Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A Christmas Speculation

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I’ve spent most of the last year discussing the place of religion in the troubled future ahead of us. This holiday season, in which millions of Americans have just engaged in an all-out orgy of conspicuous consumption and mindless waste to celebrate the birth of a poor carpenter’s son in a stable in Bethlehem, also has me thinking about religious matters, and it occurs to me that there’s an issue along these lines that my blog posts haven’t yet explored. It may not have much to do with the future of the modern industrial world, but it may just explain a thing or two about the present and the recent past here in the United States.
 
I’m sorry to say that the issue I have in mind has a distinct partisan dimension, which marks a break from my usual policy in this blog. One of the more common criticisms I field from irate readers, in fact, is the insistence that I treat politicians of both major US parties as though they’re interchangeable. It’s a valid criticism, since I do indeed do this, and the only justification I can offer is that, by and large, that’s the way they behave. For exhibit A, it’s hard to beat the current inmate of the White House, who won the presidency just over five years ago in a flurry of sound bites about “hope” and “change,” and then turned around and gave us a truly inspired imitation of the third and fourth terms of George W. Bush, complete with all the drone strikes and violations of civil liberties that his chorus of sycophants in the media used to insist he was sure to abolish once he got into office.

Still, the criticism has some merit, since there’s one significant difference between the two major US parties. Most Democratic politicians, like the example just cited, will say and do whatever it takes to get elected, and then conveniently forget all about their alleged ideals in order to proceed with, and profit from, the ordinary business of politics once they land in office. A fair number of Republican politicians do exactly the same thing, to be sure, but there’s also a large number of Republicans who have convictions regarding important social issues, and cling firmly to those convictions even when they’re not popular.  That’s a distinction worth noting, but a certain amount of confusion enters the picture when the Republicans in question—as nearly all of them do—insist that their convictions follow from their Christian faith.

Now of course the Christian faith does have quite a bit to say about social issues. Theologies differ from church to church, but friends of mine in several different denominations assure me that the words of Jesus quoted in the four gospels of the New Testament are considered definitive guides to faith and morals, so I sat down a few days ago with a copy of the King James version and spent an afternoon reading the gospels—not, by the way, for the first time.  Here are the passages I found in which Jesus tells his followers that they have a duty to take care of children, the poor, and other vulnerable people:

Matthew 18:6, 18:10, 19:21, 23:14, and 25:31-46; Mark 9:36-37, 10:21, and 12:40; and Luke 10:30-37, 11:41, 12:33, 14:12-14, 18:22, and 20:47.

Here are the passages in which Jesus tells his followers to pay their taxes without complaining:

Matthew 5:42, 17:24-27, and 22:19-21; Mark 12:14-17; and Luke 6:30 and 20:21-25. 

Here are the passages in which Jesus tells his followers that they aren’t supposed to obsess about other people’s sins, but should leave that to God, and attend to their own moral failings instead:

Matthew 7:1-5 and 9:10-13; Mark 2:15-17; Luke 6:37, 6:41-42, 7:44-48, 15:2, 18:10-14, and 19:7; and John 8:2-11.

And here are the passages in which Jesus tells his followers to blame the poor and vulnerable for their plight, direct benefits toward the already well-to-do at the expense of everyone else, refuse to pay their fair share of taxes, and obsessively denounce and punish the sins of people they don’t like while finding every opportunity to excuse their own sins and those of their friends:







Yet these latter are the things that a great many Republicans, and in particular a great many of those Republicans who claim to be motivated by their Christian faith, have been pursuing in practice, if not always advocating in theory. If they’re deriving their commitments from a religion, it’s pretty clearly not the one taught by Jesus. Many people have made this same point in recent years, but it doesn’t seem to have occurred to any of them that another religion that’s active in today’s America does teach all the things the GOP supports. That religion, of course, is Satanism, and more specifically the version of it taught in Anton Szandor LaVey’s The Satanic Bible.

Those who were around during LaVey’s glory days in the 1970s, when he appeared regularly on talk shows and had a coterie of Hollywood stars in his Church of Satan, will doubtless remember The Satanic Bible. For those who weren’t, it’s a book-length screed denouncing Christian morality and upholding an ethic of raw selfishness and might-makes-right. It’s still very much in copyright, so I’m not going to quote it here, but any reader who turns its pages will find the present social policy of the GOP precisely reflected in LaVey’s dismissal of two thousand years of Christian teaching about our duty to care for one another, his shrill denunciations of the vulnerable and needy as “parasites” and “vampires,” and his insistence that the successful owe nothing to anybody else.

An interesting coincidence, or perhaps an ironic one? Maybe so, but I find myself wondering if there’s more to it than that. It happens fairly often that the repeated failure of a belief system causes many former believers to swing all the way to the opposite extreme, and embrace the antithesis of their former faith. The neoconservatives who briefly and disastrously shaped the direction of US foreign policy in the first years of this century are a case in point:  many of the leaders of that movement were doctrinaire Marxists during their college years, and responded to the abject failure of Marxism by doing their level best to become the wicked capitalists they had once so fervently denounced.

The evangelical revival of the late 1970s and 1980s, in turn, was pervaded by hopes at least as extreme and unrealistic as anything the Marxists envisioned in their heyday. Wildly popular books such as Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth convinced millions of newly “Born Again” Christians that the Second Coming was due any minute, and the repeated failure of Jesus to show up on cue must have put immense psychological strains on a great many people who cut their ties to the secular world in the imminent expectation of Armageddon. All through those same years, in turn, copies of  The Satanic Bible could be found in cheap mass market editions on the shelves of chain bookstores all over America. It’s not hard to imagine how, after each loudly proclaimed date for the Rapture waltzed serenely by without incident, a trickle of not-quite-former fundamentalists could well have responded to their feelings of humiliation and despair by walking away from the Bible section in those same bookstores and seeing if the opposing side had something better on offer.

Those who found solace of one sort or another in LaVey’s evocation of diabolical values would have had several good reasons not to make their change of heart public, to be sure. On the one hand (or horn, or cloven hoof), a public confession of devil worship would have been difficult to explain to one’s employer in those somewhat more innocent times, and the reactions of one’s presumably Christian friends and family would also have been an issue for many. On the other, one of the classic titles given Satan by Christian theologians is “the father of lies,” and it’s easy to see how the thought of remaining ostensibly Christian while practicing devil worship in private, and perhaps leading others down the Left Hand Path, might have seemed like the most delectable option available to these new Satanic converts.

Nor would active membership in most of today’s Christian churches have been any impediment to the enthusiastic worship of Satan. According to Matthew 7:21, it’s not enough to say “Lord, Lord,” to qualify as a Christian; it’s also necessary to do the will of God—a requirement that, as noted above, involves among other things some highly specific commitments to help the poor and vulnerable. Thus covert devil worshippers could shout “Jesus is Lord” at the top of their lungs every Sunday, and so long as they carefully refrained from following the teachings of the gospels, they would have had no difficulty maintaining their status as Satanists in good standing. This, it seems, they accordingly did.

As the number of devil worshippers in evangelical churches and the Christian end of the Republican Party increased, though, their most pressing need would have been some surreptitious way to signal their involvement to those who shared their convictions, without believers in the Christian gospel being any the wiser. Coming up with a Satanic shibboleth that would be instantly recognizable to other devil worshippers, but completely opaque to devout Christians, might seem like a tall order, but it’s one that seems to have been met with aplomb.

Yes, this is where we discuss Ayn Rand.

All things considered, Rand’s cult status in those circles that call themselves conservative these days is hard to explain, because Rand was not a conservative. By that I don’t simply mean that she rejected the term and savagely denounced conservative ideas and politicians, though this is true; nor that the conservative movement in her time rejected her ideas with at least as much energy as she did theirs, and generally with better logic than hers, though this was also the case.  Far more important here is that she was a radical ideologue of exactly the sort against which the founders of conservatism directed their most barbed and thoughtful critiques.

As discussed in Russell Kirk’s brilliant study The Conservative Mind, classical conservatism has at its core an enduring and wholly justified suspicion of claims that some abstract ideology or other can bring about heaven on earth.  “The pretended rights of these theorists,” wrote Edmund Burke, “are all extremes; and in proportion as they are metaphysically true, they are morally and politically false.” He was talking about the Jacobins, but he could just as well have been talking about Rand.

Still, there’s another point that is worth making here, which is that Ayn Rand was a violent opponent of Christianity and Christian morality, a committed atheist who considered selfishness a central moral virtue, and who also idolized one of the most disgusting child murderers of the twentieth century.  Her present role as intellectual pin-up girl for people who call themselves Christian conservatives is thus a little odd, since claiming to be a Christian and a believer in Rand’s teachings at the same time is right up there with claiming to be a vegetarian carnivore or a celibate harlot. It’s not just that one of these things is not like the other; Rand’s teachings are flatly, openly, and deliberately opposed to every part of the gospel of Jesus.

Rand’s anticommunism made her turgid novels popular on the less thoughtful end of the American right in the 1950s and 1960s, though, and that accident of history prepared her for what might just be her core role in contemporary culture: a covert way for devil worshippers to identify themselves to one another in the supposedly Christian (and just as supposedly conservative) GOP of today. Closet Satanists attending fundamentalist church services or Republican party get-togethers can’t exactly sport upside-down pentagrams on their shirts or greet other attendees with a hearty “Hail Satan,” but a casual reference to one of Rand’s novels or pseudophilosophical screeds is the next best thing: once someone else responds enthusiastically to the mention of Rand’s name, a few other seemingly casual comments and perhaps a covert devil sign or two would be enough to settle the matter.

All this may suggest some sobering reflections as we approach the beginning of another US election year, in which most races will pit a candidate from a party that puts its faith in Lucifer against a candidate from a party that for all practical purposes believes in nothing at all. Still, when supposedly Christian politicians start waxing rhapsodic about the alleged intellectual or literary virtues of Ayn Rand, I trust my readers will remember that what they’re saying actually works out to “I worship the Prince of Darkness, and you should too!” Any of my readers who happen to be devil worshippers themselves can proceed to welcome them as friends and brothers, while those of other faiths can cast their votes as their own ethical views suggest.

On the off chance that any Republican Satanists are reading these lines, though, I’d like to offer a helpful suggestion.  The long charade of pretending to be Christian conservatives has no doubt been great fun, and it’s certainly succeeded in getting Satanic ideas widely accepted all through those parts of American society that might have been expected to resist them most forcefully.  Only one of the seven deadly sins has gotten by without extravagant praise from so-called Christian conservatives in recent years—it’s hard to glorify an economic system that depends on avarice, gluttony, envy and sloth, and a foreign policy defined by pride and wrath, in any other way—and no doubt they’ll find a way to fit lust in there somewhere one of these days, and finish collecting the whole set.

At this point, though, it’s hard to see any reason why the Satanists in the GOP need to keep the pretense going any longer. In an era when most discussions of the Christmas season in the mass media fixate on whether retailers are making a big enough profit to keep the economy stumbling blindly onward for one more year, I think a strong case can be made that America is ready to shake off the last of its qualms and openly embrace a Satanic political agenda. Among its other benefits, putting public devil worship at the heart of the GOP, where it so evidently belongs, can’t help but improve the flagging ratings of Republican national conventions; the otherwise tedious proceedings of the 2016 GOP convention, for example, would be enlivened no end by a Black Mass celebrated by the GOP nominee, perhaps with Ann Coulter’s nude form draped over the altar and a chorus of delegates chanting “Evil, be thou my good!” from the bleachers.

In the meantime, I would like to wish to those of my readers who actually believe in the gospel of Jesus, who study his teachings prayerfully and try their level best to live their lives in accordance with them, a very merry Christmas; to my other readers, blessings on whatever holiday you celebrate in this season of hope’s rebirth in a cold and bitter time; and to all, a happy new year.

199 comments:

JimK said...

Hugh Urban's book "The Secrets of the Kingdom: Religion and Concealment in the Bush Administration" doesn't go quite this far, I don't think, but does head in the same general direction with some intellectual rigor.

Nestorian said...

Amen, my friend. Right on. I completely agree that the brand of materialism and money worship championed in the U.S. has its decidedly demonic aspects. I have been saying so for years.

For those of you who are interested, the New Testament documents with the highest concentration of anti-wealth sentiments overall are the Gospel of Luke and the Letter of James (in my opinion). Beyond the passages cited by our host that enjoin specific commands along these lines, there are quite a few other passages in those two books that champion similar values - some not that well known.

And, of course, there is the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7.

Violet Bertelsen said...

Interesting! I was raised Unitarian Universalist and was given a bible by the church. I read quite a bit of the old testament, as well as the Gospels, The Acts and some of the Letters of Paul. Like a good Unitarian I never believed that Jesus Christ was my lord and savior, but I was deeply moved by his words and sentiments.

Since then I've had a good many conversations with Christians. The one thing that REALLY makes them uncomfortable is when I say "I've read the bible!" Often I've had a better grasp on the bible than the person I was talking to, which was a little awkward as I'm a lesbian, wear odd clothing, am frequently dirty from gardening and am not a Christian!

None of the people I've talked to have mentioned Ayn Rand, but maybe it was clear that I'm not even less a Satanist than Christian.

William Hunter Duncan said...

That's the most interesting post I have read in a long time, anywhere :)

So I was visiting my parents this week. Christmas Eve, my father was watching Fox news. Eric Bolling was celebrating a young entrepreneur, as a "maker, not a taker." Then he was celebrating $10,000 tips to servers for dinner (on bills around $500-600), "Tips For Jesus". I turned to my born-again Christian mother and said, "It's Jesus birthday, let's celebrate money making and rich people!" She gave me as close to an evil eye as I have ever seen from her.

Then my father turned it to CNN. They were wailing about South Sudan. I turned to my mother and said, "See, CNN is just as bad. Here, look in this 3-page paid advertisement that reads like an article, in this Dec 30, 2013 Time magazine. It's about all the great investment opportunities in South Sudan. How much do you think this is trouble stirred up by multinational corporations, for the benefit of multinational corporations?" Who owns CNN? Time Warner. My mother says to me, but those evil Muslims are killing Christians! I said, "you all come from the same Abraham, I don't see why you can't get along." "My," she said. "you are far gone." LOL

She's no Satanist, but she'll believe just about anyone who claims to be Christian. And she's been taken in.

WHD
www.offthegridmpls.blogspot.com

oji said...

Wow, OK.

Not the first time I've seen the current GOP compared to Satanism, but, intentional or not, this post came across as rather conspiratorial.

If such a movement exists, at least consciously, I'd guess but a small inner circle remains privy to the reality, while others were pulled along by appeals to the litany of human weakness- greed, gluttony, etc.. listed here as the 'Biblical Seven'. We humans just have so little defense once stripped of communal ties, raised on mass media messaging, and handed an education based on standardized testing. Not to mention reduced to an infantile mindset with fear mongering and distracted by the constant drumbeat of war.

John Michael Greer said...

Jim, thanks for the pointer; I'll add it to my get-to list.

Nestorian, many thanks! I'm not at all surprised that there's much more to the same effect in the Gospels; I don't claim to be a Bible expert, though I've often had the same experience Violet has, of discovering to my surprise that a great many people who insist they live their lives by the Bible know even less of it than I do.

Violet, I've met a certain number of Satanists in my time, and none of them ever had garden mud on their clothing, so I suspect you're right.

William, I'm uncomfortable even raising this question, but are your parents Ayn Rand fans? ;-)

oji said...

Small correction:
I said the post came across as conspiratorial. More accurately, I interpreted/perceived it as conspiratorial. Apologies for the inaccuracy.

Thijs Goverde said...

And a very happy new year to you, too!

This post was fun and, well... interesting. You recently stated that you sometimes find it a little difficult to create satire. Would this post be an example of that problem or are you really suggesting a satanist conspiracy in the heart of the GOP?

Either way, I look forward to reading the comments section this week, even more than ususal!

Zach said...

Oh my.

That'll stir things up, for sure. "Stoutly," as you say.

Wish your speculation wasn't as plausible as you make it sound - it would explain the crazy appeal of Rand's nasty little atheist fantasies.

There is so much I could say, but as you did, I will try to go to the heart of the matter.

If Satan is the besetting demon of the GOP, the difficulty is that this does not automatically make the Democratic party the instrument of goodness and light. (That is the binary trap, of course.)

For the Democrats have been infested with a demon, also.

Its name is Molech.

I am pretty sure Hell doesn't care which demon lord it uses to ensnare the unwary.

darksumomo said...

And so you and your readers come back full circle to your first entry in April, "The Fate of Civil Religion," in which you identified both Satanism and Objectivism as anti-religions, Satanism to Christianity and Objectivism to Communism. I'm not the least bit surprised you brought the two together, as Anton LaVay himself called what he offered Rand with trappings. In fact, you pointed out the Satanic nature of the GOP's beliefs in an entry from August of 2011, "The Twilight of Meaning." I don't think many Republicans have noticed, so the message definitely bore repeating.

As for the current crop of Christianists AKA Dominionists being willing, active Satanists, I think they are a bunch of easy dupes for the Devil or some other equally evil diety pretending to speak for the Holy Trinity. A friend of mine has gone so far as to propose that that while the Dominionists think they're worshiping Yahweh, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, they've been hoodwinked, and Huitzilopochtli and a couple of his buddies from the Aztec pantheon are receiving the Dominionists' devotion instead.

As for why they're such willing dupes, it's because they think they're making American Christian in preparation for the return of the vengeful Jesus of the Left Behind books and movies. Instead, they're making Christianity more American (actually more Southern) and then trying to convert America to that vision. Few ideas are more American in that view than anti-Communism, so slipping Satanism in via Ayn Rand was child's play.

Finally, you noted that Lust was not getting its due in the current Satanic/Objectivist vision, despite its central position in the life and fiction of Ayn Rand. That's because the American Right has tried to make two works of science fiction into reality simultaneously, "Atlas Shrugged" and "The Handmaid's Tale." The only way that combination works is if one is working for a bunch of religious fanatics in service to a kleptocracy. That's definitely Satanic.

John Michael Greer said...

Oji, er, it was intended as satire -- though satire with a point.

Thijs, good! I figured, since people responded very well to my obituary to Man the Conqueror of Nature, that I'd try to phrase my critique of American pseudoconservatism in an equally satirical form. That said, if Ann Coulter really were to start shouting "Hail Satan!" at her next public appearance, I'm not at all sure I'd be surprised...

Zach, we could have a long demonological discussion about exactly which inhabitants of the underworld have the most influence over the two parties -- I'd put in a word for Mammon in either case -- but I hope I made it clear in my post that I'm not claiming any particular angelic status for the Democrats. Raw corruption thickly frosted with hypocritical cant is not much more palatable than the GOP's ideology of selfishness and jackboot fetish, after all.

Darksumomo, good! You get tonight's gold star for paying attention. Your friend may be right, for all I know.

Tom Bannister said...

As I read this post I can heard Heavy Metal Music with various what most people would call blase overt satanic messages playing in my ears. No wonder this music is soo popular if America (and arguably much of the western world) is covertly, ruled by satan worshipers. At least though this music does in no way attempt to hide the topic of satanism, rather it encourages us to blatantly and overtly embrace our dark sides. (or at least that my take on heavy metal, I'm kind of a fan).

Just to Exemplify my point, I'll quote a Metallica song 'the thing that should not be:

Messenger of Fear in sight
Dark deception kills the light

(use of 'devils forth' chord progression is rife)

Hybrid children watch the sea
Pray for Father, roaming free

fearless Wretch
insanity
He watches
lurking beneath the sea
great Old One
forbidden site
He searches
Hunter of the Shadows is rising
immortal
in madness You dwell

I could quote more, but I'm sure you get the idea. (quoted perhaps out of the satanic bible? I'm not sure I'll have to have a look sometime).

Anyway, thanks for the post! and a very merry christmas to you!

onething said...

