Messianic Arrest of Thought

Thinking does not just involve movement of thoughts. It also has to encounter its arrest. It is interesting to understand how our thinking is constrained and constricted by various factors that structure and provoke us to think. There are numerous ways out thinking is constrain but in this article attempt to reflect on a kind of constrictions that are being played out in our society today. Perhaps a concept of German Jewish thinkers, ‘the Messianic arrest of thought’ can assist us to understand how we have surrendered our thinking, setting up a messiah whom we hope to bring everything including history and our destiny to a happy ending. In some way we seem to stop thinking on the issues that otherwise would disturb us and hold us captive. Walter Benjamin teaches that when confronted by pain and unease often we hit a messianic arrest when we recognize an opportunity to restore the lost joint of time. It is as if we experience a release of energy that is bottled deep within us. We seem to slip into a sigh of relief on a realization of finding a Messianic closure for unease and discomfort that otherwise produce anxiety and dynamic quest for reconciliations of various tensions. There seems to be a libidinal high that seems to freeze our thought into a hope that someone, someday will resolve our problems.

Thinking at a time of the rise of Nazism in Germany, Benjamin generated the concept, ‘the messianic arrest of thought’ when Germans seem to have been surrendering their thinking ability in the hands of Adolf Hitler. It seems that we stumble into a messianic arrest of thought when we face an ethical impulse that is compelled by the pain of the past that refuses to die and the future that refuses to wait to be born. Under the delusion of the imminent coming of the promised future, a messianic hope of ‘acche din’ led to the huge victory of BJP during the last election. Perhaps, several of our people succumbed to what we called ‘the messianic arrest of thought’. Now with the delay in the coming of the ‘aache din’ and the rising clouds of Scams in BJP government both at the centre and state level and the disturbing silence of the Prime Minister seem to have burst the bubble of ‘the messianic arrest of thought’ with a year of BJP rule at the centre. We in Goa also were disillusioned by the corrupt and chaotic rule of Congress and were pushed to the BJP which offered a messianic Hope that we will bring a golden era for us Goans and Goa. Now in hindsight, perhaps we can view how we were pushed by the tensions of the past and saw a future that refused to wait to be born in the BJP led by Monohar Parrikar. This reflection on experience of the past detour into a ‘messianic arrest of our thought’ is urgent lest history repeat itself because we refused to learn our lessons.

The discussion on ‘messianic arrest of thought’ is important so that we do not slip again into a mode of mindless surrender of our ability to think. It has many other implications besides illuming our electoral behaviour. It can assist us to understand how several Goan Catholics led by a kind of feeling unhomed in several complex ways seem to hid call of a future that has messianic shades which is viewed as rushing into them at a very quick pace, mindlessly surrender their Indian passport often to live under difficult conditions in England. The same may be true about the inward migration for work , leisure and home away from home in Goa as well as the thoughtless sale of scarce land resources by the landed Goan to the highest bidder may be the effect of an ‘messianic arrest of thought’. The fact that exclusionary and crude communalism qualifies as nationalism and we have thousands of Indians pulled by it can also be understood in the light of ‘messianic arrest of thought’. The complex psychic dislocation of Indians leads us to a sense of wholeness even if it is derived from a fragmental vision. The fragmentary and fragmenting nationalism seems to be acceptable only because of the ‘messianic arrest of our thought’. Hence, we need to arrest ‘the messianic arrest of our thought’ so that we continue to take responsibility for our lives and society.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao