Vidal and Monotheism: The death of a god

The great unmentionable evil at the center of our culture is monotheism. – Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal died this week.  He was eighty six years old.  He was a “man of letters” as they say; but more than that, he was a cultural critic — a novelist, playwright, essayist, memoirist, screenwriter, and political commentator.  He was known to many, even those who had never read his works.  He was loved by many, and hated by many more, perhaps.  He was never one to mince words, although he knew how to use them to greatest effect.  For me, his most memorable piece was a short, eight-page essay entitled Monotheism and Its Discontents.  Excuse me for using a goodly portion of his own words here to celebrate his acerbic wit and to say a fond farewell to a fellow traveler on a road less traveled.

He opens this essay by reminding us of our predicament here in modern America.

But then a ruling class that has been able to demonize the word ‘liberal’ is a master at controlling – indeed stifling – any criticism of itself.

And, he continues…

Plainly, the ownership of the country is frightened that the current hatred of politicians, in general, may soon be translated into a hatred of that corporate few who control the many through Opinion…

Note that Vidal wrote these words in 1992, almost twenty years before the Occupy Wall Street movement ever took to the streets.  But here Vidal was just setting the table, so to speak, with some morsels to titillate a taste for our national failing as prelude to launching into the “root of the matter,” as he calls it.

“The great unmentionable evil at the center of our culture is monotheism,” writes Vidal. 

From the barbaric Bronze Age text known as the Old Testament, three antihuman religions have evolved – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  These are sky-god religions.  They are, literally, patriarchal – God is the omnipotent father – hence the loathing of women for 2,000 years in those countries afflicted by the sky-god and his earthly male delegates.  The sky-god is a jealous god, of course.  He requires total obedience from everyone on earth, as he is in place not just for one tribe but for all creation.  Those who would reject him must be converted or killed for their own good. Ultimately totalitarianism is the only sort of politics that can truly serve the sky-god’s purpose.  Any movement of a liberal nature endangers his authority and that of his delegates on earth.  One God, one King, one Pope, one master in the factory, one father-leader in the family at home.

Vidal’s distaste for Christianity, however, runs deeper; it is borne of his sense of the deranged evangelists’ own presumption to lord it over the planet, at the expense of the rest of humanity and the earth we all depend upon.

Although many of the Christian evangelists feel it necessary to convert everyone on earth to their primitive religion, they have been prevented – so far – from forcing others to worship as they do, but they have forced – most tyrannically and wickedly – their superstitions and hatreds upon all of us through the civil law… So it is upon that account that I now favor an all-out war on the monotheists.

And he later adds, “I preach, to put it bluntly, confrontation.” 

But, it is not just monotheism’s scorn for women or for the darker races of humanity in general that inspires Vidal’s vitriol. It is this religion’s underlying presumption of stewardship (i.e., control) of the earth and all its delights that sticks in his craw.

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 just been told from our satellites in space.  Climate changes; earth and water are 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.

Certainly, Vidal’s cynicism was tempered by his great wit and intellectual ferocity.  He was an uncompromising challenger to William Buckley, as well as an early and influential figure in the critical life of the late Christopher Hitchens.  As Hitch told it, “Vidal advised him never to miss a chance either to have sex or to appear on television.” And unlike yours truly, Vidal was capable of insulting while remaining squarely on the high road.

Ordinarily, as a descendent of the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, which shaped our Republic, I would say live and let live and I would try not to”scoff” – to use Lincoln’s verb – at the monotheists.  But I am not allowed to ignore them.  They won’t let me. They are too busy.  They have a divine mission to take away our rights as private citizens… Although we are not allowed, under law, to kill ourselves or to take drugs that the good folk think might be bad for us, we are allowed to buy a handgun and shoot as many people as we can get away with.

Too much talk, Vidal thinks, about this being a country of free and equal persons.  All our talk of a classless society, he says, is just another of our agreed-upon fantasies.  “The Few who control the Many through Opinion have simply made themselves invisible,” while the press tries to convince the other 99% that there is always hope.  But, as far as re-establishing a fair and representative government, grounded firmly in human kindness, well:

The party of God will have none of this.  It wants to establish, through legal prohibitions and enforced taboos, a sky-god totalitarian state.  The United States ultimately as prison, with mandatory blood, urine, and lie-detector tests and with sky-godders as the cops, answerable only to [their] God.

