Friday, December 29, 2006

The Scapegoat

Today, I will take you into a flight of unserious and pointless (though amusing) word-association, something that makes sense only if you lend credence to a link between ancient ritual and modern practice.

In Christianity, one of the names for Jesus is the Lamb of God. This is a reference to the yearly rite the ancient Israelites were supposed to practice to purge Israel of its sins. A lamb, pure and without defect, was sacrificed to atone for the sins of the people of Israel. Then the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies (an inner part of the Temple where even he was not allowed on any other day for any other purpose), and do something that would somehow get God to forgive His People. Jesus death on the cross is supposed to be the reality that the yearly sacrifice of the lamb was meant to symbolize. I'd provide references, but I just don't feel like it. :p

Many people refer to The Lamb without realizing there is a second animal involved in the ritual: a goat. A goat was chosen, and the sins of Israel were metaphorically placed upon this goat. This goat was then driven out into the wilderness, and called the "escaped goat" or "scapegoat." If Jesus is the Lamb of God, who, then, is the Scapegoat of God? Some people answer "Satan," but who the hell is Satan? Where is he? Is he here? Is he there? Is he anywhere? Jesus was a man, who came, went, and--some say--came again. He is an identifiable historical figure, and his followers, who sometimes refer to their brotherhood as "the body of Christ," are here with us today. "Satan" is nothing but a mythical figure who shows up in some stories that are so ancient we can hardly lend them literal credence. He certainly didn't show up in the New Testament, except possibly when Jesus went wandering in the desert. He simply isn't historical enough to be placed on the same field as Jesus. So who is the Scapegoat?

Irony of ironies: Who is identified by every conspiracy theorist who posits an identity to "Them?" When "They" are the cause of all the woes in the world, who are "They" in the rare instance a conspiracy theorist attempts to put a name beyond some faceless mass like "The Government?" We all know who they are: The Jews.

Irony of ironies: Judeism and Christianity came to the Temple together. First, Jesus was killed. Shortly afterward, the Jews were driven from Judea, and the temple destroyed, by the Romans. Or perhaps: First, the Lamb was sacrificed. Shortly afterward, the Scapegoat was driven out into the wilderness. People have been blaming and persecuting The Jews for everything ever since--the Ultimate Scapegoat.

Probably not much to this. I thought it up about ten minutes ago, found it amusing, and decided to post it. I accept no responsibility for idiots who find this an excuse to persecute their fellow man, Jew or otherwise.

Oh, and if you take this seriously, realize one thing. The yearly lamb, when sacrificed, was dead. Those lambs did not come back to life. The Lamb, however, did, according to the story, anyway. If the Lamb that was sacrificed can rise again, perhaps there will come a day when The Scapegoat will no longer be held guilty of the world's sins.

Monday, December 18, 2006

On Readiness for War

I've been writing about peace, writing against the administration, writing against the war, writing my belief that it would be better for both America and Iraq if we lost this war. I've been writing this so much that one might come to the conclusion that I am either against all war, or simply biased against America in favor of everybody else. I feel the need to write something less timely, something that will indicate this is simply not the case.

Actually, there is a part of me that IS against all war, that part of me that is influenced largely by biblical teaching. While I am aware that God ordered the Israelites into war from time to time, the impression I get from the new testament--particularly the gospels--is that it is no longer a time for war. "If a man strikes you on the cheak, offer him the other. If a man takes your coat, give him also your cloak. If a man forces you to march a mile with him, go with him two." This, to me, is the clearest statement ever given in the Bible regarding how followers of Christ are to react to violence. Jesus demonstrated this ideal by willingly going to the cross. I really fail to see how people, calling themselves Christians, manage to justify war, and even fight in them.

However, it is but a part of me that feels this way. I am not a churchgoer. I do not think totally according to what I read in the Bible. There are times when I wonder if I might resolve this internal inconsistancy, but for now, that is not my way.

War happens. There are always those who believe their desires might be fulfilled through the deaths of others. This conflict can be seen in the non-human world, as various organisms have evolved either the strength to frighten off predators (like the elephant, or the bison), or the appearance of strength (like the puffer fish). It is no different among men, except that we often regard one another as beings of another species: we often prey upon one another.

For this reason, individuals, communities, and states must be prepared for war. If they posess strength, or at least the appearance of strength, the expense of war goes up for any that might attack them, therefore the profit of war goes down, meaning that, at the very least, those who go to war based upon economic calculation (whether concious or otherwise) would avoid it. Those who go to war foolishly can be eliminated.

It is also good for individuals, communities, and states who are committed to peace to ally with one another for mutual defense, not necessarily formally, but in principle. This decreases the amount of preparation necessary to maintain that optimal appearance of strength against those that would attack them, a larger force being available in the event of war. All of this decreases the profitability of war for those who make war for profit, deterring them. It also makes it more likely that those that make war for the sheer hell of it will, first off, have fewer allies (the raiders having been deterred), and second off, be utterly destroyed should they decide to fight anyway.

