THE WAYS OF THE WORLD

Between the time of the retreat of the last Ice Age hundred thousand years ago and the invention of agriculture 12,000 years ago human beings were just as we are in our hearts that our brains as well as our bodies. In that time we learn to live together in groups that probably wandered in a yearly migration pattern following the seasonal provision of nature. Then with the invention of agriculture, we could increase in numbers limited only by our ability to farm. Our societies for the 1st time needed to grow bigger than clan and tribe to manage the complex seasonally determined cycle of planting and sowing and storing and distributing. This was a new world in which armies came into existence to serve the defense of 1 people against all others. And at the same time there came a division institutionalized between King who rules as a secular leader and high priest who ruled as a tribal leader in which a nation was an artificial tribe. The quid pro quo was essentially that the King was blessed by the high priest who gave him heaven's permission to rule the Nation the Way, God or gods ruled the cosmos. And every nation naturally believed that they were the best beloved of all of God's children and the only ones who are truly obedient and therefore favored and given permission to predate upon the others.


This essentially was an arms race of nation-building that his continued to this very day.


And today we have 7 billion people on earth rather than the 15 million that it is estimated we had on the planet when agriculture was truly instituted as a miracle of technological innovation...


It has only been in the last 300 years that the shock of there being a world full of nations and peoples was driven out of the cities and into the wilderness and disconnected peoples in every Valley and corner of the world. This was a shock because now people had in their face every day the fact that there was a great relativity of all gods and religions and ways of life in that there was no way to demonstrate 1 People or Way of life was more natural or blessed by heaven than any other. If you are living locally and never leave your home village to travel more than 20 miles in your whole life, even if the capital city of your nation is cosmopolitan and deals with traders from all the world, you and the other 99% of the human race live comfortably in local regions that are sealed off from the world in most dealings of day-to-day life and therefore the world becomes just a rumor.


Especially in the last 200 years with the invention of sailing ships and locomotives and that airplanes and that electronic modern communication systems like radio and TV, the reality of the fact that one's own religion and way of life is but one of many becomes a constant agitation and background noise in a world where traditional ways of life are collapsing like ice under the feet of people crossing over a dangerous lake in winter.


This new modernity has not displaced traditional ways of life which were really birth to death guidebooks to all of your relationships and the great events that happened between birth and death. Modernity liberated us from superstition with the age of reason and the subsequent age of humanism made possible by understanding the universality of human nature and the local nature of humanly constructed culture. But it also cut the tethers of reason from the traditional obedience to moral codes designed to keep small tribes and groups of people from tearing themselves to pieces.


A Buddhist text that I have been reading about the great pillars of Asoka, the Hindu king who united the Indian subcontinent about 300 BC. And in it the Buddhist writer notes that the traditional Buddhist toxic poisons of the motion, ignorance, hatred and compulsive desire actually formed the root emotions of the 3 great secular innovations of the 1800s and the modern era, in which he saw that hatred was the root emotion of communism, greed was the root of capitalism, and ignorance was the root of fascism.


It seems that the age of humanism was not able to successfully create an ideology of public secular relations that in a satisfying way replaced traditional morals. The freedom to make a global ideology of democracy and kindness was an opportunity that was bypassed in the liberated rush to follow our testosterone lower instincts to create a global culture of power for the sake of power and nations that saw themselves as gangs out for themselves.


And there is a reasonable total rejection of such a lowest common denominator created culture of modernity. And it is interesting that the fundamentalist reactions of all the religions are very similar in trying to get back to the ethical mores of local small groups that saw all others as existing only on the periphery of the world.


And I have for a long time wondered why of all the 3 religions of Abraham, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, it seems that Christianity and Islam are the ones most traditionally given over to the excesses of fundamentalism and a rejection of rationalism and humanism and modernity.


I think I have finally found the reason that Judaism stands outside these 2 great faiths. You see, in Judaism to be a Jew you have to be born of a Jewish mother. Now the Jewish people are asymmetric race in no ways really distinguishable from the Arab peoples. But being “born into” your tribe acts as a kind of racial identity. But both Christianity and Islam are allegiance based religions that have cut themselves free of locality and people in a way that allows their religions to spread easily all over the world as a system of beliefs. But this untethering means that their system of tribal identification has to be allegiance to one's own traditional behavior. A Jew can be a nonbeliever and not keep kosher but remain a Jew. A follower of the religion of Islam or Christianity has only their rulebook as a form of identity.


I think this is why the Christian and Islamic fundamentalists seem to be so to like each other in their rejection of modernity.


Both cultures of Christianity and Islam have been great world religions and the leaders of true civilizations of unique cultures in the past but what we see today is not the height of Islam or Christian culture. What we see is a reversion to localized allegiances to a tribal defense of a medieval way of sealing oneself off from the world of modernity by a retrenchment in ancient standards of behaviors. This way of dealing with the world is one of rejecting the challenge of its presence.


It seems to me as a citizen of the United States who truly treasures the inheritance embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and the Bill of Rights of the age of reason and humanism that as soon as the pressure was off to survive after Britain lost the war of 1812, the United States was liberated from standing on their principles and allowed to transform American culture into the kind of thing that would be created by an uninhibited devouring of a great continent of natural resources and a developed industry without check that delivered us as a superpower at the end of World War II as a nation with the greatest technological and production base and natural resources in the world. But those advantages disappeared by the middle 1970s when we became a nation that played games with money to keep the pyramid scheme of consumer culture alive.


This is why I think to save modern culture we have to advance on 2 fronts, salvaging the spiritual core of our traditional religions and liberating them from the medieval cultural behaviors that were their context hundreds and hundreds of years ago on one hand, and on the other hand salvaging the true importance of humanism and the meaning of democracy in which the dignity and sovereignty of the individual trumps the arrogance and overweening presumption of the modern nationstate.


Leo Rivers, the garage house, cottage Grove, Oregon, Friday, October 12, 2012 5:39:46 PM


 © Leo Rivers 2013