Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Crisis that Became the World

In order to stop Islamic extremists... we must do whatever it takes and we must not blink, Charlie...
-Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

In crisis situations, panic seems to override the constant feedback loop of interiority that we, rightfully I think, call the soul. Questions of survival are right-at-hand and get processed automatically. Thornier questions of identity and meaning are neglected- interiority is placed on hold. It is worth considering what long term psychological damage would result from living constantly in the immediate presentness of a crisis state. How is it possible to live for seven years in a crisis state? Has anyone in the west really been able to do so?

It seems that we're now asked to live in a crisis state quite frequently, and for a variety of reasons: I highlight this politician's statement simply because it's cogent; not because it's unique. One could easily find a politician on the left saying the same thing about "saving" our nation's identity- to wrestle the nation back from the right wing, we must act now! We must not blink!

We must be directed outwards and not inwards. The soul is on hold until a time of peace.

Similarly, television, movies, and other media seem to be populated by fictional beings who have no inner life whatsoever. There is a flattening out in how things are presented: death is presented is a way that would suggest it is nearly as important as Lysol. Liberty is roughly equivalent to easy credit, even if we've been turned down in the past. Free will is a good thing, although we have a speaker coming up who thinks otherwise, and it's probably not as important as fighting acne. There is a problem of scale. It's hard to distinguish what, if anything, matters.

Even more bizarre is how hard it is to escape adverts and other external stimuli while in public places. Flat-screen televisions sprout up like dandelions- a friend reported seeing a television in the toilet stall at a bar she visited. I've encountered them on gas pumps, and in libraries. And nobody has ever explained to me why it's so hard to find a store that allows for quiet contemplation without the insipid soft rock of Cheryl Crow following you around the premises. Is this some sort of crowd control? Are shoppers more dangerous when they're directed inward?

Is interiority antisocial? Is it irresponsible in a civil society? Is it somehow dangerous? Why does everything I hear people saying in this society (North America) seem to come from an instinctual, gut-level, close-at-hand place? Are they living in a constant crisis state? What measures should we take to protect our soul? Should we start by blinking?

No comments: