Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Why I Despise Politics

"Nowhere are prejudices more mistaken for truth, passion for reason, and invective for documentation than in politics. This is a realm, peopled only by villains or heroes, in which everything is black or white and gray is a forbidden color."
—John Mason Brown, "Through These Men" (1956)

People, individually, can be just fine, but in groups—or as I like to call them, herds—are stupid, deluded, infantile, and murderous. And that's a fact. This is nowhere more evident than in politics, which more than anything else is a herd phenomenon. The enormity of these bad qualities is so destructive I wish politics didn't exist.

I've met "conservatives" who called Bush "my President" (in 1938 they would have been saying "mein Fuhrer") and who were convinced Obama was a monster who was going to give America to Muslims. Then, of course, I've met "liberals" who thought Bush was the anti-Christ and Obama was the Messiah.

Both groups are overflowing with fools. There's about a dime's worth of difference between Bush and Obama. They are, after all, professional politicians, who are lower than child molesters and serial killers, because they've killed and maimed hundreds of millions of people throughout history.

And yet, some people—far too many!—worship their political party and the politicians in it. Why in the world some people seek a leader to worship is beyond me. But when they do, they automatically see those of a different party not merely as mistaken, but as evil. And that is what John Mason Brown, among many others, has noticed.

Herds seek herd leaders. I suppose, and even though politics is based on force and fraud (and the worst get on top, as Friedrich Hayek noticed) the herd can't see this and instead idealizes and worships the worst people, the ones who century after century have started wars, taken away freedoms, destroyed societies. Talk about self-deluded!

There is no grey in politics, only the belief in black and white, good and evil. When one herd of people sees itself as good—and such goodness in a herd is utterly impossible—they are going to project all their unacknowledged badness onto another herd. "Conservatives" do it to "liberals" and "liberals" do it to "conservatives."

Politics by its very nature sets people at each other's throats. You'd think people could easily see this, considering the political wars of the 20th Century costs the lives of 177 million to 200 million people, but even with that unbelievable slaughter they still can't see it.

Perhaps some people's lives are so empty and boring they seek the quickest fix for it, which is politics. Maybe they find it exciting. I sure don't. It'd be a lot less trouble for the world if political junkies were instead heroin addicts.

After all, Chris Hedges, in his book, "War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning," wrote: "The enduring attraction of war is this: Even with its destruction and carnage it can give us what we long for in life. It can give us purpose, meaning, a reason for living. Only when we are in the midst of conflict does the shallowness and vapidness of much of our lives become apparent. Trivia dominates our conversations and increasingly our airwaves. And war is an enticing elixir. It gives us resolve, a cause. It allows us to be noble."

I think a good example of this quick-fix excitement is in the movie, "The Triumph of the Will," about how Germany responded to Hitler. There is a scene, right at the beginning, in which Hitler is standing in an open car as it travels down a road with thousands of worshipping, smiling people on both sides.

They are clearly worshipping Hitler. And Hitler has a smug, satisfied smile on his face, one that says, "They love me!" Just like that, one of the worst leaders of the 20th Century drives by them, and the herd turns into grinning, worshipping morons.

Maybe that's the problem with politics. It's too easy for people to get excited by it, to exalt themselves and their herd, to cast their problems onto innocent people. If this is true—and I think it is—then politics, by its nature, appeals to the worst in people. Try as hard as it can, politics cannot appeal to their best.

That is why I wish politics didn't exist.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pledging to the Monster

Several years ago I discovered the Pledge of Allegiance had been written by the Nationalist and Socialist Francis Bellamy, in 1892. (The phrase "Nationalist Socialist" is better known by the word, "Nazi.") Before this leftist's drive to support himself by selling a flag to every classroom, the flag was almost never seen in schools.

Bellamy, being a fascist, wanted to collectivize the entire nation. To this end he resurrected the Roman salute for school children--the same one as the Nazi salute--until the beginning of World War II put a permanent end to it.

Since every individual state was originally a "free and independent" nation, when children said the Pledge of Allegiance, to which entity were they pledging allegiance? The entire country?

