How indulgence has become both a pathological pandemic and geopolitical totalitarianism
|'Indulgermania’ is a homonym that represents both a pathological pandemic and a geopolitical entity, as well as being a serendipitous reminder that the indulgence and fascist forms of capitalism have a common totalitarian public relations and marketing root, for Germania was the proposed redesign of Berlin as the envisaged capital of a Nazi superstate
In 1517, a thoroughly obscure academic theologian at the second rank newbie university of Wittenberg in Southern Germany, by the name of Martin Luther, broke with the medieval mother church over the issue of Papal indulgences.
Contrary to all expectations, including his own, he blithely triggered off a long simmering politico-religious chain reaction that broke up the medieval world through a movement known as The Reformation, which, along with the emergence of capitalism, became the twin political crucibles of what is now known as ‘Modern Times’.
The thesis to be argued here is that the vices of indulgence are very likely to to provide the trigger to a similar ideological, social and economic convulsion in possibly the first half of the twenty-first century, that will analogously chain react the modern period into a post-modern interregnum and civilizationally ‘cleansing’ meltdown, characterized by the same kinds of wars of toleration and ongoing economic restructuring that brought our present period into being.
The 9/11 attacks on the New York World Trade Centres were the first substantial taste of the likely coming collisions between traditional faiths (and their secular anti regime ‘protest-ant’ allies), and the ‘Indulgentsia’; i.e., the humanist ‘church’ and corporatist secular ‘crown’ twin regime ascendancies of Indulgence Capitalism, where an economy and culture of needs and wants is replaced by one of indulgent fantasies of desire and satiating them immediately, at a price that may well make the depredations of twentieth century totalitarianisms seem like a warm up act. This coming period of chronic upheaval will be emblematic of the politics of institutional power, productive endeavour, legitimacy, consent and war in the coming millennium, that will at least initially, primarily represent a fundamental struggle over the culture, politics and economics of indulgence.
‘Indulgence’ on the face of it seems an unlikely candidate for such an epoch defining mechanism. The word seems almost benign, as one would expect if one had lived all one’s life in an indulgence driven economy, society and moral framework, now well into its third generation of people who know nothing else.
To a modern secular audience, a 500 year old religious brouhaha over indulgences might sound a bit arcane, but it raised some critically important issues of principle and practice that are just as relevant now as then.
Papal Indulgences were instruments by which people could buy for themselves, still living others and dead friends and ancestors, the forgiveness of God for their sins of omission and commission during their lifetimes; i.e., spiritual salvation and a get-out-of-purgatory-into-heaven earlier than otherwise, depending how much they paid.
It was ‘a product’ that was almost too good to be true, in a world where what happened to one after death was infinitely more important than anything that occurred while still living and breathing. One was but for a few decades, the other, forever. Not surprisingly, it was a great little earner for paying off Luther’s Archbishop’s debts and funding the magnificently luxurious St Peter’s Vatican basilica that one can see in Rome today.
It seemed like a winner for everyone, all round.
However, the redoubtable Father Martin was a lot more than not happy to see a sales spruiking Papal ‘Grand Commissioner For Indulgences’ by the name of Johann Tetzel, wandering around southern Germany flogging the damned things for all he was worth. Lots of thinking people felt the same way, but were sensible enough to keep their mouths shut, as opposition to papal practice, no matter how corrupt, was likely to end up in a heresy court and either a humiliating recantation and/or being publicly live barbecued…….but not our Father Martin, who obviously had more courage than sense of self preservation.
His sense of outrage was not just about the sheer effrontery of presuming to be able buy off the wrath and judgement of an omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent God.….as well as buy up His grace and forgiveness, but the way the practice cut at the very foundations of religion as a basis for conducting a faithfully principled, God fearing and virtuous life at all. Evil doers could do whatever they liked and get away with it, if not in this world, certainly in the next, as long as enough coin changed hands.
Papal Indulgences were not just a con and a dud. They undermined the virtue and goodness that the supposed deity and social common sense had laid down to keep the integrity of a person’s soul (existential centre/ground of being) intact and discourage wilful fools from prodigally and damningly bankrupting it, and doing collateral damage to those around them in the process. The Old Church had become so grasping and full of hubris that it had forgotten what its business model was; rather like our bankers and financiers of the equally mythic and fiction intensive money cult have, more recently.
While Luther’s language and beliefs might now seem past their use-by date, the essence of what he was talking about was that we all have an existential software ‘account’. For those who are fetishists for quantification, it is at least as theoretically measurable as any other services business entity, replete with behavioural profit and loss and attitudinal software balance sheets, for which we should be accountable to not just ourselves, but our surrounding community, that depends on us for our virtues, discipline and good conduct….and suffers if we have a narcissistically self-centred attitude, uncontrolled vices and behave reliably badly.
