Ran across a Michael Hardin observation from Rachel Nuwer’s BBC article (a portion of which follows) that brought Girard to his mind:
Whether in the US, UK or elsewhere, the more dissatisfied and afraid people become, Homer-Dixon says, the more of a tendency they have to cling to their in-group identity – whether religious, racial or national. Denial, including of the emerging prospect of societal collapse itself, will be widespread, as will rejection of evidence-based fact. If people admit that problems exist at all, they will assign blame for those problems to everyone outside of their in-group, building up resentment. “You’re setting up the psychological and social prerequisites for mass violence,” Homer-Dixon says. When localised violence finally does break out, or another country or group decides to invade, collapse will be difficult to avoid. (BBC Article here; emphasis mine.)
The dynamics of identity formation and its personal and social manifestations are fascinating and sobering. I can’t help but start of 2018 with some wise advice from Loder and Frankl on the relevance and depths of the matter:
In Jesus Christ, the two sides of the self’s relationship to the Holy are revealed. In Jesus’ intimate relationship to the Father, whom he called Abba (“Papa”), he epitomized the transcendent movement of the self; through this relationship, he did only what he saw the Father doing. In effect, he composed the “world” after the Father and in accordance with the Father’s composition of the world. In this, Jesus revealed what it means to be truly human. On the other hand, by doing what the Father was doing, he revealed the nature of God as one who loves the world sacrificially. Thus for the self, the consequence of transformation at the hands of the mediating Christ is to be led into conflict with all other “worlds” and into a sacrificial love for the world which the Father composes and sustains.
— James Loder
Its definition [i.e., of convictional knowing] resides in Christ and its power in his Spirit, but its enactment is the particular ‘duty’ of each one who has been so loved by God. I say duty — the word suggested by Kierkegaard for the motive that lies behind ‘works of love’ — not to inflict moral conscience on a gracious act of the Spirit of God. Rather, to continue to love as one has been loved by God is the only way to abide in the transformation effected by his Spirit. This is what gives ultimate sanction to our claim that convictional knowing is the way of love; the only way to participate in it is to give love as it was given. To fail to give love is implicitly to participate in self-destruction or in the destruction of the self as spirit.
— James Loder
Through the coinherence of eternity and existence in love, the ethical significance of relationality emerges. Without an extended examination of Kiekegaard’s position on love (especially set forth in Works of Love), it is possible to describe the irreducibly relational nature of love. In the Great Commandment, there are no external standards to go by. After first loving God with our whole being so that “the God relationship [becomes] our conscience,” then we are told to love our neighbors as ourselves. The command begins and ends in relationality, and it works because if one must love his neighbor as himself, then the command, like a pick, wrenches open the lock of self-love and thereby wrests it away. In other words, since the eternal and the existential coinhere in love, there can be no other external criteria to justify love or to explain its duties which are not ipso facto less or lower than the relational reality of love itself. The very familiarity of the Great Commandment tends to obscure its radical ethical nature, but its basic power lies in the claim that relationality—not empirical fact, nor moral principle, nor rational argument—is the irreducible nature not only of love’s ethic but of human beings in themselves.
— James Loder
A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth—that love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way—an honorable way—in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life, I was able to understand the meaning of the words, “The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory.”
Viktor E. Frankl (Man’s Search for Meaning)
We’re gonna need such wisdom in the days to come.