i've taken to skipping states of the union - which i know is not unusual overall, but which might be an unusual for a news junkie. it's the pageantry of state that annoys me: the state is everyone's little religion - just chock full of superstitious mumbo-jumbo and immune to rationality - and i am an atheist. but say you think the non-stop assertion of conservatives that the msm is leftist is ridiculous. how about nytimes headlines this morning: 'obama defiantly pushes his agenda', 'a bold call to action'. in the washpost: 'obama offers a helping hand to families', 'the remarkable confidence of barack obama', 'obama barrels into final act of presidency unbowed', etc. these are not opinion pieces, but news and analysis.
were we to survive the state for awhile, which seems unlikely, this period will be remembered as the dark ages: dominated utterly by an institutionalized irrational indefensible ideology seemingly accepted by everyone. everyone shares the same quasi-sane assumptions, which articulate our forms of universal oppression. i doubt we'll ever emerge, but so did all those poor secret atheists in 1120, so you never know. but, like us looking back on the medievals, future historians - if any - will find it hard to believe people actually believed this sort of stuff; they'll have difficulty reconstructing it as a possible human belief system, or penetrating its clotted or contentless rhetoric and the arbitrary or bizarre conclusions that people of this period used it to reach. they will know, as we know about the year 1120, that everyone just wanted a hierarchy of the most extreme variety, and would believe anything - anything - that would keep it in place. some wanted to subordinate others, some wanted to be subordinated by others - but nobody even sort of wanted people to be free or to think.
that everyone thought that some form of the semi-comprehensible theology just had to be right and that there were no decent or rational possibilities outside it does not mean that the stuff was sensible, or that any given person at any given moment couldn't have realized that and hopped off, at least in their heads. that everyone thought, or said, that it was self-evident that they should subordinate their bodies and minds to the catholic church did not make it self-evident. to what i think of as the right sort of person, those things just made it obvious, all day every day in your face, that the crap made no sense at all.
like medieval peasants, we're supposed to be bewildered by the costumes, the insignia, the architecture, the dead language, into thinking that these people are better and smarter than us, and that everyone should do what they say. (in this case, it should be obvious to the most superficial reflection that the people who attend the state of the union are no better and no smarter than the average peasant or felon. have you watched these people work? really, it was the same with the medieval papacy: corrupt, venal, in it for the sex and booze. but, like north korean generals, they had huge funky hats. i propose that we can assess the intelligence of these people by noting that on each side they just say all the same sentences over and over. they haven't had an idea in a half century. their intelligence, such as it is, is mechanical and their only ethic is manipulation.) in that stuff - the frippery, we might say - lurks the state's only actual legitmacy. it's what they have in place of any sort of moral justification for the sheer coercion on which their power in fact rests.
francis bacon: "if men went all mad after the same fashion, they might agree with one another well enough."