A lot of our personal and community ‘wealth’ is tied up in that account. It is not just a fictional abstraction. It materially affects our quality of life and that of those around us. We do not live by money and what it will buy alone. The quality of existential software matters. One can have all the money in the world and be dead motherless gutter poor in a degraded world where everything of any existential value (which produces responsible, secure, robust and virtuous character, healthy social infrastructure formation and its proactive maintenance) turns to chaotic mush…. and where the children belong to the modern Tetzels in publicrelationsmarketingland, never to grow up, even as they grow old, because all the templates and practices that might might make them better than that have disappeared, leaving nothing behind except a vacant, wobblesomely vulnerable and chronically insecure adolescent narcissism that has a relentlessly corrupting tendency towards poor social and ideological practices, which are then passed on to the next generational cohort!
I find using this kind of language brings us a little closer to the world of Martin Luther, even if it were 500 years ago. Some things just never change, even if the language for expressing them does.
Indulgence is not just having too much of a good thing, although that in itself can do as much damage as having too little, particularly if the habit of it is protracted and compounded over several generations. It is no coincidence that cancer and obesity are emblematic of an age where too much is never enough, as the exponentially grasping greed of indulgence metastasizes exponentially into industrial and personal bloating, and ravishment of what otherwise might be a healthy ecological, economic and cultural commons.
At a far more sinister and disabling level however, it is also tolerance of poor thinking and behaviour; what has traditionally been understood as ‘sin’. Papal Indulgences were in effect a tolerance of sin in return for a pay off that would enable the devil (today’s PRmarketingInc, where desire, temptation and giving into it is magically transformed into a virtue) to further enslave the indulged to vices that would damn them (push them off an existential cliff) anyway. Today’s humanist and corporate ‘Indulgentsia’ and its acolytes make exactly the same kind of Faustian deal with the devil (where one can have anything one wants, no matter how ‘out there’ it is, in return for a totalitarian enslavement of one’s metaphorical soul, either as a production warrior, shop trooper or ideological sales/administrator/facilitator) that destroys existential grounding and its surrounding social infrastructure with the same certainty it would have done 500 years ago.
Indulgence seems initially benign, because its deregulatory instincts seem so ‘forgiving’, ‘tolerant’, ‘empathetically understanding’ and ‘open’ to ‘less restrictive’ and ‘repressive’ views as to what is and is not OK. It questions the setting of standards, denies norms as ‘arbitrary’, blandly declares moral judgement to be ‘judgmental’ and disciplinary enforcement as ‘authoritarian’, ‘cruel and abusive’. It ‘saves’ us from the strictures of morally overzealous ‘bigotry’(moral firmness) and the ‘prejudices’ (opinions ‘we’ don’t approve of) from a 'crime ridden' (Stalinist style historical revisionism) 'obsolete’ past (current historical exceptionalism) whose dependence on ‘hard line’ (we actually mean it) non negotiable bottom lines (no fudging or weakness posing as 'flexibility) and 'oppressive' (defended) boundaries are no longer ‘appropriate’ (politically correct).
Nor did the strictures of the old order need to be ‘tiresomely’ replaced by any alternative regulatory regime that would interrupt disinhibition as freedom and consumer entitlements as human rights; rights that would no longer require ‘inconvenient’ and ‘freedom limiting’ responsible moral and social agency/conditionality to underpin them, or the training and maturity to make them work…..because the warm ‘n soggy embrace of indulgence fudges, cribs and bluffs all into a melange of excused non responsibility, moral relativity and more slip, slide, weave ‘n duck than a Saturday night drunk.
The biggest casualty of indulgence is honesty and accountability that gets ‘privatized’ (where self assessment is the only legitimate judge) into oblivion. That matters, because deceit and lies have a way that so colonizes the liar, it tears at the software that enables reliable determination of fantasy from reality and egoism from consciousness of ‘the other’, that prevents delusionists from disappearing into the mirror of their own reflections.
The effects of indulgence are initially slow to take hold because, as with any infrastructure, there is a lot of traditional inertia/resistances to manage and it takes time to build momentum from saying that anything goes to getting to a condition where anything does. We start timidly because the old, more disciplined and grounded voices in our heads are still there, even though the power source driving them has been switched off. Emboldenment takes time for new habits to form….. But once it gets going, it’s game on. And now that it is game on, no demand, proposition or practice, no matter how irresponsibly wilful, or psychopathic it might be, can be easily resisted, once enough marketing and momentum is driving it.
