If you’re a Christian, You’re A Zionist

Okay, so lets just get this out there, the article title is just a heinous generalization! Or is it?

For many Christians, the origins of Christianity do not lie within itself. It started somewhere else. In a desert, with nomad-poets, who were initially just another tribe in the ancient Levant area of the world. They started out as polytheists, which simply put, is a belief in many gods. They slowly walked away from polytheism and begin their journey into monotheism, the whole (edited) struggle is documented in the now Jewish Torah (the Christian Old Testament). But, then we have the New Testament, which even if an atheist reads the story, can tell something happened in-between the Old Testament and the New Testament, a massive narrative leap. We get to the book of Matthew and we now enter into a story about an infant-meant-to-be-king – a Jewish liberator (a small detail that should not be forgotten).

The whole set of the four gospels are meant to setup the emergence of a new religion, which at this time, actually wasn’t meant to be a religion at all. Yes, I am saying that the four gospels existed to justify the creation of the Apostle Paul’s religion now known as Christianity (with some help from Constantine). No it does not seem, if Jesus existed, that he meant to create, endorse or propagate a systematic expression of faith. There is no literal proof of this. But, this article isn’t about that history, it’s about a different kind of history.

There are Christians who fight blindly for the historical naturalism of the Bible, meaning that everything we read is true, including the accounts and miracles of Jesus and other important religious figures. If they do, then they also endorse Zionism. Throughout the course of the Old Testament, as the Hebrew clans are slowly moving away from polytheism, they begin to create a paradigm that goes something like this: “God has chosen us, God has chosen this land, everyone else are enemies”. Yes, some of the clans within this particular semitic tribe endorsed the hearty embrace of the outsider, stranger, widow and so on, but not all of them. Hence why we see all over the Torah two different messages about what makes someone ‘other’. But for the most part, Judaism as a religion was beginning to emerge as a kind of fundamentalism that endorsed the eradication of the other for the sake of what can only be now termed as: Nationalism.

We see this all too frequently arise in American ideology, even among non-Christians, mainly due to the fact that a large number of the American forefathers held onto their Judeo-Christian upbringings and these beliefs are within the fabric of American politics. So, it makes sense that if you’re a Christian, that you’re a Zionist because if you take the Bible only as a literal document then you agree with the obscene ideology of the land being united with a deity.

But, it doesn’t justify it. Israel is wrong. How they have treated the Palestinians has nothing to do with the love that any religious leader spoke of. But, choosing sides is so 8th-grade! We have to think better, be better. Yet, Zionism is part of the problem. It’s simple-thinking without justification. Someone doesn’t just own land. There is a power-relationship dynamic happening between the owners, the buyers and the renters. It’s a perpetual slavery. Capital does that to you. We have to be aware of our slavery before we can be free, Christianity (as ideology) keeps everyone a slave.

Now, we fast-forward to today and we see the vulgar acts and violence of the IDF (and by implication, certain areas of the Israeli government) toward the Palestinians, and then we hear that retaliation emerges from Hamas, now, if one takes the Jewish Torah seriously, there is a point where the tri-religious patriarch Abraham sends off his lover Hagar and there is this belief that since then, there would always be an eternal fight between what is now Christianity and Islam. However, I want to debunk that whole theory. All that does is justify the feud, not define it. There is more to the feud between Israel and Palestine than just historicy, geography or religion, although these things are crucial to understanding the current struggles, there is something more fundamentally grotesque that precedes them: Belief. Each one believes they own the land (geographical fundamentalism), and that they own it because they were promised it (metaphysical fundamentalism). We need to deal with the reality that both sides believe they’re right and that’s what’s wrong.

I want to go on the record and say the Hamas leader <a href=”http://www.jpost.com/Arab-Israeli-Conflict/Defiant-Haniyeh-vows-to-liberate-Palestine-after-Hamas-commanders-killed-by-Israel-371939&#8243; target=”_hplink”>Ismael Haniyeh</a> is wrong, Palestine will not be liberated by Hamas. Hamas just exacerbates the political and ideological divide. Both sides are reacting to one another, neither side is seeking any better options. Neither is a one-state or two-state solution the answer. We must go beyond the allure of geography as property, or religion as identity-property.

