It’s that time of year again. You don’t know what I mean – nor need you know. I do and I remain faithful to the minor burden I laid on myself so long ago I really don’t recall doing so.
The “why,” the meaning, the seeming futility: “Vanity of vanities, said Koheleth, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.”
“הֲבֵ֤ל הֲבָלִים֙ אָמַ֣ר קֹהֶ֔לֶת הֲבֵ֥ל הֲבָלִ֖ים הַכֹּ֥ל
all of that – I do it to talk to myself, my Self, and HaShem, my G-D beyond all knowing. Take stock, bear witness, lament, argue… to no point now, perhaps for ears not born (perhaps not) – I speak to the wind. It goes where it goes and takes on its own life, its own meanings I cannot fathom. There may be no home for these words, no understanding. I do not know, so it is done for its own sake and value.
Hunter S. Thompson, in the age of Nixon, uttered some simple words, a judgment, that proved prophetic:
“The polls… indicate that Nixon will get a comfortable majority of the Youth Vote. And that he might carry all fifty states.
“Well… maybe so. This may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves; finally just lay back and say it — we are really just a nation of 220 million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable.
“The tragedy of all this is that George McGovern, for all his mistakes […], is one of the few men who’ve run for President of the United States in this century who really understands what a fantastic monument to all the best instincts of the human race this country might have been, if we could have kept it out of the hands of greedy little hustlers like Richard Nixon.”
from ‘September,’ Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail
San Francisco, Straight Arrow Books, 1973
A note about “prophetic words”: The value of actual prophets — the Nevi’im — and lesser, everyday “prophets” is not in whether their messages come to pass. Christianity, in general, misinterprets this, being unfamiliar with Judaism in general, and mis-instructs any culture it affects, even should that culture become secular, even agnostic or atheistic.
Prophesies, their value, does not lie in whether they come true. That is not, in general, the standard nor is it why the message or messenger was sent. No, prophetic utterances are warnings: “This is what will come to pass if you do not change your path.”
Amos, for example, was sent to prophesy “against” Israel – to warn and deliver a terrible, terrifying message: To call his people back from devastation and the abyss.
Yonah (Jonah) was sent to Nineveh — enemies of Israel, people whom Yonah (Jonah) himself despised, if not feared, to warn them of their doom. The Ninevites were not Jewish, were cruel, and were at war with Israel: Yonah personally would desire nothing less than their collective death… hence attempted to avoid delivering the message. But he wound up doing so… and the Ninevites repented and avoided being destroyed. No, they did not convert, change gods, culture — they sincerely lamented the evil they did and stopped doing it. That is all that was required of them… or anyone, really.
So, the prophesy did not come to pass.
Yonah (Jonah) was an effective prophet, a success in spite of himself, his ego, his own conscious preferences. The message he brought was heeded; the terrible events predicted did not come to pass. If the warning is heeded and the prophesy does not happen — well, that’s the main point of getting such messages.
Even if one has no religious beliefs whatsoever, does not even believe in the reality of such beings as Deity, thinks the scriptures of any and all communities are myths at best and stupid falsehoods at worst, I think one can grasp that “prophesies” as a metaphor are real things and meaningful. A warning, one who speaks against his own people, not out of hatred, but out of care, out of a desperate hope for an unlikely but better future than the one obviously on the horizon — I think that can be grasped by any intelligent person from any background.
Hunter S. Thompson delivered such a warning. Probably without seeing the depths hidden within it — that is the way these things go. Truth chooses the strangest vehicles through which to make an appearance.
A nation of used car salesmen — an entire people who are liars and con artists — with enough money for weapons to murder anyone who bothers them, questions the legitimacy of their feelings, desires, their hustle, greed, hatreds, and prejudices. That was his warning, his consistent warning.
His own generation failed to take it seriously enough being far too optimistic and convinced of their “rightness.” And, so, The Boomers sold out, became little Nixons… and worse. They put Reagan in office and the movement to laissez-faire capitalism, the worship of money and fame coated in the veneer of “Christian morality” – “family values.” Until we finally ended with Trump, a cheap-suited, bloated Nero-wannabe. A nihilist willing to support any and every group of white trash nationalists — even Nazis, even to the point of wrecking the institutions of a liberal democracy, this constitutional republic, hollowing out law, fragmenting the people further against one another based on little more than “identity politics” and the lie of race. (Just take a genetic test to find out where your tribe came from to find out with whom you really belong, which gang to join.)
All for what?
So each group can fight like starving dogs in the streets to murder or subjugate the others while Trump and company loot the country, do as they please, and die famous with a tomb larded up in golden kitsch. All intending to dispose of the others and seize power so that they, too, may “do as they please.”
A nation of used car salesmen and fractured tribes with guns. Guns we will turn on one another in a massive spasm of violence, eventually.
A people who find nothing common among themselves, no unifying, truly valuable beliefs to rely upon, reject reason, dialogue (not debate – dialogue) — that people is damned to murder one another.
That is all that is left, followed by a military dictatorship to impose obedience. Obedience to some monstrosity of an officer’s authoritarian commands. Perhaps an officer or junta backed by a foreign dictator… called Putin, probably.
With humor. We’ll doubtless laugh insanely as we cut our neighbors’ throats, this being the age incapable of seriousness. The irony will not be lost on us; we will not care, as irony for its own sake is all that seems left to most of us, believing nothing exists apart from our limitless, aimless desires that is actually of value: standards to be lived up to, burdens to be voluntarily taken upon ourselves…. No, nothing except whatever we can get away with and dress up in some parody of a story. Preferably a “morality” tale involving “victimhood” to rationalize each gangs’ vicious choices.
I wrote more; it did not “save.”
You get the point. Or you do not.
6 February 2018
Richard Van Ingram