Tuesday, February 7, 2012

American Barbarianism

I’m feeling a bit twisted up inside this week. The weather is being a little pissy, but mostly I’ve been bothered by the state of the our nation. Fracking, fundamentalism and the religion of corporations being my primary concerns.

I’m reading a book written by journalist Joe Bageant about the working poor in the area where he grew up in the southern U.S. These people work their butts off and are still a paycheck away from losing everything they own because they earn such poor wages. One woman Bageant wrote about has diabetes and whenever she and her husband have as little as thirty dollars of extra bills in a given month, they cannot afford her medications. As a result she’s crippled and going blind. She had to give up working because she has become so disabled, but Social Security people say she is able to work and, therefore, not eligible for S.S. payments. She can barely walk with a cane and can barely see! This is one case of thousands. Imagine what that would do to a person’s psyche.

Anyway, that’s not the worst news Joe Bageant gives in his book, Deer Hunting with Jesus. He talks about the religious fundamentalism of those people. They are not just in favor of nuclear war with the middle east, they want to hurry it along to bring on the Apocalypse and, as a result of the Apocalypse, the Rapture. The basic makeup of these fundamentalists is a people descended from Scots who were called Borderers because they lived along the border wall put up across the north end of England by Hadrian to protect England from the barbarians of Scotland. These barbarians relocated to Ireland to be ‘free from persecution’ from the British. From Ireland they emigrated to America so that, basically, they wouldn’t be bothered by the religious beliefs of others.

The American government of the time was appalled by the brutality of these people, but they did not hesitate to make use of them in their wars. The Borderer offspring are, today, still a violent, virulent, ill-educated and ignorant people who want to shift the government of America into a theocracy to help bring about the Apocalypse. Under this theocracy there would be biblical law and biblical law only (i.e. punishments such as stoning for such indiscretions as simple as denying their own brand of fundamentalist interpretations of the bible).

Furthermore, pay attention here, they care nothing about polluting Earth beyond human habitation because, after the Rapture, they will no longer need this planet. These people made great political advancement during the W/Cheney reign, when many environmental laws were tossed into the rubbish heap and many of these fundamentalists were put into government positions.

Back when I read the book on Russian history, I was surprised that Europe considered the Russian ruling class barbarians long after they had become Christian, but they were, even in the eyes of Europeans, violently imperialistic, steeped in their own system of beliefs (the Russians were Orthodox Christians, but that wasn’t the problem for Europeans) about how the world should be, and about how they had the true way and the authority to rule the world. (Sound familiar? But Russian barbarianism was not nearly as subjective and covert as the current atmosphere of fundamentalism.)

Joe Bageant did put this all in perspective for me, though, when he pointed out that there were three previous “Awakenings” in our history with fundamentalists rising up in force to attempt rule over the religious atmosphere of the day. In none of those previous Awakenings, however, did the fundamentalists try to take over the government. This might be a logical next step, perhaps, but Bageant did clarify that all three earlier Awakenings died out in a few decades and this one, he said, began in 1973. Perhaps there’s hope and it will end soon, though I’m not sure that the corporate rulers {who are making use of the poor, ignorant fundamentalists to wage war against the rest of us} will let us off that easily.

What this all brought to mind for me was a quote I came upon awhile back by Rabindranath Tagore of India:

Do we still not know that the appearance of a seed is in direct contradiction to its true nature?

If you submit the seed to a chemical analysis, you would find in it perhaps some carbon, proteins, and many other things, but never the hint of the leaf of a tree.

The freedom of the seed resides in its fulfillment of its dharma, of its nature and its destiny, which is to become a tree; the failure to achieve this becomes for the seed a prison.

The sacrifice through which one thing reaches its fulfillment is not a sacrifice that leads to death; it is the casting off of chains and the attainment of freedom.

Now, the fundamentalists may claim that the fulfillment of their nature and destiny is to bring about the Apocalypse; but one thing is for sure: they would be denying anyone else a destiny of anything more than to be dictated by severe, inhumane, barbaric rule. How far they get, however, is up to the rest of us, since the fundamentalists (the Borderer descendants and the people they have influenced) constitute only a third of the population of our nation.

So don’t worry too much, but don’t sit on your assets (and I’m not being cutesy by using ‘assets’ to mean ‘asses’) and do plant and nurture that seed of your nature and destiny so it may grow, develop and prosper. Whatever develops your attainment of freedom will, undoubtedly, aid the rest of us in some way as well. And would you really be so barbaric that you would deny that  to the rest of us?

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