Turning away from the hurtful perfidies of the human realm, the ousted King Lear of Shakespeare’s Play was to famously articulate imprecations against the falsities of kinship when suddenly powerless upon a rugged heath. With only his loyal Fool—no kin– to keep him company.
Erasmus, about the same time at the threshold of the first flush of capitalist individualism, had most instructively given to the increasingly aggressive and corrupting Europe his In Praise of Folly as a reminder of the bottom lines of Christ’s teachings in the Sermon on the Mount. Among those teachings the admonition “lay not thy treasure upon the earth,” for “where your treasure is there your heart shall be,” reminding Christendom how Christ had cryptically lauded the “Fool” as the “Wise Man,” and downgraded the “Wise Man” (read “the Wordly Wise Man”) as the “Fool,” and hinted how the last of this world would be the first in god’s reckoning.
Thus Lear’s searing invocation of the powers of the Elements to unleash the full force of their fury upon a world that no longer seemed of any value or worth: “blow winds, and crack your cheeks/rage, blow; you cataracts and hurricanoes/ spout till you have drowned the steeples/and drenched the cocks.” Even as, for the first time in his life, he is shown cognizant of the “poor naked wretches” of whom he has taken “too little notice” heretofore in the hubris of state power.
Thus, you would have got my drift—to use that so-American phrase.
Replace old Lear’s years of uncaring, autocratic rule with our more contemporary decades of Pax Americana, and things might begin to fall into focus.
Contrary to the injunctions of the last sermon of the “Son of God,” American Calvinist Capitalism, non-welfarist to the core and rooted in the idea that the acquisition of wealth in this world is inseparable from achieving salvation in the hereafter (never mind that the sermon had explicitly taught how you cannot serve two masters at the same time—god and money) and apportioning success or failure of human existence precisely to the measure of success or failure in acquiring profit and property (in general American discourse, there are only two kinds of human being, “winners and losers”), especially since the end of the second world war, was to elevate the American state to a clout unchallenged and unchallengeable by any single nation or any combination of nations. Especially since the end of the cold war and the collapse of the Soviet Union, such dominance has been total, or near total, since, thankfully, there do exist Chavez and the Chinese. Not to speak of the doggedly brave and clear-eyed Occupiers who might be reminders of those first primitive followers of Jesus who so annoyed the Roman Empire.
All this while, of course, god has been looking down upon these goings-on and frowning at the relegation of his teachings in the land most favoured by him.
Having taught in the Book of the Ecclesiastes how “there is a time” for this and that, god finally was to come down first through the collapse of Mammonite demons like the Lehman Brothers, Goldmann Sachs, followed by all the others, hitting recalcitrant, power-drunk money bags where it hurt the most, and now, taking cue from Lear, through the fury of the Elements, namely the hurricanoes (although I have never understood or liked the idea that they should be given feminine names; do ponder that one).
Where the world remains powerless against the Pentagon, the Pentagon remains powerless against a mere Sandy. Would you have thought it possible that millions on the all-important East Coast that has for half a century been the Imperium of the world would ever be without power, water, sanitation, roads, vehicles—ah that infallible impala—even food and other forms of sustenance, much like the “poor naked wretches” that Lear had woken up to?
Thus, is it to be hoped that Uncle Sam may take a material and spiritual rebirth consequent upon the message sent him through Sandy, as did Lear through the storm? How “exceptional” may America consider herself henceforth when it so obviously seems as helpless against hurricanoes as the least of the world’s nations? And the hurricanoes of the days to come could take other forms as well. Such recognition is what the ancient Greeks called anagnorisis—a moment of cataclysmic recognition that ensures that nothing may ever be the same. Would it not be to everybody’s comfort if after such recognition America learnt to be a conglomerate of humans, a community, a nation, like any other, living and suffering a common destiny, taking when feasible and giving when possible? And, never making war upon any other nation again. At peace with herself and at peace with the world. Attending to need in the widest commonality, jettisoning the greed born of a deluded notion of exceptionalism.
Were the world to have access to what the other four candidates—other than Barrack Obama and Romney/ Tweedledum and Tweedledee–on the Presidential ticket are saying (watch the Russia Today TV channel), you would discover that what I have pleaded forms a good part of their perorations as well.
At the very thought, I see the heavens open and the similing face of god. The canny one liketh what I am thinking.
Let then thy kingdom come.