Saturday, October 30, 2010

Meaningless Rituals

Happy Samhain!

There was a time that I felt a certain sanguinity about pagan customs that we follow today. I felt as if The Man couldn't totally stomp us out, that we would prevail, if only through stubbornness.

I was amazed when a Nigerian co-worker said something and then "knocked on wood". Wow. An ancient custom which survived the annihilation of it's original followers, transplanted to another whole people. Cool?

Not so much.

Two of my co-workers claim Trail of Tears ancestry. Why the hell would the Trail of Tears even go through Southern Illinois? Hello - people from the Deep South, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana, going to Oklahoma, for some reason strolling through Southern Illinois? But it's true - they did go here, herded on the death trail by pre-Blackwater mercenaries.

Here's the way one of my co-workers describes her great-great-grandmother - she was a toddler whose mother died on the Trail of Tears and "they" left her by her mother's body, where she was found crying by a Christian minister and his wife, who adopted and raised her. She was Indian, but became Christian and spoke English, and married a white man, so she was OK.

Who was this "they" that abandoned the toddler? My co-worker blames the other Indians, but people being herded by mercenaries are not exactly free to follow their traditional practices. Her emphasis on her ancestor speaking English and being Christian show the shame that many Native people have been taught since the genocide. Those who assimilated frequently show shame for their ancestry.

So what about me? I know that my Dad was born in Northern England. I know that many of England's invaders came from the mainland, invading the South, pushing the original inhabitants to the North.

Who am I descended from? I don't even know. Am I a descendant of the Druids, pushed to the North, and forced into Christianity? Or a descendant of the invaders, whether Norse, or Saxon, or Franco, or Roman, or whatever?

Here we are, on Halloween, still acting out the old customs, long after the original practitioners were murdered and tortured into submission. Dressing up in scary costumes, lighting fires, going door to door, all meaningless rituals, still being played out, but without purpose.

And three days from now, we do it again, on "Election Day".

Candidates give speeches, news reporters remark upon them, people go to the polls and make a mark for who they choose to represent them.

But it's all meaningless ritual. Speeches are now soundbites, reporting is superficial, and voting machines make the marks totally divorced from tallies. No more ballot box stuffing, it's as easy as pushing a button and getting the result preordained!

But we all pretend that our rituals have meaning, especially the voting one.

Celebrities encourage us, statesmen exhort us, TV pushes voting continually.

Tellingly, they never tell us who to vote for. THEY DON'T CARE!

It's the turnout that legitimizes their system. That's all they care about, here and abroad, if you notice the "news" coverage of other elections. A big turnout, a purple-fingered groundswell, that 's what they like. That's why the 2004 election, with people waiting 9 hours to vote for Kerry, was considered a "triumph of democracy", even though the person they stood in line to vote for had the election stolen from him. Not that he fought at all, of course, conceding before the votes were even counted.

But even that no longer matters. They no longer announce exit poll results. They can simply declare that x amount of people voted, and they voted in a particular way.

Who's going to know any different?

Billions of dollars are being spent for these elections. Why? All they have to do is announce the pre-determined results.

But where does that money go? To the corporate media.

Election ads are really media buy-off ads.

Elections are to the media as Christmas is to retail stores. They need that money. And the money buys their submission.

We are participating in something as meaningless to us as knocking on wood is to a Nigerian. As meaningless as a child dressed as a ghost. But much more harmful.

American adults who go to the polls and press a touch screen button for a pre-screened, corporate-approved candidate have as much relation to true democracy, in which people participate in the decisions that affect their lives, as American children, dressed in Disney-trademark costumes created by child labor in some third world country, going door to door to get factory wrapped candy, have to their pagan ancestors honoring the end of summer and those who had passed to the other world.


Anonymous said...

Excellent post - I think you are right on every point. Even NPR is so slanted I can no longer listen to it except for the BBC nighttime broadcasts.

I gave up all hope for this country a long time ago. Ranked 22 most honest country in the world - so much for American exceptionalism. Where were the teaparty people when NAFTA passed that was when they should have been shouting. Now they are all small business needs no restrictions. The only people who will loan to small business is banks who will get a guarantee from the Small Business Administration (more damn government programs).

I kind of like Halloween, though cause the kids like it so much and I don't really attach any religious gobblygoop to it - it is just fun to playact. Financially the parents could buy the candy for less than what they spend on costumes. I give full sized bars to the homemade costumes, little ones for the commercial. I would give cookies or apples but those would cause fear and a trip to the x-ray machine. Of course, fear still reigns as each kid is followed by the parent. Some one should tell the parents that statistically the people to fear are relatives and authorities such as their priest. Being brave needs to be learned - following orders also, but they are not the same.

David G. said...

Well, what an outcome, eh! Nothing clear, nothing amazing, nothing better.

The war party got back in in both Houses. The armament manufacturers are happy. The Pentagon is happy. The wealthy elite are happy.

The 'Greatest Nation in the History of the World' lurches on entirely without vision, without morality, without nobility.