Wow, you really nailed it, and with such dark humor. I've been pondering this problem for a while and came up with a perhaps more complex explanation, yet similar. In my version, the Satan worshipers have been duped by Satan himself into substituting evil teachings and a mediocre and wicked God for the One of pure goodness taught by Jesus and James and John.
Although Jesus taught that God forgives magnanimously and limitlessly, they teach that God won't forgive without payment. (Which is technically not forgiveness).
Although Jesus taught that God does not want sacrifice, they teach that God required a human sacrifice.

Although Jesus taught that natural, unbidden compassion is the requirement to enter heaven, they teach that you will be happy in heaven despite knowing, and even witnessing, the hopeless and endless suffering of others.
Although the love of God is frequently mentioned, the reality of their doctrine is shown by the little religious tracts and calling cards which always amount to "Believe, or else."
So I began to play a mental game. Suppose we remove all the preconceived ideas and names, and just ask: If there were a being that people feared as the author of an unimaginable threat, would that be a good being or a wicked being?

If a being created people in a state of confusion and subject to bad impulses, and he then refused to forgive them forever if they didn't get the story right or weren't convinced by another human being of this story's correctness, or were born where the story was never told, would this be a good or an admirable being? Would you want the universe to be run by such a character?

Well, if people can be inspired by the Spirit of God, then cannot they also be inspired by the spirit of Satan? And if Satan is the father of lies and rumored to be clever, wouldn't his greatest challenge and triumph be to inspire theologians of negative bent to poison the theology taught by Jesus, twisting it to its opposite? And though you may call on the name of "God", if the characteristics of this God are satanic, then to whom is your heart really calling?

guamanian said...

OK everyone, here's my theory... Krampus stuffed the mild, measured, and moderate JMG we all know into his sack and made off with him, leaving JMG's Jungian shadow or some other very fierce bit to handle this week's post...

Funny how unsettling I find this change-up in tone, even while agreeing with the analysis!

It makes an interesting start to 2014, and I expect a very intentional one. I look forward to what the new year will reveal.

41fa48c8-550a-11e3-b48c-000bcdcb2996 said...

Thijs - I'm glad I'm not the only one struggling to tell if this is satire!

I laughed all the way through, but as it went on I began to think, er, this *is* just for fun, or ... not?

To be clear, I think it makes perfect sense to point out that Republicans are practicing a standard list of nasty behaviors while claiming to be Christian, but do they actually need to be told to do that? By the Devil? I mean isn't that list in the Bible precisely because that's what people tend to do, sort of, on their own?

I totally assumed it was satire until I realized that JMG has actually met some actual specimens and has met all sorts of other religious people and ... it's all a bit too far from my own experience to make a call. I mean to me, the Republicans just sound crazy and the Dems, per JMG, so obviously just don't care about anything.

I still can't figure it out.

If it *is* satire, very nicely done :)

If it isn't, well yeah, by now they could just take it public ... they could have Anne Coulter, the "Evil, be thou my good" chorus, followed by John McCain singing his campaign hit "Bomb Iran" to the tune of "Barbara Anne", and a finale with Miley Cyrus gyrating on a cruise missile ...

Mister Roboto said...

one point of clarification: laveyan satanists do not regard themselves as old-fashioned devil worshipers and in fact look down through their noses at those who actually are. their satan is the entirely impersonal carnal force of nature, so they are as atheistic as ayn rand, if not as strictly philosophically materialistic. and the image of ann coulter in the altogether is sure to provide ample fodder for nightmares fueled by insufficiently digested holiday repast. Otherwise, great post.

Ondra said...

Really amusing post.
Georges Bernanos pointed out in his essay on the Spanish civil war, "The Great Cemetery Under the Moon", that it is nearly impossible to recognize the christians of his day from their behavior. The only sign is their overt insistence on sixth (or seventh, it depends) commandment.

BeaverPuppet said...

Well Done! As a Catholic, I always felt a little uncomfortable sharing the same faith as Paul Ryan and Ann Coulter. Turns out, I don't! They're Satanists! Thanks John!

KL Cooke said...

Now that's what I call satire.

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi JMG,

Congrats on tackling this baffling topic, with good humour and intellectual honesty.

With such a philosophy behind our culture, it is no wonder that the messages and policies that ensue are so fixated on the short term.

There are possibly short term advantages to pursuing such an ideology, but they are most likely self-defeating behaviours in the long run.

Yes, we had the crowing here too about the consumer spending. Yes, good will to all men, yeah, yeah, but what we're really excited about is the AU$42bn being spent at traders this season! WOO HOO! Yeah, it’s a bit sad.

I don't know whether it was me being overly sensitive, but I felt that this Christmas there was an unusual and pervasive feeling of frenzy in the air. Almost, it smelled of desperation. It was kind of unsettling and I did my very utmost to avoid it.

Thanks again for tackling this baffling subject. Our Prime Minister here was at one stage a Catholic priest in training. I wonder if he knows who he is currently in bed with intellectually? Perhaps he deserves a letter? It is not a good look.

Regards

Chris

PS: I'll bet you field some interesting (and spluttering) replies to this essay!

BeaverPuppet said...

(Sorry to split up my comments, just realized I had more to say!)

There was a period of time in my life that I subscribed to an Ayn Rand type ideology. The appeal of it is its simplicity. The idea of it is that if everyone just acts in their own self interest, the magical hand of Adam Smith's "free" markets solves all problems. So there actually is supposed to be a positive result to the ideology. Of course, as Pope Francis has pointed out recently as well, it doesn't actually work. So for those who altruistically believed in this ideology, it's time to apply some Archdruid "Does it actually work?" thinking and throw it into the garbage bin. For those who cynically use this ideology for their own greed...Frack You!

Seth said...

JMG,

Great parody and one almost as ironic and funny as simply observing actual GOP talk and behavior.

Darksumomo: the Aztec connection is fun too, though it would fit more easily into a story about the behavior of Mexican politicians than US ones.

William Hunter Duncan said...

"""William, I'm uncomfortable even raising this question, but are your parents Ayn Rand fans? ;-) """


Not fans, but I don't think my father would have too much of a problem with her necessarily, and my mother the Christian Materialist knowing nothing about Ayn Rand, would not have a problem with her if Paul Ryan says (or takes it back) that Ayn Rand is his fav author. LOL.

Incidentally, thinking further, I was wondering what Christians would have to say if those who initiated the total surveillance states were proto-satanists, and not really the Christians they claim to be? ;)

WHD

Karim said...

Season's Greetings and Happy New Year to all!

Scary but brilliant essay! It seems to me that the rise of satanism in the US looks eerily similar to the rise of nazism in Germany. The same near total reversal of human values together with a very nasty tendency to use violence as a first resort.

It also looks as if it's going to end similarly with wars and confrontation all over the planet, with muslims playing (unwittingly!) the role of Jews in Europe.

I hope I am wrong...





Sean the Sorcerer said...

I didn't find this very satirical, but that's probably because I spend a lot of time around Satanic types (I'm finding that the world actually makes more sense from the "dark side" these days).

Your idea about the GOP embracing Satan isn't quite as ridiculous as it sounds. A lot of Christian fundamentalists are more obsessed with Satan than God, and in my experience quite a few actually are converting to Satanism (especially the theistic variety). When you throw in all the "sins" that liberal culture promotes (sex, drugs, rock & roll, etc.), it's not hard to conclude that the U.S. is the closest thing the world has yet seen to a Satanic civilization. I believe Anton LaVey declared 1965 to be "year one" of the Satanic Age, which sounds about right. People in the Muslim world don't call America the "Great Satan" for nothing!

One thing I'm curious about is what John Michael Greer, who is obviously a great admirer of Nietzsche, thinks of some of his more "Satanic" ideas. Just about every Satanist I've talked to loves Nietzsche, as did Rand and LaVey. Don't you see a strong Satanic current in Nietzsche's thought, and what do you make of it?

Unknown said...

Hmmm... and we all know that the official Republican logo changed it's stars from the single point up version, as on the flag, to single point down, as resembling a goat. Best estimate is that it happened around 2000, with Younger Bush's ascension, and there has been no response as to the rational for the change. Can they have been that clueless as to the symbolism? Or..not?

Also, in addition to being called 'The Father of Lies', Satan carries the name "Wealth", aka Mammon.

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi JMG,

What I can't quite get my head around is why would Christian churches not be denouncing these supporters of Satanic ideology? It is especially weird because those believers loudly pronounce themselves Christian and yet follow an antithetical ideology.

My gut feel says that it is because those same churches receive financial support from both large and small sectors of society that are sympathetic to that ideology. My thinking goes that should they denounce that ideology then they risk losing their income and so they are in a bind or a simple case of conflict of interest.

What then becomes more important for those churches, the income stream and numbers, or practising the religion that is preached? Give a man a KPI (key performance indicator) and he will try to game it!

Perhaps some who even know better console themselves in the dark of the night – the time at which the truth is often revealed - that they are using those funds for some pet project?

Dunno, but it seems that there is some seriously murky water. I well understand the benefit that Druidry has in having unpaid staff (I’m not sure that is the correct word, apologies if it is).

I too came to a similar conclusion years ago after having worked at the big end of town and seen the murky dealings and opinions that went on. Disconnection seemed like one of the few and appropriate responses to those revelations.

Should anyone dare sup at the table of vampires, then they should not whinge when they are bitten! Hehe!

Regards

Chris

Spanish fly said...

Here In Spain, Ayn Randians are few, no more than scattered internet freaks. However, right-winged politicans are quite similar pseudo-christians (catholic style). They are not very pleased by the "leftist" argentinian Pope Francis...

Richard Larson said...

If the current president is following the tenants of the last one, then they are both the same, both closet satanists?

It is about the Democrats not believing in anything, or its they are better at hiding their true religion?

I was a member of the Republican party for a few years. The leadership generally will support anything that makes money - as long as the gory details aren't disclosed - including their religion that takes in gobs of it(money). And their religion doesn't have to pay a cent of tax either!

Excellent point about taxes, by the way. However, I'm not a christian anywore, never been nor am a satanist, but I will still be complaining about how they are spending the taxes!

The question remains: Are satanists afraid of going to heaven?

Liquid Paradigm said...

Satire notwithstanding, I've held for quite some time that the majority of Christendom in the United States actually worships its own Devil (they certainly spend most of their time talking about him instead of that other fellow). A simple "if it walks like a duck" test comes up positive every time. With my apologies to ducks, of course, who are no doubt much more pleasant and honest.

As for Lust, I think they've got that covered, as it seems every day there's another news story about a pastor behaving like Zeus, but with lower ethical standards.

Okay, that's enough snark from me. It's time to face the approaching new year. Maybe I'll start by listening to Iron Maiden's 'Number of the Beast.' ;)

(No '666' in the Captcha. Colour me disappointed.)

Heian said...

Tom Bannister said:
"As I read this post I can heard Heavy Metal Music with various what most people would call blase overt satanic messages playing in my ears. No wonder this music is soo popular if America (and arguably much of the western world) is covertly, ruled by satan worshipers."

Is not that a little bit binary thinking? :-)
Because some song lyrics are about some dark stuff all Metal bands are satanic or plays songs about dark stuff.

Metall is a big music genre with a lot of variety when it comes to bands. Some are very politcal (Rise Against), some just like to have fun (AC/DC) and some are all over the place (Iron Maiden) and some can be quite dark.

Alot of bands also make plenty of song about current events and issues. Like this song from Disturbed:

The indulgence of our lives has cast a shadow on our world.
Our devotion to our appetites betrayed us all.
An apocalyptic plight.
More destruction will unfold.
Mother Earth will show her darker side and take her toll.

It's just another way to die.

There can be no other reason why.
You know we should have seen it coming.
Consequences we cannot deny will be revealed in time.
Glaciers melt as we pollute the sky.
A sign of devastation coming.
We don’t need another way to die.
Can we repent in time?

[Pre-chorus:]
The Time bomb is ticking and no one is listening.
Our future is fading.
Is there any hope we’ll survive?

[Chorus:]
Still, we ravage the world that we love.
And the millions cry out to be saved.
Our endless maniacal appetite.
Left us with another way to die.
It's just another way to die.
Can we repent in time?

Greed and hunger led to our demise.
A path I can’t believe we followed.
Black agenda’s rooted in a lie.
Will we repent in time?
Species fall before our very eyes.
A world that they cannot survive in left them with another way to die.
Are we dead inside?


Marc L Bernstein said...

Your religious discussions are erudite and insightful but I have noticed something
that keeps nagging at me -

most of the adults that I know, at least in the USA, don't seem to have any well-defined ideology
at all. Their behavior suggests disorder, confusion, inertia and a touch of hedonism mixed
in with occasional demonstrations that they do indeed have a genuine conscience.

They are driven primarily by habit and urges to feel pleasure. When they are done for
the day doing their best to make a living they either lapse into a passive, vegetative
state typically in front of a television or else seek activities which allow a temporary escape from
unpleasant circumstances at work or at home. They are pestered by a sense of obligation to wives,
husbands, children, neighbors, peers and to a jumbled collection of expectations of themselves.

The absence of any coherent ideology is in practice similar to nihilism.

Humanity as a whole seems to be practising nihilism today. There is no sensible ideology
that recommends overpopulating the planet, destroying the habitat for many of earth's
creatures, persisting in unsustainable energy-intensive lifestyles or pretending that the natural world has a virtually infinite capacity to absorb and process the waste from the activities of
modern industrial economies.

With regard to Christian right-wingers, I'm afraid that the suggestion that they are indeed
Satanists wouldn't go over very well. In fact, you might be taking your life in your hands with many of them. Part of the modus operandi of right-wing self-described Christians is a complete failure to maintain any semblance of an objective view of themselves or of the world around them. Many were genuinely in shock when Mitt Romney was soundly defeated by Obama. They had convinced themselves that
their characterization of Obama was the truth rather than a cynical and fanciful fabrication. They also convinced themselves that the general public was mostly in agreement with them. Obama may be an appropriate mascot for the bankruptcy of the liberal class, as Chris Hedges mentioned, but he's much
closer to being a Rockefeller Republican, as Noam Chomsky mentioned, than to being a socialist.

Anyway, bravo for your partisan views! Chris Hitchens would probably be laughing heartily were he still alive and in good health. I chuckled a few times too.

Russ said...

John - I congratulate you on being able to secretly record our household conversations and discussions at the dinner table these past 5 years. My wife and I thought we were talking only to each other. Either that or you're a great mind reader. Have as good year snf keep up the good fight. Russ

Zach said...

John Michael,

I hope I made it clear in my post that I'm not claiming any particular angelic status for the Democrats.

Oh, I understood you there (and yes, the comparative demonology talk would be long and interesting).

As for clarity - I don't know. It may not be possible, given the inflamed tribal partisan duality of our day, to be clear enough.

While I don't think it's your intent, I am confident some fraction of your readers are going to take your rant at face value, swell with Pride at being yellow dog Democrats, and leap immediately to the Pharisee's Prayer "I thank thee, that I am not as other men are ... even as this Republican." (Luke 18:9-14)

Hm. It's occurring to me as I write that, if you are correct about a resurgence of the liberal Mainline in the American religious landscape, that the GOP is likely to lose its distinctiveness soon. There's no shortage of liberal Christians in American who are quite confident that Jesus is a Democrat, and a good thing for Him too that he is!

God have mercy.

Zach

Nicholas Carter said...

Tom,
That song's lyrics are actually inspired by the works of H.P Lovecraft, an American horror novelist in whose works pseudo-demonic potentially extra terrestrial creature related to darkness, madness, and the ocean spawn with mortals and plot for the day of their dark Second Coming, a parody of Augustinian time that was metaphorical for the collapse of 1800 American and Christian culture that jmg wrote about... 2 years ago I'd guess.
Warm Longest Night

Doug Darrah said...

About midway through, I knew it was coming to Rand, but was still delighted and (incredibly) amused to see it get there.

Excellent piece: funny, cutting, and spot-on. Feeling a little Swiftian this holiday season?

Michael H said...

Satire worthy of Swift, truth leavened with humor. It has baffled me for years how the most ardent professing Christians I've known are the ones most unlike Christ. Now it all makes sense!

between-the-lines said...

Being a person who is not invested in beliefs that either the Christian God or the Christian Satan have any reality other than in the heads of their devotees, this piece doesn't look like satire at all, simply a very eloquent and well-attested statement of what's obvious to any neutral and intelligent observer of the US social and political scene.

As 41fa48c8-550a-11e3-b48c-000bcdcb2996 says "it makes perfect sense to point out that Republicans are practicing a standard list of nasty behaviours while claiming to be Christian, but do they actually need to be told to do that? By the Devil? I mean isn't that list in the Bible precisely because that's what people tend to do, sort of, on their own?"

Being animals who are adaptively evolved to survive and reproduce ourselves (I know most 'good Americans' don't understand this, and that's part of the problem) humans tend to selfishness and greed, resorting to hypocrisy to cover up in a social context. Simply read psychologists like Robert Cialdini to see how simple we are, and how easily manipulated.

People might want to be 'good', or at least be seen to be good in the eyes of society, which explains why politicians will always claim to be following whatever is socially constructed as 'good' by the majority while doing whatever they want in private.

It also explains why they'll never come out honestly and say what they really are up to.

It's fair to say that these problems aren't exclusive to the modern USA. Christianity and Christians have a lengthy history of preaching love and compassion while doing the exact opposite. Something which I'm sure will continue.

Phil Knight said...

I think the Left have to take some of the blame for the success of pseudo-conservatism purely because of their unwillingness to critique it.

This is because to the Left all conservatism is "reaction" which is the Marxist synonym for "sin", and therefore all conservatives are essentially the same, believe in the same things, and are equally detestable.

It's easy to get away with something when your keenest adversaries aren't interested in looking.

onething said...

Well, not so fast Beaver Puppet. My version reaches back through many centuries...it is no quick process.

Jon said...

I’m reminded of the Shakespeare quote, “The fault, dear Brutus, in not in our stars, but in ourselves.” Both religious belief and its counterweight, satire, cast a strictly human condition in cosmic terms. They are both metaphors of our behavior and psychology.

I don’t know if there is a god out there calling the shots but he is not necessary or even relevant. All of our philosophy is narcissistically about us, anyway, so a god might get in the way. And if he did try to get involved we would just kill him again and get back to the dreamy task of telling stories about ourselves.

Hail, us!

Jon.

Bill Pulliam said...

Hmm, an interesting and modest proposal...

Caryl said...

Hello--thanks for your wonderful blog--you always have something intelligent and interesting to say.

On this occasion I think your comments are a tad far of the mark. One does not need to go as far as Satanism to observe the detrimental effects of the Frankfurt School type intellect and Jewish lobby type politics on American life and culture since the 1960's. Ayn Rand is one among many such thinkers who have assisted in the discrediting of Christianity with its loyalty to supernatural values. What a horrible woman she was, by the way!

You might enjoy reading a post I did a few years back on this same theme--"American Hadron Collider Eats World"—about what happened when American Evangelicals embraced the cause of power over truth:
http://from-the-catacombs.blogspot.com/2008/09/americas-hadron-collider-eats-world.html

Chris said...

At long last, someone else has seen that LaVeyan satanism is nothing but Ayn Randian selfishness tattooed with an inverted pentagram.

M said...

In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for; as for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican.--H.L. Mencken

We've gone beyond even Orwell's doublethink and newspeak, to a world where a once-innocuous word for a bee or continuous musical note is being used to label a machine that reigns death from the sky, cars are advertized as being eco-friendly and sustainable, etc., etc, insert favorite example here.

Of course social critics through the ages have always pointed out the hypocrisies of politicians of all stripes. But as we pass over the peak of oil intoxification, along with all of the tools and technologies that have gone so far beyond human scale due to excessive, gluttonous inputs of energy, it makes sense that our sins become amplified as well.

In his writings during the early 70s, Ivan Illich believed society, through political process, needed to find a way to impose limits on energy use, so that our tools would be, in his wonderful term, "convivial." Writing in the 1970s, he recognized we had only a short time to make these changes before it would be too late.

Alas, judging from the complete disconnect from reality of both politician and constituent, we have gone well around the bend from that fork in the road, and on into the coming dead end of the boulevard know here as the Civil Religion of Progress.