It starts with a rush of feeling ‘liberated’ from some of the things we never liked about the old way of doing things anyway, like say ‘The Patriarchy’. Pulling down the statues of the old order can be very satisfying and a lot of fun...busting the old ‘stereotypes’ and indulging in what were once illicit pleasures. But if, a little way down the road, the results aren’t quite as fabulous as expected, excuses and mollifying-reasons-why get made, that maintain the respectability of the trajectory of ‘progress’….and quash any creeping doubts or criticism, banishing such unrepentantly ‘conservative dark forces’ back under the dank and slimy ideological muttering rocks reserved for ‘unacceptable opinion’ (heresy).
And if things do get ‘out of hand’, there is nothing like a cleansing judicial inquiry/heresy court/show trial for low level regime apparatchik bunnies to take the rap for not managing or being involved in the chaos that needs to be swept under the carpet; who spontaneously fall on their swords, confess to ‘errors’, ‘excesses’ and policy ‘adventurism’, are found guilty of the regime crimes they were unlucky enough to be presiding over at the time…..leading to rafts of recommendations that end up in bureaucratically remote and funds dried wadis that somehow never lead anywhere…..
It takes time to begin to realize for say a woman who thinks she has been ‘liberated’, just what she has been ‘liberated’ into, which isn’t quite what she bargained for, by getting a lot more of what she didn’t want and a lot less of what she did….as in being metaphorically and literally screwed by a very slippery form of informal institutional and personal sexism that never discloses itself as such….leaving the victim in a mystified cocoon of rationalization that routinely and straight facedly rock bottoms female agency by say legitimizing prostitution as ‘sex work’ on a par with building solar panels…and then she wonders why ‘liberation’ isn’t quite what it was cracked up to be; or rather that it wasn’t liberation at all, but indulgence and a quite precariously unstable life without any sustainable integrity or boundaries, safe spaces, rules based behaviour, accountability, or sense of guilt or shame...in the pursuit of really narrowly self centred and short term fantasies and pleasures; particularly male ones, where women are the bunnies.
It is just ‘a bit disappointing’ for ‘liberated’ women to be commodified and straightjacketed into straight-up-on-demand casualized dating sexual freebies, sexual objectification/commodification sales and marketing iconic status, and industrial auxiliary under-roles; who have to have double the talent and do twice the work for half the recognition, pay and promotion, when what she wanted was considerate and loving, secure and supportively sustainable long term partnering and intimacy that could reliably last a reproductive cycle, and equitable allocations on the basis of merit and time commitment in the gender distribution of paid and unpaid labour in industry and domestically...which has virtually nothing to do with sex and everything to do with sexual politics.
An important mainstream of feminism suffered from being a reregulatory ideology in favour of disciplined and enforceable social practice, and capitalism only does deregulation in favour of marketing and sales fantasies and practice, that represents almost 100% of its management and control suite.
It takes a long time before an emerging pattern of the malfeasance of indulgence is recognizable enough to be identified, and then an even longer one for the discontent to become sufficiently certain of itself to emerge as overt political agenda, particularly a movement like feminism, where so much of it had at least partially bought into the deregulatory and accountability privatization agendas of the ‘sexual revolution’ that Indulgence Capitalism rolled out in the 1960s, as an economy, society and culture of much more disciplined and limited needs and wants were shunted aside by fantasies (particularly sexual ones) of desire and satiating them immediately, at any price, no matter what.
Indulgence delivers a lot of upfront freebie pleasures and benefits to sell the unsuspecting a dream which is designed to enslave them to habits which in the end are not benign….and eventually colonize and destroy them and the infrastructure around them in ways reminiscent of the diabolical preying behaviour of the jewel wasp. Its strategy is chillingly similar to that of the publicrelationsmarketingthink regime of Indulgence Capitalism.
The wasp uses an initial sting to temporarily paralyse its victim’s front legs. It then very precisely injects more paralysing venom into the specific part of its victim’s brain that controls escape/resistance behaviours and turns it into a zombie living receptacle and fresh food source for its progeny, that eats it out, timing the process so that the victim only finally dies when the young wasp pupa is ready to fly out of the emptied carcass of its host.
After having subdued its victim, the wasp has a good meal out of sucking its victim’s ‘blood’ through its antenna ‘straws’ that the wasp has half amputated. It then uses these now partially sawn off sensors as ‘a lead’ to take its unresisting victim to its lair, lays its egg on its victim’s abdomen, stops up the entrance and leaves its pupa to eat its way into its quiescent and unresisting prey…..
