November 19, 2017

The Ultimate Ideology

By Mara Lemanis.

Ideology can sustain a culture or strike a death blow. We can quickly trace what the Marxist ideology did to Russia, or the Proletarian Communist movement to China. When we think back as far as 330 and 331 BCE, we recognize that the Hellenism forced through Alexander the Great’s conquest of the Persian Empire and Egypt was both a disintegration of those ancient cultures and their reciprocal integration into the Greek ethos.

We do not need to spade around unknown terrain in order to see how many of our reactions and behaviors have already been set, programmed by the society and culture in which we find ourselves.

Cultural determinants are a hybrid of established social practices, traditions, hierarchic rules and common aims—what biologists call “memes.” Harnessing these is the zeitgeist of ideology–that overarching doctrine, uttered like a hymn, or like a declaration of independence–honorific, emblematic of a country and its people.

The ethnologist Claude Lévi-Strauss pointed out that the structures of all cultures are the same though they may have different functions.

Regardless of ideology one thing remains constant: the temporal nature of existence. We all live in transience. However much we like or dislike our experiences we know at some point they will cease. We will no longer embody them. The way we deal with this phenomenon—the sense of our concrete existence and its eventual extinction—directs life’s purpose.

Social activity fuels desire for position, status, wealth; individual activity seeks more intimate aims—affection, adventure, personal evolution. Social or individual, all is attained within the gyrating axis of joy and anguish, comfort and stress, growth and decline. But our emotional arc is not complete until we settle the bid for continuity.

Change happens; it is inevitable. Will we go on in some form recognizable to ourselves? Will we be conscious, aware, sentient? Even when not dwelling on them, such thoughts lurk at the threshold of perception, giving pause or impetus to our intents.

That threshold is where we make a pact with fate. It is there that we admit our union with the universe of bosons, or with God. Even if we think we will be nothing but dust, our liberation is foreordained.

Yet many crave a life beyond the temporal whether through samadhi, moksha, transcendence, or merging with the Creator Source.

In this context the jihadi is no different. His yearnings are the same. He too hopes to bond with God.

Sufis and Kabbalists believe they already are a part of God or the sparks of God; Vedantists believe the world is illusion and that all beings are Brahman (God); Buddhists think that no soul is permanent; Muslims seek surrender to the divine will, and Christians uphold that souls are redeemed by God through the sacrifice of Christ. All these are ideologies avowing faith through calm conviction or through bold oral assertion.

What distinguishes the jihadist is the totalitarian ardor of his affirmation.

While the gospels offer, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” the jihadist offers to lay down his life for God. And not only his life but the life of strangers too. To the jihadist these are infidels whose habits rebuke God. In destroying the infidel, or annihilating himself, the jihadi exalts his sacrifice.

Through such a forfeit he sanctifies his life, converts its purpose to orgasmic love. He dissolves into God; completes himself.

Any interest in the comforts of human love, earthly love pales in the limbic cauldron of jihadists. Sexual transport can’t sustain the ecstasy (from the Greek meaning of ekstasis —to be outside oneself) they feel is imminent. The glow and flame of human love wanes in the klieg light of God.

Many people seek solace in God to compensate the ephemeral life of the body. The jihadi seeks voracious love and finds it in the permanent death of the body.

Such an ultimate ideology destroys peoples and cultures to enshrine itself.

                           THE POINT (a question)

What is the point, I asked.

It is you, God said.

Wind screams, seas crash,

Earth breaks, I said.

You ride the sun, God said.

I break.

No.

You bolt,

God said.

You are lightning

You break the dark.

I am You.

                                           –Mara Lemanis

———

Mara Lemanis has worked as an archivist for Historical Preservation. She and the state archaeologist conducted research at numerous Sioux Nation sites in South Dakota, in the course of which she visited a Lakota Sweat Lodge and took part in the communal spirit of the purification ceremony. She was privileged to study the Oglala Sioux sites at Pine Ridge and Wounded Knee… Recently she has worked with the IRC to assist refugees in Oakland, California.

She has been a teacher and scholar of literature and film at Stanford and Yale; her essays have been selected for 20th CENTURY LITERARY CRITICISM and are included in undergraduate student textbooks in the U.S.

Her father, Osvalds J. Lemanis, was an internationally renowned Latvian choreographer (The Royal Order of Vasa-Gustav V).

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