follows would have been a bizarre sight even before 2020. One hundred young people come walking through the side gates of the Propylaea, a monumental arch in Greek classicist style. They are dressed in black pants, bright red shirts and … dark FFP masks. A few years ago one would have correctly guessed that those masks were symbols for abolished freedom of speech; today you’ll be cut short by the managing director of the White Rose Foundation if you assert as much. The youth march to their positions in front of the gate, exactly two meters apart from each neighbour, where, for about forty minutes, to the sound of Scholl quotes, they go through their theatrical motions without moving much from their places.

It is not up to me to judge the performance which has surely been given with the best intentions and in a spirit of devotion by the students, but as I said already, the scene felt utterly spooky and bizarre when seen in the light of the occasion, the celebration of a young woman who has been killed for committing simple acts of non-conformity to government orders. Set to the recitation of her demand for freedom a group of one hundred students – “under strictest observance of the mandatory Corona protective measures” and “in close consultation with the appropriate authorities” – through their large-scale demonstration of obedience make a nonsense of the very matter to be celebrated: an individual’s decision to follow her conscience even under the threat of death. If you need a definition of cognitive dissonance, here it is. And if you ask me whether it is justified to quote the words of Sophie Scholl, Anne Frank, or Dietrich Bonhoeffer in defiance of their second slaughtering by contemporary bureaucrats, be blessed.

Atrium of the University in Munich where the Scholl’s were caught dropping leaflets. (wikimedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 Unported)

Civilization and violence

In a certain way each era has us living in unprecedented times – times which have never before unfolded like these. It lies in the nature of our linear view of history, but more so it lies in the nature of the subject of history, civilization, a culture in eternal making-over. As civilization amasses lands, people, stuff, knowledge, it grows constantly bigger until it eventually reaches its peak, the maximally achievable size and power, before it collapses into a heap – the end of history. Reinhold Niebuhr, an American theologian and social critic, in a typical misconception of the civilized philosopher stated that,

“One of the most pathetic aspects of human history is that every civilization expresses itself most pretentiously, compounds its partial and universal values most convincingly, and claims immortality for its finite existence at the very moment when the decay which leads to death has already begun,” [Niebuhr, Beyond Tragedy, 1937, p39]

The thing that Niebuhr almost touched without noticing is that the apparent peak of civilization is not only a turning point but the most intense illusion of grandeur. What he, like most everyone I know, overlooks is the fact that the great architecture, the nicely chiseled rhetoric, the elaborate theories, the astounding technologies, the dolce vita and the fantastic wealth of civilized culture have at their basis the rape of peoples and lands. Violence, in other words, is not the exception to the supposedly lawful order of civilized culture – it makes up its very foundation. So we lie to ourselves when we think that violence is uncivilized, a typical characteristic of “primitive underdeveloped” people(s). We lie to ourselves when we think that we could keep violence in check. We lie to ourselves when we think that “best practices”, “progress”, and well-chosen leaders were able to overcome the predicament. At the apex of civilization, violence immerses everything, penetrates all places, and is baked into the morals, the knowledge, the technology, the law, the religion, the arts, and even the most ordinary rituals of everyday life. To say that violence got institutionally established – which it is – does not sufficiently describe its seat, its role, and its effect within our societies.

Directed switching-over

This becomes increasingly highlighted by the tyranny whose grip for power, for the first time in all history, does not radiate from one centre. It does not rally around one leader. Those who seem to take decisions are so obviously puppets that we cannot attribute full responsibility to them. Though they are guilty as shame for issuing inhumane unconstitutional orders they cannot be mistaken for the source of the global all-pervasive violence which is wrecking the illusion of the supposedly benevolent culture. No longer may we point to a Führer who verbatim took all responsibility on his shoulders. Violence has become a background radiation emanating from countless sources.

As I pointed out repeated times, and as it should be quite obvious prima facie, every single state, national and public institution or organization in India and most of Europe – the regions I have an overview on — has been turned into a zombie of the new régime. Among the most efficient of the numerous techniques applied to this effect are 1, the appointment of outsiders into leading positions – a non-police as head of police, a non-journalist as editor or publisher, a non-politician as minister, a non-physician as chairman of the board of the medical association etc –, 2, a strictly hierarchical culture of obedience, 3, the induction of fear of an elusive source of danger, 4, financial incentives, 5, misinformation, secrecy and censorship, and 6, social control and mass-psychological manipulation.

The technical term for this process in the German language is Gleichschaltung. Introduced by the Nazis in 1933, The technical term for this process of zombification is Gleichschaltung. Introduced by Germany’s National Socialists in 1933,its literal meaning is the simultaneous directed switching-over, the result of which is social synchronization among all public, economic and private entities within a country, to achieve a declared purpose. Neither the origin nor the intent of Gleichschaltung – whether you call it by that name or not – have anything to do with democracy, even as the parliaments castrate themselves and many of the institutions and organizations seem to spontaneously fall into lockstep all by themselves.

Volksgerichtshof, Freisler
Roland Freisler (centre) at the Volksgerichtshof (Bundesarchiv, Bild 151-39-23 /CC-BY-SA-3.0 Germany)

The moral collapse of respectable society

Some people object to the use of such terms (or any statements at all from that time, for that matter) in today’s context because these supposedly refer to specific events in the thirties and forties of the last century, while today’s societies – on the level of declarations – seem to differ tremendously from back then. Let’s take Frau Kronawitter, the above-mentioned managing director of the Weiße Rose Stiftung, as an example again. In November 2020 she said that her institute “disfavours” the use of Sophie Scholl quotes by the “Corona opposers”. The White Rose members had rebelled against a dictatorship which oppressed opinions and persecuted dissenters brutally whereas today, she said, the rule of law guaranteed free speech and the right to demonstrate.

