Decoding the Semiosphere
ressentiment and the mechanisms of defense
(the dark side of species being)

Part Two: Eleventh to the Nineteenth Century 
grunwald







Matthias Grünewald, The Temptation of Saint Anthony, 1515
Panel from the Isenheim altarpiece: oil on wood Musee d'Unterlinden, Colmar
Eternal Return: another farkakte idea?

As a form of the acceptance of Heidegger's concept of throwness (or amor fati) it is merely the common sense of those with a modern understanding.  Naturally, this contradicts the main thought of popular Protestant culture, that the individual can at any time will herself into an ontological transformation. As the scientistic notion that given enough time all things recur (what once might have, in the late nineteenth century, passed for a grasp of statistics and probability), it is dated and simplistic.  As for the various mystical conceptions of eternal return, the less said the better.  So in what sense, if any, is eternal return not just another farkakte idea?

Look the images, videos, and texts on this page, and wonder at the way the same old shit constantly recurs, certainly from the first Crusade to this recent lynching of Palenstinians in Israel (Young Israelis Held in Attack on Arabs).  In the context of Nietzsche's concept of ressentiment this makes sense.

Ressentiment emerged as an adaptive response to the discipline imposed by power in the first civilizations (Schmookler).  According to Nietzsche, ressentiment is more than simply a form of adaptation of an otherwise intact organism to power.  Ressentiment is the chief characteristic of “natures that, denied the true reaction, that of deeds, compensate themselves with an imaginary revenge.”  (Bernstein, Bitter Carnival: Ressentiment and the Abject Hero (Princeton University Press, 1992), p. 102)  It is a fundamental reconfiguring of the organism, an alteration of Being, a transformation of Becoming.  It is something new, contrary to the existence of hunter-gatherers.  It is a particular type of Being that is the characteristic element of the age of civilization and the state.

This adaptive response is empirically and clinically developed in psychoanalysis's concept of the mechanisms of defense.  Personalities are in large part constituted by these endlessly repeated mechanisms of defense.  In this sense eternal return is consistent with Nietzsche's other key concepts and with the deepening of Nietzsch's insight in the work of "Freud".

Without this particular way of conceptualizing eternal recurrence contemporary politics makes no sense.  With this concept one is engulfed in a profound darkness as one contemplates the future.  Read the excerpt to the right and observe: today's GOP is still recycling the same old shit.  
wiki  

Lawrence Hatab, Nietzsche's life sentence : coming to terms with eternal recurrence (Routledge, 2005)
from The First Crusade: A New History, Thomas Asbridge (Oxford, 2004)

A central feature of Urban's doctrine ws the denigration and dehumanization of Islam.  He set out from the start to launch a holy war agasinst what he called 'the savagery of the Saracens', a 'barbarian' peoplecru capable of incomprehensible levels of cruelty and brutality. . . .  These accusations had little or no basis in fact, but they did serve [Pope] Urban's purpose.  By expounding upon the alleged crimes of Islam, he sought to ignite an explosiion of vengeful passion among his Latin audience, while his attempts to degrade Muslims as 'sub-human' opened the floodgates of extreme, brutal reciprocity.  This, the Pope agued, was to be no shameful war of equals, between God's children, but a 'just' and 'holy' struggle in which an 'alien' people could be punished without remorse and with utter ruthhlessness.  Urban was activating one of the most potent impulses in human society: the definition of the 'other'.  Across countless generations of human history, tribes, nations and peoples have sought to delineate their own identities through comparison to their neighbours or enemies.  By conditioning Latin Europe to view Islam as a species apart, the  Pope stood to gain not only by facilitating his proposed campaign, but also by propeling the West toward unification.
pp. 33-5

"Two forces seem to have been at work, stimulated by the crusading message that Urban had shaped.  Characterising Muslims, the expedition's projected enemies, as a sub-human species, the pope harnessed society's inclination to define itself in contrast to an alien 'other'.  But tapping into this innate well-pool of discrimination and prejudice was akin to opening Pandora's Box.  A potentiallly uncontrollable torrent of racial and religious intolerance was unleashed." p. 85
When I first came across The Lies of the Jews while cruising the Internet, I thought it was a forgery, something that some kind of right wing nut had produced.  I did so because I could not believe that such a text by the founder of Lutheranism could have gone unremarked in any history text that dealt with racism and/or the Holocaust.  Notice I said racism, not antisemitism.  It is a profound conceptual misorientation to think of these phenomena from the standpoint of the victim--that is, to avoid the ontological status of the disease itself, and refer instead to the victim when endowing the phenomena with ontological status.  Antisemitism is just a particular expression of ressentiment.

