havel: transcending extinction

Transcendence as the only viable alternative to extinction.Transcendence being, ultimately, the dismantlement of the nation state system, a one world new world order. Vaclav Havel is a mixed legacy that is praised by neo-liberal market based advocates and unredeemable by opponents who view him as merely an agent of global capitalism with a human face with a credible and a plausible, though flawed message that may encompass the same industrial age liberal bourgeois values that invoke a strand of militaristic pacifism, something like Hitchen’s advocacy of war in Iraq- like Havel’s justification for the bombing of Yugoslavia- while cloaking the destruction within the garb of transcendental anchors and some hoary new age thinking that seems to amount to intellectual naval gazing, a distraction or moral pretense while corporations impose their free-market ideologies to the Czech Republic as they do in Colombia or Panama.

---Rarely has one individual played so many different parts. The cocky young student in the early Fifties, member of a closed circle which holds passionate political discussions and somehow survives the worst years of the Stalinist terror. The Modernist playwright and critical essayist struggling to assert himself in the mild thaw of the late Fifties and Sixties. The first encounter with History – in the Prague Spring – which is also Havel’s first big disappointment. The long ordeal of the Seventies and most of the Eighties, when he is transformed from a critical playwright into a key political figure.... Read More:http://culturalpolicyreform.wordpress.com/2010/03/24/zizek-on-havel/

The downfall of  Havel, the tragic element, revolves around an authentic ethical stance, a stance which was spun into an idiom of morals within the broader context of American style popular culture. Another commodity appropriated by the financial syndicates and the industrial-entertainment complex. The Hollywood role was Havel’s heroic insistence on trying the impossible which was opposing the Communist regime. But, he ended up agreeing with those in the West who invoked common sense and reason, cold logic, that any real and meaningful change in our world is impossible, the option is to become a replaceable martyr. As Zizek has asserted, Havel’s change of position is not a betrayal of his original position, ethical in the extreme,  but is inherent in it. Paradoxically says Zizek, the lesson of Havel’s tragedy is thus a cruel, but inexorable; inevitable and one that reflects a deep pessimism to which there are few escapes:  the direct ethical foundation of politics sooner or later turns into its own comic caricature, adopting the very cynicism it originally opposed. Is the answer found in Walter Benjamin’s messianic nihilism? …

Havel: …The first is the Anthropic Cosmological Principle. Its authors and adherents have pointed out that from the countless possible courses of its evolution the universe took the only one that enabled life to emerge. This is not yet proof that the aim of the universe has always been that it should one day see itself through our eyes. But how else can this matter be explained? …

---In the final take, Havel asserts that "all cultures assume the existence of something that might be called the Memory of Being, in which everything is constantly recorded." The guarantees of human freedom and personal responsibility lie neither in programs of action nor systems of thought, but, rather, in "man's relationship to that which transcends him, without which he would not be and of which he is an integral part." Havel's Stanford University discourse carried the title "The Spiritual Roots of Democracy" and was designed to delineate his understanding of the fundamental crisis in the modern world. Humans, he says, have lost respect -- self-respect, respect for others, and respect for what Havel calls "the order of nature, the order of humanity, and for secular authority as well." When respect is lost, laws, moral norms, and established authority are also undermined. Gone is the sense of responsibility that inhabitants of one and the same planet have toward one another: .... Read More:http://www.crosscurrents.org/capps.htm

I think the Anthropic Cosmological Principle brings to us an idea perhaps as old as humanity itself: that we are not at all just an accidental anomaly, the microscopic caprice of a tine particle whirling in the endless depth of the universe. Instead, we are mysteriously connected to the entire universe, we are mirrored in it, just as the entire evolution of the universe is mirrored in us….

…The second example is the Gaia Hypothesis. This theory brings together proof that the dense network of mutual interactions between the organic and inorganic portions of the earth’s surface form a single system, a kind of mega-organism, a living planet—Gaia—named after an ancient goddess who is recognizable as an archetype of the Earth Mother in perhaps all religions. According to the Gaia Hypothesis, we are parts of a greater whole. If we endanger her, she will dispense with us in the interest of a higher value—that is, life itself. Read More:http://www.harvardsquarelibrary.org/IsGodNecessary/The-Need-for-Transcendence-in-the-Postmodern-World.php

