That was a long way around saying that we are buried in lies.
Answering the question, Why? with a plain statement,
It’s difficult to take these as anything more than truisms. Perhaps a pertinent question would be to ask why is this suddenly so pervasive, so tangled into every context?
There are truths. There are truths available to anyone willing to look for them. There are heuristics that can help us ferret out acts of bad faith and distinguish them from simple errors of fact.
This is true of every institution, of every organization formulated within the paradigm of thought as it has been accepted over the last half-dozen millennia. This not only means that governments don’t work as we expect them to or that the insanity behind the term The Economy is a complete disaster. Or that schools, health care, even the world’s various military establishments, never accomplish their stated goals. For so many people today, even raising children, doing anything that relies on our thinking our way out of our conditions into better circumstances, nothing works.
This describes the point of our tragedy. It could be said that all of the substantive elements of our Predicament are acting out the depth of this inability to see the consequences and find any creative responses to where we find ourselves internally, spiritually, in failed relation with everyone and everything.
This is also the point when a rising sense that there is a lot that can be done, that there is much begging to be done, still left undone, rises within me. A sense that there is… I was going to say a path; but a path implies a trail to be followed…. We need another way to describe a sense of the palpable implication that there is a way to proceed that is not immediately open to confusion with some sort of plan or path to be followed. Having ideas itself is broken. Our familiar sense that we orient ourselves by thinking of problems; arriving at solutions; and then implementing them is broken.
Perhaps underlying all our bad faith is a terror of facing our consequences. Bad faith is precarious, and, those under its spell know that, though not necessarily consciously. This dissonance drives the destructive powers that surround us. Knowing that an identification with an absurdity leaves a creature; one starved for identity and therefore starved for certainty and aching with an emptiness yawning ever-wider and deeper as one falls into the maw of bad faith; such a creature must turn its energies towards blotting-out anything and anyone who may at some point dare to confront them and expose their lack. Every posturing after Power is a bluff to cover over a doubt. This is all that is left to us, the only certainty remaining once bad faith takes root and we become wrapped in reflexive conditioning, projecting what appears to be a real threat outwards onto another, leaving us no apparent option than to destroy this other.
This may be the most pernicious attribute of bad faith. It leads its victims, its true victims, those it drives and condemns to carry out its suicidal depredations, to defend its falsehoods by any means and to go to any lengths…. They can only tramp onward, toiling at their hellish labors, refusing any assistance, refusing anything that might show them a way out.
It’s most likely that our gentle reader recognizes their ideological opponents in the pitiful creatures I’ve been describing. Nodding and murmuring in agreement it will be a great shock to realize that I include anyone basing their identity on one side of any polarity over another as equally self-deluded; equally suffering under the effects of bad faith.
We hear about false equivalency, that you can’t compare the levels of violence each side is willing to go to and that appeasement only empowers aggressors. The Second World War is brought up as a lesson, “The Nazis had to be confronted!” This is true. But, we are only too willing to glide over the fact that those who confronted that horror were willing to stoop to any level of horror themselves to win what they could only see as a righteous victory. By failing to see how all sides, how the whole idea of taking sides in the way they had been taken-up for all those centuries leading up to what happened between 1938 and 1945 was broken. They were also complicit. No one can ever claim righteousness without falling into bad faith. Failing to recognize their own bad faith ensured that whatever victory occurred in 1945 was bound to be hollow. Just another staging point for further horrors.
This insistence to be a traitor to my side is as essential as it is alienating. Not so much alienating in itself as in the way it exposes an alienation that lies behind any supposed fellow-feeling partisanship might provide, the fellow-feeling of the righteous in battle with their enemies. Among the deep casualties of our breakdown is a failure of our imaginations. Stupefied by our insistence that bad faith is someone else’s problem we have lost the capacity to connect the dots. The heirs of previous generations of brutality, off-spring of past victims, act out the same atrocities upon those they have chosen to be their victims in a horrendous inter-generational passing on of horror begetting horror.
None of this is insurmountable if and when bad faith is owned and recognized as no refuge at all, but a trap. Caught in reflexive loops of fear and escalating violence we refuse to reflect on whether fear is the only possible stance available to us. We insist on jumping out of all sense entirely and continue to put all our energies into denying that in our hearts what we fear is our own complicity being discovered. This denial is the rotten kernel at the heart of bad faith.