Season's greetings, and thank you for my weekly dose of sanity clauses (and sentences, and...) You are a true menace to society, JMG.

The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out... without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, intolerable. --Mencken again

Kevin Anderson K9IUA said...

If this is considered satire, then I don't know what satire is and I am not a good candidate for being taught by this method. I am intellectually unable to discern the nuances. My left brain nature requires a more direct form of teaching. Fortunately, at the same time, I cannot stand to watch Fox News, MSNBC, and all the similar ilk on television, nor can stand to read it or hear it from others.

Michael Petro said...

Another unassailable essay, and it is amusing to think of the consequent squirming.

A small thing, but... I was curious about your reticence about quoting TSB - copyright, sure, but "fair use" is surely OK in this context? (Not that your post suffered any for lack of them.)

Pantagruel7 said...

The current blog reminded me again of Nathaniel Hawthorne's story "Young Goodman Brown" which seems quite apposite. I didn't take it as satire.

Doctor Westchester said...

Speaking of Krampus, the idea that having him as our Christmas icon in the U.S. might not the worst thing in the world has occurred to someone in the MSM - in the NY Times no less!!!

http://www.nytimes.com/video/opinion/100000002617970/christmas-icon-reform.html

The only question that comes to mind how could he possibly find a sack big enough to hold all the rotten spoiled children that he would be taking away here?

Nano said...

Just gonna leave this one here for the "laughs"

http://conservapedia.com/Conservative_Bible_Project


Instead of a pic of white Jesus, it will be a pic of Reagan btw.

Talk about forced narrative.


All Hail Discordia!!!

Joy said...

I’ve read somewhere that Satanism is nothing more than hyped-up Objectivism. While I realize this was satire, I would have no doubt that some so-called Christians are unknowingly falling in line with the Randian/Satanist/Objectivist belief system; unknowingly because evangelicals wouldn’t touch The Satanic Bible with the proverbial 10-foot pole, much less read it, and thus do not understand what it’s really about. They still think Satanists actually worship The Dark Lord, most likely with child sacrifice. Anton LaVey was an atheist, and a former carny worker, and knew how to pitch a product. I wonder if he realized he could sway so many in the Christian Church to his viewpoint. And atheists are usually seen (in America, anyway) as being connected to socialism/communism, rather than the ideologies of the extreme right, which is another reason that the evangelical Christians do not see where they are waltzing. They are too busy listening to the music lyrics for proper doctrine to see who their dancing partner is and in what direction they are being lead.

Also—I was at the thrift store a while back, and found a copy of the book you referred to in your post, The Conservative Mind, by Kirk. I thought at the time this looked like a good book to read in order to get a grip on what conservatism encompasses. It's original copyright date was in 1953, so I thought it wouldn’t be tarnished by the Tea Party crack-pottery of today’s conservatism. Glad to see I made a good decision. Now to fit it in my reading schedule…

Ben said...

Satire or not, you may be on to something!
Maybe the Republican party needs a good old fashioned exorcism? How else do you explain the hackles raised by the comment-critters at Fox 'News' regarding the new Pope's 'radical new theology?' This embrace of service for the poor finally provides them an excuse to attack the Universal Church in the open!
Happy New Years to you JMG. Looking forward to more incisive commentary in the year to come!

RevCelt said...

Thank you for this-- a delightful second-day-of-Christmas gift for this UCC pastor!

Here in rural Maine, where the loss of living-wage jobs brings 150-200 people to our church food bank each week, the economic message of the Gospels "preaches" pretty powerfully. And yet, we still have Fox News proselytizers in our midst who still buy the lies...and everything else with network-backed advertising.

This year, I'm looking forward to leading a Lenten book study using Robin Meyers' "The Underground Church: Reclaiming the Subversive Way of Jesus." The economic teachings of Jesus are discussed at length, and I'm hoping the book will generate some very lively--possibly even helpful--discussion!

Nastarana said...

The rumours or reports or theories of unspeakable depravity among the high and mighty have been circulating for some time in various odd corners. While I never could decide what to make of them, I noted that they did not go away, and did not appear to be traceable to any one discredited source. Far too many of such reports, or rumours seemed to be coming from former members of various national intelligence services, that is, persons who might be supposed to be in positions to know whereof they speak. If the rumours and reports and theories have any foundation, Exposure might be the one thing which could rouse the American public from its current somnolence.

It is therefore of great interest to see so sober and rational a writer and public figure as the Archdruid putting two and two together and coming up with similar conclusions.

Mary said...

Your prior attempt at satire to me was a bit-heavy handed. Today's post is positively brilliant...you have nailed it. That so many were questioning, even after the image of Coulter in her birthday suit, lol!

You did leave me with one question. Which neocon started out as a Marxist? I find it hard to believe Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfewitz or any of the other heavy hitters was every anything but a Satanist with a blackened, shriveled, dried up clot in place of a heart...

Mary

Robo said...

I'm way out of my depth in this discussion, but this W. B. Yeats verse comes to mind:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

(The Second Coming, 1919)

In light of your essay this week, it's easy to assign political party names to the 'best' and the 'worst' who are characterized in this poem. As noted in an earlier comment, Moloch would seem to be a most appropriate Satanic incarnation. Throughout the course of the long slouch to Bethlehem that began early in the 20th century, Americans have continuously sacrificed their lives and treasure to appease the limitless demands of that rough beast, receiving little in return but a "gaze pitiless and blank as the sun".

Brad K. said...

JMG,

I think the way that politics strayed from moral teachings in search of expediency, while spouting popular buzzwords, has been around since before professional politicians.

And, of course, there can *be* no Satanist, without the fundamental theology of Christianity, since only Christian churches define, identify, and imbue Satan with existence.

Outside of Christianity, there is no Satan -- just as there is no politician without a Fearsome Enemy/Cause that threatens.

Funny how the politics of the churches of centuries past, as well as the moralities, power grabs, etc., still color secular life today.

In one sense, though, I think the swing of politics from strong stance to selfish indulgence reflects the rejection of authority -- and morals -- of the 1960s. When then-President John F. Kennedy redirected American education to a unified, politician-defined and commercially successful national goal, and the rejection of the experience and legacy of earlier generations by young people -- we lost a lot of generational wisdom, as a nation. Defining personal "ambition" as a necessary component of economic growth and national security, in terms of personal wealth, set the stage for today's Congress. Few of today's leaders served in combat, or truly faced any dire personal challenge of self-discovery.

Thus a Congress, and President, and increasingly Supreme Court, with strongest moral values of expediency and retaining office.

Blessed be!

zaphod42 said...

Jim, you've struck a nerve! I cannot disagree with any point you made, though not certain whether what you wrote is satire or hyperbole.

Also, I don't really know which is worse - a party that worships Satan or one that worships nothing at all. Ayn Rand would say that at least the R's have moral conviction. No one can say that of the D's!

Craig

hapibeli said...

My wife will love this essay. She had some bad experiences many long years ago with what she believes were satanists. I'll say that, if satanism exists as a force in this corporeal reality, then the Republicans certainly seem to follow olde beezulbub's direction! LOL!
I told my children as they grew that their were nazis all around them,but that most of these same nazis wouldn't know that until the circumstances surrounding them, turned on the switch within them.
Maybe now I'll teach my granddaughter about satanism instead!
As the Wicked Witch of the East cried in shock while melting,
"Oh what a world, what a world!!"
"

Harry J. Lerwill said...

Satire can sometimes be used to speak truths that would otherwise be ignored. I’ve believed, for many decades, that the Abrahamic religions have been hijacked by a malevolent spirit. From the “sacrifice your child, Abraham -ha-ha, just kidding” story of the OT, though the “kill anyone who worships differently to you”, human sacrifice has been at the core of “revealed” religions. Human self-sacrifice (martyrdom) apparently gets one a special merit badge!

The Davidic line of kings listed in the OT was used for many centuries to justify Feudalism and the divine right of kings to rule. Today, Prosperity Gospel reintroduces that idea, with the ultra-wealthy somehow “Blessed by God” and deserving of riches, while the poor are responsible for their suffering. By being Rich, the wealthy are blessed by God to rule over us.

When I visualize the heaven and Hell of Christians, I see two poles of what modern fiction has labeled “The Matrix” – the use of humans as batteries to power something. Fiction put it in a futuristic world, but the model applies to the spiritual. Those that believe, and believe they are good, go to heaven, where existence consists of paying attention to the God at the center of the heavenly spheres. Those that believe, and believe they are bad, have their attention focused on the absence of God, except though eternal torture. Two extremes, with an attempt to Sheppard humanity between them.

Abrahamic religions also strive to be monopolies which I have issue with. I see the revealed religions as “Factory Farms” on a spiritual level. They have no appeal to me, I prefer a more personal relationship with Deity, and the freedom to label it as I want.

A week ago I asked on Facebook, “Is it wrong to file ‘Atlas Shrugged’ under horror?” It resulted in far more social grooming than I expected, more than if I’d asked the same question about the bible! I have to wonder if Rand’s writing have superseded the bible as the #1 source of inspirational reading in the US of A.

Repent said...

An important topic to be visited to be sure. The cult of evil and devil worship is well established, recent folk history says that both the Oklahoma city bombing and the Waco fire incident occurred on April 19th. April 19th being the day for 'sacrifice of women and children to the beast' in the calendar of the church of Satan.

Alex Jones put out a video presentation in 2004 called JFK II where he directly linked George H. W. Bush as an accomplice before the fact to the Kennedy assassination, and that every president since Kennedy has been a puppet of a shadow new world order government.

Even if he is only partially correct, this is scary stuff. That Larry Silverstein bought two white elephant real estate properties in New York and insured them for $1 billion in the event of a terrorist attack immediately prior to 9/11, suggesting foreknowledge and his direct involvement in the scheme. The mere fact that he has received payments of $2 billion dollars, plus he sued the airline companies for compensation this year and they paid, suggests widespread involvement and corruption of the 'elites' of our society in this charade.

Architect's and engineers for 9/11 truth, have proved beyond any doubt that the twin towers could not have collapsed due to structural failure, and that the only reason they collapsed was per-planned controlled demolition. The basis for starting two major wars has failed the test of time, and yet the majority of the population still believe the racist official story of Arab's hijacking aircraft and a perpetual war on terror.

I'm quite cynical about our future as a civilization. I'll focus on my own faults and sins, and try to change myself rather that focusing on the sins of others. Most people get so hung up on the Birth of Jesus and his later murder that they forget or ignore his teachings and his message. I'm quite fond of his message. Despite having atheist parents, I'd call myself a moderate Christian.

Happy solstice!

Yupped said...

Politics and religion, good combination. Throw in some opinions on the Red Sox and you could really rattle some people!

Since both US political parties are perpetuating big government/corporate welfare/interventionist foreign policies, they both need a narrative that works for that. As you say, democrats can make anything work, since they don't really believe in too terribly much. For republicans, though, the old fashioned Burkean conservativism that Kirk would have been comfortable with (and that I probably would vote for) clearly wasn't going to work, so it had to go.

I've always thought that a key part of the glue that holds the new Republican coalition together is an appeal to cold-eyed certainty and a rejection of nuance: so we get aggressive foreign policy, corporations are always right, fundamentalist religion, strict moral values, american exceptionalism, etc, etc. Anything that is detailed and invites doubt is rejected. Perhaps they are aiming for the Jungian judgemental/extravert/thinking demographic? I hadn't considered that it might also be informed by an active satanist message, although I'm guessing satanists don't tend to be terribly nuanced people either, so it wouldn't be incompatible! Also republican political consultants would probably throw anything into the mix that worked - Good, evil, whatever. I don't exactly know where this places political consultants on the ethical spectrum, but probably not in a good place.

Chris G said...

I've read that the pornography industry is larger in dollars than NFL, NBA, MLS, and NHL combined: lust is very much in the mix. In a way, industrial American society, and its extension around the world, is about taking all the sins and trying to make them "good."

To put it in metaphorical terms, and at the risk of taking satire too seriously, since we're in the Faustian age, the whole culture is basically in a contract with the devil who provides us with the black semen of the earth, and is about to call in that debt.

In terms of the intellectual consistency of the Republican party: JMG, you've done well I think to show that "rationality" is really not all that often very operative. At the root of the relation of the Republican party to essentially (if not intentionally) Satanic "ideology" is their traditional association with "big business and banks", the party's opposition to the New Deal, and then importantly, during the efforts of the 60's to extend the New Deal to blacks and women, as well as the important Roe v Wade decision.

So I don't think it is entirely correct to pin the Satanism on the Republicans, even though that is the result of their governmental policy. To give the party of the Beast a fairer shake, you might say, they just don't want the government to do the giving...

But I'm a little surprised you would step into the rather polluted waters of partisan politics in America at present: there is so much binary thinking here, and so many emotions, that by and large it's difficult to get any real thinking done here. It's like a salted and razed field, national politics.

Incidentally, this commentary hits home, as my father - a Vietnam veteran who was raised in a military family that was moved all over the world and that essentially imitated warfare in their family life - is ironically also a Randian, who tried and continues to try to convince me that Rand's is the only correct belief system.

John Michael Greer said...

Tom, remember that one of the central influences on American music is the desperate desire of teenagers to shock their moms. Heavy Metal music does that fairly reliably.

Onething, a case could be made!

Guamanian, funny! Remember, though, that this is the same archdruid who spent an entire year pointing and laughing at the true believers in 2012.

41fa, thank you. As for Satanists, though, if you run in alternative circles in the US, you're going to run into them sooner or later; it's a small but vocal subculture with a pretty fair overlap with the grubbier end of the magical scene.

Mister R., oh, granted -- and I certainly agree about Coulter. She always reminds me of those cannibalistic hags in Northern European legend -- something in her expression, maybe, makes it easy for me to imagine her ripping infants apart with her teeth.

Ondra, many thanks for the reference; I haven't read that, and should.

Puppet, you're welcome.

KL, thank you!

Cherokee, there was something desperate to it, wasn't there? Here in the US, despite much spin doctoring by the media, word has gotten out that retailers did very badly indeed.

Puppet, it's always easy to sell people on an ideology that gives them excuses for what they want to do anyway. Glad to hear you shook yourself out of it.

Seth, oh, granted! It's gotten to the point that parody is difficult work...

William, a good point. I'd encourage you and other readers to spread the word! ;-)

John Michael Greer said...

Karim, thank you and likewise. Oddly enough, we'll be talking about Weimar America in a series of posts in the new years.

Sean of the constantly changing handles, I find Nietzsche's prose brilliant, his personality fascinating, his insights intriguing, his philosophy as a whole hopelessly flawed.

Unknown, I didn't know that about the GOP symbol. Fascinating.

Cherokee, I've been told by ex-fundamentalists that it's exactly the money issue: most of their parishioners don't want to hear the least whisper about their Christian duty to help the poor and vulnerable, so the churches ignore that entire dimension of Christian teaching so as not to lose attendees.

Spanish Fly, be glad. I have yet to meet anyone as humorless and nasty as a hardcore Rand fetishist.

Richard, as I see it, the Democrats have no ideas or beliefs of their own, so when they land in office, they simply borrow the policies of the last successful GOP incumbent and hope for the best. It worked fairly well for Clinton, who got his two terms by promising to be a better Reagan clone than his GOP rivals...

Liquid, a case could be made...

Marc, no argument there. America these days is a textbook example of societal decadence, and the collapse of collective thinking into total incoherence, on the one hand, or wildly unbalanced ideologies, on the other, is a normal part of that process.

Russ, get the word out! ;-)

Zach, that Pharisee's prayer is getting a pretty fair workout these days, and yes, I've heard it (or the close equivalent) out of the mouths of plenty of people on the allegedly tolerant Left. I hope that when all the rubble finally stops bouncing, Christians grasp the idea that the separation of church and state is there to protect the churches from being swallowed up by politics!

Doug and Michael, thank you. Yes, I'm a fan of Swift.

Between, and yet human beings -- and, yes, Christians -- also have a long record of doing the opposite as well. I don't know that it's fair to blame evolution for our own individual moral choices...

Joseph Nemeth said...

Hmm. One flaw in this analysis. I've read -- please correct me if I'm wrong, JMG -- that the Cardinal Sin of Anton la Vey's Satanism is stupidity. If so, then I'm afraid the Satanic Republican Party has a great many wretched sinners in its ranks.

Mark Rice said...

Is this an example of a writing technique called "The Devil's Advocate".

John Roth said...

That was supposed to be satire? Well, I suspect that the part about people being explicitly closet Satanists was, but then I have a great deal of problem telling satire from reality - too much of reality looks like a bad satire to me these days. As the saying goes, you can't parody a parody. There's no way of telling it from the original.

As far as lust is concerned - isn't that what the advertising industry is all about?

draciidinmine said...

...well, this one definitely has a controversial approach! On a more brighter tone, I am happy to hear about Pope Francis' good deeds as pope this year, at least it seems that he is trying to do better than his predecessor.

Whatever holiday the Druid faith celebrates this time of year, I hope you have a pleasant and enjoyable one!

k-dog said...

Christmas has evolved into an odd holiday. I imagine that gift giving started out innocently enough, celebrating the Biblical Magi and demonstrating love of fellow man. But over time worship of consumerism pre-empted Christ's message and out of control gift giving became but a celebration of self. We now live in a society founded on avarice and pride and lack of concern for others or the future. The poor carpenter’s son now comes in second place at Christmas.

Closet Satanists and Ayn Rand sycophants have the worship of self in common and endless narcissism rules our age. We live in dark times where greed is good and the omnipresent worship of self threatens to bring an end to all tomorrows. Over the past year you have eloquently stated our predicament. I thank you.

We have a duty to take care of children, our poor, and the vulnerable. Those who benefit from the peace society has provided, allowing them prosperity should not feel slighted and having to pay taxes to support that which has allowed them success. Lack of gratitude is a moral failing and another is to be so lost in self that one cannot see the error of their own ways but see only the faults of others. I share with you the desire to wish all those who share the teaching to love one another a very merry Christmas and extend this wish to all others for that is part of this great teaching.

The great teaching which must be followed for man to have any hope of enduring.

John Franklin said...

I've even seen one Burkeian conservative set up the left-right contrast as optimistic utopianism vs. fairly pessimistic anti-utopianism, stating the anti-utopianism probably sprang from Christian teachings about the fallibility of man and the impossibility of heaven on Earth. Obviously, this no longer applies – or perhaps applies now more than ever - in an era where the left and right are indistinguishable from each other, and often both push some variation of a utopian agenda.

Thank you for writing this rapier thrust to the heart of phony Christians and general selfism.

flute said...

Thanks for this interesting essay, Mr Greer!
As for Ayn Rand, her books also serve as inspiration for many politicians on my side of the pond. Two examples:
The Swedish minister for enterprise and leader of the Centre Party, Annie Lööf, has said that Ayn Rand was "one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century"!
The influential Swedish libertarian, free market think tank and book publisher Timbro this year (on the 1st of May!) released a special Ayn Rand gift box with her three most (in)famous books.
Much of what you write about what you see in American society can be applied (with variations) to European society too.

And a belated wish to you that you had a happy midwinter solstice!

Unknown said...

Satan is seen as the opposite of Christ, but rather than by the more recent good-evil dichotomy it seems it was inspired more by another one: the desire to make the distinction between nature worship and the platonic ideas of Christianity. An example: the "devil" card in the Marseilles tarot is surprisingly similar to the classic depiction of Inanna/Ishtar/Astarte, goddess of fertility, sex and war. Another link is the horns, typical for Herne the Hunter and other natural deities. It certainly fits with seeing Nature as hostile and an enemy.

John Michael Greer said...

Phil, that's a very good point. The Left is so convinced that its beliefs are obviously true that it's completely incapable of justifying those beliefs to somebody who doesn't share them -- and, as far as I can tell, it's not even interested in making the attempt these days.

Jon, one of the downsides of narcissism is that it makes it very hard to notice when you're dealing with something much, much bigger and stronger than you are. Humanity's idiotic relationship with Nature comes to mind, but the same point could also be made about gods.

Bill, thank you!

Caryl, er, did you somehow miss the fact that this was a satire?