I doubt it. It is the federal government that drafts teenagers and starts wars, that levies crushing taxes and runs up deficits. Not the individual states. I've never seen, and can't imagine, Illinois or Montana declaring war on some nation halfway across the world.

Since the country and the federal government are different things--indeed eternally opposed to each other--when people say the Pledge, they are pledging allegiance to the federal government. Not the country.

Since the federal government is composed of people, those saying the Pledge are in reality pledging allegiance to those who have control of it. So, when people are wounded or die in wars, they're fighting for a handful of people in charge of a disorganized criminal enterprise that believes it should rule the entire country. I don't see why this isn't the same in every country.

When I look across the world, at what the US administration is doing, the main thing I see is an empire not of colonies, but of military bases. Over 700 military bases in over 140 countries. Deny the US is an empire all you want,
it still is.

This empire is the main thing. There are other, secondary concerns. I see us involved in two wars about the export of leftist delusion of democracy to the Islamic world, securing oil supplies, and protecting Israel. When you look at this fruit, and follow it back to the tree, I find an administration full of oil men, and Christian Zionists and Zionists, ones who want to secure oil supplies for the US, and protect Israel because they believe it will bring Jesus back, or because it is a land for displaced Jews.

The aforementioned are the things for which soldiers are dying. It's not worth it. War, as Smedley Butler noticed, is a racket--those politically connected gain more power and money; those who are not, die in wars. "It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses," he wrote.

We can drill for our own oil in Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico. Canada has one trillion gallons of oil in tar sands. The evidence is now that oil reservoirs are refilling themselves, since it appears oil is created deep in the earth, and has nothing to do with decayed prehistoric vegetation.

As for Jesus coming back, this belief is based on a very few phrases in the Bible. Even if He does, I don't see how it's going to come about through war and destruction, unless Biblical prohibitions against murder have suddenly been suspended.

As for Israel, it can defend itself on its own dime, not mine. Personally, I don't think the US, no matter how assured its convictions or pure its intentions, is going to put an end to war in a place where there has been war for 4000 years.

A lot of people are blaming the neocons--leftists masquerading as rightists--for the mess we're in. I do, too. They're enormously deluded people, and they're certainly cowards. But the problems go further back in time.

I do know the switches were set wrong in the 20th century when Woodrow Wilson--about whom John Maynard Keynes wrote, "He thought he was Jesus Christ"--got the US involved in World War I, even though the exhausted European countries were on the verge of stopping the war.

Wilson, whose ignorance about the world was prodigious, said he wanted to make the world "safe for democracy." That sounds familiar, even today.

Richard Maybury, in his book, World War I: the Rest of the Story, points out the US started to become a world empire in the late 1800s, when it appropriated the Philippines from Spain. Supporters claimed we were going to "civilize" the place, a claim I'm hearing today about Iraq and the rest of the Middle East. I guess we're going to impose abortion, feminism and gay marriage on them.

Taking the Philippines was the first misstep to world empire by these utopian fantastists, but there were mistakes by them before that one.

Before the Philippines, Abraham Lincoln had put an end to the "free and independent" states with the War Between the States. It wasn't a "civil war," because a civil war is about two or more groups fighting for control of the government. Since the South was trying to secede, it was, quite correctly a war between the states, and not a civil war.

You can make the argument the problem goes back to dumping the Articles of Confederation, the loss of which led to the creation of the federal government. It turns out the critics were right: the federal government has turned into an ever-growing, ever-menacing Leviathan.

The late, great Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, in his amazing magnum, Leftism Revisited, claims the problem runs back to the French Revolution, with its belief in democracy and equality. "For the average person, all problems date to World War II; for the more informed, to World War I; for the genuine historian, to the French Revolution," he wrote.

Whenever the problem started, I do know it's been going on for a long time. Here, since right after the founding of the country. It's only now coming to fruition.

I do know this: we have a mere handful of people, ones who cannot tell leftism from rightism, running the US government. Unfortunately, enough people think the federal government represents the country--which it does not--so they follow those running it. It's now clear to me what the word "sheeple" means. The sheeple don't realize they're the ones who are going to be sheared and slaughtered.