Publicrelationsmarketspeak is the wasp ovipositor ‘stinger’. Indulgence is the venom that it injects to paralyse resistance and the will to escape, dissolves critical cues and responses that might alert the victim while it takes over the apparatus of consciousness itself….inside an architecture of discourse that has been emptied of critical dimensions of meaning, as a very unbenign system enslaves its victims to their desires, shuts out everything else, relentlessly extracts value from its mystified prey until all that is left of them are existential ghosts, whose medicalized distress and incomprehension leaves them floundering dysfunctionally in a miasma that never registers what has actually been lost; i.e., sufficient existential capital which is grounded on firm enough territory to get autonomous traction to secure defensible rules of conduct and enforceable boundaries that boast sufficient integrity to ensure the production of robust individuals with the viable social infrastructure they need to operate sustainably on an intergenerational basis.
Every autarchy that has ever previously existed has only ever been able to dream of such total control of mass populations. Even the North Korean regime, which has the most ferociously intrusive system of control to be found anywhere on the planet today, can only secure outward conformity with any certainty. Its brutal security apparatus and the fear it produces gives away its terrible intent, to even its most committed followers. Silent running under-the-radar Indulgence Capitalism doesn’t give its prey any warnings at all, because they are anaesthetized before they get a chance to heed them.
So how can one possibly know that one is a victim of this? For me it was with considerable difficulty and a lifetime’s work. Even now, my sentence structures bear the scars of the struggle to try and pull all the threads together sufficiently to make the picture.
Linear language does not work terribly well trying to peel a reality holism; i.e., trying to model a multilayered macro organism that has something wrong with it, without any idea what that is and blindly feeling around without knowing what to feel for, until finally, after many years, working out the architecture of that malfunctionality….and then entering the hopeless business of trying to explain that to other people, most of whom have been trained to a ten minute attention span.
One of the ways the indulgence regime works to ensure that hardly anyone does get the whole picture is by obfuscating it into an intra regime partisanship that runs a mutually cancelling finger pointing exercise between its corporate 'dry' Tweedle Dee economic 'Crown' administrators and 'Churchy' Humanist Ascendancy public and private sector 'wet' Tweedle Dums, both equally intent on rolling out the larger deregulatory and privatization agendas of Indulgence Capitalism and each incontrovertibly truthfully accusing the other of destroying the infrastructure that other is supposed to be stewarding. This creates a sense of legitimate internal criticism, blind sides each faction to its own perfidy and the potential virtues of ‘the other’, permanently entrenches interlocking paralysis in the face of an existential crisis like anthropogenic climate change and collapsing social/economic governance, and is a highly effective means of maintaining the status quo.
But beyond that more obvious stuff is the way the wasp venom of indulgence conflates and blunts the capacity to tell the difference between 'discrimination' and critical discernment, 'humanity' and narcissism, 'dignity' and caricature, ‘rights’ and entitlements, 'inclusion' and opportunistic colonization, ‘humanistic compassion’ and an indiscriminate soft touch, ‘freedom’ and disinhibited life without boundaries, ‘authoritarianism’ and firmness, ‘justice’ and sectional interest, 'fairness', special pleading and excuse making, ‘tolerance’ and indulgence, ‘respect’ and unjustified regard, ‘compromise’ and being compromised, 'flexibility’ and weakness, ‘concern for ‘the value of human life’ and cowardice, ‘dissent’ and treason, ‘repression’ and discipline, ‘assault’ and chastisement, ‘abuse’ and toughness, and 'violence' and the legitimate use of force.
Distinguishing ‘disadvantage’ and dysfunctional willfulness, 'personality' and moral character, ‘individualism’ and egoism, ‘helpless disempowerment’ and passive fecklessness, ‘impoverishment’ and a frugal life, 'misfortune' and inconsequential thinking, became all but impossible.
‘Love’ conflates with lust and eroticism, biological sex with sexual political gender, ‘sexuality’ with identity (sexistentialism), vilificatory hate/phobia with principled reproductive consciousness, and sexual ‘alternativism’ with sexual error/corruption, parody, infantilism and/or cruelty.
‘Equality’ conflates into creative equivalencing that legitimizes reward for the incompetent, promotion of the unqualified, penalizing the industrious, and in the name of equality, exploiting the unequal by getting them to compete as ‘equals’ out of their league against stronger players who control the rules of the game against them.
Failure, poor behaviour and dysfunctional values are denied, smoothed away and no one’s fault because better judgement was discombobulated by larger social forces. If it were their fault, they didn’t mean it. If they did, they couldn't help it. If they could, it seemed like a good idea at the time, because everyone else was doing it. Even if it weren't, it was just ill luck that it turned out badly; shit happens. And they have to be cut a bit of slack, because hell, they are 'disadvantaged' and/or 'misunderstood' poor things who need uncritical empathy rather than be held to account.
