Friday, June 22, 2007

What We Fear - and What We Don't

When I attended lectures on American culture in Moscow Linguistic University some 15 years ago I was astonished to hear about one particular trait of this culture: fear of “cezarepapizm”. The term historically is associated only with Byzantine culture, and in all history of Western Europe and Northern America there never was a precedent of political realization of this phenomenon. It never got materialized even in Russia, most close ideological heir of Byzantine tradition. So it belongs only to realm of political mythology. How could it happen that this non-existent threat (especially impossible in context of Anglo-Saxon culture and even more so in US, where separation of state and Church is enshrined in Constitution) became a source of pervasive, obsessive, exaggerated and irrational fear — a textbook description of phobia? If my professor was correct, this phobia amounts to universal neurosis, in Freud’s terminology. The same applies to fear of political repressions. There simply never was a precedent of this kind in American history; even McCarthyism did not produce cases of imprisonment people for their views or propaganda dissemination, only for perjury or espionage. Another mass phobia, also completely unfounded. In Soviet Union, on the other hand, we had a rampant spying scare, millions of innocent were jailed or executed for fabricated accusation of spying, while all borders were impenetrable and all contacts with foreigners strictly forbidden and impossible. American borders are existent only as lines on the map, hundreds of terrorists can trespass them every day, lots of international terror organizations openly boast their goals to commit terrorist acts on American soil (with smuggled nukes, perhaps). It took several weeks to erect Berlin wall (and analogue fortifications everywhere at DDR border). Americans, with vastly much more resources and much more real treat, failed to enforce effective border control for 6 years after 9/11. How it can be explained in terms of mental health that collectively people tend to fear most the least probable dangers and eagerly deny the most obvious ones? John Derbyshire’s Hypothesis of Collective Imprudence only postulates this phenomenon, but does not explain it.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

A new Emperor's Clothes are so old...

It is amusing that humans, it seems, unable to devise anything really new in such realms as world-view, ethics or religion, they only unknowingly reproduce the old ones with some modifications. For example, Leftist world-view for last 200 years (Marxism, Communism, Trotskyism, Stalinism and all varieties of Socialism) was and still is a combination of the two many-centuries-old heresies: Pelagianism and Manichean. Even the most zealous neocon, Christopher Hitchens, still follows this combination, replacing the original sin (capitalism) of his previous Trotskyist faith by a new enemy - Islam. He wants us to wage a Crusade against it, but not in the name of God, but in the name of secular New Enlightenment. A ridicule proposition: where can he hope to find enough true believers for that? To win an all-out religious war, one needs to be no less religion motivated and fanatical than his opponent. Atheism is not a weapon, but a fatal weakness in such a battle.
Islam, too, is a Manichean delusion, but combined not with Pelagianism, but with Calvinism in its most pessimistic and antihuman form.