March 28th, 2012
The world will be much different in 2100.The world has changed a lot from 1912 to 2012, I think the changes over the next 100 years will dwarf those of the past century.
Environmentally the world will be rebuilding after a period of enormous catastrophe.Much of the Amazon, African, and Southeast Asian rain forests will have been destroyed by the 2060s. Global temperatures will have considerably warmed. Much of the Southwest US, North and Central Africa, Southern Europe, areas of Central China will have become essentially uninhabitable.
Areas of southern Southeast Asia will have been badly hit by storms and rising temperatures.
Coastal regions worldwide will have been threatened. Large dike works will have been constructed around New York, London, Shanghai, and other cities.
The good news is that there now is a massive international project to restore the global environment and ecosystem. This has a good chance of success. GMO bacteria is processing massive amounts of carbon dioxide and methane out of the atmosphere.
However within the previous few decades there have been massive refugee flows from affected regions of the world.Hundreds of millions of people have been resettling in more hospitable regions, radically changing population demographics, ideas of "ethnicity", and the concept of national boundaries.
There will have been several human die offs beginning in the 2030s.
Northern Europe, particularly the British Isles but also Scandinavia and Russia, will be favored destinations.The most favored destination will be Canada. With global climate change the habitable region of that country will extend much further to the north than at present.
New cultures and societies will emerge in northern Canada.They will be extremely diverse but will be roughly aligned with the northern First Nations people of 2012 who in our time already are gaining political and economic control over their natural resources,
Most likely a form of English will emerge as the language of these new societies but it is a possibility that Esperanto, an easy to learn lingua franca, could experience a revival and eventually perhaps even be the native tongue of 100s of millions.
Russia will have built large enclosed cities surrounding the Russian Arctic.These will be considered prestigious "miracle technology" city-states and will attract large numbers of the most technically skilled among the refugees from the global south..
There will be several floating "sea states", mostly inhabited by climate refugees from South and Southeast Asia. They will be largely self sufficient artificial islands gradually travelling though the world's oceans.
Food-world wide most food will be produced though bioengineering. This will be vastly more efficient in energy expenditure ratio to protein and calories produced. Humanity will no longer be tied to farmland.
The world will have (very painfully) completed the transistion to a post-oil economy. Biotech wll have played a major role in this.
Fully immersive virtual reality will be common, even seen as necessary.People will not need to travel as much, there will be near instant face to face communication with people anywhere on the planet. The idea of being in a specific place will be beginning to erode, although it will be several more decades before this fully disappears.
VR systems will utilize using highly sophisticated brain/computer interface nanobots. We will have the ability to record dreams and thoughts.There will be explorations into and understanding of paranormal phenomena such as lucid dreaming and "out of the body experiences"
Nation states, the US, Canada Russia, Germany, will still exist but they will not be as important as today and for modern urban people they will not be a primary means of identity.People will be organised in multi-national entities, something like today's MNCs, with elements of the "tribes" in Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age, but these will be much more democratic, run by the employees. These enties will be economic/political/cultural. The world will be post-capitalist.Economics will be fully based on production for human needs and reconstructing the devastated eco-systems rather than the reproduction of capital. There will be still be enormous economic disparities in the world but the concept of being "unemployed" will no longer have meaning. Nearly everyone will be engaged in some economic activity or productive work.The "tribes" will be seen as the major global players, not countries.Politics will certainly exist but it will be along directions much different than today.All tribes will have an international aspect but some of them will be locally focused and others purely global.
Religion, including Christianity, will still play a role in the world but they will have dramatically changed. By 2050, if not sooner, the Catholic Church will have split into several rival sects, which themselves will shrink, at least outside Africa..As the 21st century progresses Christianity itself will be increasingly seen as a Third World religion and virtually vanish in the West. This will become more complicated by mass refugee flows towards the middle of the century. Millions of Muslims, Pentecostalists, fundamentalist Christians, and Hindus will relocate to northern regions.
By the end of the century most urban "sophisticates" will be atheist or agnostic but there will be a far flung highly globalized syncretic folk religion somewhat similar to todays Santeria combining elements of Catholicism, Sufiism, Hinduism, Chinese folk religion, AI, and African religions. This will have some similarity to the eclectic paganism of the later Roman Empire.There will still be large Muslim and Christian communities scattered thought Canada, the US, and Scandinavia.
The zeitgeist will be both highly global but also highly localized. People won't travel all that much, because of expense, but people will feel very much tied in to global communities.
Transhumanism will be a reality, people will have the ability both to genetically modify themselves in ways we can't imagine today, and to vastly augment intelligence with AI interfaces.There will be some opposition from Christian and (especially) Muslim communities (and they will be seen as "communities", rather then society as a whole) but overall the attitude will be, "if that's what people wanna do, why not let them?"Genetic engineering on a level enabling people to rapidly change their physical body, will be cheap and readily available.With much of humanity being involved in reconstruction, re-engineering one's body would be seen as somewhat self indulgent by many.There will be the possibility of prolonged life extension.
The feeling of the world will be cautiously optimistic. People will have the feeling of having survived decades of multiple traumas and there will be a form of "global PTSD". People will be confident in humanity's ability to (finally) build a better world.
A main task of humanity during this period will be rebuilding. Much effort will be dedicated to recreating devastated wilderness areas such as the Amazon
March 23rd, 2012
The Way of The Berdache
Some, but not all Native American tribes had a social role for what we call a berdache, a transgendered person .Not much is really known about these people. Much Native American culture were wiped out, first in a series of epidemics brought by the Europeans and then by the European Conquest itself. Much of the culture of the surviving Indians was destroyed. White missionaries taught natives that transgenderism or alternate sexuality in general was "evil" and this tradition was largely destroyed or driven underground. Much of what we know about the berdache comes from journals or memoirs from some of the early European explorers and some oral traditions from Indians themselves. The berdache tradition seems to have survived today most strongly among some Pueblo Indians in New Mexico and Arizona. There were a few famous (and much photographed) berdaches from this area around the turn of the last century but today these people are very secretive about their traditions and culture.
