Thursday, September 4, 2014

Power Tripping

"It ain't no joke I'd like to buy the world a toke
And teach the world to sing in perfect harmony" ~ Smash Mouth

When I was a little kid in the early 1970's, my folks always kept one of those large, white, leather-bound, coffee-table edition, family bibles in our living room.  That's how I remember it anyway, with a picture of Jesus on the front cover.

Unless I'm mistaken, it was also partially illustrated, or contained some vivid illustrations.  Being a curious youth and an avid reader, I poked my nose into it often.  As a bonus, this also served the dual purpose of guaranteeing an approving reaction from my mom.  I have some intense tactile memories surrounding the book that are quite clear.  I remember that I used to like the heft and feel of the big volume.  It gave the tome an undeniable air of importance in my small hands.  The feel of the pages, and the noise they made when large sections of them would thump together, as a result of my manipulation, has stayed with me as well. After skipping around for a bit, I would usually settle in and start at the beginning.  At that age particularly, the thrilling stories contained within the Book of Genesis had the ability to hold my attention and prompt my questions.  Questions, which were often asked only in my head.

I couldn't get enough of the 'Garden of Eden' story, imagining myself constantly surrounded by friendly animals in a lush, tropical setting.  Likewise, the story of 'Noah and the Flood' provided me with mountains of imagination fodder. But, it was the tale of the 'Tower of Babel' which truly fascinated me.

Genesis 11:1-9 New International Version (NIV)
The Tower of Babel
1 Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. 2 As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. 3 They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” 5 But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. 6 The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” 8 So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. 9 That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.

It bears mentioning at this point, that to my young mind, there existed no extra-biblical sources of information beyond the country pulpit.  We had five television channels, Mom and Dad, relatives, older-siblings, and friends from which to draw further inspiration and information.  I didn't know one iota about the existence of apocryphal texts, Masoretic texts, the Talmud, commentaries, other religions, etc.  When reading the text, my brain was processing it all in the most literalistic, exoteric manner possible.

These nine verses have historically been pondered for many reasons, including the Tower's possible location, the penalty for hubris, whether or not it's possible to build a brick structure that could reach heaven itself, the identity of God's apparent companion(s), and the origin and migration of people, language and culture.  These concerns are interesting to be sure, but not what kept my attention.

Instead, it was verse six which resonated greatest with me. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.  That was heady stuff to me.  The concept that there was no limit to what humans working together could accomplish intrigued me greatly.  The fact that God felt threatened enough to act was all the evidence I needed, and I knew it wasn't the first time:

Genesis 3 New International Version (NIV)
21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”

It all seemed to hint at a hidden power.  Humankind could potentially live forever and accomplish anything!  

As the rest of my life passed, I continued to contemplate Genesis 11:6.  I considered the nature of human power throughout each experience, including parent/child/sibling/friendship dynamics, employer/employee relationships on both sides, street fights, sporting competitions of all types,  hunting various species in various environments, testing myself against nature, romantic relationships, military service, running a large sales force,  public speaking, entertainment, and trying to quit smoking among a myriad of others.  I've often heard it said that, "Knowledge is Power."  Although I will concede that knowledge is potential power, in a broader sense, I disagree.  Rather, I trust and understand the definition that I was first exposed to in Genesis 11:6; a definition, which has proven reliable through 50 years of life.

Power = Organized Effort

My personal experiences aside, there are plenty of well known, historic examples possible to provide.

Remember that time a country about the size of the State of Oregon nearly conquered the world?

Gandhi uses passive resistance, eventually achieving complete independence from British rule.

Lech Walesa spearheaded the concept of Solidarity:  an independent trade union movement in Poland that developed into a mass campaign for political change and inspired popular opposition to communist regimes across eastern Europe during the 1980s.

As I say, that list is endless.  It takes but a moment's consideration to realize that this concept operates on multiple levels and existential planes.  The power dynamic that concerns us most today, of course, is the relationship between the super-rich, ruling elite class, less than 1%, versus the great majority of the human population, 99% plus.

When you ask yourself the question, why does the majority consent to this tiny minority ruling and controlling them in ways they find undesirable and less than optimal, you must realize that more than mere money is necessary to accomplish this on a continuous basis.  This type of incredible power and perpetual control by a select few requires an extreme level of organized effort.  How could it reasonably be otherwise?

So, while particular 'conspiracy theorists' may well be crazy (and surely offered up for your consumption as such), and specifically inaccurate, in general they are not wrong.  In every power situation, conspiracy is required by definition.  I liken it to 'uninformed consent,' but maybe misinformed is more accurate.

As in the Genesis 11:6 example, our earthly lords are afraid of something.  "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them."  

Can you not step back even briefly, and see how institutions like the media are used to promote continual disharmony?  Often you will see this disguised brilliantly as freedom of choice.  It's Republican or Democrat, Black or White, Christian or Muslim, male or female, gay or straight, tastes great or less-filling, and we're all part of it.  All this division is also packaged as a cooperative process, crazily enough.  It's like when the War Department changed its name to the Defense Department...get it?  "Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

There are some questions we must ask one another:  How do we get people to love each other? How do we get them to realize that their success is my success, and your success? How do we all move together in a direction that leads to a better world?  How do we organize our efforts and regain our power?

I've got some hard won answers to those questions, and I'll detail them in upcoming posts.  You're probably not going to like them, and rest assured, if/when those with the power ever perceive us as a true threat, they will do everything they can to 'scatter us across the face of the earth.'

Dave ~ Thanks for your time.  I hope we get to know each other better.