To suppress the general concept of the phenomenon in the guise of naming it by its effects already is an effect of the power of racism as a force shaping the discursive field.  The most extreme expression of racism at the level of discourse prohibition is the insistence that racism can only be construed not only as an individual act, but an act motivated by conscious racist intent.  The public discourse on the murder of Travon Martin by Geoge Zimmerman is an example of this.

from Martin Luther, The Lies of the Jews (1543)

I wish and I ask that our rulers who have Jewish subjects exercise a sharpm mercy toward these wretched people . . . They must act like a good physician who, when gangrene has set in, proceeds without mercy to cut, saw, and burn flesh, veins, bone, and marrow. Such a procedure must also be followed in this instance. Burn down their synagogues, forbid all that I enumerated earlier, force them to work, and deal harshly with them, as Moses did in the wilderness, slaying three thousand lest the whole people perish. They surely do not know what they are doing; moreover, as people possessed, they do not wish to know it, hear it, or learn it. There it would be wrong to be merciful and confirm them in their conduct. If this does not help we must drive them out like mad dogs, so that we do not become partakers of their abominable blasphemy and all their other vices and thus merit God's wrath and be damned with them. I have done my duty. Now let everyone see to his. I am exonerated."
Eternal Return: another farkakte idea?

As a form of the acceptance of Heidegger's concept of throwness (or amor fati) it is merely the common sense of those with a modern understanding.  Naturally, this contradicts the main thought of popular Protestant culture, that the individual can at any time will herself into an ontological transformation. As the scientistic notion that given enough time all things recur (what once might have, in the late nineteenth century, passed for a grasp of statistics and probability), it is dated and simplistic.  As for the various mystical conceptions of eternal return, the less said the better.  So in what sense, if any, is eternal return not just another farkakte idea?

Look the images, videos, and texts on this page, and wonder at the way the same old shit constantly recurs, certainly from the first Crusade to this recent lynching of Palenstinians in Israel (Young Israelis Held in Attack on Arabs).  In the context of Nietzsche's concept of ressentiment this makes sense.

Ressentiment emerged as an adaptive response to the discipline imposed by power in the first civilizations (Schmookler).  According to Nietzsche, ressentiment is more than simply a form of adaptation of an otherwise intact organism to power.  Ressentiment is the chief characteristic of “natures that, denied the true reaction, that of deeds, compensate themselves with an imaginary revenge.”  (Bernstein, Bitter Carnival: Ressentiment and the Abject Hero (Princeton University Press, 1992), p. 102)  It is a fundamental reconfiguring of the organism, an alteration of Being, a transformation of Becoming.  It is something new, contrary to the existence of hunter-gatherers.  It is a particular type of Being that is the characteristic element of the age of civilization and the state.

This adaptive response is empirically and clinically developed in psychoanalysis's concept of the mechanisms of defense.  Personalities are in large part constituted by these endlessly repeated mechanisms of defense.  In this sense eternal return is consistent with Nietzsche's other key concepts and with the deepening of Nietzsch's insight in the work of "Freud".

Without this particular way of conceptualizing eternal recurrence contemporary politics makes no sense.  With this concept one is engulfed in a profound darkness as one contemplates the future.  Read the excerpt to the right and observe: today's GOP is still recycling the same old shit.  
wiki  

Lawrence Hatab, Nietzsche's life sentence : coming to terms with eternal recurrence (Routledge, 2005)

from Puritanism as a Revolutionary IdeologyMichael Walzer, History and Theory, Vol. 3, No. 1 (1963), pp. 59-90

About the Puritan saints Walzer writes of " . . . their almost Manichean warfare against Satan and his worldly allies, their nervous lust for systematic repression and control." p. 63 

"They felt themselves to be living in an age of chaos and crime and sought to train conscience to be permanently on guard against sin.  The extent to which they would have carried the moral discipline can be seen in the following list of offenses which merited excommunication in one seventeenth-century congregation:

-for unfathfulness in his masters service
-for admitting cardplaying in his house . . .
-for sloth in business.
-for being overtaken in beer.
-for borrowing a pillion and not returning it.
-for jumping for wagers . . .
-for dancing and other vanities.