It was somewhat frustrating to write this because it is difficult to find much specific documented information on the berdache. The information I found on the Internet was either well meaning but simplistic introductions on the one hand or academic anthropologists tediously analyzing each other’s methodology on the other hand and while all this is interesting in a way, it doesn’t really tell me much. It’s hard to find much specific documentation. I did the best I could and I hope you find this interesting.
Anthropologists studying American Indians have known about berdaches for a long time but traditionally this aspect of Indian culture was downplayed. Many writers assumed berdaches were "degenerate", marginal people who were barely accepted in Native cultures. There’s been somewhat more research done on this in the 90s and today the social climate is somewhat more accepting. Many anthropologists today believe that berdaches actually played an important role in Native societies and were respected and honored.
It’s interesting (and sad) that most American, at least until recently , have not been aware aspect of American Indian culture. transgendered people are just barely coming to be accepted by mainstream society while the people who originally lived on this continent have been crossing gender boundaries for upwards of 20,000 years (that’s the currently accepted estimate of when the early American Indians crossed over the Bering Land Bridge from Siberia into Alaska and North America). I d didn't know about this at all myself until a few years ago when I came across a few very vague references to the berdache in some gay magazines I thumbed though, More recently I came across "The Spirit and The Flesh" by Walter Williams which is a good introduction to this, by chance in a bookstore . There are some really good books on American Indians I’ve seen, but even the best of them have very little or no mention of the berdache.
The term "berdache" (pronounced "bur da che-as in "cheese") itself is actually a Portuguese word and goes way back in history. It originally came from the Persian/Arabic word "berdaj" and before that from the ancient Iranian "varta" which meant "seized as a prisoner" and came to mean a young captive prisoner, male or female. Later on different versions of this word entered European languages during the 1500 and 1600s, and were used to refer to a "catamite" a young boy used for sex (this term is in the Bible) in some Middle Eastern cultures, in this case the Ottoman Empire (what’s now Turkey) where Turkish sultans kept huge harems of both women and boys. In Italian this word was "bardascia", in Spanish "bardaje" and in English "bardash". When early European explorers found transgedered people in the New World they at first thought this was the same phenomena (which of course if you’re CD or TG, or know anything about this at all, you’ll know it isn’t-it is somewhat humiliating to be put in the same category as a "catamite"). Its complicated but we probably got the Portuguese version of this word from the French Canadians, where it was used as a frontier word. when French fur trappers encountered transgendered people, probably around the Great Lakes area, in the 1600s. A French writer named Deletier wrote a memoir in the early 1700s where he talked about these people and the word stuck. Many American Indian activists, especially among the Navajo people, don’t like this term because they feel it’s too "Eurocentric" and some people have proposed using the Chippewa term "hedayeh" instead. Because it’s more familiar I’ll stick with "berdache". There are some other well-known terms. The Navajo called berdaches "nadle" or "two spirit people", while the Shoshone called them ""tanowaip", "woman-man". The Lakota Sioux (the group in "Dances With Wolves") called them "winkte". The Zunis, a group who live in pueblos in New Mexico, call them"lhamana". The Mojave called them "hwame". I could go on and on but you probably get the point. There were about 200 different languages spoken in what are now the United States, and just as many words for a berdache.
Where Were They?
Contrary to what many people today think, American Indian cultures were very varied in terms of culture and language. As I mentioned before there were about 200 different languages spoken in what’s now the US. (Today about 20 remain-I say "about" because estimates of what makes a seperate language or tribe vary a lot). American Indians could be as different from one another in terms of facial features as Italians and Swedes are in Europe today . Generally speaking American Indians(and anthropologists studying them) didn’t think in terms of separate "races" but more in terms of cultural groups. You were a member of a tribe if you lived with them and adopted their culture. Its interesting that it was easier, and far more common, for a European to be adopted into an Indian tribe than for an Indian to assimilate into white society. Largely because Native societies gave everyone a specific role in society, it was common for Europeans to enjoy living in an Indian society (once they were accepted) than in their own European culture. They are many reports from the 1600s and early 1700s of aristocratic French explorers being adopted into Indian tribes in what’s now the American southeast-Mississippi , Alabama Georgia or Florida, and enjoying it far more than European society. Many tribes of the Southeast had –the Choctaw and other groups-had aristocratic, hierarchical cultures, which were probably heavily influenced by the Aztecs and Toltecs of Mexico. Many early French explorers claimed these Native societies reminded them of the France of Louis IV, although that sounds a bit far fetched to me. Anyway there was a constant "gene flow" in many Indian societies-newcomers were often adopted into the tribe, kidnapped or captured. At the same time most Indian tribes was fiercely protective of their tribe’s territory and could be brutal, merciless, and cruel to trespassers.
Estimates vary as to how common the berdache tradition was. According to a history project by GAI (Gay American Indians-a gay Indian activist group, obviously) 133 American Indian tribes have been documented as having a berdache tradition while the American Anthropological Association puts it lower at 122. There were approximately 200 Native American tribal or cultural groups in what’s now the United States at the time of Columbus, so approximately ¾ of all Indian groups had berdaches .Two anthropologists studying the berdache tradition only found evidence for female to male berdaches in 30 tribes and its believed that this may have been less accepted and far less common. . Unfortunately there isn’t any documented evidence of a berdache tradition among Northeast Indians-the Iroquois of New York State and the Alkongquian speaking groups of New York and New England. Of course, just because it of course, just because it hasn’t been documented did not exits-a lot has been lost. Many writers think these groups probably did have such a tradition. Berdaches were common in agricultural Native cultures where women had a strong role in society, as these groups did. The Iroquois were a matriarchal people and women had a powerful economic role among the Coastal Algonquians, so it would be puzzling if they did not also have a role for berdaches . Algonquian groups living further to the west were known to have berdaches .It could be that the early New England Puritans freaked out about this. It is known that a little after the time of the Salem witch trials an Irish woman was burned at the stake in Massachusetts Bay Colony for speaking Gaelic to herself, which was thought to be evidence of satanic possession. (I’m not making this up!) The Puritans made Hester Pym wear an "A" for being an "adulteress", so you could imagine how they would react to a young Indian boy who wanted to be a girl.
