Drury, Terror and Civilization. Christianity, Politics and the Western Psyche
Christianity and Freudianism
Wednesday, November 28th prime time; the Italian channel, Canale 5, transmits the TV program Matrix hosted by the journalist E. Mentana. The program discusses the government’s decision to prohibit gynecologists in a Turin hospital to use the RU 486 pill to terminate a pregnancy. The participants in this televised discussion are a government representative, a representative of the opposition, a gynecologist from the above-mentioned hospital and a priest.
The latter, one against all, does not lack courage nor impudence. In fact, he has no scruples to argue, while firmly upholding the Church’s position on abortion, that a surgical intervention is preferable to that of a pharmacological one. Reason being that it involves a quantum of pain and risk, which acts as a good deterrent against the intention of an abortion and favors the right to live of whom, allowing his emotions to come out for a moment in an unseemly manner, he emphatically and allusively calls "Him".
The panelists hurry to answer that his idea is disrespectful, not only to the health and the rights of women, but also to their identity as responsible human beings. This criminalization attributes them with a lack of affection and with an intent to murder which can only be contrasted by the threat of pain and the risk of life.
The ineffable priest smiles. He has good reason to do so, since the panelists don’t realize that, in answering in such a manner, they have played right into his hands. In fact, none of them objected to the "Him" expression which emphasizes the idea that the conceived is already a life, a person, allowing the schizophrenic liberty to think of a life without birth. None of them oppose the idea that abortion is murder and, therefore, they allow another argument to pass in favor of surgery: this has to be maintained because it conveys an image of cruelty which completes the deterrence due to the terror when faced with the risk of pain and loosing one’s own life, with the terror and guilt due to the prospect of taking away another person’s life.
The priest has reason to smile, ineffable and tolerant. He cares very little for the panelists’ responses. Once more, no one has objected to his evocation of that mysterious "Him", and so he has achieved his goal, carried out his mission: under the cloak of love and in the interest of life, which are condensed in that one evocation, he has made the use of the pill seem like something which belongs to a culture of death. At the same time, for just one second, he puts in the audience’s mind a shadow of terror, which he believes indispensable to civilization, they could be an accomplice to murder.
The priest smile because they don’t even pick up this ulterior effect of his reasoning or at least notice its existence.
I have mentioned this particular episode to point out the topical interest and importance of Shadia Drury’s most recent book, Terror and Civilization. Christianity, Politics and the Western Psyche, Palgrave, New York 2004, which deals with the above mentioned ulterior effect by the priest and opposes it. It does so by analyzing the roots and history of such an effect and exposing the contradictions in the argument that sustains it. It is noticing one, the most striking, of those contradictions, that the book begins: "In an age of test-tube babies, cloning, and stem cell research, many Christians believe that we are living in a "culture of death"" (p.1).
The author appears to be a really beautiful woman from her photograph on the internet site (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shadia_Drury). Drury was born in the Middle East in 1950 and in 1978 she graduated from York University of Toronto in Canada, with a degree in Political Science and a thesis on natural law. Currently, she teaches political science and philosophy at the University of Regina in Canada. Her first publication was her university thesis which was followed by the editing of a miscellaneous volume (Law and Politics: Reading in Legal and Political Thought, Detselig 1980). Ten years later, she published a book (Alexandre Kojève. The Roots of Postmodern Politics, St. Martin’s Press New York, 1994) on the Russian thinker Alexandre Kojève, who studied under Vladimir Soloviev and later under Karl Jaspers. Kojève lived in Paris after 1929 and he is known for his comment on Phenomenology of the Spirit by Hegel, which he developed during his stay at the École des Hautes Études between 1933 and 1939.
Starting at her book on Kojève, I begin to follow Shadia Drury in her journey through the ideology of death and terror, its roots and history.
The first part of this book is dedicated to the reconstruction of Kojève’s thoughts. The second part describes his influence on the protagonists of existentialism and of the French culture, such as Sartre, Quenau, Breton, Bataille, Segan, but also Hyppolite, Lacan, Foucault, Althusser, Deleuze, Derrida, Guattari. The third part illustrates his influence on L. Strauss, the founder of the American Neo-conservative movement, and on some of this movement’s prominent personalities such as Gourevitch, Gilden, Rosen, but above all D. Bloom and F. Fukuyama renown authors of The Closing of American Mind (Simon and Schuster, New York 1987) and The End of History (The Free Press, New York 1992) respectively.