Because over time, what happens, as we see in all of the above…the beliefs start believing for you. You are essentially compelled, some Christians use the same idea found in the term ‘Holy Spirit’ to justify their beliefs. It’s always easier to claim that some Big Other thinks and believes on your behalf then there is no room for personal responsibility. The first step is overcome belief. Then overcome the idea that ideology and geography have to be identity-forming. In some sense, I am endorsing a sort of ideological atheism. We think we own things, but in truth, they own us. We can no longer be naive idealists and think there is a perfect solution here. We also can’t be naive activists and just think we must just react to everything. We need to get all the warring parties in a room to talk.

I’m very frustrated as I write this, because on one hand, its quite simple, but on the other hand, its just not.

Poverty in the UK: More Disillusionment Please

A potent symbol for the political left today still remains the peasant revolt that erupted out of  14th century which was in response to a series of socio-economic developments including land-property distinction. Due to the Black Death, there was a labour shortage along with a food shortage. The Statute of Laborers was a law created in response to the peasants demand for more wages, “Peasants were forced to work for the same wages as before, and landowners could insist on labour services being performed, instead of accepting money (commutation). This meant that the landowners could profit from shortages, whilst life was made very much harder for the peasants[1].” Today, in the UK, economic dispaarity is no different. No, we are in the wake of the Black Death, but we are in the wake of an internal and external economic haemorrhage. Someone once said that you can tell the success of a nation by how it treats its poor. If this true, then the UK is not doing well at all. Something needs to change drastically.

 We live in a country that is dedicated to keeping its low-class citizens in a position of low-class stratification. The way the current economic setup is, it undermines any possibility for anyone in the lower-class to gain any traction. This can be seen in the fact that the government gives just enough assistance for those in the poor, unemployed, single-parent bracket to maintain their current status, nothing more and nothing less. There really is no future opportunity to get on the housing market with the lower-class income

 One in every six children live in poverty in the UK. One in six. How is this acceptable? It is estimated that by 2017-18, an extra 200,000 children will live in poverty[2]. This is mainly due to the Autumn Statement which will include a higher personal tax, and a 1 percent cap for three years. Not to mention the upcoming ‘Big Bang’ changes highly hailed by Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osbourne[3], who claims, “all about making sure that we use every penny we can to back hard working people who want to get on in life… For too long, we’ve had a system where people who did the right thing – who get up in the morning and work hard – felt penalised for it, while people who did the wrong thing got rewarded for it. That’s wrong. So this month we’re going to put things right.’ Get on in life? Isn’t that just yet another class development?

 That we have now privatised economic stratification down to economic mobility. Don’t get me wrong, I am not for sheer inactivity for the sake of it, but it seems Osbourne is missing the bigger picture here. That the government and the way its addressing poverty is actually at large fault for the economic disparity. That the Commons [and Undercommons[4]] has been nothing more than a hopeful placebo that we talk about in the name of change, and gives us the illusion of doing something transformational. But it hasn’t worked. We can’t afford to speak about the Commons unless we’re willing to mobilize, fight and bleed for it to be a reality, even above and beyond the gaze of governmental control. We need something different. We must be willing to open new lines of discourse and ask very hard questions about the world we live in, not just about what’s wrong with government or the 1%, but rather begin to see that there is a larger issue haunting human progress, and that is the way we have come to both define and limit the way we both manage and seek liberation. It’s just not good enough. 

 

John Ball, a radical pre-Marxist communist priest was known for his speeches that pertained to apprehending liberty from the bourgeois leadership of his time. The following is a well-known excerpt that not only demonstrates the struggles of his time, but of ours as well. 

 

“My good friends, things cannot go on well in England, nor ever will until everything shall be in common, when there shall be neither vassal nor lord, and all distinctions levelled; when the lords shall be no more masters than ourselves. How ill they have used us!… They have wines, spices and fine bread, when we have only rye and the refuse of fine straw; and if we drink, it must be water. They have handsome seats and manors, when we must brave the wind and rain in our labours in the field; but it is from our labour they have the wherewith to support their pomp.… Let us go to the king, who is young, and remonstrate with him on our servitude, telling him we must have it otherwise, or that we shall find a remedy for it ourselves”

 

Is this not what we need today? The complete abolishment of those things that enforce economic distance from another? Is not history whispering its words of challenge to us now and calling all of us to rise up against those systems and people that would seek to make life about production and economic enslavement? Should we too not go to our kings, leaders, MP’s and demand a better way, and if they are not willing to give it to us, then we too must be willing ‘find a remedy for it ourselves’? For some this might seem a bit too sensationalist. However, if the last 20 years has demonstrated to us anything its that the West is just as vulnerable to the possibility of economic collapse then the typical under-developed countries as concentrated on in the media and by religious organizations.  From Greece imploding, to multiple-recessions, to the apparent economic shift from America being the largest world power, to now China or India taking its place. The world is changing. The economy is changing. Now, is the time to respond to poverty, not just in the UK, but globally.

