THE REPARENTING REVOLUTION
In summary form, it could be said, for primitives, the End of the World has already occurred….Myths of cosmic cataclysms are extremely widespread. They tell how the World was destroyed and mankind annihilated except for a single couple or a few survivors.
Mircea Eliade, Myth and Reality p. 54
Man must have ben subjected to some particularly overwhelming experiences to have been led to introduce such cruel practices into his life.
Adolphe E. Jensen,The Violence of the Sacred, Rene Girard p. 93
… … …
1. WHO ARE YOU OR I TO CHANGE THE WORLD
Tell people that you’re writing a book and the first question out of their mouths is: “What’s it about.”
The answer: “It’s about our birthright of unconditional love and how we can change the world by giving it to each other.”
At this point most people’s response is: “Wow, that sounds awesome.”
Without knowing it, much less stopping to think about it, people have just been zapped by three profundities.
Unconditional love is our birthright.
We can give it to each other.
And by giving it to each other we can change the world.
People know what you mean by changing the world. You won’t get an argument there. I’ve never heard anyone say, “The world’s fine the way it is. Why fix it if it’s not broken?” Except, perhaps, my son when he was living the charmed life of a ten year old. In general people have a sinking awareness of a broken world. Start with your personal life. My boss is a bully. My partner cheats. My kid uses drugs. I lost my home. Move on to the community. Traffic is murder. I got mugged. My priest molested me. My councilman is on the take. Turn to the nation. Healthcare legislation hijacked by the industry it is intended to reform. Wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria. Jobs moving abroad. A bankrupt treasury. Last but not least the world. World poverty. Terrorism. Eco-disaster.
Is that all? You must be wondering what we have got ourselves into! This vast, complex world is a handful – even for those into whose hands we have entrusted it. How can we go about changing it without getting in over our heads? Where do we begin? Is it not better left alone? And who am I, or you, or anybody else to dare to change the world?
Who am I? Look in the mirror. I am made in your likeness. My needs are your needs. I want family, community, a better life for my kids. I want freedom to live my passion and follow my bliss. I want to be able to say life is fair because society is just. I want people to live in harmony with the music in their hearts. I want peace on earth.
There are billions of us, wanting the same things out of life, all instantly relatable to each other. We know who we are. The question is not who am I or you to change the world. The question is who are all those who would keep it as it is? Who are those who have their signals crossed, who love the world unconditionally as it is, instead of the people in it? Who are those enamored of a society designed like the poles of a magnet, its lines of force eternally polarized between those who take all they can get and those taken for everything they have got? Who are those so accepting of a world of conflict and strife that they run about preaching that greed is healthy, competition breeds excellence, punishment is the antidote to crime, poverty is a sign of moral bankruptcy, the wealth pyramid is a tribute to survival of the fittest, and war is a way of settling human differences?
2. TWEEDLEDUMB VS. TWEEDLEDUMBER
Change doesn’t occur in a vacuum. There is a word for the atmosphere in which it breathes, the element in which it lives. Contrast. It is not the cinematic contrast between good guys and bad guys. It is a real-life contrast between how bad things are – and how good they could be. Could you even know how bad things are in the present if you have no way of knowing how good they were in the past or how great they could be in the future? Without that contrast there is no basis for transitioning from one to the other.
In fact, the more glaring the contrast, the more urgent the need for change. The brighter the future we envision, the dimmer our view of the present. The clearer we see what a wonderful world it could be for every one of us, the weaker our attachment to the views of those who want it to be a wonderful world for them alone. For consumers it is all about chasing after flashy promises of new and improved. For voters, it is all about settling for the dubious claim that we already have the best system available. In fact, if you want to fence people in with the status quo in perpetuity, just hypnotize them into believing that the grass is always going to be brown, dry and withered on the other side.
