Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Reality Check - Postman to Girard

Most important tip to Athos HERE and Daniel Mitsui HERE

I have been highly influenced by Neil Postman – particularly studying his early works Teaching As a Subversive Activity and The Disappearance of Childhood. It was in his works as well as the work of A.S. Neill that I started to realize the violence (at an institutional level) that we inflict on our children under our particular guise of education or catechizing as well as how that violence is slapped right back into our faces. I eventually fell away from his work shortly after discovering the work of Réne Girard yet Postman reappears here for me again.

All his points on the effect of technology on religious faith are intriguing yet I would like to pick up something from his point #4:

“That is also why we must be suspicious of capitalists. Capitalists are by definition not only personal risk takers but, more to the point, cultural risk takers. The most creative and daring of them hope to exploit new technologies to the fullest, and do not much care what traditions are overthrown in the process or whether or not a culture is prepared to function without such traditions. Capitalists are, in a word, radicals....

“I trust you understand that in saying all this, I am making no argument for socialism. I say only that capitalists need to be carefully watched and disciplined. To be sure, they talk of family, marriage, piety, and honor but if allowed to exploit new technology to its fullest economic potential, they may undo the institutions that make such ideas possible.”

Being a small business entrepreneur AND having studied violence, including the violence at the institutional and structural level, I am in tune with the dark side of Capitalism and I agree with Athos that with a statement like the above Postman opens the door for us to hopefully explore Distributism on a much deeper level.

On a different level I wanted to challenge us: Today we all make harangues (legitimate as they may be) against the encroachment of Islam into the West yet we remain veiled to how we ourselves usher Islam in by how we have allowed our very own culture to divide and conquer us – having us live lives in compartments separating our Christian faith and values from all the other aspects of our daily life. This cultural and psychological delusion of a separation of and from faith propels us into a ‘hell’ of its own needing no help from others of different religions. The implosion - a “failed transmission” of our faith - that the West is headed toward is in large part due to a fatherlessness that results in each later generation bearing hearts of greater indifference or defiance – neither condition able to pass on the viable and passionate faith of Abraham, Jesus and Paul. (Download Jan09 mp3 file of a talk given by Gil Bailie from his Emmaus Road Initiative)

If there is a growing awareness tugging at your heart calling you out of our violence to start the process of blending your separateness into wholeness may we suggest that you not only get fully active at your parish but that you pick up a work of Réne Girard, Evolution and Conversion: Dialogues on the Origins of Culture. Gil Bailie and his Emmaus Road Initiative is another great way toward integrating the legions of separation within and finding yourself kneeing in the Real Presence.

Lastly, let me change a word or two in Neil Postman's point #5 to make my final thought.

Our enthusiasm for the West (as we have created it to be today) can turn into a form of idolatry and our belief in its beneficence can be a false absolute. The best way to view the West is as a strange intruder, to remember that it is not part of God's plan but a product of human creativity and hubris, and that its capacity for good or evil rests entirely on human awareness of what it does for us and to us.

The heart of this awareness is a transformed education and catechizing that Gil so aptly talks about HERE:
Precisely because the content of the Christian revelation is the mystery of unimpeded giving and receiving of love within the Trinity, its transmission necessarily depends on a relationship of unguarded trust on the part of the recipient – which, of course, places a special onus on the transmitter, for if the recipient is docile to the transmission and the transmitter betrays the heightened responsibilities that this docility requires, he or she stands under the judgment of Jesus’ words: “If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matt. 18:6)

If individually and most importantly as we come to realize that it is only through helping others – so also collectively are to find our way back to the narrow path we must be aware that it is only through Him and that all other roads will lead, sooner or later, to a catharsis of blood-letting, nihilism and violence – the culture of death.

1 comment:

Athos said...

It is a bit sad to me that your post does not receive the attention at our humble blog, Aramis. In my estimation, you lay a foundation worthy of wide readership and consideration. If there are any Distributists who happen to build upon the work of Postman and Girard elsewhere I defy them to step forward out of the gloom and declare themselves!

Yet perhaps the fact that you have put into words a non-violent economics is a hopeful thing, since it comes out of the Church's teachings and that great aid to the Magisterium, mimetic theory. Good work.