Sunday, April 21, 2019

Ruminations 85: Reflections on the Easter Bombings of Christian Targets in Sri Lanka--Globalization in the New Era

(More than 400 people have been injured after the initial six near-simultaneous explosions across the country, an official said (pictured: The aftermath in one of the churches))

Holy Days of obligation have come to marked increasingly by sacrifice, the sacrifice of individuals on the alter of of the most high lord of a radical difference that demands both hierarchy and submission. The symbolism is usually inescapable--in the West at least, these sacrifices are usually associated with days of obligation that mark radical sacrifice and transformation, or an equally radical coming into the world of the divine, or that mark days of ritualized judgment, or days that commemorate significant events or teachings of a faith community that at once brings them closer together and farther apart from those around them. 

And thus it is that  one marks the 2019 Easter holidays with a series of (not unexpected? see here) bombings of Christian holy places--not within sites of Anglo-European power, or even in the territories that were once Roman Judea--but among subaltern peoples far from the centers of political-religious-economic power.  These is not uniquely a Christian centered event (except in this current context). Rather, the rituals of sacrifice and hierarchy, of the ordering of states of belonging (e.g., here), are now expressed across almost the entire spectrum of religious (and other) communities across the globe. Some are effected with far more intensity than others, but all share a common approach, a similar set of rituals and counter ritual performed by the ritual slaughterer, their sacrificial victims, and the greater community whose response is managed thereby. This management is at the core of the hard work of cobbling apart communities that do not blend; sometimes they merely re-arrange the terms of co-habitation in the manner of a house full of cats in a small space.  At issue is the shared use of a common physical space.

Simultaneously, the global community works tirelessly to cobble together a working notion (and its common practice) of blended communities (the ideal of unity in diversity, the motto of the European Union adopted in 2000, happier days for the concept; but also used by religious communities).  That principle has served as one of the great foundations of the international public, private, economic, and political orders constructed by states and transnational actors--and those who serve them--since 1945.  It serves as the underlying operating principle of economic globalization, and of the working style of public international organizations. It lies at the foundation of global human rights (in general), and of the notions around migration (in particular), but also in the conception of the arc of development of the notion of the state itself (e.g., HERE). 

This post reflects on the almost ritualized sacrifice of the Christian community in Sri Lanka on the day they celebrated a radical transformation of the relation between their religious community and the divine in the larger context of the arc of development of globalization in perhaps radically transforming global orderings. 

1.  The bombings confirm what dozens of bombings of other religious and cultural sites over the course of the last several decades should by now have made quite manifest--that the global community has entered an age of simultaneous radical union and radical rupture.

2.  Radical union and radical rupture become clearer as the trajectories of societies converging at the top of their power orders and ripping apart at the bottom of those orders becomes more difficult to avoid--even to those working hard to avert gazing into this developing abyss. 

3. Radical rupture looks within spaces rather than across them.  It is a movement of localization; of history, and of the protection of the structures of a social order from which these operate. 

4. Radical rupture is peopled by those who both fuel the global order and are consumed by it.  They are the passive objects of the great trajectories of society building that has seen the transformation of the world since 1945.  But that transformation produces a curious effect at the bottom of social or power orders. These are the objects of change, and the focus of control.  Here one finds the machinery (for these are viewed for the most part productive forces irrespective of the religious or ideological foundations of the social order that gazes down on them).  And whether one exploits them or seeks to succor them, they are objects, commodities that produce value (economic, social, cultural, political) as they are consumed. 

4.  Here resides radical rupture in a variety of senses.   
First, it suggests the failures of transforming social, cultural, religious and other expectations and perspectives within communities at least marginally caught up in the flows of globalizing radical unity.  
Second, it suggests the failures of global vanguards (whatever their ideological foundations) to effectively rupture the foundations of the social and cultural organizations that feed into traditional divisions and the hierarchies of power and place that these produce (expressed in a variety of guises depending on context--racism, ethno-cultural chauvinism, caste, etc.).   
Third, it suggests the radical transformation of traditional societal organization in response to not yet successful efforts to undermine and replace the premises, structures and operations of traditional societal organization and premises. Traditional society is changed under conditions of change and either becomes ossified (museum cultures that serve as cultural-political organizing and disciplinary mechanics; e.g., Not a Zookeeper's Culture). 
And fourth, it suggests a radical globalization of rupture--as insular communities develop transnational unifying and institutional structures that reject the efforts of local representatives of radical unity to undermine and transform their traditional structures and world views.  Global solidarity grounded in indigenous, racial, religious or other differentiating communities across national borders provides the template. 
5. At the same time here one finds a willingness to acquire some of the fruits of changes that radical unity has produced. No shared values so much, or shared customs, or a view of shared place within spaces, but rather a sharing of the basket of consumables that can be had for a price. That serves both to tie cultures of radical rupture to the processes and outcomes of unity, and to detachthe outcomes of globalization from its ideological basis.