You have to be quite blind – or biased – to not see the brutal physical and verbal violence against the peacefully acting dissenters of today, dissenters against an already established authoritarian régime under which oppositional views no longer reach the general public through ordinary, established channels. Being ignorant of the atrocities committed by the system, said Hitler’s secretary Traudl Junge, is no excuse, though, for there are always means to acquire knowledge through means outside the official framework. Sophie Scholl who has been beheaded around the time Traudl Junge joined Hitler as a secretary, might have agreed, I guess. At her trial before the Volksgerichtshof (the NS supreme court) she said to Roland Freisler, “Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don’t dare express themselves as we did.” In another quote attributed to her she stated,

“The real damage is done by those millions who want to ‘survive.’ The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness. Those who don’t like to make waves—or enemies. Those for whom freedom, honor, truth, and principles are only literature.

Frau Kronawitter is not one of “those with no sides and no causes.” Even as she disagrees with the critics of the corona measures, her position – as a guardian of the memory of historical resistors to tyranny – might rather have obliged her to give those who quote from Scholl’s legacy at least the benefit of the doubt. ‘I understand the outrage,’ she could have told the journalists, ‘but I believe that we are far from the kind of situation the members of the White Rose found themselves in.’ Instead, in denial of the writings on the wall, she uttered the words abuse and absurd to denounce the protesters’ concerns. To my ears, it’s her own words that sound grotesque, not only in the face of the current situation but also with relation to the declared goal of the Weiße Rose Stiftung: At the end of the closing credits to the film Sophie Scholl, The Final Days (2005) it says that the foundation “informs relentlessly … on civil courage and resistance – even today.” In other words, keeping the memory of historical lessons alive is an ongoing task that requires vigilance with regards to wolves in sheep’s clothing. Early warnings need to be taken seriously, and active resistance should set in before it becomes a suicide mission. Yet obviously, like so many other leading figures in the memorial business, in music, literature, politics, science, medicine, philosophy and leftist circles, Kronawitter fell for (or instrumentalizes) literalism which means she cannot concede that under the shallow surface of differing phenomena the same old patterns drive the same old game for power toward the same old goal. But their literal understanding of what the assertions of the oppressors and the statements of their adversaries mean from a broader perspective is outdated since at least the 1960s.

Hannah Arendt

Lessons from history

Ever since people wondered what had befallen humankind during Europe’s totalitarian period, historians, philosophers, psychologists, and sociologists have been using the actual terminology of that time in a more general sense to describe the phenomenology and mechanisms among groups of people and whole societies sliding into barbarism – or hyper-civilization, I should say. History does not repeat itself; it does rhyme quite regularly though. In other words, the lessons of history speak of active patterns, not of identical actors or events. Hannah Arendt as one of the better-known, well-received socio-historical analysts, dedicated her life’s work to finding the patterns underlying the fascist state. In her speech on Personal Responsibility Under a Dictatorship (1964), she made the conditions we live under remarkably well discernible:

“Totalitarian society, as distinguished from totalitarian government, is indeed monolithic; all public manifestations, cultural, artistic, or learned, and all organizations, welfare and social services, even sports and entertainment, are “coordinated.” There is no office and indeed no job of any public significance, from advertising agencies to the judiciary, from play-acting to sports journalism, from primary and secondary schooling to the universities and learned societies, in which an unequivocal acceptance of the ruling principles is not demanded.”

Most of today’s governments work in open breach of their democratic constitutions; yet so far they act merely authoritarian, not totalitarian. It is society itself – following impulses from its executive branch – that has slipped into totalitarianism, with all its elements “coordinated”, streamlined, lockstepped, gleichgeschaltet. If you don’t wear a mask you cannot enter the shop. If you don’t test negative you cannot enter the classroom. If you don’t vaccinate you cannot go to work, or to concert, and you cannot cross the border. If you kiss your friend or have a birthday party or publicly read from the constitution you get arrested. If you outspokenly disagree with the official health paradigm your publisher rejects your book or record, your chief editor refuses to print your article, your bank cancels your account, your internet provider drops you, your boss fires you, your landlord boots you out, your social-media hangouts silence or de-platform you, and your friends stop speaking to you. Hannah Arendt, in her effort to understand what had happened eighty-five years earlier to herself, described the same “incredible ease with which lifelong friendships were broken and discarded.” At the root of the phenomenon there was “fear-inspired hypocrisy”, she explained, but also an “early eagerness not to miss the train of history … among a great majority of public figures in all walks of life and all ramifications of culture” (ibid.), just as we can observe today. And there was a righteousness in them that defied all reason, all empathy, and persisted beyond the collapse of the violence-enforced lies as became overt in the post-war trials.