Drury begins her book by highlighting Kojève’s interest for the Hegelian dialectic and how it is closely related to his interest for Marx’s dialectic and the Russian revolution. In fact, this interest is concentrated on the pages of Phenomenology of the Spirit dedicated to the servant-master dialectic which played a large part in constructing the ideology of Marx. According to Hegel, the appearance of individual conscience establishes a tendency for the individual to assert himself and to search until satisfied the recognition by another individual as a superior. This is obtained through a struggle and the winner is whomever develops the capacity of "being for death" by overcoming the terror of losing one’s own life and so raising oneself above the animal instinct of self-preservation. The outcome of this struggle in the constitution of two figures - master and slave - represents a pathological moment (p.17) that history tends to surpass and proceed towards reciprocal recognition which in Marxism becomes the communist society.
Drury maintains that the focal point of the interpretation which Kojève gives of Hegel is in undervaluing the Hegelian characterization of the mentioned historical moment as pathological and, instead, in underlining "that man’s humanity is intimately linked with this unprecedented act of conquest that begins with one man’s attempt to enslave another and reduce the other to a thing to use for his own purposes and satisfaction" (p.18); since that humanity isn’t other than the capacity of ‘being for death’ which elevates above the animalistic instinct of self-preservation and produces that act. Consequently, for Kojève, the course of history doesn’t consist of going beyond the master-slave relationship, but of the servant becoming master by obtaining the capacity of "being for death’ and of overcoming the brute and animalistic instinct of self-preservation.
The slave revolution promoted by Christianity, under a principle opposite to that of warrior and which Kojève defines as "feminine" (p.23), allows the slaves to find their humanity, which was lost or which they never had, because, in order to carry out this revolution, they must reach the same warrior humanity which they were subjected to, they must surpass their instinct of self-preservation, and they must learn ‘to be for death’. Hence, according to Kojève, in the subsequent historical part of this revolution, the Jacobine Terror in France, the Russian Bolshevism and Stalinism obtain a positive value (Drury didn’t mention weather Pol Pot attended Kojève’s seminars).
Nevertheless, Kojève doesn’t delude himself. After the revolution and in the absence of the moment of terror which made the slaves realize the concept of "being for death", although they have became emancipated, they loose once more their humanity due to the success of the "feminine principle" in modern history. They lost it in a way, that, due to its totality, Kojève deems definitive and, in the wake of Nietzsche, he theorizes as the time of the last man, the end of history.
Regarding Kojove’s motives and the reason for which he does not even consider the possibility of rescue from this modern and post-modern inhumanity, Drury suggests that Kojève in doing so, cultivates possibly his elitism on the extreme. His nihilist vocation allows him to feel as the absolute warrior who is able to contemplate and bear the end of the world and his own demise, as well as being able to face all the weight of nothingness.
However, Kojève’s French pupils weren’t of the same opinion. They shared his views on modernity as being the moment of losing the presence of "being for death" which constitutes man, but they opposed them by idealizing the transgression and praising the onset of sanguinary, violent, and destabilizing acts which could reintroduce some terror, beneficial to the world. Bataille’s Gilles de Rais, Foucault’s Pierre Riviere and the Antiedipo’s authors who made schizophrenia into a myth, owe a lot to Kojove’s teachings. As well as Lacan (p. ix & 93) with his translation of Kojève’s interpretation of the master-slave dialectic into a concept of desire as what occurs in the absence of an object, in the exposure to nothingness and death, and in seeking satisfaction to make the other an object by which to be fulfilled. It is in this concept by which terror becomes the protagonist three times: in the experiences of who desires, in that of the desired, and as the only way to respect the limits set by Father ’s law towards those who desire satisfaction [we must note that Lacan proposed that central point in his doctrine which is the interpretation of the Freudian negation (J. Lacan, Ecrits, du Seuil, Paris 1966 pp. 369-400) in a debate with J. Hyppolite, another commentator of Hegel linked to Kojève, and that he knew of Leo Strauss’ writings (op. cit. 879-898)].
