Friday, August 26, 2005

Pagan Animals

You might want to read the article below first. The idea here is to see pagan culture as an expression of our animalistic natures. From Catherine Seipp in National Review:

I went to see the King Tut exhibit, currently at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art until Nov. 15, then traveling to museums in Fort Lauderdale, Chicago, and Philadelphia through 2007. ... there’s always some object that stops you cold at these things, and for me it was the staff whose crook was a human figure bent gracefully backward, like an acrobat or gymnast.

Except, on closer examination, it wasn’t. The figure was actually a Nubian captive, bent backward and upside down, to illustrate that the Nubians were slaves of Egypt. And just in case anyone needed reminding who were the masters and who were the slaves in this society, King Tut (so the display card informed us) was in the habit of wearing sandals with pictures of Nubians (and Libyans and “Asiatics”) on the soles. So that every time he took a step, he further ground Egypt’s conquered peoples into the dirt.

I always feel faintly queasy looking at art from ancient pagan civilizations, because the tacit theme of unquestioned entitlement is so pervasive. The message of these artifacts, basically, is: Of course we rich and powerful have the right to make the poor and weak work endlessly on statues and sarcophagi that will display our wonderfulness for all eternity. And of course we have a right to enslave those people we manage to enslave. (Why American blacks sometimes want to claim kinship with the Ancient Egyptians, by the way, whose ancestors so brutally oppressed their ancestors, is beyond me.)

Since the Egyptians were a death cult, much attention was given to statues that would benefit the deceased from even small annoyances in the afterlife. I see echoes of this pagan attitude now in the Islamofascists, with their concern about the 72 virgins each “martyr” gets in Paradise. And the way they march around carrying pictures of their heroes on placards seems strangely idolatrous, considering the lip service they pay to strict “There is no God but God” monotheism.

Another striking thing about the King Tut exhibit is it puts all those thou-shalt-not warnings of the Old Testament, which often seem so grim and wet-blankety, in context. You can’t covet, or worship false idols, or glorify dead bodies, or rape an attractive woman you happen upon even if you’re the king — because if you do, you’ll be just like the Egyptians. And you know how they are.

I got the same feeling watching Rome, HBO’s engrossing new series that brings all those copulating figures from ancient museum urns to lurid, full-frontal life. ... a naked Polly Walker (as Caesar’s scheming niece Atia) fornicating with horse traders or dousing herself with bull’s blood in a hideous ritual of animal sacrifice ...

One that sticks in the mind is a bored legion of soldiers waiting while one of them finishes up having sex with a girl by the side of the road. Is it a rape or just a venal exchange? You can’t really tell, because the girl seems less traumatized than annoyed. But again, it reminds you that maybe all those thou-shalt-nots in the Bible were reactionary for a reason.

I have known women who like men to bleed on them during sex. I have friends who go to "Fetish Balls," parties where they seek out ways to degrade themselves. I know people who go to clubs, where they meet a guy or gal and then go out to the parking lot to "get each other off." Many girls, who are very concerned about the quality of clothing they put on their bodies, don't seem to give a second thought to what they put in their mouths.

I know it sounds like I am condemning these people. I do not want to be harsh. I understand what it's like to be horny and I understand that some people are troubled. I even understand why people might want to degrade themselves. I understand that for many people, a sex life is a theater where they can act out the hidden dimensions of themselves.

But, how far are we willing to allow ourselves to go? All the way to becoming animals once again?

The problem with being an animal is, even domesticated animals lose control of themselves, and give in to their herd instinct. Next thing you know, a whole society thinks it's ok slice the throats of a million of their countrymen (Rwanda), or put six million people in ovens (Germany), or go on a rampage through the streets of Nanking, China, killing every man, woman, and child, and lopping the breasts off women's bodies for added insult.

God's Law might not always be the funnest thing going, but it sure is a great alternative to what we become without it.