Other then the Northeast, where the evidence is sketchy, a berdache tradition has been documented in every other region in the US. According to Walter Williams the Cherokee, a group in northern Georgia and Tennessee, does not have a berdache tradition but were and are very tolerant of homosexuality.
Who Started Civilization?
Sorry, but if you guessed "Sid Meier" you’d be wrong. This may be a surprise but agriculture and farming in most cultures in the world was originally women’s work. At the time of the Neolithic (the New Stone Age) men would be out hunting woolly mammoth or rhinoceros or whatever while women would stay at home and plant crops . Many anthropologists think that in this way women actually started civilization. Early agriculture societies like this tended to be matriarchal or at least gave women a much greater role. These cultures also had a role for transgendered people. In a culture where women have a strong role, it’s easier and there’s more incentive for a young boy (or grown man) who has trangender feelings to switch roles. Pastoral or nomadic peoples, tribes who made their living tending migratory animals and who would usually live in the north, in both the Western and Eastern hemispheres, tended to be more macho and aggressive. These people would look down on the settled people of the south. Farming was for sissies, while "real men" took care of sheep (yeah, yeah, I know-I couldn’t resist this). The nomads would often trash the more settled civilizations. If you play history simulation games like "Civ II", or "Age of Empires", you’ll know this is a very common recurring pattern in history. The Mongols trashed Central Asia, the Germans and Celts (my ancestors) trashed the Roman Empire, and Canadian shoppers trash northern New England on those weird Canadian holidays . Seriously though, you can see this ancient historical theme in American history, in the "range wars" of the 1880s in the prairie states when shootouts and small battles broke out between farmers and ranchers. The musical "Oklahoma!" talks about this in the song "Why Can’t The Cowboy and the Farmer Be Friends?"
What They Did (Part I)
The role of berdaches varied from tribe to tribe. In a quote from a website produced by the English Department of Reed College a berdache was a "transvested male, who had permanently taken on the dress, language, and mannerisms of the female gender in their particular society. In homosexual relations the berdache took on the passive role The member of a particular culture "became" a berdache in varying ways, some at a young age and others at a later stage in life, possibly following warriordom, when they were no longer capable of fighting effectively".
In most cultures berdaches were respected, fully integrated into society, and had a high status. There were female to male berdaches ("Amazons") but male to female berdaches seem to have been far more common. Generally berdaches were associated with good luck, they were considered to be lucky people, not because of their alternate gender but because good things seemed to happen to them. In tribes that had trade and economic activity berdaches were considered to be good in business. Berdaches were also often associated with shamanism, or contact with the spirit world. Shamans are very common, probably universal, in tribal cultures. They are people who contact or enter the spirit world, usually after going into a trance state, and are involved in "healing" people, both physically and psychologially. More on this in a minute. Not all berdaches were shamans and not all shamans were berdaches, but berdaches were regarded as making especially skilled shamans. This is because they were thought to be skillful at crossing boundaries, gender as well as spiritual. In most cultures around the world that accepted transgenderism, TGs were often connected with religion and spirituality.
Since berdaches knew what is was like to be both a man and a woman, they were also looked to for advice on relationships. Both the Cheyenne hemaneh and the Navajo nadle were skilled at making love potions. Interestingly the hijra, transgendered people in India, also have this reputation.
Individual male to female berdaches ran the gamut from occasional crossdressers to people who "lived full time". Walter Williams talks about a Shoshone Indian from the 1840s. This person sometimes dressed as a male, sometimes as a female.He/she was a skilled shaman and doctor and, when he/she wanted to be (which wasn’t often) was extremely good at being a warrior. While respected and accepted by his/her tribe this person chose to live alone in a tipi apart from his/her village and was regarded as being somewhat eccentric .One time the Shoshone were threatened by a coalition of other tribes and this person abruptly stopped living as a woman, became a warrior, killed a large number of the enemy, and when the threat was over began living as a woman again, at least for a while.There are other stories of people like this, who would switch back and forth. They were accepted and honored but also considered to be somewhat eccentric .Some of these people were married to genetic women. Often these people were extremely good at a skill-shamanism, medicine, warfare-having survival value for the tribe.There were also people both male and female, usually shamans, who partially crossdressed, wearing clothes of both genders, "mix and match". This seems to have been especially common among the Zuni Pueblo Indians .From what I’ve come up with, which admittedly isn’t much (as I said before the documentation is very scanty) "living full time" among the berdache was far more common.
The Navajo nadle was considered to be an extremely lucky person, as I mentioned before. According to Navajo myth, nadles were originally given charge of wealth at the beginning of time It was believed that a family with a berdache member would be rich and financially succesful. There was a poplar saying among the Navajo "When all the nadle are gone, it will be the end of the Navajo".
In the Lakota Soiux tribe the "wintke" were given the responsibility, also considered a privilege, of bestowing secret names to tribe members. The names "Sitting Bull", "Black Elk", and "Crazy Horse", two famous warriors and a famous story teller, were given by wintke.
The Cheyenne hemaneh were regarded as sprirtual beings with supernatural powers. Hemaneh acted as leaders of scalp dances .The movie Little Big Man (which I haven’t seen yet) has a hemaneh as a main character. In this movie a white guy, Jack Crabb comes back to a group of Cheyenne Indians he spent part of his childhood with. He meets an old friend, Little Horse and is surprised to see that he is now living as a woman. Little Horse does a woman’s dance and is extremely good at it and is regarded by the other tribe members as a supernatural, godlike being .Little Horse offers to become Jack’s wife but is turned down, possibly because Jack (who isn’t gay) already had four wives. (I definitely have to study this culture more). Some anthropologists and literary critics think the book and the movie over romanticized the situation among the Cheyenne.
