Apocalypse Pop

[Book of] Revelation is must reading nowadays, especially for the nonbeliever. I have returned to it, many years after abandoning the above-mentioned childhood faith, not because I think it is inspired prophecy, there being in my opinion no such thing, but because many other people (including many I'd grant are "good" people) think that it is. And because some of them think this piece of Holy Scripture somehow justifies ongoing imperialist war, which they (with their commander-in-chief) conceptualize religiously as a war of Good versus Evil. And because that conviction causes believers to support, on faith, Bush's efforts to remold the Middle East in the way the neocons (who are overwhelmingly not fundamentalist Christians, but who assiduously court them) want to do it. One should read Revelation to see how it can be used, and to see what sort of worldview the book encourages.

It is truly a godsend to those in the administration who want to transform the Muslim world, acquiring strategic control over Southwest Asia while enhancing Israel's security situation, that a considerable portion of the U.S. population consists of persons who take the book seriously. The neocons and patrons manipulate the Christian devout who adulate Ariel Sharon like a rock star, believe Israel (miraculously reconstituted half a century ago, in fulfillment of Ezekiel 37:12-14) can do no wrong, have little concern about Arabs' rights, and think Islam is a teaching of the Devil. Rev. Jerry Falwell calls the Prophet Muhammed a "terrorist." Rev. Franklin Graham calls Islam "a wicked, evil religion" and says its God is not the Christians' God. These reverends' followers are very useful supporters of the war on the human mind that is the "war on terrorism," the focus of which shifted so swiftly from al-Qaeda to Iraq (alike in little save their Muslimness), and could shift to Syria or Iran or Pakistan suddenly tomorrow. When you mix the anti-Islam pronouncements with Bush policy decisions and millenarian faith, you have an explosive combination.

I thought this was a striking article "Apocalypse Now: Why the Book of Revelations is Must Reading," reflecting on Bush's pandering to the apocalyptic fanatics and such. Also it linked to this insane prophetic/war type page. Also the PBS page "frontline: apocalypse!" has a number of serious scholarly perspectives. I also ended up at Frederick Engels' "On the History of Early Christianity," which had some weird excerpts:

We therefore see that the Christianity of that time, which was still unaware of itself, was as different as heaven from earth from the later dogmatically fixed universal religion of the Nicene Council; one cannot be recognized in the other. Here we have neither the dogma nor the morals of later Christianity but instead a feeling that one is struggling against the whole world and that the struggle will be a victorious one; an eagerness for the struggle and a certainty of victory which are totally lacking in Christians of today and which are to be found in our time only at the other pole of society, among the Socialists.

In fact, the struggle against a world that at the beginning was superior in force, and at the same time against the novators themselves, is common to the early Christians and the Socialists. Neither of these two great movements were made by leaders or prophets -- although there are prophets enough among both of them -- they are mass movements. And mass movements are bound to be confused at the beginning; confused because the thinking of the masses at first moves among contradictions, lack of clarity and lack of cohesion, and also because of the role that prophets still play in them at the beginning. This confusion is to be seen in the formation of numerous sects which right against one another with at least the same zeal as against the common external enemy. So it was with early Christianity, so it was in the beginning of the socialist movement, no matter how much that worried the well-meaning worthies who preached unity where no unity was possible.
So here it is not yet a question of a "religion of love," of "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you," etc. Here undiluted revenge is preached, sound, honest revenge on the persecutors of the Christians. So it is in the whole of the book. The nearer the crisis comes, the heavier the plagues and punishments rain from the heavens and with all the more satisfaction John announces that the mass of humanity will not atone for their sins, that new scourges of God must lash them, that Christ must rule them with a rod of iron and tread the wine-press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God, but that the impious still remain obdurate in their hearts. It is the natural feeling, free of all hypocrisy, that a fight is going on and that -- à la guerre comme à la guerre.

and a footnote worth posting for its oddity... Marxists on Islam, why not:

A peculiar antithesis to this was the religious risings in the Mohammedan world, particularly in Africa. Islam is a religion adapted to Orientals, especially Arabs, i.e., on one hand to townsmen engaged in trade and industry, on the other to nomadic Bedouins. Therein lies, however, the embryo of a periodically recurring collision. The townspeople grow rich, luxurious and lax in the observation of the "law." The Bedouins, poor and bence of strict morals, contemplate with envy and covetousness these riches and pleasures. Then they unite under a prophet, a Mahdi, to chastise the apostates and restore the observation of the ritual and the true faith and to appropriate in recompense the treasures of the renegades. In a hundred years they are naturally in the same position as the renegades were: a new purge of the faith is required, a new Mahdi arises and the game starts again from the beginning. That is what happened from the conquest campaigns of the African Almoravids and Almohads in Spain to the last Mahdi of Khartoum who so successfully thwarted the English. It happened in the same way or similarly with the risings in Persia and other Mohammedan countries. All these movements are clothed in religion but they have their source in economic causes; and yet, even when they are victorious, they allow the old economic conditions to persist untouched. So the old situation remains unchanged and the collision recurs periodically. In the popular risings of the Christian West, on the contrary, the religious disguise is only a flag and a mask for attacks on an economic order which is becoming antiquated. This is finally overthrown, a new one arises and the world progresses.

Dramatic CounterPunch stuff tonight: "The Rise of Global Resistance" by Omar Barghouti. Rather top-to-bottom leftie roundup of this that and the other thing, etc, etc....