Strauss and the Neo-conservatives move towards a direction, which although is dependent on Kojève’s terrorist ideology, it differentiates itself from the French one due to its contents and its influence.
In particular Strauss, as Drury demonstrates through her comment to his correspondence with Kojève, follows a path of study that, in part, differs from Kojève’s. He reaches a racist idea regarding diverse types of humans based on the natural capacity of a type which is superior to "being for death’ and on the natural incapacity for the common man to face the terror. Furthermore, in the sphere of the superior types, he differentiates the warrior and the philosopher entrusting the latter with the task of avoiding the end of the world through the realization of the tyrannical power to push man towards humanizing terror by various means including the beneficial concourse of cyclical catastrophes which terrorize with their actual or imminent occurrence. Unlike the Kojève’s philosopher, who is satisfied by the contemplation of the end of the world, the Strauss’ philosopher is involved in politics trying to reintroduce the vitalizing value of terror in history, while awaiting catastrophes to increase the possibility of a beneficial tyranny.
Strauss’ involvement in politics allows his thinking to greatly influence Drury’s country and throughout the world. For this reason, it was sufficient for Drury that the second part of her book on Kojève discussed his French followers, but the third part wasn’t enough to discuss Strauss as well as his and Kojève’s American disciples. Therefore she dedicated them two works (The Political Ideas of Leo Strauss, Palgrave, New York, 1988 2nd edition 2005 and Leo Strauss and the American Rights, St. Martin’s Press, New York 1997, 2nd edition 1999) which further illustrate, among other things, the strong presence of the terror ideology in their thoughts, actions and projects.
I will touch upon the most recent addition of these two books, and that is the first book’s ‘Introduction’ included in the 2005 2nd edition. This part is where Drury declares explicitly, more than anywhere else, the current political motives in her historic and philosophical research. These are connected to the fact that those currently in charge of American politics, which is aggressively oriented towards a strong limitation of civil liberties, in particular women’s rights, belong to the Strauss’ school of thought; and are also connected to the fact that "there is a precise connection" between his political ideas and "the ruinous state of American democracy and its tragic foreign politics" (p. x). Drury points her finger at their use of terror as a basis to acquire consent. The attacks on September 11th are the catastrophe awaited by Strauss to bring about the tyranny which the philosopher believes will rescue the American society, and the world, from coming to an end due to the flatness and debasement of modern liberalism. Strauss’ direct and indirect followers, who had reached positions of power, took advantage of this in order to re-launch, through the doctrine and the practice of preventive war, the beneficial presence of terror.
Drury’s interest in the terror ideology of today is joined with the deepening of her research of its roots.
In her latest book which is the subject of this review, she goes beyond the modern horizon and abandons Kojève, Strauss, Heidegger, Nietzsche, and Hegel, to turn further into the past in which, according to Kojève and Strauss, there was something opposite to that ideology. This opposite is the disheartening fact of trying to seek a recognition which is based on reciprocity rather than overpowerness and which uses, in order to obtain this, the female instrument of love instead of the virile and warrior-like one of terror. In other words, she questions Christianity.
From the beginning, Drury’s study on Christianity reveals a peculiar and audacious statement putting herself beyond a widespread prejudice. The connection between Christianity and terror, so the author argues, is vastly acknowledged and many studies have touched upon its most renowned displays, such as witch-hunting, the massacre of the Indios, Muslims in Spain and heretics etc. Nevertheless, these studies regularly revisit a limit that takes for granted the distinction between Christians and Christianity, between Church and Christ, between those who follow and apply Christ’s doctrine and those who consider this doctrine in its purity and in its original enunciation. In short, on the basis of an argument which Drury’s calls "apologetic", the aberration of Christianity’s history in a terroristic sense has been prevalently considered as a degeneration and not as a logic and necessary consequence of Christ’s teachings. She tries to demonstrate the opposite, that is the consistent substantial presence of intolerance in the evangelistic message, and of what she calls the "metaphysics of terror", which is also the title of the first part of her book.