Paradoxically, then, the study in contrasts can work against change just as it can work in favor of it. In fact, when the contrast is framed in less than flattering terms, it can serve as one of the greatest stumbling blocks to progress. If a particular system works well for the benefit of a particular class, why wouldn’t it do everything in its power to convince us that this is as good as it gets? If most of its capital is invested in the belief that this is the best of all possible worlds, why shouldn’t it promote the idea that any other world would be a step down or a step backward? What is more subversive than for the gilded allure of one political system to be tarnished in comparison to another? That is why our political system often acts like Snow White’s stepmother in front of the talking mirror – it cannot tolerate the thought that ours is not the fairest and best system on the planet, and flies into murderous tantrums at the possibility of something better out there.
How’s that for Lady Liberty behaving like an autocratic Queen! But then again, Helen Keller saw through her melodramatics long ago. “Our democracy is but a name. We vote? What does that mean? It means that we choose between two bodies of real, though not avowed, autocrats. We choose between Tweedledum and Tweedledee.”
For voters it is one-size-fits-all. For the powers that be it is one standard for them and one for everyone else. Politicians play fast and loose but one standard they adhere to unfailingly is the double standard. They are gung-ho for wars on dark-skinned peoples, demonized as the forces of darkness. When it comes to the age-old conflict known as class warfare, they run and hide like gutless wonders behind a front of pacifism. They are the Hanoi Janes of the anti-class-war movement, posing for photo-ops on tanks and aircraft carriers while providing aid and comfort to the real enemy – the money power that has done more grievous harm to the American way of life than any Evil Empire.
Politicians are the leading conscientious objectors of class warfare. They send our children to fight the Iraqi or Afghani people, even as they dodge their sworn duty to defend the health, welfare and educational advancement of the American people. They deplore the appeasement policy towards a dictator supposedly bent on world conquest, even as they spinelessly appease the imperialism of money in that relentless march to take over the world that is politely referred to as globalization. They display the vengeful fury of an Old Testament god when it comes to hounding petty criminals who steal from the private till, and display a forgiving spirit worthy of a New Testament god when it comes to corporate scofflaws who loot the public treasury. Nowhere it seems do our public servants practice Christian charity with greater zeal than on behalf of the superrich. If robber barons take the people’s coat, politicians are ready to offer them the people’s cloak as well. That is how you wind up with a class of have-it-alls and a class of have-nothings.
In the meantime, as the controlled media filters out all meaningful alternatives to a system of plutocracy that is rigged to get bigger and stronger with each passing decade, democracy turns into a game of make-believe where the object is for the players to fight to win by acting as if the only choice on the table is between a greater and a lesser evil.
Most families who get by – paying the bills, putting aside a little extra for college – know there is room for improvement before life can be as good as it gets. Invite them to get off their chests what ails them and out of their mouths flies a veritable Pandora’s box of ills. But the hope at the bottom of their hearts is always the same. It is the hope that there is more to life than the struggle to hold it together. And the only reason they can even bellyache about this world is because in their gut they know a better one is possible.
Yet in a free-market democracy that boasts a numbing array of choices between coffee and toothpaste brands, the daily range of choices for many Americans narrows down to having their houses foreclosed or their cars repossessed. To filling their bellies or their prescriptions. To being out of work with no money to feed and shelter their families or being worked to death with no time to pay attention to their kids, much less nurture the birth of new life. To burning out on a job that pays the bills or being fired up by one that leaves them unsure of where the next paycheck is coming from. To battling terrorists who blow up our infrastructure or fighting bureaucrats who let it fall apart. To voting for a party that lets corporations get away with first degree murder or one that lets them get away with murder in the second. To electing a president who brazenly rapes the American people or one who seduces them with sweet nothings and then betrays them.
Is this the best we can hope to do in the home of the Declaration of Independence and the land of the Bill of Rights? Always having to settle for a lesser of two evils instead of having the freedom and the courage to go after the incontestably greater good?
Instinctively we know better. We cannot keep choosing between shades of evil and expect to show up in our best light. As long as we go on navigating between two more or less equally hazardous wrongs, we are never going to steer the world in the right direction. Life doesn’t have to be lived between a rock and a hard spot. It can be lived between an oasis and a safe harbor – a cozy fireplace and a calming spa. We don’t have to be caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. We can be torn between sunbathing in a garden of earthly delights and snorkeling in a coral garden under the sea. We may not know exactly how to get from here to there. But in our heart of hearts we know that here simply cannot be all there is. And there life is everything it can be, and then some.
