‘Before the revolution: Man oppressed Man. Now it’s the other way around’
A political drama about terrorism, revolution, and the power of memory. In an unnamed place and time, an idealistic soldier named Joe strikes up an illicit friendship with a political prisoner named Thorne, who eventually recruits him into a bloody coup d’etat. But in the post-revolutionary world, what Thorne asks of Joe leads the two men into bitter conflict, spiraling downward into madness until Joe’s co-conspirators conclude that they must erase him from history.
As part of the re-education process the revolutionary regime employs a syllogism which has to be acknowledged as truthful by the prisoner wishing to be released:
Stale bread is better then nothing, nothing is better then a big juicy steak, therefore stale bread is better then a big juicy steak.
A is better than B: B is better than C: therefore A is better than C. The statement only makes sense when reality is reduced to a term within the functioning of a syllogistic operation. This abstraction of reality is part of the intellectual sophistry of political discourse. The re-education programme utilises the tools of rationality in a coercive manner to implement and sanction the will-to-power of the regime. This aggressive use of reason as an instrument of the will is highlighted in the following dialogue:
Doctor: So are you going to do yourself a favour and sign the loyalty oath?
Doctor: I’m a man of science Jo, never mind all this revolutionary mumbo-jumbo; I was hired to employ the scientific method.My job right now is to uncover the root of this conspiracy based on the evidence.
Jo: You have evidence?
Doctor: No, that’s how I know there’s a conspiracy.
Doctor: If there wasn’t a conspiracy there would be evidence, that’s how effective the conspiracy is.
As Martin Luther wrote : Reason is a whore, the greatest enemy that faith has. It never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but more frequently than not struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God.
Reason is servile to the will, rationalizing and justifying any behaviour, accommodating itself, like the Doctor, to the will-to-power of whichever regime, or whichever appetite, is dominant. The Age of Reason was also the Age of Revolutions, a decisive break with the prevailing orthodoxy of the medieval period which had maintained a balance between the conflicting demands of reason and faith through a political and economic order which underscored the fallen nature of man as a central concept in that structure of relations. The elevation of an autonomous Reason enabled the dismantling of traditional structure and the institution of a new, radical concept of man as perfectible. The acceptance that ‘stale bread is better than a big juicy steak‘ is simply a submission to the dominant discourse (or will) no matter how absurd or contradictory it is.
THE PROTOTYPE OF REVOLUTION
The idea of Revolution today is dominated by the imagery and rhetoric of the French Revolution of 1789. While the slogans of the Revolution invoked the ideals of Freedom, Equality and Universal Brotherhood, it was the brutal instrument of the Reign of Terror which installed the foundation for the ideological institutions which emerged from it, such as the political polarity of ‘Left’ and ‘Right’, the rise of Nationalism and the concept of individual liberty. Even today politicians continue to promote those ideals and slogans while effacing the violence and bloodshed which attended its birth. We are still living in the aftermath of the transvaluation of values brought about through the Enlightenment project and the turning point of the French Revolution. The centuries leading up to the convulsion of 1789 were marked by a series of conflicts undermining the spiritual cohesion of the West. The schism of the Protestant Reformation and the growing tensions between the aristocratic and merchant classes indicated the strengthened influence of a materialistic principle over the concept of an order based on metaphysical principles. The ideals of the French Revolution have become enshrined within the consciousness of the West and continue to sanction the violent dismantling of its own spiritual patrimony under the battle cry of ‘equality’ and ‘freedom’. There is, nevertheless, a certain self-deception, a blindness, at work within the proponents of these ideals:
Anacharsis Cloots organized a deputation of ‘representatives of the human race’ which presented its respects to the Revolutionary Terror in France. There were pig-tailed Chinamen, black Ethiopians, Turks, Jews, Greeks, Tartars, Mongols, Indians, and bearded Chaldeans. Actually however, they were Parisians in disguise. This parade had thus at the very beginning of Rationalism a double symbolic significance. First, it symbolised the idea of the West that it now wished to embrace all ‘humanity’, and secondly, the fact that these were disguised Westerners showed the exact amount of success that this intellectualising enthusiasm would have. (Imperium: F. P. Yockey)
SELLING THE REVOLUTION
Today the word ‘Revolution’ has been embraced by the informal alliance of global capital and academic institutions which, along with an unprecedented and pervasive media network, constitute the modern orthodoxy. Revolutionary rhetoric has been incorporated and commodified within the materialistic paradigm simply because it was already an aspect of the same basic materialistic conception. Enlightenment ideals which enshrined Reason as the ruling principle also enshrined the human will-to-power which only uses reason as a means to rationalise its desires. Liberal Democracy is heir to the revolutionary movements; it continues to undermine and erode identity through parliamentarianism, the incremental dilution and dissolution of sovereignty and authority as once embodied in the Monarchy and the Church. The Revolution overthrows the established model of authority and supplants it with an idiosyncratic model fashioned according to the theoretical calculations of intellectuals and divested of any spiritual substance.