The widespread belief that in this current era the culture of death has affirmed itself, it has developed into the belief that this could be due to the loss of religious values and that it could find a solution by the Church and Christianity regaining authority. Drury does not consider this second belief accurate since the roots of the culture of death are embedded in Christianity. Those who do not agree with this concept, not only do not take into account the Church’s criminal history but, above all, they do not consider that it is not altogether removed from Christ’s original teachings, and is instead a consequence of them.
Jesus Christ, Drury continues, is a paradox character. He has been respected by even the most radical critics of Christianity, which she identifies in Nietzsche and Westermarck, and he undoubtedly introduces positive aspects such as the disinterest for power, the refusal to think that human perversion justifies tyranny and the immunity to an irrational arrogance towards women. However, he cannot be completely absolved from all the crimes committed under his name. Christ isn’t as admirable, nor his doctrine as sweet and gentle as the author remembers (pp. 4-5) believing in her early years of Orthodox and Catholic education. It is evident that within him there are "character flaws" which are closely connected with the defects of the doctrine (p. 4).
The Gospel presents Christ as the incarnation of love, forgiveness, humbleness and human sufferance but also as an authoritative and vindictive being. Drury puts forth episodes of his life, from the synoptic and apocrypha Gospels, which demonstrate how Christ’s autocratic character reflects in his equalization of sin and in the absence of faith, as well as his vindictive character in his doctrine regarding damnation and hell.
The first brings forth intolerance and justifies persecutions. The second confers to the metaphysics of terror a form and quality which it lacked before. The Jews were aware of terror driven by God’s rage which revealed itself in floods, famine and slavery in Egypt. However, Christ introduces a new kind of terror, which is not connected with physical sufferance undergone in this world, but with a sufferance of both the body and soul to be experienced in the afterlife (p. 16).
Paradoxically, the metaphysics of terror animates the concept that Christ’s conception of Heaven as a reward to those who have not sinned for lacking faith. In fact, part of this reward is the joy due to the sadistic and satisfying contemplation of the damned being tormented. This is such, as the author provocatively says, that Himmler, since being afflicted by serious physical and psychological ailments while taking part in the extermination of Jews, seems a more sensible being than saints and elected Christians (p. 27).
The good news brought to the world by Christ, is based on the assumption of a "very bad news" (p.27). In announcing the good news of his coming to save humanity from sin, Christ takes for granted that all of humanity was justly condemned by the sin of their first ancestors. The good news which assumes the bad news of the original sin, according to which everyone is a sinner and salvation is conditioned by faith and is a gift independent from merit, consolidates the metaphysics of terror and condemns to anguish.
In conclusion, "the immodesty, intolerance, and vindictiveness of Jesus’s words cannot be separated from the barbarous history of the Church and its long record of persecutions – of Jews, Moslems, heretics, scientists, women and freethinkers" (p. 43).
Therefore "the metaphysics of terror" inherent to the preaching of Christ cannot otherwise develop into anything else but into "politics of terror", which is discussed in the second part of Drury’s book.
L. von Ranke narrated the pontificate history as a continuous fluctuation of moderation and intolerance. Although she does not mention him, Drury seems to reacquire this explanatory model when she deals with the relation between Christianity and politics. However, she has a different approach in that moderation and rigidity are not the characteristics of historical figures that alternate in history, but are two categories that define the whole of Christian politics both contributing to the same integralist end.
The most interesting aspect of how she handles politics of Christianity is the attention to what is latent and the attempt to recognize the role terror plays in it. In fact, it presents itself as politics of resignation geared by the certainty that evil and injustice cannot be resolved in this world. However, it is not moderate as it would induce to believe, instead it implies an active participation and production of evil in the world– a thesis the author develops by commentating on S. Augustine and Voegelin, a representative of the current neoconservative movement which she previously spared from criticism.
Politics of resignation is connected with political realism since its aspect of moderation becomes useful in the absence of power, but otherwise it turns into militant activity: the wolf may put on sheep’s skin but it still remains a wolf.
