sweet black angels of history

Aldous Huxley spoke of a utopianism as we  evolved into a type of post-human; our immutable human nature changing as the genetic re-write and reproductive revolution matures heralding an closure on the Darwin era. In the meanwhile, history has shown that we do a competent service in acting out variations on dramas, acting on the cues scripted by our stubborn DNA. But, before we can step into Huxley’s garden of earthly delights we are still stuck at a fork in the trail to Eden. Romanticism tends to believe that war and sex are the hard-wired realities of human nature and which fan out and color all our experiences.War and sex are psychic gratifications; and inherent love of war and conquest with political considerations holding a subordinate role.

Goya. Disasters of War.Michel Foucault:It is, far beyond dreams, beyond the nightmare of bestiality, the last recourse: the end and the beginning of everything. Not because it is a promise, as in German lyricism, but because it is the ambiguity of chaos and apocalypse: Goya's Idiot who shrieks and twists his shoulder to escape from the nothingness that imprisons him-is this the birth of the first man and his first movement toward liberty, or the last con-vulsion of the last dying man? read more:http://prernalal.com/scholar/Foucault%20-%20Madness%20and%20civilization.pdf

Van Creveld might deny the existence of a “war gland” or “aggressive gene,” but he asserts that given a choice, “men might very well give up women before they give up war.” And while Keegan detours into the brain’s “seat of aggression,” he concludes that, “half of human nature – the female half – is in any case highly ambivalent about war-making.” Are wars merely a matter of sex and psychology – or are they waged purposefully by rational men and women? Read More:http://www.clausewitz.com/readings/CaleReview.htm

max beckmann. ---In the historical project of liberation, Benjamin represents the Angel of History as being on our side – the angel wants to intervene but does not have the power to do so. Do we? Benjamin criticizes the pessimism that regards fundamental change as impossible and that tells us that historically, utopian dreams have been losing propositions. As an antidote to resignation, Benjamin proposes “the gift of fanning the spark of hope that was in the past,” as if memory could ignite a kind of prairie fire across the generations. Such memory is identified by Benjamin as “the quintessence of Judaism’s theological concept of history.” Embedded within Jewish tradition is extraordinary hope – Biblical accounts of Exodus and of the Maccabees, for instance, remind us that liberation movements can succeed against seemingly invincible power structures. read more:http://www.sciy.org/2010/03/18/the-angel-of-history-walter-benjamin%E2%80%99s-vision-of-hope-and-despair-by-raymond-barglow/ image:http://www.allthingsbeautiful.com/all_things_beautiful/2006/04/index.html

The great analyst Carl von Clausewitz came to the conclusion that war was driven by politics and not the irrational and insane inner urges of man.As an officer, he was dumbstruck by the speed, mobility and mass of revolutionary warfare. The old strategies rigid maneuvering were pointless when faced with an enemy armies inspired and imbued with the war fever heavily dosed with patriotic and revolutionary fervor, the citizen soldier ennobled beyond the typical mercenary, could carry out new strategies involving initiative, concentration and the element of surprise.

---foucault:Sade's calm, patient language also gathers up the final words of unreason and also gives them, for the future, a remoter meaning. Between Goya's broken drawings and that uninterrupted stream of words continuing from the first volume of Justine to the tenth of Juliette, there is doubtless nothing in common except a certain movement that retraces the course of contemporary lyricism, drying up its sources, rediscovering the secret of unreason's noth-ingness. read more:http://prernalal.com/scholar/Foucault%20-%20Madness%20and%20civilization.pdf image:http://www.allmoviephoto.com/photo/geoffrey_rush_kate_winslet_quills_001.html

Clausewitz was forced to ask himself the fundamental question, of “what is war?” The answer was that these new European wars, in a context of political and social change, were not a entity in itself, but a series of actions which were shaped by politics; war being nothing other than “the continuation of policy by other means.” In other words,every war is the product of deliberate, calculated decision and never conducted without political purpose. Men are not killing themselves because they are of a given culture or national background. Instead, it is because they are the instruments of reasoned and deliberate political policy.

But the real record is that contemporary militarism is a policy generated in the West in an attempt to redeem the authority of unpopular governments. Bruce Porter, predicting an unravelling of the American state, says "we can expect growing public disdain for the political process, rising unrest in the inner cities, proposals for radical constitutional change, third-party movements, one-term presidents and a serious national identity crisis over what it means to be an American" It is this crisis of political legitimacy, rather than technology or mass demand that provides the backdrop to contemporary militarism. read more:http://www.clausewitz.com/readings/CaleReview.htm image:http://www.killerfilm.com/articles/read/restrepo-goes-to-national-geographic-29032

It is normal that between Goya and Otto Dix, the latter would be hung with the twentieth-century belief, mistaken, that war is guided by the inhuman and the insane and not a rational human activity. Unlike the revolutionary struggles of past conflict to overthrow despotic, entrenched old regimes,the warfare of Dix’s time had zero on the positive scale about it.Instead of the liberation of oppressed nations, Dix’s experience was about putting millions into the field of battle for selfish and greedy interests among advanced nations with an eye to subjugating weaker states in a form of economic competition which was the central reason for the cycle of colonialism, militarism and consumerism that reverberates today, not counting the human tragedy of the slaughter.