3. DOMINATING THROUGH EMOTIONAL JUJITSU
As soon as you plump for a world brimming with joy and abundance, the anti-change folks swarm out of the woodwork. The naysayers go by various aliases but the one they like best is conservative. Resistance to change is their middle name. They may scandalize the world by cheating on their spouse but they are unswervingly faithful to the status quo. They would do anything to keep things as they are – or jolly them along in a direction where a minuscule fraction of humanity grabs ever larger swaths of our planet earth, while ever larger swaths of humanity are left clinging to a minuscule fraction of it. Of course, this flies in the face of all commonsense and decency. In a study of primates, researchers found that capuchin monkeys have a built-in sense of equalitarian fairness. If two monkeys get the same reward for a task, all is well. If one monkey is given a less desirable commodity like a cucumber in exchange for a pebble, while another gets a more desirable commodity like a grape without having to hand over a pebble, the body language of the shortchanged monkey is a study in outrage. Hence the age-old dilemma of the ruling class. They must take a social order that would offend even a monkey’s sense of justice and try every which way to pass it off as the natural order of things.
For a long time their favorite trick was to convince us they are in a superhuman class by themselves. They boasted a special connection to chimerical beings known as gods. These imaginary friends in sky-high places gave them the right to imperiously help themselves to everybody’s share of the common wealth. Even as times changed and they were forced to disown their high-born connection to gods, they couldn’t quite bring themselves to own their visceral interconnectedness with the rest of humankind. Royalty of blood gave way to the royalty of money. And while the power structure moved away from the myth that a few people known as kings or priests have a special affinity to gods, its repressive laws and punitive order continue to rest firmly on the myth that a few people known as criminals have a special affinity to demons or brutes. Lawgivers are no longer deified, but lawbreakers are still demonized. One myth down, and one to go!
You have to hand it to them. If a make-believe theology of kinship to gods no longer serves as the foundation of realpolitik, why then, the next best thing is to take the all too real biology of kinship that underlies the brotherhood of man and pooh-pooh it as an unattainable mirage! They can’t get away with affirming the divine right of kings any more, but they still get a lot of mileage out of denying our birthright of human kindness.
Why do you think that is? Born as we are with bonding mechanisms, it is with human beings we are meant to bond, not deities. When it comes to the glue that holds society together, a schizoid bond with the gods has outlived its usefulness, but we still haven’t gotten around to putting our natural capacity for prosocial bonding to good use. You have to be deluded in a clinical sense to believe you are some sort of god, set over and above your kind – and yet those who, on the strength of this mental delusion, stratified society for ages and passed themselves off as elites, are not certified as madmen but coronated as monarchs. And what about those who see society as an extension of the neighborly love and communal solidarity that springs from our common humanity? Why, it is customary to this day to dismiss them as kooks and crackpots, cranks and hippies!
We may get a superiority complex from looking down on our fellow man from a height, but if we don’t get off our high horse we can never relate to each other as honest-to-goodness human beings. It may be tempting to have such inordinate wealth that we go through life without our feet ever touching the ground, but if we don’t climb down from our Pegasus we can never come down to earth, much less live in the ground of our being. We are taught to think of the poetry of love, the song and dance of togetherness, as belonging to an airy, impractical realm. In reality, the hooves of Pegasus have to strike the earth for our rock-hard defenses to shatter and the heartsprings of our humanity to flow.
Astronomy tells us the earth is round. Our psychobiology tells us it is a round table where no one has an edge over anyone else. And then there are those who tell us: Life is no Arthurian fable. It is a jungle with top dogs and underdogs. In our heart we know if we got in touch with the ground of our humanity, we would discover a level playing field. And then there are those who tell us: Get your head out of the clouds and grow up! We trust we can all happily coexist if we meet our need for nurture, understanding, respect. And then there are those who tell us: Come down to earth and take your lumps. And this from the same crowd that for thousands of years justified its dominance of land and sea by hanging on to the coattails of a fantastic horde of imaginary beings in the sky!
