The Imperium and Its Discontents: A Few “Metaphysical” Remarks

A Heretic’s Log: A series of philosophical essays written between September 20, 2002 and July 15, 2004. 

Usama Bin Laden was a disinherited man. His wealth notwithstanding, his voice was inaudible, his concerns irrelevant, his dreams and aspirations moot. He was not the only one in this position, of course. The world is full of such disinherited and dejected men. But then, not too many of them have had the opportunity to think of themselves as allies to the Powers That Be in this world, joined in a common cause against “Godlessness,” and not too many have had a taste of “victory,” albeit achieved through that old-fashioned, yet not so “honorable,” way that is gorilla warfare.

It is true, of course, that UBL was aided in many ways by his now former allies in the establishment of an international network of disinherited men. No one figured, however that this macabre creation would continue to exist and operate long after the Cold War (and not merely the Afghan War) had ended, or that UBL would continue this battle against Godlessness, taking it this time to his former allies of convenience.

Therein the “poetry” in his enterprise of terror. Those who were busy playing God ended up fashioning a Devil (as their mirror image) fully armed with a network of sacrificial demons. Moreover, and as is usual in the case of God vs. Satan, the real battleground is the souls and minds of men. The lines, indeed, have indeed been drawn and the war is being waged, one battle succeeding the other: first Afghanistan and now Iraq.

The only problem in this situation, of course, is that there is no real God and no real Devil involved, merely pretenders and delusional aspirants. As such, no side can deliver salvation, because no side has it to begin with or knows how to work it out. The people of Afghanistan are not exactly in a state of bliss right now, although they have supposedly been “saved” and “delivered” from the clutches of the evil-mongering Taliban and Al-Qaida.

Far from it, the civil war is still being waged, but all warlords involved now are America’s (read God’s) allies and can, therefore, enjoy having their aspirations tentatively legitimized by America’s willingness to quietly appease the unworthy.

Such appeasement is a necessary outcome of the imperfection of the deity involved. Those who play God always end up finding themselves immersed in the Devil’s work, as they try to maintain an image of invincibility and success, since the real thing is simply unattainable.

Indeed, appearances count to ensure the success of the imperial project. Appearances and a measure of self-righteous anger and disdain. Naturally, things are not that different for the Devil and his “unholy” Ilk. But the achievement of these goals are simply more difficult, since a certain measure of role-reversal is at work here.

For indeed, it is the God-wannabes in this situation who wield the traditional weapons of worldly temptation – they are the ones who can actually satisfy the consumerist desires that long overran the souls and minds of men (the real battlefield, as we have noted earlier). What can the Devil and his Ilk deliver in return? Promises of other-worldly salvation, what else? And the few hapless perks that the holy/unholy warrior is “entitled” to in the course of the battle, such as: implied forgiveness for any breech of the, otherwise, highly strict moral code.

This role reversal notwithstanding, the result is the same: both sides will engage in acts of mayhem, both sides will sacrifice all moral and human considerations for the sake of maintaining appearances of success, righteousness and invincibility.

As disinheritedness these days gets more defined in terms of power relations rather than simple material wealth, and as the soul of the Global Middle Class continues to be torn asunder between consumerist and atavistic longings and desires, the battle for our future will continue to be fought within our consciousness itself, and considerations of guilt and innocence will not be as clearly defined as some wish them to be.

The God/Devil-wannabes, with all the savagery of their perennial wars, reflect in many ways the internal struggle of the Global Middle Class with its own limitations and desires, which is why it continues to provide the fodder for “their” wars.