The problems get worse because of the enormous power the President now wields. I think we'd be better off if the office didn't exist. Certainly a handful of trouble-makers are leading the US down the road to Hell, but it gets much scarier to realize that merely one man can do it.

Politically, the problem is leftism, a pseudo-religious crackpot cult that has a belief in the creation of an earthly utopia through government violence. Unfortunately it's now infected the right. Because of this, the neocons, who claim to be conservatives, are instead leftists. Democracy, which the Founding Fathers despised, is leftist. As Kuehnelt-Leddihn pointed out, you can't have the equality of democracy and liberty at the same time, because under liberty there are always natural elites. In a democracy, the envious mob always want to bring the elites down.

Ultimately, the problem is imperfect human nature. Theologically, as far I'm concerned, the problem is hubris. It's the sin of Satan: the lust to rule, the lust to destroy, and the lust for attention. It's the problem of every politician, and therefore the problem of every government.

We'd be better off if the entire federal apparatus didn't exist. Too bad it's not in the Constitution that every 50 years the federal government has to be dissolved and started over from scratch. It wouldn't be perfect, but then, what is? I certainly could live with it. Ideally, and easily, we could live without the federal government at all.

If the federal government has to exist, then it, right from the beginning, should have been dissolved every 50 years. There would not have been a War Between the States, the Spanish-American War, World War I and II, Korea, Vietnam...or 9-11. There would be no world empire meddling in the rest of the planet, bringing blowback our way not because of our values, but because of the federal government's actions.

It is because the always-swelling federal government has, like a cancer, metastasized into every individual state, and now across the world, that New York City, in the state of New York, was attacked on 9-11. It wasn't that individual state's fault it was attacked. It was the federal government's fault.

In the long run, the federal government will be dissolved. All in the past have fallen, without exception.This one will, too. The country will survive. At what cost, I don't know. I hope not a bad one.

In a little over 200 years, the federal government has gone from non-existence to taking over the country, and is now trying to take over the world. It's turned into a monster. And no one in his right mind should pledge allegiance to a monster.

Life, Liberty -- then Property

“All for ourselves, and nothing for other people, seems, in every age of the world, to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind.” -- Adam Smith,"The Wealth of Nations."

The Constitutional phrase, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” came from the writings of John Locke, specifically his long essay, “Concerning Civil Government,” although Locke wrote (and I paraphrase here) “life, liberty and property.”

I have been unable to find out why Locke put those qualities in the order he did. I doubt it was purely coincidental, since without life, liberty and property mean nothing.

What I find interesting it that Locke put property in third place, after life and liberty. This means that life and liberty are more important than property (which he defined as “mixing” your labor with something).

Locke’s sequence makes a lot of sense to me, considering the fact one of the most serious problems this country had when founded is that some people were slaves, i.e., someone else’s property. Their rights to life and liberty were ignored, and in fact the courts (including the Supreme Court) ruled for some 150 years that slavery was legal and that slaves essentially had no rights.

In fact, the Supreme Court (and the lesser courts) consistently ruled that property was more important that life or liberty. These appalling rulings of course led to violence and death – and a lot of it.

During the early 1900s there was a lot of violence between “capital” and “labor.” I am especially reminded of Matewan, in which coal company “police” evicted families from company housing (the miners were also paid in scrip, which could only be spent in company stores).

The chief was police, a 28-year-old ex-miner named Sid Hatfield, told these armed men they were under arrest. They told him he was under arrest, and violence broke out – the mayor was shot and killed, and Hatfield killed two of the “police.” Armed miners killed five more of the “police” and the rest retreated.

Over 20 miners were put on trial – and all were found not guilty by a jury of miners. This kind of violence was endemic in those days, all of it caused by the courts ruling that the “property” of the coal companies was more important than the life or liberty of the miners.

It is an unfortunate fact of life that courts often don’t rule correctly until violence forces them to. This is incompetence at its worst.

Locke believed in Natural Rights, and so do I: the law is discovered (like the laws of physics and chemistry are discovered), and not created. Natural Law works: created law is Political Law, based on force and fraud.

When the difference between discovered law and false created law is understood, it’s possible to predict the future, if only in a general way. The Tea Party and the Occupy Wall Street Movement are eruptions based on people finally starting to understand, even if imperfectly, that the State is not their friend.