What does it say about the eminent people of history that ordinary people cannot fall victim to delusions of grandeur, and see themselves as fantastically wealthy, powerful or famous, without being diagnosed as mad? The psych wards are full of people with see themselves as incarnations of gods, as one of the dii majores of history, like Napoleon, Christ or Superman. And we are the deluded ones for envisioning humanity as one!
And there you have it. Nothing is stronger than our need as humans to bond, to create community, to be part of the larger family of man. But once the power structure is longer be buttressed by celestial castles in the clouds, or beholden to figments of its own imagination, the only other way for it to bring humanity under its heel is by using our greatest strengths against us. And so out of the abiding need to be thought well of by our kind, we are misled into going along with a system that serves our kind so ill. Out of the abiding need to be accepted by our friends and neighbors, we are tricked into accepting a system that rules us by pitting us against our friends and neighbors. Out of the abiding need to fit in and not be judged as childish or puerile, we are pressured to fall out of alignment with our humanity and lose the very qualities that make us so precious and beautiful as children – our innocence and playfulness, our spontaneity and vulnerability.
Boy, do they have our number! We don’t want anyone thinking we’re not right in the head for espousing peace and love. We try hard to look sane, sober-minded, sensible. And what do we get for our trouble? A society effectively run by insane people for insane objectives!1 We want nothing more than to live in a world lit up smiles and lightened by laughter of children. For that we are branded a laughingstock. And then it turns out in order to avoid being made fun of, there is no limit to the misery we are willing to endure!
4. HANGING THE STANDARD OF HUMANITY UPSIDE DOWN
How do we put traditional stereotypes to the test? Is there something starry-eyed about a society as a communal family whose members mutually support each other and meet dependency needs? Is there something sensible or practical about a society where life is a do-it-yourself project and people can only be babied and coddled at great danger to their moral fiber and hence must be cast adrift to raise themselves by their bootstraps?
No deep political analyses are needed. All we have to do is home in on the relationship between the self and other. In a world at peace and harmony, the relationship is one of bondedness and intimacy. We live and let live by being alive to our feelings. Mutual trust comes from a free exchange of sympathy. Mutual understanding springs from a free flow of empathy. Happiness arises from a lowering barriers on the supply and demand of precious commodities like attention, kindness, support and good will. Altruism is the height of self-interest, since by fulfilling others’ needs we naturally fulfill our own.
What is the original template for this relationship? Our birth experience. We come into this world to be nestled in close proximity to bodies that nurture and cherish us. Insofar as these caregivers give us room to feel, to live and grow up in tune with our needs and instincts, our mother is the founding mother of a state of peace and harmony. Insofar as they respond appropriately to our cries, and make it safe to deepen our attachments and heighten the joys of sharing and caring, our father is the founding father of a civilized state of being. For “civilization, is before all, the will to live in common.”2
Is this state of symbiosis really pie in the sky? Or is it not the very foundation of our humanness? Does this capacity for bonding and caring make society unstable and impractical? Or is it not at the core of our mental stability as sociable beings? Is our capacity for tenderness and empathy airy-fairy? Or is it not the very essence of the quality that grounds us in our humanity and enables us to realize our potential as human beings?
Then there is another sort of relationship. If you want to call the first sort lovey-dovey, it is only fair to call the second achy-breaky. For if the first speaks to the integrity of the family of man, the second has broken home written all over it. It is marked by a disintegration of bonding mechanisms – a disastrous breakdown in belonging. The self is closed off to the other. It is as if the other does not exist or its existence does not count. There is no shared feeling of support, no mutual rapport. The self single-mindedly pursue its interests with supreme indifference to the happiness and well-being of the other.
