Immanentizing the Eschaton

Eric Voegelin once defined political legitimacy as essentially the product of a sort of gnostic political belief similar to those which emerged from religion. What he meant was, that people believe in political facts and systems because they think that there is some sort of order that can be understood by transcending facts and just asserting belief. 'I believe in democracy', for instance, or 'the nation defines us', or ' growth is inevitable'. Shorn of faith--true pistis off--people try to build heaven on earth and to live the afterlife now, and they fall down.

I thought of this sort of unprovable gnosticism--gnostic because it generally doesn't go in for critical reflection or logical elaboration--when thinking of the latest prediction of economic recovery. Despite the evidence of their eyes, and of the dogs on the street, newspapers and the media seem determined to make people believe in mad, crazy things.

For instance, the Japanese economy is sinking very deeply into a renewed deflation, if a process of death can be made new. I write process of death; what is happening, I might suggest, is that a very long-predicted event is coming true. Japan became a rich, but traumatised society after world war two. It is now ageing. Old people save. Rich people do not have many children. The welfare state that the Japanese promised themselves cannot be afforded, except by the work of many children grown-up, or immigrants; so Japan is drawing in its horns.

Reams and reams of essays on why Japan's decline is due to the carry trade, to the strength of the yen, to a falsified export model, to the lingering influence of the keiretsu--none of these things explain as powerfully as the knowledge that that is a country of old men and women now. Many have placed the emphasis on when the actual fact of age arrives for half the population, in what is now still the far future of 2050, but once people realise what is happening, changes can be immediate. I wonder if the same problems Japan has are not in the near future of a swath of European countries.

A comment on Ambrose Evans Pritchard's blog about Japan made me think. John Mack asked, if the world is growing, and if we are all becoming richer, why is everybody working harder with less purchasing power if they are not functionally or actually unemployed?

I rather like the answer that logically emerges. We have diverted 'wealth' into the inflated economic rent of land, across the world; we have debased currency by making all monies fiat; and we have globalised the inequitable distribution of income that sees some as rich, some as psuedo-rich, and some as outside any system of wealth. We have also, as Voegelin also once noted, inverted spirit and materialism to define people as accumulators of imaginary wealth within an imaginary pricing system of the sort his great friend Hayek worshipped. We live to pay for the things from work.

If we accept this observation, we transcend what people in the media-political class want us to believe, because they want to believe it. But where does it get us? What are we supposed to do, nothing? I know enough of life to know that many people accept delusions to get through, or because they recognise that the crowds will censor if not followed.

Yet, if commodities, and capital, and financial instruments, and the facts we accept as true in our hollowed out societies don't provide transcendence--if they don't uphold legitimacy--what happens? Real slaves must have realised at some point that they were slaves, however they might try to escape. Some endured, most lived within themselves and within love if they could, hiding behind their eyes. Does that apply to the west? What happens when gnostic political beliefs fall away, and people realise where they are?

I wonder if they don't go more mad, or hold to worse delusions that provide the appearance of certainty.

This is an odd moment. I can't help thinking that something abyssal is around us. In those circumstances, is it sensible to acknowledge it, or just to remember how easy life still is?

Well, I speak as someone living in London's salubrious Putney. I should remind myself that there are people waking up today in fear of their lives, and who are not protected by the police or the law; there are people who are hungry and without a home just down the street, and there are people who are living their own maiming hells. But, well, not all of us are, and the proportion is probably lower than for most of humanity at any given time. Does that privatisation of our regressive quantity of troubles make us better or worse?

I was talking to a woman who would easily have fought in an African civil war yesterday if she could have, but is now happily carrying her child here. She was articulate, serious, and fully acknowledged how mad the world is; perhaps I should just simply do the same, and move on.

Cleave to Love and Reason. Let them lead you to the truth. Here's a song of the Babylon war.