"Standing next to me in this lonely crowd,
Is a man who swears he's not to blame."
-- Bob Dylan
It has been reported that George W. Bush is counting on the judgment of history to redeem the perception that he has been at the helm of a failed presidency. This notion is as muttering-at-the-wallpaper crazy as had Jeffery Dahmer, before his murder, been expecting gourmet chefs to someday champion his culinary choices. In the present day United States, our insulated leaders (who merely reflect the insularity of the daily lives of the nation's people) have shunned reality to such a degree, one would think that they spend their time writing wishful letters to Santa Claus instead of creating policy and law.
There's a well-known witticism from the 1980s about Ronald Reagan that played off a ubiquitous television commercial of the time that went, "Ronald Reagan is not the president: He just plays one on TV." A similar trope can be said of the present day United States. We're no longer an empire: We just resemble one on TV.
How did it come to be that our ability to apprehend reality is in such short supply, at a time when the consequences of such dangerous folly will prove so tragic and lasting?
At times, in equal degree to the enormity of a given situation, there will come to exist an equal degree of denial. If you ever have the desire for a bit of solitude, when attending a social function, try this. Drop the small talk and utter something along the lines of: "Our actions are causing ongoing and exponentially increasing upheaval in the earth's ecosystem, due to the effects of global warming." Or: "Did you know that the earth's oceans and seas will be all but devoid of life in fifty years?" Then there's the always reliable: "Because of our national dependency on the crack-house economics of a system based on a need for an ever-increasing squandering of our planets finite resources (maintained by a cross addiction to a global marketplace sustained by petroleum) -- all of which has been inflicted on the planet by a class of hyper-rich, psychotic death monkeys -- you have no more control over your fate than some scrawny, brown-skinned feller strapped to a torture table at Guantánamo."
As stated, if you give it a go, you'll be afforded an abundance of personal space. Such utterances have the terrible disadvantage of being the truth; as such, they're guaranteed room-clearers. The largest social faux pas of all, in the contemporary US, might be to remind a person of their powerlessness.
Understandably, we avoid the knowledge of those things that inflict upon us the feelings of powerlessness we experience when secured in a dentist's chair. In such circumstances, the only question we're concerned with is: Will there be enough anesthetizing agents available to numb out the anxiety and pain? Perhaps, this is what underpins the reason we have become a people who've grown incurious of the larger world around us to point of becoming all but insensate: We need the equivalent of a root canal on a global-wide basis. Worse, the drilling must start at the epicenter of the decay, right here in The United States.
Accordingly, there are a few facts it is imperative we face, immediately and unmedicated. Among them: The changes to the earth ecosystem wrought by global warming are neither a political opinion nor are the acts of a wrathful god in heaven, but are a dynamic of nature set in motion by our actions -- and are wholly indifferent to the fate of mankind.
The capitalist's drive for endless abundance has allowed us to ascend the fast food chain, yet we blink uncomprehendingly at the catastrophic algorithms of global climate change. We -- the progeny of global corporatism -- in regard to our acknowledgment of the dire events and pressing issues of our time, our sense of collective narrative is, for all practical purposes, about as keen as that of the creatures of the Cretaceous Period in regard to their understanding of the earth-altering implications of planetary collisions with comets. The size of our denial is as enormous as the body of a Brachiosaurus and our response to the dire situation has been about as adequate as if we were using its walnut-sized brain.
Furthermore, we are the comet. We are both the threatened, dominate species -- as well as the comet of destruction that will end this Empire of Endless Burgers and Ceaseless Bullshit. Our delusions of the sustainability of ever-expanding market-based economies, wholly dependent upon a never wavering abundance of resources, has rendered us as inflexible as the dinosaurs were before a global wide, sky-occluding dust cloud. We're devouring the life-sustaining resources of the earth as if it were a bag of Doritos. Our empty appetites, engendered by global corporatism and its reliance on fossil fuels, is leveling an effect upon our world tantamount to a slow motion collision with a comet . . . To survive, we must curb our appetite for this everyday menu of death -- for these Valueless Meals comprised of the empty calories of comforting lies proffered by the corporate state.
The present paradigm must (and will) collapse: Rising gross national products, imaginative ad campaigns and faith in some mythological being returning from the sky will not cause the earth's rising oceans to recede nor its melting Polar ice caps to reconstitute. Our advertising and public relations evangelists here in the Empire of Endless Burgers cannot convert the forces of extinction to marketplace pieties with new advertising slogans. Our redeemer gods of product placement cannot provide our dying culture with longer shelf life. Belief in these gods of the mall and empyrean may have banished doubt and diffidence -- yet these myths cannot shelter us from the anonymous fury of the exponential mathematics of global systems shifted into entropic runaway.
All in all, our belief in economic providence has proven our undoing -- our insistence on its very existence left us mistaking a full stomach for a leveling portion of divine grace. Our gods of commerce offered drive-thru-window epiphanies. We believed our prayers would always be answered: Instantly -- came the high priests of the consumer state's homilies of perpetual gratification, their voices crackling like a burning bush from the drive-thru order box.
But now, overcooked in arrogance and oil, The Empire of Endless Burgers is char. Stick a fork in it -- it's overdone.
As our delusions bake to ash, what shall we cry into the gathering darkness? Can our pleas be heard over the thunderous machinery of the encompassing void?