Chris, you could as well say that Rand's philosophy is devil worship with the inverted pentagrams tucked neatly out of sight!

M, excellent. You get today's gold star for getting past the fantasy that we always have enough time to fix things. Illich was right; we had a very narrow window in which we could turn aside from a very messy future, and we didn't do that while we had the time. Now we get to live with the consequences of that profoundly misguided collective choice.

Kevin, so noted. I promise I'll be returning to my usual style of analysis and amusement!

Michael, I don't own a copy and see no point in changing that, so quoting would have been a bit challenging. (I read a public library copy back in the day, if you're wondering.)

Pantagruel, thank you! A comparison to Hawthorne is high praise.

Doctor W., I think he'd have to take them a bagful at a time, starting with the worst cases -- which would leave Washington DC a little short of politicians!

Nano, okay, that proves that they're devil worshippers. I wonder if they've ever read Revelation 22:18-19...

Joy, depends on the Satanist. LaVey's version is only one of several flavors, ranging from hardcore traditionalist straight through to various avant-garde devil cults, and some subsets do seem to worship an actual devil, or the equivalent.

Enrique said...

@ Tom Bannister:

The “Thing That Should Not Be” was actually inspired by H.P Lovecraft’s stories, particularly “The Call of Chulthu” and “The Mountains of Madness”. As a fan of Lovecraft, I recognized the references and quotes when I first heard the song.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jaFP8p8V4vg

Enrique said...

Interesting enough, a conservative Russian blogger has been making pretty much the same point about America embracing an overtly Satanic ideology.

http://mat-rodina.blogspot.com/2013/12/americans-do-not-give-up-your-god.html

http://mat-rodina.blogspot.com/2013/04/us-evangelist-of-anti-christ.html

And his take on Black Friday, that mad celebration of materialism, greed and shop-till-you-drop consumerism. I remember when the word “Black Friday” referred to the 1929 stock market crash. It too was a symbol of materialist greed, but viewed in a negative and not a positive sense.

http://mat-rodina.blogspot.com/2013/11/americas-total-anti-christian-decent.html

I am also reminded of the Russian Christian philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev, who described both communism and capitalism as satanic and anti-Christian ideologies, but argued that communism, for all of its flaws, was closer in spirit to the teachings of Jesus and St Paul.

It’s curious that it’s not only the Iranians who describe America as the Great Satan, but now Russian Christians and conservatives as well. Sad to say, but they do seem to have a point…

As for lust being the only Deadly Sin not being currently promoted by the Party of Mordor, at least not openly. But look at all sex scandals involving the so-called Christian Right, from Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart to Mark Sanford, Larry Craig and Ted Haggard. And look at the popular culture, which is absolutely saturated in raunchy imagery, justified by the adage “sex sells”. There is still an awful lot of hypocrisy within the pseudoconservative right concerning sexuality, particularly the Rapture Right.

Or consider a long-term study by the US Department of Health, which shows that teen girls from the evangelical sub-culture have some of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country and tend to lose their virginity at a younger age than most, exceeded in both categories only by inner city blacks. As a political commentator pointed out when the Bristol Palin teen pregnancy story broke shortly after Caribou Barbie was named as McCain’s running mate, that sort of thing is actually quite common among fundamentalist Christians, which again calls into question how seriously these people actually take the teachings of the Bible.

Twilight said...

To some extent society's institutions – social norms, political, legal and religious institutions - can be seen as attempts to get people to move beyond their base instincts in order to permit a cohesive society to function. Here at the end of the empire, as people's faith in those institutions fails, those same institutions are corrupted to promote instead people's base instincts and desires, simply wrapped in the old trappings and symbolism to make it more palatable. This will only reinforce the inability of the public systems to function, adding to the resource limits and other things which began the decline.

I think that a new religious sensibility will need this fertilizer to grow from.

John Michael Greer said...

Ben, now there's a possibility. Might I suggest that my Christian readers consider praying for the GOP to be freed from its enslavement to Satan?

RevCelt, glad to hear it.

Nastarana, the rich and famous have always been depraved; give a bunch of human beings too much wealth and power, and it's usually safe to assume that they'll abuse it. As for the rest, er, did you miss the fact that this was a satire?

Mary, Irving Kristol's the most famous, but a lot of the members of his circle were Trotskyites as well.

Robo, oh, they think they're getting more than a blank stare from a beast, and to some extent they're right -- they get, over the short term, a wildly inflated standard of living and plenty of cheap consumer trinkets. It's when the bill comes due that that's going to look very insufficient.

Braqd, oh, granted, politicians are politicians; it's simply that many politicians in the past weren't quite so doctrinaire in their pursuit of nastiness for its own sake.

Zaphod, thus my comment in the post.

Hapibeli, you taught your children well. I'll have more to say about that in an upcoming series of posts.

Harry, I don't know that it's fair to paint the Abrahamic religions as a whole with the same broad brush, but there are certainly plenty of institutions and people within that range of the world's faiths that seem to have lost track of the need for spiritual discernment, and are eagerly pursuing evil under the delusion that it's good. As for Atlas Shrugged, I'd file it under "tinder for the wood stove" instead -- what a pompous, turgid, incompetently written waste of wood pulp!

Repent, normally I wouldn't have put yet another 9/11 rant through, but I do that every so often so that my readers overseas can see just how frantic things are over here. Perhaps you can explain to me sometime just why any of that was relevant to my satire.

Yupped, if Dante were alive today he'd probably have to revise the Inferno to come up with a sub-basement for political consultants!

Chris, oh, granted -- but so far the so-called Christian conservatives haven't yet figured out a way to fit the overt glorification of lust into their rhetoric, while they've managed that with the other six deadly sins. Sorry to hear about your father; that's got to be difficult.

Robert Mathiesen said...

JMG wrote:

"Phil, that's a very good point. The Left is so convinced that its beliefs are obviously true that it's completely incapable of justifying those beliefs to somebody who doesn't share them -- and, as far as I can tell, it's not even interested in making the attempt these days."

It's not just the politically doctrinaire. During my last decade of college teaching, I was asked several times by undergraduates, "Why are you asking us to develop an argument? Really, people don't ever change their views, no matter what reasons you give. If they ever did that, they don't now."

escapefromwisconsin said...

And here are the passages in the Bible about abortion....

If you weren't aware, The Satanic Bible is just a complete plagiarism from a work written in 1890 called "Might is Right" (or, "Survival of the Fittest") by an author writing under the pseudonym Ragnar Redbeard. The true identity of Redbeard has been a subject of speculation, but since it was public domain, LaVey just stole it and published it as "The Satanic Bible." Here's Wikipedia's page on it, and you can find a link to the entire text for those who are curious and want to read more:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Might_Is_Right

That's the nice thing about having a religion with no morals: plagiarism is OK.

As for both parties being the same, I find this cliche absolutely true - the modern Democratic Party is identical to the Republican party of Eisenhower through Nixon; the modern Republican Party is basically the John Birch Society as a mainstream political party. If you're on the Wikipedia page reading the above, I advise you to search John Birch Society and see if you can find any difference whatsoever between their beliefs and those of any committed mainstream Republican today. Because I can't.

However, I think you're overthinking it. I don't think it has anything to do with Devil worship. The wealthy plutocrats of the U.S. were alarmed that their power was being threatened by thirty years of declining income inequality, business regulations, and progressive legislation (e.g. environmental regulations). They saw the Christian Right as a bottomless pool of "useful idiots" for their goal of untaxing themselves, rolling back regulations and eliminating the New Deal. They very intentionally wooed these people to become the shock troops for their movement, seducing them to vote against their economic well-being with "social issues" that the wealthy themselves cared little to nothing about (the rich can purchase whatever social arrangements they need, after all). In my experience (and I've had a lot, trust me) the key attribute of fundamentalists is authoritarianism, that is, the unquestioned belief in a leader (they are not called a flock for nothing). Thus, they are easy to bend to a political agenda by stoking their fear and rage.

I advise readers to check out What's the Matter with Kansas, the book and/or the movie, to see this in action. Here's a trailer for the movie:

http://youtu.be/QtD8S5SnViQ

Incidentally, I'm from the state that gave us Paul Ryan, a politician whose entire career has been about slashing both taxes on the rich and the social safety net, and who loudly proclaims his love for both the Catholic faith and the works of Ayn Rand as often as possible.

Twilight said...

A second comment – you might consider changing your phrasing concerning democrats having no beliefs of their own. I believe I understand what you mean, and certainly it applies to the democratic politicians presently in government. I can see very little distinction between their actions and those of their supposed rivals. But there are many individuals on the left, as there are on the right, who do believe in things and have been betrayed by those who supposedly represent them.

My parents are life long liberals, and Christians, and they are strong believers in Progress. Some in terms of technology, but all in service of the ideas of social progress. They truly want to see the world be come more fair, better distribution of the benefits of our society.

They do not see the issues of resource limitations and the others failings of Progress we discuss here, but they do have beliefs. I doubt that many of their age will be able to make the leap to a new religious sensibility, but ultimately it is the disconnect between people who do have beliefs and those that fail to represent them that will drive such a change.

Ian Stewart said...

I'm a big heavy metal fan, like Tom Bannister was talking about above, but not so much Metallica. A lot of the contemporary stuff I listen to is coming from Germany and the Scandanavian countries, and I've often found myself wondering about the cultural context there that drives this stuff. The vocals in this genre, at least these days, can almost be considered part of the rhythm section, as they're mainly aggressive growls and screams; but I'm drawn to it because of the complex, high tempo guitar melodies. It's hardly all driven by Satan, either, there are quite a few bands that make their bread and butter invoking Norse deities! Amon Amarth is a leading example.

There are also a few death-metal bands here in America that claim Christian influences, not that you can hear it in their lyrics (if you even have the rare gift of understanding the lyricist). One of my particular favorites, All That Remains, ended up being deprived oof their lead singer... err, vocalist, rather last year. Apparently, he had begun using steroids to build an intimidating physique, had renounced Christianity, and proceeded to threaten to murder his wife. Take that how you will.

MidMichMatriarch said...

Before I even read all these comments and get sidetracked....
Wow, your post this week is harsh and direct. I'm left wondering if you are being honest or provocative. Having experienced homelessness as a child and having been taken advantage of as an adult, my politics are very “teach a man to fish”. IMO democrats campaign on slogans like, “We need to protect the fish” and then follow a policy of “stuff a free fish in their mouths so they’ll shut up” and republicans are more, “If they can’t catch their own fish, beat them with the rod”. So what do you propose we do?

On another note….. The Thanksgiving and Christmas (food orgy, plastic orgy) holidays left many of my loved ones feeling lonely and disappointed this year. So I offered to host a Winter Solstice Celebration next year, bonfire from dusk ‘til dawn, hot soup, Spirits and Nuts (dual meaning intended). No presents! We will toast those who have passed on, those who could not attend and then toast each other. The suggestion was received enthusiastically by all, even my retired co-worker who has railed against my pagan leanings for months now. Winning him over did not feel victorious though, it was sad.
Thank you again, John Michael, for your guidance, for your wisdom and for your willingness to share yourself with us.

Anna2 said...

Thanks! Permit me to point out that Goethe's Mephisto owes his role - particularly in Faust II - to his creator's day job as a minister of finance in Weimar. Goethe knew his Adam Smith. Incidentally, this is the first time I've come across the phrase "Weimar America". Odd phrase. To German speakers, Weimar has far more associations than the Weimarer Republik. Such as the Weimarer Klassik which we all learn about in high school. Arguably the age of the best Dichter und Denker the Germans were so proud of. I'm not German, but I love Goethe every bit as much as Shakespeare, and I would recommend Faust to anyone at all interested in what you're writing about. Source for German readers: http://www.sueddeutsche.de/geld/reden-wir-ueber-geld-jochen-hoerisch-geld-steckt-voller-erotischer-begierden-1.1039281

Ares Olympus said...

Hi John, I feel encourage and resistant in attempts to paint the hypocrisy of tribal blindspots, like the "Conservative" right, supporting Ayn Rand's antichristian perspective, but it is deserved. Connecting to Satanism, even in satire, is also troublesome to me, even because it can seem true.

The ability of the human mind to rationalize irrationality seems so great, any attempt to point out contradiction in someone we disagree with seems to fail.

I was appreciative towards Jonathan Haidt's recent attempt(s) at bridging the political divides, showing liberals are more obsessed on harm and fairness, while conservatives had a wider breath of moral values to balance.
http://www.ted.com/talks/jonathan_haidt_on_the_moral_mind.html

He says our righteous minds were "designed" (by evolution) to: (1) Unite us into teams (2) Divide us against other teams (3) Blind us to the truth

What's curious to me is to wonder whether Conservatives or Progressives are closer to seeing outside of their echo chambers. So Progressives may be cringing now at ObamaCare's failed bandaids, and will feel it unfair if they lose power in 2014 or 2016, but that's the only way to have the breathing room to acknowledge mistakes and hubris, and reform. However, I'm stilling betting the "conservatives" infighting will sink them first, and so I hope "true conservatives" will seek out that future, and solidify a message that can contain our ambiguous place of dependent upon centralized failure to inspire relocalization, and the real power might not exist in DC, but in a million communities who need focused attention on our vulnerability to global fear to take away future choices.

The Primitive said...

It's been quite awhile since I read as good a saterical work as that. Thank you so much for the laugh. Very well said, and with excellent points. It was the perfect gift.

sunseekernv said...

bravo JMG

@Marc "most of the adults that I know, at least in the USA, don't seem to have any well-defined ideology…"

Don't mistake a chronological grown-up for a real adult. A real adult has decided that they are responsible for their life. Without that decision, they're just a chronologically gifted adolescent, desperate to fit in with their clique, to satisfy their self-importance, and generally thoughtlessly imitate what they (superficially) perceive as "adult" - all the while (more subconsciously when older) rebelling against "it" (aka learning/personal growth/responsibility…)

Can you say "cognitive dissonance"?

One thing I read into Spengler's "Civilization"/"Winter" stage, is that when a society is wealthy enough to afford (for the moment) a "fool's paradise", then education of youth gets farmed out to/left in the hands of "experts", who pursue the latest fashions, thence things drift away from reality. In particular, the industrial revolution led to children working with adults in factories, but the "reformers" took the kids out and put them in school. Gone were apprenticeships with adults where kids could see and model real adults in a variety of circumstances and learn responsibility etc. These were replaced by artificial situations where 30 kids are dominated by 1 "adult" in a highly artificial situation. Gone too are the formal tests/rituals of apprentice->journeyman (or guidance by the community elders), replaced with perfunctory school graduations or chronological mileposts. Generation after generation, ignorance and nihilism take hold.

I wonder if this isn't the source of some of the typical adolescent "reverse psychology" of those gnostics and others who during the apex of the Roman Empire decided that the physical world was evil and "god" was actually the evil one.

Note that the current "Satan" that we know in the "Christian" West was created during the "fool's paradise" of second temple times (200 B.C. to time of Jesus), when the Jewish theologians, arguing over nits, needed a bogeyman to literally demonize their "enemies" with. So they took "Ha-Satan" - "The opponent", the role of God's inspector general of Balaam, Job, et.al., and redacted that to a particular being who was rebellious enemy #1.

see The Origin of Satan by Elaine Pagels

Alexander said...

This is beautiful. Why should someone's claimed beliefs outweigh their actions? Whether or not someone believes in and worships a literal entity called "The Devil" is irrelevant.

the Heretick said...

all of these great religions seem to have stolen something from somebody, it's said that Moses got the idea for the one true God from the Egyptians, it's all written after the fact anyway, isn't everything?

mix and match, slice and dice, pretty soon the Hero has no face, let alone a thousand, but no problemo! we'll just do a focus group to find the most appealing image for whatever demographic you want to sell today.

very OMM 0910, if you take my meaning.

"You are a true believer, blessings of the State, blessings of the masses. Work hard, increase production, prevent accidents and be happy."

there is a God this world worships, Mammon's brother, Capitalism, and the resemblance is quite striking, the graven image, the golden calf, only in this case the host is living breathing people.

what you do is mix one part dead labor from the Karl Marx line, and mix it liberally with a dash of Hidden Hand, and presto! you have your own little death cult, because that's what it is.

yes indeed, and a big pile of worker's lives, collected into a nice neat stash of Capital.
take it into any one of a number of temples, Wall Street, down in The Pit, and you'll see some real magick.

perhaps I don't explain it very well, but you get my point.

i mean, talk about some transubstantiation, where else can you cash in synthetic financial instruments for some nice clean fiat dollars?

i think you err my friend, the democrats are no more faithful to their version of the Christian faith than the republicans, hey both worship at the feet of the almighty dollar, or at least whatever convertible currency provides the best hedge today.

yes, under the reign of the almighty UPC, we shall gobble up the universe. but that's not what worries me, oh no.........
it's the loss of whatever collective soul we may have once had, if you believe in that sort of thing.

we are all just grist for the machine, fungible assets, clay, malleable, changeable, ripe for the scientists lab, because see, we aren't really ever happy with whatever God we can make up, not when we can play God with the Cosmos.

BeaverPuppet said...

Wow! This post has really seemed to bring out the Christian-bashers! I guess considering the pro-Faith tone to most of this series, this was the first chance in awhile for people to get some of this stuff off their chests! For what it's worth, I didn't take the post to be anti-Christian at all. On the contrary, it highlighted some of my favorite messages of the Bible.

I feel I need to come to the defense of some of the Ayn Randists, however. These aren't all amoral people looking for an excuse to do whatever they want. Alot of them sincerely believe it produces the best results for society. They're wrong, but the intent is not evil. Rush drummer Neil Peart is an interesting example of a sincere Ayn Randian. He eventually came to his senses, fortunately.

I hope you had planned for a busy week, John!

ando said...

JMG,

It dawned on me when I read about Coulter's nude body that "JMG is writing satire and doing it very nicely."

I enjoyed that immensely but fear that you will be haunted by Rand's ghost at midnight, chains and all, or maybe leather and whips. Either way, keep an eye out for Hannity and O'Reilly.

A peaceful New Year to you.

mac

onething said...

Enrique,

I read a bit of your linked conservative Russian blogger. I find he sounds oddly almost American. He sounds like a fundamentalist Protestant, and not like an Orthodox. I hear the same thing from fundamentalists in this country - all about how we are about to experience God's terrible wrath because we have forgotten him, and because we allow homosexuals to exist, and so forth. What I never hear from them is that the blood of our brothers in Iraq, and Afghanistan, and Vietnam are crying out to God from the ground...

Murder is OK. Not even worth mentioning.
It isn't true that Americans have forgotten God. We are a very religious country. And while I'm at it, Jesus said nothing against homosexuals, in fact he asserted that they are born that way.

John Michael Greer said...

Joseph, good! I don't know what LaVey considered to be a cardinal sin -- and wouldn't a cardinal sin be one of the things that Satanists are supposed to rush out there and commit? If so, and you're right, it would explain a thing or two... ;-)

Mark, funny.

John, I really had to work at it, granted.

Draciidinmine, that would be the winter solstice, and yes, I had a very pleasant celebration with Druid friends. Thanks for asking!

K-dog, exactly. Exactly.

John, you're welcome and thank you! I see both sides of the political divide these days as equally committed to profiteering in the name of one or another utopian fantasy, for whatever that's worth.

Flute, thank you and likewise! As for your politicians, my condolences -- I didn't know that any other country was infested by the same kind of Rand fetishists we've got here in the USA.

Unknown, before you use the word "Platonic" that loosely, I'd encourage you to read Plato's dialogue Phaedrus, which closes with a really beautiful prayer to the horned and hooved goat-god Pan. More generally, of course, the sleight of cultural imagery that used Pan and his brother nature-deities as images of the Christian devil does point to some serious imbalances -- it's just that it's a mistake (and a very common one these days) to blame that on Plato!

Enrique, oh, granted, they practice it in private just as frantically as they denounce it in public. My point is that they openly praise all six of the others in public, and then claim to be Christians!

Twilight, a nice crisp summary.

Robert, true enough.

Escape, well, it was a satire, you know -- though I admit if Paul Ryan suddenly started sporting an upside-down pentagram on his shirt, I'm not sure I'd be surprised.

