It is my premise that not only is the ISLAMIC STATE based on an ideology, but that this ideology is familiar to all of us and intersects with ideologies that warp and waft our own society. This analysis shall be prerequisite to defeating any similar anti-cultural, anti-civilizational movement each and every time it reoccurs in our future.
Through Hegel, Marx, Bell, Kojeve to Fukujama, we can follow the development of the modern concept of “ideology” not as a “science of ideas” (Idea + Logos) but as a system of beliefs to which we have ripened throughout history, being forced to accommodate our ideas to reality. By WE, I mean people, society as “political animals.” The latter term is Aristotle’s and means literally “zoon politikon,” that is “an animal capable of thinking” (“zoon”) and “an animal tending to congregate and form a society or polity.”
Such analysis and rationale remains no more than a restatement of our own dichotomy: our metaphysical selves (our dreams, emotions, hopes) will always try to combat and conquer our Reason. Every IDEA is devoid of that (part of) reality which it does not need: when I imagine a beach or dream I am on a beautiful island, there will only be the people I want there to be, no litter or shards of glass, crystal clear water without seaweed, the sun will always shine and a pleasant breeze will be gently fanning my face. Well, this is an idea. This idea is devoid of the elements of reality I consider unpleasant or superfluous.
When an idea is implanted in your mind from without, we may refer to it as a “received consciousness” (Marx’s term). A demagogue or ideologue or social organizer will attempt to implant this “consciousness” en masse and in toto – turning it into the received consciousness of many, thus forming a conceptualized version of the IDEA which is referred to as an –ISM: communism, fascism, racism, terrorism – but also capitalism and liberalism – are all conceptualized systems of beliefs based on a central IDEA.
The latter two may be considered positive because they fundamentally transform the individual from within in a positive, aspirational way: similarly to a mythical hero, the CAPITALIST HERO follows his dream and ventures into the unknown in order to establish his enterprise. He goes to the woods and comes out with a basket of mushrooms or a bearskin. He will face a pack of hungry wolves along the way and befriend a lonely fawn. In a CLASSICAL LIBERAL HERO will go against the society in order to reform stale social norms: he is laughed at and disparaged, but eventually persuades the whole village that, in order to kill Beowulf, they must cooperate.
The former conceptualized idealisms (communism, fascism, ISIS) are not based on an individual heroic transformation (coming from within) but on a mandated en masse transformation from without. They approach polity (society/village) from the point of view of an anti-hero whose primary goal is to destroy everything and return to some point in the past – be it the Empire, Reich, Caliphate – when society was “ideal.” This “idealized” (romanticized) society requires personal sacrifice: either in the form of total self-abnegation or actual physical self-destruction.
There are two immediate problems with both positive and negative conceptualizations: the problem of ANCHORING, the term I hereby coin to name the inherent human aching and craving for a “status quo” which would set up the ISM-society as permanent; and the problem of JETTISONING, the term I have established for discarding the elements of reality which do not fit the central idea (usually because they question or contradict it, thus leading to its overthrow or destruction by rationalization).
If the IDEA is sufficiently strong or sufficiently deeply “received” and implanted into the individual consciousness of every “zoon politikon,” the ISM-society will be established as “permanent.” Fukuyama pointed out that this permanence will always be under assault from historical “events,” but that all societies ultimately aspire to a worldwide LIBERAL DEMOCRACY. When the world has thus “evolved,” time will “end.”
Derrida assaulted this notion as neither original nor valid, because coined by the French philosopher Kojeve, the dichotomy between the history-as-event and history-as-state is derived from Hegel. As Schopenhauer noted, the idea was that of Kant, who merely played around with the Platonic terms for what we know about what we see. The IDEA we hold is a noumenon but cannot be the thing-in-itself. Realism is thus no more than human craving for reality. We can see the chair but can we KNOW what “chairness” is?
The IDEA is never fully attainable. We may conceptualize it and reiterate that a capitalist economy founded on liberal democracy is the best system of government KNOWN to Man. However, as such, it remains a noumenon (the thing as we want it to be, name it and perceive it as such), not a phenomenon (thing-in-itself – the “real thing” which always entails corruption, human vices, selfishness, etc.).