On the other side, the measure of corporate things seems to be so much more reliably quantified into concrete accounting entities that seem so factually self justifying, rules based and quantifiably truthful. I give you accounting, which in fact is as much as anything else a propaganda and screening device that conceals the damage, loss and later disaster caused by an economy built around the unlimited consumption parameters of indulgence, cannot distinguish between economic obesity bloating, cancerous over-replication and healthy output, distorts and mythologizes economic effort, prevents realistic planning for the future and will likely preside over a disgraceful rationalizing of governance, economic and ecological collapse, caused by a system where too much is never enough.
It is as much into modern fairy stories as its humanist opposite numbers, like pretending that ‘environmental services’ are bottomless freebie ‘externalities’, that biological systems do not have to be fed and that it is OK to take all the ‘income’ they generate and pollute/degrade the infrastructure they produce; or that the domestic home production and services industry isn’t a producer of wealth, which means all those asset account lines can be looted without the appearance of cost to the balance sheet or a hit to the profit and loss account…..while its human resources domestic (re)production system invisibly declines into incompetence whose output is as dangerous to itself as as it is to others, and will break down and behave erratically, unreliably and unconscionably under the slightest pressure...or none at all.
How can agribusiness/food retail produce absurdly cheap food for consumers, cream off most of the profit for the air conditioned suits, screw the farmers who take on most of climate/production risk and provide the sweated labour, who are then forced to deplete the land to eke out a living...not end in famine, eventually, especially when the climate change that we are causing and not budgeting for starts to really bite and the number of mouths to be fed sails past ten billion?
If we were getting information through the accounts that the ecological system was haemorrhaging into foreseeable bankruptcy, we would be putting in place large scale restoration, civil defence projects and in depth adversity management structures to secure future food supplies for when things get really tough…..and start diverting substantial resources out of the consumer economy to do it, in the same way one would during an existentially threatening war, like WW2, when Britain spent up to 60% of GNP on the war effort.
Instead, we are waiting for that ‘oh shit’ moment, which is too late. We are all caught in an indulgently delusional reality bubble that is eventually going to pop and leave us in a completely unprecedented ‘situation’. And just like in the last months of The Third Reich, we keep getting news of wonderful tactical victories and promises of new wonder weapons, invulnerable underground arsenals and huge secret reserve armies to halt and throw back the current and foreseeable threats. But like all propaganda, while it had a sufficient sliver of truth in it for the punters to buy it, it concealed the relentless strategic adversity of fronts that always kept getting closer and air attacks that kept getting bigger and more frequent.
Domestic life can be put on hold for the temporary duration of a war, but not permanently without opportunity for recovery to enable it to do the most important wealth building enterprise any species does….creating and capitalizing the next generation into becoming secure, stable, reliable and responsible, emotionally generous and loving, hard working and conscientious, and thoughtful social contributors capable of shame, guilt and remorse if they fail to live up to that standard, and whose presence in any society helps make it worth living in, even in the most difficult and trying circumstances.
If we were getting accounting feedback that our social infrastructure was falling to bits, we would be rushing to reregulate, recapitalize and revitalize it by transferring resources from other sectors to save it; in short tighten our game, pay a lot more attention and insist on meeting some production and quality control bottom lines that met some ‘industry’ standards, or else.
The cost of indulgence and the delusionality it creates in its wake takes a while to assemble itself, but when it does, it is a hammer blow. It is only very recently that feminism has been given a really stark wake up call about the ‘liberating’ sexual revolution and where it was leading, when its ideologically progressive reverie was suddenly rudely interrupted by delusional men wanting to be ersatz women, who think they have a human (divine) right to be ‘included’ (muscling in/invasive colonisation) in female only spaces and pastimes, that both threaten genuine females directly, by marginalizing them out of their hard won benefits, privacy, safety and achievements…..and rip of/groom their children….
This insidious bunch of rank opportunists, along with its supporters and acolytes, pretends to a bogus ‘sexistentialism’ which says, ‘I am my sexuality’; i.e., that I am the sum of my desires and fulfilment fantasies that trumps materialist notions of objective reality, as embodied in the substantive biological appurtenances, purposes and meaning of human reproduction. If someone believed they were Napoleon and insisted on his human right to be bowed to and called 'Your Grace', we would rapidly disabuse the delusionist or refer him for some psychiatric 'help', but apparently not if he thinks he is a woman and expects to be called by a female name and be treated as if he were one....indulgence.
As soon as feminists questioned this execrable, irrational and self serving baloney, ‘the system’ led by the bureaucratically entrenched Humanist Ascendency, parts of the corporatocracy and the microsexual constituency under their umbrella, moved against them as ‘Terf transphobic bigots and haters’. This is exactly the same chronically question begging condemnatory anti-heresy language and represents the same spurious ‘sexistentialist’ identity self indulgence they and the forces of social ‘enlightenment’ had been using against others, like myself, as recently as the late 2017 same sex marriage plebiscite in Australia, and now used on them, as heretic traitors that get in the way of ‘the inevitable path of 'progress’ (bizarre blundering).