John Michael Greer said...

Twilight, if you'll reread the post, you'll find that I specified that it's the politicians who don't actually believe in anything. I know quite a few Democrats who are very sincere in their beliefs -- and an equal number of Republicans who are just as sincere.

Ian, I'm not a fan, so I'll pass on trying to make sense of the lyrics!

Matriarch, I'm being satirical. As for your solstice celebration, may it be a happy one! I wonder if your loved ones might also consider thinking, hard, about what the holidays once meant, how they could mean those things again, and what changes in the celebrations might be in order to bring them back in line with sane values.

Anna, if you learned about Weimar classicism in high school, you didn't go to high school in the US! Here, "Weimar" is pretty consistently shorthand for the Weimar Republic. Still, as a longtime fan of Goethe's scientific work, I appreciate the reminder of the nobler side of the same term.

Ares, my guess is that the pseudoliberals and pseudoconservatives will drag each other down, and will go into the abyss still convinced that they're right and the other side is evil incarnate. While they're busy bickering with one another, the rest of us can start building something different.

Primitive, thank you!

Heretic, well, all the more reason to walk away and look for something more sane to do with one's life!

Beaver, one of the odd things I've noticed over the time I've been writing posts here is that maybe half my readership consists of intelligent believers in a variety of religions, and about half consists of intelligent unbelievers. I hope that over time, the two sides can get past the stereotypes, accept and deal with their differences, and notice that there's actually a lot of common ground.

Ando, the thought of Ayn Rand's ghost dressed in fetish gear is about as stomach-churning as that of Ann Coulter's nude body stretched out on an altar! Oog, as Churchy LaFemme used to say...

cyloke said...

As soon as I read " his shrill denunciations of the vulnerable and needy as “parasites” and “vampires,” and his insistence that the successful owe nothing to anybody else. " I thought jeez that sounds an awful lot like Ayn Rand then running upon this "Yes, this is where we discuss Ayn Rand." I got a good laugh.

Thanks JMG.

Natalie Golovin said...

Good Read. I always thought it ironic that the Left, who professed Darwinism, were obsessed with the poor-while the Christian believers advocated survival of the fittest. And the Jewish religion reserves its strong moral guidelines for Jews alone-everyone else being "strangers" But why place GOP Darwinists in the Satanic box? If one can't accept the Divinity of Christ-can't one also reject Satan? Maybe Pagan would be a better term-worship of nature/science without the watchmaker? And nature is not kind to the weak.

Bilaal Abdullah said...

The reference to Ayn Rand's admiration for Hickman was like driving a stake into the heart of those who glorify her brand of intellectually delivered evil. Bravo!
An Ayn Randian Christian Conservative...a dangerous oxymoron.

Paul Thompson said...

Season'e greetings John. And a heppy new year to you, to.

I suspect that Lust is covered in the GOP platform; The lust for power.

Cheers, Paul

onething said...

Hmm, I don't know whether I am one of the Christian bashers, but there is a distinction between disliking hypocrisy and negative dogma, and being pro faith. I believe that in order for humans to make spiritual progress within their souls, they need a true and pure ideal, something that stands out from the fray, exactly as described by Jesus, James, and John rather than the God of dogma who is good, except when he gets really mad...and so I stand up for God and vouch for his character...who is there to defend God from the slander?

And JMG says there is commonality between the believers and the unbelievers, so I am intrigued because I don't see it, unless he is merely referring to being decent and ethical people.

In that spirit I feel moved to say what it is I admire about all the religions.

Buddhism - astonishingly intelligent and rational, minutely analyzing the human psyche and encouraging doubt, and zen especially pursues a physically based transformation of the person through pushing the brain into breakthrough.

Hinduism, probably my favorite, the only truly monotheistic religion and one that teaches the most truth, while being lavishly beautiful; its music is unsurpassed.

Islam - They really love God and are almost monotheists, seeing him imminently everywhere; the sweetness of the people is unsurpassed and not only have they produced Sufism and Rumi but even Hafiz - the greatest divine poet ever.

Judaism does keep us rooted in the earth and mandates decent treatment of animals, celebration of life and marriage.

Christianity is about soul purification, unconditional love for all, teaches the deification of man through contact with the uncreated energies of God aka the Holy Spirit so that we may come to know God inwardly and achieve the ideal of perfection if we can agree to enter the bridal chamber and there be, as John Donne begs, ravished.

Native Americans - the concept of the Great Mystery, and the comment "We don't fight about God. We don't understand that."

Atheism - In the end, everyone worships. Reality is all we've got, however we interpret it, our very existence and every moment is divine, and in an odd way, they are most similar to the advaitists in that their reality is a unity, although they do not call it divine. But if there is nothing but God, or contrariwise there is nothing but matter, you reduce feelings of separation. A serious atheist is more or less a pantheist.

Bill Pulliam said...

Wow, that GOP logo thing, flipping the stars from point up to point down in 2006, is, well, weird. Why would they do that, making the stars reversed from their orientation on the flag that they have abstracted into the elephant? Weird, weird, weird.

PhysicsDoc said...

There are about 18 references to the word hypocrite or hypocrites in the bible, almost all in the synoptic gospels (i.e. Jesus is using the term). I always found this interesting that He would focus on this so much. Then as now people often say or preach one thing, while practicing or doing the opposite.

thecrowandsheep said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phil Harris said...

JMG
I got a Christmas card from North America this year from good friends whom I know are not supporters of the GOP. The combined image and legend however was unusual for a religious message and not easily deconstructed by me. The image was of a large traditional North American ‘mail box’ overflowing with ribbon-tied Christmas parcels. The legend underneath was “May your Christmas be full of God’s extravagant love”.

Did the legend draw attention to the true meaning of our ‘gifts’? We are so conditioned by the world of advertising and by the promotion of cornucopia, I wonder if my attempt at deconstruction is itself witness to epidemic social incoherence? What a hall of mirrors to be confused in!

I laughed out loud a number of times during my reading of your satire this week, so I still take sides apparently. Which I hope is healthy.

Best
Phil H
PS There seem to be a few explicit Rand devotees in New Zealand, including a senior politician (perhaps a local reader can correct me if this gentleman is not a ‘Rand’ ‘libertarian’): quote: “New Zealand’s own neoliberal reformer, former Finance Minister Roger Douglas, was a bit blunter about the subject [death of Thatcher].
“Of course we don’t give a [frac]” he said.

http://www.thecivilian.co.nz/libertarians-unsure-whether-to-care-about-death-of-margaret-thatcher/

dragonfly said...

Of course lust is in there! It's what they use to flambee their detractors. Or show that they're "human" when caught with child pornography.

LewisLucanBooks said...

Back in the 70s and 80s I worked for both major bookstore chains. Walden's and Dalton's. Almost once a week, some youngster would sidle up to the desk and whisper "Do you have the Satanic Bible?" It always seemed to take a bit of the wind out of their sails when I'd reply, "Oh, yeah. It's back here. $2.95 in paperback.

I always got the impression that it was a "impress your friends / shock you're Mom" kind of a purchase.

Of course, sometimes, if you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back at you.

LewisLucanBooks said...

PS: For those who have problems with the "prove you're not a robot", I just hit the refresh button until one pops up that's easy to identify.

Kristiina said...

Thank you for the recent posts, I find them thoroughly enjoyable.

I've always been curious about what people think about interesting stuff, so I always check people claiming to be christians on the matter of evil/devil (I simply ask is the devil a fully independent being capable of defying god?). So far, all have turned out to be manicheans instead of christians. And frustratingly, they typically don't even see the difference.

Of course, the entire miasma of christianity is the problem - the filtering of reality through a black/white membrane. It may have been useful at some point, it may still have useful points, but it is time to do to what Indian saints do at the charnelground: wrestle the demon to ground and employ it as a servant. Or face what Jung says: Christ and Antichrst are two sides of the same coin. Have not found much discussion about that, so far.

One thing I'm curious about: statistics on how many posts get binned? You bring up topics that are sometimes, er, considered controversial. It's been a while, but the Israel post comes to mind, and this one too, seem like they could inspire some frothing mouths. Are there such?

ed boyle said...

Ayn Rand would have loved vampire and zombie films nowadays. The heroes are vampires not the bad guys. Probably why Dracula was written when it was, during the heyday of the gilded age in the West. One had to, as today, get the feel of control over one's own life as fairness was not accceptable under conditions of extreme social turbulence due to technological change (as today with computers and growth in Asian markets ,etc.)

I suspect it is easier if you believe you belong to a relgious or social (like a nation) group to sanction almost any otherwise amoral behaviour if the group condones it(like mass murder of civilians by bombing or almost anything). What is really hard I would presume is to do really evil things oneself. Here are hard human limits. One can be cynical generally but lying and stealing and deception take social learning and torture and killing are only done under specific conditions in military or mafia or independent psychopathic behaviour. I am reading a Khruschev biography and all the top leader's post-stalin feared Beria, the NKVD chief, even Stalin feared him, so they had him executed. The other guys who lost the fight for power just got bad jobs in Mongolia, or internal exile. Beria was shot by a 3 star general. He was considered evil because he could kill and torture and rape with his own hands, not just as a normal soldier in battle would kill, en passant, but with pleasure. So horror films have their place in society, trying to understand evil in oneself and others, to get past a middling Walter Mittyism in life.

If Ayn Rand, and most modern Americans and others, have problem accepting the reality of Buddha or Jesus as possibilities, as an ideological and an emotional role model due to pure modern cynicism and have gone over to "social darwinism" to save their own skins then I cannot blame them all too much for being realists in everyday life. As they say " a sucker is born every minute" and we have to be careful. Opening our heart to every stranger makes us prey to advertising and salespeople which floods every minute of our lives where we shop or observe media channels. However this has been turned into an aggressive winner gets all mentality where the rules are being constantly changed against the weaker parties due to technological change (e.g. identity theft on internet, NSA spying of every word we write, etc.) so one might want to be on the side of the strong and that is the people with money and power. The king was anointed by God and his rules in our case is "free market rules". A strong alternative social conscience party would be good with workable minimum wages where people don't have to go on welfare plus food banks to get by while working full time or find some scam to get money to survive. Essentially the rule of the jungle is getting to be the norm and that was clearly not satanic but kill or be killed. Watch nature programs. Humans are predators not grazing animals. Christianity propagates "the lion lies down with the lamb" and that is not biologically correct.AS Peak oil proceedds apace and population increases along with consumerism as God in China and elsewhere then less and less per person will make "Greed is good" and "do unto others, then split" remarkably workable creeds.

A Christmas Carol was written at about the worst ofpossible soicial times in British history as a social commentary on exactly this theme. But all this is cyclical, perhaps times will get better again due to anti greed backlash. We can only hope.

Rita said...

Most people identifying as libertarians these days seem to be Randians as well. It was not always the case. In fact Rand did not see eye to eye with the Libertarian Party on many issues.

Back in the 70s the libertarians seemed to care about more issues than just the unfettered right to make and keep money. They opposed regulation of private sexuality, such as laws against prostitution, homosexuality, etc. They also opposed the drug laws and other victimless crimes. These positions may still be in the platform, but they receive little promotion.

One of the attractions of the philosophy, for me, was a professed belief in the ordinary citizen's ability to find solutions to problems rather than having to wait for experts. The idea was that privately run charity, for instance, would be more effective than government aid because the private sector has limited funds and would be motivated to do things that would move people away from dependency, such as training, creating jobs, food coops, etc., while the government official is rewarded for adding clients and keeping them.

Any situation in which the particulars of a local situation is overruled by regulations created by a far off bureaucracy is grist for the mill of this type of libertarian. An example local to me is the ongoing struggle of California environmentalists to protect the remaining riparian forest from the Army Corp of Engineers rule that levees must be kept clear of trees. It might be a good regulation in some areas, but here it would destroy habitat for many endangered species without materially improving flood safety. Stupidity such as requiring a wheelchair accessible bathroom at the top of mountain is more of this sort of ammunition in the "govt. is stupid" meme.

A major problem I saw with the libertarian concern for property rights was a lack of examination of how those rights came into being. At point do you choose the status quo that must be defended? Conveniently, it always seems to be the point at which one's own class got possession. The govt. shouldn't take my land for a park--never mind that whoever I got it from benefited from the govt. killing the Native Americans who controlled it earlier.

Eventually, it seemed that "the free market will find a solution" became an article of faith rather than an argument. The question of how a particular problem would be solved by the free market was never answered. We can't know until it happens because govt. action distorts everything now. Very like "real communism" can't be compared to what actually happened in soviet nations because their situation was distorted by the opposition of the capitalists. Maybe in the world of Platonic ideals the ideal libertarian man and the ideal communist man dwell in peace. ;)

Robert said...

Tribute to Ayn Rand and her dark confederates

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5GCSWEgZT94

From a Burkean point of view liberalism is of course potentially as probelematic as the GOP. Extreme liberalism - like its modern offshoot, libertarianism or neoliberalism - emphasizes the primacy of the individual; Burke emphasizes the importance of the social order. Liberalism sees freedom as the absence of impediment to the will; Burke sees freedom as ordered liberty. Liberalism believes above all in the power of reason; Burke believes in tradition, habit and "prejudice". Liberalism stresses universal principles; Burke stresses fact and circumstance. Liberalism is unimpressed by the past; Burke has deep respect for it. Liberalism admires radical change; Burke detests it. The liberal will cannot be made the subject of duties. Burke insists upon them.

If the GOP is Satanic maybe extreme liberalism is Luciferian?

neal said...

Of course the lion lays down with the lamb. Maybe see Einstein, and Maxwell. Now, that steady state only cycles through stable event horizons. Electromagnetics, politics of the gods, trading places. So if there is a structure to forces that every construct warps and bends to, even physical constants change, and move around to manage new and barely remembered assignments. Satanists are just trying to speed that up, for the collective. Slowing it down for the self, in the process. The gods do not war about anything but small disagreements concerning neutraltiy, even that just looks like neutrinos coming from nowhere in particular. Tachyons, well, histories add up, sort of. Not quite as monolithic, or stable, as one would hope for.

between-the-lines said...

"I don't know that it's fair to blame evolution for our own individual moral choices..."

Lol, have you read 'Mean Genes'? It's not about "blaming" evolution for anything; that would be stupid.

Fact is though that we humans can't escape the imprint of evolutionary contingency any more than any other animal. Just as we are stuck with DNA that dictates we have two legs, two arms, two eyes and so on, so we are stuck with innate biological drives which include seeking our own pleasure, our own personal status and advantage, and to reproduce as many offspring as we can raise etc.

Of course there are those of us who haven't developed normally, who have parts of us, whether physical or psychological malformed or missing, and in a state of nature such organisms can fail to pass their genes on where they are uncompetitive.

You know this.

It's where the group culture comes in and shapes each young human into a person who can follow the social norms that that particular society has constructed.

It's where modern Western society is going badly wrong because our culture is now so senile and rotten that we're allowing the promotion of all humans' worst instincts of greed and selfishness and discouraging our other natural instincts of co-operation, sharing and empathy, as observed so well by most of us here in this forum.

The Libertarian, Randian, Neoliberal meme isn't "evil" - whatever that means - it is merely archetypal Spoilt Brat behaviour inflated to the status of a political philosophy.

Since you talk of blame, however, it does seem that far too many DO want to blame politicians for this mess, when the real blame lies with those millions who adhere to these ridiculous spoilt brat beliefs and tolerate or support leaders who implement them.

DaShui said...

Things r getting stranger everybody,
Hillary is using an american flag with the inverted (Mahamet) star.
http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=v00oJOd5kF4&desktop_uri=%2Fwatch%3Fv%3Dv00oJOd5kF4

It's the twilight zone..dotadotodudahdotu....

The temptation of Jesus was iif he would to bow to satan he could rule the earth.

DaShui said...

I meant. Baphomet looking star not mahamet.

AlanfromBigEasy said...

So few are pure of heart when trying to do the right thing for humanity and our world. Inside the Sierra Club leadership - "mixed motivations". I have discussed this with a founder of GreenPeace who is tutoring me (he is playing a larger and longer game than me).

One that is pure of heart - and exhausted - is Hans Herren. I cherish my relationship with him.

Avery said...

JMG, you seem to be approving a whole lot of stuff here. Is it open season this week? I was going to write a comment about how you seem to have saddled the Republicans with all the blame and awarded them none of the praise for standing up to modern Satanism, but I prefer the philosophy you ironed out in earlier months -- how people, in general, are more important than politics, and caring more about people means caring less about being right. That's how the long battle will be won.

shtove said...

The satire on this blog has been excellent the past couple of weeks. Thanks.

Kyoto Motors said...

Wow!
I lapped this one up. Great holiday reading to be sure.
I caught a whiff of Ayn Rand early on, and was not disappointed. The satire too was palpable, tho’ I could imagine the jest being misconstrued as a conspiracy theory, which in fact may prove to be the case anyway… ; )
But seriously,
I’ve always considered that small ‘s’ Satanism (if there is such a thing – call it a spiritual cul-de-sac) is that you can find yourself worshipping all the trappings of the “Dark Lord” without ever making any conscious effort to do so – and to the contrary, convincing yourself that the life you lead is pious… the consequence of spiritual laziness? … Of course for such people the metaphor/symbol/ reality of Satan serves a completely different purpose, and unless at some point the wool is lifted from their eyes and they connect the dots, they are immune to such analysis.

But Rand… what a case! I read with appalled interest of her admiration of William Hickman (following your link to Michael Prescott’s blog), which rounds out my opinion of her considerably.
However, the author of this analysis seems to make a very routine and uncritical link between Rand and Nietzsche, apparently assuming that anyone espousing the latter’s ideas would necessarily come to sociopathic conclusions. What I have learned of Nietzsche, in great part from this blog of yours, is that the man deserves much more credit than that, and efforts to distance him from the likes of Rand are of the imperative. What are your thoughts?

YJV said...

Hi JMG,
I find that for your Australian readers, substituting 'Democrats' for 'Labor' and 'Republican' for 'Liberal' will provide them with an equally as appropriate run-down of the politics in their own country.

Until now I could not work out why the Prime Minister of Australia, Tony Abnott, can call himself a devour Catholic while he sends refugees to concentration camps and rips down the very things holding society together. Now it makes sense. Tony Abbott and his cronies, just like the Republicans, are all secretly Satanists.

Many thanks for the humorous but disturbingly accurate post. Happy New Year!

YJV

Kyoto Motors said...

To conjure a rather facile truism from the Christian heritage,
“Idle hands do the devil’s work.”
In the context of industrial civilisation, where specialization proliferates exponentially thanks to stupendous inputs of energy (or the so-called “energy slaves” doing the grunt-work), idle hands are everywhere! So it is probably inevitable that we are having this conversation right about now. With so many of us so utterly far removed from the honest day’s work of pre-industrial times, it is no surprise that Ayn Rand style self determination is popular, if not rampant in politics, religion and business, and elsewhere.
It is just as unsurprising that churches have been leveraged to deploy religion as an opiate for mass consumption (do neo-cons at least acknowledge Karl Marx for that observation?), using moral and emotional coercion to manipulate the thoughts and otherwise shape the psychological landscape of its followers. This has serious political implications…
Personally, I have never regarded the practices of bible-belt evangelists as anything remotely spiritual. But my opinion may be entirely irrelevant on that note…


Cathode Ray said...

The epistle of James, chapter 5, has a very relevant section about the rich abusing the poor:
"Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you."

Achija said...

Pure Genius! You've outdone yourself sir!
/|\Gray

Unknown said...

DaShui

http://www.usa-flag-site.org/forum/stars-upside-down-on-a-flag-1882.html

Maybe it wasn't a tribute to satan?

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi JMG,

Sounds about right to me.

Your essay puts a whole new spin on the ideal of politicians as servants (yes they are, but to whom? hehe!). It hardly surprises me that their undoing is also the undoing of some religions.

We live in a weird society when somehow people in the mainstream can't seem to be able to discern that there is a large difference between, a person’s declared ideologies and their actions. But then, I guess when a large chunk of the population benefits directly and indirectly from turning the other way, then, I guess it makes some sort of sense.