 

 The longer we try to help the poor, the longer the system that creates it will be sustained. We no longer need to think as idealist Utopians, but rather we must adopt a new charter, that of material realists that embrace a form of dystopian idealism. Che Guevara exemplifies this ideological turn in how own words, ““I am not a liberator. Liberators do not exist. The people liberate themselves.”  Here we encounter the very issue today with a lot of leftist thought, academic or otherwise, that we somehow must wait for someone to come and liberate us. That we must somehow participate in pseudo-revolutionary acts [i.e., stand-ins, picket lines, campaigns and so on] to actually make a change. Is this not idealism in its worst form? Are we not still conceding to those who have created the very socio-economic divides that we have come to despise so vehemently? 

 

There is not enough disillusionment within the Left today, this was a major issue with the Occupy Movement, it eventually succumbed to the system. It became a victim, and yes, there were many great organizations and events that sprung up from this, but it’s not enough. It still believed the system could be changed, rather than thinking beyond its gaze.This is also the same issue with the inspiring words of Russel Brand, who unlike most of us, has ‘star-power’ and can take his notion of revolution to a much deeper comprehensive place than most of us ever could. But it’s still not enough. Because the responses so far have been measured, calculated and conditioned by those in power. It seems we have let the system believe for us, that it, like the Matrix feeds off of our belief that we’re simply pedestrians in a universe much larger than ourselves. Better said, would be in Mel Gibson’s biopic Braveheart, where the main character is talking to some of the leaders of the clans, and utters the following, “Why? Why is that impossible? You’re so concerned with squabbling for the scraps from Longshank’s table that you’ve missed your God-given right to something better. There is a difference between us. You think the people of this country exist to provide you with position. I think your position exists to provide those people with freedom. And I go to make sure that they have it.”

 

Isn’t it intriguing that it took a medieval priest to incite the peasants war? Maybe we’re now living in era where religion must be taken seriously as a radical interlocutor, but not as some ritualized spirituality, but as designator of a new way to be human. That in religion we find the radical kernel hiding in plain sight, that a new world is possible within this one. That the whole notion of the Christian Incarnation is more about the potential within human creativity to be limitless. To be without any limitations or Big Others, as Slavoj Zizek would say. Our horizon is filled with all kinds of possibilities, but we have to be realistic and deny the temptation toward some blind idealism that invokes even more myopic allegiance to apathy. As Che says elsewhere, ‘ Be realistic, Demand the impossible!’ We must fight for that. We must believe for something better. And even die for it, if that’s what it takes. 

 

 

[1] https://www.marxists.org/history/england/peasants-revolt/story.htm

[2] http://www.poverty.ac.uk/tags/tax-credits

[3] http://www.poverty.ac.uk/editorial/april-2013-%E2%80%98big-bang%E2%80%99-benefits-and-taxes

[4] http://www.elkilombo.org/the-university-and-the-undercommons/

Ken Howard Re-Elected SAG-AFTRA National President; Amy Aquino Is National Secretary-Treasurer

Deadline

Incumbent Ken Howard has won a landslide victory as national president in the union’s first national election since the March 2012 merger. Amy Aquino was re-elected SAG-AFTRA‘s National Secretary-Treasurer. Both officers will serve two-year terms, effective immediately. Howard received 16,396 votes, with Esai Morales receiving 9,850 votes, Paul Edney receiving 1,359 votes and Marilyn Monrovia receiving 960 votes. “I’m gratified that members across the country have reelected me to lead our union and continue building on the strong foundation we created through merger,” Howard said in a statement. “I want to congratulate Secretary-Treasurer Amy Aquino on her re-election and offer my sincere thanks to all the candidates who ran for office. I look forward to joining the delegates who will assemble in Los Angeles for the first SAG-AFTRA convention in late September, and then moving forward with the new leadership team to do the important work that members have…

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Robin Williams Inextinguishable Laughter