Rest In Peace, Gore Vidal.  Your voice will be missed. August 1, 2012 – kulturCritic.

(I commend to all of you this piece in its entirety, as found in The Selected Essays.)

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85 Responses to Vidal and Monotheism: The death of a god

  1. Martin says:

    His departure leaves a great hole where there certainly needs to be reason. Perhaps not a god, but a great example to try and follow – if one dares.

  2. bmiller says:

    Love the quote: “We’ve used everything up. We’re ready for heaven now. Or maybe Mars will do.”

  3. Disaffected says:

    Great videos:

    George Carlin

    and

    Pat Condell

    Condell, in particular, has some really scathing commentary:

    Waiting for Jesus

    And then there’s Sam Harris if you REALLY want to go deep into the subject.

    • Disaffected says:

      More thoughts on religion. When I was growing up in small town rural midwest America 50 years ago religion served a semi-useful purpose as a social organization. The women were the primary drivers, as most of them were still homemakers without an extensive public life. It provided a constant weekly touchstone for family and community in a culture that was already being ripped apart by the capitalist economic forces that are about to do us in today. The women would drag their often unwilling spouses and family brood down to the church house on Sunday mornings for the good of all, and to maintain the illusion togetherness in this life with the promise of togetherness in the promised eternal next life. Those who had not already lost their minds realized for the most part that it was all play acting in a moral key. Harmless moral platitudes wrapped in the language of epic myth. There was Christ the epic hero, on his epic journey to save our mortal souls. Satan the great deceiver, who any 5 year old could plainly see represented us, and our selfish nature. And a grand, slightly bemused father god watching it all from his heavenly perch, knowing full well how the whole thing would play out. A cosmic morality play written by humans for humans, with all of humanity as the stakes in some sort of grand cosmic wager between an imagined perfect good and it’s polar opposite, perfect evil. It all made for such grand drama, so long as the church goer kept their wits and realized that’s what it was in the first place. The memories of tired farmer husbands dozing off in the pews (before the days of air conditioning and grand worship palaces of obscene extravagance), restless children (of which I was one) squirming in their seats and/or aisles, and the always dutiful countenances of wives and grandmothers nodding in time with the preacher’s message are with me still. Much as I hated it at times then, the memories are always unfailingly fond now.
      But the rest, as they say, is history. Casino capitalist economic forces changed the entire landscape of American life, wiping out small town America and local communities altogether for the most part, and co-opting religion and it’s most maniacal followers and perverting the message into some sort of grand capitalist “winner take all” Hollywood production, complete with digitized super heroes and the belief in divinely granted techno-supremacy/dominion – a grand moral tale totally devoid of morality, save for the ethos of me/we first! Buy into the “myth” or else. Winner take all, take no prisoners. If God himself is to destroy the infidels, then who are WE to argue? The churches themselves are now hierarchically organized to a “T”; models of corporate capitalist fund raising efficiency. And “tax free,” no less! No evil government intervention here! And the “message” and it’s holy books? All reduced to a corporate to do check list – a fucking metric! – no actual spiritual involvement required! There’s church attendance, required monetary donations, some minor inconvenient community outreach (all tax deductible and available for shameless self-promotion afterward of course!), and of course the obligatory voting compliance (candidates will be selected by those more knowledgeable than you – aka “divinely appointed” – and you WILL BE notified and expected to fall in line accordingly). In short, organized religion has become just another victim of fascist corporate takeover, albeit an altogether more useful tool than most. And it’s followers? Nothing more than blind little smug and self-righteous corporate fascist tools – every dictator’s dream. And the end of their world? Wow, what a comeuppance THAT will be when they finally wake up and realize the corporate fascist prison they find themselves and their children dwelling in – house of God indeed! – was built at their own behest and expense.