But even those who drifted along for fear of sanctions or who thought they were somehow choosing the lesser evil washed their hands of all responsibility. They felt that, as cogs in a machine, as functionaries of a system, they had no power over its atrocious deeds whatsoever. Nevertheless – according to Arendt – they have been and remained human beings which could and should be held accountable for their participation in the events, because they always had a choice. “All governments rest on consent,” she quotes US founding father Madison, and added that the fallacy rested in mistaking consent for obedience. Therefore the correct question to be put before the followers in a tyranny was not, ‘Why did you obey?’ but ‘Why did you support?’ (This is also part of the spiritual practice of taking responsibility for one’s life; instead of telling oneself, ‘I have to go to work’ one concedes ‘I choose to go to work.’) “Monsters exist,” says Holocaust survivor Primo Levi, “but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.” [The New Republic, Feb 17, 1986]

Lessons from history: Rabbi Chananya Weissman testifies before the Berlin Corona Inquiry Committee, April 9th 2021

Making a difference

Hannah Arendt tried to find an answer to the most fundamental question in which way the system’s supporters and the non-collaborators differed. She concluded that the non-collaborators, “called irresponsible by the majority, were the only ones who dared judge by themselves.” They carefully decided on the limits of how far they could go and still look in the mirror, and even under force would prefer to die rather than step beyond those limits. The others, though, the system’s supporters would cling to established rules which were hijacked by those in power:

“The total moral collapse of respectable society during the Hitler regime may teach us that under such circumstances those who cherish values and hold fast to moral norms and standards are not reliable … Much more reliable will be the doubters and skeptics, not because skepticism is good or doubting wholesome, but because they are used to examine things and to make up their own minds. Best of all will be those who know only one thing for certain: that whatever else happens, as long as we live we shall have to live together with ourselves,”

writes Arendt (ibid.), whereby she points to a generalization to be derived from the experience collected under the Nazi régime. As unique as the extent and the particular forms of evil under that specific tyranny may seem, underneath lay psychological and behavioral patterns which can be traced across all of civilization throughout all of world history, and they came to the foreground, again, in March 2020, clearly visible to anyone with open eyes or sensitive guts. If the Holocaust memorials, the war tribunals and the public commemoration days ought to have any meaning in today’s world beyond simple sorriness for irrecoverable losses, if the legacy of the Scholl siblings tells us anything at all, it is this one word: Beware!

For the time to stand up and disobey has arrived.

When logic doesn’t apply

The interviewer asks what she is supposed to do about the climate crisis, and Roger holds that it’s obvious. As it isn’t to the interviewer he gives a simple analogy. Go to 15:25 and watch for two minutes only, to see what happens when we don’t allow ourselves to question our lifestyles and assumptions.

Roger misinterprets Ms Ahituv’s not getting the analogy as playing games. I believe she actually *is* incapable of following him. She really cannot spell out the obvious, even though a three-year old could have done the mechanical repetition of what has been said in the analogous example. Because that would have meant to overthrow everything she lives by, for, and from. Confronted with preferences, logic does not apply.

And this inability to simply go through an hypothetical exercise has nothing to do with the correctness of the assumptions around anthropogenic CO2 emissions as the main driver of global temperature increase. (I no longer believe in those, either.) We find the same deficiency in everyday life whenever it’s about inquiring root causes and putting into practice what we find out, be it about environmental destruction, the wealth gap, the Corona regime, patriarchy, corruption, or genocide. We know what to do about them: So far as we are concerned, to simply to stop doing them, participating in them, staying quiet about them, endorsing them. What’s complicated about changing our own behaviour (rather than waiting for society to change) are our thoughts on how this would rock our boat and make us uncomfortable at first. We don’t know what to do without our comforts, and we wouldn’t dare to think how life could be arranged in different ways. Our unwillingness to question our preferences, assumptions and the stuff we deem “obviously real” kills not only our culture of reasonable discussion, it kills life on this planet in wholesale.

The reason why I hold that civilized culture and a good measure of its members are completely insane is this pathological inability to shed the distorted, delusional, dysfunctional sense of self which guides our thoughts and actions.

In proximity with a neurosis

S. Freud & C. G. Jung 1909 (pd)

“Freud considers a neurosis to be a substitute for a direct means of gratification. For him it is something inauthentic–a mistake, a subterfuge, an excuse, a refusal to face facts; in short, something essentially negative that should never have been. One hardly dares to put in a good word for a neurosis, since it is apparently nothing but a meaningless and therefore irritating disturbance. By treating a work of art as something that can be analyzed in terms of the artist’s repressions we bring it into questionable proximity with a neurosis, where, in a sense, it finds itself in good company, for the Freudian method treats religion and philosophy in the same way.”  ~~ C.G. Jung – The Spirit of Man, Art, and Literature

In the case of arts I rather tend to be with Freud than with Jung (who usually talks greater wisdom) and I’d say that arts, religion, and philosophy (like science, politics writing, and a …hrm… few other things) belong into the realm of civilized neuroses and psychoses. Ridiculous, isn’t it, when we have the common image of a nutcase in mind, a person that we cannot identify with, especially as an artist. We don’t feel sick.
But I don’t mean to say that artists were just loonies or that I weren’t affected and couldn’t create arts myself, or that pieces of art can’t be beautiful. I just begin to let go of the idea that mental disturbances were “something essentially negative that should never have been.” To me, they rather represent a healthy reaction of the mind to an overwhelming challenge, and that overwhelming challenge is civilization. As you may have guessed already I hold that a percentage in the high nineties among us is mentally disturbed by the dominant culture; the more so the more actively a person believes in separation.
From this point of view, regarding any issue or topic, I ask the question, Does this exist among wild peoples, does it exist with animals, does it exist anywhere else? And if so, how does it manifest? What could be the underlying notion there?
Kali mata (N Dhar, Pexels licence)
Interestingly enough, prehistoric artifacts, cave paintings, and tribal totems often find themselves depticted in tomes about ‘primitive arts’ but that’s a complete misrepresentation of what they are to their (physical) creators, I believe. They are not even ‘sacred objects’(Wikipedia), and they don’t represent the Sacred; they are sacred subjects – beings in their own right. So art is not involved here. The ‘artist’ neither depicts reality, nor does she interpret it her way, nor does she express herself. The Sacred is expressing through her. To some degree we find this even in modern times, where the sculpture of a Hindu goddess – say, Kali – becomes the goddess herself at the moment when the sculptor finishes his work. The sculpture is Kali in person, neither a piece of art, nor a representation of the goddess, nor a ritual object. That’s why she doesn’t bear the name of the sculptor on her back.
Compare this to what arts have historically been or what they mean to us today, and what the driving motivations for creating art were/are.
Again, this is not to diminish the artist’s perception, creativity and craftsmanship, or to deny artistic beauty, but to put it into another perspective. Arts, despite modern individualistic views, isn’t merely personal, it has a collective dimension. And the collective is… impaired.