The ascent of Reason to the status of Sovereign ruler entails a disconnect from reality: the isolated mind is deracinated from its context within a culture and becomes the res cogitans of Cartesian physics set against the res extensa of corporeal substance over which it assumes a privileged status. This subjectivity informs the epistemological theories which attempt to universalise a culturally specific set of notions. The reality of an organic complex within which reason is merely one function among others is displaced in the scientific method which aims at ‘objectivity.’ The ‘blank slate’ epistemology of Hume leads directly to the dominion of financial and ideological coercion over the citizen of the rationally ordered society and the inhabitants of the colonised regions. The resulting identity, uprooted from its cultural and religious framework, is an impoverished identity which has no recourse but to turn to the marketplace and the media which will supply an off-the-shelf substitute identity composed of brand names and propaganda slogans. The ideologues will overwrite the intricately woven ethnic, linguistic, and religious heritage that once gave a commonality to a people:
Without the data that folklore provides, that body of tradition that marks the ethnos as unique, ‘man’, as a concept is merely a set of individuals, an abstract body of disconnected men held together solely by force and manipulation; this is the very life blood of the state and the continued reason for its unchecked growth. The reason why ethnicity is absolutely indispensable to any healthy sense of self, or of any healthy social life, is because any other social grouping, from universities to chess clubs, from labour unions to churches, can only function through a continuous appeal to those commonalities that ethnicity provides. Without the linguistic, traditional and historical bonds that ethnicity is identical with, men cannot even communicate with fellow citizens, as the universe of shared meaning has broken down; debate makes no sense if words are defined according to whatever elites have come to rule him. As civil society breaks down due to the dissolution of the ethnos, the state, as well as powerful corporate interests, comes to dominate completely, defining the very nature of the civil arrangement. Money and political power become the only goods worth fighting for. This is the reality of the modern West and is the direct result of ethnic connections breaking down in favour of the abstraction of the “nation state”, or, even worse, the so-called “free market.”
Work, economics and production are social and cultural ideas. In this way are they also qualitative and normative. The application of rationality to the things of nature eventually results in determining ways of life in terms of wants, aesthetic sensibilities, and the development of skills. Skills and abilities develop naturally from primitive to more advanced forms, with their normative structure also so developing. Such developments also form a major part of the traditional culture of a specific people and are a part of the medievalist guild-centered notion of production, marked by a total interpenetration of culture and work. Modern economics holds both culture and tradition in contempt. Mass production understands only efficiency and market share. Traditionalists hold that the individual is a composite of individual and social, manifesting all elements of cultural life and irreducible to any specific part of it. Modern economics views the individual as an isolated creature whose happiness lies in the ability to maintain or increase his present consumptive patterns, and the ability to draw from it consistently
Nation and State: An Extended Definition and Analysis (Matthew Raphael Johnson)
THE REVOLUTIONARY CELL
There are echoes and allusions to numerous revolutionary movements within the film from The Terror to the Iranian Revolution and the hunger strikes of the IRA internees. The general pattern implied is the overthrowing of one tyrannical regime only to see it replaced by another; the revolutionary slogans of today becoming the hollow establishment cant of tomorrow. This dynamic reveals the problem with the idea of revolution. What occurs is a reconfiguration of society which amounts to little more than changing the furniture in a prison cell. The relations of power and subservience continue in an altered form because the moral and spiritual change, which is often promised in revolutionary rhetoric, cannot occur within a system which seeks to reshape material reality in its own image, in accord with it’s own desire and will, rather than conform its desire and will to an intrinsic order manifest in reality (Logos). The hapless citizen of the regime is at the mercy of the reconfigured network of power which attempts to realise the promises of transformation through propaganda and coercion. The Procrustean bed of ideology produces both the doctrinaire automatons of the regime and the counter-revolutionary radicals who resist the conditioning, thus setting the stage for another revolution.