Where is the original template for this relationship? Once again, our birth experience. But it isn’t the one we signed on for. We are not born to be rejected, neglected or abandoned. We don’t come to cry ourselves to sleep, far from the lulling beat of another heart, or to peer out forlornly from behind the bars of a crib, never to be picked up and carried. We don’t come to be pushed around or picked on, beaten or browbeaten, tortured or terrorized. Insofar as our caregivers force us to suspend the laws of our constitution and silence our cries of protest to survive, our mother is the founding mother of a police state. Insofar as we are left high and dry in a place where we don’t seem to exist, or our existence doesn’t count, our father is the founding father of a state of barbarism. “A man is uncivilized or barbarian in the degree in which he doesn’t take others into account.”3
What about a barbaric tendency to dissociation makes it a model of political sanity? Can the basis of social order be a Robinson Crusoe insularity where it’s each man for himself? Is this what it means to be true to life – to be living a lie, disconnected from our life force? Is this what it means to be a realist – to be an unrealized being, out of touch with our authentic self? Is this what it means to be down to earth – to be too stunted in our psychological growth to let paradise flourish on earth? Is this what it means to have both feet on the ground – to be too emotionally crippled to stand in our ground of being?
How can this topsy-turvy reversal pass itself off as the norm? Feeding our core need for closeness, connection, community – this is an exercise in futility, doomed by its sheer impracticality? But the bleak horror of inner fragmentation and outer dissociation, the stark emptiness of discord and desolation – that is how humanity is supposed to live? Such a bizarre inversion of values could never have occurred in the natural course of events. It goes too much against the grain of our heart and soul. Some terrible thing must have caused humanity to flip its core reality on its head. It is a signal of distress – a sign of dire emergency – to hang Old Glory upside down. So, too, the flagship values that are the glory of our species could only have been turned upside down in response to a catastrophic distress – a dire emergency from which our species has yet to fully recover.
5. THE CRACK-UP OF SPACESHIP EARTH
A few decades ago a plane crashed in the Andes with members of a rugby team aboard. There were 29 survivors. Severe injuries, an avalanche, and the exigencies of high altitude survival, whittled the number to 16. For water they melted snow. Food was a harder nut to crack. Even with strict rationing, food stocks dwindled and soon ran out. There was no vegetation to gather or animals to hunt. And the news on the radio ruled out hope of rescue. The search for survivors had been abandoned. In the grip of maddening hunger they started thinking of eating leather from plane seats and stuffing from cushions. When that proved hard to swallow they succumbed and ate their dead companions. It was not an easy decision by any means. They were making a meal of classmates, colleagues. Only the direst life-and-death emergency could induce them to overcome their instinctual revulsion and visceral horror. Their desperate plight drove them to it. And so a decent, law-abiding group crossed the line and broke one of mankind’s greatest taboos.
Here is the key to cracking the mystery of evil. Dire emergencies overcome our kindness instinct and drive us to do things that fly in the face of our humanity. A conscious state is our default setting – but a terrible blow to the head can cause us to lose consciousness. Our conscience is something we naturally live by – but a terrible blow to our survival can cause us to lapse into unconscionable behavior. Armed with a working knowledge of this principle, we can ditch the whole calculus of blame and judgment. Every human being has a limit, which means our capacity to be human has limits beyond which it cannot be overloaded or overtaxed without breaking down. Abnormal acts stem from a breakdown of normality. Inhuman acts demand dehumanizing levels of duress.
We can call this Mayday morality. Mayday is a word used by mariners and aviators to signal distress. It comes from a French phrase, venez m’aider. In plain English: “Come help me!” Mayday is the international cry for help – a cry to be rescued from a life-threatening emergency. If it is answered in time, humans can escape with their lives and dignity intact. It is only when the cry for a helping hand goes unanswered that things can get out hand. Victims are reduced to coping with their plight as best they can. That is when they resort to actions that violate human norms, and may seem unthinkable or unspeakable to those in cushier circumstances. From the standpoint of the victims, they are no evil deeds – there are just last-ditch strategies for preserving the mind and body.
