Sunday, March 29, 2015

Political Theology in Mobile Suit Gundam Wing


"The metaphysical image that a definite epoch forges of the world has the same structure as what the world immediately understands to be appropriate as a form of its political organization."

- Carl Schmitt​, Political Theology, 1922

Mobile Suit Gundam Wing is set in a narrative context that reflects upon the promise, potentialities, and trauma of 20th Century Japan after the Meiji Restoration and the Second World War. The circumstances of the After Colony timeline are shaped by the industrial reproduction of the conditions of human life in the orbiting space colonies, and are primarily motivated by the ever escalating production of military armaments. The space colonies are a macrocosmic symbol of the collective objective actualization of the human condition, while the mobile suits are likewise a microcosmic symbol of the mechanization of human nature. The Earth Sphere Alliance represents the old Metternichean concert of nations; Oz, a fascist-takeover; the Gundams, anarchist terrorists; and White Fang, a socialist-proletarian revolution.

The Romefeller Foundation represents the ancient alliance of the imperial nobility with the Shinto clergy, while Treize Kushrenada represents a cadre of young military officers, who wish, by fascistically instrumentalizing this idea for the purposes of the state, to inculcate a new warrior ethos through continual battle. The brother-sister pair of Zechs and Releena are each representatives of the janos-faced duality of Japanese Buddhism, which is alternatively martial and pacific. The unmasking of Zechs as Miliardo Peacecraft results in a negative dialectical resolution of this dual-opposition, which inversely parallels Lady Une's positive resolution of her earlier schizophrenia. The Gundams perfectly consummate and re-direct the violence of industry and technology upon the objectified old order; first of the Earth Sphere Alliance, but increasingly in vertiginous uncertainty without a definite enemy. The thematic question "who is my enemy" then slowly morphs into a post-modern quandary, in which floats the negative flux of the symbolic forms that impart meaning to history, society, and politics.

When, later in the series, Milliardo Peacecraft commandeers the colonial proletarian-revolution White Fang, his hidden purpose is to reconcile the martial and pacific aspects of his own identity by absolutely negating the cosmic negativity of socio-political violence by crashing the space-battleship Libre into the Earth - with the shattering blast of an atomic bomb. Through this unprecedented act of wanton violence, he intends to symbolically liberate the unrealized potentialities of human subjectivity from the old objectified order grounded in the terrestrial confines of the Earth. This apocalyptic sacrifice of the objective world to liberate the subjective will through the absolute negation of violence suggests an immanent recapitulation, in an alternate and non-Christian future - of Jesus Christ's vicarious atonement. Yet the spatio-temporal immanence of this vicarious sacrifice also implies a contradiction between the absolutivity and relativity of the double-negation; for only an absolutely transcendent and eternal sacrifice - not merely in outer space beyond the Earth but beyond all space and time - could ever genuinely annihilate the totality of negativity, evil, and violence.

The many political conflicts of the series revolve around alternative theological conceptions of the political, or political theologies. The Earth Sphere Alliance believed in the Hobbesian god of the sovereign international comingling of nations; Treize believed in the agonistic Homeric god of battle, personified by the mobile suits and perfected by the Gundam Epyon; Miliardo believed in the immanent sacrificial atonement of himself and the Earth for the apocalyptic liberation of the new god of modern subjectivity. None of the Gundam pilots explicitly believe in any of these ideas of God, because each are merely nationally particularized ciphers for the as yet undecided religious decision of the audience (e.g. Heero : Japan :: Duo : North America :: Qatre : Turko-Semitic-Arabic :: Trowa : England-France :: Wufei : China :: Oz : Germany-Italy). The final thematic note is signaled, after the renunciation of violence by all the pilots, by Releena Peacecraft's belief in a future peace embodied in the World-Unified-Nation, which at once politically signifies the United Nations, but theologically signifies the imminent historical realization of the eschatological peace of Augustine's City of God.

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