Tuesday, 16 August 2016

The "cultural heritage" group neurosis 12: Nationalism as religion.

U.N. Headquarters, Manhattan

"Nationalism, as the guiding frame of meaning of the nation, a process of imaginary construction of of society, can be also seen as religion, a secular religion that worships icons ..., engages in its own rituals and ceremonies, complete with its liturgical texts and hymns..." 
Yannis Hamilakis, The Nation and its Ruins: Antiquity, Archaeology and National Imagination in Greece, Oxford, 2007, p.16.

In this view of nationalism, the only division from any other religion is the word "secular", but we have entered a time in which the parameters of its definitions are starting to break down: we cannot define a religion as the belief in a god as two of the top five religions in the world (Chinese folk religion and Buddhism) do not focus on any god. In the primary definition of secular: denoting attitudes, activities, or other things that have no religious or spiritual basis, the word religious, denoting that which binds, can be equally given to all religions and nationalism alike. This leaves spiritual which means: of, relating to, or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things. In the microcosm, quantum physics has proven that there are forces at play that can be called neither material or physical: the double-slit experiment violates classical logic merely by saying that an electron can be a wave or not a wave (a particle); both A and non-A. But also, with any interaction we have with the electron, it continues being whichever one we decided at the outset: being treated as a particle, it continues to be a particle and does not suddenly change to a wave, and vice versa. It has also been proven that paired particles each with opposite spins will appear to communicate their state with each other instantly even though being light years apart, so if one particle is made to spin right, its partner will then spin left at that very moment. This violates Einstein's relativity. In the macrocosm, both Stephen Hawking and Saint Augustine (354-430 AD) agree that time, itself, came into being with the creation of the universe. However, Stephen Hawking is an atheist. Although having its origins in both religious philosophy and alchemy, the Unus Mundus has recently become of great interest to both psychologists and quantum physicists where it is now referred to as the psychophysical universe and its basis is the participatory nature of the observer.

But coming down from such lofty heights, we only need observe the behaviour of nationalists so see that it is no different, whatsoever, from that of religionists. Hamilakis after talking more about its rituals and the transformation of material archaeological remains into symbols of belief  and ideology goes on to say:
"This dynamism gives it some of its enormous power and resilience, and at the same time warns us against any simplistic academic treatment. Rather than seeing it as exclusively a state affair, a top-down construction imposed upon the people by state bureaucrats and intellectuals, I am arguing for its simultaneous construction both from below and and from above. Nor should it be assumed that I am constructing here and image of an Orwellian nightmare which sees nationalist domination everywhere, with no opportunities for resistance. As will be shown elsewhere in this book, there are several instances where nationalistic ideologies in fact fuel, empower, and and incite resistance against the state or other power mechanisms, and in several cases social agents have been successful in negating and defeating the dominant authorities" (p. 17f ).
The key term here is "social agents", that is that the bottom-up movement consists of groups of people who share an opposing view and their numbers are instrumental in change. The base idea, in any single case, could have originated with an individual or it might have been through the coalescing of a group dynamic into an idea in an evolutionary fashion, but it has no power within the realm of the individual: it is a group action in reality.

Culture, on the other hand, is something that the individual expresses and as it consists of multiple cultural frames there will be no two individuals who have exactly the same culture and the groups are formed through overlapping areas of cultural expression. these, in turn, can produce changes in nationalism. Nationalism, however, can produce no change in culture as culture is an ever changing evolutionary pattern that is fulfilled only by individuals through various "quantum leaps" from psychic material in their own heads.

The empowerment supplies groupthink as a substitute for original idea and when this is adopted and expressed as "what I think" (or as an unthinking meme posing as such) it can generate the necessary brain chemicals to produce pleasure. This then acts somewhat like an evolutionary change except that it cannot, then, adapt to any new condition: it continues only in a mechanistic way and a person, if they did  experience a subsequent mental quantum leap, would in that same instant, remove themselves from the group and become a fully cognizant individual again.

"Cultural heritage" is thus a false term as it really only is an expression of nationalism and this is very apparent as it is only framed within the nation as an indivisible body. In each case, we have to decide whether it is an honest error in reason or merely a PR psychological trap to capture individuals and turn them into another member of the collective. Its real action actually halts culture and connects culture to static symbols which cannot change. It thus destroys culture in a very real sense. It becomes thus an enantiodromia.

The pattern of the combined top-down, bottom up nationalistic process is the seal of Solomon where the triangle with its base at the bottom is the social agency and the triangle with its base at the top is the causation of the state. The hexagon in the middle is the static state (shared cultural frames) where influences from both exist in an unchanging harmony which does not evolve. To change it back to a religious symbol is just to substitute state for heaven and social agency for earth. In nature, when bubbles are pressed together and all forces from all directions stop movement you get, in section, the stable hexagon. This is quite different from the structure of the yijing where the Yin and Yang lines are in a constant state of movement and interaction and represent (among many other things) the ever-changing nature of culture. Any change in the internal nature of the hexagram must come about, first, from an individual (whether it be from a genius altruistic individual or a powerful dictator) and a new stable state will then result which will continue until the next dramatic change. Culture, however, is always in a state of steady change.

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  1. https://twitter.com/DrDonnaYates/status/766296694501810176?lang=pl
    Go on John, suggest she set your essay on cultural heritage as reading for her students. Why not? If you are shy of redheads in glasses, maybe you'd like me to suggest it to her and we'll all see what she says....

    1. LOL! Well, Ben, I am far from shy of redheads, glasses or not, but I suspect that what she would say would not be quotable here, as I would not want my grandchildren (or any other kids) reading such language!