As we’ve looked at the Judge’s famous “War is God” speech in Blood Meridian and basically agreed that while his (perversion of) Nietzschean philosophy may or may not be the most ethically sound outlook, his conception of war is a fairly accurate description of the way we conceive of war—if not exactly the way it actually is. He claims, “War is the ultimate game because war is at last a forcing of the unity of existence.” Following the mystical subtext of the novel, he proclaims war to be God, as according to gnostic understanding of the divine, God is that which is unified.
Now this seems to be a monstrous extension of occult logic, but nevertheless, it seems right to say that war creates an egregore, meaning an aggregation of a group’s collective will which then “takes a life of its own.” Not so much that war creates real deities, but that the identities of the participants do get subsumed in the greater Will of the “war effort.” And even if this is inaccurate, we don’t treat it as such, creating monsters out of the collective ideologies of our enemies. The Nazi Party. Radical Islam. The Mongolian Hordes. Each of these enemies certainly embodies physical elements that are particular, but more so, they embody an ideology that casts our conceptions of individuals on the enemy side in a new light—that they are merely the mindless supplicants carrying out the will of their egregore. We ignore the very real possibility that not everyone who goes to war does so because he identifies with an ideology, and that even he does, that doesn’t mean that he’s any less human and shouldn’t be reduced to the sum of his beliefs.
After the September 11 attacks, we all got to witness as over-night, our nation became obsessed with the threat of terrorist attack at the hands of Muslim extremists. Often, Muslims in America suffered abuse, whether or not they actually agreed with the actions of the terrorists. We equated them with the egregore we were fighting against. The media became so jumbled in the aftermath, that people believed our aggressive entry into Iraq had something to do with 9/11, further attributing the egregore of the terrorists to everyday people in Iraq—people who probably knew as little about us as we did of them, people who were often more concerned with acquiring their daily bread than defeating the “Big Evil.”
Following the bleak logic of Judge Holden, we have an unconquerable urge to know our universe, and when we can’t know something, we destroy it. We cannot know the other, so we destroy him if we can. War is a test of wills, and like any other test of wills, we are fascinated by it. Here’s a link to CNN’s Iraq coverage, here’s Afghanistan, and here’s a great compilation of the 9/11 news footage. There’s much more than this out there. It’s interesting to think that the videos of the planes going into the twin towers shares a lot in common with the violence in Blood Meridian—it is depicted for its own sake. The news shows violent images just to show them to you, to inform you that they exist, and to give you some sort of experience of them mediated through representation. Like in art, sometimes these images intend to outrage or shock, but other times, they’re intended to be shown just for experience of seeing. Why else would we want to watch the destruction of the World Trade Center?
It’s for the knowledge of it happening, and because we can’t be there ourselves. A witness, and as I quoted in my last post, each man is tabernacled, etc, witness, etc. I’m opening up the discussion here for comments on Blood Meridian, politics, and the aesthetics of news violence. I’m not sure I have the answers here, but maybe through discussion, we might at least have the right questions.