      • Disaffected says:

        Here’s hoping that the world’s next attempt at religion is something a bit more grounded in reality and a GREAT DEAL more respectful of mother earth, our great “feminine” provider. I stumbled across this description – Pantheism a few months back, which I suppose pretty accurately describes my spiritual inclinations. I guess none of us should have been surprised that organized religion – an inherently political organization/”philosophy” since at least the reformation – would be yet again co-opted by an always opportunistic imperialist state, but the blind obedience and utter gullibility of it’s supposedly more sophisticated and better educated modern followers remains shocking nonetheless. The striking similarity of “modern first world” fundamentalist Christian followers and their alleged “primitive third world” Islamic counterparts is simply remarkable! And yet, I can’t avoid concluding that it’s the first world Christians who are the most grossly naive, believing as they do in the power of their by now obviously corrupt hierarchical based “leadership” to intercede on their behalf spiritually. Once again, all I can do is sit back and laugh at the absurdity of it all. And get used to the idea of my own personal mortality, which will occur with or without my personal consent and all this cosmic silliness. And the universe will move on, with or without me. Of THAT, I’m reasonably sure.

        • kulturcritic says:

          Gaia is certainly alive, is she not, DA. Showing us more clearly each day what she can do!

          • Jean Harris says:

            I’m a life scientist. I get can’t tell you how fed up I get with that idiotic Gaia crap. I gagged the first time I heard it, long before Peter Ward wrote a book expressing my thoughts on the topic: http://press.princeton.edu/titles/8855.html The Medea Hypothesis is what you’re actually talking about. Please wise up and get this straight. The Medea Hypothesis is in accord with the second law of thermodynamics: http://merkury.orconhosting.net.nz/lifeas.pdf Gaia is a contemporary regurgitation of Pangloss.

            • kulturcritic says:

              Well Jean – interesting input; life dissipates itself in the process of consumptive evolution. Too bad you did not write Peter Ward’s book. You could be wealthy. LOL. Thanks for the advice to wise-up; I will give that some thought. best, sandy

            • Frank Kling says:

              Hello…….Earth to Jean…….Are you there McFly?

            • cpopblog says:

              Pangloss? Oh dear, Medea, Gorgon…Clytemnestra. We can play the ancient symbolic name game all day and it doesn’t imply regurgitated optimism or conceit. Ward’s thesis is not entirely incompatible with the Earth being a self-regulating organism. If you’re a ‘life scientist’ what are the implications of such a theory in terms of our own consciousness? Or does consciousness not matter when we regenerate through destruction?

      • Brutus says:

        Lovely rant. I differ only at the end about comeuppance and waking up. No one is going to wake up to reality. They will suffer whatever torments the big crack-up deals us with hopes pinned firmly on the afterlife, but their consciousness/soul will surely wink out of existence upon dying just like the rest of us. Yet they’ll harbor their delusions right into the grave.

      • bmiller says:

        Disaffected,
        That mirrors my childhood memory as well. That strong sense of community with religion as an indulged backdrop. The changes began fast and furious in the seventies. I’m not a believer now. But I respect any community that can put on a mean summer picnic: 30 varieties of fried chicken to choose from and an endless row of cobbler. That is worth something, Mr. Vidal.

      • leavergirl says:

        Disaffected: the question that haunts me is, did it really have to be *that* boring? 😉 Maybe if the churchgoing had actually made that Sunday morn scene as lively as their after church picnics, we could have inherited something useful…

        • Brutus says:

          I have similar childhood memories of the sense of community offered by parish churches alongside the stultifying boredom of ceremony. In a earlier era, that ceremony had the tenor of ritual observance, and the world moved much more slowly, so the need to excite and stimulate wasn’t nearly so strong. In the age of electronics (commencing with radio, probably), we buzz like flies from thing to thing, demanding our sensibilities be tweaked continuously.

          As to the question whether Vidal was right or wrong about the great unmentionable, I doubt that it’s possible in a complex culture such as ours to distill anything to only one attribute. Everything is multivalent. So pronouncements that assert singular aspects as the only true concern clearly engender the effect of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

          • leavergirl says:

            I grew up religionless, but when adult, made it my business to get acquainted with the scene. I was appalled. In Europe, it wasn’t just the ritual, it was also the beauty of the churches, the statues of the saints, the semidarkness, the incense… a person could feel something, feel connected to all those generations that created that beauty within which the ritual was situated.

