Friday, December 30, 2016

Ruminations 68(5)(Politics and Death and Death and Death): Looking Back on 2016 in Epigrams and Aphorisms

(Pix © Flora Sapio 2016)
In many ways, the year that is ending has proven to be quite significant. Mostly, it served as a hard reminder that the carefully crafted project of legalization and judicialization of the economic, religious and cultural spheres that were meant to serve as the foundations of a global order to make global war effectively impossible has begun to fray. And with the fraying of the legalization-judicialization project, politics and power have again emerged as significant factors in the organization of law and governance systems. It has seen the destabilization of the Middle East and its consequential destabilization of Europe. It has seen the retreat of a great power, a perpetually brooding political Colossus trapped in its own doubts and pretensions, and the flexing of muscles of rising powers through territorial expansionism and bullying of weaker partners. It has seen the exercise of mass power in the United States and other places that surprised elites that had long grown confident of their ability to manage their people, whether under Marxist Leninist or democratic principles. It has seen the unmasking of the militarization of the internal security and police structures of even the most stable and democratic states, the abandonment of law in battle against drugs and the emergence of law as a technique of managing corruption. It has seen the development of governance beyond the state and the determination of states seeking to substitute itself for the market. It has seen states us law, norms, markets and culture to drive efforts to perfect "model" workers, individuals and citizens, which can then serve the state's perfection of its markets, its centrally planned decision making structures, or its structures of divine command on earth. The Jewish people continued to provide fodder for all sorts of activity and were used by left, right and themselves to their quite distinct ends, as other religious institutions sought to maintain or expand their institutional jurisdiction within legal, cultural, economic and social structures in and beyond states. The rise of global communities has now been challenged by states seeking to avoid the implications of normative communities that cannot be confined to and managed by the state.

2016 is rich with these events that expose the complex connections between law, politics, economics, religion and culture. These events will set the course for 2017, even as new actors seek to take manage people, events, states, enterprises and other institutions with substantial consequential effects of the mass. But most of all 2016 evidence both the great power and the fragility of mass participation in institutions in which they find themselves in a continuous loop of mutually dependent overlordship.

With no objective in particular, this post provides my summary of the slice of 2016 in which I was embedded through epigrams and aphorisms.

This is Part 5 (politics and death). Share your own!

Links to Epigrams and Aphorisms: Ruminations 68.

(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2016)

Part V:

1.  If growth, not equality, saves the poor, then one might expect that the rich, especially those in control of institutions that produce growth, would have a fiduciary duty (as social norm and law) to grow their organizations for the enhancement of social welfare and the salvation of the poor; that they do not speaks more to the passive fatality in which society consigns the poor than in the obligations it imposes on those who control the mechanisms for the enhancement of social welfare. [On the debate about income inequality that grew heated and more pointed in 2016 (here and here, and here)].

2.  People cannot eat ideology. [On starvation in Venezuela in the serve of its ideological state building project (here, and here)].

3.  Ideology cannot cure the sick; but it serves as a tonic for those who can afford it. [On the problems of insurance markets based health care programs (here) and on preparations to repeal Obamacare (here, and here)].

4. The paradox of American progressives--orthodoxy that freezes progress to a time, place, and form. [the political relevance of identity politics (here)]

5.  The paradox of American orthodoxy--progress, that fatal inability to preserve intact the spirit and approaches of a time, place, and form.  [the political relevance of traditional conservatism (here)]

6.  The politics of legitimacy replaces that of values; or rather has made values impervious to politics. [On the debates about the legitimacy of Donald Trump (here, here, here, and here)].

7. The grand gesture at the end of a term of office tends to have the inverse of its effect had it been made at the beginning of that term of office; the former speaks to cowardice in politics, the latter to courage. [The U.S. actions around the U.N. vote on Israeli settlements and the Secretary of State's speech in justification (here, here, here, here, here and here) and the U.S. National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights (here)]. 

8.  A politician invoking a principle is like a criminal invoking justice; in both cases the invocation comes too late to overcome motive or action. [on the nomination of Mr. Garland to the Supreme Court and the refusal to conform (here, here, and here)].

9.  Politics is the art of the right emotional performance to the wrong question; politics might be better served by requiring its leaders to formulate and justify their questions rather than deepen error by answering the spurious or strategic question. [On the failures of the theater provided by the political debates in the 2016 Presidential campaign (here, here, and here)]

(Pix NBC News 2016)

10. The attachment of people to their racialized view of religion increases as the stakes of the political ends to which these are put grow; in all cases the political ends shape the language and thrust of discourse and construct it objects to its needs [Marking the year for its exposure and refinement of the construction Jewish people as European and ethnically homogeneous in the service of theories of settler colonialism or as the construction of a state as the ultimate safe space; to mark Muslims as the "everyman" in the service of theories of innocuous migrant post colonialism or as a terrorist; to see in Islam and European Christianity the means to civilize otherwise inferior African and African disasporic religions communities; or to invert each of the to opposite ends (e.g., here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here)].

11. Burning witches is both an act of power and an expression of the fear, by communities, of personal power; the act is the ultimate narcissism: yet those who biurn witches ought to be burned on the pyres of their own acts--those who burn witches seek a reflection of themselves in the flames and the consumption of its power through a ritual act that is itself the symbolic performance of communal witchcraft.   [That communities continue to burn witches--now sometimes men and women--reminds us that the rituals and symbols of power remain a potent force in development and in inter-religious relations (here, here, and here)].

12. Abstract bodies are always incarnated in physical space; not that the space changes, just itrs meaning; but in investing a space with meaning the physical space changes as well--it cannot be seen in the same way again. [On efforts to preserve sacred native spaces in the Dakotahs, among indigenous peoples in Latin America, Hagia Sophia and the Temple Mount in Jerusalem (herem here, here, here, and here)].

Death (here, here, here, here)

13. Death: liberates society from a responsibility in the present, a lived responsibility; it transforms current issues to be confronted into historical memory to be contemplated; that is it transforms actors from the active to the passive principle of effect.

14. Death: the death of an individual once a critical actor in the social, political, economic and religious sphere, has a wholly psycho-symbolic effect--it changes the character of his influence in the world from a contemporary reality to a historical event; it moves the individual from the present to the past; that is the real marker of death in time. 

15. Death: freed of the body that constrained it, death abstracts that body and re-incarnates it in the physical forms of memory; it is in this sense that one better understands  the need for statues and other memorials to the body of the individuals the consequences of whose actions remain very much alive. 

16.  Death: if death converts its object into history, into a passive principle; it also empowers those who seek to preserve the essence of the dead  to transform that essence in whatever form they like--there is no one around to authjorita9iively contradict those efforts; it is for that reason that great thinkers are most useful dead than alive. 

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