If the fall of the Berlin Wall signaled the decisive beginning of the end of the East-West opposition, the illegal, immoral and criminal war on Iraq, waged by the new Rome of our time, might well announce the baptism of a new world community opposed to empire, any empire, and based on the precepts of evolving international law, human rights and the common principles of universal morality that are emerging.

Almost everyone with conscience fears and resents the megalomaniac cult sitting on the throne in Washington. It is the product of a strategic alliance between the omnipotent military-industrial complex (with a lion's share for the oil industry), the fundamentalist-Christian and the Zionist ideologies. It is a cult that has amassed colossal financial, political and media power, enough to rekindle its deep-rooted disposition and ambition to become the master of the universe. A century and a half after officially abolishing slavery in the U.S., the new-old masters have a diabolic agenda to resurrect it, except this time on a worldwide scale.

Being able to detect this phenomenon, a great majority of nations, including an impressively increasing number of conscientious and mentally-liberated Americans, wish to see this cult of "neo-conservatives" and its agenda humbled, at the very least, if not altogether defeated.
At the very heart of this strategy is control over oil supplies. Robert E. Ebel, director of the energy program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington think tank whose advisers include Kissinger and Brzezinski, among other dignitaries, explains: "Oil fuels military power, national treasuries, and international politics. It is no longer a commodity to be bought and sold within the confines of traditional energy supply and demand balances. Rather, it has been transformed into a determinant of well-being, of national security, and of international power."
The rest of the world truly hopes that Americans may themselves rise up to the occasion and renounce the empire from within; that they may opt for the status of relatively less privileged citizens of a more just and peaceful world, rather than the loathed masters of a bludgeoned, bullied, and oppressed world; that they may shed their role as uncritical, even submissive, subjects of a reviled, racist and morally bankrupt empire. With conscientious Americans on board, the world has a chance to defeat the mad beast with nuclear fangs, before it takes us all under. With concerted mobilization and global activism, we may well celebrate one day the withering away of empire.

"Iraq, According to Edgar Allen Poe: Now it's coffin bombs in Baghdad," a column from Iraq by Robert Fisk. "The Dogma of Richard Perle" is an interesting piece because I have absolutely no idea why this was written, a free-floating polemic, if you will.

This article in CounterPunch poses the idea that there is no neutral position available in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I'm not sure if that's really an honest thing to say, but I can certainly see where the "neutral" media fuzzes things out and legitimizes them.

[Rabbi Michael Lerner of Tikkun] also has a puzzling tendency ­ puzzling for someone clinging to the middle ­ to refer to the Palestinians as "the Other". Although he uses the term in a friendly context ­ of having respect for "the Other" for instance ­ the terminology actually gives away the true nature of his neutrality. No matter how conciliatory, Lerner clearly deep down thinks of himself and Israel as residing on "this" side of that imaginary middle path between "us" and "them", and therefore his first interest is Israel.
The immorality of the center is that this middle path has helped create a deathly silence about the destruction of lives and property that goes on every day in the occupied territories. Because they refuse to see realities on the ground, centrists cannot even imagine the scale of the oppression that Palestinians face at Israel's hands. They cannot imagine the grotesque miscarriage of justice represented by taking a middle position between the oppressor and the oppressed. The checkpoints, the roadblocks, the sniper shootings, the aerial bombardments, the assassinations, the settlements and Israeli-only bypass roads, the land confiscations, the bulldozing of olive groves, the demolition of homes and entire residential neighborhoods, the foul labyrinth of walls and fences that have imprisoned entire Palestinian villages, halted all movement, separated farmers from farmland, children from schools, the sick from hospitals, brothers from brothers: all of these separate aspects of Israel's oppressive system, and the magnitude of their totality, have escaped the rosy view of those who only follow a middle way. Their silence and averted gaze grease the wheels of oppression and are in no way balanced by the occasional suicide bombing.

Their silence clears the way for ever greater Israeli violence, making it easier for Israel to swallow more of Palestine while the world looks elsewhere. Certainly the centrists are not alone responsible for enabling continued Israeli oppression; they are themselves fighting a valiant uphill struggle against vocal mainstream pro-Israeli sentiment on the near right and the far right, among Jewish organizations, Christian fundamentalists, the media, and politicians of both major parties. But the peace movement represents a substantial minority voice that could have a major place in public discourse if only it would speak out against oppression. Its determination merely to be a voice of sweetness and light, rarely criticizing, always accentuating the positive, severely diminishes its own impact and allows Israel to be wanton while the rest of the world is silent.
Public discourse in general, and many in the vocal pro-Israel community in particular, are tuning in to the public relations benefits of appearing balanced and open to the Palestinians. The rightwing pro-Israel advocacy group The Israel Project, led by Republican consultants Frank Luntz and Jennifer Lazlo Mizrahi, has recently been holding seminars to train activists in how to get the Israeli message across most effectively and is emphasizing the importance of being optimistic and not demonizing the Palestinians. It's hard to distinguish this kind of false, deliberately deceptive appearance of "balance" from the balance advocated by the centrists of the peace movement, and in terms of how the situation on the ground plays out, there is no difference. As it works out in actuality, neutrality is an endorsement, at least implicit and often explicit, of all Israel's policies; it results in a virtually total obliviousness to how those policies affect Palestinians, their daily lives, and their national prospects. Centrist peace activists have helped make this possible.

I blame the media more than the activists, really. It is hard to keep perspective in such a dizzying topic, but then again, isn't this article rather dogmatically claiming that a spectrum of acceptable positions doesn't even exist, and yet again the writer is the only one who can pick out the Safe Spot?? Sounds like a copout to me.

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