The great unmentionable evil at the center of our culture is monotheism.
(Gore Vidal, Selected Essays 410)
As the world turns, and we continue our free-fall into a surreal concoction of self-induced all-consuming avarice, the politics of business and the business of politics march on, unfazed and undeterred. However, Gore Vidal’s above charge is a frank but sobering reminder of the metaphysical underbelly and transcendental justification for this beast we have created.
While not the obvious heir to our modern rapine agenda, monotheism was clearly an early and important player in the game of civilization, a principal driver of this parade obsessed with governance and control, and ultimately, with acquisitiveness. Indeed, for the early Israelites that was the primary motivation in petitioning Yahweh — for his supreme hegemonic dominion — revealing the divine power in a purely political act, liberating his chosen people from Egypt and overseeing their safe passage into Canaan. However, post-Enlightenment, the unholy alliance of science and politics largely took upon its own shoulders this mantle of domination and expansion. Yet, the three horsemen of our unfolding postmodern apocalypse – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – have all belligerently reasserted their claims to a place at the head of the table. Just look to America, Israel, or the Islamic world today for verification. In fact, I just note one concluding comment from United States Army Lt. Col. Matthew A. Dooley’s Joint Staff Forces College presentation on “A Counter-Jihad Op Design Model”
It is therefore time for the United States to make our true intentions clear. This barbaric ideology will no longer be tolerated. Islam must change or we will facilitate its self-destruction.*
Gee! Do you think the early Spanish Catholic explorers might have sounded a bit like that when they first encountered those “barbaric” native Americans in the New World?
The rigidly legalistic institutions and highly prosecutorial character of the Abrahamic faiths — each supporting their own semblance of lawfulness in society and in nature — march loudly but blindly toward the approaching apocalypse in lockstep with the politics of progress and/or perfectability. Meanwhile, countless signs indicate that the desired Eschaton, this glorious advance to perfection, may be drawing to a rather inglorious conclusion. In truth, it looks to be neither the kingdom of god on earth nor a paradise overflowing with virgins. The politicians and policy wonks, corporate elite and entrepreneurs, together with imams, priests, and rabbis are all stumbling over one another in a largely chaotic cacophony, hearkening only to private songs of salvation played by their chosen pied pipers, as the great majority of the world’s population follows mindlessly along while very few try hopelessly to resist.
I think Kenneth Rexroth’s assertion is not far off the mark when he writes:
[T]he entire Judeo-Christian-Muslim period in human history has been an episode of unparalleled perceived and social psychosis and international barbarity.” (Bird in the Bush, 20)
Or, as David Miller has concluded, “socially monotheism becomes fascism, imperialism, or capitalism.” (Shepard, Madness, 59) Well now, I think that about sums up our current situation here in the West; America appears to have all three “isms” working quite effectively together — a totalitarian capitalist empire whose internal security apparatus seeks to silence all opposing viewpoints. I might be tempted to call it transcendent, or better yet, eschatological capitalism; after all our currency says “In God We Trust.” So let us take a brief pause that refreshes, and review some of this week’s findings.
We read that our dear friends at Monsanto – the home of Frankenstein foods and other toxic monsters – have recently been accused of making death threats to a young activist mother in Argentina who had been organizing opposition to the use of agrochemicals in her local homeland. 1
Less perplexing perhaps, we were notified as well that suicide rates among crisis-stricken business owners in the wealthy Veneto area of Italy are rising significantly. God, even those serving the wealthy can no longer survive the fall. 2
Meanwhile, small Greek entrepreneurs, not to be drowned out by the static from their suicidal Italian neighbors, are abandoning old family businesses at a harsh pace. It seems the financial crisis refuses to provide them any breathing room while the Greek government continues to shrink their vanishing social safety net.
