Surely, I said, knowledge is the food of the soul; and we must take care, my friend, that the Sophist does not deceive us when he praises what he sells, like the dealers wholesale or retail who sell the food of the body; for they praise indiscriminately all their goods, without knowing what are really beneficial or hurtful: neither do their customers know, with the exception of any trainer or physician who may happen to buy of them. In like manner those who carry about the wares of knowledge, and make the round of the cities, and sell or retail them to any customer who is in want of them, praise them all alike; though I should not wonder, O my friend, if many of them were really ignorant of their effect upon the soul; and their customers equally ignorant, unless he who buys of them happens to be a physician of the soul. If, therefore, you have understanding of what is good and evil, you may safely buy knowledge of Protagoras or of any one; but if not, then, O my friend, pause, and do not hazard your dearest interests at a game of chance. For there is far greater peril in buying knowledge than in buying meat and drink: the one you purchase of the wholesale or retail dealer, and carry them away in other vessels, and before you receive them into the body as food, you may deposit them at home and call in any experienced friend who knows what is good to be eaten or drunken, and what not, and how much, and when; and then the danger of purchasing them is not so great. But you cannot buy the wares of knowledge and carry them away in another vessel; when you have paid for them you must receive them into the soul and go your way, either greatly harmed or greatly benefited; and therefore we should deliberate and take counsel with our elders; for we are still young—too young to determine such a matter. And now let us go, as we were intending, and hear Protagoras; and when we have heard what he has to say, we may take counsel of others; for not only is Protagoras at the house of Callias, but there is Hippias of Elis, and, if I am not mistaken, Prodicus of Ceos, and several other wise men.
- Plato, "Protagoras"
"fidelity to a simulacrum, unlike fidelity to an event, regulates its break with the situation not by the universality of the void, but by the closed particularity of an abstract set ... (ie- the 'Germans' or the 'Aryans')"
-Alain Badiou, in speaking with reference to Nazism about Evil
"...the formula of modern totalitarianism is not “I don’t care what you think, just do it.” This is traditional authoritarianism. The modern day totalitarian formula is, “I know better than you what you really want.”
Peter Sloterdijk is one of the most accurate diagnosticians of our time. In his work Rage and Time, from the distinction between Eros (desire, that is the desire to possess, that is the possession of objects) and Thymos (pride, that is giving-willing, that is recognition) he offers an alternative history of the West – that is, as history of anger management. The “Iliad”, its founding text, begins in fact with the word “anger.” Homer calls the goddess to stand by him when he sings the song of the anger of Achilles. Although the quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon concerns a woman – Agamemnon robbed Achilles of his slave girl Briseis – it is not about the loss of an erotic object, but about injured pride. And that is Sloterdijk’s point.
While anger can explode in ancient Greece, he experiences a profound change in the Jewish-Christian tradition, a sublimation, a postponement. No longer us, but God is keeping a record of our transgressions, and decides on the Day of Judgment. The Christian prohibition of revenge is the exact counterpart to the apocalyptic scene of the last days. The idea of a Last Judgment, in which all the accumulated debts are paid off and a world out of joint is corrected, lives in secularized form in modern leftist projects.
Now the judge is no longer God but the people. Left political movements in fact act like Anger-Banks (Zorn-Banken). They collect collective Anger-Investment (Zorn-Investitionen) and, in turn, promise the people long-term Revenge-Interest (Rache-Zinsen), thus establishing a more just world. Because after the revolutionary Anger-Explosion (Zorn-Explosion) the ultimate payment never takes place, and inequality and hierarchy always reappear, there is always an urge for the second – true, total – revolution. It is only to satisfy the disappointed and to bring the liberation to an end: in 1792 after 1789, October after February 1917.