Both “liberalism” and “democracy” have been subject to multiple interpretations in the past nearly two hundred years. Fukuyama’s final “end of history” cannot be a status quo, because this state will be composed of fluid noumena. Further, Kojeve, Feuerbach, Lacan and other interpreters of Marx (and Freud) tended to do away with the dichotomy between God and Man by “overcoming” God – in the new liberal democracy, God is superfluous because Man is complete in himself. This is the same secular peace of the soul that Hinduism and Buddhism achieve by meditation and Islam, apparently, by violence.
The final outcome is not that of some radical assault on capitalism but the statement that capitalism in the post-historical phase (Kojeve’s term) has been transformed into liberal democracy. This is still an IDEOLOGY, however, and the proponents of modern liberalism will not consider it complete and successful until they finally do away with all the limiting requirements: that of language, borders, even currency. The aim of the ultimate ISM is to construct a borderless society with one currency where all languages and cultures would merge or communicate on an equal footing. For the lack of a better term, this ISM-society would be referred to as LIBERAL DEMOCRACY.
Note that the terms: LIBERAL + DEMOS + CRATOS are all positive, based on positive ideas – those of FREEDOM and RULE by the people. Most modern Marxists view direct democracy as an inevitable part of their communist-socialist ideal. Our nature favors them, because as human beings, we tend to overlook the negative and focus on the positive: hope is always the last to die, even after courage and other virtues are long dead, Hope is still hanging by, uncertain what to do, awaiting orders from the “master consciousness,” from above. Liberal democratic “social order” is stronger than any other because it is based only on positive IDEAS. Yet, ideas they are, devoid of all unwanted or undesirable elements of reality.
How is it possible that some fundamentally negative –ISMs have taken over societies and ruled in their own right? Take ISIS, for example, which is both a totalitarianism as well as a theocracy (government whose laws are religious and whose rule is by and through a system of fundamentalist religious beliefs). If it were only a totalitarianism based on rigid hierarchy and subjugation, or only a religion based on priestly obeisance and genuflection to the edicts of the church, it would not survive. Totality is parasitic of religion and vice versa here. In other respects, its aims are identical to those of the modern liberal democrat: borderless society with one currency under one “noumenon.”
As we do not naturally tend to base our individual system of beliefs on an apocalypse, death, end of the world, suicide and destruction, we can clearly see that these (negative) ends are not ends in themselves but means – means to a higher religious end whose tenets serve a higher purpose, thus can be PERCEIVED AS ethical per se. Religious ethics do not permit questioning.
This rationalization is more difficult when the means (presented to us as ends) are positive: such as global peace, community of nations, one government always knowing what is best for the people. As we cannot properly see the end-in-itself (the thing for what it is – a caliphate for the totalitarian rule of the world, liberal democracy for a stage on the way to worldwide communism), we easily become swayed and deceived by propaganda.
Thus, the secular ends of these fanatics are often achieved by the means of sacral symbols and sacred propaganda with rites and indoctrination into what is presented as a special secret society (covered faces, black robes, secret codes). We must never forget, as Joseph Campbell stated, that our conscious self is always subservient to our subconscious: once the hero enters the forest, he is forever transformed. Once the anti-hero kills at the order of the gang-leader in the “acceptance ritual,” he is likewise forever transformed.
In “primitive societies,” this transformation led to understanding and unity with God. Where “God is dead,” this transformation leads to further estrangement from oneself: the society of diverse people propagating diversity fosters strangeness and otherness. There is no more a Self but only the Other. The mirror tells us not who we are but who we want to be for the others who want us to be something for themselves, something else than we are by nature: queerness of gender being one example, forced acceptance of all immigrants, especially of other faiths and races being another.
What is more, our rational self can also be converted by argument, as we all know from advertising and commercials. We are often persuaded to purchase what we do not need or would never have even wanted to try… Likewise, a practicing Muslim can be rationally swayed by the power of ISIS’ advertising of a new caliphate, new state, new world order serving their religion above all others. He will be seen as an archeological find which must be destroyed – unless he joins them NOW. Why? Because everything old must be overcome. The new world order is post-historical and post-ontological and post-eschatological (meaning: it is after “being” and after “history” – has overcome both).
