The continuing saga of beheadings perpetrated by jihadists of ‘Western’ origin is much discussed and little understood. One relatively unseen perspective is that this saga highlights a crisis within ‘Western’ civilisation, within ‘modernity’. Religious fundamentalism of any stripe is a conscious rebellion against the materialist and secular nature of modernity; disgusted by the prospect of a mundane existence, some young Muslims have chosen a radical path away from it. Moving to a foreign land in secrecy to fight for a cause provides an exciting excursion and an escape. But this is not the only form of rebellion taking place against what Fredy Perlman calls the Leviathan – merely the most radical.
Disenfranchised, alienated and powerless in their countries of origin, the prospect of power to the point of murder appeals to these ‘lost souls’. The great ‘shock’ of this story so far has been the fact that the vast majority of these fundamentalists originate from within ‘Western’ civilisation itself. The fundamentalists’ choice – of something other than liberal pluralism comes as a shock to the liberal pluralist. ‘Surely all wish to live in a liberal democratic society where their views are heard and respected, do they not?’ is what these people think. As with so many things, the man on the Clapham Omnibus understands far better than the leftist intelligentsia, that this is NOT what most people want at all.
The liberal-minded cannot deal with fundamentalist rebellion because the liberal-minded do not understand fundamental beliefs in and of themselves. True belief in real values, religious or otherwise, is an alien state of mind to them. They cannot submit to any particular idea beyond the passive acceptance and ‘respect’ for all ideas. Neither can the liberal pluralist understand why the masses don’t subscribe to their pluralism. They don’t understand that even those who have had almost all values removed from them (the proletariat) can see that not all values are equal. The pluralist conclusion can only be reached by conscious self-delusion (doublethink). After all, when accepting the premise ‘all values are equally important’, the pluralist must simultaneously admit and ignore that this includes those who wish to abolish this very same position. “Look, Hamas want to take part in democracy!” the leftists cried when the elections took place in 2006 and then turned their head when after the election Hamas cancelled democracy in their fiefdom, seemingly forever.
Ultimately though, religious fundamentalism is but one stretch of one path of escape from modernity, and I want to identify three main ‘paths’ one can take in dealing with modernity:
Submission – By far the most common path, this entails the submission of the self to the whims of modernity. Think of the career-obsessed individual who speaks only of her job because she has nothing inside herself. Think of the consumer who worships brands, enslaved to consuming the latest products that the market produces. Work worshippers, technological escapists, moderates of all stripes, and pursuers of empty pleasures – in short, all those groups necessary to keep civilisation moving. In most cases this is an unconscious path and represents an unthinking mode of accepting what is as is, and as what will always be. Needless to say, it is also a circular path: a path to nowhere, to oblivion.
Heteronomous rebellion – While this path rejects modernity, it requires acceptance of violent and dogmatic systems that were precursors to the current civilisation, and have been branded as anathema by the incumbent paradigm, the democracy project. This can take the form of small religious cults and ‘rebel militias’, all the way up to global theological and political movements. This ‘rebellion’, then, is nothing more than the submission to a particular cause outside of one’s self: whether it is Yahweh, Allah, Humanity (as an idea-in-itself) or something else entirely. The Muslims we discussed earlier have chosen this path with Islam as their flavour of choice. In this way, the jihadists may choose to fight for a different master, but it is a master nonetheless.
Autonomous rebellion – This kind of rebellion is the one favoured by yours truly. Autonomous rebellion incorporates first the construction of an ‘internal’ rebellion, a corpus of ideas which stems uniquely ‘from the ontological upwards’. It can take many shapes and forms (as it is initiated by a unique individual), but it differs from ‘heteronomous rebellion’ in that its roots always flow from within rather than from without. This is the kind of path favoured by figures such as Max Stirner, Friedrich Nietzsche and Ernst Jünger.
The fact is that in our towns and cities we are surrounded by people who wish to escape. The whole civilisation deal doesn’t sound like a particularly popular one – from the liberal atheist who escapes every evening into online gaming and the conservative businessman who visits the local BDSM dungeon, to the religious fundamentalist who beheads in a foreign land. All seek escape from the mundane drudgery of modernity. Yes! You live in a society where some of the people you are rubbing shoulders with would gladly remove your head from your neck to feed their escapist desires. Yet everyone pretends that everything is fine and we are pacified with placebos shaped by lunacy.
Predictably, the ubiquitous ‘solution’ trumpeted by countless ‘experts’ is for greater ‘inclusivity’ in modern society. Again, these trumpeters misunderstand any and all radical positions for a radical rebellion is opposed to the incumbent society at a fundamental level. Radicals do not strive for inclusivity within a paradigm that they loathe – they want it destroyed: removed entirely from their lives. This should be obvious but the ignorant assumptions behind liberal pluralist supremacy obscure this line of reasoning for the ‘experts’.
For now at least, it seems, the beheadings will continue, the gamers will level up and the businessmen will get their asses dildoed by dominatrices. And so this pathetic, disgusting and mundane world keeps on turning…