I also wonder how long it’s going to take the courts to do the right thing: declare the Federal Reserve Bank illegal, along with corporations (which are creations of the State), which exist only to crush competition and exploit suppliers.

When courts rule that property is more important than life and liberty, then people are not people, but things to be exploited and enslaved, and if need be, killed. Unfortunately, this has been the history of the world.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Amazing Wackety Wackety Money Machine

Alan Greenspan: Wackety! Wackety! Wackety!

Pizza Deliverer: Hello? Did someone here order --- AHHH!! What the hell are you?!

Greenspan (chuckling): Scary, ain't I?

Deliverer: Dude, you look like an reanimated corpse! Kinda like that guy with all the knives in "Hellboy!"

Greenspan: Been like this all my life. Even Ayn Rand said I looked like an undertaker, and she was pretty much a catastrophe in the looks department herself. But I have some consolations. Like this! (points to machine) Know what this is?

Deliverer: I have no idea.

Greenspan: It's the Federal Reserve Bank printing press. See, I turn the crank, it goes wackety! wackety! wackety! and billions of paper dollars just pour out into these laundry baskets here. Then we put the money into helicopters and dump it onto crowds of people.

Trolls: ARGH!

Deliverer: Jesus! What's going on here? A zombie and now monsters!

Greenspan: These guys deliver the baskets to the waiting helicopters. I find it poetic justice that monsters are destroying the value of your money. (Chuckles again) But then, for all practical purposes, the Federal Reserve is a monster since has it destroyed about 98% of the value of your money since it was created in 1913.

Deliverer: That doesn't sound right, dude.

Greenspan: It's not.

Deliverer: Then why do you do it?

Greenspan: Oh, I'm kind of a weakling when pressed by politicians. Politicians and the public and corporations just love easy money. The public is so stupid they think they're getting richer when in reality their wealth is being destroyed by my inflating the money supply. Also, politicians want to stay in office by promising jobs and all kinds of benefits to the retards that up the mass of voters.

Deliverer: Sheesh! The things you learn delivering pizzas!

Greenspan: Then there's the allure of money and fame. You'd be amazed at the number of people who are seduced by money, fame, power, sex. Especially politicians, who are sort of a subhuman form of life, anyway. Unfortunately, in my case, being over 80 years old, the sex angle doesn't work on me anymore. The only crank that works for me these days is the one I'm turning on this here printing press.

Deliverer: How in the world do you get away with this? Sounds like you're a counterfeiter.

Greenspan: I am a counterfeiter. Kind of funny, isn't it? People think the government is their friend. It's not. It benefits only those who have captured it. You know what inflation does? It transfers wealth from the majority of people to a very small minority. The rich gets richer and the poor get poorer. That's what the purpose of government is, and unfortunately it's ultimately the peoples' fault for letting us get away with it.

Deliverer: Doesn't seem like you should be telling me this stuff. Aren't you afraid something bad might happen to you if I went out and told everyone?

Greenspan: Nope, not at all. There are thousands upon thousands of people yelling about what I'm doing, and no one's listening. The public won't pay any attention until the money completely loses its value and collapses, as all paper money does when it's not backed by gold and silver. In the meantime, I'm being celebrated as the greatest head of the Fed ever. You know what? I'm the worst. The dollar has lost 30% of its value under my watch. And even though I should be put on a horse and given a last cigarette before the horse's rump is slapped and I'm allowed to dangle, not a damn thing is doing to happen to me.

Deliverer: Damn! You've got a great job! You can be a big-time criminal if you are part of the government, violate every one of the Ten Commandments, slaughter, lie, steal -- and people praise you!

Greenspan: Yep, you got it. That should be in the Bible. (Looks pensive) Now that I think about it, it is.

Deliverer: Say, do you mind if I take one of these baskets of money?

Greenspan: Go right ahead. Not too long in the future it might take a basket of money to pay for a pizza, anyway. It happened in Germany before World War II, when the government hyperinflated the money supply to the point it was completely worthless. Everyone lost their life's savings.

Deliverer: Hey, thanks, Mr. Greenspan!

Greenspan: Don't mention it.