Its difficult to apply terms like "hetero-" or "homo-" sexuality to TG people. It appears though that most berdaches, especially if they lived as women from a young age were sociialized to have sexual relations with men .It was very common in Native tribes for a berdache to be married to a "straight" man. Neither partner would be regarded as "gay". Polygamy was accepted in many Native cultures .It was especially common in the hierarchical cultures of the Southeast. It would be common for a high statues male, such as a powerful chief, to have many wives and it was very common for at least one of the wives to be a berdache. The berdache would often "stay at home" and take care of the children and do housekeeping while her sister wives would be farming and working in the fields. It was considered lucky to have a berdache wife. Walter Williams in "The Spirit and The Flesh" has a story about the Tlinglish, a group that still lives in British Columbia. These people had a hierarchical status oriented culture and were business and money oriented.There was a family who had a son, a young boy who was unusually feminine. His/her parents married him off to an older man who made a lot of money in the fishing industry, in order to make important business connections for the family. Neither the young boy or "her" husband were considered to be homosexual and the marriage was considered to be a "smart move" by other people in the tribe.
.There has been lot of debate over the sexual orientation of the berdache. Some writers feel that virtually all of them were "gay", that is they were socialized to have sex with men. Other people disagree with this and feel that the role of the berdache was very varied., similar to transgender peole today. It is known that there were (maybe still are) "lesbian berdaches" among the New Mexico Zuni people."The Spirit and The Flesh" by Walter Williams which came out in the early 90s, was one of the early "classics" about the berdache tradition. Williams is openly gay and takes a gay perspective. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this of course but many people might disagree with his interpretation. Williams (and other writers) seem to feel that the transgenderism of the berdache-the desire to look, act, or be treated as women is an expression of homosexuality and is not important outside of this. Many TGs and especially CDs would probably disagree with this idea. It’s a somewhat abstract but important philosophical idea. Gender identity and sexual orientation are two separate (although maybe related) things, one isn’t just an expression of the other. There was a big debate among anthropologists on this subject-the sexual and gender orientation of the berdache- thoughout the 1990s, the "berdache wars". Andrew Sullivan, a conservative gay activist, wrote that berdaches were rare in Indian societies and were only common in cultures where women had a high status. His views have also caused a lot of debate.
I haven’t found anything about "lesbian berdaches".I like to think they were common but I don’t know. Of course many Native Americans didn’t think in this rigid Western terms anyway.. Living in a tight knit tribal culture, guided by the spirit world and in which daily survival could be a struggle, diversity could be accepted and celebrated but at the same one wouldn’t have a lot of "lifestyle choices". If one had TG or CD feelings and wanted or had to be a berdache, that person would be socialized into a specific role
As I mentioned earlier Native American cultures could often be much different from one another. They were usually much different from contemporary American culture, with a few exceptions. Modern American culture is very capitalistic-its based on individual achievement and (especially) accumulation. "He who has the most toys when e dies, wins". Sad but accurate. Most Native American cultures were communal-people shared things. People had individual possessions but the concept of private property wasn’t highly developed. (The tribe in British Columbia I mentioned was an exception) Most Natives thought the concept of permanent ownership of real estate was especially absurd. This is why the Dutch were able to buy Manhattan for a few seashells and beads. (Every school child knows this story. Recent research however shows this was a little more complicated than most people think. What the Dutch paid for Manhattan was far higher than previously believed and it was the Manhattan Indians who thought they were ripping the Dutch off.)
Some tribes, particularly Plains Indians, were highly individualistic and were also very warlike-being a warrior was an important way of gaining status, while many of the Pueblo Indians were pacifistic and suppressed individual expression. Individual achievement and standing out from the group was considered bad among thee people. Some tribes were matriarchal; some were egalitarian and more or less democratic, while some, particularly in the southeast and along the Mississippi River were aristocratic. The way berdaches lived therefore varied according to the culture they were in.
Many Are Called But Few Are Chosen-Becoming A Berdache
People became berdache in many ways. According to the Reed College website I mentioned the selection of a person to become a berdache didn’t necessarily have anything to do with feminine predispositions. Just because someone enjoyed weaving or had a high voice didn’t mean they would be a berdache .Often people wee chosen by their parents or their tribe to be a berdache. A Spanish writer Fernandz de Piedrahita wrote about a village in Columbia in the mid 1600s where if a mother gave birth to five consecutive sons she was entitled to raise any other sons she would have as a girl. Another Spanish writer , Hernando de Alarcon wrote about berdaches he found along the lower Colorado River in 1541. In this society (I haven’t been able to find out which tribe) there were always supposed to be four berdaches in each village. When one berdache died, the next born boy would then be raised as a girl. In this particular society, according to Alarcon, berdaches worked as prostitutes but in reward for this had a high status in society and "were free to take from any house what they needed".
Most Native American tribes regarded dreams and visions as being very important. In Plains Indian tribes a young man or woman would often go on a vision quest for several days as part of his or her initiation ritual into adulthood and to find his or her place in the tribe. In this way a young person with transgender feelings would have dreams or visions reflecting this. The tribal shamans would help him or her interprets this. Many of these cultures were very warlike and held skilled warriors in great esteem. A young man about to become a berdache would opt out of this. He/she would forego the sometimes painful male initiation rituals and be initiated as a female. Walter Williams mentions a story recorded in the 1920s about a Lakota Sioux berdache. In the early 1900s, long after the Sioux had been "pacified", herded onto a reservation, and much of their traditions surppresed, a young boy who was unusually feminine, used to hang around his mother’s kitchen. One time after spending awhile talking about the Sioux wintke tradition with his mother, she asked him, "Do you think you are one of these people?" Her son said "Yes", and he became a berdache. Unfortunately I haven’t found too many other stories of how people became berdaches..
