Written for teleSUR English, which will launch on July 24
They tell us that man is “sapiens” [wise] and that, as all animals, man is “symbiotic” [a Greek word: “syn” (together) plus “vios” (life), meaning “a relationship of dependence between two animals or plants in which each provides for the other the conditions necessary for its continued existence”, Cambridge University Dictionary].
If it is so, that we are wise and symbiotic, then, why this very minute are thousands of men, women and children being killed by other humans?
All of us know the answer. Yet, some of us pretend that we do not know the answer, and some of us strive to do something about stopping the carnage.
However, it seems that man has one more innate ability. Man is a “creator” [“cre-ator” (pronounced: “kre-ator”) in Latin, as the vogue demands].
Solving a mathematical problem is creative, inventing the wheel is creative, composing music is creative, and so on.
There are three questions in relation to this innate ability to create: a) What does a creator feel? b) What is the effect of the creation on the community? c) What is the aim of the creator?
a) The basic reaction of the creator is joy and later satisfaction from the recognition by the community.
b) The community can be deeply affected by the work of a creator: Joy from the benefits of the wheel. Or, joy from the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, that can last a lifetime. In return the community offers satisfaction to the creator in recognizing the value of his creation.
c) Difficult to answer about the aim. In general (as biologists tell us) the aim of humans in life is “to be useful”, therefore the aim of the creator is to be “useful”.
Now, as most of the above could be theoretical truisms [i.e. correct] let us follow the creation of one of the most celebrated creations in human history:
Charles Jennens, Jr was a Briton born in 1698. He was the son of a rich father, educated in Oxford, and he lived luxuriously. His nickname was “Solyman the Magnificent”, as it is said that “he was attended by four lackeys, of whom one had the task of sweeping discarded oyster shells and other rubbish from the places Jennens had to walk”. Now, Jennens, fortunately for all of us, created a libretto [the text of an oratorio, opera, etc] in the form of a “Biblical compilation”. He named it the “Messiah”. He sent it to Georg Friedrich Handel who started to set it to music on 22 August 1741.
After hearing Handel’s music of the Messiah, during its first performance in London, Jennens was dissatisfied and his criticism was rather harsh, saying that parts of the work were “weak”. This caused Handel to have once more a rather light episode of a “paralytic disorder” [a light stroke] that he first had years earlier in 1737. A year after the bad criticism Jennens and Handel became friends again. Handel, even left some of the paintings he owned to Jennens, in his will.
The Messiah is one of the most popular compositions in the history of music. Something that Handel himself would not have expected as he had affection for other compositions of his. This popularity may be due to the fact that almost everyone is familiar with the “Hallelujah”, sung by a huge chorus. Yet, there is much more in the Messiah beyond the “Hallelujah”.
The Messiah is composed of 17 songs and 20 chorus parts. In between there are numerous spoken intervals [the recitatives], which simply assist in the narration of the story.
The first song of the Messiah, about 3 minutes after the beginning of the work, has the following text:
Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill made low:
the crooked straight and the rough places plain
Jennens chose this Biblical text from “Isaiah” [40: 4, King James’ Version]. Isaiah was a prophet, that is an intellectual of his time and as all prophets a persecuted one at that, according to Noam Chomsky. So, about seven centuries before the birth of Christ [the word “Messiah” in Greek], Isaiah describes the Messiah’s entrance into Jerusalem thus:
“… make straight in the desert a highway for our God”
and proceeds by describing the engineering involved in the construction of the highway. The “valley” that will be “exalted” refers to a crossing of a valley by means of a fill and a bridge and making a “mountain” and a “hill” low, refers to cuts made to avoid a crooked or a steep alignment.
However, we, the race of the “sapiens”, have other means to interpret the text of Isaiah; we have the “metaphor” [figurative speech]. The “valley” could be the poor ordinary people of the world to be “exalted” and the “mountains and hills” could be the elites and the rich of the world to be “made low”. But the most important part of the text is the one which demands that the “crooked” should be made “straight“.
