[Marxism] "'The Passion of the Americans" and the religion of Capital - response to Fred Feldman

Jurriaan Bendien bendien at tomaatnet.nl
Sun Feb 29 03:30:38 MST 2004


Fred Feldman cited:

"When Bush did his little flight-suit strut across the
aircraft carrier last May, he proclaimed victory in
biblical verse and sent a signal to those Christians
who see him as more than a man."

This is why I have referred in the past to "christianist imperialism" and
christianist krusades, suggesting that christianity and christianism are
different, the latter being a political ideology and culture which seeks to
mobilise people to follow the scheme of values of a specific fraction of the
bourgeois classes. Christianism is not compatible with the "ten
commandments" defining basic christian morality, and we ought to contrast
christianists sharply with bona fide christians.

Evangelism is an ideology of fervour which can be used for the purpose of
crusades and colonisation, because it already assumes the moral superiority
of the evangelists (their claim to possess the truth and moral
righteousness) and projects a universal world view which defines how all
people are. The role of missionaries in colonisation ventures is well
documented. Where postmodernist relativism casts doubt on moral absolutes,
unctious evangelist zeal aims to restore those moral absolutes, and set
clear boundaries for how people should live. And if you have the most
powerful military force at your disposal, then of course this makes the
project feasible.

The question however that ought to be asked is what gives rise to this
ideological articulation in the first place, i.e. what class forces or
social/cultural forces are behind it, and what the cultural context is.

Isn't it pathetic that religious myth substitutes for a rational,
experientially verified morality as a basis for political policy, quite
apart from the class interests behind that political policy ?

The bourgeois revolutions in Europe were based on the demand for the
separation of church and state - because the church stood in the way of
private capital accumulation and market expansion; you had to be able to
trade with all sorts of people regardless of beliefs. In itself, this was an
advance, because it meant that state policy had to be based on rational
ethical argument, based on real lived experience. But if religious
institutions are again mobilised in the operation of the federal government,
what does this really signify ?

I think President Bush gave the game away when he said "The decision about
war and peace is a decision I made based upon what I thought were the best
interests of the American people. I was able to step back from
religion, because I have a job to do." (reported as an interview by NBC's
Nightly News anchorman Tom Brokaw after Bush toured the Lima Army Tank Plant
in Lima, Ohio, April 24, 2003). Because Mr Bush acknowledges here, that he
cannot in truth reconcile his personal moral belief with what he actually
has to do as a political leader - he had literally to "step back from
religion" in order to perform his political function, i.e. respect the
separation of church and state. Then you have to ask yourself, "what use is
this religious belief then ?".

It may be true that at times we cannot reconcile what we believe spiritually
with what we have to do, that is part of the human condition, life's a bitch
at times. But if that is the case, we are not fit for political leadership,
because if we compromise on the issue of the most basic principle of our own
belief in political policy, we cannot have any principled political policy.
If you cannot stand the heat, get out of the kitchen, simple as that. That
is why Marx himself replied obstinately to accusations of renegacy by the
Communist League, that "it takes years, even decades, to make yourself ready
for power", i.e. an emancipatory personal transformation through experience
which results in a policy of integrity. I think we don't have to follow Jim
Cannon's prescription for that though; in fact, that might lead to people
tearing out their lives without reaching real personal fullfilment; an
intelligent appreciation of where people really are at in their lives, and
what they really can do well, is required.

President Bush could defend his warmaking I suppose on the ground that at
least he had "taken charge", he had shouldered responsibility, and so he
has. But much as I respect people willing to take on great responsibilities,
I consider it wrong to assume responsibility for something that you really
are unable to take responsibility for, or which leads you to compromise your
most basic personal beliefs; and I also think it is wrong to force people
into taking responsibilities for which they are not fitted.

One of the best songs Mick Jagger ever wrote in my opinion was a jocular
number called "Sympathy for the devil", and it went like this:

Please allow me to introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
I've been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man's soul and faith
And I was 'round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate washed
his hands and sealed his fate
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game
I stuck around St. Petersberg
When I saw it was a time for a change
Killed the Czar and his ministers
Anastasia screamed in vain
I rode a tank, held a general's rank
When the Blitzkrieg raged
And the bodies stank
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name, oh yeah
What's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah
I watched with glee
While your kings and queens
Fought for ten decades
For the Gods they made
I shouted out, "Who killed the Kennedys?"
When after all, it was you and me
Let me please introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
And I laid traps for troubadors
Who get killed before they reached Bombay
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah, get down, baby
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
But what's confusing you
Is just the nature of my game
Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners Saints
As heads is tails
Just call me Lucifer
'Cause I'm in need of some restraint
So if you meet me
Have some courtesy
Have some sympathy, and some taste
Use all your well-learned politesse
Or I'll lay your soul to waste, um yeah
Tell me baby, what's my name
Tell me honey, baby guess my name
Tell me baby, what's my name
Tell you one time, you're to blame
What's my name
Tell me, baby, what's my name
Tell me, sweetie, what's my name

If I was a church minister, I would raise the question, "who or what is the
real devil here anyway ?". And the real devil is a lack, a lack of
something. If we transform that lack into religious apology, we become
lackeys.

Jurriaan











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