Thursday, September 11, 2014

Various Nihilisms.

The Christian Bale Batman series is an excellent way of getting a handle on three strands of nihilism. These moments in film, therefore, tend to provide limits to what we can achieve; and in particular, guard rails for how we are to conceive of ourselves. Hopefully by running through these characters, in particular, Bane, Joker and Ra's Al-Ghul and the 'anarchist' defender Batman, we can get a picture of why nihilism is seen as so problematic. Contrary to contrary belief, Anarchism is Order, and Anarchy is Disorder. Therefore, we might say, Batman is a liberal anarchist, while the others play various anarchy roles, with Heath Ledger's Joker on the complete opposite of the spectrum.

According to Christian Bale, perhaps not an authority, but certainly a window into vigilante justice through the lens of the actor playing Batman, Batman has options:

For me he [Batman] is an anarchist and a free spirit. He knows that there are parallels between him and his enemies because life is never stable — you always have to fight for it. Keeping in mind that it may never be boring and that nobody is obliging you to behave like a superhero and to always have your muscles flexed and bulging."

We can see this freedom is generated against the lens of anti-civilizational fascism, in the battle between Ra's Al-Ghul's desire to burn the city to the ground--or at least give them some of their own medicine via Scarecrow and the fear-generating blue flower, which, if you'll recall, is used by the league of Shadows to overcome fear--and Batman's desire to hold space for the people of Gotham. We might then say that Ra's Al-Ghul was attempting to produce growth, however undesired in the (good) process of facing fears. This is a form of fascist healing very much on all fours with primitivist thought as being the last word on "reform", the negation to end all negations. It seems likely that this is desired in order to foster a new way of living, one against decadence, as "Ra's" sun filled light would generate life out of death. A new shell. And such seems pretty, lovely, but deeply fascist, from a freedom point of view. As I've tirelessly harped in other places: One is not free unless one has options to choose. Therefore both Batman (anarchist attempts to resuscitate Civ and generate true civilege) and Ra's Al-Ghul (new anti-civ beginnings) get the individual notion wrong: we are just particulars suffering consequences, and we need to be able to build our own world, or not, and thereby, be free to dissociate. 

On the opposite side, as antithetical within nihilism, with anti-civ destruction here as thesis, we have Joker; one that doesn't care about anything, and yet one that is very much interested in teaching others about immaterialism. Recall the lesson of the stolen money, burnt for the idiot criminals without a (power)ful perspective; a lesson which is then, in that reading, an effort to make one have money (Mammon), rather than be had by it. Perhaps Joker is saying against Bonnano that Qualitative Life has nothing to do with depending on money. In short, Joker doesn't care if Gotham reforms itself; he wants to prove that sheeple are irredeemable. So he sets up the boat-game, if you recall: If X and Y could kill each other, and it is likely that either will, the question is which group would do it first, the wealthy fucks, or the criminals. Obviously the criminals want to kill the rich--and why wouldn't they, these being perhaps 'the' source of their misery--and the wealthy fear death because then they might realize that everything they desire is completely meaningless, which ideally would demonstrate their true indifference. Joker generally represents whatever-being, indifferent cruelty, perhaps, but one with a bit of active-conscience. This motivation is more or less unclear, and isn't therefore exactly correct from the lips of Michael Caine, viz., that Joker just wants to see the world burn. There is more to the story which makes him just enough related (and so anti-thetical) to Ra's Al-Ghul. Perhaps he is saying that even if Gotham were to start over, there would still be all the crap that comes with civilization.  Neither the poor, nor the rich, ought to care about money; neither ought to rule. So Joker wants to bring the shell and its internals down, to burn it, so that anarchy might reign.

Bane is perhaps to be a synthesis, on this reading. He is an active marxist, forcing new conditions in the shell of the old. He is a nihilist, but of the right ilk in an anti-fascist register, given that he wishes to see the poor rise up and form a dictatorship (of the...). Yet, his position is absurd, perhaps because it is a synthesis of two poles: he would still bomb the whole damn thing, and not only if there is external rescuing, as the plans indicate. Batman checks out at this point, perhaps because it would seem impossible to do the right thing--give that this is better??; or perhaps, on the other hand, he leaves entirely because his right wing privilege would be taken apart by Bane.

Certainly more can be fruitfully said. And I hope you think it and carry this story on. But in the least we can ask ourselves: Whom do we wish to be like? Are we stuck in a synthesis? Are we reactionary and producing an antithesis? Or, are are we eclipsing both of these modes of negation, onwards and outwards?