NOSTALGIA FOR GOD
Alfredo M. Bonanno
The fear of the future, of the unknown, of the thing that awaits us around the corner, gives us the strongest thrust to shut ourselves in the house, barricade ourselves, define the territory of property as sacred, consecrate ourselves as an enclosed being and, finally, place a superior substance, an unassailable, and therefore unfathomable, reference beyond ourselves, really in the sphere of chaos and death, to offer us certainty and stability.
The very mental process at the foundation of so much revolutionary thought, from which we draw the elements for building the passage (violent, without a doubt; this is not the nullifying point) to the future society, originates in a desire to save ourselves from the mortal danger that anguishing uncertainty points out to us. In this way, "liberation" can assume a form that is anything but liberating. Thus, we imagine a society in which every possible evil that now incites us has ceased to exist, a society in which there will no longer be power and domination, leaders and hierarchy, exploitation and suffering, disease and boredom; a society of equals, united, a society of beauty from which all baseness and sorrow are forever exiled.
It is necessary to move slowly with these super-determinations of the liberated society. From one side, the mechanism has always been simple enough. It suffices to put off into the future (that future which frightened us up until a moment ago) the task, which we could take in hand now, of realizing all the things that are missing in the present, carrying the traces, at times perhaps negligible, to the ultimate outcome. Once that which oppresses us vanishes, its mere absence will end up defining "freedom". We don't understand that in doing this we repeat, with the best intentions, what faith in god has done for millennia. We leave to the god of History the procedure that was once entrusted to the god of religion. We once again have nostalgia for god.
But as long as this is all we do, it is nothing more than a compromise like any other, a talisman that is a wee bit heavy and troublesome to drag behind us, but nothing dangerous in the true and proper sense of the word. But, in fact, we don't limit ourselves to doing this. We are moved by the spirit that sees the greatest good (freedom) in the future, as that which positively puts an end to the evils and fears of today, evils and fears that we know quite well because we suffer them as a consequence of everyday life. Therefore, we must place limits on what happens today, that is to say, we must realize a project that omits this unchanging eventuality, this element that is external to both our daily lack and that final diminution of the evil that awaits us, that appears around every dark corner on the path.
In fact, in order for liberated society to exist as the concrete elimination of the evils and fears of today, there must be a mechanism intrinsic to History capable of realizing it. In short, it is not only necessary for god to exist, but also to act in the world. Thus, history becomes the kingdom of god projected into everyday reality, secularized, provided with order and periodic examinations that we don't merely manage to understand, but that in the long run turn out to be welcome and consoling.
In this perspective, all my projects are marked by the shadow of god. My fear has rebuilt divinity and has placed me once again in its power. The organizing structures of life, those circumscribed spheres that define the field of my daily activity and, precisely for this reason, render it possible, themselves take on particular characteristics due to my nostalgia. God rules me even in the smallest particulars. Even if I no longer attribute importance to genuflection as I once did, even if I have now become an arrogant, secular person, in the discourses of fear and cowardice, I am always the little man I once was, and like all little men, I become aggressive and authoritarian, I seek to build forms of domination that will guarantee to me that some outstanding, violent lunatic doesn't put my new security at risk.
At bottom, all domination is based on the idea of being able to regulate the unforeseeable future. All domination has managed to exorcise fear and uncertainty about the future. Thus, the refusal of domination passes through the conscious and courageous restoration of instability, the unknown that may await us around the corner, as well.
This is the beauty of struggle: that it projects us into an entire world to discover and make our own in ever new ways, beyond schemes and obligatory paths. The risk may be great, the realms of certainty may shrink, but there is no alternative. History is no longer the bed of the sleeping god, but the scene, partial and often incomprehensible, of human events, the place where barbarism and death are always waiting, where there can never be a definitively liberated society, where there will not even be a path to liberation unless we find it ourselves, without exorcisms or talismans.Back to the Venomous Butterfly page