This leads us to the great problem of Western Marxism today: the absence of a revolutionary subject. Who could take the role of the proletariat? The farmers in the Third World, students and intellectuals are excluded. In the meantime, the refugees are to revive the European left, after the motto: If there is no real proletariat at this stage, the revolution could just be transferred to imported substitute subjects. This way of thinking is cynical through and through. It bears witness to a leftist paternalism, quite apart from the fact that it gives new impetus to the violence against immigrants.
The problem is that there is simply never enough spontaneous Anger-Capital (Zorn-Kapital) – that is why the leaders have been borrowing from other Anger-Banks, like the Nation or Culture. In Fascism, the national anger prevailed. In China’s communism, Mao mobilized the cultural anger of the exploited peasantry. In our time there are two main types of anger left: the anger of the losing Islamic modernists against the decadent system of capitalism, and the wrath of the right-wing populists that is aimed at immigrants. In lesser form, Latin American populists, consumerists and other representatives are resentful of the refusal to recognize globalization. The only thing that is clear: the situation is confusing, all the different forms of anger (Zorn-Formen) do not come together.
My impoverished muse, alas! What have you for me this morning?
Your empty eyes are stocked with nocturnal visions,
In your cheek's cold and taciturn reflection,
I see insanity and horror forming.
The green succubus and the red urchin,
Have they poured you fear and love from their urns?
The nightmare of a mutinous fist that despotically turns,
Does it drown you at the bottom of a loch beyond searching?
I wish that your breast exhaled the scent of sanity,
That your womb of thought was not a tomb more frequently
And that your Christian blood flowed around a buoy that was rhythmical,
Like the numberless sounds of antique syllables,
Where reigns in turn the father of songs,
Phoebus, and the great Pan, the harvest sovereign.
Born on a Monday,
Christened on Tuesday,
Married on Wednesday,
Took ill on Thursday,
Grew worse on Friday,
Died on Saturday,
Buried on Sunday,
That was the end,
Of Solomon Grundy
- James Orchard Halliwell* (1842)
*Note - Halliwell had a habit, detested by bibliophiles, of cutting up seventeenth-century books and pasting parts he liked into scrapbooks. During his life he destroyed eight hundred books and made thirty-six hundred scraps.
The word salmagundi is derived from the French word salmigondis which means disparate assembly of things, ideas or people, forming an incoherent whole. Salmagundi is used figuratively in modern English to mean a mixture or assortment of things.
The name later evolved to Solomon Gundy in the eighteenth century. It seems likely that the name is connected with the children’s rhyme, Solomon Grundy. Solomon Gundy retains its food connotation today as the name given to a **spicy Caribbean paste made of mashed, pickled herrings, peppers and onions.
**Note - Salmagundi (sometimes abbreviated as salmi) is also a salad dish, originating in the early 17th century in England, comprising cooked meats, seafood, vegetables, fruit, leaves, nuts and flowers and dressed with oil, vinegar and spices. There is some debate over the meaning and origin of the word. The French word "salmagondis" means a hodgepodge or mix of widely disparate things.
In English culture the term does not refer to a single recipe, but describes the grand presentation of a large plated salad comprising many disparate ingredients. These can be arranged in layers or geometrical designs on a plate or mixed. The ingredients are then drizzled with a dressing. The dish aims to produce wide range of flavours and colours and textures on a single plate. Often recipes allow the cook to add various ingredients which may be available at hand, producing many variations of the dish. Flowers from broom and sweet violet were often used.
In Jamaica, Solomon gundy refers more specifically to a dish made of salt herring and spices
Salmagundi is also purportedly a meal served on pirate ships. It is a stew of anything the cook had on hand, usually consisting of chopped meat, anchovies, eggs, and onions, often arranged in rows on lettuce and served with vinegar and oil, and spiced with anything available. The following is taken from a reprint of Mrs. Hill's New Cook Book, originally published in 1867 and republished by Applewood Books of Bedford, Massachusetts.
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.
Because I feel that, in the Heavens above,
The angels, whispering to one another,
Can find, among their burning terms of love,
None so devotional as that of “Mother,”
Therefore by that dear name I long have called you—
You who are more than mother unto me,
And fill my heart of hearts, where Death installed you
In setting my Virginia's spirit free.
