Saturday, January 07, 2006

Magic Materialism

The American version of modernity is atavistic in its magic materialism. This is to be somewhat distinguished from the simple love of material goods and their ostentation, of which there is of course an abundance. Magical materialism is the tendency to ascribe transcendent powers to objects, organisms and potions; to believe for instance in the omnipotence of medicines and technology -- especially optimism about technical solutions for looming ecological disasters, the belief that a "war" is the most dynamic mode of amelioration, and (encompassing the simplest sense of materialism) the belief that happiness is a matter of having the right thing or things, or that a thing is a necessary and sufficient condition for happiness (in its most extreme form, addiction).

There is an aspect of magic materialism that is darker than mere consumerism or pollyanism, and that is the belief in hypnotics, black-magic material things that corrupt our moral nature. The quintessential examples are "drugs," as they understood by the Prohibionists -- which nearly all Americans are. Drugs, it is populalrly thought, cause one to steal and prostitute oneself -- though this is of course a distorted oversimplification. Sex is another corruptive thing (both cause and mode of corruption, depending), that is why the hypnotic female form must be so tightly controlled.

What magic materialism, especially American materialism, denies with its fixation on the material or fleshy, is the much more potent abstract corrupters, money and power. The free marketeers all but espouse Gordon Gekko's maxim: "Greed is good." On the other hand they tend to exonerate all motives not based absolutely directly (with video of bags of cash) in personal profit, or corrupt pleasure. They seem to have no idea whatsoever that power can be in itself pleasant and inherently corruptive. Nothing abstract, nothing that spring from man's own nature can be corrupt, they seem to think. Why, we are created in God's image! This allows the Boobosie to believe that W is more immue to the giddiness of a "war President's" absolute power than he was to the siren call of booze and blow.


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