I've seen this too at hippy markets and festivals when people put on clothes and borrow an image. At the end of those markets and festivals they go straight back to a mainstream existence. It doesn't impress me as the image is not the actuality.

I can see the benefit of an initiatory religion in that it requires followers to actually undertake some actions (and be judged on them) in support of those stated beliefs.

It is hardly surprising that people seem to talk past each other. Narcissism is on the rise too and people may actually believe that their views are actually unchangeable. We are not individuals, but in fact part of the greater ecology of the planet.

Such individual views though would be alien to the Aboriginals (I'm reading about their land management practices).

Quote from "The Biggest Estate on Earth - Bill Gammage":

The rules imposed a strict ecological discipline on every person. The rules which directed land management prior to 1788 included:
- Ensure that all life flourishes;
- Make plants and animals abundant, convenient and predictable; and
- Think universal, act local.

Today, we couldn't be further from those rules if we tried!

Regards

Chris

rr™ said...

Frack, the post and comments are so sweet this week that I'm now as intoxicated with them as I am with the system at large. Fractaculous!

Derv said...

Interesting article, JMG.

I was raised Republican, and still am a conservative in the true sense of the word (that is, essentially anti-utopian). Certainly both parties are progressive-utopianists today in their core tenets, but so corrupt that they do very little to enact them. The hypocrisy of the GOP is certainly more glaring and gratin, in terms of their claims to be Christians.

But I do think it's important to note a few particulars here, particularly in regards to applying Christ's teachings. Obviously various sects have their own views on what Christ meant and the rest, but you haven't here made the distinction between individual and state duties. In many places Christ says I must care for the poor. Nowhere in the Bible do I see it say that the state must do so.

If the state is viewed as an instrument of violence (a view which GK Chesterton, among others, eloquently defended), then its powers should only be enacted where violence/coercion are justified. Violence is justified to prevent men from stealing from each other or murdering each other, etc. Is it justified to make others be charitable? I'd think not.

The problem is, essentially, that statism has rendered almost all other institutions impotent. Caring for the poor was once a monumental undertaking by the Church, and one of its essential functions; now it is done by the state. This is the reason that most churches say little to nothing about caring for the poor, and seem rather unconcerned with it - in the US, most poor people with a little savvy and a few forms can have their every need taken care of. Why should they give money to the church to help poor people? They already did that. They paid their taxes. It's a somewhat inaccurate generalization, but it's certainly the perception.

We can all agree, at least, that the state has bitten off far, far more than it can chew based upon the presumption of infinite future growth, and so its myriad entitlement programs simply aren't going to work. Cuts or (much more likely) inflation will whittle them down to nothing, regardless of what's fair or unfair. Meanwhile the crony capitalists will make off like bandits if they run soon enough (if not, they'll be hanging from lamp posts instead). They won't get footed with the bill. The entitlement state (and the poor) will bear the entire cost.

Herein, I think, lies true conservatism, and the people with which you can make a common cause. The state today is a behemoth that has corrupted all it has touched. It gutted the Left of any actual ambition for change; it gutted the right of any actual Christian sentiment. It turned the churches hostile to the poor, the Marxists into Obamas, the Moderates into the Apathetics and the thinkers into radicals.

So what happens? Does the state shrivel up and die through catabolic collapse? If so, then this post is rather short-sighted I think, because the dissonance of the modern GOP will sort itself out. The satanic will show their true colors and run while the Christians will have to get back to the jobs they're meant to do. It won't be easy to blame the poor for their lot when "the poor" is 95% of us.

Matthew Casey Smallwood said...

Very witty, and incisive. A. Rand is an interesting thinker who clearly saw some things, but just as clearly (one can see) that her metaphysics are anything but conservative OR traditional. What has happened (and there is no doubt that there is a counter-illumination group dabbling in this, since Ideas aren't neutral and don't just "happen") is that the brand name of both liberal and conservative have been perverted and co-opted for certain ends. In a real sense, it wouldn't have mattered who won the election - both candidates are vetted (which is why Huckabee was squelched and why Ron Paul was sidelined). Have you seen the study that demonstrated that on average, conspiracy theorists are more objective and do a better job at assimilating data, psychologically, than "normal" people? Personally, I also believe that there are extra-human entities that influence group thinking, but some of our leadership likes to consciously cooperate with them. Some readers may be interested in Elder Thaddeus' work called Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives, he has some teaching on the reality of mental abstractions, as well as the origin of some of them. I am not sure how to phrase that in a rhetorically acceptable manner, but perhaps we could just say that group Minds exist outside human beings, and are capable of amplifying things, much like Hegel's Zeitgeist. Sort of a Freudian sub-conscious that masquerades as Jungian "archetype".

Yossi said...

An interesting posting. I agree with the general sentiment of what you write but am wondering whether the “assurances from friends of mine in several different denominations that the words of Jesus quoted in the four gospels of the New Testament are definitive guides to faith and morals” really amounts to much.

In his book “Who Wrote the New Testament?”, Burton L. Mack states:

“Scholars locate the various writings of the New Testament at different times and places over a period of one hundred years, from the letters of Paul in the 50s of the first century, through the writing of the gospels of Mark and Matthew in the 70s and 80s, the gospels of John and Luke around the turn of the second century, and on to the acts, letters, and other writings during the first half of the second century, some as late as 140 to 150 C.E. “

“Over the course of the second and third centuries, centrist Christians were able to create the impression of a singular, monolinear history of the Christian church. They did so by carefully selecting, collecting, and arranging anonymous and pseudonymous writings assigned to figures at the beginning of the Christian time. As they imagined it, this history was foretold by the prophets of the Old Testament, inaugurated by Jesus and his sacrifice for the sins of the world, established by the apostles in their missions, and confirmed by the bishops in their loyalty to the teachings of that illustrious tradition. “

“Because all the New Testament writings were now regarded as written by apostles and their associates, the differences among their views of Christian beginnings were effectively erased. “

It seems that the personality and teachings of Jesus are kind of unreliable, even fictional, and to quote his “words” in support of a particular guide to faith and morals is not a great idea.

Darkstar said...

I read a wonderful work of fiction years back - "Sewer, Gas, and Electric: The Public Works Trilogy" by Matt Ruff. A virtual Ayn Rand is a character in the book and the author satirizes her Objectivism pretty well. I'd read "Atlas Shrugged" well before "Sewer, Gas, and Electric" and felt that Ruff pretty much nailed every weak point in Rand's philosophy. Every time I hear about Rand or her books, I think of Ruff's book and chuckle. I feel pretty much the same way about this essay.

AlanfromBigEasy said...

The point I am trying to make (quite tired caring for my father) is that people that are both effective and have unalloyed good motivations are exceedingly rare.

That rarity is just cause for pessism - but The results of Hans efforts are cause for optimism. Some times one person CAN make a difference against overwhelming odds !

And as my GreenPeace tutor gas taught me, personal virtue can limit one's effectiveness - but at other times it is essential.

SLClaire said...

Thanks from me too for your very pointed satire and to readers for the excellent commentary. I want to mention my approval of your calling the current US president the inmate of the White House and presidency. For years I had a recurring fantasy about becoming president and fixing everything that was wrong. Fortunately I finally realized several years back just how restricted the ability of the inmate in chief to act actually is, ending the fantasy. You covered the reasons for the restricted ability to act in last year's posts. Mr. Obama is a prisoner in most senses of the term: he is for all practical purposes locked in a jail due to the extreme security measures required to keep him safe from potential harm. Plus his restricted ability to make any kind of change is paralleled in the restricted set of actions that a prisoner in the more usual sense of a prison is allowed.

John Michael Greer said...

Cyloke, glad to hear it. I sometimes think that, as in the old story of the emperor's new clothes, once enough people start laughing at the absurdity of the current state of affairs, no one will be able to keep defending it with a straight face ever again.

Natalie, er, you do know that you're addressing an archdruid, right?

Bilaal, I'm not sure if it's an oxymoron or one of the regular, unoxygenated kind... ;-)

Paul, but they don't publicly glorify it, the way they do the other six. Maybe we should run a contest -- come up with a way that today's so-called conservative Christian Republicans can justify the steamiest sort of lust on the basis of their, er, principles.

Onething, decency and ethics are a good start. I'd also point out that most of us have an interest in such things as civil liberties and the rule of law, and might be able to recognize that the best way to guarantee these for ourselves is to defend them even when exercised by people we don't agree with.

Bill, granted!

PhysicsDoc, maybe I'm dating myself here, but I keep on remembering this piece from Godspell in this context.

Phil, that's a common corruption of religion in the US -- the notion of divinity as a celestial vending machine, from which endless goodies will tumble so long as you keep feeding in coins of prayer and pushing the right dogmatic buttons. I have to assume that the soi-disant Christians who spout this sort of drivel have never actually taken the time to read their own scriptures.

Dragonfly, again, are they justifying it in public, as they do with the other six?

Lewis, true, even if it's a very, very shallow abyss!

Kristiina, it depends on the topic. I've only had to delete about a dozen attempted comments for this post. When I make a post pointing out the flaws in the latest fashionable apocalypse, it can be several times that. I put through most of the critical comments I get, of course -- it's purely the ones that are obscene, abusive, or the like that get deleted.

John Michael Greer said...

Ed, the problem with an ethic of pure selfishness is that it covertly assumes that everybody else will keep on behaving according to some other ethic. Rand herself relied on Medicare in her last years; in the same way, the folks who are preaching a Hobbesian war of all against all rely on the rule of law and the essential decency of their opponents. By their own ethic, they'd have no grounds to object if they got to watch their own children torn limb from limb by howling mobs, moments before meeting the same fate themselves -- the members of the mob, after all, would simply be promoting their own interests in a wholly rational manner.

Rita, bingo. I'd have a great deal more interest in the libertarian movement if their spokespeople weren't so eager to pimp for corporate interests.

Robert, no argument there. If we had a lot of liberals running around, I'd spend more time critiquing them than I do. As it is, though, we don't -- as I suggested in the post, our "liberals" are by and large solely interested in getting and keeping cushy political jobs, while our "conservatives" are by and large radical zealots fanatically committed to shoving an abstract and hopelessly unworkable ideology down America's collective throat.

Neal, I'm still trying to make sense of this as anything but postmodern poetry.

Between, the insistence that we couldn't possibly have done better than we did is very popular these days, not least because it allows those who didn't do any better to justify their failure. The existence of biological drives doesn't equal the omnipotence of those drives, and history's crammed to the bursting point with examples not merely of individuals but of communities and whole nations doing the right thing rather than the pleasant one.

DaShui, sure, but look what happened to Faust. The Devil is not exactly known for being merciful to his dupes...

Alan, of course human beings have mixed motivations. The question is one of what they actually do. When the Sierra Club shills for corporate interests, as it so often does, "mixed motives" doesn't cover it; I tend to prefer the term "hypocrisy."

Avery, as far as I can see, neither the GOP nor its opponents have offered more than token resistance to what we could call Satanism. You'll notice that I spared some room, in a satire mostly making fun of the GOP, to point out that the Democrats have no cause to preen themselves either!

Shtove, thank you.

Kyoto, Nietzsche's a very mixed bag. It's unfair to equate him with Rand, if only because he was a competent thinker and writer and she was neither; still, there's plenty in Nietzsche (especially when he's raging against the Christianity of his childhood) that could be used to justify a might-makes-right attitude. What doesn't make it into Rand at all is Nietzsche's insistence that the essence of the path to the Overman is self-overcoming; the ego isn't to be glorified, it's to be overcome, and what rises in its place is to be overcome in its turn, and so on forever. That's got flaws of its own, but it's not a Randian doctrine of selfishness as virtue.

dragonfly said...

JMG - It seems that demeaning representations of human sexuality are everywhere in the media. Not "Republican", perhaps, but certainly corporate messages abound with adolescent views of human sexuality. And how dirty and nasty "those people" are, particularly the women. So rather than flaunting it like the other six, they make this essential part of life a source of shame and a valid topic of gossip and slander.

John Michael Greer said...

YJV, I know it was a typo, but referring to Abbott as "a devour Catholic" does lead one to wonder who or what devoured him!

Kyoto, that's a good point!

Ray, oh, granted; I could have filled a lot more space with scriptural references if I hadn't limited myself to the specific words of Jesus.

Achija, thank you.

Cherokee, I've seen the same thing -- in particular, it's a source of wry amusement to notice how many of the people at peak oil events who very loudly mourn the imminent extinction of life on earth are well-to-do middle-aged men who, at the end of the event, climb into their SUVs and drive back to their cozy corporate jobs...

RR, glad to see that my proposed obscenity has found at least one eager user!

Derv, oh, granted. One of the limitations of satire is that it doesn't allow a lot of focus on subtle detail. Still, I tried to make it clear that I was talking about the kind of pseudoconservative who insists that the poor are all parasites and slackers who don't deserve any help at all, and who glorifies the rich and successful even -- or especially -- when the wealth and success in question are obtained at the expense of everybody else. (By the way, you might want to make the acquaintance of some poor people, and find out just how difficult it is to make ends meet in the US, even with what's left of the welfare state; having been very poor myself, I can tell you that it's nothing like as easy as you've made it sound.)

Matthew, I'd encourage you to reflect on the possibility that the statement "Ideas are not neutral, and don't just 'happen'" can be true without justifying conspiracy theories freighted with a strident moral dualism that would make a third-century Gnostic blush. To my mind, that's the flaw in all the main Traditionalist thinkers -- they force their otherwise remarkably useful insights into the straitjacket of an utterly untraditional fixation on scapegoat-hunting.

Yossi, nice job of missing the point. As I'm sure you're aware, the people we're discussing do believe, or at least claim to believe, that the words of Jesus as recorded in the four gospels are definitive guides to faith and morals; the point at issue is simply whether their observed behavior corresponds to that claimed opinion.

Darkstar, I'll have to check that out!

Alan, again, the question is not one of motivation, but of actual behavior.

SLClaire, and of course it doesn't help if he shows no signs of actually wanting to change anything, or, really, of doing anything but smiling, nodding, and mouthing platitudes.

Derv said...

JMG,

Just thought I'd add that I'm quite poor myself. I qualify for every aid program imaginable, and use none of them (although as of January 1st I will be on Medicaid given the changes). Many of my friends are poor. It's not easy, no, but there are a very large number of programs we could use that would raise our standard of living.

Zero Hedge actually had an interesting article comparing actual income between those on aid programs and those who aren't; for a single mother with low income (the status with the most benefits), she'd have to make almost $60,000 a year to match what she'd get in income and benefits at $15,000.

Just something to think about. I don't mean to imply in the least that all poor people are leeches, which is nonsense, or that it's always easy.

Renaissance Man said...

As you've probably never watched "Buffy - The Vampire Slayer" series, you might be interested to know Joss Whedon has Buffy kill off a demon at the heart of a college fraternity and, as a result, many very prominent and wealthy people suddenly find themselves poor and under investigation or arrest.
Pop culture from the late 90s.

Also: they've long embraced lust as a value. Apparently you haven't watched any of the many libidinous pop music performances of the past 15 years or so wherein pornographic displays of raw sexuality sell millions of copies of otherwise not particularly notable music by talented, but not exceptionally talented, artists.
How else do you explain Miley Cirus, Britney Spears, Kanye West, Mariah Carey, Lady Gaga, et al?
How is it I know about the Kardashian sisters despite active efforts not to?
And I've see ads for jeans featuring nubile young goddesses that actually have no denim visible!
Lust is, indeed, enthusiastically embraced by those in power, if not exactly those in politics.

(captcha: corporate)

Gillian G said...

One of the funniest pieces of satire of read in a darn while! Though I think the conclusion isn't to hard to come by...

However, while reading this, I was reminded of C.S Lewis, The Screwtape letters:

" Wormwood and Screwtape live in a peculiarly morally reversed world, where individual benefit and greed are seen as the greatest good, and neither demon is capable of comprehending God's love for man or acknowledging true human virtue when he sees it."

Gillian G said...

I meant to add, it seems that Screwtape and Wormwood (should they be literal, or if they have literal counterparts in the lower realms--if you believe that kind of thing) have done their jobs well...

Unknown said...

In the interest of facts, I would like to know the origins of the 'Hillary mahamet stars flag' photo . A very quick search brought these better-sourced photos from what looks like the same event in Manchester VT in 2008. Notice that the very large flag behind her is 'normal'.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/marcn/sets/72157603661996330/show/
Ooops... seems the original poster has taken down his propaganda.

While, the ubiquitous 'newest' Republican stylized elephant log always has the stars upended. Hmmmm Maybe not as completely equivalent as DaShui intended to show.

AlanfromBigEasy said...

In simpler, and more achieveable, endeavors, one can seperate motivation and behavior.

However, in the work that you, I and Hans Herren have chosen, I do not think that is possible.

Mixed motivations will lead to contradictary actions and failure. And some of our fellow humans can discern pure motivations - and will work to open doors and help in other ways.

bagginz said...

Delightfully biting satire :) Methinks your tongue was only half in your cheek JMG...

Tom Bannister said...

Phil-

I can't say for certain myself if Rodger Douglas is an Ann Ryand admirer. I have never heard of him specifically referring to her anywhere. I think it more likely that he covertly or unconsciously supports a philosophy she would have promoted. Certainly a lot of the neo-liberal free market reformers here (in New Zealand) I am guessing go with something that sounds snazzy and trendy rather than looking too far into what the philosophy actually entails. (then again I see people all over the political spectrum here doing this...)

Ayn Marx said...

0.) LaVey's version of 'Satanism' was idiosyncratic, and I'm not the first to believe that he was actually cribbing from Rand.
1.) Jesus talked a lot about helping the poor, but nowt about the State's helping the poor. This gives 'conservative' 'Christians' a lot of wiggle-room---my argument to them would be that you should want the State to do it if it appears to be necessary to it having been done, and that in fact paying your taxers for the State to assure that people don't starve shows greater humility than getting the feeling of superiority or of false (in Christian terms) goodness people can feel when giving to charity. Still, Jesus' words are not definitively in favour of the redistributive welfare State...but it is more important to me that _I_ am, which might be Randroid....
2.) Just as gluttony can find expression in fasting, lust, which is an excessive concern for the carnal, can find expression in excessive interest in the sex-lives of others.

thrig said...

Another view of the interchangability of the present parties in America is as two sides of a Carbon coin, one rapacious--the "drill, baby, drill" crowd--and the other perhaps regretful but as Carbon-bound as the other. Both issue press releases praising Joyce's green crab of growth, and differ in various details and emphasis, but not in powering it all by Carbon.

(I've been in a vehicle five times this year, which is rather higher than usual. Otherwise, walking everywhere isn't something you see many do in Seattle, owing doubtless to the limited distances thus possible, your feet hurting, and ease of access to sweet, sweet crude.)

Marcello said...

"Most Democratic politicians, like the example just cited, will say and do whatever it takes to get elected, and then conveniently forget all about their alleged ideals in order to proceed with, and profit from, the ordinary business of politics once they land in office."

All things considered it seems quite a rational behavior.The predicament we face has no actionable political solutions and even the most basic mitigation measures would face uphill battles. The public by large will vote who will promise to continue BAU and even most of those who make noise about issues are not prepared to walk the walk.
Personally I treat western democratic politics as a form of mass entertainment with some actual consequences (even modest differences can mean life or death in some cases). Still I put up with it as I know perfectly well it can and probably it will get much worse, I would not be surprised if some future politicial tried to implement Ann Coulter "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity" once the economic crisis made clear that the US military was at the "use or lose" stage.

rr™ said...

Lust - a. An overwhelming desire or craving: a lust for power. b. Intense eagerness or enthusiasm: a lust for life. 3. Obsolete Pleasure; relish. intr.v. lust·ed, lust·ing, lusts.

Lust is baked right in - the celebration (by the media) of consumer lust frenzy (black friday) - techno-lust (smartphones/drones/surveillance/blood(sports)), on and on...

Esther said...