And wouldn’t you know it, just as things were beginning to heat-up for the summer (no pun intended), the Japanese turned off the last spigot on their nuclear power plants; but the question is, for how long will they go without electricity on demand 24/7? 3
On a more proleptic note, extreme weather events continue to dot the globe in bunches now, not simply one catastrophe after another, but all at once; and BIG! The magnitude of these events strongly suggests the influence of human-induced climate change backed up by Gaia’s overall weariness with how we’ve been treating her here in the Anthropocene. From fracking for natural gas, to an oil volcano in the Gulf of Mexico, to mountain-top removal mining, bio-engineering of franken-foods, and unbridled damming/pollution of the waterways, not to mention the callous and indiscriminate destruction of the rain forests, I imagine Gaia has had enough of our rapine patriarchal domination and scatological theology
As Gore Vidal wrote back in 1992:
We are now, slowly, becoming alarmed at the state of the planet. For a century, we have been breeding like a virus under optimum conditions, and now the virus has begun to attack its host, the earth. The lower atmosphere is filled with dust, we have been told from our satellites in space. Climate changes; earth and water poisoned. Sensible people grow alarmed; sky-godders are serene, even smug. The planet is just a staging area for heaven. Why bother to clean it up? Did not the sky-god tell his slaves to “be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth and subdue it, and have dominion… over every living thing that moveth upon the earth”? Well, we did just like you told us, massa. We’ve used everything up. We’re ready for heaven now. Or maybe Mars will do. (Vidal 413)
Lest we forget the American-financed Arab Spring or the homegrown OWS movement, the leaders of at least eleven major European states, including France, Spain, Italy, Greece, Portugal, England, Ireland, Denmark and Finland, have all been thrown out of office recently for their complicity in global financial failure, sovereign economic meltdown, and heartless austerity measures that further enslave their citizens. In fact, given the vociferous austerity-enabled outcome of the elections this week in both France and Greece, the woman now wearing the pants in Germany seems to be in a rather tight spot.
‘The hour of the extremists,’ warned Handelsblatt, Germany’s financial newspaper, predicting that the defeat of pro-EU austerity parties in Greek elections will bring ‘an unparalleled political upheaval’. 4
Meanwhile, as global social unrest continues to mount, the self-anointed Masters of the Universe back in America seem determined to triangulate the most direct route to oblivion, marching into untold wars around the globe (both overt and covert), destroying lives at will, depleting or poisoning planetary essentials, and continuing to build-out the mechanisms of their internal police state, including a “$2 billion data center in the Utah desert to spy on American citizens’ online communications.” 5 Talk about supreme dominion and hegemonic expansion.
While Vidal suggets that our national security state got its real start with the National Security Act of 1947, its roots seem to be more ancient, as I have suggested. In any event, the wheels of this security machinery have been grinding painfully and stealthily forward for quite a while. We, the people, can no longer turn a blind eye to the surveillance cameras on virtually every street corner. We cannot continue to ignore the eternally expanding authority given to the Departments of Defense, State, Homeland Security, CIA, FBI, the National Guard, as well as the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. This country, as Chris Hedges is fond of pointing out, has exposed the inherently totalitarian nerve lying within the skein of empire. And as Vidal has suggested, this sky-god-directed hegemony self-righteously proclaims its own superiority and manifest destiny, a proclamation hearkening back to the chosen people of the monotheistic Word, refined through the ages in the hands of philosophers like Aristotle, scientists like Francis Bacon, princes like Machiavelli, and those who followed their example.
As Ernest Callenbach, author of Ecotopia, wrote shortly before his death earlier this year:
Humans tend to try to manage things: land, structures, even rivers. We spend enormous amounts of time, energy, and treasure in imposing our will on nature, on preexisting or inherited structures, dreaming of permanent solutions, monuments to our ambitions and dreams. But in periods of slack, decline, or collapse, our abilities no longer suffice for all this management. We have to let things go.6
So, how do we do this folks? How do we just let things go? Or, as Lao Tzu suggested, how do we act by not acting (wei wu wei)… as the world turns?