Cannibalism is a perfect catchall metaphor for a wide variety of inhuman behaviors that involve preying on our kind, in one guise or other. History is a litany of abominations that conform, more or less, to cannibalistic patterns of behavior. Rituals of blood sacrifice. Rites of passage through the belly of the monster. A bloodthirsty compulsion to war. Life-sucking practices institutionalized in slavery. The traditional rationale for these gruesome acts of butchery and exploitation is that they are necessary to save society from a worse fate. Do they not cry out to be explained by a Mayday mindset? Are they not dire examples of a Mayday Morality that beg to be understood against the backdrop of an earth-shattering emergency, a universal crack-up involving the entire human race?
A month or two after the Andean plane crash, something serendipitous put it all into perspective. Apollo 17 sent back an iconic picture of the Earth known as the “Blue Marble”. It became one of the most widely disseminated images in existence, giving rise to metaphors of our planet as a spaceship carrying all humanity as passengers aboard it.
The sports team aboard the twin turboprop airplane assumed that their passage through a desolate, inhospitable stretch of the Andes would be uneventful. Not in their wildest dreams did they think they would crash land there under circumstances that would lead to unthinkable acts of horror. They were much like passengers on Spaceship Earth in this regard. We take it for granted that our passage through the inhospitable wasteland of space will be an uneventful one – and for centuries it may have been so. But Spaceship Earth has been going around the celestial block for far too long for disastrous accidents not to happen. The odds are that at some point an extraterrestrial object – like say, a comet – ran smack dab into the earth’s orbit. The resulting smash-up would have wiped out most of the human species. Only a handful of victims would have survived under horrific circumstances not unlike those faced by the Andean survivors.
Ur-survivors went on to cope with their trauma through a range of deranged acts that verged on madness and depravity. As abhorrent as these crimes were, they signaled a Mayday morality. And central to this Mayday morality is the belief that the sins of our ancestors were responsible for the cataclysmic Doom visited on them, instead of simply being a coping response to it. Though guilt and blame loom large in every Doomsday scenario, it is like saying that God sent Flight 571 careening into an Andean mountain to punish the Old Christian Club rugby team aboard for the abominable sin of cannibalism!
6. SYMPTOMS OF PTSD LEFT UNTREATED IN PERPETUITY
Flash forward four decades from the Andes Flight Disaster in the fall of 1972. On a spring day in 2012, a meteor exploded high above the Sierra foothills of Northern California with a third of the explosive force of the Hiroshima bomb. The Weather Service reported a sonic boom heard across Northern California and even as far south as Orange County. Fragments were strewn west of the area where gold was first discovered at Sutter’s Mill – setting off a modern-day gold rush among geologists and meteorite-hunters.
Flash backwards six decades from the Andean Flight Disaster. On a summer day in 1908, a fireball brighter than the sun, trailing massive dust clouds, exploded over the Siberian taiga. Its force was a thousand times greater than Hiroshima. The column of fire that arose from the earth was 1000 miles wide. Reaching a height of over 12 miles, it could be seen 250 miles away. The blast stripped, blackened and flattened the forest 45 miles from the epicenter, singeing peoples’ clothes and knocking them unconscious up to 62 miles away. It blew over men and horses at distances of up to 155 miles. The jolt forced an engine driver on the Trans-Siberian Railway to halt his train 375 miles away.
Both these events have something in common. They occurred in an age of mass communications. The 2012 meteor was a modest one as meteors go. Its impact was confined to the State of California. But newspapers and television, the Internet and cell phones disseminated the news of it all over the world. The impact of the Tunguska meteor was much wider. It was the dawn of the age of mass communication. The newspaper, the telegraph, the radio, and perhaps the telephone could broadcast it all over the world.
But what if a meteor or a comet hit the earth five, ten, fifteen thousand years ago? We’re not talking a preindustrial age here. We are talking a prehistoric age, long before books or newspapers – perhaps even before the invention of writing. The magnitude of the event meant that all of humanity was a first-hand witness to it. People wouldn’t need big-screen TVs to see it in a wide range of time zones. It was projected on the biggest screen of all – the heavens. They didn’t watch it from the safety of their living rooms. They were directly in the path of the celestial fireball, bright enough to be mistaken for a second sun. As it hurtles towards the earth, its long, blowing, glowing tail wraps itself around the planet like the giant plumed serpent Quetzalcoatl. Trees and forests burst into flame. Lakes and rivers boil and evaporate. Rocks glow and shatter in the terrible heat.