(Stratos City; "The Cloud Miners" Star Trek; first aired: 28 February 1969)

6. Radical union looks across spaces rather than within them. It looks to the world as received and finds it wanting.  It constitutes itself as vanguards, the objects of which are to lead others through fundamental transformations that requires both the abandonment of old cultural and societal principles and practices, and the adoption of a trans-cultural set that embodies the ideals of global society as conceived after 1945.It is threatened by and also threatens old orders.  

7.  These vanguards are Leninist in conception and operation.  That applies whether they are constituted within traditional Marxist Leninist political orders, or whether they are constructed within the societal field in markets oriented liberal democratic orders. There are those who develop and protect the overarching transformative cultural goals (e.g., the establishment of a communist society; or the imposition of an ideologically orthodox social justice society elsewhere), and economic goals that serve as the mechanics for transformation.

8. At the same time, radical union produces a different sort of rupture.  It requires both an ideology of union, and the construction of a vanguard to see to its imposition. Radical union itself, then, requires a detachment from and an objective to transform, the institutions and systems opposed to union.  The people are clay to be molded, or victims to be protected, or the ignorant ready to be brought into the light, etc. Society has an obligation to take care of these people not yet acculturated and properly inserted in the transformed global socio-political-economic-religious order, and to socialize them so that eventually they can again become the embodiment of the model worker, the model religious adherent, the model gendered (or supra-gendered) individual, the model political participant, etc.

9. To those ends the social order has to be transformed.  Its mechanics produce a broad spectrum of Leninist mechanics. This is not so much a criticism as an observation of what is becoming a global occurrence. These mechanics range from ideological approaches to the obligations of the global unifying classes (e.g., Next Generation Law) grounded in institutional and public discipline (e.g., the Chinese Mass Line, and the social credit system) to elaborate systems of societal or markets based (private) discipline for breach of transnational cultural taboos (here, here, here). 

10.  At the same time the gulf between the vanguard and its objectives (individuals who ought to be consumed, transformed, and managed) remains raw.  In other contexts this rupture (for unity) has been famously underlined by Mr. Putin with respect to a broad spectrum of the Russian community ("'Maybe they are not even Russians, but Ukrainians, Tatars or Jews, but with Russian citizenship, which should also be checked,' he said." (HERE) and by Mrs. Clinton's “basket of deplorables” referencing a different broad spectrum of the American community (HERE).  And it is here that one can understand the utility of the notion of "populism" as against democracy.  In a global order grounded in the leadership of vanguards, however constituted, populism refers to mass activity without guidance, and democracy to a well ordered guidance and leadership in the appropriate forms of mass participation.For the masses, of course, a consciousness of this nuance produces at times the trigger toward self-reflexivity beyond the guidance of the vanguard.

11.  One comes the long way around to where one started--with the violence that marks that great rift between radical union and radical rupture. Unity in diversity, or diversity without union; the sharing of space and the obligations of hierarchy, the hierarchy of globalizing vanguards versus the rising hierarchies of trans-state globalized communities opposed to the radical unity that threatens dominance and separation; and the determination to preserve within all of this the objects that are prized within both. 

12. Violence marks radical separation, as it marks radical unity.  But it also marks a rejectionism that would re-arrange global orders to suit its own hierarchies of value and of the placement (or displacement) of communities (formed or reformed to suit the taste for unity or rupture). It is unlikely that these acts of sacrifice will disappear soon. It is also unlikely that groups will cease to find value in the offering of the blood of others to satiate their own lusts.    

13.  What this suggests in the age of the radical--the radical leader, the radical community, the radical society, the radical culture, the radical economy, the radical solution--is inevitability of the restructuring of compatible communities.  These communities impose order vertically, but owe loyalties and share common cultures and objectives horizontally.  It took a global network of "deplorables," of individuals with citizenship in a variety of locations of convenience, to move forward a project of radical expulsion of other global communities, and in the process of rejecting radical unity under the ideologies (social, political, cultural, etc.) of global governing elites. And it will fall to a global network of vanguard actors to bring order--though that becomes more difficult as that elite is caught in webs of its own principles.  

14.  And the object of all of this activity--the hearts and minds of communities of the masses, in the service of which others will continue to be sacrificed. The structures of globalization, and of the fracture that unity has brought, makes it unlikely that individuals will no longer be sacrificed to the abstract deities that  create or protect self-reflexive communities that cultivate perceptions of threat, or construct opportunities through threat. It is not clear that there is any way out of this box without reconstituting the box. 

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