On November 17, 1973, Nixon, the then President of the US declared: “I am not a crook”. What did Nixon mean by the word “crook”?
In the US a crook is “a person who engages in fraudulent or criminal practices”, or “a rogue, a swindler, or a professional criminal”. in the UK a crook is ” a very dishonest person especially a criminal or a cheat”. We think that the best way to define the meaning of crookedness is through examples from the entire cultural, economic, and social spectrum. Let us start at the top:
– Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. [1841-1935] :
Holmes was a “Social Darwinist”. That is, he fervently believed that in society (especially in a Christian society) survive only the fittest, i.e. the greedy, the clever (i.e. the cunning), the rich, the handsome, the ruthless, etc. Naturally, he considered himself as belonging to the fittest as he was tall, he had a gorgeous mustache, he was “bright”, etc. However it seems that he, as a Social Darwinist, did not consider that his father belonged to the fittest as he was a very small man of only “five feet three inches when standing in a pair of substantial boots”. It is possible that this is why father and son were never close.
Holmes’ Social Darwinism inevitably drove him to, also, become a fervent “Eugenicist”. That is, he became an adherent of “Eugenics”, a racist pseudoscience that promoted the idea of wiping away all human beings deemed “unfit”, preserving only those who conformed to a “Nordic” stereotype. Which, was and is, the core of Nazism!
“It is better for the entire world, if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind…Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”
[This was written by Holmes, in 1927, for the majority in the case of (Carrie) Buck vs.. Bell, upholding Virginia’s compulsory sterilization law. Carrie Buck became an unwed mother at the age of 17 after she was raped by a relative of her foster parents; therefore she was sexually promiscuous like her mother Emma Buck who was committed to a state institution.]
As a matter of fact, the Nazis at the Nuremberg trials quoted the, above mentioned, words of Holmes in their own defense!
Holmes was and is the [Patron] Saint of the US Justice System.
Could people in the late 19th century and early 20th century detect the “crookedness” of Holmes? Yes, they could. Even the occasional women “used” as domestics by Holmes could have understood a lot about the great jurist.
– Woodrow Wilson [US President]: Arguably he was the person who initiated the social deterioration of the US, as he sowed the seeds of misinformation, hate , fear , and reactionary mentality. During his “reign” the fink [Hoover’s FBI], the thug [the “Red Scare Squads”], the religious hypocrisy reigned supreme, This was not only destructive for the American people but also for the rest of the world.
– Dick Cheney [US Vise President]: It is not necessary to comment on Cheney, a rather strange case of a crooked individual. The dominant characteristic of all these crooked people is hate, inexplicable hate for their fellow humans. Cheney’s penetrating hate is revolting.
– Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carilles:
This case, in its basics, highlights the existing justice system of the world in the 21st century and specifically the US justice system.
In October 1976, a Cuban civilian airliner, the Cubana flight 455, exploded in midair by the detonation of a bomb that had been placed in the aircraft’s toilets. All 73 people on board were killed.
The persons that masterminded this were Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carilles. Today (in 2011), they both live happily in freedom in Florida under the protection of the Bush family, especially of Jeb Bush. [This was in a text of mine early in 2011. Bosch died a little later. He was 84 years old.]
Bosch and Posada constitute probably the most repulsive case of crooked humans of the last part of the 20th century.
– King Leopold II of Belgium:
He is considered to be as bad as Hitler, in brutality. Yet very few people are aware of this. The reader can check this by reading the book by Adam Hochschild, “King Leopold’s Ghost”, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998.
– Le Pen [of France]:
A very stunning and “useful” case [see below] of turning a human child into an extremely crooked adult. Torturer, thug, crazed hater of … anarchists, etc.
– Wolfgang Saeuble [of Germany]:
No need to comment .
– Sheriff Joe Arpaio:
That a person so crooked as Joe Arpaio has been “doing his thing” in Arizona for 20 years is obscene. Of course there are other humans in other countries who are as bad as he is, or even worse, but they live in the dark, hidden in CIA-type institutions out of the sight of normal humans, for fear of a reaction by the society. That Arpaio has been torturing prisoners, killing prisoners, terrorizing even powerful men, etc., in broad daylight, cannot be understood, again, by ordinary people.