Shamanism was often an important vocation for a berdache I’ve dabbled in shamanism myself although I’m not an expert on this. A shamanism is someone who enters the spirit world, usually though a trance state. There are many different ways of inducing a trance-drumming is the most popular, dancing can also be used. A good basic intro on this is "Shamanism" by Mircea Eliade, a famous Romanian religious scholar .If you’re interested in contacting the spirit world yourself, "The Way of The Shaman" by Michael Harner will show you how. It comes with a drumming tape-you nee to have a Walkman with Dolby noise reduction, which is hard to find. Anyway, shamanism does work. Native Americans also used fasting and drugs (peyote, mushrooms, jimson weed, etc.) to induce a trance state .I don’t at all recommend using these methods unless you really really know what you’re doing.. Drugs were more common in what’s now Latin America (you’ll know this if you’ve read any of the Carlos Castenada books) but were not used often by North American Indians.. Shamans used their knowledge of the spirit world to "heal" people, both physically, psychologically, and spiritually, acting as both doctors and therapists. They also helped provide guidance for a tribe during times of stress-a famine, a war, etc. Shamans played a very important role in most Indian societies Anyway transgenderd people because they traveled between genders, were considered to have a gift for shamanism. Not all shamans were berdaches and not all berdaches were shamans but a vocation as a shaman was very common among these people. It’s interesting that in most ancient and traditional cultures around the world TGs were connected with religion and spirituality. It is a major tragedy (I think) that until recently crossdressing and transgenderism has been condemned by a misinterpretation of Christianity, driving people like us underground. It is sad that people were made to feel guilty to be who they are. I’m digressing.
How They Lived (Part II)
In tribes that had settled farming villages berdaches seemed to have a high economic status and were often considered to be rich. In these villages they often lived and worked in groups and played an important role as priestesses. Theodore De brey, a Flemish artist who accompanied some of the early Spanish explorers wrote open berdaches in Florida and Central America especially Florida. He noted that among a tribe in Florida berdaches worked in the "caring professions", took care of sick people, buried the dead, and worked as priests during important ceremonies and lived together as a group.. The anthropologist Alfred Bowers wrote about the Hidatsa, an Indian group that lived o the Northern Great Plains. The Hidatsa lived in earth lodge villages. According to Bowers each village would have between 15-20 berdaces, who often lived and worked together (I don’t know how large the villages were). The Cheyenne were another Great Plains group who was related to the Hidatsa. They used to live in farming villages but after they got horses from the Spanish they became nomadic. Among the Cheyenne berdaches also worked, traveled and camped together.
In many tribes berdaches didn’t specifically wear women’s clothing and weren’t "officially" considered women but had their own type of feminine clothing and culture. In religious functions and other social roles berdaches didn’t mirror women’s roles but had their own distinct role. One writer suggested that the fact that there were separate names for berdaches meant that they had a different role than genetic women. . Some anthropologists have suggested that rather than "changing gender" bedaches could be considered to represent a third (or even fourth or fifth) gender. Some people have suggested or implied that this might provide an alternate role model for modern Americans (or other people) struggling with transsexualism. People have suggested that surgery as a solution would be a "Western medical model" solution to these people’s problems and there have been alternate solutions practiced by tribal cultures. This is a complicated topic and I don’t have any answers.
Some Indian tribes, particularly in the Southeast and in Mexico and Central America were hierarchical and aristocratic. They had slaves, peasants, and a ruling class of aristocratic priests. Another common recurring pattern in history is the struggle between priests and shamans. Tribal societies usually have shamans, who are in direct communication with the spirit world. Societies that develop large cities begin to have a priest class-these people interpret messages from the gods, rather than communicate with the spirit world and often form an aristocracy. Priests usually mistrust and try to discredit shamans. This has been a very common recurring theme in almost every society in the world. As I mentioned before, berdaches were often connected with spirituality and religion .In some societies in Central and South America berdaches would act as a "passive sexual partner to religious leaders", according to one website. This was especially true in the Inca Empire of Peru. Berdaches would act as temple prostitutes or as sexual partners to religious leaders. The Spanish conquistadors freaked out about this, both because they thought this was "sodomy" and because they regarded this as religious blasphemy, and they killed large numbers of berdache.
As I mentioned earlier the Flemish engraver Theodore deBray accompanied early Spanish explorers. He made several not entirely accurate pictures of berdaches .In his pictures the berdaches are shown doing traditional women’s work in large groups. They are shown as European looking, with apparently what was supposed to be long curly blond hair, probably to differentiate them from the other Indians, and were portrayed as the medieval European conception of "sodomite". One of these is entitled "Balboa’s Dogs Attacking a Group of Panamanian Sodomites" and is a horrifying picture of just that. It’s disturbing to look at.
The Zuni Lhamana
The Zuni tribe is a group of Pueblo Indians who live in New Mexico. This is one group where the berdache tradition has been fairly well documented. Berdaches, called "lhamana" are fully accepted and respected among this tribe (they are still around). The Zunis, as I mentioned before, are an Indian tribe that is very group oriented and does not prize individual self-expression. The gender of children before the age of six is not emphasized. Kids that age are called by the same crude term meaning "child". Berdaches are honored in Zuni culture but if a young boy shows inclinations towards this it isn’t forced on him-he’s allowed to develop this at his own pace. Some Zuni groups have a separate initiation ritual for a berdache, sometimes after the male initiation ritual, some don’t.
In the Zuni creation myth there was a battle between the Zuni agricultural spirits and rival spirits of hunting tribes. During this battle a spirit called "ko lhomana" was captured by the enemy and was transformed. This spirit then returned and acted as a mediator between the hunters and the farmers. Every year the Zuni have rituals where they reenact this cosmic battle and the role of the ko lhomana-who is closely connected with the berdache.-is closely associated with the berdache. Ko lhomana or the lhamana were considered to e a third sex and played an important role in religious ceremonies and in business.