My mother—my own mother, who died early,
Was but the mother of myself; but you
Are mother to the one I loved so dearly,
And thus are dearer than the mother I knew
By that infinity with which my wife
Was dearer to my soul than its soul-life.
The recent expulsion oF illegal Roma (“Gypsies”) from France back to Romania sparked protests across Europe from both the liberal media and top politicians–and not only those on the Left. The expulsions, however, proceeded–and they are the tip of a much larger iceberg of European politics.
Incidents like these have to be seen against the background of a long-term re-arrangement of the political space in Western and Eastern Europe. Until recently, the political space of European countries was dominated by two main parties that addressed the entire electoral body–a right-of-center party and a left-of-center party. The latest electoral results in the West, as well as in the East, signal the gradual emergence of a different polarity. We have one predominant centrist party which stands for global capitalism as such, usually with a liberal cultural agenda (tolerance toward abortion, gay rights, religious and ethnic minorities, etc.). Opposing this party is an ever stronger anti-immigrant populist party that, on its fringes, is accompanied by directly racist neo-Fascist groups. How did we get here?
When the Communist regimes disintegrated in 1990, we entered an era in which the predominant form of the exercise of state power became a depoliticized expert administration and coordination of interests. In this new context, the only way to introduce passion into such a nonpolitical realm, to actively mobilize people, is through fear: fear of immigrants, fear of crime, fear of godless sexual depravity, fear of ecological catastrophe and also fear of harassment (Political Correctness is the exemplary liberal form of the politics of fear).
Consequently, the notion of “toxic subjects” gained ground. While toxic subjects originate from popular psychology warning us against emotional vampires, the frontier of toxic subjects is expanding. The predicate “toxic” covers a series of properties that belong to totally different levels (natural, cultural, psychological, political).
Socially, what is most toxic is the foreign Neighbor–the strange abyss of his pleasures, beliefs and customs. Consequently, the ultimate aim of all rules of interpersonal relations is to quarantine (or at least neutralize and contain) this toxic dimension, and thereby reduce the foreign Neighbor–by removing his otherness–to an unthreatening fellow man. The end result: today’s tolerant liberal multiculturalism is an experience of the Other deprived of its Otherness–the decaffeinated Other who dances fascinating dances and has an ecologically sound holistic approach to reality while features like wife beating remain out of sight.
The mechanism of such neutralization was best formulated in 1938 by Robert Brasillach, the French Fascist intellectual, condemned and shot in 1945, who saw himself as a “moderate” anti-Semite. Brasillach put it this way: “We grant ourselves permission to applaud Charlie Chaplin, a half Jew, at the movies; to admire Proust, a half Jew; to applaud Yehudi Menuhin, a Jew; and the voice of Hitler is carried over radio waves named after the Jew Hertz. … We don’t want to kill anyone, we don’t want to organize any pogrom. But we also think that the best way to hinder the always unpredictable actions of instinctual anti-Semitism is to organize a reasonable anti-Semitism.”
Is this same attitude not at work in the way our governments are dealing with the “immigrant threat”? After righteously rejecting direct populist racism as “unreasonable” and unacceptable for our democratic standards, they endorse “reasonably” racist protective measures. Or, as today’s Brasillachs tell us: “We grant ourselves permission to applaud African and Eastern- European sportsmen, Asian doctors, Indian software programmers. We don’t want to kill anyone, we don’t want to organize any pogrom. But we also think that the best way to hinder the always unpredictable violent anti-immigrant defensive measures is to organize a reasonable anti-immigrant protection.”
This vision of detoxification of the Neighbor presents a clear passage from direct barbarism to barbarism with a human face. It practices the regression from the Christian gospel (love thy neighbor) back to the Greco-Roman privileging of tribe over the barbarian Other. Cloaked as a defense of Christian values, it is itself the greatest threat to our Christian legacy.