Sunday, October 05, 2008

National Disgrace

"And yes, the congressional bail-out of the mortgage industry was a national disgrace and patently more damaging to our nation's remaining hopes of survival than 9/11....The public, highly controlled response, whether mock-analytical or trick-or-treat evanescent, is part of that endgame, descriptive of a culture that can no longer see or think straight. There's simply too much to write about these days, and too little reason to write about it." Read John Harris' blog, The True Conservator for the rest of "On the Road to National Meltdown" today.

The Senate vote for the bailout was followed in the evening by the vice-presidential "debate," in which both candidates swore fealty to Israel.

Earlier that evening I had attended a lecture by Stanley Hauerwas, a theologian at Duke University. I did not like his talk, but I got a lot out of it. What I learned about myself because of this talk is complicated and difficult to put into words, having to do with my obscure little book about the Creation story in Genesis, Consecrated Venom, published in 2000. What I tried to do, not very successfully, was to demonstrate the philosophical and epistemological implications of this sublime story, arguing that the Creation account can be viewed as the consequences following from "the metaphysical status of an original act." Everything follows from the beginning point. The story is about the act of thinking - and thinking is not "rationality." Thinking is about the spine - or maybe, having one.

I thought that Hauerwas slighted, ignored or belittled the role of the higher intellect in Christianity, and it was not accidental that he seemed to talk so much about the Jews. When a member of the audience questioned him about the people present at the original Pentecost, he replied they were "Jews of the Diaspora" - well, I walked out. I read his talk - fairly or not - as a collapse of Christianity into Judaism, omitting entirely the role of free choice, thought, and inner decision that must have been present in the souls of the early Christians. Certainly the first Christians were Jews. But somehow this fact obscures the whole argument. It ignores the place of the beginning, which is an act of thought.

Perhaps I was responding to Hauerwas as a Catholic irritated by a Protestant. I don't know. But it seemed to me that his talk slid seamlessly into the national disgrace and the "debate." Americans don't like to think, apparently. No one has the time or the intellectual energy to draw a line in the sand. No one wants to carefully consider the consequences of an action derived from an act of thought, because, obviously, actions are no longer related to thought.

None of our leaders, in fact, has a spine. Congress by voting for this Wall Street robbery has just severed the last thread of accountability in our system, the power of the purse. They have already handed over the prerogatives to declare war and numerous other privileges of the legislative branch. Is there anything left for them to do except play in their sandbox of governing while the house falls down?

1 comment:

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