The delicious irony and schadenfreude of this has been balanced by sadness, outrage and fear at what has happened to my sisters who represent half the population, and not just their autistic and more sexually insecure children, but all of them, at the hands of entrenched ideologically unrepresentative swill who can now take over our libraries to groom the kiddies with sexually explicit shows like ‘Drag Queen Story Time’, and books that share the delights, plausibility and ‘inclusion’ (colonization) by, of and for a quasi paedophile (child grooming) bogus transexualism posing as ‘the wave of the future’.
There are chromosomal intersex disorders. Anything else is pure off message ideological bluff and bluster on behalf of indulged wretches who expect their theatrical delusions and sexual fantasies have to be taken seriously by everyone else in some terrible combined re-enactment of Aesop’s cautionary fables about ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ and ‘The Fox with No Tail’, because indulgence psychiatry has been systematically suborned into transferring the burden of reality dissonance from the delusionist to all the third parties who come into contact with them.
For the feminists affected, being hung by their own ideologically sexistentialist petard focuses the mind, as we begin to realize that feminism is not about ‘sexuality’ at all, but the tough gender sexual politics that have to be facilitated to raise the status of women enough for them to be able to roll out their talents without being humiliated, hobbled and robbed by sexual commodification and unfair gender distributions of reproductive responsibility, power and wealth….in ways that do not indulge anyone.
The trannies and their other sexually off message support constituencies are not just a tiny minority who merely expect the rest of us to indulge them. They and their fellow travellers want to take over and redefine the already chronically disabled reproductive centre of our species, by systematically destroying what little is left of its boundaries, fudging its real purpose, marginalizing women who are the vessels of life and colonizing their children.
And I for one am about as happy to see them selling their wares around the place as Father Martin was when Tetzel and his sales team arrive in his locale, selling the same sort of shit and suckering in the gullible with their dangerously seductive, but clearly delusionally false ideas that any society still in possession of its senses would not just reject, but mercilessly root out as a pathogen.
Indulgence Capitalism is a third wave of modern times that started with first wave primitive accumulation and imperial resource control to feed it, then, in the later nineteenth century, a second distributive wave rolled out to internally expand consumption beyond the needs and wants of a small bourgeoisie within the metropolitan imperial centres, and finally, the acceleration of total war production on a global scale run by military machines was transformed into competitive production ‘warfare’ run by marketing machines, as a new global reality paradigm took over to maintain the mass mobilization of total war in peacetime, on a permanent basis.
To do this meant transforming capitalism from an economy of needs and wants into a totalitarian culture of fantasy driven production that had all the inhibitive, disciplined and ‘repressive’ values, rules, boundaries and social institutional ‘drag’ vectors removed, in favour of unlimited marketing and sales driven consumption of not merely goods and services, not just indulgent icons of inconsequential pleasure fulfilment, but human bloody rights, without the inconvenient guilt or remorse for folly and impoverished behaviour......
Conventional wartime military formations were replaced by highly motivated shop troops and production warriors, with all their autonomous software removed; you know, the responsible and disciplined agency that gives authentic life to rights and empowerment to the actors who have earned them. War propaganda became sales and marketing. The bombing of cities and mass populations with military ordinance was replaced by bombing markets with consumer ordinance. Social infrastructure that was robust enough to withstand the forced draft diversion of all material, social and cultural resources to ‘the war effort’ for limited duration warfare, faced permanent loss of those resources and supports, was gradually destroyed and absorbed into the constantly accelerating and relentlessly eviscerating parameters of production warfare, and the shared discipline and camaraderie of shop troops spending-while-u-save in the homes, malls and digital shopfronts of consumerland.
The damage profile of protracted mass bombing campaigns of enemy cities became indistinguishable from the damage being done by sales campaigns, as globally clear felled forests to feed the bottomless demands of production warfare became indistinguishable from old photographic scenes from the trenches of The First World War. The ecological damage impact of poison gas became indistinguishable from that of perfume. And the physical killing and destruction of enemy troops and cities became indistinguishable from reducing shop troops to existential ‘ghosts’ and the destruction of their social infrastructure.
The means of production and destruction became irretrievably and hopelessly fused as the hostility of deliberate warfare was replaced by the crushing embrace of indulgence and the guaranteed inevitable ‘collateral (other) damage’ it causes through its limitless demands on natural and human resources..
You want to destroy people and their communities? Indulge them with social and moral deregulation and privatization of accountability.
