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I have been having a lot of conversation, doing a lot of reading, about modern politics and economics. Anarchists and Marxists are among my friends nowadays, and the root causes for a lot of modern oppression is a fun thing to debate about. I like debate! But so much of the conversation is ahistorical. As a student of the early medieval period, I am perhaps more aware than some that class structures are not the same thing as ‘capitalism’, however that is defined. ‘Pre-capitalist’ societies were also predicated on some folk coming under other folk- for all that there is no wealthy middle class in Anglo-Saxon England, or that the pursuit of profit was all-consuming, one still has kings and clerics, abbotts and peasants.
So today, when I came across David Korten’s article “The End of Empire” at Yes! Magazine, I had only one response: Citation Needed.
As the institutions of Empire took root, humans turned from a reverence for the generative power of life to a reverence for hierarchy and the power of the sword. The wisdom of the elder and the priestess gave way to the arbitrary rule of often ruthless kings. Social pathology became the norm and society’s creative energy focused on perfecting the instruments of war and domination. Priority in the use of available resources went to military, prisons, palaces, temples, and patronage.
Seriously. ‘Turned from a reverence for the generative power of life’? What? I don’t even know what that means. Is he trying to say that pre-monarchical societies revered life? The human sacrifice of captured enemies practiced by pre-Christian Germanic peoples puts paid to that particular lie. What makes the so-called ‘wisdom’ of a priestess or an ‘elder’ any less arbitrary or ruthless than that of a king or emperor? For that matter, the Roman Republic is one of the clearest examples of the kind of dominating ‘Empire’ that Korten is blithering about, and that wasn’t ruled by anything resembling a King! It was expressely founded to avoid kingship, and yet had no problems at all with dominating neighbouring cultures and civilisations.
I, too, have many issues with the modern world and its emphasis on greed and destruction of the Other to further itself. I readily agree that many of our modern concepts of fair play and ‘freedom’ (.i. freedom for those on top, and fair play for those who rule) were forged in the corrupting and sadistic smithies of ancient empires. Any student of any period of history can see these things play out.
Yet human history covers a period some five thousand years long, and our species has experiemented with many types of governance and systems of rulership- some fairer than others. If one wishes to discuss the historicity of modern imperialism, then get the fucking history right.
Take a university course! Read some books! Understand what the hell you are talking of before you seek to condemn it. Because every time I see a fellow member of the so-called ‘Left’ blithering about history in such ignorance, I cover my face in my hands and start to gently weep.
I am willing to be your ally. I want to stand alongside you against government corruption, against hierarchical hatred, be for the people. While you continue to be wrong, I will not. I cannot, in good academic conscience, be willing to nod my head alongside people who are wrong. When people in the atheist movement get a matter of religion wrong, I call them on it. When feminist activists get scientific matters wrong, Jen McCreight calls them on it. If one can get basic facts simply wrong, or one overextends a generalisation, it calls the entire movement into disrepute.
So. Citation fucking needed. Bring me your evidence, and then I will call you my ally again. But until you know, shut up.
From The Wild Hunt, a [neo-]pagan blog, comes the most bizarre piece of medievalist news I have heard all week. Arthur Uther Pendragon, modern druid and reincarnation of the famous king, is running to become an independent MP in Salisbury. I find myself speechless, and thus am reduced to blockquoting:
“One of the counts I will be most interested in following on election night will be the one down in Salisbury, where the ever-colourful King Arthur Pendragon is standing. You’ve got to love him: a man in a dress who rides a motorbike and carries a dirty big sword called Excalibur around … He’s a sort of wayward son of the Druid movement – the armed proletarian wing – with a taste in wild women and flashy silver jewellery and a kind of persistent stubbornness that is almost Churchillian in its scope. I think there may be other candidates, but I’ve already forgotten who they are.”
I must admit to being inclined to agreement with Rob Mayall on that one. For all that I am quite fond of my local MPs, I would probably vote for a chap wielding a sword and riding about on a motorbike. It adds a certain colour which is somewhat lacking in Australian -and most other- English elections.
Oh, certainly, I could write something about the immense influence the Arthurian mythology retains even in our modern age, wax lyrical about the lack of romance in current-day politics. I could write a post about barmy New Age types, or rattle on about religious influences in politics
But Mister Pendragon seems relatively harmless- he’s vowed never to unsheathe Excalibur in anger.
Over the past few years, Australia has implemented a scheme whereby religious (mostly Christian) teachings are implemented in our school system. Rather than spending money on training and retaining additional school counsellors, the government has instead invited chaplains into public schools, allowing priests to take on the responsibility of guiding youngsters. I was lucky; not only did I leave high school long before this nonsense, my school had a real counsellor, a wonderful woman.
It ought to be unnecessary to point out how potentially harmful this sort of thing is. Not only are these idiots teaching fairy tales in schools, it is unclear how well-trained they are in psychology or health care. I am inclined to suspect that they are, at best, merely priests and clergy, shrouded in the false authority that their religious doctrine offers something of value to youngsters in need of assistance. More dangerously, many of these figured are undoubtedly homophobic, transphobic, virulently anti-choice, sexist, and racist. Certainly a priest of a religion declaring itself to be the One Truth is hardly going to be sympathetic to children whose parents follow another. There is justified widespread opposition to this program.
The Program boasts that 34% of state-funded schools have a chaplain; the Sydney Star Observer notes that a 2009 “found 40 percent of chaplains had spoken to students on an issue of sexuality over a two-week period.” I do not want my younger cousins, or the children of my friends, to endure religiously motivated ‘counselling’ on the state dollar. I do not want my taxes sent to pay priests and pastors who teach lies and mistruths.
Via the Sydney Star Observer, a local gay newspaper, I have learned of Ron Williams, a parent looking to challenge the National School Chaplaincy Program in the High Court:
NSCP federally-funded state school chaplains across Queensland may: conduct Christian prayers on all-school assembly; at significant school ceremonies; hold lunchtime prayer/Bible study sessions and engage with students in the classroom, playground, school excursions, school camps and sport. Chaplains oversee and conduct Religious Instruction classes and on-campus church-designed and run programs including Hillsong ‘Shine’ which connect children with evangelistic off-campus clubs, programs and camps.
Contact with concerned parents in every Australian State and Territory reveals that occurences of the federally-funded National School Chaplaincy Program being utilised as a Christian evangelic ministry are common within the nation’s state schools.
After years of correspondence and meetings with state education and DEEWR executives as well as personal meetings with two Education Ministers and their Directors General, in 2009, a frustrated Mr. Williams sought advice regarding a possible High Court challenge to the constitutional legality of the Commonwealth providing treasury funds to the National School Chaplaincy Program. In February 2010, Horowitz & Bilinsky accepted the case.
This matter concerns more people than the Williams family from Queensland. It concerns all Australians, of all faiths and none, who support the secular ‘wall of separation’ concept concerning church and state. This ‘wall of separation’ is required to safeguard our multicultural, multi-faith and non-faith liberal democracy that has become the hallmark of the civilised 21st century nation Australia rightfully claims to be.
I have no idea if this is possible; my knowledge of the courts is extremely limited. I wish him every success.