Sic Semper Evello Mortem Tyrannis, or, “Peace Crimes”
(Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash.com>
[The following may all be limited to an (the?) issue of masculinity]
Suspecting tyranny might always be necessary, but hating it is suspect.
Suspect tyranny since to me seems like the imposition of an alien will, making me act in ways I cannot be fully responsible for. Something in me rebels, resists, bringing “negative thoughts” of conflict to me mind.
There, within the conflict, is a power struggle. When tyranny is suspected, the fact that this will is “alien” nature can be seen as secondary to the power it has over me. Approached phenomenologically, it is first a power struggle that I sense, not where it came from (even when the alien will corresponds to my will, that is, even when forced to do things I do freely and habitually are met with the same resistance). Suspicion of tyranny, rather than its persecution or “abolition”, will allow, at least in principle, this encounter to take place. For recognizing the site of a power struggle, even when “I lose,” might open new possibilities in engaging with it, and just as importantly avoid resenting “the tyranny of it”, thus denying the loss.
Nietzsche recognized that this site is the wellspring of valuation, of any ethical regard.
Since 'modernity,' however, we can’t get over the alienation angle; indeed, it would trouble every one who somewhere believes in ‘humanity’ as “one big family.” Anyone with global aspirations, that is, including those that believe in “be the change you want to see in the world”.
Such themes allow what used to be swords appear like a blanket (with or without smallpox). Alexander the great wanted to conquer the entire world for his Empire (see the masculinity angle here?), but always acknowledging (and often celebrating) the power struggle it would entail. When Empire turns Holy, however, what used to be conquering turns to redeeming/saving.
The issue with valorizing the winner, however, is only made more complicated, more folded-upon-itself, by valorizing the loser – which remains chained to the former valorization as its negative (virtual?) image.
And with this we began to lose sight of the power struggles, the real power struggles, that fuel the meaning and value of all communication-based relations. And that's precisely how they escape our good intentions. The power struggle gives the universal law such headaches, precisely because this ‘universality’ was the direct product of a metaphysical framework that denied the struggle’s very legitimacy (see my ‘White Power’ post from June 10th). The declaration that “all men are created equal” is itself a weapon of denial, compounded upon weapons of oppression and force that are “exceptional”, and/or “unfortunately necessary”, and/or “a thing of the past” (and/or “law and order”).
This new “Holy” attribute to the Empire was further radicalized by Martin Luther. The Protestant Reformation’s also accepted Christianity’s global Evangelical project, except Luther wanted tyranny to be institutionally denied. His attack was not on Christianity per se (no offence, dear Catholic friends), but an attack on the Church as itself a tyranny, itself a blockage between the faithful and the Holy Spirit. Hence Luther’s egalitarian “priesthood of all believers”; he didn’t really believe in “equal rights” (what the fuck does that mean?), but he did recognize that this is a lethal blow to the Christian institution as such. For ‘The Church’ was too localizable, too visible, too exposed to accusations of perversion and fallibility; and, even when imagining its ultimate success in converting the world, this newly-found Earthly togetherness would again make ‘The Church’ stark, another monument of alienation.
So the next time you hear a “Sic semper tyrannis” think of it as ‘Cut out the middle-man’.
Indeed, I think this Protestant belief structure followed us into modern secularism, and infected our approach to democracy with these ideologically-laden assumptions. ‘God,’ which in Judaism (and to a degree in Catholicism) is the paradigm of “alien will” (‘transcendence’), could not make the transition into modernity without Kant’s “Copernican Revolution.” Having replaced ‘God’ with ‘Man’ Kant could keep philosophical reflections “on the secure path to science,” now oriented towards the sane, accessible, non-alien(?) Truth of Man.
‘Human Reason’ now slides comfortably into the same seat of power that used to be religiously held as ‘God’s will’. But ‘Man’ is a universal category here, free from meddling Popes and tyrannical Emperors.
This only sounds “secular” because we all bought-up within this ideological trajectory that claims equality or value and rights, that claims the blindness of Justice. The hatred of “tyranny” is the only way in which the Christian worldview can justify (/tolerate) the sinfulness Earthly conditions – physical and psychical – without losing faith. Christianity’s was not hatred of ‘tyranny’ per se, but more the hatred of conditions, of circumstance, of limits. That is what happens when ‘Man’ takes the place of God on the same project/mission – now ‘Man’ needs to solve this equation for a Monotheist ‘God.’ That is, now ‘Man’ is beset with the newly-found “problem” of limits; problems which Mono-theism only has to deal with when God’s transcendence is somehow denied or negated.
And so, this ‘Man,’ who is told to be as perfect as their Heavenly Father, is perfectly oriented to hate – in so deeply repressed a manner that it turns radical – the only thing ‘God’ cannot abide: limitation of His will. Thus, when “the tyrant” is hated by a Christian/”Secular” liberal (like in J. S. Mill or John Locke), and the Pope is vilified as doing Satan’s work (Luther), it is only their “determinateness,” their localizability and finitude that is abhorred; tyrants’ actions always expose the limits/interests/mortality of the will behind them.
Later, when liberal democracy – fueled by Atomic power, good intentions, and war crimes – came to discredit the tyrant like another overcome stupidity from humanity’s “immature past,” the hatred continued, able to lurk in the shadows, having “universal ideals” of freedom and equality do its work (and do so more consistently). The same conflict beset these poor souls once again, only now they had no other will to blame – no source of oppression to point to – for not being divine but their own; the hatred became a mute self-hatred. I mean, muted: like noise-cancelling headphones, they take the same accusing finger that pointed outward, and reverse it, turning it “inward.”
Remember when Nietzsche called himself dynamite? I think he was pushing a logic of ex-plosion against this logic of implosion. The imperative to deny the “alienation” of God turns into the black-hole that in secular liberals like Locke manifests as a pronounced hatred of ‘tyranny,’ this black-hole around-which a guilty ‘self’ orbits while claiming freedom. Explosions may be chaotic and painful, and implosions orderly and peaceful (“he was such a quiet neighbor”…), but where the former destroys and fragments its outsides, implosions release forces of annihilation.
So, I am of a Nietzschean faith on this: there is no self-violence that does not exact a clandestine, oftentimes bloated – and always unconscious (that’s the point) – revenge on others; “love” of others based on hate of self is a sad/nihilistic farce of moral regard. This economy of sacrifice and guilt (now where and when (and how) did a once-transcendent ‘God’ lend itself to such economic principles?), is converted and diverted into the good-willing ‘individual,’ who now has to face the dissonance of being their own tyrant. The problem, the deep methodological problem, consists in a self where no cause-effect link can be spied, and so no intervention is possible. As if the self were a tyrant, conflating both legislative and executive powers; except this tyrant I can torture with impunity, And I can do so, BOTH “in all fairness” AND en revanche.
Bernard Shaw once said it in his characteristic wit:
“Self-sacrifice enables us to sacrifice other people without blushing”.