Deliverer: Bye, Mr. Greenspan!

Greenspan: That's what you think. What I've done to the country will be around for a long, long time.

Trolls: ARGH!

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Loss of Our Ancient Wisdom

The human race possesses knowledge but little wisdom; what little we possess we ignore, because we think we know so much. It’s what comes from self-delusion and arrogance, the two main flaws that create the blind leading the blind.

Much of that wisdom is contained in mythology, the painfully distilled experiences of the joys and horrors inherent in being human, in the form of stories that entertain and educate.

We’re in the process of forgetting those stories. We’re already regretting it.

At one time in the not-so-distant past, Americans know their Greco-Roman myths, because they were aware these stories were one of the foundations of Western culture. These days, with these stories so unknown, many Americans don’t even know where they came from.

Let’s use, for an example. Hermes. Hermes was the original name of the Greek god, although most people today know him by his Roman name, Mercury.

Hermes was, paradoxically, the patron of both merchants and thieves. Some might argue merchants are thieves, but it’s not that simple.

None of the Greek gods were simple. They were as complex and contradictory as people, which isn’t surprising, considering that while the Greeks gods don’t exist, people certainly do. The Greek gods are just illustrations (or archetypes) of kinds of people and their relationships.

Hermes, in his not-so-admirable aspects, although likeable and charming, was a liar and a thief. What does that tell us? Although someone may be charming (which means "to cast a spell") it doesn't mean he is a moral person -- think of the charming, likeable rogue Bill Clinton.

Hermes did something very note-worthy and very disturbing -- he broke Ares (Roman: Mars) out of a bronze vessel he had been imprisoned in for a year.

Ares, the Greek god of war, was a coward, a whiner, and a mass slaughterer who loved death and destruction (two of his offspring were named Panic and Terror). He was also incompetent, as war-lovers are always incompetent -- Saddam Hussein, for a good example, ordered his generals to capture hundreds of American soldiers and tie them to the front of Iraqi tanks.

Hermes, in his better aspects, was the protector of merchants. Zeus, law-giver and enforcer of oaths, who ruled not only through force but also through wisdom and justice, ordered Hermes to clean up his act and not only protect merchants, but also travelers. He was also charged with promoting trade and negotiating treaties.

The story of Hermes is a profound myth. There is a saying by Bastiat (and it's a mighty important one): "If goods do not cross borders, armies will."

Hermes, when a liar and a thief - and when he protected thieves - unleases war on the world. In other words, when ther is no just, fair, free-market trade, war is very likely to erupt.

When there is just, fair, free-market trade, Ares ends up bottled for years. When merchants and traders are liars and thieves, Ares is let loose to walk to and fro up and down in the world.

Unfortunately the United States does not have just, fair free-market trade. It has instead globalization -- managed trade -- which enriches a vanishingly small minority at the expense of everyone else.

Many "merchants" have turned into liars and thieves, and the court intellectuals who support them (and banksters) haven't turned into liars -- they always have been liars, in addition to being whores.

The United States considers itself to be Zeus -- the fair and just lawgiver imposing order on the world. Since the West is Christian -- even if nominally -- the United States perceives itself as the indispensible nation, the shining city on the hill, chosen by God.

Yet Zeus punished blindness and arrogance -- what the Greeks called Hubris. It was always followed by Nemesis.

For that matter, Pride, (the worst sin in Christianity and the same as Hubris) is always followed by some kind of destruction: "Pride goes before a fall, and a haughy spirit before destruction."

The ancient Greeks believed in prophecy. (Apollo, the first person Hermes stole from and lied to) was among his many talents the god of prophecy.

It's no wonder the Greeks believed in prediction. The future -- if you have some understanding of human nature -- isn't that hard to foresee.

The international merchants of today (I call them Cosmodemonic Transnational Megacorporations), with their stealing and lying, are going to again unleash Ares. As to whether or not this unleashing will be in the U.S. or without, that remains to be to seen. Perhaps, it will be both inside and outside.

But he will be unleashed, in one degree or another, as lying, stealing and Hubris always does.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Modern Day Molochs

The Greek word, "sophrosyne" ("seh-FROS-eh-knee") is the opposite of another old Greek word: hubris. Hubris, or as the Bible puts it, "pride," is, I believe, the only true crime that exists, because it is the basis of all other crimes.

