Monday, January 5, 2009

57. Latvia’s Profound vs Shallow Traditions [7]

The following series (not exactly serials) concern the importance of self-sacrifice in the creation and maintenance of a community. Do not be put off by the name "Latvia", the name of the country where I live, because you can probably replace the name with that of your own country. I believe self-sacrifice is "religion" without you or me necessarily having to believe in God.

As traditions are destroyed by histories that never happened or did not happen the way we are told they happened communal subjectivity (the embodiment of tradition) was replaced by the mindset created by formal education.

While formal education was a gain, it also brought loss. While the gains may seem obvious, the loss should be equally so. It introduced a different kind of ignorance, i.e., the teachers did not tell their students that what they were taught was from the perspective of the ruling class, a history without historical veracity, a perspective desired by the rulers, because it enhances their wealth and control over the economy.

The ruling class was overwhelmingly secularist in its outlook, and imposed it in the form of a new religion—neo-Christianity. Up to the invention of writing, the arch-Christians had been able to maintain their perspective. Arch-Christendom was based on what the community perceived to be the essence of a community—self-sacrifice, the forms of it depending on the occasion and its needs.

With the arrival of writing self-sacrifice became a word beyond the pale, where it is to this day. “Good news” replaced tested traditions and told the commons that it was not responsible for and was forgiven its failures. Images of plenty replaced images of want. Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz! (Joplin) New words replaced old ones. A new word introduced was “suicide”, which demonized “self-sacrifice”. The written word became a tool for engineering the mind long before Stalin and ad agencies thought of it. After all, self-sacrifice is not only more difficult (actually impossible) for princes to control, but is the essence and guarantee of the sovereignty of the individual.

While writing began with The Great Original Empire—Alexandria and Constantinople may have been centers where the johns and sadhus once met to exchange their views—it met its greatest success in the West, because it was there that old stories had not yet become part of the mindset. The alphabet is easy to learn, facilitates writing, and sequences events almost permanently. In the Middle and Far East, writing remained an “art” (calligraphy), while in the West it became utilitarian and a weapon for the authorities to exploit. The success of the European West is analogous to the success centuries later of American capitalism over European capitalism. Newly discovered America had not inherited any of the elements of resistance to capitalist ideology that were still possible in Europe and elsewhere.

Nevertheless, several items in recent news remind us that the friction between ancient tradition and newly created history and its chronology continues.

The recent death of the patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, Alexiy II (Estonian born), brought a spate of news articles (Time, BBC, etc.), which emphasized the patriarch’s work in unifying the Russian Orthodox Church at home and abroad. The articles pointed out that in spite of a number of invitations by the Kremlin to the Pope to come visit Russia, nothing came of it, because Alexiy II opposed such a visit. Alexiy II was sure that the Vatican’s interest in such a visit was to resume proselytizing in Russia.

It is interesting that Pope Benedict XVI agreed with Marcella Pera, the author of Why We Must Call Ourselves Christians , that “…an interreligious dialogue in the strict sense of the term is not possible…”, though he agreed that an intercultural dialogue is possible and necessary.

This raises questions. If the “major religions” once had a common root:

1. What made the root split apart?
2. Is a dialogue impossible, because the Catholic or Neo-Christian Church was created by Western powers to impose on the East values that serve the interests of the West only?
3. Did the patriarch not see the Pope because he wanted their dialogue to be an “intercultural dialog”, because an “interreligious” dialogue was not possible? (Thus, admitting that there had been a civil war between the two over history.)
4. Which version of history will Russia turn to?
5. Will the Russian Orthodox Church admit that its first leader was called John, and that Jesus is Johnny-come-lately?

(More to follow.)

P.S. The Latvian political elite did not miss out on their year end bonuses. Do not expect “patriotic” self-sacrifice from this quarter. [Y]anno 2009!

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