Pulling the plug (Yurugu series #9)

The Yurugu blog series attempts to uncover some of the myths the dominant culture is based upon. As we have a hard time seeing the things we take for granted the view from outside, through the eyes of a different culture, may help with discovering our biases and enable us to act more consciously.
Marimba Ani, the author of the book Yurugu. An African-centered critique of European cultural thought and behavior,is not involved in putting up the series and does not necessarily agree to its contents. The series is also not meant to present the book’s central thesis, or to agree one-hundred percent with it; rather the blogs are inspired by the deep thoughts Marimba Ani has put forward, and offer some of them for consideration. This is the last blog herein.

pic: Bijay Chaurasia (cc 3.0 by-sa)

[previous article]
Adyashanti, a teacher with Christian and Zen Buddhist roots, once described awakening as a process of chipping away everything that is not true or real. The many concepts, beliefs and material things our culture has accumulated over thousands of years require a lot of chipping before glimpses at its underlying drives and axioms become possible. Still far from having reached ultimate reality the work for us, then, becomes the disempowerment of the power-seeking asili, first and foremost the meme of separation. We’ll see in a moment why that is so.
Members of Western civilization perceive themselves to be fundamentally separate and alone and therefore constantly under threat; they – we – lack balance and completeness. Consequently,

Material accumulation becomes the tool of an assurance against the hostilities and attacks of others. The individual becomes obsessed with the negative and threatening possibilities of the future – with accident and with death. He lives in a culture diseased with thanatophobia and one that provides him with insurances “against” every kind of physical or material possibility imaginable, yet knowing that no amount of financial gain can redeem his soul. He is truly Faustian man – but he did not choose to be so. The “choice” is already implicit in the asiliof the culture: the bio-cultural, ideological core.

European culture, then, fails in the primary function of a cultural construct, i.e., to provide the human being with the emotional security brought by spiritual communion. This sense of security, which the European fails to achieve, in majority cultures [“non-European” peoples] is created out of the spirituality of human interrelatedness and a concept of shared human value; an arena that transcends the material. (Yurugu, p380)

What is true for the culture as a whole does not fail to affect its members. The lack of true community goes hand in hand with a lack of deeply-felt love:

While the conception of love as the desire and ability to merge or unite with “other” may be accurate, “expansion” of the self is not the same as unification of self and other. And this is crucial to understanding the problems that beset, not “humankind,” but the European specifically. If the ability to love is predicated on the capacity of identifying “self” with “other,” then it is clear from this discussion that European culture does not provide a basis for the love-experience; instead it imposes an utamawazo[culturally structured thought, philosophy] that inhibits (devalues) identification and emotional participation and an ethic that complements and is consistent with this cognitive structure. We have come full circle to Plato. For him “knowing” was more important than “loving,” and “to know” meant knowing as “object,” something separate and distinct from self. Europeans, perhaps, do not love themselves and have no basis from which to love “others,” Norman Brown says. (Yurugu, p394)

Marimba Ani 2008

In other words, within European culture as expressed by its cultural core, it is impossible to create healthy relationships to the world in general, other living beings, other countries, other members of our culture, to our “loved” ones, or even – and especially – to ourselves (our Selves). If we are ever to overcome the many difficulties and life-threatening crises we are faced with, this is where the root causes lie, and this is where we need to work for change. Yet,

Intra-culturally, there is no basis for morality. Instead, there is merely a competitive ethic. The well-being and “success” of each disparate “self” (or ego) is threatened by that of others. Instead of being dependent on their well-being, European social structures depend, for their proper, efficient functioning, on mutual aggression, distrust, and competitiveness; i.e., fundamentally hostile relationships. If love were to enter into these micro-systems they would break down. But they are ensured against this occurrence, since they breed for cold calculation and reward competitiveness and aggression. (p 559)

This is what “love is the answer” means. While some may understand it in a fluffy sense, a woo-woo notion of irrational elevation from physical reality, love’s power to soften the stranglehold of civilized life from the inside is truly immense. It is both the force that weakens our culture’s foundations, and the result of its progressive inability to exert power over us. In the case of citizens of civilization, to love means to revolutionize what-is.

The only way of negating (short of destroying the culture from without) the inherently paternalistic nature of European interaction with other peoples would be to alter the European self-image, and that would mean changing the character of the utamaroho [collective personality] and the values dictated by the ideology: The ideology is, of course, embedded in the nature of the asili. That is a frightening truth for the European “humanist”; it’s neither pleasurable nor rewarding in any immediate sense. Moreover, it is the most morally difficult task Europeans could undertake. The call for a world culture is an escape from such an unpleasant prospect. It has been, in the main, a way of procrastinating – of putting off a painful, but necessary, ordeal – much as one puts off tooth extraction, knowing full well that the tooth will eventually have to come out. The issues are how long it will take the decay to cause untenable pain and how extensively it will be allowed to spread. There can be no viable process of European self-criticism, because this goes against the nature of their utamaroho. The decay will spread until the infection is expunged by the world’s majority (those external to the culture), otherwise the culture will simply rot. (Yurugu, p539f)