By politics of resignation, Drury intends a commitment for worldly issues driven by the idea that evil and injustice cannot be eradicated and by the instrumental use of the aspect of moderation connected to this idea. Furthermore, she also intends an apparent abstention from politics which she dedicates the third part of her book, entitled "Ethics of love".
Christianity presents itself as a doctrine with the purpose not to guide politics but to guide private life and it presents Christ as the Master of an ethic built on the principle of love between men and towards God. Drury identifies four aspects which characterize such ethics: to be less attached to worldly goods, the exhortation to forgive offences, the interdiction of doing unto others what one wouldn’t want done to oneself, and the extension of this interdiction to actions, intentions, feelings and ideas - behaviour does not constitute the morality of man, but the purity of his soul constitutes it.
Furthermore, there is the pretence that these and other precepts, regarding the relationship between fellowmen, are received and followed with love.
However, these precepts are not compatible with human nature but, above all, it seems unlikely that human nature is able to abstain itself not only from immoral actions, but also from their representation in the intention, feeling and thought.
Therefore, Christ’s ethics introduce in the western hemisphere the conviction of a conflict between morality and human nature and that of man as a creature subjected to a lasting "inner state of siege". His ethics aren’t against the metaphysics of terror and are at the roots of reasoning "that terror – spiritual, political, and psychological – is at the heart of the civilizing process. The assumption is that, to be civilized, man must be spiritually terrified, politically oppressed, or psychologically brutalized" (p. 75).
This conclusion is the preamble of the fifth part of Drury’s book which is entirely dedicated to Freud and is entitled "The Psychology of Terror".
Freud criticizes Christianity’s ethics affirming that their excessive requests towards the individual, in particular on sexual issues, are responsible for what he calls modern neurosis. Thus one would expect that Freud would go against these requests, but in fact he does not.
First of all, Drury refers to the case of Dora who fell ill, according to Freud, due to her sense of guilt for having thought, upon the death of her sister, to be finally free to love her sister’s husband. The author puts forth how, instead of helping her acknowledged the groundlessness of her sense of guilt since no action followed that thought, Freud takes that thought to be well-founded and connects the recovery of the patient with the fact of having acknowledged and confessed her guilt tied to intention.
In the following two chapters of the third part of the book, Drury backs up her statement on the inherence of Freudian thought to the religious ethics of Christianity. She does so through a framework of convincing arguments that illustrate the presence in that thought of the belief of original sin, the conviction of the conflict between desire and morality, instinct and civilization, the confusion between actions and intentions as well as the attribution to terror of a fundamental role in the foundation and protection of civilization.
This isn’t about a simple reproposal of religious Christian ideas. The reproposal consists of perfecting and increasing deterioration of the "internal state of siege". Freud confers a scientific dignity to these ideas by translating the myth of the original sin into the presumed historical event of the primeval father’s death; by discussing the conflict between desire and morality, instinct and civilization as the basis of his theory on instinct; and by sustaining the confusion between actions and intentions through his theory on dreams. He advances that in place of the spectre of damnation there be that of madness and, with his theory on conscience and on "Super Ego", he internalizes terror which is necessary for the defence of civilization and which, accordingly to Christianity, is due to divine wrath and to the idea of a divine punishment which would be received in eternal damnation.
In brief, Freud "far from undermining Christian morality (…) lends it scientific authority and makes it as influential in the modern secular world as it was in the Dark Ages" (p.101).
Incidentally, had the author taken a look overseas, she could have felt less "alone" than what she says she felt in the "intellectual desolation" as she reviewed literature on Freud (p.ix). In other words, I don’t hide my surprise and satisfaction in noticing that someone else, while doing their own independent research, came up with an idea on Freudism so close to the one which I have been elaborating since 1976 (cf. eg. The Historical Reality of Freudism at www.antonelloarmando.it). The idea that it doesn’t limit itself to repropose the religious assumptions but modernizes them by hiding them and disguising them in scientific terms.
