domingo, 1 de marzo de 2009

Monotheistic Violence or Zizek's Religious Temptation


Zizek's invitation to use 9/11 as an opportunity to 'think' takes shape in this still very much relevant exposition made in Jerusalem, from 2003. I would like to nonetheless interject the interpretative process Zizek begins at a particularly symptomatic point in his discussion of fundamentalism. In relation to how fundamentalist ideology relates to the concept of religious belief, Zizek proposes to distinguish between examples of genuine monotheism and false monotheism, by indexing the violent expressions of (some) fundamentalist activities to the latter. In sum, the self-proclaimed monotheistic activity which so-called fundamentalists exhibit when acting violently against others consists in the tacit acceptance of the other Gods as false Gods; their explicit recognition renders them existent within the activity of suppressing or attacking those who speak in their name. The true monotheist simply renders the expression of false Gods as an expression of ignorance; the other remains visible as a brother of the community, assailed by the failure to recognize the true God due to some pathological behavior.

My rejection of Zizek's exposition resides precisely on this point. I think that we must reject the thesis that violent monotheism is false monotheism; and propose that its violence is inherent to monotheism in its inner dynamics. To understand this, we must oppose to Zizek's notion of authentic, peaceful monotheism, that all monotheistic activity enacts the discrimination of other religions by way of reduction of the other's substantive views to a condemnable feature intrinsic to the monotheistic legitimate discourse: for example in Christianity we often hear about how the 'Devil' is responsible or represented in the acts of terrorism. Analogously, in its effective attack against other worldviews, Christian ideology reduces the other's expressions from within its discourse and not by having to recognize the other as such. It would be pointless to say that the tacit polytheism of Christian condemnation is accounted for in the form of the Devil, for the same point applies to direct reference to discourse: in the proclamation of false Gods one sins by using the lord's name in vain; in bearing contradicting information to The Word a subject is targeted as a false witness of religious illumination.

Likewise behavior which contradicts the principles of Christian dogma can be effectively assigned as expressions of Sin, and not properly the substantive views of an Other. This way violence against terrorists can be justified by reducing their proclamations of divine duty as the pathological disturbance of the genuine subjects of Christian grace (this way the fundamentalist is seen as a sinner, a person led astray, punishable for his acts for violating the divine Law). What presents itself as the proclamation of the true God is reduced by the monothesit to being an expression of mere corruption and failure, of deviation from the path of Truth rather than the expression of an alternate divine Will or communal worldview. In this example, the recognition of the Other's deities comes not by way of accepting them as subsistent deities- but in assigning them to pathological expressions of a feature in the subject's monotheistic framework: even though the terrorists proclaim their activity in the name of 'Ala' the Christian ideology can render the terrorists' explicit proclamation as a contingent expression from the dynamics of the Christian dogma.



Because of this I see the entire separation between tolerant 'authentic' monotheism and its violent excess as repeating the fundamental ideological gesture of claiming distance from the text. Perhaps we should supplement Zizek's thesis that being oblivious to this distance is a precondition of political activity, and extend it to religious activity as well. By claiming the excess of violence in (pseudo) monotheistic religion is proper only to its tacit polytheistic underside masks the inherent violence of any true monotheism, which consists in closing the separation between its singular discourse and the other's expression, where the latter is reduced to the former. Concretely to follow with our example, the violence advanced by Christian monotheism does not proceed from accepting the other Gods as merely 'false'; but on reducing them to being a pathological expression of some failure to abide to the norm of the monotheistic discourse (the terrorist’s proclamation of the sacred duty of the 'sons of Ala' is but the delusional influence of the corruption of the community of Christian values in sin, it's the devil's work, failure to recognize the true grace of the Lord in the community of Christian brotherhood, etc).

Monotheism bears this necessary violence intrinsically to its very discourse; it already prescribes the legitimate suppression of acts which do not comply to the normal integration to the religious community. Zizek's fault repeats the precise ideological gesture marked by monotheism- he dismisses examples of violence in self-proclaimed monotheisms as pathological examples of a quieter, apprehensive 'true' monotheism. The attack on the concept of fundamentalism must thus avoid this reference to true monotheism as a potential aspiration (unsurprisingly, Zizek himself finds in so-called true monotheists like the Amish a generally agreeable archetype which he jokingly suggests should increase in numbers).

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