So, can the crooked [humans} be made straight? If so, can we expect that the valleys [the weak] shall be exalted while the mountains [the elites] shall made low, as Isaiah’s narration claims?
It is, generally, accepted that humans are not born “crooked”. If later it is proven that some of us are born crooked we shall have to revise our thinking, but for now we assume that this thesis is correct.
To be realistic and sincere with ourselves, it is difficult to straighten a crooked adult. It is almost impossible to turn Le Pen or Cheney into kind humans.
However, there is a factor of paramount importance in the problem of criminality in a society and in the process of meting out punishment. This factor is prevention.
In a rationally organized society, that is, in an anarchic society, prevention can be easy.
Starting with the family, it is reasonable to expect that the members of the family are in a position to detect if in a child there are tendencies that could lead to criminality and to violence.
Today the family tries to hide the problem or ignore the problem. The reasonable thing to do is talk about the problem, in the presence of the child, with the neighbors, the child’s peers, other relatives, and persons that the child respects. That is, let the proximate community participate in the problem in an anarchic way. This could be the first step. Could this be effective? We cannot tell, as any anarchic participatory intervention is an experimental act at this stage of our civilization. However, one thing is certain. It is better than hiding or ignoring the problem. Also, in the future, any criminal act of the adult, that the child has grown up into, would have the useful testimony of the members of the above, (early) proximate society.
The idea is to help the child resolve its problems by itself. Also, make it understand that it is going to be its own fellow-humans that will judge it and not the violent and impersonal policemen and the indifferent and arrogant judges and that his life in a community that holds the child in contempt could be Hell.
The next step is the elementary school, a hotbed of deformed personalities. A child of ten, even of seven, can “see” who of its fellow-pupils are “mean”. Today, the child is conditioned to face alone its “offending” schoolmate. It does not appeal to the “community” of the classroom to solve the problem. That the disapproval of the peers is much more effective than the disciplinary actions of the adults is ignored in the present social system.
In a similar manner, in the next steps that follow, the young person is conditioned to hide or ignore the problematic persons in his proximate community in high school, in college, in his job, etc.
It is not strange that criminals, when they come in contact with the police, for the first time, they find “comfort” in that environment. The first thing that the policemen tell the criminal is that things will be easy for him from now on, if he becomes a police informer. Even if the criminal does not accept the “offer”, he develops a “chummy” relationship with the policemen, persons that are not different from criminals as they daily do the routine torture for their employers; the elites of any given society.
[Note: If the reader considers that the last sentence is an exaggeration he simply is deceiving himself or is willfully ignoring what is happening in the police stations of the entire world, “civilized” or not.]
Finally, concerning prevention, a very important factor is the role of the female in preventing criminality. In general, criminality and violence is a masculine “virtue”. The role of the female as mother, girlfriend, wife, companion, even as prostitute, could be visceral. She can reach the problematic male more effectively than any other person.
The case of Le Pen can be instructive. At the age of 14 Le Pen was orphaned and was raised by the indifferent and definitely crooked state. The usual fascists in the French society found in him fertile soil to plant “monarchism”, anti-communism and finally Nazism in his mind. The result: Le Pen, the torturer, in Algeria, etc.
What if Le Pen at the age of 14 had the luck to live and be raised in a community of humans with a pareconish behavior? Would he have turned into a monster? The reasonable answer is: No!
Let us hope that we, all of us, if we manage to survive the ecological catastrophe, should start thinking seriously about preventing young humans to become crooked adults, as the ones listed above.
As mentioned above, there is much more in Handel’s Messiah beyond the “Hallelujah”. For example, Jennens, the librettist, included in his text the following:
Why do the nations so furiously rage together,
and why do the people imagine a vain thing?
We should wonder if the prophetic people of the Bible referred to Syria, Iraq, or Ukraine [the latest one]? We shall see, maybe, in the next TeleSur article.