kuspit:Dix’s Nude (for Francisco Goya) (1926) makes the point succinctly: the beautiful refined body of Goya’s nude Maja has become ugly, vulgar, and beastly, as her claw-like right hand confirms. She is ready for sadistic action, her hairy crotch more crudely naked and claustrophobic -- hardly inviting -- than even Courbet imagined it in the Birth of the World. She is Death and the Maiden -- an image of the Triumph of Death over youth and beauty -- in one hideous body, suggesting that having sex with a grotesque prostitute (Dix depicts many of them) must have been an unconsciously hideous experience, and as excruciating and death-defying as being an isolated machine-gunner -- sex as well as war is a matter of endurance and survival, however necessary sex is to discharge the profound fear of death (annihilation anxiety) aroused by war, in any kind of dubious pleasure. read more:http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/features/kuspit/otto-dix3-24-10.asp

For us, war is certainly inhuman and pathological.

importantly, the appeal of this theory of war as something fundamental to human nature, is the excuse it gives to military brass and politicians who have been complicit in this deception. So, the belief that war is beyond human comprehension and control is false. The idea that war can be sold to the public as an unstoppable technological vortex of violence and mass destruction is to excuse the responsible.

Reza Deghati photo. 1985.---Where current conflicts call out for a clear explanation, the academics' mystification of the war drive only serve as an apologia for Western militarism. Every conceivable variable, from the biological to the cultural and psychological is invoked to explain war - every variable except the interests of those capitalist powers that have been at the forefront of promoting militarism. In the spirit of Clausewitz, we should relocate the drive towards war where it belongs - in the realm of the political machinations of the Western elites. read more:http://www.clausewitz.com/readings/CaleReview.htm image:http://costofwar.wordpress.com/page/2/

—The unstoppable-technology theories have the practical effect of denigrating politics, and absolving those responsible from blame. Wars do not start by themselves: they start because external political interests decide war is expedient to the powers that be. As the conservative British military historian Michael Howard rightly notes, “However inchoate or disreputable the motives for war may be, its initiation is almost by definition a deliberate and carefully considered act and its conduct…a matter of very precise central control. If history shows any record of accidental wars, I have yet to find them” —Read More:http://www.clausewitz.com/readings/CaleReview.htm

The loss of rational principle in war also enables the military thinkers to present war – at least the wars of which they disapprove – as the activity of crazies governed by deep-seated atavistic impulses. This is especially true since the end of the political divide of East and West that used to suggest at least a semblance of ideological differences. Today, wars are invariably seen in anthropological terms. Conflicts which have been spawned by Great Power realpolitik are redefined as wars caused by ancient tribal and ethnic animosities. Culture, not politics, is taken to be the well-spring of militarism.

Barglow:In Germany what occurred instead – thanks to the vindictive Versailles Treaty and corrupt political deals, an economic crisis, and ruthless attacks against the working class – was the decisive defeat of the Left by the end of 1923. Contributing to this defeat, according to the psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich, was also the Left’s ignorance of the “mass psychology” of political movements. During these years, Benjamin saw the ideals of socialism violently displaced by a militaristic, eventually fascist regime. From the threshold of liberation, the Left fell into a quagmire of impotence and despair. read more:http://www.sciy.org/2010/03/18/the-angel-of-history-walter-benjamin%E2%80%99s-vision-of-hope-and-despair-by-raymond-barglow/

The anthropologisation of conflict was an intermittent feature of the past century. In War Machine, Daniel Pick notes that the 1870 Franco-Prussian War gave rise to extensive debates about the raw, virile Teutons and cultured, effete French . Throughout the Second World War, the Japanese and Germans were accused of militaristic instincts inculcated by generations of Junkers and Samurai – if not through harsh toilet training. Today, though, the backdrop of cultural typecasting that used to run alongside the political explanations of conflict has become the whole case for war, as the Rwandans and the Serbs are accused of imbibing hatred with their mothers’ milk. Read More:http://www.clausewitz.com/readings/CaleReview.htm

Foucault:For Sade as for Goya, unreason continues to watch by night; but in this vigil it joins with fresh powers. The non-being it once was now becomes the power to annihilate. Through Sade and Goya, the Western world received the possibility of transcending its reason in violence, and of recovering tragic experience beyond the promises of dialec-tic. read more:http://prernalal.com/scholar/Foucault%20-%20Madness%20and%20civilization.pdf

Donald Kuspit:Goya also mutes the hard fact of death by suggesting that it is a consequence of war rather than a human inevitability, as Dix does. Death is an “experience” everyone will have: no one is exempt from joining the dance of death. It is what Dix’s conga line of prostitutes perform: death is built into their grotesque bodies. It is also responsible for the strange (and estranging) ungainliness of the bodies of the respectable bourgeois — professors and doctors as well as businessmen and art dealers  he portrays. Read More:http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/features/kuspit/otto-dix3-24-10.asp

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