Procrustean bed: a plan or scheme to produce uniformity or conformity by arbitrary or violent methods. Procrustes was a bandit from Greek mythology who stretched or amputated the limbs of travelers to make them conform to the length of his bed
Year Zero, purges and show-trials of revolutionary politics are the building blocks for an alternative order. The renaming of streets and cities is the symbolic abolition of historical linkages and the substitution of a humanistic cult devoid of reverence for Logos. Progress is a deeper immersion into the material realm of quantification and atomisation. Severed from the living roots of tradition the diminished consciousness perceives only the impersonal, mechanistic universe of matter and force. The equilibrium of the organism is violently disrupted; the elements which were synthesised in its creation begin to seperate and dissolve; latent forces of decay begin to predominate and erupt to the surface in shocks and upheavals; ideologies and philosophies emerge to rationalise the decline: Utilitarianism; Pragmatism; Behaviourism; Egalitarianism, etc. Modernity is the negation of Tradition and the creation of the realm of artifice: the technocratic sepulchre.
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
(W B Yeats: The Second Coming)
POWER TO THE PEOPLE
Enlightenment concepts, manifested firstly in the French Revolution, continue to pervade the post-colonial period where humanitarian intervention involves the ideological capitulation of the beneficiaries and their insertion within the paradigm of an abstract and universalised ‘humanity’ as defined and directed by the West. The ‘gun and gospel’ of colonial expansion involved the infantilisation, exploitation or demonization of other cultures as a prelude to their reshaping in the image of the West. In the instances of Africa and the Middle East this distortion of identity is presented as ‘liberation’ and framed within a sentimentalised and simplistic narrative which essentially recapitulates the colonial concept of ‘the white man’s burden’ in the manipulative imagery of famine and genocide victims. The unquestioned assumption of the ideological and economic evangelists of the United Nations and other internationalist bodies is that the epitome of civilization and culture is the current Western model. Revolution is seen as a commodity which can be exported as long as it results in the constitution of a secular order amenable to the West. The destructive power of revolution is employed to hasten the dissolution and overthrow of cultures or ‘regimes’ which retain concepts of reality which are not predominantly materialistic, progressive, and egalitarian. Hence the prevalence of Western-backed ‘colour’ revolutions in countries targeted for ‘regime-change’. This is the eschatology of Liberalism in action.
The Age of Reason was born in bloodshed, and will pass out of vogue in more bloodshed. With its doctrine against war, politics, and violence, it presided over the greatest wars and revolutions in 5000 years, and it ushered in the Age of Absolute Politics. With its gospel of the Brotherhood of Man, it carried on the largest-scale starvation, humiliation, torture and extermination in history against populations within the Western Civilisation after the first two World Wars. By outlawing political thinking, and turning war into a moral-struggle instead of a power-struggle it flung the chivalry and honour of a millennium into the dust. When reason stripped territory from a conquered foe after a war it called it ‘disannexation’. The document consolidating the new position was called a ‘Treaty’ even though it was dictated in the middle of a starvation-blockade. The defeated political enemy had to admit in the ‘Treaty’ that he was ‘guilty’ of the war, that he is morally unfit to have colonies, that his soldiers alone committed ‘war crimes’. But no matter how heavy the moral disguise, how consistent the ideological vocabulary, it is only politics, and the Age of Absolute Politics reverts once again to the type of political thinking which starts from facts, recognizes power and the will-to-power of men and higher organisms as facts, and finds any attempt to describe politics in terms of morals as grotesque as it would be to describe chemistry in terms of theology. (Imperium F. P. Yockey)
This ‘Age of Absolute Politics’ is Yockey’s belief that the West was on course to enter a period of Realpolitik shorn of the need for ideological dressing. There seems to be little sign of this seventy years on. With the collapse of the Soviet Empire the hegemony of Capitalism seemed assured. The ‘end of history’ was proclaimed and the hallucination of a unipolar world emerged on the horizon. The combination of the universalising tendency within Enlightenment thought and technocratic supremacy culminated in the remarkable spectacle of a global power blind to the problematic nature of imposing its orthodoxy upon the cultures incorporated into its domain. The strategic alliance of the West with Islamic fundamentalism during the Soviet-Afghan war was the fatal embrace of two mutually opposed ideologies which both employed the tactics of terror. This incorporation of fundamentalist religious cultures within the equally fundamentalist secular dogma of market forces and laissez-faire Capitalism, through alliances or conquests, involves the intertwining of conflicting spiritual and materialistic value systems.