            Here, there is no beauty, American protestants prided themselves on making their “meeting halls” as plain and outright ugly as possible, and the catholics were left with phony imitations of European gothic. When on top you were subjected to a sermon full of mealy mouthed platitudes with no relationship to what was happening in people’s lives… well, the damage was complete. (And I’ve done the Jewish trip too — even more boring if that can be possible.)

            • Disaffected says:

              Well, in small town midwestern Protestant’s defense (WOW! I NEVER though I’d EVER be stringing together THOSE words in this lifetime!), their services WERE an actual reflection of the reality they lived at the time. I didn’t realize it at the time, as my parents (actually, parent) had moved to the city and we lived a life of relative opulence compared to my grandparents still on the farm (no indoor plumbing until the mid 60s, no TV until almost 1970), but the life of most Kansas and Nebraska farmers was almost unbelievably harsh by modern standards until the mid 1970s or so. And then with the advent of corporate agriculture shortly thereafter, all that new found prosperity (no doubt enabled by debt financing) was gone just as fast as it started.

              My point? In my old age at least, I can totally forgive the inclination toward magical thinking on the part of such simple people who worked so very hard and so very honestly for so very little in return. I would think the biblical promise of a beatific eternal afterlife must have been an almost irresistible hook. I’d also remind that the Protestant tradition is (or at least was at one time) extremely regionally specific. “True” midwestern small town protestant congregations were known for their utter stoicism and almost total lack of theatrics, while southeastern evangelical protestants were pretty much exactly the opposite. In the end, I think regional religious traditions are (or at least were at one time) almost totally a product of regional sociological factors, and had almost nothing to do whatsoever with any idea of an objective “inherited” religious tradition. Which is all QUITE COOL in my opinion. Quite the opposite of today’s watered down, homogenized, “big screen mega-church” salvation via credit card for the masses. Somewhere along the line simple religion crossed the line from a harmless diversion for the simple hard working poor to a pathological obsession and easily manipulable tool for the permanently disenfranchised underclass. That’s a problem.

            • kulturcritic says:

              I don’t think “boring” would be the measuring stick, Vera. Although, certainly, the brighter the Spectacle, the better to entrap the flock!!

            • Ivy Mike says:

              I was touched by the picture James Kunstler had on his blog of a shopping center advertisement: EAT—SHOP—WORSHIP. Unfortunately, America’s faith in such a Holy Trinity has rendered the rapture impossible because of weight restrictions on lifting so much Walmart-fed flesh into the clouds of glory. The shame is, Harold Camping had The Second Coming calculated correctly, and re-calulated correctly, and then had to eat crow when Jesus should have ate more miraculous spinach, or at least got another angelic choir to deal with the diabetic tranche. But the Christ story is now too big to fail, and so a humble preacher has to take the fall for the failure. Now Heaven, Inc. is just kicking the can down the golden street, because nobody figured on humans doing this to themselves, and Hell wasn’t ever going to be this bad anyway.

            • Ivy Mike says:

              Leavergirl said: “I’ve done the Jewish trip too — even more boring if that can be possible.”

              Ivy Mike replies: “I didn’t say I was a Jew; I said I was Jew-ISH.” 😉

              There is much eloquent anti-civilization rhetoric in the Tanakh, which Mennonite theologian Ched Myers’ exegesis [1,2] draws upon, but it is nearly drown-out by the boring literalist-fundamentalist wing of Judaism who has tried to adapt to being dominated by egypt, babylon, assyria, etc. by becoming dominators themselves. Recent history is tragically similar; Jews got dominated (by Germans), then Jews dominate (over Palestinians.)

              It’s basic psychological “transference” behavior displayed by many victims of violence.

              I’m afraid the ramifications of this transference will lead to global thermonuclear war. We’re close, with the goings-on in the Levant right now.

