Sunday, February 25, 2024

Imperial Hubris


Imperial Hubris

Peter Schultz


            In his book, Imperial Hubris, Michael Scheuer argued that “The Muslim religion experience is intensely personal and yet genuinely communal.” This led me to a question: Is what I will call “the modern experience” intensely personal and genuinely communal?


            It’s fairly obvious that the modern experience is not genuinely communal. In fact, modernity seeks to replace the communal experience with nations; that is, with large populations managed by pervasively powerful bureaucracies. Nations are not communities; they are not even “homelands.” They are composed of “resources,” both physical and human.


            Consider the phenomenon called “community policing” by way of illustration. Such arrangements (1) have to be constructed which is (2) difficult to do. In fact, it may be impossible insofar as “policing” itself reflects the rejection of communities. Because communities are thought to be undesirable and need to be replaced, the police – that is, armed executive enforcers – are needed, along with what are called prisons, that is, cages where the disruptive, the “un-habilitated,” the criminals are kept caged up away from the habilitated and peaceful.


            So, if the Muslim religious experience is genuinely communal, it will not thrive in modern societies. Modern societies will nullify the Muslim religious experience, either by destroying it or by modifying it. Which is to say the separation of church and state, lying at the core of modern societies, leads to the destruction or modification of such religious experiences. Modern societies are not benign. In fact, from some points of view, they are repressive, oppressive, and so cannot be “intensely personal.” The personal, along with the communal, must be eradicated in order to create modern societies.


            Corporations reveal this because there is no or very little room in them for either the personal or the communal. In corporations, we become human resources, which requires us to check our personalities at the door. Also, the communal is displaced by HRDs, that is, Human Resource Departments, whose job it is to manipulate what were once human beings with personalities.  


            Looked at in this way, “jihad,” in the sense of defending the Muslim religious experience, is a vestige of trying to be human. As Scheuer implies, such jihads deserve some respect.


More generally, it might even be said that resistance to modernity is also a vestige of trying to be human. Some speak of “the seduction of crime.” Could this be the deepest manifestation of the seductiveness of crime, that is, trying to be or remain human? Is this why crime and criminality are seductive – and not just to criminals? Cf., for example, The Godfather, The Irishman, or The Shawshank Redemption.  

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