The world is an illusion, and even awakening from this world will be into a world that itself proves to be a new illusion, a new prison, and then, the time will come for a new awakening, a new emancipation, enlightenment, rebirth, which the world is actually full of. The world is an illusion, as the Hindu wisdom states, because what seems real, eternal and undoubted, especially in our childhood and youth is actually ephemeral, transient and relative and compared to the historical and cosmic time it is not important at all. (Zimmer, 1946)
That doesn't change the fact that we identify ourselves with this world, with this reality and with our historical time. Our life's moment is the window through which we have access to the whole. And not just the world, but reality is an illusion, and even the awakening (enlightenment, emancipation) is just an awakening into a new order of meanings, which itself will prove to be a new illusion (a new mirage), a new prison. Then, the time will come for a new awakening, a new emancipation, enlightenment, a new rebirth, of which history (especially modern history, but not only) is, actually, full.
It is possible that these awakenings are a betrayal of tradition, of the primary, of authority from the beginnings, a form of the Oedipus complex to prove that the son is superior to his father, but it may actually represent a way of spiritual growth, a way to overcome the adoration of absolute values. Only that we can do this just by our own inner experience, each one of us individually, because we relate to the historical, epistemic changes that we encounter throughout our lives.
„Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image“, (Bible, Exodus 20,4) unfortunatelly there is no value in the name of which mankind would not kill, then why do we need values? It is our predisposition to make idols, to die for ideals which later will be scoffed at by our sons' generation, or for which they will condemn us.
For those of us who were born long after the world wars it seemed that, as children we lived in a world of peace and progress. At school we would hear about children from other parts of the world or from other times who lived and died in poverty. The certainty of tomorrow made us think that we were born in of one the best possible worlds.
Those who had lived in wars, or the grown-ups knew better that the previous world is gone and so would happen with this world, they knew that certainty is an illusion.
In adolescence, when we felt the urge to create, to be involved in the political and social life, to become critical in order to improve the world around us and when we realized that that could be dangerous, we understood that the whole golden era was just a facade which hid much painful silence. Very little could be said about Chernobyl and nothing appeared in newspapers about the road accidents. Some colleagues were listening to Radio Free Europe and we are afraid, afraid to talk, afraid of being listened when talking on the phone, or followed by a spy of the secret services. There was a diffuse fear of talking, of trusting anybody around us.
Then came the revolution of 1989 which we honestly lived as liberation, as salvation from evil, from oppression, from dictatorship. Everything that followed was better that what had been before and fortunatelly nothing was the same. The sudden change of values was obvious for everybody. (Orban, 2014)
Just like in all the revolutions, for example in '68, or in '89 and in all the major changes of paradigm in the past, people lived the events as a liberation, as if these were Liberty itself. Maybe liberty was used by the new governing powers for their own purposes, for their own benefit, maybe that was meant to be and it happened every time, that the main part of the speech about liberty, the values which made us enthusiastic, were actually slogans that in time changed into new common places, which are oppressive and desecrated today.
We could finally speak without fear about anything, accidents or tragedies that happened around us weren't hidden, on the contrary, they were showed us day by day on the news as being the essence of our reality, which seemed worse than our everyday lives. We could see commercials and Western shows, the West entered Eastern countries, we could buy pretty things, where the package was more important than the content. Today we live under the siege of advertisements. The new departments at universities were in one way or another linked to this new regime, to this new paradigm: Marketing, the psychology of the customer, aiming to cause excessive consumption; Gender studies, built on a new feminism as forged as the one that was fashionable during communism, based on a false competition between men and women, where the authority tells you when the woman is free and when she is behind and needs to be emancipated by her husband.
Human body, its nudity, which in Renaissance and in other periods of liberation, represented beauty and human dignity, the body image and its social representation have changed greatly in the West in the last 50 years. Today, when there is no need for inhuman perfection to arouse subliminal desires with advertising purposes, it is often used to shock, for obscene or political purposes. Seen this way, human body is something ridiculous, far from the beauty it represents.