              “Even so, come Lord Shiva.” ~Ivy Mike (first thermonuclear device tested)
              ____
              [1] “Anarcho-Primitivism and the Bible.” In Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature, 56–58. London: Continuum, 2005.
              [2] “The Fall.” In Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature, 634–36. London: Continuum, 2005.
              both can be read at http://www.jesusradicals.com/theology/ched-myers/

        • kulturcritic says:

          Yes, something like god the father… raping mother earth.

          • Ivy Mike says:

            Patriarchal monotheism is a damned lie, even with the Bible as a standard, because Genesis 1:1 clearly calls the first cosmological ball game thusly: “In the big inning, Elohim [The Gods, plural] created the heavens and the earth.

            Western theology has turned into a spiritual BDSM club featuring good ol’ DD (domestic discipline) House-Bondage: Submitting to a Hus-Band for women, and submitting to Hus-Bandry for the remainder of the lower animals. Even the butch males dream of being the Bride of Christ. Perhaps Christ will find some preachers as erotically “useful” as Paul found Onesimus, and brag about his exploits with ribald Greek sex jokes such as the one found in Philemon.

            Yet there remains a slight chance Western theologians will finally take that long-haired Cynic seriously when he critiqued Roman patriarchal hierarchy as follows:

            “Call no man your BOSS [patron, father] upon the earth.” ~verse 9, chapter 13, The Jefferson Bible

            • kulturcritic says:

              Again, Ivy Mike, your on target. Western theology is a clusterfuck of diverse jokers trying to explain that whose only explanation is pure fabrication for the benefit of the hierarchy – husbands and husbandry.

      • kulturcritic says:

        good rant, DA. Gotta love it!!

  4. derekthered says:

    PBS is flogging ken burns wwII remembrance, so even the libs are getting in on the act, lovely. so you were born w/o a spine!!!!!!!!!! i say heal!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    i just don’t think we’re headed for the brutal fascism vidal envisaged, no, we are able to grind things much more fine these days.

  5. Disaffected says:

    Makes me wonder too, who will be the great voices of reason and/or dissent of the current generation? As Sandy and Vidal both point out, media, politics, and religion have coalesced into an unholy trinity over the course of the last 30 to 50 years, and voices of dissent are pretty much stifled or marginalized before they ever get a chance to be widely heard these days. Not that most of the culturally homogenized and thus neutered American sheeple are listening anymore anyway – the constant urge to consume at all costs being pretty much the only message that ever gets through these days. Just another reason to believe that “the end of the world” my indeed be at hand, although it’ll be just the opposite of what most who use that term expect. If there’s any truth to the bible’s constant warnings of the “end times,” it may be that it had to do with Christians eventually waking up to the fact that their primitive, monotheistic, sky god hero worship fantasies would finally be popped. It really is such a childish and foolish belief system that I always find my first response to any “true believer” I meet – especially when they’re otherwise reasonably intelligent and well adjusted – is, you CAN’T BE serious!

  6. derekthered says:

    it’s not the people who follow their sky god who worry me (at least they have some standards), no, it’s the greeks, as we have moved beyond Oedipus, to be best buds with Narcissus. remember, echo called for young narcissus, but he was too busy admiring his own reflection, which is where we are in narcissist nation with our newfangled cellular identity.

    sure, the believers are technically quite insane, psychotic, isn’t that what you call it when people see things that aren’t there? but like i said, that’s not what worries me, no……………..
    it’s the fact that all these chumps are living opposite of what they supposedly believe.

    our tendency to break every thing down to the unit, to capitalize on every last atom and molecule, this is what worries me. there is no sacred, there are no limits, an extension of be fruitful and multiply to the tenth dimension of whatever string we happen to be pulling at the time.

    and hey? if we don’t like what we see in the mirror? we’ll smash it into a million pieces, or squash it like an egg, because we know we can always put it back together again.

    it is apropos that Director Josef committed his crime protecting the Titan mission, for we are the Titans now.

  7. Brutus says:

    Oops, meant the above comment to be a reply to Disaffected two entries up. Oh, well.

    On a side note, I grabbed that second quote of Vidal’s above for a comment I made at another blog and was told squarely that he was obviously wrong: the oppressed will never focus their anger on the oppressor but will tear themselves apart. I guess the meme about the 99% never happened.