There was a famous Zuni berdache, We’wha, who lived from 1849 to 1896. We’wha was highly respected among her tribe. "Her strong character made her word law among both men and women with whom he was associated. Though his wrath was dreaded by men as well as women, he was beloved by all the children…" We’wha was the tallest member of her tribe and was also one of the most intelligent members. We’wha was not really "effeminate" but was androgynous and apparently combined both genders. Not only were We’whaand and other berdaches accepted by their families but they provided a valuable role-they could perform important women’s work without having to go though child birth or menstruation. As I mentioned before there has been a lot of debate on the sexuality of berdaches. Among the Zunis, anyway, this seems to have been varied, and there were many "lesbian ilhamana"., although these people didn’t think in terms of these Western categories.
Conclusion/Where I Got My Information From
As you’ve seen many Native American tribes had a role for gender non-conformists, what we call berdaches. These people didn't think in terms of Western strict dualistic concepts such as gay or straight, or male or female. It appeared that the role of the berdache varied. Often they represented a "third gender". They were often closely connected to religion and spirituality and were considered good at making money. There’s been very little specific documentation and much of the info I’ve been able to come up with is highly theoretical.
I didn’t include a formal bibliography because I didn’t want to feel like I was writing a college term paper .If you are interested, I could send an informal bibliography. Basically type in "berdache" on Yahoo or any major search engine and you’ll pretty much come up with what I came up with. "The Spirit and The Flesh" by Walter Williams is a good introduction but as I mentioned his ideas and conclusions are very controversial. Also-if you are reading this and you feel I did not give you credit-please let me know and I will immediately rectify the situation.
A good introduction to Native American thinking is "My Heart Is Red" by Vine Deloria. Another great book, which talks about the Native American way of life, is "Lila" by Robert Pirsig. This is sort of a "part II" of Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance". I don’t agree with everything Pirsig says but it’s still a wonderful book. "Dances With Wolves", directed and starring Kevin Costner (based on a German novel of the same name) is really good. "The Black Robe" about a Jesuit missionary in French Canada in the 1600s is really good." Dead Man Walking" starring Johnny Depp is excellent, one of my all time favorite films, but also very weird. All these provide good introductions to Native American culture, but don’t mention the berdache." Little Big Man" (the movie and the book by Thomas Berger) has a berdache main character and is supposed to be really good, but I haven’t seen or read it.
July 30th, 2011
Debt Ceiling Debate Provides Cover for Historic Attacks on New Deal Programs
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Job growth has collapsed in the last two months, with the official U.S. unemployment rate rising to 9.2%. Since 2008 we have entered a period of high structural unemployment with the economy stagnating and unable to effectively pull out of the recession. Yet the politicians in Washington are not talking about jobs. Instead, they are playing a dangerous game of chicken with the August 2 deadline to raise the federal debt ceiling.
The debt ceiling is normally raised with little fanfare. But the Tea Party and the Republicans are demanding drastic cuts to social programs for ordinary people. They are not alone. Obama is also proposing deep cuts. Raising the debt ceiling has become captive to attempts by both parties to push through cuts that give them a political advantage.
A variety of proposals for deep cuts and a number of slight tax increases have emerged out of White House talks with key legislators only to be shot down by House Republicans, who have refused to accept anything that includes tax increases or even closing tax loopholes.
With the August 2 deadline looming and neither party able to make an agreement, a possible fallback position has emerged to avoid a historic U.S. government default. The most talked-about plan is one hatched by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell. This would allow the president to raise the debt ceiling without congressional approval but allow House Republicans a symbolic vote against the plan as long as the president proposes cuts to offset new borrowing.
But before we can get to that point, some background is necessary. House Republicans managed to pass their symbolic and outrageous “cut, cap, and balance” bill on Tuesday July 19 only to meet with a swift defeat in the Senate. This would cut $5.8 trillion over 10 years, cap future spending, and require Congress to approve a constitutional amendment to balance the federal budget before raising the debt ceiling by $2.4 trillion. If it had passed the Senate, the president had promised to veto it. Needless to say such a plan would all but kill off an economy where private sector spending is extremely tight, and where consumer spending is incapable of providing enough impetus to allow the U.S. economy to emerge from this debt-laden and weak “recovery.”
If a limited fallback deal like the McConnell plan goes through and the president successfully lifts the debt limit, an extended debate over a deficit-cutting plan will continue. Before the emergence of the McConnell plan, President Obama himself offered the cruelest austerity measures: a four trillion-dollar cut in the deficit over ten years, including three trillion dollars in deep cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal spending – the most popular social programs that were until recently considered off-limits. This plan of Obama was to be combined with one trillion dollars in new revenue. This would come in part from ending a few of the most egregious tax breaks for the wealthy. Yet it would leave in place the Bush tax cuts to the rich as well as be combined with possible reductions in the top corporate tax rate.
The prospect of reaching a deal on such a large plan was considered dead until shortly after the defeat of the “cut, cap, and balance” bill. Some momentum was building for a similar plan drawn up by the “Gang of Six” bipartisan Senate group . Things seemed to be heading toward an agreement until Speaker of the House John Boehner left the negotiations because the plan was to include limited revenue increases. According to the Washington Post, this was a plan that would have not only included massive budget cuts, it would also have cut the top tax rate for the wealthiest individuals and corporations. Having failed once again to come to an agreement, uncertainty has deepened, and the McConnell fall-back plan seems like the likely way out.
Why is Obama demanding such deep cuts?
While the agenda of Republicans is designed to shore up its right-wing base in preparation for the upcoming presidential elections, there has been a wide-ranging discussion on the motives behind Obama’s policies.
