Friday, May 8, 2009

To Write or To Strike: A Discourse on the Dichotomy of Historicity and Consciousness, and How Such Affects Human Relations and Revolutionary Intent

Hansley A. Juliano, II AB Political Science: December 2, 2008

It is lamentable, in more ways than one, that human relations have not changed very much compared to the past five centuries. Some may find this statement quite unusual, paradoxical, and erroneous even, due to the fact that many forms of human relations exist today which have not existed before, or may have been considered as unusual or potentially dangerous associations. Today, developed and developing countries have been patrons of liberality and are obsessed with obtaining and maintaining a limitless degree of freedom which will allow people to shape their selves as they please. Such cannot be said of the societies of centuries past where norms, rules and regulations are firmly in place, intended to inhibit the individual from straying from the community of his origin. And yet, despite this supposed situation of open floodgates allowing people to be free as they can, they themselves are now the ones who claim to be unfree. They blame history, fate, predestination and all other supernatural abstractions which supposedly pull the strings of their lives as if they were puppets on a stage.

One cannot help but either roar in laughter or wallow in pools of tears in hearing such a blatant washing of hands more crass than Pontius Pilate’s. It appears as if man, who was supposedly created in the likeness and image of a Supreme Being, is now simply reduced to a mere instrument created at some particular point without reason. Such would be a description of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel’s notion of history and historicity as conscious and ever-moving. This belief gave birth to the now-cliché yet stupid statement of “history repeating itself,” when it is in fact we ourselves who repeat history due to lack of hindsight, the ability to learn from experience and respect to tradition. To say that history should define us is to deny the human capability for action, deliberation and change.

It is in this light that we try to understand how, then, could man should learn how to negate action while being active and engaging his desire. To negate action, it was said, is to consume the very feeling or sensation of desire by the act of fulfilling that particular desire. For instance, one person might want a blueberry cake. This desire for the blueberry cake is so intense that it can only be quenched by presenting him with that blueberry cake, and for the person to eat it. In consuming the cake, the desiring person negates the very object of his desire, and thus negates his action. In this sense, man is transformed a person who is not one who controls history but is controlled by history. His desire to act is always frustrated by the fact that he finds no sense of accomplishment, that everything he does cannot make a mark, and yet is thus that he lives in society and practices politics.

The imagery is, in a way, a good example of perpetual tension; uncertain departure, uncertain arrival. I am reminded of the socialization of the pre-Martial Law Armed Forces of the Philippines as described in Alfred McCoy’s Closer than Brothers: Manhood at the Philippine Military Academy. It was said that to ensure civilian supremacy, the officers were socialized into placing the authority of civil government at highest regard. Through this, they could not possibly nor dare think that the military can initiate a government on their own, much less govern the country better through a military junta. As events and history proved, this form of socialization was nullified by the Marcos presidency. This was mentioned to illustrate the fact that this conscious sense of frustration, contrary to what Hegel intended, is not political, if not should be detached from the proper political course of action. The armed forces are never supposed to be politicized: any attempt to politicize them will cause a chaotic phase in the life of the state, as we will discuss below.

The notion of political action as one that is laced by the element of surprise, as promulgated by traditional and classical political thought as well as the contemporary notion created by Hannah Arendt would be, in more ways the one, be the better political course of action as it And thus it is set that the discussion of the master-slave dialectic is put in focus. It is said that the master and the slave must fight to the death, as it is through this that the wheels of history are seen at motion. No one between them initiated the conflict; it is the dictate of history.

The slave, guided by the belief that he is not actually bound by the world, but his master is, would be led to rebel and try to break off the chains that restrain him from the moment of his defeat at the hands of that master. The fact that he is the one who creates the world for the master who consumes it shows that he is detached from it, that he can transcend it and use it to gain his freedom. Such would evolve later into the famous battle cry of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in The Communist Manifesto: “they have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.”

And yet this could not be, and should not be. To think and believe that man can actually gain freedom through denial of his very own existence and giving up all his scruples to the dictates of history (or believing that such scruples are the dictate of history) suggests that man has no free will, that he is not someone who can hold his destiny in his hands. This might be consonant with St. Augustine on a particular level, but it runs counter to classical notion of politics as community-building. The politicization of the armed forces, leading them to believe that their restraint has created the world as they see it and they can create it in their own image, eventually brought forth the downward slide of that state into tyranny, rapaciousness and extreme alienation to the people. The names and events are countless: Pinochet, Franco, Idi Amin and more so, Marcos. The Reform the Armed Forces movement, though seemingly a group for reform, are in reality still soldiers who have been misled by a sense of overflowing power and now wishing to end their restraint by indulging it and holding on to it, not consuming it for the good of the state, something even Hegel himself would disapprove of.

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