If you want to destroy a financial system, bring up the children who become members of the boards of financial institutions on a diet of indulgence and moral deregulation and watch them turn a system for responsibly looking after other people's money into a gaming casino run by narcissistic and voraciously greedy space cadets trading in commodified fictions that cannibalize the system they are supposed to be stewarding, charge for services they do not provide, launder money on a grand scale, sell their clients products they know to be duds, and then, if they get the chance, short sell the suckers for a double whammy take down.
If you want to destroy an aboriginal community (or any other welfare driven ‘community’) and its system of socialization more finally than anything else that has ever happened to it, sell it indulgent disinhibition and lack of accountability as freedom, human rights and permanent welfare as consumer entitlements; sell them ‘their noble culture’ as an excuse not to modernize and adapt to the multicultural society on offer, because their mythical stone age roots in the landscape are more important; indulge their self winding sense of loss rather than engage the opportunities in front of them, that motivate people from some very tough places elsewhere to risk their lives to get here...and pretend that the completely out-of-control and pathological behaviour of some of its children in detention centres is everyone else's fault except that the community from which those children came....
If you want to indulge an entire society in its disinhibitory sexual-fantasies-without-borders, do not get all surprised and outraged if adults and children start to sexually interact with one another, or suddenly, what used to be the sexual behaviour of margins, starts to invade the reproductive centre, and colonize it.
If you want to destroy a global life support system, deregulate access to it and declare it ‘an economic externality’ to keep the wheels of indulgence rolling ever faster until there is nothing left to loot.
Indulgence is death, both metaphysical and material, because with indulgence, the ever patient devil always gets its due in the end. Social regulators like religious institutions used to be in the west, were there for a very a good reason. When Martin Luther King spoke of the freedom of the righteous, he was thinking of a mighty congregation of believers who would be soldiers for Christ and take their rightful place as empowered actors armed with word of God and the sword of righteousness. What his community got was secular indulgence, guns, drugs, gangs, the murderous crime infested chaos of the ’hood and the hideous imprisonment rates you would expect.
Indulgence Capitalism did more damage to black congregations in 10-20 years than 70 years of brutal repression of Eastern Orthodoxy under Sovietism. And when it fell, Orthodoxy sprang back untouched, fresh as a daisy, and more powerful than ever. And perhaps counter intuitively, its biggest fear would be if the condition of those in the old eastern bloc got a little less ‘disadvantaged’, impoverished, repressive, harsh, screwed over by oligarchic mafiosi and the people started to get a bit too comfortable with their consumer toys and games to worry enough about their spiritual salvation, that they too could end up like those in the decadent west, by en masse walking off an existential cliff.
Indulgent consumer toys and games are no substitute for a balanced portfolio of industrial hardware, psycho-social software and biological assets, where the getting of one does not compromise the getting of the others. The toys and games have been allowed to take over the shop and destroy everything else, in order to keep feeding the relentless maw of Indulgence Capitalism.
And at some point, the asset stripping will have to stop...along with the indulgence.
It took some time after Indulgence Capitalism started to appear in the 1960s, for anyone to really start to get its measure in ways that would actually threaten it and its incumbent constituencies. It turned out to be the very last social/ideological movement that anybody would have predicted; i.e., traditional religion.
And the reason it was so unexpected was that the great established churches to come out of the Reformation and Counter Reformation in Europe and North America had been gradually overwhelmed from without and eviscerated from within by the secular fantasy forces of Indulgence Capitalism, in ways that seemed by the 1970s like an irreversible and final trip to the rubbish dump of history. What almost no one saw coming was the rise and politicization of fundamentalist evangelical protestantism and its increasingly activist alliances with both religious and secular ‘protest-ants’ against particularly the Humanist ‘Indulgentsia’; i.e., the secular ‘mother church’ of our day, which is an ascendancy whose legitimacy is as much in question now as the Papal Church at the onset of The Reformation….and for exactly the same reasons.
But there was much more than merely this going on, because at the same time, all the other major global religions like Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism, that had been kept safely out of the way of the onslaught of secular liberal cosmopolitanism in The West, by the keenness of colonial and semi colonial regimes to use traditional ‘native’ religions as an apolitical stabilizing influence in the maintenance of the status quo, emerged out of the post colonial period completely unscathed, much in the same way as the Soviet bloc Orthodox church was after having been underground for over 70 years.
They all came to the same horrified conclusion about the decadent West that was being rolled out as part of the Indulgence Capitalist project, to degovernance society by switching off its social regulatory mechanisms in favour of the overwhelmingly venomous Sales and Marketing Inc...and its little humanist helpers.