The author goes even further. Dealing with Christian asceticism and humiliation of women, Drury put forth a boomerang effect which mainly manifests itself in sexual obsessions (p. 95-95); now she adds that Freud’s version of this asceticism has determined the proliferation of transgressive behavior and has given place to "romanticizing Evil". This can be seen by Freud’s admiration for "great men", that is those who did not allow their untamed instincts to be repressed and are therefore the only ones who "can lead others, because only they can do the brutal sort of things that are necessary to sustain civilisation" (p. 132).
I leave to the reader the opportunity to go through in detail and evaluate this complex and rich ensemble of ideas, in order to propose some thoughts on the meaning which this part bestows upon the whole book.
The fact that the book, which is essentially dedicated to Christianity, discusses Freud in one part of the book out of five parts, seems to create an imbalance. However it is through this imbalance that Drury proposes a significant concept: Christianity and Freudism, the two protagonists in the book, are the two pillars of the modern ideology of terror.
It seems to me that by doing so Drury doesn’t limit herself in completing her description of the modern ideology of terror by adding Freud to Kojève and to Strauss. On the contrary, she revisits her previous convictions and states that Strauss and Kojève aren’t the main characters in creating the presence of the modern ideology of terror, but that in fact it is Freud. This revision is a development of her intuition of a substantial influence of Freud on the father of the American Neo-conservatism already present in the part of her monograph on Strauss (p. 56-69), where she reconstructs an imaginary dialogue between Strauss and Freud.
Drury’s criticism on Freud seems more corrosive than the one of others, which, despite his greater foundation (M. Fagioli, Istinto di morte e conoscenza, Nuove Edizioni Romane, Roma 1772), it is weaken by verbal excess due to the need to be heard (L. Villoresi, Freud! E’ un imbecile. Intervista a M. Fagioli, "Venerdi di Repubblica", 19.3.1991), by the lack of historical sense and by the misuse of psychiatric categories in examining historical facts. Her criticism is also more corrosive than others which take aim at various theoretical, clinical and historical details (Le livre noir de la psychanalyse, edited by C. Meyer, Les Arènes, Parigi 2005), but completely neglects the substantial religiousness of Freud and the strengthening which he brought forth to the Christian metaphysics of terror.
In the last part of the book, Drury turn towards the present and questions herself on the possibility to separate from the conviction of the opposition between instinct and civilization and from the consequent ideology of terror.
She begins by observing the existence of two views on the relation between terror and civilization. According to the first view, civilization is the overcoming of terror whilst the other considers terror the foundation of civilization. She asserts that both of them have biblical origins, although the second view is affected by Christian accentuation of the biblical dualism. These two views seem to be opposite one another but, in fact, they are complimentary and come together in the thought that terror is necessary for civilization to achieve the opposition of civilization to terror.
Therefore, it is necessary to go beyond both views and their conjunction and to surpass the biblical dualism in which they both take root. Drury believes she can answer this need by challenging, first of all, the assumption of the opposition between instinct and civilization and the subsequent assumption that terror is essentially the basis of civilization itself. She does so by sustaining that such roots are in the human enthusiasm towards ideals which "give the world shape, order, beauty, and meaning" (p. 134). Yet, once an ideal has managed to "win the hearts and minds of men and women, once its appeal becomes irresistible, then visionaries cannot help but imagine the beauty that would overwhelm the world if only everyone would conform" to their ideal (p. 137).
The visionaries interpret the opposition of this imagination as Evil and they think that it confirms their conviction of a conflict between individual instincts and civilization which must be faced only with terror.
This way, the ideal tends to degenerate into intolerance, into subjection of the conscience and into contempt of justice. The social group composed of those who unite themselves around such ideal comes into conflict with the State which guarantees the coexistence of ideals, freedom of conscience and justice (p. 141).
The success of the ideal and the subjection of the State claimed by the pretences of a small part of it which is united by a common ideal, give birth to the eclipse of such ideal. This is so because the ideal takes away the aspects of freedom and spontaneity which constituted its initial fascination. It is also such because the conviction that in its name every abhorrence and injustice can be justified ends with exposing the ideal to contempt. Hence, the possibility of an ideal that induces the monstrosity to perform the worst crimes with a clear conscience is limited (p. xii). A void is created which another ideal will fill by following the same path that will make it succumb to extremist perversion.