The drastic attacks on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid announced by Obama represent a massive shift in policies by Democrats. Over the last 80 years they have built a base of support among workers, the poor and disadvantaged, and progressive movements by giving lip service to policies that, if enacted, would help the poor and workers. These new budget proposals by Obama are a bolt of lightning that will start to shatter the widespread myth that Democrats are friends of workers and the poor.
Obama’s approach is cynically designed to garner Republican cover and support for the deeply unpopular cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. That’s because the Tea Party House Republicans could be counted on to demand a plan like the “cut, cap and balance” bill which makes even deeper cuts and includes absolutely no revenue increases, not even a limited tightening of tax loopholes. Under this scheme, any liberal dissenters could be bypassed.
Having adopted deeply conservative policies already, Obama does not have to follow these Tea Party policies to the letter to satisfy Wall Street and big business. The Tea Party Republicans in the House have become so extreme that even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, and other business executives released a letter rebuking their short-sighted behavior and demanding they raise the debt limit immediately. Obama had even offered Republicans what David Brooks called “the deal of the century” – three trillion dollars in cuts for a trillion dollars in new revenue. Yet Republicans rejected it, demanding ”no revenue increases.”
Tea Party Republicans in their eagerness to placate their right-wing base, forget that their zeal to gut social spending is not as popular as they might think. When cuts in Medicare came up for a test of voters in a New York special election, the candidate who professed such zeal lost. A July 17 Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 72% of Americans support raising taxes on the rich and that the same amount are opposed to any Medicaid cuts. Majorities are also opposed to cuts in Social Security and Medicare.
Under his present “centrist” strategy, Obama has gambled that he can win the 2012 elections by posing as the wizard of a “grand bargain”, and by posing as the adult in a room filled with crazy Tea Party Republicans.
It’s instructive to see what he said at a recent press conference: “[W]e have these high-minded pronouncements about how we’ve got to get control of the deficit and how we owe it to our children and our grandchildren. Well, let’s step up. Let’s do it. I’m prepared to do it. I’m prepared to take on significant heat from my party to get something done. And I expect the other side should be willing to do the same thing - if they mean what they say, that this is important” [emphasis author’s] (“President Obama on Deficit Reduction: ‘If Not Now, When?’”, The White House Blog, 7/11/11). http://m.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/07/11/president-obama-deficit-reduction-if-not-now-when
Obama’s broader goal is to win over Wall Street and signal he’s prepared to promote a broad pro-big business agenda of continued austerity once reelected into a second term. As far back is 2009, David Brooks reported in his column about a conversation he had with senior White House advisors in which they related that Obama “is extremely committed to entitlement reform and is plotting politically feasible ways to reduce Social Security as well as health spending” (“When Obamatons Respond,” New York Times, 3/5/09) http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/06/opinion/06brooks.html
This is not the “hope” or “change” that tens of millions of Americans voted for.
What is most astonishing is the speed with which Obama has dropped the argument that creating jobs is the most immediate and pressing policy goal. Instead, he has adopted some typical Republican talking points about spending cuts. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman quotes Obama saying: “Government has to start living within its means, just like families do. We have to cut the spending we can’t afford so we can put the economy on sounder footing, and give our businesses the confidence they need to grow and create jobs” (“What Obama Wants,” 7/7/11) http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/08/opinion/08krugman.html
Krugman goes on to say: “That’s three of the right’s favorite economic fallacies in just two sentences. No, the government shouldn’t budget the way families do; on the contrary, trying to balance the budget in times of economic distress is a recipe for deepening the slump. Spending cuts right now wouldn’t ‘put the economy on sounder footing.’ They would reduce growth and raise unemployment. And last but not least, businesses aren’t holding back because they lack confidence in government policies; they’re holding back because they don’t have enough customers — a problem that would be made worse, not better, by short-term spending cuts.”
How come these arguments about government “living within its means” were never made when Wall Street got its bailout, when trillions were spent on wars of occupation in the last decade, or when Obama institutionalized Bush’s tax cuts? Stepping back, it’s amazing how the corporate politicians and corporate-dominated media around the world have managed to pull off a major coup - switching attention from anger at Wall Street and high unemployment to the need to cut the deficit as the biggest problem.
Given the extreme weakness of the private sector economy, only a massive jobs program of public works could begin to attack high unemployment in a serious way. But this would of course require shifting fiscal priorities away from protecting Wall Street and corporate profits and towards ordinary working people and the poor. We have seen that there is no shortage of money to satisfy the needs of the super-rich investors and CEOs. So we must conclude that it is a political choice on the part of the Democrats and Republicans as to who deserves more support: the wealthy magnates of finance and industry or the vast majority of Americans who actually create all the wealth through their labor.
Armageddon – The Real Danger of Default
The needs of working people, the unemployed, and the poor are never granted the kind of priority that is being given to the debt ceiling debate by the corporate media and the politicians of the big business parties. However, there is real danger if the debt limit is not raised. If Congress doesn’t pass a bill raising the ceiling by August 2, The Economist magazine laments: “the American government will go into default. Not, one must pray, on its sovereign debt. But the country will have to stop paying someone: perhaps pensioners, or government suppliers, or soldiers” (“America’s Debt: Shame on Them,” 7/7/11). http://www.economist.com/node/18928600
In other words: Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid checks may not be paid out, but the big banks, investors, and foreign governments that loaned money to the U.S. to create the national debt will be prioritized to ensure they continue getting their debt service payments.
Nevertheless, if the U.S. Treasury is eventually forced to stop paying its creditors, that would trigger a dangerous bond market crisis that could sink the global economy back into a slump. Legions of investors and creditors holding U.S. debt could begin a massive sell-off, collapsing the dollar and together with it the credit markets which are the life blood of the modern capitalist global economy. This is what they are concerned about.
The ongoing crisis of families and individuals being foreclosed upon, unable to find jobs; declining wages, disappearing benefits, and layoffs in the public sector - all of that can wait. But not the bond markets. These corporate CEOs and bond-holders, whose unelected power holds economies ransom, are willing to cause massive cuts in social spending in Greece, Ireland, Spain, and the U.S., because they “must” receive their interest payments.
