Saints, Strangers and Enemies”
An excellent Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio “Encounter” program: “Saints, strangers and enemies”
“The 20th century was haunted by the figure of the enemy – that often spectral, but sometimes all-too-real threat to national well-being and way of life. According to political theorist and Nazi-sympathizer Carl Schmitt, it is the unique vocation of politics to name the enemy, to give “Evil” a face, and then mobilise national resources and sentiment against it.
Obviously, the threat of the enemy has always proven far more seductive and enthralling than commitment to the friend, in the same way that solidarity in the face of war is easier to generate than the hard work of peace. This second of a two-part series explores the fundamental drama of ethics – how to discern whether a stranger is in fact an enemy, or a bearer of divine grace, and the way that the surprising and often unconventional example of modern “saints” can expand our moral vision.”
“In our desire to be protected from harm, have we closed ourselves off from the miracle of hospitality?”
“Charles Taylor makes a very good point in his book “A Secular Age” when he says that our contemporary society is very often guilty of what he calls “excarnation,” that we have become more and more and more disembodied. We’ve kind of entered into an immaterialism. Materialism is denounced as the great evil of the age, and that’s a certain kind of consumerist commodity materialism and I agree. But actually it’s an immaterialism of living in a spectral, vicarious simulated world – which is how indeed the whole advertising commercial industry lives.
So it’s an immaterialising of matter that leads to this consumerist materialism. Because we’re not getting the thing itself. We’re getting the image, the simulacrum of the thing itself. So moving from a civilisation of excarnation of spectacle and simulacrum and simulation and so on back to a civilisation, back to, forward to a new civilisation of embodiment and incarnation. And the potential beauty of incarnation it seems to me, extremely important. But that means accepting the messiness of the body, the contingency of the body, and the frailty and vulnerability of the body. And they’re kind of terms that people are very uneasy with. Ever since philosophically Descartes, who wanted to create this little bubble called cogito that would be free of the external world, you know, which he called the res extensa the extended universe out there. And that has a substance, but it’s basically a disincarnate. Truth is clear and distinct and pretty much disincarnate. As is the disembodied cogito. And from that we gain a sense of modern security, autonomy, sovereignty, freedom – all good things up to a point. But taken out of that is our embeddedness, and our embodiment in the sheer wonderful messiness of being.”
The program can be heard on-line and a transcript accessed at: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/encounter/saints-strangers-and-enemies/5748004