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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Racial ‘Justice’ In America–Totems, Rituals, And Sacrificial Offerings

Like most Mesoamerican religious systems, the Zapotec religion was polytheistic.  Zapotecs tell that their ancestors emerged from the earth, from caves, or that they turned from trees or jaguars into people, while the elite that governed them believed that they descended from supernatural beings that lived among the clouds, and that upon death they would return to such status.

The Zapotecs lived in a world of natural, immanent power.  Spiritual forces were in the lightning and thunder, the violent storms, predatory animals, and in the rising and setting of the moon and sun.  They were brooding in the massive mountains or in the night sky.  They were everywhere, frighteningly real.  There was no distinction between human life, nature, and the gods.

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This religion was not a tame animism like that still found in India where a tree trunk might be painted red and garlanded with marigolds to honor the spirit who lived there;  a quiet presence to be revered and respected. In the Oaxaca valley under a powerful sun and surrounded by mountains, there was no escaping the temperamental and eruptive forces of Nature and the gods.

The Zapotecs also performed ritual human sacrifice; and as barbaric as the practice seems today, it was anything but in the early days of Mesoamerica.  Human sacrifice was the only way to appease the gods and forestall the savagery of their storms, earthquakes, and floods.  Life in the Oaxaca Valley, fertile and calm, was only borrowed from the gods who made their presence known every day.  Sunrise, sunset and the dark silhouettes of northern mountains reminded them of the immanence of the gods.  Even if they were not angry or retributive, their power was still felt.  The forces of nature and the forces of deity were one.

By comparison today religious ceremonies seem tepid.  The sacrifice of the Catholic Mass is evocative only of the physical torment and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  The transubstantiation – the changing of bread and wine into the body and blood of the Savior – is at best divine allegory; and at its most mundane, a respectful ritual of myth.

Even Pentecostal revivals and the ecstatic discoveries of a personal Jesus cannot possibly compare with a ritual human sacrifice performed on an altar in the middle of a broad valley surrounded by mountains with the presence of the gods real, imminent, and intimidating.  The moment of sacrifice was more ecstatic for worshippers than for any Christian believer today.  There is nothing to compare the absolute sacrifice of a human being to visible, magnificent, real and powerful gods.

Despite the taming of spiritual ecstasy and the very temperate nature of personal expression today, everyone needs to believe in something; and the more ecstatic or passionate the expression of that belief, the more satisfying it is.  In fact, the expression of belief becomes more important than the belief itself.

Environmentalists profess a legitimate concern for the state of the world.  If no action is taken, global warming will accelerate and the earth as we know it will be no more.  Forests, jungles, and fertile plains will turn into deserts and Sahelian scrub.  Lakes will dry up, streams will stop flowing, the ice caps will melt, and coastal cities will be inundated and destroyed.  This vision is no a reasoned, secular one, but a profoundly spiritual one.  No less than Armageddon is in the near future.  The image of a fiery, charred, and blackened earth is an environmentalist icon.  It is as potent a symbol as the Cross.

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The environmental movement has both animistic and deeply Christian roots.  Human destruction of rainforests, pollution of air and water, and the wholesale ransacking of forests, woods, and natural preserves is morally wrong, an insult to the immanent spiritual forces residing in them. The Gaia movement postulates that the Earth is not a collection of random elements and forces, but a living, organic whole.  It is a sentient mega-being made up of network of interrelated bio-ecological neurons.  No hurt or physical insult goes unnoticed, and damage on one part will be felt throughout.  Although few environmentalists are true Gaia believer, the attachment they have to Nature is not simply practical.  There is a pervasive spirituality behind the movement.  The cutting down of a tree in Absaroka Mountains causes psychic hurt.

One environmentalist, a former Baptist preacher, warned against climate Armageddon as he did that of the Book of Revelations.   He, like many fundamentalist orators, was fixated on hell and damnation, and used his state-of-the-art audio-visual system to show pictures of destruction, desolation, and waste.  Crops burning under a fiery sun, plants reduced to stubble because of drought and blazing heat; rivers run dry, birds shaking and quivering on roadsides, deer fleeing raging forest fires.  All this was a result of God’s vengeful wrath.  His people had once again forsaken him, gone over to the Dark Side, consorted with the devil and followed his evil ways.

It is not enough for civil rights activists today to encourage legislative and judicial reform as their forbears did in the 60s.  Theirs is a more inchoate protest, one focused on those who perpetrate racism not on the mechanisms of power that can mitigate it. ‘Racist!’, if yelled angrily enough, often, and inclusively enough will shame, marginalize, and neuter those who persist in their retrograde white supremacism.  Of course it is not, and this universal reverse racism will inevitably create an equally angry counter-reaction. There is nothing that will drive moderate, temperate, reasonable middle-of-the-road white Americans into the radical conservative camp quicker than intemperate accusations of racism.

Yet without ‘Racist!’, the multiculturalist movement would have no rallying cry, no potent, loaded symbol of their struggle.  ‘Racist!’ is a totem, shouted in unison an anthem and prosecuted as sacrificial as paganism in Mesoamerica.  The white man must be sacrificed in order for the secular gods to be appeased.  Nothing less than his blood and his spirit must be spilled.

Both environmentalists and ‘social justice warriors’ (SJW) share another pagan, prehistoric human trait – universal, collective belief.  The special passion and ecstasy of Zapotec sacrifice was derived from the absolute belief of all worshippers.  Each individual had no doubt that human sacrifice would appease the angry gods, and that only the power of collective worship could keep them at bay. 

Today’s civil rights activists share much with the Zapotecs – sacrificial offering (the white man), collective identity, and totems.  The Aztecs dressed up as wild animals to be invested with their savagery, and for the most committed SJW the possession of a black spirit – one of a black, oppressed, brutalized, demonized slave – is a vengeful enabler.

The SJW movement is in its Baroque, final phases.  When it becomes prehistoric and pagan and relies only on anthems, totems, and sacrifice, it loses currency, saliency, and meaning.  The movement becomes a caricature of itself.  Periods of excess are always followed by simpler, more reasoned ones. Neoclassicists sought to revert to the simpler art of the Renaissance out of their distaste for the grandeur of Baroque and Rococo styles.  The next period of social justice will focus on facts – the persistent, perennial, seemingly intractable problems of social dysfunction, ineducability, moral disarray, economic stagnation, and cultural disharmony – and will address them.

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