It is the most ancient and essential premise of patriarchy, according to the leading school of thought on the subject, that the first kings were fathers of families, from which it somehow follows that the first cause of the fall of Adam, or the original sin, was the desire for liberty. Not even Cardinal Bellarmini — who once so vociferously affirmed the notion that “mankind is naturally endowed and born with freedom from all subjection, and at liberty to choose what form of government it please” — was bold enough to systematically pursue the self-evident truth that people are inherently equal to its logical conclusion in the everyday ontological realm of social being, where life and death problems routinely arise on a very dramatic scale.
To the extent that it is already (in most places) inwardly and outwardly deadlocked, the nationwide movement to occupy cities and Wall Street is now reaching a stage of development where it will have to answer to Martin Luther if it is going to keep moving forward. The Lutheran attitude is a real obstacle:
“Because God does good through government, great men and creatures in general, people rush into error, lean on creatures and not on the Creator. Hence it came that heathens made gods of kings. For they cannot and will not perceive that the work or the benefit comes from God, and not merely from the creature, though the latter is a means, through which God works, helps us and gives to us.” —Luther (T. iv. p. 237)
Yet why would God not want to choose a government that is also good for wage laborers? For a number of reasons, capitalism is often credited with being a lot more “realistic” than it truly is.
We are pursuing this religious nonsense for a very simple reason: we do not believe it has ever been satisfactorily explained according to rigorous scientific standards what exactly it means to believe in a God who ruthlessly loathes everything existing — the United States of America, Canada, and the United Kingdom most especially. That there is a basic contradiction between the appearance and essence of terrorism is quite obvious.
Hence the question of what constitutes righteous government in the eyes of God results in an epic confrontation with the nastiest contradiction of modern bourgeois society: that the Westboro Baptist Church marks the culmination, i.e. the most complete realization, of the bourgeois understanding of universal reason. As Thomas Frank has already remarked in What’s the Matter with Kansas?, there is nothing in the world that is harder for New Yorkers to accept. But, of course, the temptation to write a New York Times bestseller unfortunately compelled Mr. Frank to falsely conclude in the end that the problem rests on the heartland, as if there were real options available within the prevailing framework of American democracy for working class voters wanting to elect representatives who will defend their class interests and uphold traditional righteousness at one and the same time (and who will do so flawlessly).
Nicolai Hartmann is quite obviously correct to eschew these self-defeating searches for “some good reason” to explain why things have been so ordained:
“There is a tendency to take every occasion to ask the ‘reason’ why things have to happen in just such a way. ‘Why does this have to happen to me?’ Or: ‘Why do I have to suffer like this?’ ‘Why did he have to die so young?’ Every event that affects us in some way or other suggests a question of this kind, even if it is just the expression of perplexity or helplessness. We silently assume that there must be some good reason; we seek to find a meaning and justification. As if things were so ordained that everything that happens must have a meaning.”
As the brilliant proletarian scientist and militant materialist Georg Lukács so eloquently puts it: “In any teleological project, such as labor, there is a moment at which the laboring man – a Stone Age man for example – considers whether a certain instrument is suitable or unsuitable for the purpose he has in mind.” Hence the only reasonable inference to be drawn from the teleology existing in the practice of human labor is that science therefore begins with the primitive selection of stones. From this angle, nothing would be more irrational or absurd than to believe that a philosophy which denies or merely “brackets” reality could be used to explain the practical behavior of real people in everyday life. And yet this is indeed precisely how the isolated bourgeois consciousness has been conditioned to see itself and the world which it has created in its own image.
A revolutionary wage-laborer who wants to throw off his chains — who at a certain point indeed becomes forced to throw off his chains at pains of his own existence — must ask himself, for instance, whether the prevailing system of American democracy is or is not a suitable instrument for the purpose of eliminating endemic poverty from his social surroundings. From the enlightened academic standpoint, of course, workers actually uniting to throw off their chains is something that would have to be pompously eschewed as too “vulgar” and behind the time.
Eternal perfection or nothing at all — human consciousness struggles to find a place for itself located realistically somewhere between these two equally bad extremes. Nothing else seems meaningful. Nothing less than perfect holiness appears to have any lasting value.
But we need not pursue this nonsense about God’s good doings through great men any further than Ludwig Feuerbach has already done:
“If I place myself in the point of view of thought, of investigation, of theory, in which I consider things in themselves, in their mutual relations, the miracle-working being vanishes into nothing, miracle disappears; i.e., the religious miracle, which is absolutely different from the natural miracle, though they are continually interchanged, in order to stultify reason, and, under the appearance of natural science, to introduce religious miracle into the sphere of rationality and reality.”
In the final analysis, God is not a very good compensation for poverty of the kinds and on the scales which the world is now dealing with. I, for one, would rather just get paid in dollars, or maybe in rubles.