Hubris is conceit, arrogance, grandiosity, the belief that one is god-like and can transcend human limitations, usually through violence. Hubris devalues other people into mere things. It is the sin of Satan, as described in the Bible.

Sophrosyne can be described as understanding the limitations and imperfections of human nature, of "knowing yourself," of doing nothing in any great excess. It's a type of "humility," if humility is understood as an awareness of the flaws inherent in people. It reminds me of another Greek word, "metanoia," which means to "change the heart and mind, to turn around and go the other way."

Hubris always leads to scapegoating, which the psychiatrist M. Scott Peck correctly identified as the "genesis of human evil." He was right, but did not point out it's based on hubris, and that scapegoating always leads to human sacrifice.

That's the sequence as I see it: hubris to scapegoating to human sacrifice. The Greeks saw the sequence as koros (stability) to hubris (arrogance, insolence) to ate (madness) to nemesis (destruction). I think it's more accurate to say that right after hubris comes the belief in the fairy tale of pure good and pure evil, splitting everyone into all-good or all-bad. That leads to ate, to madness, to scapegoating and human sacrifice. Then nemesis follows.

Scapegoating is when one person or a group projects problems onto another person or group, then tries to destroy them. One side says, "Since we are good, then you must be evil. Being evil, you are the cause of our problems. If we destroy you, evil will cease to exist and our problems will disappear."

Scapegoating requires splitting groups into pure good and pure evil, into grandiose and devalued. That splitting -- indeed that belief -- in pure good and pure evil automatically leads to scapegoating and human sacrifice.

In the 20th century, the best-known practitioners of scapegoating and human sacrifice were the Nazis and socialists. They weren't the only ones, just the best-known. All societies do it. The U.S. did it to alcohol users during Prohibition and does it today to drug dealers and sellers.

You can see the sequence I outlined in any serial killer. Or, in any murderer. They start out stable, then, somehow hubris afflicts them. Then comes the split, with them as good and someone else as evil. They project their problems on the other person, then scapegoat and kill them, engaging in human sacrifice. They do it in the hope they can become "whole." Since it doesn't work, they have to repeat their crimes. That makes serial killers serial scapegoaters.

On a much larger scale, with the Nazis and the socialists, each projected their problems on to others, then scapegoated and sacrificed them. Historians estimate 177 million people died in wars in the 20th century. I've seen estimates of up to 200 million. All scapegoated, all sacrificed, because of hubris -- we are good, and you are evil. You are the cause of our problems, so we must destroy you.

The function of the scapegoat, according to Rene Girard, a French Catholic academic who did his work in the U.S., are two: social cohesion, and the attempt to renew society by doing violence to the scapegoat. He wrote two works, Violence and the Sacred, and Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World.

Both the Nazis and socialists thought if they scapegoated and human sacrificed their opponents, then a new, better society would arise. The U.S. tried the same thing with alcohol and drug prohibition. Get rid of alcohol, and drug sellers and users, cast all problems onto them, see them as evil, then once they are eradicated, a new, better society will arise. Only it won't. It never will.

All, like serial killers, do violence to the scapegoat in an effort to become whole.

Scapegoating and human sacrifice, which is always through violence, will never create a better society. Yet all societies continue to try it, to no avail. None are even aware of what they do. All approve of it and consider it a good thing.

In the U.S., you can see this scapegoating and sacrifice in any election. A politician who fails is scapegoated and then sacrificed by being voted out of office. A better country -- especially a better economy -- is supposed to result. If things get too bad, politicians can be sacrificed the way Mussolini was. All politicians would do well to keep Shirley Jackson's famous short story, "The Lottery," in mind.

The novel that most clearly shows the sequence of hubris to scapegoating to human sacrifice, and the function of the scapegoat, is Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged. In it we have her god-like heroes, whose problem are due to "looters" and "parasites," all of whom Rand describes as subhuman. Her heroes are all-good; the villains, all-bad.