Instead of a blast area of a thousand square miles, resembling a butterfly, the damage zone could conceivably resemble a T Rex, well over a half million square miles. Tunguska is estimated to be in the 40-100 megaton range. There have been dozens of impacts in the 100-1000 range in the past 5000 years… even a few in the 100-1000 megaton range.4 Can you imagine the scale of devastation? Instead of a few people awoken by a sonic boom you have pandemonium on a universal scale and intensity that is only faintly conveyed by the ritual bullroarers used in the Australian bush. Instead of a few deaths you have die-offs of species. Instead of elusive fragments in the ground, you have craters miles wide, gaseous effluvia spewed into the heavens, drastic changes in sea-level, global tectonic events, magnetic-field reversals, poisoning of the atmosphere and oceans from cyanide in the comet and mass starvation through the prolonged shut-off of sunlight.
We know there were human survivors. A planet of seven billion and counting is proof of that. But what do you think their mental and emotional state would be? Their garden planet lay in ashes, as desolate and hostile to life as the frozen wastes of the Andean flight disaster. The sun is engulfed in darkest night. In the ensuing nuclear winter nothing grows. Despair-stricken survivors are cut off from all hope of rescue because the crash site is not a localized area, but the entire earth itself. There is no way for them to make it except by shedding their inhibitions against cannibalistic behavior and preying on human flesh. What is the prognosis for a species populated by this handful of survivors?
The Andean survivors had an entire world that lay unaffected beyond their crash site that could help them recover. In two months they would get to a hospital to be treated for the physical symptoms of their ordeal, like altitude sickness, scurvy, frostbite, broken bones, dehydration and malnutrition – and to a therapy clinic to be treated for flashbacks and nightmares, depression and other symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Survivors of a world catastrophe could expect no such reprieve. Since no part of the earth remained unscathed, there was no outside world that could be counted on to come to their rescue. It would take years for conditions to a semblance of normality. Though the bodies of survivors might heal in time, there were no communal havens to treat their broken hearts and shattered minds. The chances are that while the physical conditions of their trauma would pass, they would retain the behaviors and ideas symptomatic of their post-traumatic stress disorder and faithfully pass them on in perpetuity.
To pass the torch is a phrase used in the context of enlightenment. The primordial cradle of man is a cosmic conflagration – a fiery doomsday. While the biological mechanism for relieving this ur-trauma is available, there are no therapeutic havens for survivors to avail themselves of it. So the torch passed on is a torch of chaos and conflagration, a torch of madness and terror. It is a torch that burns everything it touches. An apocalyptic fire in the heavens lighted a fire in man’s belly and made man a devouring fire to man, a purveyor of holocausts, burnt offerings and autos-da-fé through the ages.
Now that we know violence is the heart and secret soul of the sacred5, it is time to stop beating around the bush, so to speak, and acknowledge that the ritual violence to which religious man returns time and time again is symptomatic of a compulsion to return to the apocalyptic scene of a cosmic crime. Pioneers like Freud and Jung opened our eyes to the compulsive repetition of childhood trauma. Their counterparts like Boulanger in the 18th, Donnelly in the 19th, and Velikovsky in the 20th century paved the way for us to extend the trail of psychopathology from microcosm to macrocosm – from broken home to the breakdown of our cosmic home – from parental violence to the earth-shattering violence of our terrestrial mother and celestial father. “Terror survives from race to race. The child will dread in perpetuity what frightens his ancestors.” And so yes, return we must to the terror-stricken infancy of our species, but mindfully, not mindlessly this time, to gain a much-needed understanding of what makes man an enfant terrible to man. ￼
1. John Lennon, interview (1968)
2. Jose Ortega y Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses [p. 76]
3. Jose Ortega y Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses [p. 76]
4. The Cosmic Serpent, Victor Clube and Bill Napier [p. 145]
5. Rene Girard, Violence And The Sacred [p. 31]