Had the saints been successful in establishing their Holy Commonwealth, the enforcement of this discipline would have consituted the Puritan terror." p. 64

"The persecution of witches, of course, was not a vital aspect of Puritan endeavor, but the active, fearful struggle against wickedness was.  And the saints imagined wickedness as a creative and omnipresent demonic force, that is, as a continual threat." p. 79
The excerpt at the right from Thomas Frank, What's the Matter with Kansas is placed out of sequence (it should be in Part Three: the Twentieth Century) to illustrate my rational adaptation of Nietzsche's concept of eternal recurrence.  Walzer's account of"the active, fearful struggle against wickedness" of the Puritan saints is duplicated in Frank's account of what he calls the Plen-T-Plaint.   from Thomas Frank, What's the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America (Metropolitan Books, 2004)

the Plen-T-Plaint

As culture war, backlash was born to lose.  Its goal is not to win cultural battles but to take offense, conspicuously, vocally, even flamboyantly.  Indignation is the great aesthetic principle of backlash culture; voicing the fury of the imposed-upon is to the backlash what the guitar solo is to heavy metal.  Indignation is the privilege emotion, the magic moment that brings a consciuosness of rightness and a determination to persist. . . .  Everything seems to piss conservatives off, and they react by documenting and cataloguing their disgust.  The result is what we call the plen-T-plaint, a curious amassing of petty, unrelated beefs with the world.  Its purpose is not really to evaluate the hated liberal culture that surrounds us; the plen-T-plaint is a horizontal rather than vertical mode of criticism, aiming instead to infuriate us with dozens, hundreds, thousands of stories of the many tiny ways the world around us assaults family values, uses obscenities, disrespects parents, foments revolution, and so on.  pp. 121-3
from The Pursuit of Glory:  Europe 1648 -1815, Tim Blanning (Viking, 2007).

"If the state was one master-noun of eighteenth-century political discourse, the nation was another.  Indeed, as a source of inspiration, it was the more potent.  For although the state was an ambitious, omnivorous, hyperactive agent, the blood it sent pulsing round the body politic was very much on the thin side.  While a dedicated enlightened absolutist such as Frederick the Great or Joseph II might wish to dedicate his life to its service, most Eurpeans found it difficult to work up much enthusiasm for such an abstract entity.  The nation, on the other hand, proved to be brimful with motivating force, for it triggered both positive and negative responses to a self-generating dialectical progression.  For every virtue a nationalist ascribed to his own national group, there was a corresponding vice to be denigrated in the 'other' against which national identity was defined."

"This kind of mutually supportive national prejudice was of long standing by the eighteenth century.  In the Middle Ages, satires singled out, for example, the envy of the Jews, the cunning of the Greeks, the arrogance of the Romans, the avarice of the French, the bravery of the Saxons, the bad temper of the English and the lasciviousness of the Scots.  As the German scholar Winfried Schulze has cogently argued, the humanists of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries advanced these simple stereotypes much further by integrating simple prejudices in national historical narratives, especially foundation myths, for 'just about every culture and every religion has its own creation myth, its own equivalent of the Book of Genesis' (Colin Renfrew)." (306)

"To detect the continuing ground-swell of submerged hatred of past wrongs and hopes of future vengeance, it is the oral tradition of nationalist ballads and epics that need to be examined, for 'if a man were permitted to make all the ballads, he need not care who should make the laws of a nation', as the Scottish patriot Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun (1653? — 1716) put it.  That this is not an impossible unertaking has been shown by Vincent Morley, who has demonstrated just how ubiquitous and popular ws the long historical poem variously entited 'Tuireamh na hÉireann' ('Ireland's Dirge') or 'Aiste Sheáin Uí Chonaill' ('Seán Ó Conaill's Composition'), first composed in Kerry in the middle of the seventeenth century.  This offered all the essential elements of a fully fledged nationalism: a foundation myth (the migration of the Milesians to Ireland from Spain), a mythical hero (Fionn mac Cumhail and his warrior band, the Fianna), special assistance from God (the arrival of St Patrick), cultural achievement (the monasteries), an alibi for failure in the face of foregn invasion ('the betrayer Dermod' was just the first of many), and — above all — a gnawing sense of grievance in the face of foreign oppression (Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Cromwell, etc.)." (314)