And still, the years around the fall of the Berlin wall were dominated by the enthusiasm of the paradigm that „everything works”, (Feyerabend, 75) that there are no things excluded apriori from the speech, that anybody, any group which used to be discriminated before can be integrated. Maybe after 9/11 or after the economic crisis in 2008 it has become more clear that all the ideologies that entered Eastern countries right after the revolution and that seemed symbols of freedom, were nothing more than new illusions, new ideologies.
You thought that you had woken up, whereas you had just entered a new dream, at a new level. And for a long time you think that that illusion, those values which seem taken for granted, are the reality, in a way like in Matrix.
We pass from one awakening to another and each seems an illusion, which is desecrated after a while and becomes unsatisfactory. The same would happen to an imaginary person who would live through a series of centuries and would become aware of the changes of meaning that occur every two or three generations and of the result that the values which are opposite to the previous ones become privileged every time.
Reality is organized on different levels, like a world, like an onion or, more beautifully, like a lotus in which every new layer, every petal is a new reality. My aim is not to make the ontology of reality, especially as the realities we are talking about consist of structures of meanings, my aim is to explain what emancipation should be in a world that is understood that way.
The speech of emancipation
It happened not once that a generation considered itself reborn, enlightened, emancipated, modern by throwing away the values of previous generations and by thinking that only they have discovered how the world should be. The generations that came after them weren't always grateful. Partly because there is often a nostalgia of the past, even a nostalgia of a mystified world, of a world of traditions with a taste of archaism, of a possibly illusory eternity, which still seems real, in contrast with the desecrated/emancipated world created by their parents. And partly because these new values which were considered superior became as compulsory and rigid for them as those of their grandparents for their own children.
Values have the tendency to stiffen, the generation which is emancipated, illuminated, reborn, and has become modern, will enforce its own values as being superior and will obviously get a refusal from the new generations which also want to recreate the world according to their own likeness.
What might emancipation be today? Emancipation involves an oppressive structure. Is there an oppressive structure in Europe today? Actually, there is an advertising cultural system, which becomes oppressive, the mass media, which imposes on us certain common places, becomes an oppressive structure. Powers led by strong thinking (as opposed to weak thinking (G.Vattimo)) exist even today, but they display different manipulative mechanisms, that convince in a way which is unseen, that are less direct than those used by the regimes in the previous century, mechanisms that are closer to the manipulation used by the churches to attract people to conversion by fascinating the believers. What joins these mechanisms is that they work through seduction, through pretence, not oppressively like the unquestionable values imposed by communism or by fascism (which themselves had a seductive, convincing speech before becoming oppressive).
Emancipation would be the way to avoid being tricked, distracted by certain manipulations, so that they don't give a set of values that society wants to impose on us as being obvius, using the same terms like sexuality, health, normality that Michel Foucault declared to be the basis of manipulation and seduction through which authority operates.
For example, today things that cannot be discussed have become politically correct, but that can lead to the exclusion of the supposed oppressors, imposing them a collective guilt and collective guilt always leads to anomalous situations. Because there wasn't religious freedom, that of hanging priests in the French Revolution It didn't have to do anything with the freedom of belief. Liberation was interpreted as killing the oppressors and all those who, by analogy, share a common guilt, that is often imaginary. Awakening, to use the gnostic expression, emancipation would be to acknowledge these common things.
We have to admit that no matter how much we wish to believe in absolute values, any idea, any ideal can turn into a nightmare, any value can turn into its own opposite when it becomes an idol. And maybe, from a spiritual point of view, that is exactly why we shouldn't make idols, or any absolute, indisputable values.
At the moment of freedom it seems that there is a general inclusion of each of us, but instantly there starts an opposing movement of exclusion, of searching for enemies, because in the name of hatred the world forms a coalition more eagery than in the name of any other ideal.
In order to make an enemy we need an ideal that is good and beautiful and accepted by everyone.How is an enemy made? How do we make an enemy when we need him for our social cohesion? The creation of an enemy is based on the notions of truth and falsity, of the truth that we need for our self-assurance, it is based on the mechanisms of manipulation, on the image we have of our body, subjectivity and safety.
Emacipation, the word itself, has often been used in a manipulative way, sometimes only to instigate the purchase of certain objects which , but it was worse when it was used to make an enemy, to instil the image of an oppressor, identified as being a class of people, a nation or a gender. The differences between the individuals of these groups are faded, what matters is only the membership to this evil group, the group of the old oppressors, against whom any kind of revenge is permitted.