  8. leavergirl says:

    I loved the Vidal scathing wit. But he is wrong… monotheism is not the evil center of our culture. I am not the first to argue that the “axial age” religions were invented as a response to the explosion of brutality accompanying the birth of this civilization. Some claim that they managed to modify it somewhat; probably right about that. Nitzsche noticed that Christianity was an attempt to bully the powerful with a dose of morality. He did not approve. Nevertheless, it was a sneaky, somewhat successful strategy that was eventually undermined.

    When you look at the (civilized) ancients, things looked better for a while modified by religion… in comparison with say, the Assyrians. And when you look at the middle ages, there seems to be at least some evidence of restraint there… economically, monetarily, and otherwise. That restraint vanished as Enlightenment swept away the “fear of God” underpinnings. Are we better off? It’s the psychopathic among us who thrive best by having “no gods” [read no higher standards or principles] over them.

    Nah. The evil of our culture is that it’s been overtaken by assholes. Plain and simple. They infect everything… from banking to churches to government to corporations to schools… Get at the inner rot!

    • kulturcritic says:

      The big question, Vera.. what creates an asshole? The big evil is civilization, and the Abrahamic faiths, alongside Aristotelian logic, legalism and hierarchy, are foundation pillars!

      • leavergirl says:

        Heh. The chicken and the egg again? 🙂 I am partial to the view that assholes created civ. This civ, not every civ that had ever existed… So what created assholes? I think they always existed… but something happened systemically that empowered them.

        • Ivy Mike says:

          Once humans began to crowd into groups larger than their neurobiological limitation (Dunbar’s Number,) like uranium reaching “critical mass,” a chain reaction started. I view Civilization as an explosive positive feedback loop between arrogant aggression and submissive docility/stupidity.

          “If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son…all the men of his CITY shall stone him with stones…” ~Deuteronomy

          Culling the wild ones—i.e., breeding for docility and stupidity—is what civilization (CITY-Statism) is all about. “Big Men” did it to other earthling animals first, and now we’ve, unfortunately, done it to ourselves, as Peter J. Wilson points out in his “The Domestication of the Human Species” (Yale University Press, 1991.)

          Ever feel like a caged animal? You are.

          • kulturcritic says:

            I agree, Ivy Mike, I think once you cram too many strangers together into the urban mess, chaos ensues… as well as a breeding ground for severe psychopathology. I also appreciate how well read you are. You embarrass me, sometimes, with your knowledge. sandy

            • Malthus says:

              An interesting book written by Leopold Khor an Hungarian economist called “The overdeveloped nations,” Follows that thought.

            • DrBubb says:

              Too much crowding creates chaos?
              Er, no! Not amongst civilised people.
              You want crowding, we’ve got it. I live in Hong Kong, just 10 minutes walk from Mong Kok (which means “crowded corner” in Cantonese.) It is the most dense human habitation on the planet.

              And yet, for that, HK is one of the safest places in the world. And there is little chaos here.

              Why?
              Part of it is cultural. HK People are raised to be “civilised” enough to live in crowded circumstances. And there are also various release mechanisms here, that Americans who are open-minded enough can learn from.

              For instance, the larger properties have their own swimming pools and clubhouse. And for those who cannot afford it, the city provides: playgrounds, libraries, sporting facilities, etc.

              If the USA wants a future, it is time to learn from those who are living in it. And I get sick of reading nonsense from people who know little of how the rest of the world has faced up to challenges that those in the US are just beginning to see.

              • kulturcritic says:

                Well-domesticated animals in the barnyard or industrial pens are also trained to live that way; that’s just before they are slaughtered. Be that as it may, Dr Bubb, the wealthy in America have the same luxuries that those in HK seem to share, as do the poor and downtrodden, you know, those kept closely together in the abattoir. Perhaps you never really visited an American city; they have lots of parks, public libraries, playgrounds, etc. But, that is hardly the point my friend. In fact, I am not sure you had really made any point. So feel free to amend your answer. I will await. And, like you, I am also tired of listening to people who sound like men with paper assholes. all my very best, sandy

          • leavergirl says:

            Jaysus feck. Don’t waste your time on this nasty, “bludgeon viewer into submission” piece of anti-ag propaganda. Most of it is endless shots of moldboard plows (yeah, bad enough) and nuclear explosions (penile dysfunction, anyone?). I had to stop it at 4 minutes.