Robin Williams made a lot of people laugh. But, in the end, it wasn’t enough to fix his inner turmoil. A lot of people are referring to it as darkness, I think this is incorrect. We can’t tell the light without the darkness. We need our darkness. It’s not evil. It’s simply a distinction. It’s one thing to make people laugh about the darkness, but it is ourselves who must stare into the abyss and laugh in its face. Treat it irreverently; for many, they don’t, they treat it like some mysterious Big Other that frames their own vision of reality. That’s why humor is important, it reminds us that nothing is holy, and that’s okay. For me, Robin Williams, although might not take the label ‘hero’, cause I personally think the ideas of heroes limits our own experience of reality through the lenses we’ve been given. He’s the closest that might come to it. His philosophy through acting was one of disrupting power, hegemony, and all around ideology. Many of his roles ‘spoke truth to power’ including: Patch Adams, Dead Poets Society, and even Good Will Hunting on a more subjective level. It’s one thing to become an actor for the sake of acting, and its another to use your gift to transform the fabric of the stage called life.

Laughter comes from the Greek “gelos.” We read the word first in Homer when the poet describes the gods’ laughter as “Asbestos gelos,” “fireproof or inextinguishable laughter.” For Freud laughter was a two-sided coin, in that it established social ties while allow the comic to satisfy repressed desires. In one sense, it’s no wonder Robin felt the need to ‘shuffle off this mortal coil’, mostly due to the characters he chose to portray, those non-conformists who didn’t bend to the whims of an oppressive system, who demanded that compassion be the centerpiece of human interrelations. He even gave his money away to charity, almost making himself poor. I am not trying to make him a martyr. Martyrs and Heroes is simply our repressed desire to not be ourselves and be like others rather than ourselves, something Robin through his characters would not have wanted for anyone. In one sense, he was committed to dreams, to the impossible. To seeing all the muck and the mire of human existence as something to overcome. But for some, this overcoming might need to be overcome through the self. For many, suicide is highly problematic, for some religious, suicide is evil and narcissistic. Suicide for some might just be the form of liberation they need to actually deal with the reality that they were either ahead of their time or before their time. Again, I am not trying to justify anything here, but demand that we see the things we have come to corporately demonize as simply part of our existence. 

In Robin Williams, I almost meet the father I never had. I’m not trying to be extremely sentimental or over-exaggerate his role but the the character he plays in contrast and in relationship to Matt Damon’s character in Good Will Hunting was almost a mirror of the father I never had but needed. I had two fathers. One biological who chose a lifestyle of selling drugs over being a father. And a father who was physically abusive and emotionally distant. In cultural anthropology there is a term called ‘fictive kin’; it’s this idea that someone can take on a role in place of what someone lacks. In this case, for example, it would be like Robin Williams becomes the father for Matt Damon’s character and simultaneously validates his existence and absolves him from blaming himself. He becomes what the boy lacks. He dies to his ‘real’ self (i.e., he is a comedic professor of psychology) and becomes what Damon’s character needs. In a sense, he punctures the very reality of the Damon’s character and enter’s into his world, not as a savior, but as a father-figure. 

This is the important aspect of acting, it plays in our fictional mythology but also responds to real life situation. Robin, as a character actor ended up responding to something deep within the human soul. The longing to be held. To be caressed. To be acknowledged.  

His death reminds us of something we already know. The tragedy of happiness. We can’t call what he dealt with ‘depression’, we must refute the need to label it so easily. The opposite of this is a recognition and promotion of the ‘happiness’ industry so prevalent in the world today. As if, one can buy a pill or purchase a commodity and find utopia within themselves. If anything, Robin’s last choice on earth maybe exists to liberate us all from the inebriated desire for utopia. That we can’t ‘always’ be happy, and that’s okay. That consumerism is a lie. Like the bag of Easter eggs that you buy to fill with candy during Easter, you have to fill them with things. Maybe another point of his life is to remind us that filling things hides us from ever dealing with the darkness of existence. 

Robin Williams is important, not just as an actor, but as a beautiful broken human being. His craft. His art. As a person who lived, shat, spit, ate, vomited and got dressed, now returns to the earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.  But he lives on in our memories. He lives forever on our television screens, Eternity exists, not somewhere out there or down below, but in each of our own legacies. What we leave behind is a piece of eternity. Live it well. Rest in Peace, Angel of the Humans.