As a human of German descent I shouldn’t begin to criticize my culture, some may think. But what Marimba Ani is talking about in her eye-opening book Yurugu is not the eternal condemnation, or the eradication, of the Caucasian race. While the lack of melanin, as some authors speculate, may have played a role in developing our obsession with power, the psychological condition can be healed fully after it becomes conscious and the person – or culture – is sincerely willing to overcome her condition. My own awakening has been triggered, and my awareness has been sharpened by Buddhism and other wisdom traditions whose roots are based in non-European soil. I can see the culture I have grown up with from a different perspective today. The words of a Native American like Jack D. Forbes, or of an ethnic African like Marimba Ani, do make sense in a very deep way. How deep I have reached in my search for truth is, of course, unfathomable to myself; but I can sincerely say that I have been chipping away quite a lot of substance from the asilii’s manifestation within me; which means to say, change is possible.

The measure cannot be words alone; talk is cheap. We need to understand the workings of our culture on such a level that we cannot help but to translate our understandings into consequent tangible actions and coherent behaviour. There are things we would, and some we wouldn’t do from then on. As the place which those actions get motivation from is just as important, a to-do list – starting with, 1.) change lightbulbs – cannot be the answer to the question of what is required from an aspiring revolutionary. We need to work this out with our local community. It is in the process of reconnecting with others and with our true Self that we mustdiscover what our new culture will look like. One cannot know its specifics from before the paradigm shift. It would likely not resemble any of the habits currently lived by any of the world’s cultures; but it would, for the first time in ten thousand years, be compatible with the continuation of life on Earth.

Imbalance as collective pathology (Yurugu series #5)

The Yurugu blog series attempts to uncover some of the myths the dominant culture is based upon. As we have a hard time seeing the things we take for granted the view from outside, through the eyes of a different culture, may help with discovering our biases and enable us to act more consciously.
Marimba Ani, the author of the book Yurugu. An African-centered critique of European cultural thought and behavior,is not involved in putting up the series and does not necessarily agree to its contents. The series is also not meant to present the book’s central thesis, or to agree one-hundred percent with it; rather the blogs are inspired by the deep thoughts Marimba Ani has put forward, and offer some of them for consideration.

[previous article
 
The other day, in a discussion on the derangement of our World, and how to go about changing its ways, my dialogue partner mentioned Ase,

a West African philosophical concept through which the Yoruba of Nigeria conceive the power to make things happen and produce change […] The recognition of the uniqueness and autonomy of the aseof persons and gods is what structures society and its relationship with the other-world” [Wikipedia]

Ase seems to relate to Jung’s Daimonic, or Paul Levy‘s Wetiko, or Rüdiger LenzAggression (a concept which Lenz might have adapted from Fritz Perls, or from the word’s Latin original meaning, i.e., to address, to approach), all of which are names for a driving force with both positive and negative, constructive and destructive potentiality. Which side of the force expresses itself in each of us, or in our communities and societies, depends on our emphasis, which in turn depends on how we tend to see the world. In terms of Ase, our culture and its members overemphasize autonomy and individuality, from which we derive our perceived separation. From a Yin-Yang perspective, we are tremendously out of balance; from Marimba Ani’s view, we represent Yurugu, the immature male being that has interrupted its own gestation and is forever in search of its missing female aspects. Marimba Ani writes,

What are the characteristics euphemistically associated with this utamaroho[collective personality]? “Spirit of adventure”; “the love of challenge and exploration”; “the conquering mood”; “a certain inventiveness, ingenuity and restlessness”; “ambition”; “love of freedom.” These phrases signify the misinterpretation of an intensely devastating spiritual disease.

Twisted by the ideological demands of the culture into valued characteristics, they are made to seem positive, superior, even healthy. They are, instead, manifestations of a cultural ego in disequilibrium. Created in a spiritless context, the European utamaroho lacks the balance that comes from an informed experience of the whole self. The self that then emerges – defined in disharmony – seeks further to despiritualize its surroundings […] Europe is a cultural statement of Yurugu, the male being, arrogant and immature, who caused his own incompleteness, and so is locked into a perpetually unfulfilled search for the female twin-soul that would make him whole, the part of himself he has denied. (Yurugu., p561)

So I would say, it is not just change that we are looking for, for permanent change is also what our civilization is obsessed with. The change we are talking about is not mechanistic, not utilitarian, not egoistic, all of which represent just one side; it is J. Krishnamurti’s Real Revolution, and the place it comes from is not the rational mind (alone).

Photo by Fancycrave.com from Pexels

The founders of Extinction Rebellion perhaps do understand what I mean by that; at least it’s what I get from their founding documents and some of the talks. As they don’t push it to the foreground the question remains whether the majority of fellow campaigners are sporting a similar understanding… but one can hope – hope that we’ll be able to change our ways; hope that when we are stopping the raping of Gaia she may unfold her self-healing capacities; hope that there is still opportunity to wind up business in a controlled manner before time is over and the end of civilization is upon us.

Happy Puthandu(14 April, Tamil New Year) to everyone, and happy International Rebellion Day on Monday!

 [next article in the series]

How to identify imperialistic thought (Yurugu series #2)

The Yurugu blog series attempts to uncover some of the myths the dominant culture is based upon. As we have a hard time seeing the things we take for granted the view from outside, through the eyes of a different culture, may help with discovering our biases and enable us to act more consciously.
Marimba Ani, the author of the book “Yurugu: An African-centered critique of European cultural thought and behavior”, is not involved in putting up the series and does not necessarily agree to its contents. The series is also not meant to present the book’s central thesis, or to agree one-hundred percent with it; rather the blogs are inspired by the deep thoughts Marimba Ani has put forward, and offer some of them for consideration.