The more the system is extended into one globally connected network the more vulnerable it becomes at any single point. The technocratic artificiality of the Western hegemony is fundamentally disconnected from the traditional structures and values of the past and the citizen of this realm is implicated in a perversion and a negation of the principle of reality. The sphere of manipulative imagery and rhetorical sophistry has been erected upon the bedrock of a people and a culture and harbours within itself a nostalgia for the abandoned homeland. Reflected in the historical grievance of exploited and destroyed peoples there is the memory of our own destruction and dislocation. In the depths of this mirror the West glimpses an encroaching critique, a flickering image of itself as ultimately nihilistic.
Such doubts are heresy to the orthodox and yet they are the shadow of its own arrogant assumptions. The mocking, anarchic shadow which attends its every step, snaps at its heels, looms menacingly before it, or stalks it from behind is the rebuke to its apotheosis of Reason. Thinking it had banished the darkness of metaphysical superstitions in the light of Reason it now confronts the emergence of an antagonistic Other which cannot be reduced to the abstraction of universal human rights or seduced by the mechanics of enlightened self interest. The intelligence networks attempted to utilise a remnant of that same exiled metaphysics which has now escaped their control and disperses itself throughout the Liberal Imperium.
Thorne: I didn’t come to violence casually, you know. But you get to a point where you have no choice but to take up arms against your oppressors.
Joe: True, but under Maximilian’s rule we don’t kill innocent bystanders
Thorne: Nobody standing by is innocent.
The French Revolution is echoed by numerous, smaller revolutionary movements within the West such as the Paris protests of May 1968, the Baader-Meinhof group in Germany, the Black Panthers in America, and the IRA in Ireland. However, these movements were radical variants of Western political thought and thus functioned as ideological theatre within a secular paradigm. With the entry of fundamentalist Islamic terrorist groups the traditional metaphysical universe of Good and Evil which the West had renounced returns and the political discourse is invaded by the medieval rhetoric of martyrdom, asceticism, and moral absolutes. The very same roots of Christendom which were severed so abruptly by the French Revolution and its violent assertion of secular values are now entangled with a culture not yet enthralled by, and perhaps immune to, the materialistic spirit and the sorcery of the image:
The collapse of the towers of the World Trade Center is unimaginable, but that is not enough to make it a real event. A surplus of violence is not enough to open up reality. For reality is a principle, and this principle is lost. Real and fictional are inextricable, and the fascination of the attack is first and foremost the fascination by the image. It is therefore a case where the real is added to the image as a terror bonus, as yet another thrill. It is not only terrifying, it is even real. It is not the violence of the real that is first there, with the added thrill of the image: rather the image is there first, with the added thrill of the real: something like a prize fiction, a fiction beyond fiction. Ballard (after Borges) was thus speaking of reinventing the real as the ultimate and most redoubtable fiction. The terrorist violence is not then reality backfiring, no more than it is history backfiring. This terrorist violence is not ‘real’. It is worse in a way, it is symbolic. Violence in itself can be perfectly banal and innocuous. Only symbolic violence generates singularity. In this singular event, in this disaster movie of Manhattan, the two elements that fascinate twentieth century masses are joined: the white magic of movies and the black magic of terrorism. (Jean Baudrillard: The Spirit of Terrorism)