However, you may notice that I said individuals, communities, and states should be prepared for war, not merely states, as people seem to think today. This is because the enemy can come either from without, or from within. Individuals should be armed, to keep both the individual enemy at bay, as well as a criminally overzealous community. Communities should be armed, both to keep the individual criminal at bay, as well as the criminal state. States should be armed, both to protect their communities from one another, as well as to keep warlike states at bay. Perhaps a case can be made for the arming of communities of states—provided this community does not disarm its constituants.

One must remember that any armed group has the potential to be every bit as criminal as those other groups. Indeed, the traditional model for the state, in claiming for itself the privelage of seizing anything it "lawfully" comes to the decision to seize, is nothing more than a criminal organization large enough to end the competition between criminal organizations. In a democracy, "lawful decision making" means a majority of voters approves it, which can at times degenerate into the democracy of three wolves and a sheep, voting about what they should have for dinner...

However, the State does have its useful functions, and it can be deterred from the more outrageous abuses—provided communities and individuals are also prepared for war. This fact was recognized by the America's founding generation, who wrote this guarantee into the constitution in the form of the Second Amendment. For while an army can provide security to states in general, a free state requires a militia to secure its security, not necessarily against foreign armies, but rather against the government, itself.

I fully agree America needs to be prepared for war, and willing to fight it to the finish when it is necessary to do so. However, we are placing all of our military might under the control of very few men... and I believe this is extraordinarily dangerous. It doesn't take long for the enemies of peace to figure out how to play the new game, gaining control of our armies and the power to tax... and, once again, we break up into feuding, warring powers, each seeking to seize as much as they can in the name of "self defense;" only this time, we war against each other at the ballot box, using the tax collector as our mercenary. I believe most people agree that it would be better if taxes were lower and government were smaller, but a minority that profits from this game use our fear of each other and of people abroad to continually increase their own power.

Currently, there seems to be a focus on how big and scary we can look, in an attempt to deter others. This works for animals. The best way to deal with a hungry bear is to appear as large and threatening as you can. The bear just wants a meal, and wants the easiest meal he can get. Bears engage in violence in respond to what might be called an "economic calculation;" they want to meet their dietary needs with the least risk and caloric expense. If you look big and scary, predators will generally not attack.

People are different. If something simply looks strong, we will avoid messing with it, but if it looks really scary, we arm ourselves and kill it before it can kill us. Anything that not only secures its own safety, but also appears to threaten our own safety, we will attack, and this is as true in human interactions as it is in human-animal interactions.

In other words, our big scary army actually reduces our security, from more than one angle. It frightens people in other countries, thus people who would otherwise ignore us constantly scheme for a way to bring us down... and the more actively we use that army, the more people we turn to this endevor. With so many minds dedicated to the cause of bringing us down, it is only a matter of time until someone figures out how to do it... assuming that isn't what's happening right now.

The second threat, however, is from the minority that controls the machinery of the state using that power to cow their own people. There was a time when, if taxes were raised too high or rights were infringed, there was the threat of civil war, forcing politicians to restrain themselves somewhat in the name of civil order. Indeed, both of the rebellions that have occured in this country were essentially tax revolts. The "whisky rebellion," a far more important conflict than our textbooks lead us to believe, was over a tax that benefited the eastern seaborad at the expense of westerners. The Civil War, though we are told it was about Slavery (and was, indeed, toward the end), but it started not over slavery, but over the Tarrif of Abominations, a tax that benefited the industrial North at the expense of the agricultural South. Seek to advance the interests of the one at the expense of another, and this is what you risk.

That is no longer the case, since everybody knows you can't fight City Hall, let alone Washington D.C. Control over this resource is extremely valuable; lack of control is extremely dangerous. And so, we battle for control, with no reguard for truth or justice.

I firmly believe security is best established by a balance between individual readiness, communal readiness, and state readiness. No arms should be denied to individuals. Communities should maintain forces just large enough both to give their judicial systems teeth, and to act as a first line of defense against larger invaders. The state should maintain a force just large enough both to prevent communities from subjugating one another, and to act as a first line of defense in war, giving communal and individual forces time to organize under its banner.

If there is no balance of force, the monopolist of force inevitably ends up being used immorally to fulfill to desires of those who wish to profit by violence. Only if there is a balance of forces does violence cease to be a profitable alternative, allowing people the freedom to get down to living free.

Action points: Shrink the federal military. Release the national guard from federal authority. End arms control in all forms, with the possible exception of weapons capable of destroying entire communities in a single blast.

And to those that serve in our current military in the belief that it is your role to do so to defend our country, while I question your judgement, I do not question your honor, just as I do not question those that attempt to educate children in the only manner it is currently legal to do so. We all have a way in which we are to serve society, and I do not envy the position of those whose domain is currently monopolized by the government.

And, to the Christians: You're already on the right side of the Resurrection, so why risk your salvation by participating in the wars of pagans, atheists, and psuedo-christian charletans? (I probably answered my question with that last item.) You may die in battle, and then hear the words "I do now know you." Did not Paul say it was better to suffer wrong, than to commit it?