"The targets of the London rioters [1733] were often national or religious minorites.  Attempts to allow the naturalization of Jews in 1751 and again two years later, for example, provoked waves of popular anti-Semitism.  The most estructive episode of the enire century was the 'Gordon Riots' of 1780. directed against the Catholic Relief Act." (326)

"Unfortunately for enlightened intellectuals, more often than not 'the people' proved to be not just unenlightened but positively reactionary, just as likely to riot against attempts to remove discrimnation against Jews or Catholics as to demonstrate in favor of 'Wilkes and Liberty!'  In the Habsburg Monarchy they were far more likely to turn out to greet the Pope, as more than 100,000 proved in April 1782, than to welcome the enlighened reforms Joseph II was trying to thrust down their throats.  Indeed, what prompted Joseph to put the brakes on his liberalization of the public sphere toward the end of his reign was the awful realization that it was not being used to propagate enlightenment, as he had hoped, but rather to incite conservative resistance to his reforms.  As so often before and since, it was the reactionaries who proved the more adept at exploiting the written word, not least because their arguments struck a much more responsive chord than those of their progressive opponents." (334)
from Darrin M. McMahon, Enemies of the Enlightement: the French Counter-Enlightenment and the Making of Modernity (Oxford University Press, 2001), pp. 48-52

What were the elements of this emergent right wing vision?  The fundamental importance of religion in maintaining political order, a preoccupation with the perils of intellectual and social license, the valorization of the family and history, the critique of abstract rights, the dangers of dividing sovereignty, and the need for a strategic alliance between throne and altar . . .  Even more fundamental was a Manichean readiness to divide the word in two: bewtween good and evil, right and wrong, Right and Left.

Yet to say that the anti-philosophe discourse fulfilled an ideological function is not to assert that it offered a fully developed political platform.  Rather it provided a "symbolic template" through which to construe a perplexing and rapidly changing world, a number of "authoritative concepts" and "suasive images" by which they could be grasped.  

By invoking this mythic golden past . . . anti-philosophes revealed signs of a romantic, qasi-utopian yearning for wholeness and social unity that would characterize a strain in far Right thinking for years to come.             

Reactive, reductive, Manichean, this thinking is less noteworthy, perhaps, for its particulars than for its general form.  It was precisely this tendency to view society as a battleground between opposing camps that stands as a hallmark of the bipolar, Right-Left model of politics so fundamental to subsequent European history. . . .  Dividing the world between good and evil, between the pious and the profane, anti-philosphes saw their struggle as a cosmic war in which the winners would take all.

from Mary Vincent, "The Spanish Church and the Popular Front: the experience of Salamanca province," in Martin S. Alexander and Helen Graham, eds., The French and Spanish Popular Fronts (Cambridge University Press, 1989)

Catholic polemicists writing during the Civil War had no difficulty in blaming the Popular Front for the tragic end of the Second Republic.  One of the innumerable tracts put out by Catholic apologists in support of the generals' rising [Franco] baldly stated that the Popular Front was essentially evil, 'a monstrous conglomeration of anti-Catholic political parties' whose tyranny was manifested in its persecution of the 'sacred institutions' of the family, relgion and property.  Manipulated by international masonry, it intended to deliver Spain to Soviet communism thus betraying both the fatherland and the Catholic religion. (p. 79)

This appeal for united action was given greater weight by the presentation of the Popular Front as the Church's declared enemy, a nihilitic alliance of the forces of evil.  The right was firm in its intentions to cauterize all 'unhealthy' elements in the Spanish state.  In 1933 Gil Robles had announced the need to purge the fatherland of 'judaising freemasons'.  In 1936 he broadened this considerably, saying on the eve of the elections that the party wanted primarily

to eliminate the sowers of discord who leave the fatherland broken and blood-stained, to eliminate in the realm of ideas that suicidal rationalism which, killing the great universal ideas of Catholicism and the fatherland, had broken with those supreme factors which made up the soul of the nation.

The CEDA called on all its supporters to work against 'anti-Spain', 'against the revolution and its accomplices', obscure figures commonly understood to be marxists, fremasons and Jews.  In similar vein, the Dominican Father Carrión published an article in his Order's journal which spoke of those three forces aligning themselves against Spain.  Jewish marxists, expelled from ghettos all over the world, came to Spain where 'they settle down and sprawl about as in conquered territory'.