Existence as violence

A correspondent referred me to a post by a “progressive Christian” blogger as a sign of a new frontier in inclusiveness. The post picked up on another blogger’s claim that “the self is inherently violent.” The example used was blogging, which involves self-assertion that comes at the expense of other bloggers. So it seems that the exclusionary quality of the distinction between oneself and others makes any sort of individual action in society an act of violence.

It’s an interesting claim, and it does make sense if you get rid of a creator God who makes particular existences good. In that case each of us is an unjust imposition on the peaceful equality of nonexistence. The idea sounds rather Buddhist, although I don’t know enough to say. It seems characteristic though that the discussion in the post views the self as constructed only horizonally, with no transcendent reference point.

It also sounds a bit like Heraclitus, with his idea that strife is the origin of all things. The difference is that Heraclitus is OK with strife, so he uses the term “justice” for the temporary stability brought into being by the balance of opposing forces. Maybe a problem with blogging even on that view is that it’s an attempt to enlarge one’s own existence and therefore disturb the stability. That concern seems to go against the grain of Heraclitus’ thought, though, since in his thought forces remain active and no balance is permanent.

The attitude toward blogging may even be a bit reminiscent of Samuel Beckett’s comment on writing: “I could not have gone through the awful wretched mess of life without having left a stain upon the silence.” In the absence of transcendence truth evaporates and writing becomes pure assertion and thus a violation. Everything else is a violation too, though, so maybe that’s not such a big deal.

And then there’s always Nietzsche’s idea that the will to power is the driving force of life.

It seems that for a Christian the self–the subjectivity of the individual soul–would be fallen rather than intrinically violent. But that requires a self that still retains a transcendent reference and is not wholly caught up in the immediacy of the present world. And “progressive Christianity” downplays the transcendent in favor of the this-worldly. Hence, I suppose, the bloggers’ comments.

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