Islam was the first kid on the block to flex its ideological muscle from Afghanistan, to Iran and throughout the Middle East, and now throughout the Muslim world, but, Hindu-Buddhism on the Indian sub-continent and adjacent areas of South East Asia was not far behind in the very powerful nationalist-religious-ethnic assertion/conflict stakes, as has been the increasingly hard line sub-Saharan missionary fundamentalism of what is rapidly becoming the global centre of gravity of Christendom, and the Melanesian missionary variant doesn’t fall into line with the western notion of ‘progress’ either.
This set of religious constituencies has no recognizably modern credentials, other than perhaps the American Bible belt, which subscribes to a rusting working class version of primary accumulative capitalist ‘in-God and-money-we-trust’ work ethic protestantism, identified by Max Weber in the early twentieth century, that sufficiently lines them up with the rest of the worldwide religions to cement them into the larger fundamentalist rejection of indulgence ideology. Having no blind siding late tertiary capitalist period prejudices meant that they had no trouble negatively identifying the spreading deregulatory and privatization corruption in the very heart of ‘The Beast’, which became immediately obvious in the 1970s, as Indulgence Capitalism rolled itself out. And in response, they have all been tightening up their game, with themselves, each other….and their increasingly disapproving and increasingly blocked interfaces with the indulgent gorgon-of-the-west, whose corrupting gaze can still turn virtue to stone....unless one only looks at its reflection through the cross hairs of a religious prism.
This global shift in religious sensibility has also raised the spectre of the same kind sectarianism that marked the Protestant Reformation in Europe, where even quite minor religious difference were important, in the same way that ‘religious’ differences over privately owned capitalism v socialist state owned capitalism were once important, or secular humanist ‘religious’ race and sexual identitarian disagreements are important. The variables keep getting tougher to negotiate as the legitimacy of the ‘Western’ secular democratic consensus that arose out of the post WW2 period and the power of its US sponsor has waned...and much older sectarian passions started to reignite…..along with the new ones.
The up until recently ascendant Humanist Indulgentsia, which has been the legatee and beneficiary of that consensus, has in its turn itself become much more aggressively sectarian, hard line, authoritarian and almost recklessly bloodyminded, as its transnational and domestic hegemony has begun to come into question and open to being challenged. The extraordinary aggression against even the most mild mannered opposition to its transgender ‘inclusion’ (colonization) agenda parallels that of ‘the other’ religions. Once it was the main libertarian constituency advocating for free speech; not any more, because while everybody has a right to free speech, some people have more right to it than others.
It has transformed itself quite rapidly into an oracular ‘humanologian’ dominated orthodoxy armed with all the authoritarian clericalist received wisdom, piety and the condemnatory heresy hunting devices you would expect. Postmodernism is its dogma. Its catechism is a mantra of human rights without responsible agency, one dimensional stereotypes, soggy cliches, slogans and keywords, that exculpate it from blame and shift it onto everyone else; you know, the forces of the enlightenment where treacly euphemism reigns over the forces of darkness, where no dysphemism is too condemnatory.
University humanities departments are its cathedrals and its students are its evangelists within the system of social administration. It is justified and saved by parroting forms of words and ‘facilitative’ high sentiments that only empower it and its acolytes, while keeping its 'helpless', 'vulnerable' and 'disadvantaged' clients exactly where they presently are, in exactly the same fashion as its medieval predecessors did. And its denial of materialist concrete objectivity is bound to a touching belief in relativistic subjectivity that is at least as unlikely and blindly faith driven as positing an almighty god in heaven, who we go to for judgement when we die.
Its notions of race, ethnicity and sex become the leitmotifs of late modern spiritualist mysticism; you know, a seven year old child is in the body of ‘the wrong sex’ that has to be ‘cleansed’ with potions, symbolically reshaped by surgical pastiche and sanctioned by psychiatric voodoo, replete with ideological rattles and mantras calling on the Great Spirit of Pseudoscience that once turned Jews into sub-humans, and now turns girls into boys and vice versa; you know, turning fascist notions of ‘blood and soil’ into an indigenous inverse master race narrative worthy of not just of 'Mein Kampf', but whole libraries of equally compostable cultural rubbish.
The pathos of seeing the Culture of the Enlightenment reduced to this would bring a tear to the eye if it had not become so noxious. But then we are moving into that sort of period, where all the options are tough ones; a period where the stakes become impossibly great, all the bets come off, everyone is playing for keeps, and no one can afford to lose.
The modern age is almost over. Nothing is certain. Almost anything can happen and governance of any sort means riding tigers, requiring skills and temperament not to be found in the Pierre Trudeau school of political deportment. It is an age that is starting to convulse like a dog about to vomit.
War is coming; wars of ‘religious’ toleration remarkably similar to the ones that broke out in Europe less than ten years after Father Martin posted his objections to Papal Indulgences on the door of the cathedral church of Wittenberg, and threw himself and the society of his time at the mercy of forces of that would grind the Medieval world to pulp.