Saturday, August 25, 2007

Gabriel Marcel and the Fanaticized Consciousness

In his work of critical importance entitled "Man Against Mass Society," the French philosopher Gabriel Marcel writes, "..the fanatic never sees himself as a fanatic; it is only the non-fanatic who can recognize him as a fanatic; so that when this judgment, or this accusation, is made, the fanatic can always say that he is misunderstood and slandered...Fanaticism is essentially opinion pushed to paroxysm; with everything that the notion of opinion may imply of blinded ignorance as to its own nature....whatever ends the fanatic is aiming at or thinks he is aiming at, even if he wishes to gather men together, he can only in fact separate them; but as his own interests cannot lie in effecting this separation, he is led, as we have seen, to wish to wipe his opponents out. And when he is thinking of these opponents, he takes care to form the most degrading images of them possible - they are 'lubricious vipers' or 'hyenas and jackals with typewriters' - and the ones that reduce them to most grossly material terms. In fact, he no longer thinks of these opponents except as material obstacles to be overturned or smashed down. Having abandoned the behaviour of a thinking being, he has lost even the feeblest notion of what a thinking being, outside himself, could be. It is understandable therefore that he should make every effort to deny in advance the rights and qualifications of those whom he wishes to eliminate; and that he should regard all means to this end as fair. We are back here again at the techniques of degradation. It cannot be asserted too strongly or repeated too often that those the Nazis made use of in their camps - techniques for degrading their victims in their own eyes, for making mud and filth of them - and those which Soviet propagandists use to discredit their adversaries, are not essentially different though we should, in fairness, add that sadism, properly so called, is not to be found in the Russian camps." (pp. 135-136, 149).

Marcel explains that, "In fact, the greatest merit of the critical spirit is that it tends to cure fanaticism, and it is logical enough that in our own fanatical times the critical spirit should tend to disappear, should no longer even be paid lip service as a value."

But why is this? Why is our own time marked by the fanaticized consciousness? Dusty Sklar addresses the problem in his book "The Nazis and the Occult" in a Chapter entitled "Making an Obedient Mass." He writes, "Since World War II, several books have appeared which, while not dealing directly with the Nazis, are of invaluable aid in explaining how ordinary people can be transformed into automata, devoid of conscience or reason. They help us to understand, not only the Nazis, but millions of disciples of movements in Western countries today, who, almost overnight, are weaned from their customary behavior and attachments and indoctrinated with irrational beliefs. They are The True Believer by Eric Hoffer, The Mind Possessed by William Sargant, and The Rape of the Mind by Joost Meerloo. What is the formula for producing pliant followers? Take people, not wholly preoccupied with subsistence, who despair of being happy either in the present or in the future. They feel the sharp cutting edge of frustration. Either through some personal defect or because external conditions do not permit growth, they are eager to renounce themselves, since the self is insupportable. Many German men were in this position at the end of World War I. They came home to a civilian life without purpose, in which they had no part. In the chaos and collapse, vast armies of uprooted people felt threatened by the war's economic and social aftermath. National Socialism gave them a chance for a fresh start. As Eric Hoffer points out:

'People who see their lives as irremediably spoiled cannot find a worth-while purpose in self-advancement. The prospect of an individual career cannot stir them to a mighty effort, nor can it evoke in them faith and a singleminded dedication. They look on self-interest as on something tainted and evil; something unclean and unlucky. Anything undertaken under the auspices of the self seems to them foredoomed. Nothing that has its roots and reasons in the self can be good and noble. Their innermost craving is for anew life - a rebirth - or, failing this, a chance to acquire new elements of pride, confidence, hope, a sense of purpose and worth by an identification with a holy cause. An active mass movement offers them opportunities for both. If they join the movement as full converts they are reborn to a new life in its close-knit collective body, or if attracted as sympathizers they find elements of pride, confidence and purpose by identifying themselves with the efforts, achievements and prospects of the movement. To the frustrated a mass movement offers substitutes either for the whole self or for the elements which make life bearable and which they cannot evoke out of their individual resources.'

The movement, in turn, encourages self-renunciation. It does not attract the individual who believes in himself, nor does it care to; on the contrary, he is precisely the individual whom it ridicules." (pp. 149-150).

5 comments:

Marie Tremblay said...

Cultists from the "Saint Benedict Center" in Richmond as well as their sympathizers often engage in the techniques of degradation while trying to silence their critics.

Louis Villarrubia has referred to opponents of the SBC as "local belligerents" and "zoophiles" as well as "local enemies" and "anti-Catholics" (the last charge being particularly ironic since many of us who oppose the cult are actually Catholics faithful to the Church).

Fanaticism is alive and well at the SBC compound where anti-Semitism and disobedience to the Catholic Church reign supreme.

Marie Tremblay said...

Elizabeth left this very powerful comment at SBC Watch a while back:


Elizabeth said...
"The following is excerpted from:
http://www.npr.org/templates/
story/story.php?storyld=
1509317:

"By 1978, his [Jim Jones] paranoia had reached a fever pitch. In mid-November of that year, U.S. Rep. Leo Ryan of California had gone to the village to investigate complaints of abuse. When he left the village on Nov. 18, he took several defectors with him. But Ryan, along with four others, was shot and killed by members of Peoples Temple at an airstrip in Guyana.

The Jonestown massacre began later that day."

Jones ordered the mass killing of more than 900 of his followers that very same day.

But before Jim Jones had moved his cult "People's Temple" to Guyana, he had come to view the media and local residents of his California town with a suspicion which became paranoia.

Do we see the same signs of paranoia and mental illness in Brother Andre Marie? Let's look at some of his very own comments in an email sent to Catholic writer Matt C. Abbott at Renew America:

"There is now afoot a very nasty concerted effort to destroy our traditional Catholic apostolate."

Jim Jones had previously accused the media of attempting to "destroy" his People's Temple.

Jim Jones demonized his critics (no matter how calm and objective they might be).

Brother Andre sees enemies everywhere, referring to "local detractors," the "Southern Poverty Law Center," "blogs," "The Keene Sentinel," "liberal academics at Keene State College," 'Monadnock Regional High School" and "residents [of Richmond] who didn't like the new building."

Like Jim Jones, Brother Andre sees enemies everywhere. And like Jim Jones he demonizes them, calling them "anti-Christian barbarians" who are fostering a "demonic mythology."

For me, these are signs of mental illness. Brother Andre seems to be sinking into madness and paranoia. He sees any opposition as being the result of "demonic mythology" and a smear campaign.

Will this madness become violent? Automatic weapons have been heard at the SBC. Jim Jones and his People's Temple also stored guns.

Residents of Richmond should be very cautious."

Personally, I couldn't agree more.

Alzina said...

The SBC has all the characteristics of a cult. And a potentially violent one at that. My main concern is over the possible connection between Stormfront (a nationally-known hate group advocating "white supremacy") and the SBC cult. And there have been threats from an individual or individuals directed at SBC opponents.

In my opinion, the SBC should be treated not only as a hate group but as a terrorist organization.

Michelle said...

There are fanatics on both ends of the theological and political spectrums. Good post. Thanks for sharing that Paul.

Brian said...

www.lemoyne.edu/gms/dacf-2.pdf

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