My wife and I left our children and journeyed to Europe, a continent that has been and is still being riven with murderous tragedies. The media and many of the perpetrators claim some form of allegiance or at least inspiration by ISIS. It is ISIS, what they signal in our world culture, and larger issues of control and destruction in our own national electoral process and discourse that I wish to address.
ISIS’ existence, predicted on a fundamentally nihilistic worldview can not succeed. Whether it’s desire is to hold land, or evoke terror and destruction worldwide. This is because nihilism as a principle can not be successful. The philosophy is predicated on a desire for its own non-existence. It’s its own paradox. Yet there was a resounding concern throughout the world when they (ISIS) initially spoke of a desire to return to 8th and 9th century Islamic caliphates. This was also an overreaction by many given that many Muslim empires had education and knowledge as fundamental elements.
ISIS no more wants education and knowledge than Donald Trump wants a pluralistic American society of citizens with equal rights and opportunities. Trump in seeking to run the US as a business would by necessity require that a percentage of the citizenry remain un/under-educated in order to run the lower cogs of the economic machine. In many ways the vision of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis is Donald Trump’s vision of America. Those who live in permanent darkness would not be slaves, but because of their ignorance and deprivation they don’t even remember what it means to be a citizen of the upper world.
ISIS has no designs on creating an empire of anything, much less one that could generate and rule over a citizenry. While some of the leaders of the movement are by necessity calculating and intelligent, many of the people drawn to them and their cause through disenfranchisement and anger want nothing more than to be used as tools of terror. They are willing cogs unlike Trump’s designed ignorants. They want to be fastened to the pillars of civilization or given weapons to take aim at them in order to create the cracks, fissures, and breaks to bring what we have in our sometimes most desperate and others the most sublime moments created together.
Are there things that must be addressed, yes. Am I angry as a black man in a society constructed on a foundation of white supremacy, which seeks to reaffirm itself only to remind me of my people’s original positions when unwillingly brought to this country; without any doubt. However, this is not my apologia, there will be plenty of time for that. This is a repudiation of all those things that seek to “poison and destroy my brothers” as Jules so eloquently quoted Ezekiel in Pulp Fiction.
I return to Camus in ’48, as I have of late, as a springboard and guide for my thoughts, and he encapsulates an alarming problem with our choices as a society. He says of humans in contemporary society:
“In the meantime we must struggle. But with the knowledge that totalitarian tyranny is not based on the virtues of the totalitarians. It is based on the mistakes of the liberals. Tallyrand’s remark is contemptible, for a mistake is not worse than a crime. But the mistake eventually justifies the crime and provides it’s alibi. Then the mistake drives its victims to despair, and that is why it must not be condoned. That is just what I can not forgive contemporary political society: it is a mechanism for driving men to despair.”
We are not at a crossroads in our civilization as many alarmists would like you to think, though I will admit that I do have my fears. We are encountering moments though, momentous ones that do require a strength of spirit, mind and heart. The philosophies of destruction and enslavement are alive and well, and we must repudiate them with a shared intelligence and a memory of our historical missteps, catastrophes, and eventual triumphs at beating back the darkness.