[previous article]

With all the many groups of people and their many ideas on what it means to live a good life, it has become increasingly harder to tell who are the ones we would like to identify with, help along, and promote in their efforts to make this world a better place. With so many people lying through closed teeth, so many others pretending to be someone they are not, and with yet so many others not understanding the implications of their own words, how can we tell the real deal from fake and delusion?
The answer could be something like this: look out for the imperialist mindset.

Why is this important?

European rationalistic ideology has “created” a particular kind of person who can be expected to behave in certain characteristic ways. If the uniqueness to the culture is not understood, the positive possibilities of other cultures will get lost, and, whether consciously or not, this is a thoroughly Eurocentric objective. For this reason, we assume the particularity of the European form and therefore the need to explain its development, not as the result of some “universal” process, but by understanding its asili[cultural core] – a unique combination of factors that in circular relationship generate the personalities and ideological commitments that form the influencing matrix.

This explanation is all the more compelling since Europeans represent an extreme minority culture. It is the realization that Europe is in fact a culture in which imperial domination of others does indeed become a “comprehensive world-view” that is important. This is unique in the world and the characteristics (themes) of European culture – its “rationalism,” violence, and lack of spirituality – are not merely isolated pathologies; rather these characteristics are linked to each other in a developmental matrix (asili) that is itself “pathological” in the context of human societies.

(Marimba Ani: Yurugu. An African-centered critique of European cultural thought and behavior, 1994, p392)

While the drive for power permeates all of European-based thought, philosophy, and religion its presence, in most people, goes unnoticed by its carriers. In any case, apart from rather rare displays of unmasked power tripping, it hides behind a shroud of idealism, altruism, alleged necessity, or “universal” values such as humanism, humanitarianism, equality, freedom and democracy.

Nevertheless, there are quite a few signs by which the imperialist mindset can be identified in somebody’s speech or behaviour, one of which is againstness, which results in kind of a war mentality. When you notice someone pointingtheir rhetoric against evil politicians andmad scientists, professing to be Anti-this orAnti-that, concludingthat a certain group of people or certain circumstances were the cause of all evil and need to be singled out and fought against, exterminated even, you may already be on to recognizing the imperialist mindset’s workings.

Saito Musashi-bo Benkei,
the Buddhist warrior monk
But be careful: there is also such a thing as legitimate, productive criticism, a legitimate form of liberating rebellion, and the spirit of the consciousness warrior as described by Joanna Macy and others. Today, I will not go into describing what they are about. Instead, I want to point out in relatively simple terms how to identify the imperialist mindset. Here we go:

1) Differentiation
As a first step, the imperialist mindset is looking for differences in opinion, clothing, preferences, size, religion, or anything else people (and other beings)may differ in. There is no problem with this in itself. People do have different skin colour, accents, opinions, possessions, etc. The imperialist mindset is actuallydifferent from everyother mindset, and any serious analysis must point this out. Yet people also have many things in common; basically we are the same, or even one. And this is what the imperialist mindset denies when it takes the next three steps, which are almost always veiled in moral statements or rational argument:

2) Separation and Othering

In the second step, the imperialist mindset seeks to separate itself from the ‘Other’, claiming to not be (like)that, and to overemphasize differences to the degree where differencesovershadow any common ground onemight have with the ‘Other’.

3) Devaluation

In a third step, the imperialist mindset devalues the ‘Other’, makes it a less-than-human object, seeking not only to compare its ownvalues with those ofothers, but to devalue and negate the latter. So we could also talk about objectification and dehumanization.

4) Crusading
As the ‘Other’ has become something bad, a less than human object, there is morally no problem with trying to control, oppress, or extinguish it. The ‘Other’ can now be fought against by all means available, from ridiculing to verbal character assassination, to torture, to literal slaughtering of its body.
Daniele Ganser. Photo: Ingo Wösner
Daniele Ganser, a Swiss historian and peace researcher, describes the process in three steps only, “Teilen – Abwerten – Töten,”(Divide, Devalue, Kill) when he talks about how governments, with the help of mainstream media, convince us of the necessity of warfare against “terrorists”, “dictators”, and other evil-doers of the day. In short, this is Ancient Rome’s two-step programme divide et impera, but I found it important to indicate that its first necessary step is differentiation, that differentiation is also a necessary step for us in evaluating a situation, and that it can have a positive effect when diversity inspires us to create a new synthesis of pathways and views.
Were I to say, To liberate our communities from imperialist rule (the enemy without), and our minds from imperialist thought (the enemy within), we must destroy Elitist agency, you should by now be able to identify such a statement as speaking from an imperialist mindset. This is what we need to become conscious about. What we seek is not elimination, but deep understanding that inspires us to act from a different place. Marimba Ani who could be described as a warrior for decolonization and African self-determination says about that place:

While one functions pragmatically within a profane reality, that “reality” is never thought to be the essence of meaning. In spiritual conceptions there is always a striving for the experience of a deeper reality that joins all being. Learning is the movement from superficial difference to essential sameness (Na’im Akbar). This “sameness” is spirit; beyond and ontologically prior to matter. It is the basis for human value. One’s spirituality involves the attempt to live and structure one’s life on national, communal, and personal level in accordance with universal spiritual principles. (Yurugu, p368; emphasis mine)

 [next article]

P.S., Bébé Vundermann has written a companion article titled, A Yurugu Mirror & the Role of Consciousness Warriors for our Time, which I recommend reading.