            There is good ag and bad ag. There is good foraging and bad foraging. There is good horti and bad horti. Learn to recognize the difference!

            • kulturcritic says:

              Yea Ivy… I agree with vera here. I had to stop after 1.5 minutes. Just too fuckin much!

            • Brutus says:

              Gotta agree here. If there was a point to be made, it was lost with the heavy-handed hyperbole. What’s the point of juxtaposing soil tillage with atomic blasts other than to assault the viewer? Reminds me of Godwin’s Law.

              At the least, it did mention Jared Diamond’s essay “The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race.” There’s a point, there, too, but so long after the fact, it’s sorta moot. We have the world we have. Can’t go back and change history.

        • kulturcritic says:

          I think Ivy Mike makes a good point about the crowding that creates psychopathy. But, there must have been something in the air that led to such changes, and I don’t buy the asshole theory, Vera. LOL

          • leavergirl says:

            “Once humans began to crowd into groups larger than their neurobiological limitation (Dunbar’s Number,) like uranium reaching “critical mass,” a chain reaction started. I view Civilization as an explosive positive feedback loop between arrogant aggression and submissive docility/stupidity.”

            That’s an excellent point. But other civs did not take this route, eg. the Norte Chico (Caral)
            people. They stayed rural, and only created ceremonial centers, not towns.

            When a human community grows, it’s got two options… to grow into bigger and bigger agglomerations, or to divide (hive off) as soon as the group gets unwieldy. The Iroquois eg. stayed segmental and rural/foraging/cultivating despite their growth. All the free peoples I know about remained segmental (whether they stayed tribal or formed a civ.)

            Hey, Sandy, you can’t buy the asshole theory. It’s not for sale. I am putting it in the gift economy… 😉

            • kulturcritic says:

              Define your use of the word civilization, Vera. We are evidently laboring under differing conceptions.

              • leavergirl says:

                I wrote a whole series of posts on it, link below. Not very long. The first two refer to the malignant civ we live in. The one on Hazards and pitfalls talks of a different way to define or characterize civ. Your man, Elman Service, whom I am finally reading, concurs with my view that a civ is not defined by cities.
                http://leavingbabylon.wordpress.com/2010/09/12/from-civilization-to-commonwealth/

                There is a also a post there, Being there, which dwells in some detail on several non-domination civilizations. I would add the Indus civ as well.

                • leavergirl says:

                  Here is a quote from the second of those posts:
                  “Those who criticize our civilization as aberrant and terminally corrupt are right, but they themselves fall into fallacious thinking. The options before us are not either/or: either this civilization or none. Either this civilization or back to the cave. Just as “we the civilized” are not “humanity,” so “this civilization” is not “civilization.” This civilization is only one type of civilization.

                • kulturcritic says:

                  The Indus Valley Civilization had cities, although there are questions about armies and leadership, and an assumption about equality among the populace.

        • Malthus says:

          One thing I know is we all have one.

  9. leavergirl says:

    What made their life harsh? I regularly stayed with a family in a village who had no indoor plumbing, and got water from the pump, and used a dry toilet outside, cooked with wood… I did not think it made their life harsh… they had far fresher food than we had in town, and the work was varied and (I thought) pretty enjoyable, the air was fresh, you could go swimming and running in the woods any time, and life in the village seemed more wholesome overall — more physical, more innocent, more enjoyable. And they sure were a lot saner than my folks… despite, as you would say it, their belief in magic… 🙂 I have since become partial to magic myself, and knowing it both ways, I would not go back.

    Re big churches… it continually baffles me. Why would anyone want to subject themselves to that? But then, I am asking that question every day about a lot of stuff people in this civ do.

  10. patrick says:

    I guess he never understood the words of Christ. His distaste for Christianity is because of his love for persuing a Homosexual lifestyle. Why is true Christianity being persecuted for the sins of this present day corrupted version.