Victimization as (a way of) reading history
History, the events of the past can be interpreted in thousands of different ways, not just through battles, not just through kings or politics. There can be a history of fears, of fashion, of trade, of piracy. But in any research there will be a premise, a bias that is not always conscious and that will govern the results of the research. The author will always try to prove something: that the actual regime represents the victory of goodness on earth, that there always have been good doctors, that the interpretation of an event or of a historical character is false, or, on the contrary, it is decisive for the understanding of history. The author will also choose those events which were fundamental for what we are today.
History has always been written by victors or in the name of some social values that were fashionable at a certain point. That means that there will always be some bias in the telling of history. Still, history is beautiful, it helps you find your roots, the history of your people, of your city helps you understand yourself better, know better the past that determines you. That is why we choose as our heroes and decisive historical events those people and events that help us achieve that goal: justifying our existence, our ideals.
Does that mean that our history is falsified? No, if it describes real acts and analyses them from all the possible points of view. Falsifying history means a one-sided, tendentious, malicious view of the events.
I would like to shortly analyse the ways we can minimize the falsification in history and proceed as much as possible towards a probably true history.
Considering that the most manipulations of the historical discourse are made by the victors, we will have to give voice to the defeated to see things as objectively as possible. In the eyes of the defeated the victors are often seen as oppressors, criminals, completely differently from the way the victors present themselves in their history.
On the other hand there is another more treacherous way of rewriting history and that is martyrdom, as fashionable today as it was in the past to provoke hatred.
Martyrdom means that history is presented as the story of a group's martyrdom with the purpose of blaming another group, claiming that it is at least collective guilt, and the group in this case is presented exclusively as an executioner. This one-sided way of seeing history means only to justify revenge, the eradication of a group, considered the incarnation of evil.
This mechanism is often used to justify a war or to find a scapegoat.It was done by the Christian church who used the martyrs and the saints to achieve their political goals, which were often opposite to the lives of those saints. It was done by the communism who presented the values of the nobility solely as oppression, it was done by the heirs of the seized Hungarian territories after the Paris Peace Treaties that presented the history of those regions exclusively as long sufferings caused by the Hungarians, denying any positive influence. It is done by the feminism which presents women as eternal victims of the oppressive men, blaming and denying any merits of manhood. The Austro-Hungarian Empire rewrote the history of Eastern-Europe as being a continuous fight against the Ottoman Empire, while actually they don't admint the positive effects of the Turkish domination and thus deny a valuable and creative part of their own history.
But false history is not sustainable, it involves compromises, black holes in history and implicitly leads to the sterilization of the history of that place, to a forced amnesia.
But, if any historical knowledge is interpretation, as we established beforehand, what is the basis for telling which history is false and which is not.
Actually, we don't claim that any interpretation is correct, on the contrary, each interpretation is biased. There is a paranoid reading of reality as there are persecutors, there is conspiracy as there are plots.
And still, why do I consider reading history as victimization, martyrdom a false history? There have been persecuted, oppressed people, that is not a lie. Does that mean that history should always belong to the winners and the defeated should be silent?
Reading history exclusively as martyrdom is always tendetious, especially if it covers a long period of time in which there are certainly new elements of balance.
Poland disappeared from the face of the Earth for 150 years. Can we say that they didn't suffer? No, but we neither can say that they did nothing else but suffer all that period. They have great poets and artistic buildings from that period, which too are integral parts of their history. There are millions of other examples like this, where the main focus is not on victimization, neither on the gratitude for the oppressor, but on resignation and on getting the most of the situation.
Or another example is atheism which turned churches into stables, denying any positive contribution made by churches in the creation of human culture. Church in turn did the same with the pagan values, especially as having been oppressed it tends to become an oppressor itself, building mainly on martyrdom, on a category of people who proclaimed themselves victims of society and expect to be privileged and hate others.
Yes, if a history presents to me a society divided in black and white, in grous of oppressors and of oppressed, if it doesn't try to present the advantages of that era even for those who accepted oppression, then that history is tendentious and falsified.