Decolonizing the mind (Yurugu series pt.1)

The Yurugu blog series attempts to uncover some of the myths the dominant culture is based upon. As we have a hard time seeing the things we take for granted the view from outside, through the eyes of a different culture, may help with discovering our biases and enable us to act more consciously.
Marimba Ani, the author of the book “Yurugu: An African-centered critique of European cultural thought and behavior”, is not involved in putting up the series and does not necessarily agree to its contents. The series is also not meant to present the book’s central thesis, or to agree one-hundred percent with it; rather the blogs are inspired by the deep thoughts Marimba Ani has put forward, and offer some of them for consideration.

*****

In view of the many difficulties the human species faces these days, and looking back at ten thousand years of oppression, social disparity, suffering, warfare, and environmental destruction that fill our history books and news media, what sticks out is the utter inability to tackle any single one of those issues. One should think that, with all that ingenuity we ascribe to the human mind, we’d be able to make things better, overall, and that we would never allow ourselves to step to the very precipice, have a discussion about whether it’s there or not, and politely urge each other to go ahead. Yet that is exactly what is going on; and what’s more, it happens despite loud warnings. Season’s greetings from Katowice.

Another thing that sticks out is that non-European cultures do not join in the activities of Western oppositional movements. There was no Summer of Love in Beijing, no nuclear-disarmament protests in Tunis, no Occupy campaign in Lagos, and, as far as I can see, no Yellow Vests in Rio. Uprisings concerned with environmental issues or social inequality seem to revolve around completely different faces, problems, and ideas. When it comes to “global” and “universal” in terms of humanness, values, needs, or rules, so-called developing countries seem to belong to another universe altogether.

That critical voices from Caucasian-dominated regions of the world, such as Europe, North America, Latin America, or Australia seem to effect change neither in any of their home countries nor in “underdeveloped” nations, is a systemic failure that is rarely noticed, and if so, it is rationalized by tactical or strategic mistakes its proponents had made.

What goes wrong here, though, may be explained in relatively simple terms: the protesters themselves nurse a bias in their mind; they act from assumptions, and they promote notions that are deeply rooted in the very culture they profess to criticize. In the case of European civilization, which is a tremendously aggressive culture with a long history of imperialism towards and colonization of other peoples, we need to literally decolonize our minds before we can hope to make any progress with changing our societies. That, at least, is the motif underlying the following number of blogs which explore European thought and behaviour (whereas by Europe we mean all cultures based on the Babylonian-Greek-Roman-Frankonian-Anglo-American-Globalized industrial civilization, including big towns and cities in all countries the world over).

African nightmare; basic photo: NASA (pd)

In the intentional commune where I live, an international township in India founded on principles of a (Westernized) Indian philosopher, the surrounding local population complains about endemic racism, neo-colonialism, and a general untrustworthiness of the white residents of the township. They, the natives, say they don’t feel taken for serious, talks don’t happen at eye level, and that they are being cheated and blackmailed on a regular basis. All this happens against the backdrop of cultural exchange, educational, and empowerment programs emanating from that township. Clearly, the self-image of our township’s residents and our neighbours’ view on us are differing tremendously.

As someone who does his best to translate good intentions into tangible action I feel hurt by the accusation of being a colonizer. In the literal sense – the Latin root means, farmer, settler –indeed, I am a colonist But does that mean I am bringing back imperial rule to India? Originally, I didn’t think so.

Looking back at how I have run my life, the things I have believed in, the fights I have picked up, and foremost my basic assumptions back then – well, in short – yes, I need mental decolonization.

In order to criticize one’s own culture one has to be able to see it in its totality, which means, one has to take a step back, outside of it’s cage walls, to be able to compare its metaphysical foundation and practical implications with those of other cultures. In the very rare cases where decolonization successfully happened without foreign intervention – think of the Gnostics, or Meister Eckhart – it came about by means of mysticism; knowledge emerged from the doorway of not-knowing. As clarity of mind is so completely impaired by our culture’s scientific materialism, technological utilitarianism, and unbridled egoism, I don’t see this path being pursuable by any number of truth-seekers right now. What I’d rather try here, through a series of articles, is to have sources speak whose view is less biased by European thought than, say, Kant, Skinner, Fresco, or even Mumford. As much as the latter – and others like them – may have contributed to breaking the juggernaut’s shell, by fueling the rebelliousness of younger generations, as much did they contribute to the proliferation of certain values which had, and still have, devastating effects both on other cultures and people’s world view within our own culture.

Information does not suffice to activate the energies needed for change, but it is a useful if not necessary part of change nontheless; useful maybe for some of us willing to having a look inside, to see the concepts impairing our vision and the emotions suppressed by the mental structure Freud “discovered” (invented).

With all that in mind I’ll start with a series of articles based on quotes from a book that philosopher and anthropologist MarimbaAni, otherwise known as professor emeritus of African studies at Hunter College, New York, Dona Richards has written: Yurugu. An African-centered critique of European cultural thought and behavior (1994). Not only does Yurugu provide a refreshingly clear – as well as shocking – insight into the origins, history, philosophy and functioning of today’s Europeanized world; it is also a rich source of literature for further studies on African and European cultures. In her introduction, the author writes,

This study of Europe is an intentionally aggressive polemic. It is an assault on the European paradigm; a repudiation of its essence. It is initiated with the intention of contributing to the process of demystification necessary for those of us who would liberate ourselves from European intellectual imperialism. Europe’s political domination of Africa and much of the “non-European” world has been accompanied by relentless cultural and psychological rape and by devastating economic exploitation. But what has compelled me to write this book is the conviction that beneath this deadly onslaught lies a stultifying intellectual mystification that prevents Europe’s political victims from thinking in a manner that would lead to authentic self-determination. Intellectual decolonization is a prerequisite for the creation of successful political decolonization and cultural reconstruction strategies. (Yurugu, p1)

As we begin to see that decolonization is necessary for our developing a truly life-endorsing culture, the question arises in which ways European civilization does actually shape our reality, and then, using that insight, how to end its spell on our lives. In the coming weeks, we’ll explore specific aspects of all that – science, technology, love, art, morals, freedom, and change, among others – and we’ll have a look at our culture’s innate weaknesses. While for non-European cultures it will be hard to regain their cultural sovereignty, the self-decolonization of their European counterparts – us – will be immensely more demanding, because we have no tradition to support our effort and to fall back into.