Rand, by casting all problems, all evil, onto her villains, has them function as scapegoats that must be sacrificed to assure the creation of a better world. Her heroes withdraw into Galt's Gulch to await the destruction of all evil through violence and death. Then, they plan on returning to a fresh, new world. It works in fiction. In real life it wouldn't.

Girard believed one of the most profound importances of the Gospels is that for the first time in history a voice was given to the victim, to the scapegoat. To a lesser degree, a voice was given to Socrates, who along with Jesus, are the two most important deaths in Western culture. But for all practical purposes, it was the death of Jesus, detailed in the Gospels, that showed the function of the scapegoat in society, and how scapegoating leads to human sacrifice.

The fact this function was brought to light in the Gospels is why Girard titled one of his books, Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World.

In no other literature I am familiar with has scapegoating and human sacrifice, for society, been considered a bad thing. Only in the Gospels. In my opinion, the fact the scapegoat function was brought to light, and finally seen as a bad thing, was supposed to put a permanent end to hubris, scapegoating and human sacrifice.

And it did work, for a while. But today, we seem to be going backward. You need look no farther than a nation that claims it is good, has God on its side, has a leader who, afflicted with hubris, believes God chose and talks to him, and who believes he has the right to murder thousands of innocent people on the other side of the world. By scapegoating and sacrificing them the United States shall be made "whole." This is hubris, to be followed by nemesis.

The worst scapegoating and human sacrifice of all is war. We may shake our heads over primitives who rolled infants into the fires in the belly of Moloch, but they didn't incinerate people with nuclear weapons or firestorms, as was done at Dresden. Who exactly are the true primitives? Do we not believe in scapegoating and human sacrifice, to save society, to make it "whole," just as much as people thousands of years ago?

There are five archetypes I have identified that are associated with all societies' attempts at scapegoating: the Mob, the Leaders, the Exaggerated Threat, the Scapegoat, and the Human Sacrifice. I got these from my readings of the Gospels, all of which contain some of the most practical wisdom I have encountered.

Jose y Ortega Gasset referred to the Mob, which is Mass Man, as "without direction, self-satisified, and preoccupied with his own well-being..." In fable they are known as the Sheep, the ones at the mercy of the Wolves. Today, they are often called Sheeple -- part sheep, part people.

Jesus' threat to the leaders of his time was exaggerated by them (even though they truly believed it), so they were able to convince the mob to unite, turn against him and call for his death. The end result: he was scapegoated and sacrificed. " is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not," said Caiaphas, fearing the Romans.

What existed then, still exists today. It'll exist in the future, too. The U.S. was attacked on 9-11. The threat was, as always, exaggerated by our leaders, who apparently truly believed that Islam could conquer the world or Saddam Hussein would fly Drones of Death across the Atlantic. Fearing a mortal threat, and believing their leaders, the mob, mass man, united, as they always do when they perceive a threat. Seeking a scapegoat, everyone first fixated on Osama bin Laden (and exaggerated his threat, turning a man in a cave into an Evil Genius), then later turned to Saddam Hussein. Finding and destroying these scapegoats was to allow the creation of a new, better, safer United States, even if it cost us our liberty.

Obviously, our opponents are doing the exact same thing to us. That's why they refer to the United States as "the Great Satan." Each group says God is on their side and the Devil on the other. Each group scapegoats and wants to sacrifice the other to save themselves. Nothing good can come from this. It never has in the past. It never will in the future.

The exaggerated threat, the irrational, emotion-driven mob united by the leaders, the scapegoat and the human sacrifice through violence, cannot create a better United States, only a worse one.

The first step is overcoming hubris, scapegoating and human sacrifice is to be aware of them, and to understand they never work for any society that tries it. Girard was right about that. If it did work, then there would not be millennia after millennia of war. As long as this law -- if it is a law -- remains hidden, it cannot be dealt with. And until it is dealt with, the human race will do as it always does -- repeat the story of Satan over and over.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

War as a False Religion

The last several years of wars have been enlightening to me about how some people react to them. The last few wars the U.S. was in – the first Iraq war, the "wars" on Serbia, and Panama – were so short I couldn't draw any conclusions. We haven't been in such a long conflict since Vietnam – and for people born since then, for all they know about it, it might as well have been the War of 1812.