    • kulturcritic says:

      Patrick – are we a bit homophobic?

      • patrick says:

        I have had many friends that were Homosexuals, attended their parties and enjoyed their humor and outlooks on many subjects. I also noticed the early demise of many of them and the deep longing and loneliness that many of them endured in later life. My observations of them had opened my eyes to the emptiness of it all. Also note, that throughout history when you had an explosion of Homosexuality it was a sign of the end of economic security with great social upheaval just ahead.

        Also, where did the first atom come from, did it originate out of nothing zillions of years ago. We do not have that much brain power to conclude there is no God. Something started somewhere, it must of happened with a higher intelligence than we can conceive.

        The bible is the only book that can accurately predict the future, and so far everything is on track. Even this explosion of Homosexuality, the Christian Apostasy, and what is now unraveling before our eyes was predicted. I agree that most Christianity today is not based on the teachings of Jesus, which was also foretold in the scriptures.

        • kulturcritic says:

          Everyone today needs something to cling to, Patrick. Just don’t try to impose your myths on anyone else, intellectually or physically. The Christian and Moslem faiths have done so throughout history.

  11. Kenuck says:

    Toffler sez the intellectuals are next in line after the warriors…yu Mensa fuks best be prepared.

  12. Bukko Canukko says:

    No discussion of Vidal’s views on monotheism would be complete unless somebody drops a link about “Julian”, Vidal’s novel biography of the last Roman emperor who worshipped the pagan gods.

    I’ve been on a Goreading kick for the last year or so after stumbling across a copy of “Julian” in a used book store where I was looking for stuff to flesh out the dry text of “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.” (Great book, finished Volume I and am working on Volume II, the history of the rest of the world up to the 1600s or thereabout, but it needs supplemental reading to add some context.) “Julian” has a lot of Vidal’s acerbic views on Xtianity, such as where he has the emperor label Jeebusism a cannibal cult because of the symbolic eating of the saviour’s flesh. That, and the reverence for bones, flesh and other body parts of dead saints, were why Vidal had Julian calling churches “charnel houses.” “Julian” the novel is a fast-moving page-turner; lots of sex, murder and intrigue in addition to the religion-bashing. It does to Christianity what “Burr” (the current Vidal book I’m perusing) does to Amurka’s Founding Fathers.

  13. javacat says:

    Maybe it’s upcoming, but since we’re talking about religion and politics, any comment on Madonna, Putin and the Pussy Riot trial? 😉

    • kulturcritic says:

      The Russians are still trying to figure out how to do shit without looking stupid or mean… they just don’t have the finesse down yet. We have had lotsssss of practice!

  14. derekthered says:

    in some circles speaking of the national security state is thought of as being some sort of far right fringe fantasy, it takes an outcast to be into that sort of thing, like gore vidal, or yours truly, but maybe in a different way……………….but that’s not what worries me, no it’s how they do it.

    for further study i recommend seeing
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bright_Young_Things
    where the one guy goes into exile in france sort of thing, you have to pay attention to the plot, such a sad, sad situation, but accurate.

    no matter, i can probably make it another month
    http://www.residentevil-movie.com/
    sort of an art reflecting the collective dreams of society sort of thing.

  15. Devin says:

    A beautiful blog about Mr Vidal! I was surprised somewhat at my emotion (the level of it) at his passing -crying and felt very down for days – actually still do.
    I didn’t have time to read many of the comments did notice the link to Julian which anyone with any interest in ancient Rome, pagansim. early christianity will really enjoy.
    I have Burr and Lincoln still on shelf to read.
    What I wanted to mention was his autobio “Palimpsest” -it is just superb and I cannot recommend it enough! Anyone with the slightest interest in the movers and shakers of the 20th century will be delighted with this book (there is much on the Kennedys and ‘Camelot’ era-but so much more too.
    Gore wrote this when he was around 70 years old (1993-1994) and most of the book is about his huge life experience in his first 40 years. Please do yourself a favor and read this book to anyone who admires Gore Vidal and what he did do and what he TRIED to do for our benighted nation! Your blog looks great and I will be back to read more posts very soon,
    all the best to you,
    Devin

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