---Havel:These sanctuaries of modern reason lend them their tools and their authority so that ultimately the plunder is sanctioned by the most scientific of world views. Generally, people do not begin to grasp the horror of their situation until too late: that is, until they realize that thousands of their fellow humans have been murdered for reasons that are utterly irrational. Irrationality, hiding behind sober reason and a belief that the inexorable march of history demands the sacrifice of millions to assure a happy future for billions, seems essentially more irrational and dangerous than the kind of irrationality that, in and through myth, admits to its own existence, comes to terms with the “positive powers,” and, at most, sacrifices animals. The demons simply do what they want while the gods take diffident refuge in the final asylum to which they have been driven, called “human conscience.” And so at last bloodlust, disguised as the most scientific of the world’s views (which teaches, by the way, that conscience must submit to historical necessity) throws a twentieth-century John of Nepomuk into the Vistula. And the nation immediately canonizes its martyr in spirit.... Read More:http://www.attackerman.com/the-smell-of-the-greasepaint-the-roar-of-the-crowd/

Zizek:The crucial issue, however, is the tension between his two public images: that of heroic dissident who, in the oppressive and cynical universe of Late Socialism, practised and wrote about ‘living in truth’, and that of Post-Modern President who (not unlike Al Gore) indulges in New Age ruminations that aim to legitimise Nato military interventions. How do we get from the lone, fragile dissident with a crumpled jacket and uncompromising ethics, who opposes the all-mighty totalitarian power, to the President who babbles about the anthropic principle and the end of the Cartesian paradigm, reminds us that human rights are conferred on us by the Creator, and is applauded in the US Congress for his defence of Western values? Is this depressing spectacle the necessary outcome, the ‘truth’, of Havel the heroic dissident? To put it in Hegel’s terms: how does the ethically impeccable ‘noble consciousness’ imperceptibly pass into the servile ‘base consciousness’? Of course, for a ‘Post-Modern’ Third Way democrat immersed in New Age ideology, there is no tension: Havel is simply following his destiny, and is deserving of praise for not shirking political power. But there is no escape from the conclusion that his life has descended from the sublime to the ridiculous. Read More:http://www.lrb.co.uk/v21/n21/slavoj-zizek/attempts-to-escape-the-logic-of-capitalism

Havel:…What makes the Anthropic Principle and the Gaia Hypothesis so inspiring? One simple thing: Both remind us, in modern language, of what we have long suspected, of what we have long projected into our forgotten myths and perhaps what has always lain dormant within us as archetypes. That is, the awareness of our being anchored in the earth and the universe, the awareness that we are not here alone nor for ourselves alone,

that we are an integral part of higher, mysterious entities against whom it is not advisable to blaspheme. This forgotten awareness is encoded in all religions. All cultures anticipate it in various forms. It is one of the things that form the basis of man’s understanding of himself, of his place in the world, and ultimately of the world as such.

A modern philosopher once said: “Only a God can save us now.”

Yes, the only real hope of people today is probably a renewal of our certainty that we are rooted in the earth and, at the same time, in the cosmos. This awareness endows us with the capacity for self-transcendence. Politicians at international forums may reiterate a thousand times that the basis of the new world order must be universal respects for human rights, but it will mean nothing as long as this imperative does not derive from the respect of the miracle of Being, the miracle of the universe, the miracle of nature, the miracle of our own existence. Only someone who submits to the authority of the universal order and of creation, who values the right to be a part of it and a participant in it, can genuinely value himself and his neighbors, and thus honor their rights as well.

It logically follows that, in today’s multicultural world, the truly reliable path to coexistence, to peaceful coexistence and creative cooperation, must start from what is at the root of all cultures and what lies infinitely deeper in human hearts and minds than political opinion, convictions, antipathies, or sympathies—it must be rooted in self-transcendence… Read More:http://www.harvardsquarelibrary.org/IsGodNecessary/The-Need-for-Transcendence-in-the-Postmodern-World.php


To be more specific:

Without a global revolution in the sphere of human consciousness, nothing will change for the better in the sphere of our being as humans, and the catastrophe toward which this world is headed — be it ecological, social, demographic, or a general breakdown of civilization — will be unavoidable.

So, what is to be done? Havel’s answer is not a specific program, or a prescribed philosophical or ideological point of view. Rather, the only way to progress is through dedication to responsibility:

Responsibility to something higher than my family, my country, my company, my success — responsibility to the order of being [italics mine] where all our actions are indelibly recorded and where and only where they will be properly judged….