I was a kid during Vietnam, too little to pay that much attention. I do remember the now-in-Hell ghoul Robert McNamara, who'll be washing several million gallons of blood off his hands for a long time to come. He was such a catastrophe, and so incompetent, he made Rumsfeld look like a tactical and logistical genius.

I also remember the power-mad Lyndon Johnson, who, if I had a time machine, would gladly replace with Barak Obama, who would be a decided improvement. LBJ, a pathological liar (as all true politicians are), said he would get us out of Vietnam and instead escalated the war. Then after his first term he ran away, dumping the war in Richard Nixon's lap. Close to two-thirds of the casualties in Vietnam occurred during Johnson's administration.

But now, I've had some some ten wars of war (and will have several more for observation), so I've had plenty of time to think about the effects of war on some people. The conclusion I've come to is that war is a religion.

Admittedly it is a false religion, but it is a religion nonetheless. The word "religion" means "to tie, fasten or bind." That is exactly what war does to some people – it brings them together into a community. It gives meaning to their lives. And that makes war a religion, albeit a ghastly one.

Robert Nisbet, an influential conservative sociologist – and "conservative sociologist" almost sounds like an oxymoron – wrote in his book Community and Power (republished as The Quest for Community), "The power of war to create a sense of moral meaning is one of the most frightening aspects of the 20th of the most impressive aspects of contemporary war is the intoxicating atmosphere of spiritual unity that arises out of the common consciousness of participating in a moral crusade."

The book, indeed all of his books, is about the alienation that comes from the loss of community. Such loss always happens with the expansion of the State. As it expands, it destroys all the intermediary institutions such as religion, neighborhoods and families. Finally, what could be left is nothing between people and the State. There are various names for such a condition – fascism, communism, Nazism. The State becomes everything, and people become absorbed into it. Think of the Borg.

Writers such as Erich Fromm and Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn have pointed out many people want to be absorbed into a group as an escape from their alienation. It gives them a sense of community and security. Nisbet adds there is something else – such people don't give up their individuality in such groups, but instead exalt their selves, as they now believe they are part of something they think is much larger than they are.

They become, as I call it, "a community of gods." They believe the group itself is god-like, or blessed of God, so they partake of that "divinity" by being part of the group. They are literally worshipping their selves, a worship that always means those outside of the group are devalued into sub-humans whose murders are considered justified, necessary, and dismissed as "collateral damage."

As Russell Kirk noted, "the monstrous self is the source of all evil." The Nazis, the communists, and the fascists were that monstrous self writ large. I believe this is why Kuehnelt-Leddihn wrote, "'I' is from God and 'We' is from the Devil." That "We" can only be of the Devil when the State destroys the intermediary institutions, and the only "We" left is the combination of the people and the State.

During long-term warfare society becomes militarized and in doing so damages, destroys or absorbs such intermediary institutions as churches. Then we end up with disgraces such as Jerry Falwell claiming "God is pro war," which of course means God supports only the wars of the United States.

When the interests of religion and the interests of the State coalesce into supporting the same unjust wars, what we have left is no true religion at all. The State instead becomes God on Earth. War then becomes the fist of that god, one to smite the "wicked."

"When the goals and values of a war are popular," writes Nisbet, "both in the sense of mass participation and spiritual devotion, the historic, institutional limits of war tend to recede further and further into the void. The enemy becomes not only a ready scapegoat for all ordinary dislikes and frustrations; he becomes the symbol of total evil which the forces of good may mobilize themselves into a militant community."

In short, war can give meaning and community – and the intoxication of blood and power – to some people's lives. That makes it a religion, a false one based on hubris and being drunk with power. Power does more than just corrupt; it intoxicates. In The Lord of the Rings, it was that power that turned Smeagol into Gollum. The same thing could happen to people in reality.

Always ignored, of course, is what war does to those on the receiving end. If not ignored, then rationalized. "The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them," noticed George Orwell.

This meaning and community – this religion – is a false one, destined to bring disillusionment and destruction to those who believe in it. War is a false god. Perhaps sometimes war is unavoidable, but it is an idol that can never give true meaning to a peoples' lives.