Gaza with some help with Castoriadis

It's obvious that America, being the most thoroughly-propagandized nation in the world, has been taught to love some pretty unsavory things. A cursory look at our political class will reveal this:

So how did the US political class become monsters? How, more generally, do people become monsters? It isn't that someone constructed them out of outsized body-parts, like the Frankenstein monster of Mary Shelley's famous work. Rather, we humans are easily manipulated and are great experts in the art of fooling ourselves. This phenomenon has been observed in pop-psychology: see, for instance, Cordelia Fine's A Mind Of Its Own. The US political class is, then, fooling itself.

This experiment is going to be an interpretation of current events in Gaza, loosely relying upon the philosophy of Cornelius Castoriadis. I will choose some themes from Castoriadis' philosophy and make some points from them based on what I've seen so far.

First point: Cornelius Castoriadis, the philosopher, argued that what distinguished people was their outsized imaginations. From the essay "Logic, Imagination, Reflection":

Man's distinguishing trait is not logic, but imagination, and, more precisely, unbridled imagination, defunctionalized imagination. As radical imagination of the singular psyche and as social instituting imaginary, this sort of imagination provides the conditions for reflective thought to exist, therefore also for a science and even a psychoanalysis to exist.

In short, the glories of human civilization are first made possible by the human faculties for imagination, but these same faculties can easily become as detached from reality as were Doctor Freud's psychoanalytic subjects. Here one must remember that Castoriadis was also, for a time, a psychoanalyst.

So that's pretty clearly unbridled and defunctionalized imagination, fooling oneself, if people are stupid enough to believe that genocide is a good thing. Members of the Israeli cabinet have described the current activity in Gaza as a "second Nakba". Or how about the minister who said that "nuking Gaza" was one of Israel's options. Here one is reminded of the witches in Shakespeare's Macbeth: "Fair is foul, and foul, fair." The Nazis fooled themselves into thinking that by killing millions of people they would establish a "thousand-year empire" -- a utopian proposition, though Hitler's biographer Volker Ullrich called it "Stygian"; actual Hell as opposed to imagined Heaven. Some of the more extreme participants in the Israeli cabinet, on the other hand, imagine that something they KNOW is bad can be good.

Second point: At any rate, one of the distinguishing aspects of Castoriadis' philosophy is his depiction of the current era as one of the "complete atrophy of political imagination" as outlined in his essay The Retreat from Autonomy: Postmodernism as Generalized Conformism. Here a distinction must be made between imagination and creativity. Human beings are capable of great feats of imagination. We know this. However, most of what we imagine is conformist, duplicating what others have imagined. The resultant great web of conformity among the human race is what Castoriadis called the "social imaginary." Creativity, on the other hand, builds upon imagination by making it 1) original and 2) basing it upon deeds done in the physical world. Our atrophy of political imagination reveals itself in responses to the world which are devoid of creativity. Perhaps the Zionists have it worse: their seizure of land in Palestine seems to have resulted in another "Warsaw Ghetto," this time around in Gaza, creating further problems and responding to those with war. (Note the reliance upon old models.)

Here one also thinks of the antiwar slogan "never again," meaning "let's never see genocide again." Well, if one can't think of anything better to do, then "never again" means "never again but only to us. Those other people, they can have 'again.'" And so we witness genocide in Gaza.

Third point: The abstract to the above Castoriadis piece mentioned "the eclipse, after the movements of the 1960s, of the project of autonomy." A word, then, must be said here about the opposing concepts of autonomy and heteronomy. Autonomy, for Castoriadis, was when a society created (and lived by) its own laws. His famous example was democracy in classical Athens, 2400 or so years ago. Heteronomy was when a society's laws were commonly attributed to some external force: God, or a political class, or an elite, or money. To me, the concept of autonomy seems vague and indistinct -- how do we know when a society is autonomous? Maybe democracy would be a vague indicator of autonomy, but it wouldn't be much more than that. The principle of heteronomy, on the other hand, seems clear and obvious. Perhaps the opposite of heteronomy is really taking responsibility. Heteronomy is the evasion of responsibility: "I didn't do it. God made me do it, or I needed the money, or an elite made me do it, or the political class made me do it." Taking responsibility, and therefore autonomy, means: "Yay! I can take credit for what I did!"

For the civilian residents of Gaza, there is no autonomy -- if they try to accomplish autonomy, the IDF will destroy it. The closest they can come to autonomy is Hamas, and that's not very close. For the Zionists, there is also no autonomy -- life is fully heteronomous. They didn't do it -- God made them do it, or Hamas made them do it. The US provision of money might make them do it, if there was any doubt at all that the government of Israel was going to receive its yearly US subsidy. The Zionists might find imaginative ways of responding to political events after Hamas' attack of October 7th, but the overall project of genocide remains the same in any case.

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Cassiodorus's picture

of the opposite of creativity:

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"The West doesn't spend any time, or, our policymakers in Washington spend no time thinking about, like, what are the achievable goals here?" -- Tucker Carlson, on Project Ukraine

Cassiodorus's picture

-- in which he comments on the current situation:

World In Fragments

Figures of the Thinkable

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"The West doesn't spend any time, or, our policymakers in Washington spend no time thinking about, like, what are the achievable goals here?" -- Tucker Carlson, on Project Ukraine

Cassiodorus's picture

Note how the corporate media are covering this one.

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"The West doesn't spend any time, or, our policymakers in Washington spend no time thinking about, like, what are the achievable goals here?" -- Tucker Carlson, on Project Ukraine