Further, such a word order is compared to the previous social system, which was either that of (e.g. Assad’s) oppression and tyranny, or that of democracy where their religion was merely one of many, but certainly not the dominant one. Who would not want to be a member of the master religion, master class, master society…? I would venture to go so far as to state that most people first persuade themselves of the benefits of this “new order” TO THEMSELVES, and only subsequently toe the line of the outside coercion and indoctrination which merely supports their already existing belief and thus exists only just to “stabilize” the society, set up the “status quo” of this destructive order.
Thus, most Syrian immigrants (technically “emigrants”) will remember Raqqua as a small Paris, a beautiful city where they grew up – and will long for it as such. On the other hand, most of those who stayed behind and joined the NEW ORDER of ISIS, will see the “new Raqqua” as better than the old one, which survived in a different totalitarian regime, in which they were not the ruling class. The militant ones, who have infiltrated the immigrants or who have traveled to IS and back in order to wage Jihad abroad, in those the rational “weighing” of ideas central to their ISMs (previous and current systems of government) is suppressed by the metaphysical ends (the ends of destruction) which are to be means to the ultimate end of ABSOLUTE LIBERATION, which may only come from death.
Religion provides us with the ability to reconcile ourselves and accept death as part of life. Religions in general do not treat death as a goal but as a transformation. The soul undergoes purification or reincarnation (Samsara). Technically speaking, RADICAL ISLAM is “radical” because it takes the transformation literally. Whenever you forgo the metaphor and interpret the Holy Word in a literal sense, you are not reading what God (Allah, Buddha, as the case may be) wanted you to read. What is more (and, on this point, both Hegel and Kant see eye to eye) Reason will always want to grasp the thing-in-itself, but will always be one step behind because reality is too large, insurmountable by Reason itself, because what we can absorb is inherently limited by our being only human. If we do not understand our inherent human limitations, we will always be subjects and slave to our cravings and desires. In a larger sense, the IDEA of the –ISM will absorb us and rule us, depriving us of reason.
It follows that ISIS adherents are too immature to realize that the paradox of their suicide is glaring: they do not kill themselves as Diogenes did, by the force of WILL upon the MATTER (Diogenes is said to have forced himself to cease breathing), but by an order from the above: given by their “comrade-superior” in the totalitarian hierarchy and, at the same time, propounded as the ultimate “ideal” by their theocracy. Their absolute liberation thus means absolute slavery, enslavement which ends in death. Reincarnation or purification is impossible because they die by suicide, killing others, which is an inexpiable sin in all religions known to Man. Therefore, RADICAL ISLAM is not a religion – it is a cult.
In many cultures, death in combat is a mark of honor. One may think of the Japanese Kamikaze pilots. In many cultures, subjugation of the masses is the ultimate goal of the master-class. However, in no society which we call a “culture” is destruction perpetrated upon the unarmed innocent populace – so called “soft targets.” President Obama is correct in that the “society” they have established is ultimately self-destructive, as are all totalitarian regimes. Unfortunately, we cannot wait for another fifty years nor can we go through the sacrifice of another fifty million people. What is more, our natural propensity to hope and absorb the reality of the world by our noumenal classifications (political correctness) may eventually be equally self-destructive.
Finally, how does a “culture” of an –ISM turn into a cult? By transforming its central IDEA into an IDOL. In Christianity, Jesus represents an idea – the idea of goodness, charity, equality, friendship etc. For RADICAL ISLAM, Muhamad represents an IDOL. For the true believer, he is no different from Stalin, Castro or Ceausescu. However, the IDOL is neither God nor a man. The IDOL is a man-made representation of the idea. It is once removed from noumenal reality and twice removed from phenomenal reality. It is the lowest form of worship which does not bring happiness but slavery – slavery to the Master who created the IDOL and all its other metaphysical representations, such as all aspects of a totalitarian government.
The only “post-historical” system of government would be a government completely absolved of all ideologies. Meanwhile, since we cannot live without an ideology, we must beware to always keep it in check and balance the good against the bad – because if either one prevails completely and forever in any ideology, it will kill us all.