“The War on Terror” as a name it is just too “on the nose.” Like Caligula’s “War against Ocean” it attempts to hide a pitiful inanity, an infantile displeasure at finding reality too stubborn to fall in with our flimsiest wishes. Terror is a bad faith prevarication. Throwing the term terrorist at our scapegoats claims that our own fear, our cowardice at confronting our condition must be someone else’s fault. Someone else should pay. We insist that bringing destruction to those too weak to defend themselves will bring us Peace.
We are in a war on terror. This much is true and, as with every violence ever inflicted, it rebounds onto those who claim righteousness on their side. Transfixed by our fears we lash out in ways that ensure that the terror we so fear will rebound upon us as we bring a greater terror to the whole world. The more we destabilize our situation the more frightened we become, and on and on.
As our total ineffectiveness to alter our conditions beats us down battle fatigue sets in. None of our revelations ever go beyond filling a stereotypical form of recreational banter. We’re left helpless and isolated within a commonplace chatter, mouthing a predictable litany of complaints flavored by our own particular predilections and those of our cohort. These noises are never meant to do anything about the situations we profess to abhor. After a suitable interval, as if a switch was thrown, we laugh, we shrug, we get back to the day-to-day. Satire doesn’t work anymore. Neither does commitment. Resistance is just another meme….
It is considered rude – not actually acting ill-mannered that is seen as a breath of fresh air by many. – It is seen as rude, breaching a deep taboo, to want to take our concern any further. We are warned-off attempting to reach beyond this reflexive fur-shake meant to magically rid us of an evil we would prefer to think we have managed to slink past.
It is essential that we grasp the depth and breadth of our bankruptcy, of the failure of all of our means. This is essential work if we are to go beyond hiding behind bad faith. Let’s not confuse this effort with the current habit of consuming disaster.
There is so much that can be done. Much to do. But, this effort requires us to engage in ongoing practices, in developing relations. Nothing truly substantive can be arrived at by piling-on yet another warning or generating a further proliferation of elaborate scenarios of mega-death and world-wide destruction.
One last negation. The Internet is not broken. It does not work in any other way than to act as a mechanism for the wholesale evisceration of any internal life, any relational life we might still piece together. It cannot be otherwise since it grows out of a Technological Project whose driving principle has always been to find a way to jump out of our own skins and revel in turning our backs on anything that might show us our actual condition. Looking to reform it, find a version 3.0…. None of these schemes will do anything but dupe us into further predatory delay while providing increased ROI to a few twisted fucks.
There is much that can be done but it can only come about face-to-face within a life shared. It can never arise while we go on hiding in an elaborate simulacrum. The only way to defeat bad faith is to start by acknowledging our complicity in it and turning in expectation towards those others who are ready to do the same. Recognizing and accepting the total bankruptcy of our available means frees us to find our way through the ruins. In bad faith we are always ready to argue hypotheticals and claim this or that absolute. When we find ways to drop bad faith we find ourselves to be here. We are present now. We see what we can see as well as we can see it. We take in our situation and our circumstances and we find ways to act. If, in the next moment we find we are still here, we are then present in that moment. In this way we slowly, or rapidly, leave our current condition behind. We stop ransoming what-is against a phantom of our fear. At that point there is much that we can do….
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©Antonio Dias, 2010 – 2023
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6 thoughts on “The question of Bad Faith”
Wow, Bad Faith was great.
It’s so strangely, almost fascinatingly, difficult to turn our attention towards “the beam in our own eye.” I like how you said: “Nodding and murmuring in agreement it will be a great shock to realize that I include anyone basing their identity on one side of any polarity over another as equally self-deluded; equally suffering under the effects of bad faith.”
It’s difficult (but also simple when it happens) of turning to notice our own mistakes. This action gently undermines the vicious circle of repeating our mistakes. It’s difficult to communicate what is meant by looking inward (not merely thinking about myself, but walking into a wider perspective that doesn’t have blinders of personal interest, that doesn’t “project”) is still the thing that is most tantalizing. It’s really about learning what it means to meditate. Projection seems to mean what I meant by an overly positive (positing “enemies”, solutions, answers) orientation.
It’s a beautiful and boggling mystery, because when it works there’s never a “how to” that can be remembered or passed on. It’s an art, or more like an athletic skill in some sense. After all, athletic genius is proprioceptive movement. But if this living, body intelligence (this fundamental honesty) can be widened to include the “actions” of thought (self-image especially), then the spontaneous qualities of athletic intelligence flow into a more subtle field. This is my way of approaching what you mean by practice.
Also, I think you’d really like Arno Gruen. I know you read at least one thing, but I’m reading it a lot lately, and it has a similar ring: https://www.arnogruen.net/