My idea is that a dualist, contradictory reading is a false and tendentious one that uses martyrs, uses other people's suffering not to help them, but to make political capital, to justify power and abuse of power.
Being victims, the rancour described by Nietzsche is a manipulative mechanism, that confers the right to hate and to avenge. Enemies are created in this way (Todorov, 2012). We talk about inciting hatred through victimization (we are excluded, ill-treated, so we have the right to hate those who maltreat us) which often is an illusion, we often take revenge on people who have little or nothing to do with our exclusion, we just take revenge on whoever we can. Should we then accept opposite points of view as being true, should we accept that things are the best possible way? But this discourse of goodness also has its pitfalls, compassion often takes us on the wrong way.
Unfortunatelly, goodness can lead us to the absence of any values, of any directions, of any verticality and harms not only the people who practise it, but also those who are treated this way. There is no absolute goodness and thus, we expect gratitude or at least the same kindness that we offered. But it is like we are dealing with a child who we allowed to do and have everything and then we asked why he/she cannot accept the rules of cohabitation: give what you can if you accept to get something in return.
There is an awakening, a liberation from this mechanism meaning that I don't accept to be treated as a victim but neither as an executioner.
would be staying alert and not being deceived by certain manipulations, refusing to take for granted the order of values that the society wants to impose on us. In gadmerian key it would be permanently questioning our own presumptions and prejudices. That would suppose a more profound self-knowledge to observe and judge our own view, our own point of view. Making things relative or accepting them sometimes means that we have the courage to wonder just like Socrates did at the market of Athens saying „How many things that I don't need!” (Diogenes Laertios)
In the Western countries we live under a continuous siege of advertisments. The values of consumerism are imposed on us as a reality that is often captivating. For some it may appear as the utmost expression of freedom that man can reach, but it may also appear as a new kind of constraint through seduction.
My suggestion is to keep a permanent state of alertness, to get to know the manipulative mechanisms. That might help us avoid falling into their traps by following goals and ideals that are not our own. Only constant doubt can be the way to awakening, to continuous alertness so that we don't get bound to other ideals but our own. Thus we can be free without being manipulated or distracted by authorities to follow their goals.
M. Foucault showed us the mechanisms through which authorities work upon us, these are rarely constraint, rather seduction, by seducing a truth about our bodies, about our sexuality, about good or bad, about what is allowed and what is prohibited, healthy or unhealthy. Let's be alert, most often the discourse which incites hatred is the pitfall of a truth that may not be ours, it may not represent us, but the discourse that incites hatred and exclusion unites people. Unfortunately, it unites people more than love does, if we are not alert, if we don't realize the manipulative power of a discourse that incites hatred.
Society today is more permissive from certain points of view, its goal is to embrace all the people who have been excluded from the society if that's possible. From other points of view emancipation is just illusory if it is not authentic, because sometimes when we throw away the boundaries that limit us we actually create a greater disaster. The excluded person represents us, we should wonder why can't we integrate him, maybe we should ask ourselves what is so fantastic in our culture, in ourselves that it might make him want to become like us, and maybe we would realize that he is right in that he doesn't want to become one of us, in that he doesn't want to be assimilated into the Western lifestyle that we ourselves criticize so often.
Be wide awake would be to know the manipulative mechanisms and discourses that come from the consumer society, lto leave the vicious circle of our manipulation through our wishes, through our image of our own bodies, health, sexuality, comfort.
Secondly, we should be alert, not to let ourselves be manipulated by discourses that incite hatred, even in a sublte way, appealing to our goodness, compassion through a speech about victimization.
And, last but not least, emancipation today should be discarding the discourse about emancipation, often used for manipulative purposes. It is high time for each individual to reach a real self-determination, to see what our way is and what is it that others want to impose on us for their own purposes, in the name of an emancipation from an imaginary oppressor.
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Feyerabend. P. - Against Method. New Left Books, London 1975.
Foucault M- Histoire de la sexualité. 1. Le volonté de savoir. Gallimard, 1976
Gadamer HG.- Warheit und Methode, Tunigen, 1960
Orban, V- Discourse on the University of Balvanyos, 2014
Todorov, T.- Les ennemis intimes de la démocratie, Paris, Robert Laffont, 2012
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