JMG, I agree with part of that, although I think there are two sides to the coin. You can view events from the perspective of typical human behaviour, & you can also see that there are patterns on the back of the tapestry, when you flip it over, revealing that things are connected at deeper levels. I think I can say this without being a conspiracy theorist, because things share "elective affinities", not direct connections, & I don't belittle or ignore the purely human side to things. Things aren't conspiratorial, or accidental, just "Ann-Randcitdental", which is really worse than either one!

Matthew Casey Smallwood said...

(Above post from "Esther" is Matthew, apologies...)
A big part of the poverty problem is the lack of protection on poor people's belongings, specifically land. If someone has a small piece of land, or even a small apartment, that is owned free and clear, and (this is the important point) is not ALLOWED to be sold (at least permanently), then they always have a little castle or garrison, to fall back on. Hence the laws in the Old Testament about land reversion. The enclosure movement in England (as JMG points out) was crucial to the Industrial Revolution. It wasn't the factory work, per se, that was inherently evil (although it was certainly for the most part degrading), but the fact that these people literally had no choice at all. The same thing applies to most poor people today: between property taxes, rezoning, condemnation, etc., not to mention the destruction of small communities and neighborhoods for the sake of business or progress (which occurred after WWII to make way for Interstates), they have no social fabric or safety networks left. I think the best thing that many of your readership could do for the Church (which will survive in some form or other) would be help propagate some of the Belloc-Chesterton ideas on private property being more important for poor people than rich people. In ancient Rome, you could own property, but had no monopoly absolute on the produce of the land. In other societies, you couldn't own the property, but you could own the produce. The Middle Ages was an interesting amalgam of both. Only in our wonderful modern world (which does have many blessings) are we increasingly not allowed to have either.

John Michael Greer said...

Derv, when I was very poor, I qualified for food stamps and almost nothing else, and the runaround necessary to get food stamps in the state where I then lived required so much time that it wasn't worth doing. What you qualify for on paper is one thing; what you can actually get -- well, that depends on which state you live in and what restrictions are imposed in practice, though not in theory, on access to benefits.

Renaissance, yes, but I was talking about the open, public praise of the other six deadly sins. It fascinates me that nobody seems to hear that.

Gillian, good. Screwtape et al. were drawn very clearly on Lewis' experience of human evil -- have you read That Hideous Strength? Might be worth a look -- and so it's not surprising that they have their equivalents in the GOP.

Unknown, the deft use of photoshopping has become quite the habit these days!

Alan, maybe it's just that I don't have any saints among my circle of acquaintances, but as far as I can tell, mixed motivations are the only kind we have to work with. The question, again, is what you do with that.

Bagginz, or -- well, I generally don't want to know where politicians have their tongues at any given moment, so we'll leave it at that.

Ayn, oh, granted -- why on earth should a Satanist object to plagiarism? (Nice handle, btw.)

Thrig, good for you. If my wife and I still lived in Seattle, there'd be three of us -- we could wave at each other while walking on the otherwise deserted sidewalks.

John Michael Greer said...

Marcello, well, that was basically the framework for my series "How It Could Happen" in the fall of 2012, so I'm not arguing.

RR, ahem. "THE OPEN, PUBLIC PRAISE OF SIX OF THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS BY SO-CALLED CHRISTIAN CONSERVATIVES." That's what I was talking about, you know.

Matthew (as Esther), I think you've misunderstood me. I'm not arguing against the idea that there are deeper, transhuman forces at work in situations like this one; I'm arguing against the idea that the complexity of the transcendent realm can be flattened out into a simplistic dualism of tradition vs. counter-tradition, initiation vs. counter-initiation. Go back and read the Iliad sometime, or for that matter the Mahabharata; the older vision makes it clear that there are a great diversity of equally valid, equally transcendent spiritual principles, the human representatives and vehicles of which can and do come into mortal conflict. When Arjuna faces the Kaurava army at Kurukshetra, a core lesson he learns from Krishna is that having to fight does not mean having to hate; it's a lesson I don't think Guenon, Evola et al. ever learned. All sides in the present situation -- and there are a good many more than two of them -- have their own proper role, their dharma if you will, in the struggles ahead; each has a necessary and positive part to play in the natural process by which civilizations are born, rise, fall, die, and leave their legacies for the future. Does that make things a little more clear?

As for the abolition of the independent peasantry, that's a standard event at a certain point in the life cycle of complex societies; we'll discuss that in some detail a bit later on.

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi JMG,

Too right! I don't go to festivals anymore because the last one I went to, I copped a lot of flak for not putting on the image. Those hippies can be pretty fracking hard core about homogenising a certain look.

Two of the commenters this week mentioned: "Jesus' words are not definitively in favour of the redistributive welfare State."

It was almost word for word as if they were parroting someone else. They’re good, as it is a clever piece of rhetoric.

I'm not sure whether you have noticed but the printing presses have been slowed from US$85bn/month to US$75bn/month very recently?

It would be amusing to know whether the same two people who made the comments about a redistributive state actually understood what was going on with the quantitative easing program. From my perspective it certainly looks like a redistributive state - although I'd be happy if someone could correct me.

They also mentioned the old chestnut, “I pay my taxes”. Seriously, if everyone in your country paid enough taxes then they wouldn’t have to spin the printing presses to cover a shortfall in revenue. Someone is gaming the system somewhere.

Years ago I read an essay by George Monbiot where he raised a concern that people were paid by corporate interests to post comments on trending blog sites. I've never really been able to shake the feeling that he may have been correct.

The Permaculture News website has come in for a sustained attack recently along the lines of: "if it hasn't been confirmed by science then it falls into the realm of quackery". I've pointed out time and time again that science is merely a tool and cannot be expected to confirm every single observation. Still, the comments persist and I can't shake the feeling that the people involved are either somehow corporate shticks or heavily invested in the religion of science. It is just weird.

Regards

Chris

Tom Bannister said...

Having Just read the Wikipedia page about Ayn Rand and her philosophy I can see why it/shes so popular. My general first impression is that her philosophy is a good philosophy for the anxious finger- pointer: 'those things are bad! or 'thats evil!' or 'if that went away everything would be better!' etc... Basically she's a good inspiration for someone who's keen to do a lot of finger pointing with not a lot of ideological or philosophical coherency. (Her philosophy is really quite versatile when I think about it. Just about anyone from anywhere on the political spectrum can pick it up and run with it).


also Heian-
Oh yes granted. I was making a sweeping broad statement on the subject to see what relevancy might come up.

Enquire and Nicholas Carter
Ah ok. interesting! thanks for the link enquire

Renaissance Man said...

Because it is the oldest and most intact Christian taboo, it may not be possible to overturn. Sex is special amongst the seven, because the other six are sins of excess of necessity, not merely commission. Sex, Bill Clinton notwithstanding, is easy to define and no one really needs sex to survive. Food, shelter, warmth... those are necessary and there is also a very strong proscription against giving them up., but the others are excesses of activities we do to survive and therefore subject to redefinition.
Greed is moving from needs to wants to wanting more, but even King Lear observed 'even our basest beggars are in the meanest things superfluous.' At what point does need become want become excess? People can survive, albeit miserably, on the cold stone floor of a hovel. Everything else then becomes a desire for comfort and yet charity is about providing those very comforts to those who lack them.
Sloth? Does feeling exhausted and treating yourself to an occasional sleep-in count? Illness? Does one never get to sit down when tired, or must one always work till you drop? At what point does relaxing in the chair become indolence?
Gluttony? Does having a full meal count? Two? How many? My full breakfast might count as gluttony to a monk, but it's just fuel for the start of my day.
Wrath? Anger and fear keeps us alive when our lives are threatened and gives us the power to fight to survive. As a martial artist you know well how much training is required to cease fighting at the appropriate moment, but even so, it's quite a shock to find out just how much damage one can deal out in an unbelievably short time, without even realizing it, when faced with dire need. You did an excellent post discussing the idea of appropriate deterrence.
&c.
It's taken, what? Almost two hundred years of concerted effort by economic theorists, tame intellectuals, and industrialists eager to push product to redefine the other six into inversion and make them so officially acceptable to the populace that they are policy of the politicos. The de Medicis did a lot of the ground-work in the 1500s by getting the Church to accept wealth and luxury so they could build their palaces. The sumptuous Vatican was not built on goodwill and prayers and, even earlier, the vikings didn't drop in on Lindisfarne because they were jealous of their piety or to admire their skill with pens. But despite Cardinals having mistresses and bastard children, they never openly repudiated sex-as-sin-and-source-of-shame.
Freud only came along a hundred years ago to give people full permission to be sexual, and remember that the churches -- as liberal as they ever were -- never embraced the "sexual revolution" of the 1960s. So that last sin may never be overturned.

MawKernewek said...

As far as the remaining one of the 7 deadly sins promoted by the "Christian Right", see www.datetosave.com.

Bill Pulliam said...

JMG -- It's a bit troubling that so many are missing your point about the seventh deadly sin, because it makes me wonder if they missed a fundamental point at the core of your essay. It is not that the membership of the christian right engage in all of the seven deadly sins, even rampantly. Humans do this. All humans. Democrats and Republicans. Medieval monasteries were probably rife with all of them. The point is that those medieval monks considered them to be BAD, and believed that they were failings, weaknesses, and they needed to be penitent and regretful of having committed them. Whereas the christian right in present day America glorifies them, redefines them as virtues, and openly encourages people to practice them. That is at the very heart of your post here, and missing that distinction might lead to missing the whole point. When one of these Randians or the pastor of a megachurch announces the opening of a brothel, calls himself a job creator, and declares it is a great way for women to lift themselves out of poverty and to generate cash to promote god's work, then you can count them as promoting all seven of the deadly sins, not just six! Schtooping teenagers in the back room is something else entirely.

Joseph Nemeth said...

@MawKernewick -- that HAS to be satire! =8-O

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

JMG--I don't disagree with your political analysis this week. I've voted for a lot of Democratic politicians since the 1968 Democratic convention, but I've never registered as a Democrat.

One may fairly call a person a hypocrite for saying one thing and doing another. I don't think it's fair to call someone a hypocrite for claiming to be a Christian while living in a way that Jesus condemned or for showing no care for the poor. There's more to Christianity than doing what Jesus says. This is probably true to a degree for any religion with an identifiable founder, but particularly true of Christianity, because Jesus's project does not seem to have been intended to guide any kind of normal society.

Christianity has always had a radical problem. If one takes Jesus's recorded words literally and as a whole, it is impossible to do everything he says while raising a family and providing for them decently. How could one follow to the letter the sayings about giving no thought for the morrow, letting the dead bury the dead, leaving one's parents and selling all one's possessions and distributing the proceeds to the poor, without becoming entirely destitute and cut off from help? Once the charismatic leader is gone, such a course is not viable without some social support.

One may of course interpret these injunctions figuratively, and many do. Taken literally, they could work if the followers of Jesus were a small minority whose holy poverty is supported from the surplus produced by people participating in the normal economy. Or if the end times are so near that farmers can leave the crops standing in the fields and not worry that their children will starve, because the Messiah will provide.

Neither of those things happened, so Paul and the other Christian leaders had to make adjustments to what Christianity would expect of ordinary people. In doing so, they necessarily departed from Jesus's teachings and his example.

This problem doesn't exist in the early version of Torah Judaism, that Jesus was brought up in.
Torah Judaism has undergone major developments since Jesus's death, but one thing that hasn't changed is a basic viewpoint that living as God wishes is usually completely compatible with working for a living, raising a family, acquiring some property, participating in society, and obeying its laws. Normative Judaism has no monastic tradition. Two of the Ten Commandments concern property rights, one concerns court testimony and one commands people to honor their parents. The poor, resident aliens, farm animals and other groups with little power have legal rights and a moral right to decent treatment, but an end to class differences is not to be expected until the end of days and there is no suggestion that possession of wealth is inherently distancing from God.

This sort of religious viewpoint becomes less appealing in times when social solidarity breaks down; it wasn't adequate for Jesus and some of his contemporaries.

KL Cooke said...

...so far the so-called Christian conservatives haven't yet figured out a way to fit the overt glorification of lust into their rhetoric."

I think it's a diversionary tactic. They focus on preaching against Lust while they engage freely in the other six.

Crow Hill said...

JMG: Thanks for this insight into USA politics. As a citizen of overseas countries, I once joked that all the inhabitants of the planet should be able to vote for the president of the USA since we are all impacted by USA policy. However, as you say we discover at the end of the day that who gets to the White House doesn’t make such a difference after all. I also prefer the more subtle type of humour in this last post.

JMG said: “I hope that when all the rubble finally stops bouncing, Christians grasp the idea that the separation of church and state is there to protect the churches from being swallowed up by politics!”
Quite so. I wish followers of another Abrahamic faith in countries where they are the majority would also grasp this for their own faith!

About the seven mortal sins: It seems to me that the vice of sloth is not among those promoted by the mainstream, quite the contrary. It’s hyperactivity, hyperconsumerism, workaholism that are promoted—blinding people to the other-than-human, with subsequent destruction of it. And forcing everyone to run like them to survive.

JMG: I don’t place Evola in the same category as Guenon and his school, Schuon, Lings, Le Gai Eaton, Hossein Nasr etc. They are just haughty whereas Evola was a hatemonger. I read just one of his books, Ride the Tiger, and disliked the whole tone of it. I also found it was promoting fascism. Guenon on the other hand clearly stated that he was against Nazism well before Nazi Germany lost World War II.



Jennifer D Riley said...

I appreciate the blank space in the blog post. I spent the holiday downsizing to reach the goal intentional living, trying to remove 50% of The Story of Stuff.

sunseekernv said...

@ Cherokee Organics - re people paid by corporate interests to post comments on blog sites.

Does the word "shill" exist in the version of English spoken in your land? While the word "shill" is only 100 years old, the concept is surely ancient.
Google translate says the Latin is "lenocinor" (verb)
from "leno".

do a web search for
paid web comments wanted

sockpuppet is just the latest vehicle
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sockpuppet_%28Internet%29

read this wiki article on how the Chinese communist government does it:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/50_Cent_Party

This guy has literally written a book on fake reviews
http://www2.cs.uic.edu/~liub/

Remember, "On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog."

Chris G said...

JMG- I'd like to add a bit of food for thought on the subject, maybe it's worthwhile. For the sake of brevity, though my thoughts on it are not so clear, I'll just begin.

First, the accounts of our civilization and virtually all those major ones of which I am aware, depict a very hierarchical organization. The pyramid on the dollar bill is perhaps an apt symbol. Perhaps it is in the nature of language that societies will become hierarchical: language helps form thought, thought in turn reality - or at least what we will see of it; and those who dispense and teach the language therefore have a founding role in societies.

Interestingly, those at the top of the hierarchy in America at this late stage- at least the legislative component of the hierarchy - the Democrats and Republicans, are, aside from rhetoric virtually indistinguishable when it comes to actions, or the policies they set. Mostly this is probably because at this late stage, democratic politics serves as theatrics to keep the masses obedient and in line. But the two ostensibly warring camps, the reds and the blues (even though their policies in reality hardly differ), focus everyone's political energy into that conflict. This, I think, does function as an effective means of maintaining the hierarchy and the whole system that supports those at the top.

In this regard, it should be worth noting that the virtues and vices of the vast majority of people are nothing like the virtues and vices of those at the top of the pyramid. At the top, the virtues are more Machiavellian: ruthlessness, cunning, tirelessness, lack of sympathy or empathy - what psychology would dub "sociopathic" behaviors, are all that's necessary, and rewarded. In turn, to some extent, those at the top rely on the maintenance of the common virtues among the common people.

With industrial society, a lot of that changes because the virtues necessary to maintain social order and lift the kings, pharaohs, robber barons, CEO's to the top of the pyramid, at least for a time, seem less necessary: we can all live like kings (as long as we're Americans) - if, in short, we are ruthless and cunning enough to make that happen. The need for cooperation, or for the maintenance of good personal habits, becomes less needful when the pressurized fossil remains of millions of years of life are doing all the providing for our basic needs, and our extravagant wants.

Whether that sheds much light on what to do about it, I am doubtful.

Renaissance Man said...

Ah. OK. Sorry, I just re-read everything. I missed that point.
You're fascinated by this lack of anyone publicly noticing.
Being cynical, I'm not.
Disappointed, yes. Saddened, and occasionally disparaging, but never surprised.
All my life, I've been confounded by "leaders" who claim to be one thing, yet whose actions are in discord with their claims and proclamations, even to the point of inversion. It was very painful, at first, since I really wanted to believe.
They, reading a lot of history, I realized that 'twas ever thus. My father though Elmer Gantry was one of Burt Lancaster's better films. I got to live through Swagart, Baker, & al.
But, to borrow your earlier analogy, almost no one who eats at Hagbard's Table is going to criticize the free food.
I guess everyone who noticed just politely shut up and had seconds and drowned their cognitive dissonance with wine.

latheChuck said...

Re: charity, taxation, and the Bible. According to Wikipedia's article on the Roman Empire, the empire taxed its subjects at between 2 and 5%, with the proceeds primarily supporting the military. Public works were supported by wealthy patrons. In modern Western countries, support for the poor, orphan, ill, and elderly has become an additional function of government, and is a large fraction of government spending. Though Jesus instructed us to share our wealth with the less fortunate, he didn't tell us to rise up against the wealthy and sieze their goods to be shared. (Democratic decision-making doesn't seem to factor in at all, which makes sense in a backwater province of the Empire.)

Nietzsche wrote (Geneology of Morals) that Judeo-Christianity is inspired by the experience of slaves. It makes sense to me, not so much as a moral ideal, but as useful advice on how to stay alive and in community without attracting the interference of the masters, while patiently waiting for the masters' civilization to collapse. And so it remains relevant for our time.

Matthew Casey Smallwood said...

JMG: I'm not so much worried about transcendent, supra-human principles (of which we will doubtless see many resurgent) as I am about infra-human ones, perceived as supra-human. That is the core insight of Traditionalism. I agree with what you say about various parties having various roles; still, all in all, it's useful to be able to identify them, as self-deception is a perennial human trait. And it's useful to "cut with the grain", so to speak; that is, in the West, since Christianity is the "vehicle" Providentially, it might be easier to "work" with it as opposed to digging in foreign fields. Of course I agree that American Christianity is far, far removed from its historical roots. Iamblichus taught that there were human souls made impassible and pure, in order to mediate between the impassible and pure gods, and the passible and/or the impure. And he was a pagan, surely?

Lucretia Heart said...

I ran into a few Church of Satan members in the late 90s in Portland & Seattle and checked out their philosophy more out of morbid curiosity than anything. Needless to say, I was profoundly unimpressed. Just a bunch of tiny, pathetic people who wanted to relish getting to be spoiled toddlers for the rest of their lives. Interestingly enough, a couple of them DID enter local politics under the Republican Party banner years later.

Your post nails the reality of this particular set of ugly truths well. Nice to see someone else saying it! I haven't checked out the comments yet to see how many people think you're kidding...

Lucretia Heart said...

* Of course I know you're kidding-- sort of. That's what makes this post so much fun! Thanks again.

John Michael Greer said...

Cherokee, of course there are paid shills on the internet -- it's a substantial industry these days. I get them quite reliably here; whenever I make a critical comment about nuclear power, for example, somebody who never posted here before is sure to pop up with the usual set of canned talking points. References to the corruption and sky-high death toll of the US medical industry also get an immediate response of the same kind. Just one of those fun features of what Marvin Harris called the disservice and misinformation economy...

Tom, exactly. It just so happens that here in the US, she's become a membership badge for devil worshippers -- er, I mean Christian conservatives, of course.

Renaissance, have a look at Maw Kernewek's comment immediately below yours.

Maw Kernewek, there we go: lust as a Christian virtue. I think they've just finished getting the whole set.

Bill, exactly. It's not the fact that they're committing the seven deadly sins -- we all do that. It's that they're glorifying them in the name of a tradition that historically opposes them.

Unknown Deborah, that was the justification for Christian monasticism -- on the theory that many are called but few are chosen, a minority could go whole hog while the rest lived ordinary lives and did their best.

KL, that's plausible!