Through the study of the asili, the utamawazoand the utamarohoof our culture – concepts Marimba Ani has introduced into modern African cultural anthropology – we will see that nothing less than total dissolution, transformation, or metamorphosis of Western civilization can result from a successful decolonization of the minds of its citizens. Yet it is not our goal to glamorize or even appropriate African traditions, but to learn from their views, and to find related concepts that make sense in the context of our new communities.

The blogs of this series can also not replace the study of the book it is based upon. While reading, keep in mind that this is neither a retelling nor a critique of Yurugu but a search for who we, members of the globalized industrial civilization of the early 21st century, are. Perhaps that can help with actualizing our deeper humanity – the being beneath the cultural mask.

[read next]

Frozen in movement

Do you believe in numbers? Do you believe in the power of the collective?
Me, I don’t. Not any more.
There is no collective; there never was; certainly not with global industrial, nor with any other civilization, for a civilization, by definition, is based on the story of separation, and the individual becomes the constituent building block of society, just like the atom becomes the constituent particle of matter. A collective in a civilized society is nothing but an illusory container full of particles in Brownian motion, confined by the jar’s walls which prevent the mass from moving outside. You may float up, you may sink down, but what does it matter? You don’t become one true collective by swimming in the same pool. What’s worse, as long as there’s no free influx of fresh water it is and it stays a pool full of excretions by the imprisoned particles. It’s suffocating eventually.
Immersing oneself in such a social container is an effective way of totally getting the notion – the culture medium – that drives a society or one of its subcultures, and drives it crazy. Up and down you float, left, right and center, until you’re sick and tired of the homogenous view and get the yellow blues. Unless you truly believein the premises that make up the culture medium, that is. Try nation states; try music genres; try street gangs; try corporations, try professional milieus; try academia; try political parties; try activism, for a change (that never comes).
The reason for incest and infighting, for bad breath and dirty deeds, is people’s confinement in separate containers, and the reason for exploding on contact with any of the other containers, again, is their long-standing isolation from fresh influx, so that their chemistries have become incompatible.
Let’s stop the metaphor here, as long as it’s somehow coherent. There are other forces at work as well, I know, and I don’t want to play down the benefits to be gained from interactions within a milieu, but in the end it just doesn’t satisfy my hunger for truth or community. Those are not to be had in groups produced from separation, within societies split and shattered along the personal interests of its constituent people-particles. The very notion of interest requires the exclusion of differently-interested others and the denial of inconvenient aspects of truth.
img by Piotr Siedlecki (pd)
When you are part of the atmosphere that circumvents the jars you cannot help but get drawn in and spat out somewhere sometimes, or react violently in other places. It’s what has to take place, to allow for a minimum of social glue that the incubator, the larger encompassing container, is too rigid to provide. Government and ideology, science and religion are partial themselves; they cannot do the job that each and every single one of the people-particles better did themselves.
There, the metaphor breaks down, just in time for pointing out that the responsibility for making sense of truth, for social coherence, and, last not least, everybody’s well-being and happiness cannot be outsourced to the greasy film on top. We better understand that if we try to fight our way out of the jar, each on our own, just like how we’ve been taught, we are never going to make it. What it takes is true community, a state in which people act from a place which is much stronger than self-interest: love and compassion for the other; in fact, the end of othering our not-quite-so-separate neighbour.
It cannot be done by force; it cannot be done by law; it cannot be done through reasoning; it cannot be done on large scale. International accords and nation states, even cities are too big for this. It has to be done one by one, face to face, right in the place where we are and nowhere else. The fact that I write this on a solitary blog hosted on an (anti-) social platform is kind of hilarious. Yet I got to work from what I have. I’m a writer, I’m an activist, among many other things. I live in a commune (does that make me a communist?), yet community is a state that sometimes has a hard time becoming realized; it’s because our minds, over decades, have been brainwashed into competing with each other. We have no other choice but to try again and again, day after day. So do I, in thinking, in living, and in writing about living and thinking. Words are but a medium; more often than not they fail to transport what’s meant But if you attempt to live a life both outside and inside the various jars you will know what I refer to. You are the one I am writing for.

In the image of the Machine

“The conventional models of human response are based on the civilized world and, yes, there are common strands in all cultures but, for instance, when a death occurs in a tribal culture that has, like all animals, accepted death as part of life then denial is not part of the equation. Neither is bargaining – for how can you bargain with the inevitable?

When Elisabeth Kübler-Ross posited her model for bereavement, it was always going to a be a model for how the civilized human deals with death; it took no account of the way all humans deal with death, for not only are we all slightly different in our approach to everything – not just bereavement – we, as de facto civilized humans, are freaks.

Homo sapiens civilis never evolved. Civilized humans have been created in the image of the machine: we don’t behave as normal human beings any more.”

— Keith Farnish: “Underminers. A Practical Guide For Radical Change

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