Feeling Guilty About This Year’s 4th of July’s Festivities? A Short Essay On Bad Conscience; No Need To Feel Concerned

By Karen Barna

“This fundamentally artistic production of bad conscience, the production a “form” from and of the will, is described by Nietzsche as “the womb of all ideal and imaginative phenomena.” Bad conscience is fabricated, but it in turn is credited with the fabrication of all ideal and imaginative phenomena.”

“Bad conscience is fabricated . .” Bad conscience is fabricated because the rules and regulations that seek to impose a standard of conduct on individuals vary from sovereign to sovereign. To demonstrate, consider the United States of America in all its laws and regulation which seek to establish a culture. It seeks to impose standards of conduct upon its citizens and those who are its guests. These rules and laws are much like the various individual “house rules” that exist in the different individual homes in America. When we compare the Untied States of America to a country like Saudi Arabia we can see how Nietzsche’s moral relativism becomes significant in two diametrically opposed countries. The rules and regulations peculiar to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia are not particular to American culture or American lifestyles found within its borders. In Saudi Arabia it is a crime to have pre-marital sex outside the covenant of a marriage contract punishable by a prison term. Likewise in Saudi Arabia, homosexuality is also against the law. The United States of America possess a much more liberal attitude than the conservative Saudis and I would venture to say than their neighboring nations. What does this mean? America knows how to party! Again, we see this “thing” called “bad conscience” as being whatever the sovereign rule wishes to prohibit within its borders. It is very important to note, and take the time to examine in particular, that a kingdom’s or country’s laws and regulations, like good conscience, should be consistently delivered as a message, again, again and again, set in striving of an ideal, which is constantly being displayed to the inhabitants by the inhabitants and rulers of the nation in order for them to be effective in there incorporation of a mode of conduct. That is, you shouldn‘t be wishy washy or make a double stand of the law.

Likewise to bad conscience and formation of ‘other‘ they are not just imagined but also fabricated. No other are the roots of conscience and bad conscience than is discovered in biblical testament stories. Elaine Pagels wrote in The Origins of Satan and a quote I keep referring back to as I find myself reading Judith Butler‘s chapter on the Circuits of Bad Conscience, “A society does not simply discover its others, it fabricates them, by selecting isolating, and emphasizing an aspect of another people’s life, and making it symbolize their difference.” Such moral interpretation of conflict has proven extraordinarily effective throughout Western history in consolidating the identity of Christian groups; the same history also shows that it can justify hatred, even mass slaughter through the fabrication of its enemy.

In a conversation with a fellow worshiper in her book The Origins of Satan, Elaine Pagels discloses a conversation with another worshiper who is questioning; “Aren’t the gospels about love?” Exclaimed one friend as we discussed this work. Certainly they are about love, but since the story they have to tell involves betrayal and killing, they also include elements of hostility which evoke demonic images.” Then, the roots of moral and immoral have to do with a system of betrayal and fabrication, even to the point of “killing.”

In addition, Judith Butler leaning on Nietzsche’s work which poses the question for discussion of conscience by asking the question, “How could conscience come into existence without the existence of bad conscience to start with?” We find that “conscience” and “bad conscience” are this incredibly dynamic thing; an incredibly dynamic diaditic thing. An excellent example in response to this question would be the ‘cause’ and ‘effect’ seen in the historical roots of the Revolutionary War. The success of the colonists who opposed unfair taxation by the British dictorial sovereign, could not have achieved their realized freedom had they not stood-up for themselves in act of “bad conscience” which went against the soveirgn’s will. Had it not been for the forceful aggression of the colonist’s own will “turned back upon their individual selves,” they would have never achieved their independence. So we can come to understand then, how this thing called “conscience” and “bad conscience” may actually be part of a philosophical imaginary system. One whose concrete definitions may lie on the periphery of an unstable forever changing imaginary line drawn in the sand . For example, the wearing of a revealing low cut dress by a woman may very well help in freeing the young girl’s libido. Not necessarily a bad thing, yet it may offend some prudish individuals whose value system may differ from the young girls belief in her chosen dress attire. This could open up a whole new container of worms for the young girl once the prudish go to town. So, the judgments of right and wrong, all come down to questions in moral relativism, questions like , “Is my culture the only “good” culture?” And, “Is their culture the only “bad” culture?” And, “Whose culture is the right culture?”

Additionally, “. . . . if the pressure exerted from the walls of society forces and internalization which culminates in the production of the soul, this production being understood as a primary artistic accomplishment, the fabrication of an ideal, then the conscience which is imposed is imposed by punishments which are supposed to have the value of awakening the feelings of guilt in the guilty person; one seeks in it the actual device, the psychical reaction called ’bad conscience,’ or ’sting of conscience’.” What do you suppose the “sting of bad conscience” would mean to the offending, dressed cladly young girl who might have been exposing “too much?” Yeah, it reiterates everything from Nietzsche to Freud. Social war!

Freud said, the strength of conscience is nourished precisely by the aggression that it forbids. In this sense, then, the strength of conscience correlates neither with the strength of a punishment received nor with the strength of a memory of a punishment received, but with the strength of one’s own aggression, one which is said to have vented itself externally, but which now, under the rubric of bad conscience, is said to vent itself internally. This latter venting is also at the same time a fabricating: an internalization which is produced or fabricated as the effect of a sublimation.

So, when following the conscience dictates of an abusive authority become too painful and terrorizing the will seeks redemption and the most famous act of redemption manifest in a system known as the “no bind;” War. And in this construct of war and un-reflexibility there will always be “winners” and “losers.” Through the scrutinizing eyes of modern scholars, we see the watermark traces of wars all powerful effect time and time again. A dynamic that, probably, will never end as a future prospect to human survival.

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