Drury believes that she can read the history of western civilization by applying this scheme. I will not go into detail of such a reading, but I will underline that she finds a moment in history where the liberal State, arising from the need to terminate religious conflicts, proves itself "vulnerable to the premodern forces that are disenchanted with its secular minimalism [and that] long to make the state the handmaid of a grand ideal, which they imagine as identical with cosmic truth and justice" (p. 145).
At this point, her latest book reconnects itself to her previous works regarding Kojève, Strauss, and Neo-conservatives and conveys closely on current events, like the political situation in Canada (p. 145) but above all the United States at the beginning of the 21st Century. In fact, Drury sustains that the American administration is strongly influenced by the refusal of the Neo-conservatives "of the minimalist goals of a secular liberal state in favour of the fervor and intensity of a state devoted to a great and noble ideal" (p. 145) and by their concept of the State as a "military machine consecrated to the dissemination of the democratic ideal around the globe [and to give] less fortunate nations the gift of truth, freedom and justice" (p. 145). Consequently, they consider that those who do not accept such gifts are demonic and can be legitimately terrorized and destroyed because they are opposed to civilization.
Hence, once again the perspective of the Neoconservative is one of biblical dualism, but "unhappily– Drury adds – the political problems of the modern world are thoroughly biblic" (p.145). In other words, another civilization, the Islamic one, share that dualism and it "is convinced that it is on the side of truth and justice, while its enemy is allied with Satan, wickedness, and barbarism" and that it is legitimate to fight them with terror (pp. 145-146).
The result is that the modern world "loses all complexity; it is polarized into two camps: good and evil, God and Satan, civilisation and barbarism, us and them" (p. 146) and moulds itself to what Drury calls the "clash of civilizations", referring to the famous book by S. Hutinghton. However soon after, she asks herself if it is possible to call it a conflict. This isn’t exactly so, since a secret alliance exists between the protagonists of the conflict and their convictions and actions are specular.
Regarding the secret alliance, Drury points out how Islamic terrorism assists the Neo-conservatives’ and extremists’ project which sustains that the threat from the enemy and the terror which this leads is the only means that can keep the American society united and push it back again towards its religious values. Once the possibility of identifying an enemy in the Soviet Union had disappeared, it was necessary to reinvent an enemy by using "noble lies". As we have seen, in the "Introduction" of the 2nd edition of her monography on Strauss, the author sustains that for the Neo-conservatives September 11th was the catastrophe which was theorized by Strauss and regarded as necessary for the reestablishment of religious values. However, in this book she already mentioned that this catastrophe was interpreted by some as a just divine punishment for America’s sins (p. 149).
Regarding the specularity of convictions and actions, Drury firmly states that "what makes the conflict between Islam and the West is not the radical difference between the antagonists but their similiarity" (p. xv). She recognizes in Atta’s terrorism, who sacrificed his own life in order to carry out God’s will, an identity with Samson who also sacrificed his life for God’s will. These men were both criminals, martyrs and heroes.
As a last note, we must consider what the author says about the possibility to go beyond the biblical horizon. She researches such a possibility inside Western civilization, not because she believes it is more capable nor because she feels it is not exposed to a real threat, but because she thinks that in order to effectively oppose such a threat, it is necessary, first of all, to recognize and resolve its ideology of terror. Her only hope lies in the possibility of transcending its dependency on the biblical dualism "cultivating the self-criticism and self-understanding" (p. 150-151).
The principal instrument of self-criticism and self-understanding is historiography, not only because it allows to identify the presence of the terror ideology in the western world, but also because it allows to: contestualize biblical accounts which identify the enemy in the other protagonist of the conflict; recognize the motives of both protagonists; and understand how each of them act not only in fear and refusal of the other, but also for jealousy and attraction to each other's values.
The validity and importance of Drury’s work cannot be lessened by criticism which does not try to question it but simply suggests possible developments.
For example, the criticism of the apologetic argument generates some perplexities. This does not mean that the Church’s criminal history can be acquitted due to the fact that Christ’s message is independent from the institutional interpretation and has degenerated. This means that it is difficult to sustain the existence of such an independent message since the Synoptic Gospel itself is an institutional production.
Furthermore, perplexity arises regarding the decision to literally interpret some of the passages in the Gospel. It is arguable whether an allegoric interpretation would have made it more difficult to reach such conclusions.
Finally, one is surprised by the last part of Drury’s book in which she considers the fact that Christianity proposes an ideal which she defines "feminine". In fact, what is bizarre is not so much that she uses a word utilized by Nietzsche, Kojève and Strauss and that she gives the impression of accepting their definition of "feminine" with passiveness, but that she also finds the representation of the "feminine" in the Virgin Mary who instead is the total negation of the feminine as opposite to passive (p. 137).
These criticisms are not as important and what they emphasize may be justified by simplifications needed for the framework of the main theme of the book; but other criticisms have more weight.
At the beginning of her book, Drury declares her own conviction "that feeling is the thing, and that reason has serious limitations" (p. x); after all, nothing but feeling could have maintained her trust that "people genuinely seek the good" (p. xii). Nevertheless, while discussing Kojève’s interpretation of Hegel’s theory on the servant-master dialectic she confessed her sympathy for Hegel. This could be classified as personal taste, if it weren’t that such sympathy not only echoes in her arguments but also in her conclusions. The self-criticism and self-understanding, which she entrusts the possibility to go beyond biblical dualism, are in fact functions of reason that in spite of their importance reveal themselves not adequate enough to go beyond it.
As already stated, according to Drury, self-criticism and self-comprehension must make use of historiography, and regarding her relation with historiography I want like to propose two observations.
The first observation, is that she pays close attention to the presence and the development of the biblical dualism in the history of western thought. However, she disregards the past attempts which tried to break that dualism and which her attempt could only have drawn strength from. In particular, I am referring to her interpretation of Machiavelli, which seems to depend on Strauss’ interpretation (Thoughts on Machiavelli, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1958) who in other respects she deeply criticizes. In order to further deepen this observation, I suggest to read a recent interview of mine (http://www.priory.com/ital/armando2005.htm) and for now I look into the second observation.
This observation regards the fact that this book discusses the conflict between instinct and civilization, good and evil, as exclusively present in the horizon of biblical dualism. This may be questioned; it is enough to remember the Persian myth of the conflict between light and darkness, Ormuz and Ariman which was used by Freud to formulate his theory on the conflict between instinct of life and instinct of death.
Through this observation, I wouldn’t want to suggest an opportunity to enlarge her thesis. By presenting her book as a "first step" (p. xv) in her historical research of the ideology of terror, Drury seems to envisage such enlargement, but any enlargement may risk to overshadow the argument. There is a moment in which historical analysis has to discontinue and make way for another analysis, which I shall label psychological. What I would like to say is that the most important criticism that can be directed to the research of this book on a way to leave the ideology of terror, is that its analysis of the presence of this ideology in the "western psyche" is necessary but not sufficient. In other words, the book shows in a masterly manner the use of the phenomenon "terror" in the construction of ideologies, philosophies, practices and its historical variations, but it does not analyse the nature of the phenomenon itself.
In this, her criticism of Freud is also limited. She doesn’t seem to think that the development which he introduced on religious terrorism manifests a scarcity of his theory regarding the comprehension of the terror phenomenon and that this lack may be overcome.
The consequence of all this is that in opposing the alliance between the Neo-conservative thought and that of religious extremist, Drury, like many other courageous and noble representatives of the North American culture, fight a negative battle like the one in the defence of abortion.
This bring us again to the episode which started this review. Undoubtedly it would have been less easy for the laymen, who participated in the TV program, to succumb to the ineffable priest’s arguments and to his subliminal terrorism if they had read Shadia Drury’s book. However, besides this missed opportunity, Drury’s book is an extraordinary instrument of intellectual comprehension. It should be suggested to those who want to strengthen themselves against the persuasive lies which paralyze thought and discussion to oppose the ideology of terror and those who feel that today’s problem isn’t only to defend negative liberties but also to join radicalism in the defence of the layman’s ideals with a policy that knows how to unite strictness as well as rejection of terror and violence.