Crow Hill, if you want to see the glorification of sloth, watch the propaganda in favor of "labor-saving" devices of various kinds. As for Evola, I'm not a fan at all, and not just because of Evola's little stiff-arm problem; his entire "traditional" ideology was a pastiche of the pop culture of his time -- take one part mostly misunderstood Nietzsche, one part JJ Bachofen, one part Otto Weininger, and one part watered-down thirdhand Theosophy, and you've got Evola in a nutshell. I'm far from sympathetic with the lot of them, but at least Guenon had something moderately original to say now and then.

Jennifer, good for you.

Chris, one of the complexities here is that "virtues" have been defined in modern times almost entirely in terms of the passive, "soft" virtues -- what Nietzsche, in his usual in-your-face manner, called the slave virtues. Go back half a dozen centuries or more, and "hard" virtues such as courage and self-mastery played a much larger role in moral thought and practice. The popularization of the soft virtues and the restriction of the hard virtues to narrow specializations (soldiers, gladiators, rulers) is a standard feature of late civilizations, and gets reversed in a hurry in the hard years that follow their decline and fall.

John Michael Greer said...

Renaissance, sorry for snapping at you! I was irritated by the number of people who were missing the point I was trying to make, is all.

LatheChuck, you know, that's the first time I've heard a Christian use Nietzsche's characterization as a positive argument for their faith! Nicely handled.

Matthew, I'd say rather that that's the core deviation of Traditionalism -- the insistence that the sphere of substance, prakriti, quantity, etc., and its associated numina, are not only "infra-human" but malevolently so. Iamblichus was indeed a pagan, and well worth reading on that basis among others; he has some very sensible things to say about the hierarchies of being and the concept that everything, without exception, serves the purposes of the gods.

Lucretia, I bet they lived in their mothers' basements, right next to the washing machine. A lot of people who like to see themselves as big bad evil warlocks fall into that category.

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi JMG,

Thanks for sparing us their tedious thoughts. Obviously, I don't get out much on the Internet, however, I am quite startled by the odd (and I really do mean odd) comment that you put through from time to time reminding us of the strange comments that you regularly receive. It is a good reminder of the sheer civility of this blog.

I'm enjoying a well-deserved rest day today after days and days of work on the infrastructure here. It is a never ending task, but interesting all the same. I'm reading about the Aboriginals and they took a similar approach with the environment, in that they established their systems over generations and then simply maintained and harvested from them. Very clever. It is nice to have the resources with which to accelerate this process. Truly, if we had got off our backsides in the 70's and worked hard on some of this stuff we wouldn't be facing such large resource and environmental pressures now and an impoverished future.

Too many people confuse the concept of efficiency with the concept of resilience. They cannot be pursued concurrently. Rant, rant, rant! hehe!

Hi sunseekernv,

Thanks for the links. I wonder how they feel at the end of a working day? What a weird way to make a living. The word "shill" is not heard Down Under. Thanks.

Regards

Chris

sunseekernv said...

JMG - what do you recommend to start with re: reading Iamblichus?

Calm Center of Tranquility said...

As a longtime reader, I have always been impressed not only with your own writing, JMG, but with the high level of quality of comments on your blog. This time, however,some of the comments have left me a bit surprised. (The blog post, though, was wonderful!)

It is quite tempting to look at national politics and say, "Meh, they're all the same." In times of despair, I have done it myself. Realistically, though, that's simply not true and it does make a difference in some substantial ways.

One example is the President's power to seat federal judges, which has a surprisingly large impact on our lives. Yet Presidential power is more restricted than we like to acknowledge in our country, where we are so fully invested in the cult of individuality. We often praise or blame the President for actions over which he has relatively little power.

That said, again, it does matter who you vote for. Here is just one example:

If you believe that global population is an issue to be addressed (there are those who don't)consider the trails of the United Nations Population Fund. Under Reagan, NGOs could not receive funding if they even mentioned abortion to women (even if the money were not used for that); Clinton rescinded the policy, it was reinstated by Bush II, and rescinded again by Obama. Bush II actually pulled all funding from UNFPA; Obama reinstated $50 million, though Congress keeps cutting that amount.

This is just one small example of how national politicians are NOT all the same; an important example if you believe that population (along with its fraternal twin, consumption) is a major problem for our planet as a whole. That our current President seems unconcerned with addressing the issue of consumption should not detract from his support of addressing at least half of the issue. I agree with Voltaire's warning that the perfect can become the enemy of the good.

Trish
(Hmm, when I hit publish, blogger seems to want me to try again. I hope this is not submitting multiple comments.)

Joseph Nemeth said...

@JMG re MawKernewek re Lust as a Christian Virtue.

False alarm. I'm pretty sure that site is satire. Go to the "10 Dating Tips" link at the top, which is a page entitled "10 Christian Dating Tips for Effective Missionary Dating", which has items like "6. If he tries to kiss you…Remind him that a kiss killed your Savior" or "10. After you dump him…Tell him that Jesus Christ will never leave or forsake him."

At least, I sure hope this is satire. Then again, I'm sure at least someone out there has taken this literally and tried to put it into practice….

John Michael Greer said...

Cherokee, I consider the rants, diatribes, and spit-slinging tirades I receive just one of the more entertaining benefits of this job. Oh, and if you're interested in seeing what a paid shill's post looks like, pay close attention to the comment by "Calm Center of Tranquility" below; it's a good example of the type.

Sunseeker, I'd encourage you to start with Gregory Shaw's Theurgy and the Soul -- the best modern interpreter of Iamblichus -- and follow that up with Iamblichus' On the Mysteries.

Center, a nicely deployed set of talking points; please tell whoever's paying you to post this that you deserve a raise. Still, it won't wash. Of course you can cherrypick Obama's record to find a few ways in which his policies differ from those of his feckless predecessor, but it would be just as easy to go over his record and find ways in which he's exceeded Dubya's score in following the GOP playbook -- for example, his administration has been far more lavish in the use of drones to commit war crimes overseas, the violations of civil liberties committed under his watch are by many measures worse, and the amount of money he's sluiced into the pockets of the financial industry is much greater.

More generally, people are starting to notice that the only thing the Democrats have to say these days is "But the scary Republicans would be even worse!" -- and then, when they get into office, they do their level best to copy the scary Republicans. It's not a strategy with an indefinite shelf life, and hiring shills to debate the issue online is not going to extend that indefinitely.

Joseph, granted, it might be satire. I'm not sure one way or the other -- which admittedly is funny, as a lot of people don't seem to be able to tell if this week's post is satire!

Jose Coces said...

JMG, when I first read Center's post, what I thought was "hmm, he is raising some good points there! Maybe he is right!". It didn't rang any bells in my mind that it could be a shill. How have you learned to spot them that easily? Is that part of the real magic you often speak of?

Renaissance Man said...

@MawKernewek

...*! :-S

MawKernewek said...

I pretty sure it is satire but I suppose the reason it works is that some people are actually thinking in that way.

It reminds me of Conservapedia which seems to have a mix of serious and satirical editors.

Joseph Nemeth said...

@JMG -- I've been wondering for quite some time how much power the President actually has.

Corporate CEOs don't have a lot of power. Oh, they do if it's a very, very small company and the organization is flat, but as soon as it gets even a little large, it breaks into "departments" -- I call them satrapies -- headed by people with much more actual power over that department than the CEO has. And they rule over local governors who have still more power over what actually happens in the company. When you get to a large corporation, the CEO has very little power at all, other than the power of persuasion over his/her various satraps.

The exception to this is the power to break an organization. Any fool in a position of power can do that, given enough time. Carly Fiorina (former CEO of HP) comes to mind as a classic example.

So I wonder how much credit or blame any President actually deserves.

Bush gets all the credit/blame for the Cheney administration.

The Cheney administration was as effective as it was at driving us into a ditch because it started a Neocon loyalty purge throughout the bureaucracy. I remember reading about it as early as 2002. It hit the media circus fan in 2006 with the DOJ scandal, but by then, the work was done.

Obama inherited a Neocon bureaucracy, filled with Neocon satraps, Neocon governors, and Neocon employees. Satraps of the NSA have been revealed as lying outright to Congress -- there's no reason to believe they were any more truthful with the President. So his choice after the fact is to pretend he knew about it and approved, or complain that he didn't: to be roasted as a DINO, or roasted as an incompetent who doesn't know what his own spymasters are up to. The third route, of vowing to "break the NSA into a thousand little pieces" to misquote a certain late President, has consequences, too.

To be clear: I'm not defending Obama, nor claiming he isn't entirely fungible.

But I'm curious if the office even needs to be occupied at all. I rather suspect you could place a crash-test dummy in the Oval Office with little effect on government or policy.

John Franklin said...

JMG, you write, "Chris, one of the complexities here is that "virtues" have been defined in modern times almost entirely in terms of the passive, "soft" virtues -- what Nietzsche, in his usual in-your-face manner, called the slave virtues. Go back half a dozen centuries or more, and "hard" virtues such as courage and self-mastery played a much larger role in moral thought and practice. The popularization of the soft virtues and the restriction of the hard virtues to narrow specializations (soldiers, gladiators, rulers) is a standard feature of late civilizations, and gets reversed in a hurry in the hard years that follow their decline and fall."

I know the reply wasn't to me, but thanks for this.

I'll have to review my history books now. But perhaps you know of writing specifically on this subject, that you would be so kind as to direct me to?

Also, the English language Wikipedia page on you seems to have been deleted. Maybe you already know. I thought I should mention it.

John Michael Greer said...

Jose, funny. No, I've known a few people who've worked in that industry. What you watch for is (a) a brand new commenter who (b) has nothing to say about the topic under discussion but (c) trots out a smoothly written opinion piece that (d) hits all the standard talking points currently being used by a specific political or corporate interest, while (e) avoiding any other points anyone else has made on that subject.

"Trish" (anyone's guess if that's a real name) hit all those buttons; her talking points have been bog-standard Democrat defensive rhetoric for more than a decade now, and I field one or two such pieces of shillery, identical except for grammar, every time I post something suggesting that there's really not that much difference between the two US parties. The only reason I let this one through is that paid internet shills had come up for discussion in this week's comment thread, and it seemed helpful to give Cherokee and others a glimpse of what the species looks like in the field.

Maw Kernewek, either way, it's really quite funny.

Joseph, that's a complicated question. Still, as I understand it, he has quite a bit of power over foreign policy and military affairs -- quite a bit of noise was made in the media a while back, for example, about the fact that Obama personally authorizes every drone strike. That's why I focused my comments on those things that he arguably does have some control over, such as drone strikes.

John, that's a fascinating question. I don't happen to know of any good histories of moral thought; if such exist, they would be worth reading. As for my Wikipedia page, that's too funny; I wonder if I offended somebody in the Wikipedia hierarchy with some of my comments on the likely fate of the internet. Still, I'd appreciate it if anybody who is concerned by this could contact Wikipedia and ask what happened to the page.

John Michael Greer said...

Unknown Deborah (offlist), see my response to Jose above. I don't make such statements without good reason.

steve pearson said...

@cherokee
Hey Chris, Not an exact synonym perhaps, but spruik would have have a fair bit of overlap with shill.
cheers, Steve

John Franklin said...

Feel free to not publish this. The discussion on the deletion is here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/John_Michael_Greer

Since my local library has several of your books, the Wikipedia commenters' reasons for deletion don't seem entirely honest to me. I wrote asking for further details.

Grebulocities said...

This was a good satire, subtle enough that I wasn't entirely sure that you didn't actually believe that the Republican elite were covert Satanists until the part about a Black Mass with Ann Coulter naked on the altar came up. I like the satirical posts you've written lately - I think that's one of the best ways to get across the absurdity of the behavior and ideology of people in modern times.

As for the comment by "Trish", that doesn't really look like a comment I'd expect to be posted by a paid shill of the Democratic Party or its allies. Her support of the Democratic Party appears more lukewarm than I'd expect out of someone like that, and I'd argue it's entirely consistent with the position of an American liberal who isn't totally satisfied with the Obama administration but thinks it's far better on some issues (in this case, judicial appointments and funding particular UN agencies) than Republican presidents have been. I've been in plenty of conversations with "liberals" who wholeheartedly support such policies as drone strikes and Obamacare because they are somewhat preferable to full-scale wars and the healthcare status quo before 2010. Such is the state of American politics...

As for your Wikipedia article, I dug up the Articles for Deletion discussion that led to its deletion. The reviewers mostly claimed that you were "not notable" under Wikipedia guidelines; nobody else backed up the sole poster who actually looked up their guidelines for author inclusion and found that you clearly passed, and so they deleted it. Here's the discussion: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/John_Michael_Greer

Matthew Casey Smallwood said...

JMG, Sir I won't belabor the point, except to note that the objection (as I understand it) is not to quantity per se, but rather to quantity which usurps quality. Or as you put it, the "noise to signal ratio", being a good example. You've read far more Guenon, etc., et al, & maybe this is too simplistic, but it's hard to see a perversion of any kind (even American civil religion) if quantity has its own unique quality that replaces all other qualities?

Joy said...


JMG-"As for my Wikipedia page, that's too funny; I wonder if I offended somebody in the Wikipedia hierarchy with some of my comments on the likely fate of the internet."
Here's the Wikipedia page on why you were deleted: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/John_Michael_Greer
Apparently, you don't pass notability guidelines. One editor refers to the former article on you as containing "puffery" and having a general sense of "fakery" about it. Obviously he's not a fan.

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi JMG,

Many thanks for your thoughts on the subject. I also appreciate your further analysis.

If you could perhaps indulge me in a little critique on the matter (shills) at hand? It is a little bit off topic (sorry).

I've been wondering whether the shills are following some sort of template for introducing discussion points. This would be an inevitable outcome as they by necessity have to avoid a narrative. My thinking on this is that the current narrative is unexplainable in their terms, so they stick to discussion points.

My gut feel says that somehow the people involved have honed their skills in the debating world. The comment smells to me of that world which follows its own unique law of etiquette.

It was also interesting that the commenter began the comment with flattery as I've seen this same technique on the permaculture news website.

The next paragraphs follow a standard argumentative essay format with a super nifty conclusion. Nice work.

It sort of tells a story in and of itself about the exclusivity and education of the background of the person making the comment. Their repetition and lack of creativity may eventually put themselves out of a job?

I'm mildly embarrassed to admit that I've tuned out to domestic politics here because somehow the discussions between politicians became a point scoring exercise. I find it to be disturbing to watch and listen too. Binary thinking has led them down the path of the boxing ring where they believe there may be only one winner. In fact, they may be quite surprised one day to find that there are two losers in that boxing ring (or possibly three in Australia if you throw in the Greens).

They fail abysmally to tell a coherent narrative and it will be their undoing.

I'll tell you a funny story. A long time ago, a mate of mine worked for a company. I get what my mate did for a living. The thing I didn’t understand was how that company itself made money. It is not like I didn't asked him to explain it all on several occasions either! It was just weird.

This is basically what politicians fail to understand. If the processes become so esoteric that the majority of people fail to understand it, then come any crunch, they will simply discard those politicians for the next straight talking person, despite the message. Dunno, but I hope I'm wrong. It is just a gut feeling kind of thing.

Regards

Chris

MawKernewek said...

Since Wikipedia is an encyclopedia anyone can edit, then any of us can just go ahead and reinstate the page.

Wikipedia does in practice, end up rather hierarchical, I've only occasionally gone and edited things, but have noticed certain established editors who see an article or topic as their own personal fiefdom and become frustrated with the process.


Of course, America could move to a parliamentary system, with only a ceremonial president. Anyone know who the President (not the Chancellor) of Germany is?

Marcello said...

Obama is in truth more or less what I expected him to be: the appearance of a step back from the craziest policies of the Bush administration while actually leaving most of it in place and adding some stuff of its own. On balance I find him slightly better but that on what precisely you feel about a number of issues.

That said the point raised about bureaucracy is interesting. What has been done in terms of surveillance capabilities and security apparatus could make the descent into a dictatorship a pretty fast one should americans decide to throw themselves at some Buzz Windrip.

Matt Heins said...

A K.O. punch to the hypocrites of the "Christian Right", a shill-baiting, AND a look at the dark side of mobb scholarship.

What a week!

John Michael Greer said...

John, thanks for following up on it! I note that their deletion of the article about me (which I didn't write, by the way) violated their own procedures -- again, I'm left wondering whether somebody well up in the Wikipedia hierarchy got offended by one of my comments about the future of the internet or something.

Grebulocities, satire's a useful tool, though I promise I won't be converting this to a wholly satirical blog!

Cherokee, agreed. Talking points floating around in thin air, without a coherent narrative to give them meaning, are great short term gimmicks but don't have a long shelf life before they turn into mere verbal noise. More on this in the next series of posts...

Maw Kernewek, the US has gone longer than most other countries in the world without a significant change in the system of government. (Britain is one of the very few that have gone longer.) We may be overdue for one.

Marcello, excellent! You get today's gold star; anyone who has the capacity to make a passing reference to President Windrip deserves at least that much.

John Michael Greer said...

By the way, I've now had an email exchange with Trish Gannon, who posted as "Calm Center of Tranquility," and who -- after some discussion -- convinced me that she's not a paid shill. I've sent her an apology. That is to say, I'm wholly capable of being mistaken -- a point I'll be discussing further in this evening's post.

That said, I encourage readers of this blog who feel inspired to post comments to post something other than a rehash of the talking points being circulated by the political fattion you support -- otherwise, you may be mistaken for a paid shill!

Robert Mathiesen said...

Take a look at

http://wildhunt.org/2013/05/anti-pagan-wikipedia-editor-outed-by-salon-com.html

This sort of thing may explain what happened to the article about our host.

sunseekernv said...

re the wikipedia mess,

It wouldn't surprise me much if this is related to the "guerrilla skepticism" movement that has been active of late, trying to get rid of "superstition", and boost the "truth" of atheism.

Rupert Sheldrake has been under attack lately.

http://sciencesetfree.tumblr.com/post/63184238054/wikipedia-under-threat

MawKernewek said...

@JMG - the British parliamentary system was a bit of a different beast before the 1832 Reform Act when there were many "rotten boroughs" where a seat could be bought or was a shoe-in for certain well-connected local dignitaries.

Both before and for a good while afterwards, there were property ownership, and gender qualifications on voting.

Unknown said...

(Deborah Bender)

@MawKernewek and JMG--The oaths to join any of the U.S. armed services and the oaths of office for positions in the federal government are to preserve and defend the Constitution. I believe the oath taken by naturalized citizens is also to the Constitution. To the Constitution, and only the Constitution, not the flag, the President, the Homeland, the God in whom we claim to trust or anything else.

In this sense, the Constitution _is_ the United States. Other symbols of our country are venerated by this person or that group, but I believe the Constitution is the most widely venerated. It's older than most of our national symbols and it is more than an emblem or an idea; it's active and working.

It's capitalized, not a constitution or our constitution but the Constitution. It's venerated by people who I suspect have not read it (although it's short and a good deal more readable than the constitutions of some countries). Americans of most political viewpoints venerate the Constitution, even if they don't agree on what it means.

A country like Britain can get along with an unwritten constitution, but the United States of America cannot, because the United States is an artificial construction.

The Constitution is by design difficult to amend. Some major changes in our system of government can be made without amending it (for example, Congress's surrender of the power to make war), but the changes required to turn the U.S. into a parliamentary system would require a constitutional convention writing an entirely new one or a tyrant imposing one. I believe only catastrophe or assimilation into some larger political unit would bring that about.

bluemountainmama said...

Hmmm.... very interesting. As a Christian who does not align themselves with the GOP and is frustrated by the current status of things, this gives me some things to think about.

mthierauf said...

I have to take issue with this disgusting misrepresentation of Republicans. Republicans arent elected to uphold Christian teachings, they are elected to uphold the Constitution. The main purpose of the Constitution is to protect individual rights not give handouts to the needy. A person's religious beliefs and subsequent "morals" should be of little consequence to their legislation enacted. I have yet to read the passage from the Bible where Jesus lobbies his local government to force rich people to give money to the poor.