Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Andrei Tarkovsky on Science and Modernity

The Russian film-director is one of the artists of the modern era whose renown will undoubtedly last and grow in coming centuries, provided that human civilisation itself manages to not fall into utter collapse in the strange bewildering future. Ours is not an Egyptian or Chinese type civilisation which could look in all probability to a future in rough imitation of the past. Below some words uttered in his final film, The Sacrifice:

Man has constantly violated nature. The result is a civilisation built on force, fear, dependence. All our technical progress has only provided us with a comfort, a sort of standard. And instruments of violence to keep power. We use the microscope like a cudgel. As soon as we make a scientific breakthrough we put it to use in the service of evil. And as for our standard, a wise man said that sin is that which is unnecessary. If that is so, then our entire civilisation is built on sin from beginning to end. We have acquired a dreadful disharmony, an imbalance between our material and our spiritual development...Our culture is defective.

Tarkovsky would, of course, not be particularly intent on justifying the ways of Satan to man in the charming forms of weapons utilising depleted uranium, the chemical weapons like Agent Orange manufactured and sold to the Saddam Husseins of this world( who occasionally have the dastardly gall to then use these trophies of western intellectualism for the purposes for which they are made).
But in these times of philosophical truthlessness, naturally evil is said to no longer exist, except as a justification for enacting evil: "Someone else is very evil. Therefore I must commit evil. I stand higher on the ladder of moral truth, because I am not as evil." Though, at least it oculd be said that evil in the basically materialist philosophy of the moment has far more of a right to claim its existence than does truth. What passes for truth is to be measured in terms of gradations of evil, not as any kind of absolute living force. Much less beyond than beneath good and evil, or concepts thereof.
Is it any surprise Satan- or absolute evil incarnated in a personality- is described as the great dissembler, the father of lies, the corruptor through sophistry, that there is no truth in him? Truly the Prince of this world.


Wangbu said...

Hello! You have a motivating blog! I am happy to visit it.

Andrew K said...

Cheers, wangbu. Glad the tone of this post not too deep. But I'm a little of the opinion of a line by William Burroughs:
"The name of the game is to find your enemy. Your enemy's tactic is to pretend he doesn't exist."

Rhotel1 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rhotel1 said...

What pray tell would Saddam have done with Agent Orange -- you do not need a defoliant to take down the jungle canopy in a desert with very few trees? You continue to be very much ill informed about depleted uranium and now even about Agent Orange, which was a terrible mistake to have been used. Maybe you should go take a science class or two before meandering around on your blog.

Andrew K said...

I'm sorry, Rhote, I was crediting people with enough intelligence to realise that in the post that Agent Orange was being used in the broad sense of the family of chemical weapons, and "the Saddam Husseins of this world" is clearly language used in a descriptive sense, referring to a type of political leader, rather than to a specific peson. I admit it's my fault for failing to allow for the possibility for being read by an idiot. Apologies.

Just to show what was written...again apologies for having to condescend to such a low level:

the chemical weapons LIKE Agent Orange manufactured and sold to the Saddam Husseins of this world.

Agent Orange was an example of such a vile weapon manufactured by certain industries, & Saddam H was an example of the type of ruler who might buy and then actually use such weapons. I hope that's cleared it up for you. I'm glad you accept how vile and evil it as to use AO on a people one is supposedly helping, though naturally it is utterly evil to use such a thing in sny circumstances. That's what happens when, to quote Bill Hicks, you're sucking Satan's cock.

BTW, any thoughts on Tarkovsky's thoughts on modernity, materialism, etc while you're here? Since what is said in the film is self-evidently true, what could one expect from the very pinnacles of power within such a fucked up society. Though since your only contributions have amounted to a defence of means of killing people and war, I can't say I expect much in the way of allegiance to truth and all that. There's words by someone of quite an extraordinary degree of pesonal truth- Jesus- who is recorded as saying:
"The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil."

Easy to see which side of the truth evil divide your natural allegiances lie.

Also you say Agent O was "a terrible mistake." What makes you think the authorites consider & considered it a mistake? They knew it was a chemical weapon, & they went ahead & used it for ten years.
And of course, they denied, exactly as you're doing now with a different vile weapon, anything like the results we know resulted from its usage.

Andrew K said...

I should also add that rhote's view is a symptom of exactly the worldview described in the initial post- as there is no question of Rhote's position being that of an individual, it is simply a symptom of the defective, truthless culture. Thus, the sick evil of the deployment of Agent Orange is simply "a mistake"...an intellectual error, not a clear willed act of evil. Though far beyond this, truth is simply to be measured in gradations of truthlessness; it is in no sense a living reality of absolute value. And so, completely besides the whole point of the intellectual issue, he seeks to gain some kind of moral ground on the basis of the wrong political leader linked with the wrong chemical weapon, though fittingly this childish failure to discern the simple meaning of the language used was itself a symptom of this removal from truth. Through the filter of falseness, how can one hope to discern anything but falseness. Though repeating, in fairness to rhote he is simply a very typical symptom of this wallowing in truthlessness, rather than any example of an independent mind working on its own steam.

BrdlyHys said...

David Cronenberg seems to incorporate ideas of violation and modernism into his films in a graphically visual but somehow spiritually poorer way (Crash and Existenz are the ones I'm thinking about but glancing at his filmography I see I am unfamiliar with most of his work). It might be his object, though, to reflect the spiritual staleness of life in the U.S. Still, the images of bodies being impaled has a provocative value that may in some situations lead to reflection, kind of like Bill Hick's statement about sucking Satan's cock.

As a personal response to the apparent reign of Satan, I hope you are wrong. The first substantive criticism I can think of, however, is that I always thought that evil had to be self-conscious, and feel there is reason to believe that those responsible for the atrocities being carried out by American forces are not fully conscious of how nefarious they are. Granted, there could be self-delusion on their part--meaning they make a very conscious effort not to fully examine the consequences and essence of their actions, but we can't really know, can we?

I am hesitant to speak of evil because I think its germ exists in all of us, in sort of a parallel way to the ideas of Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake for preaching that God exists in all things.

Simone Weil formulated a moral theory by which evil is likened to gravity, and goodness to grace. Evil wins in most cases but is kept in check by grace, preserving the remarkable balance of opposing tensions in which we exist.

So I am tempted to say that we should concentrate on cultivating grace and leave the judging to God, but it seems to me that cultivating grace is exactly what your blog does by refusing to let ignominy (or idiocy--sorry rhotel1) be comfortably forgotten on one hand and making so many references to enlightened individuals.

Andrew K said...

Though I must admit I hated Cronenberg's Crash probably more than any other film I've seen. Whatever it was about/against, I couldn't feel any sense of the truth, humanity which saturate Tarkovsky's works.

I tried to suggest a little of the broadness of what can be understood by Satan- whether real or not, an incarnation of evil within a pesonality. Evil being dedication to unreality, truthlessness pushed to the logical extreme. And mainstream western culture could certainly, as said in The Sacrifice, to be dedicated to these kind of things.
That this possibility of evil is part of the human inner landscape is certain, & thru going down its pathways, one presumably becomes taken over by it, possessed by it. It's simultaneously an inner reality & external force.
I think it's pretty clear these people at the centre of power know what they're doing, they are working towards goals, but simulatneously they can be almost human shells, possessed as suggested by Dostoevsky in "Demons."

Alot of very suggestive off-air footage in this film Spin,compliled from the election campaign that first got Clinton elected.