What if the realization came that our most sacrosanct beliefs -- both economic and epistemological -- were but a musky collection of antiquated myths? To survive, our blind faith-based suppositions must not be flattered by political opportunists (I'm looking at you, Hillary and Obama), but allowed to rot into compost then be buried. Because deep down, we already realize our allegiances to the imaginary gods and saviors of long dead, desert tribalists not only blind us to the dangers at hand but in large measure helped to contribute to our troubles in the first place. Ergo, It's a fact: Jesus will not descend and heal the earth's dying seas. We might as well hold out for Little Folk, adorned with gossamer wings, to appear from the gnome-haunted air and sprinkle Fairy Dust upon it.
Furthermore, there are no Chosen People -- nor does there exist an Omnipotent Sky Daddy above who could give a rodent's rectum about the oil-soaked real estate of the Middle East nor any other plot of disputed ground on this cosmological backwater of a planet.
It's time to wake up and smell the mythology. God has no will. God has no more of a plan than a tree has a financial portfolio. God does not say God bless you. Your life is not an eternal sneeze in need of a perpetual gesundheit. And there never was a character who rose from this sin-sullied earth and took up residence in the starry filament named Jesus Christ -- who will love you no matter how big of an asshole you are: That's the job of your dog.
Perhaps such shocks to the system might rouse us from that narcissistic swoon called "my faith," might shatter our perennial delusions that God desires for us to conquer and kill in his name, and might deliver us to the true Promised Land -- the one that exists just beyond the limited sight-line of our systems of belief.
And might banish the empty mythos of instant gratification -- the guiding god of global capitalism -- that is the force (in a toxic, paradoxical mixture with sexual repression) that begot the fantasies of contemporary Christian Fundamentalism. In essence, what is the Christian fundamentalist belief in the so-called End Time, but a worldview that reduces mythic reality to channel surfing? One moment you're watching the Armageddon Channel, then you click the remote and you're in eternal RaptureLand. Then you click over to the Fundie Porn Channel to view fantasies involving the instantaneous shedding of your clothes, next you're being ejaculated from your body to engage in a celestial orgy with Jesus, whereas all of life on earth climaxes with a cosmic money shot involving you and your fellow Christian's immortal souls being splattered upon the face of God.
If it were possible for their myths to be made manifest and Christ did return, not only would he make a War on Christmas, but on the death-lusting delusions of Christianity itself.
What can lead people to such belief systems? To understand, one must look at the poetic metaphors that are literalized into religious faith.
Place, landscape, situation, and the mythos of its people are inextricably bound. When I was a child, growing up in the Deep South, on the occasion of fishing expeditions and such, I would have contact with rural African American farmers who still lived by the agrarian rhythms of the nineteenth century. We would sit on wooden porches, snapping string beans, and I would listen as they quoted scripture. Like their life-sustaining crops, the figure of Christ was born of humble beginnings (a mere seed) and grew beneath the hot sun, but, at the height of maturity, was cut down, sacrificed to sustain their lives, then, like the figure of Christ, resurrected as next year's seed crop. These tales held resonance for them because they were suffused with a metaphoric analog of the criteria that they lived everyday; the metaphors resounded with the verities of place and circumstance. Hence, Jesus was as real to them as the snap beans beneath their fingertips.
And this is why megachurch Christians and present day conservatives long for the release of death. When passion, intimacy and hope are thwarted by pervasive feelings of powerlessness, people will long for release into paradise. Life lived under corporate hegemony is a cage. One that distorts the human animal's instinctual longing for love, communal acceptance and freedom by providing commercial facsimiles of those things -- and, as a result, delivers the human animal to economic imprisonment. The bars of the cage might be invisible, yet the sense of confinement is palpable across our utterly commodified culture, where, like convicts in the cell, longing for release, Christian fundies long for the aforementioned carnal video game of RaptureLand -- while consumers, confined in their work stations and shackled by debt, long for vacations, enormous motor vehicles, porn, and, paradoxically, yet more imprisoning consumer goods . . . as George W. Bush longs for his own idealized reflection to be mirrored by the judgment of history.
And we, to paraphrase a Bob Dylan song, shall be released . . . just not in the manner in which we pine. As recent history has shown, insularity is a chaos generator; closed systems decay at exponentially increasing rates. Hubris brings the fall. Sometimes, as a means of escaping the confinement of one's own life-diminishing, self-proclaimed "morality", an individual (or even a culture) will court destruction. (You may insert the name of the disgraced, hypocritical Christian moralist of the moment here.)
Carl Jung asked the question: Why would the story line of the Christian myth of Christ place the birth of the savior of the vast cosmos in the remote hinterlands of the ruling Roman empire, plus have that divine birth take place in the hinterlands of those hinterlands, plus have the birth take place on the floor of a barn, no less, amid the animal shit? Jung answered that the human ego, as is the case with an overgrown, corrupt empire, will cast out what it cannot exploit and subdue.
This is why every age presents us with an imperial occupation of the mind. Yet, in our era, the stakes could not be higher. From the deathscape we've made of the city of Baghdad, to the dying oceans of the earth -- beneath our arrogance and carelessness lies a culture in suicidal despair. Contemporary Christians may call it faith, neocons may call it freedom, and corporatists might call it market values -- but it smells like death.
There are occasions when all other means have failed and circumstances have grown so desperate that one, against all habit and will, is driven to face the truth. Where I was raised such a situation is called a "come-to-Jesus moment." Paradoxically, the come-to-Jesus moment we must embrace is: There is no Jesus to come to -- only a host of unnerving facts we have banished to the hinterlands of our minds. There will be no star blazing in the eastern sky to guide us; no divine child vouchsafed in a boondocks manger to genuflect before. All we can hope to gain is the opportunity for renewal that flickers to life from ending the long, forced exile of truth.
Phil Rockstroh, a self-described auto-didactic, gasbag monologist, is a poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may be contacted at: email@example.com.
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