Friday, October 29, 2010

Cowboy Morality

The anti-hero has always been a compelling figure for me whether it has come from the Westerns that I have watched (John Wayne/Clint Eastwood and a slew of others) or from Comic heroes (my favorites of course are Batman and Wolverine).

The typical scenario for these figures is to do the dirty work because the "good people" of the town or city are incapable of it. It was not until reading Kotsko's short review of Milbank's and Zizek's debate in their recent book that the "light-bulb" turned on. Zizek's ethics I would argue are anti-hero ethics. The anti-hero is different from two other types: the Fascist type of heroes become totalitarian whereas Liberal types only put band-aids on the problem while giving some kind of "we work within the boundaries of the laws" speech.

One of the best examples of this is when, for example, Captain America objects to Wolverine's additon to the Avengers because he is a killer. Iron Man (the flawed capitalist-pragmatist) responds that Wolverine will go were none of us are able. You never know, in other words, when you need someone to take the step in actually killing the enemy. Does that make Wolverine more unethical? Actually, as fleshed out in most good stories and movies, Wolverine and Batman are the ethical compass of the Comic world because they constantly stand in the gap between the Good and the Monstrous...They are often self-questioning in what they have become.

Where does Zizek come in? His whole point about his ethic is that it has to respond to the situation in its total cruelty. Zizek writes at the last section of the book of MC: "This is where I stand – how I would love to be: an ethical monster without empathy, doing what is to be done in a weird coincidence of blind spontaneity and reflexive distance, helping others while avoiding their disgusting proximity. With more people like this, the world would be a pleasant place in which sentimentality would be replaced by a cold and cruel passion." Here I see images of the Cowboy drifter who goes into a town to fix the problems of the town (usually by terrorizing the villains) simply because he sees injustice there and the people's cry for help (a kind of Shane/Paladin/Man With No Name who doesn't get paid). Is not typical morality suspended in this situation? Are we as the audience okay with that? However, the true anti-hero always leaves when the job is done. To stay would make him a tyrant; the people will hopefully adopt his stance in his absence.

A good example of this is the movie Warlock starring Henry Fonda, Anthony Quinn and Richard Widmark. Here Widmark, a former villain, becomes the towns protector and has to inevitably kill Fonda because of the tendency of the hero to become a Fascist tyrant. Fonda has brought some order to the town, but has become in a sense consumed with power. Therefore, it seems the dirfter or anti-hero does the ethical action because something in his gut tells him to even thought his mind insists this is not his problem...

Friday, October 22, 2010

Deleuze Again?

It seems that I can not escape the works of the French thinker Gilles Deleuze. Even back when a number of my fellow Fuller seminary students took it upon ourselves to read a little Deleuze (we started with his book on Foucault; I even took my French language qualifiers by translating Foucault's preface to Anti-Oedipus), I came to the conclusion that something special is here.
It appears that his popularity is growing and a renewed interest is here especially as it relates to the realm of the political and the spiritual (thanks to Hallward I believe).
My project from the start is to take Karl Barth's works and have him in conversation (not debate) with so-called postmodern thinkers. This has led me to read and enjoy the works of Derrida, Badiou, Foucault and especially Zizek. When it came to Deleuze I decided to take a Directed Reading with Dr. Carl Raschke on Deleuze because he seemed to be enamored with him (he seems to advocate a rhizomatic theology in his GloboChrist). He recommended that we read the man himself. So I read his book on Nietzsche, Logic of Sense, Thousand Plateaus and What is Philosophy with the help of Negotiations and Dialogues as guides not to mention the commentaries by Badiou, Zizek and Hallward. It was tough reading and quite frankly I keep going back over a number of those texts not simply to glean info but to be moved a bit by his style of thinking.
Where did that study go? Into a look at Deleuze on humor. Deleuze is clear that thinking should be a more dynamic, fluid thing that is not controlled by opinion or certain static ways of thought. I found that Deleuze was open to thought-forms that were not reactionary and resentful (see the influence of Nietzsche). Humor itself can be rather reactionary, so it takes a special type of humor to get away from the "I-told-you-so" ironic versions of it.
This now leads me to try to use Deleuze and Barth to open up a creative way to look at post-modernity in all the various ways it appears to us. Is Barth the right thinker to do this with? We shall see. For starters, one of my goals is to see how they view modernity in an accepting way and at the same time to see the opening up of movements of thought whether or not they have a spiritual bearing. For starters, I have been consuming the Substance article on Deleuze and the spiritual/political. Lets see how the weekend goes in fleshing this out...