On June 8, 1995, in a commencement address at Harvard, Havel sounded similar themes in recognizing that the world has already entered a single technological civilization. He commended the scientific achievement that made such a civilization possible but — in the spirit of Masaryk, Husserl, and Patocka — sounded the alarm. In fact, to counteract this single technological civilization, a contrary movement is occurring which finds expression in dramatic revivals of ancient traditions, religions and cultures. Havel explained the phenomenon as the recovery of an “archetypal spirituality” that is “the foundation of most religions and cultures” — “respect for what transcends us, whether we mean the mystery of Being or a moral order that stands above us.”

We must divest ourselves of our egoistical anthropocentrism, our habit of seeing ourselves as masters of the universe who can do whatever occurs to us. We must discover a new respect for what transcends us: for the universe, for the earth, for nature, for life, and for reality. Our respect for other people, for other nations, and for other cultures, can only grow from a humble respect for the cosmic order and from an awareness that we are a part of it, that we share in it and that nothing of what we do is lost, but rather becomes part of the eternal memory of Being, where it is judged. Read More:http://www.crosscurrents.org/capps.htm

Zizek:No wonder the official photos of the Stalinist era were so often retouched, and with a clumsiness so obvious it almost seemed intentional. It signalled that the ‘real person’ with all his idiosyncrasies had been replaced by a wooden effigy. One rumour circulating about Kim Il Yong is that he actually died in a car crash a couple of years ago and a double has taken his place for rare public appearances, so that the crowds can catch a glimpse of the object of their worship. This is the ultimate confirmation that the ‘real personality’ of the Stalinist leader is thoroughly irrelevant. Havel of course is the inverse of that: while the Stalinist Leader is reduced to a ritualistically praised effigy, Havel’s charisma is that of a ‘real person’. The paradox is that a genuine ‘cult of personality’ can thrive only in a democracy. Read More:http://www.lrb.co.uk/v21/n21/slavoj-zizek/attempts-to-escape-the-logic-of-capitalism

…The moment that Havel endorsed Heidegger’s recourse to quasi-anthropological or philosophical principle, Stalinism lost its specificity, its specific political dynamic, and turned into just another example of this principle (as exemplified by Heidegger’s remark, in his Introduction to Metaphysics, that, in the long run, Russian Communism and Americanism were ‘metaphysically one and the same’).

Keane tries to save Havel from this predicament by emphasising the ambiguous nature of his intellectual debt to Heidegger. Like Heidegger, Havel conceived of Communism as a thoroughly modern regime, an inflated caricature of modern life, with many tendencies shared by Western society – technological hubris and the crushing of human individuality attendant on it. However, in contrast to Heidegger, who excluded any active resistance to the social-technological framework (‘only God can save us,’ as he put it in an interview, published after his death), Havel put faith in a challenge ‘from below’ – in the independent life of ‘civil society’ outside the frame of state power. The ‘power of the powerless’, he argued, resides in the self-organisation of civil society that defies the ‘instrumental reason’ embodied in the state and the technological apparatuses of control and domination….

…Havel’s understanding that ‘living in truth’ could not be achieved by capitalism, combined with his crucial failure to understand the origins of his own critical impulse, has pushed him towards New Ageism. Although the Communist regimes were mostly a dismal failure, generating terror and misery, at the same time they opened up a space for utopian expectations which, among other things, facilitated the failure of Communism itself. What anti-Communist dissidents such as Havel overlook, then, is that the very space from which they criticised and denounced terror and misery was opened and sustained by Communism’s attempt to escape the logic of capitalism. This explains Havel’s continuing insistence that capitalism in its traditional, brutal form cannot meet the high expectations of his anti-Communist struggle – the need for authentic human solidarity etc. This is, in turn, why Václav Klaus, Havel’s pragmatic double, has dismissed Havel as a ‘socialist’….

…The predominant form of today’s ‘politically correct’ moralism, on the other hand, is that of Nietzschean ressentiment and envy: it is the fake gesture of disavowed politics, the assuming of a ‘moral’, depoliticised position in order to make a stronger political case. This is a perverted version of Havel’s ‘power of the powerless’: powerlessness can be manipulated as a stratagem in order to gain more power, in exactly the same way that today, in order for one’s voice to gain authority, one has to legitimise oneself as being some kind of (potential or actual) victim of power…. ( ibid.)

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