A wave of fury has grown among working people around the world against austerity programs, resulting in strike action, mass demonstrations, and other direct action. Just last month, 750,000 British public sector workers held a one-day strike to reject attacks on their pensions and other austerity measures.
Build a national movement against ALL cuts
The dynamic mass struggles in Wisconsin this spring against Governor Walker’s anti-worker, anti-union policies demonstrate the way forward. We need to build in the U.S. a national anti-austerity, anti-cuts movement that puts blame for the deficits and unemployment where it belongs: on Wall Street and big business. The movement should take up demands such as the following:
- No to all cuts on workers, the poor and social services. Instead, end all the wars and slash military spending.
- Enact massive taxes on Wall Street, big business, and the very rich.
- Pass single-payer healthcare to save hundreds of billions of healthcare dollars now wasted on wild-eyed industry profits and unaccountable private bureaucracies.
Both parties are beholden to Wall Street, the big bankers and investors. They argue we need massive cuts to pay off the national debt, which is now over $13.5 trillion. About $4.5 trillion is “inter-governmental loans” which is a nice way of saying they’ve raided Social Security and Medicare to pay for military spending. $9 trillion is held by private investors, mainly banks and billionaires, looking to get rich off interest payments.
Providing working people with homes, living wage jobs and health care should take priority over paying back money to rich investors who take low-interest loans from the Federal Reserve, then buy back government bonds and charge taxpayers higher interest! We should cancel the debt, only repaying creditors with proven need like retirees.
Corporate economists object to this. They argue that cancelling the debt would produce a financial crisis, with banks refusing to make future loans to government. But this only underscores how the entire financial system is totally reliant on taxpayer money to stay afloat. The big banks and hedge funds are essentially parasites sucking the lifeblood out of our public finances. These financial institutions should also be brought under public ownership and democratic control, with their massive ill-gotten assets invested in green jobs programs, rebuilding crumbling urban centers, infrastructure, health programs, and other social needs.
You will never see the corporate-controlled Democrats or Republicans propose such measures unless they are forced to by a huge mass movement of workers, young people, poor, and retirees. That is why we need to build an anti-corporate, working-class political alternative that fights in the streets, workplaces, campuses, and neighborhoods - and in elections as well. In the elections, we can start by running independent working-class candidates who will stand on a no-cuts, no-concessions, tax-the-rich platform – backed up by the anti-cuts movement, progressive organizations, and unions.
The need for a socialist program
In the end, even a powerful movement of ordinary people will be limited in how much it can do within the confines of capitalism. The capitalist class will resist with all its might any attempt to really end the corporate welfare system of tax breaks, bailouts, and wars for profit. Big bankers and investors would retaliate by threatening to withdraw their deposits in the US and seriously restrict future investment. We need to build a movement that has the power to enforce these measures: a movement for democratic socialism that says that if capitalism cannot afford our basic needs, we can’t afford capitalism.
If Wall Street and big business refuse to accept our demands, we should take the big banks and major corporations into public ownership under the democratic control of the vast majority of the public. Instead of economic decisions being made based on the interests of big business, a democratic planned economy could instead address the needs of the majority - by creating millions of living wage jobs, and providing everyone with decent healthcare and housing.
For more facts on the budget deficit, see Budget Myths 101 - Understanding the Debate on Taxes, Deficits and Jobs by Chris Gray and Ty Moore.
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July 28th, 2011
What Happens When Three Sputtering Economies Collide?
By Mike Davis
When my old gang and I were 14 or 15 years old, many centuries ago, we yearned for immortality in the fiery wreck of a bitchin' '40 Ford or '57 Chevy. Our J.K. Rowling was Henry Felsen, the ex-Marine who wrote the bestselling masterpieces Hot Rod (1950), Street Rod (1953), and Crash Club (1958).
Officially, his books -- highly praised by the National Safety Council -- were deterrents, meant to scare my generation straight with huge dollops of teenage gore. In fact, he was our asphalt Homer, exalting doomed teenage heroes and inviting us to emulate their legend.
One of his books ends with an apocalyptic collision at a crossroads that more or less wipes out the entire graduating class of a small Iowa town. We loved this passage so much that we used to read it aloud to each other.
It's hard not to think of the great Felsen, who died in 1995, while browsing the business pages these days. There, after all, are the Tea Party Republicans, accelerator punched to the floor, grinning like demons as they approach Deadman’s Curve. (John Boehner and David Brooks, in the back seat, are of course screaming in fear.)
The Felsen analogy seems even stronger when you leave local turf for a global view. From the air, where those Iowa cornstalks don’t conceal the pattern of blind convergence, the world economic situation looks distinctly like a crash waiting to happen. From three directions, the United States, the European Union, and China are blindly speeding toward the same intersection. The question is: Will anyone survive to attend the prom?
Shaking the Three Pillars of McWorld
Let me reprise the obvious, but seldom discussed. Even if debt-limit doomsday is averted, Obama has already hocked the farm and sold the kids. With breathtaking contempt for the liberal wing of his own party, he’s offered to put the sacrosanct remnant of the New Deal safety net on the auction bloc to appease a hypothetical “center” and win reelection at any price. (Dick Nixon, old socialist, where are you now that we need you?)
As a result, like the Phoenicians in the Bible, we’ll sacrifice our children (and their schoolteachers) to Moloch, now called Deficit. The bloodbath in the public sector, together with an abrupt shutoff of unemployment benefits, will negatively multiply through the demand side of the economy until joblessness is in teenage digits and Lady Gaga is singing “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”
Lest we forget, we also live in a globalized economy where Americans are consumers of the last resort and the dollar is still the safe haven for the planet’s hoarded surplus value. The new recession that the Republicans are engineering with such impunity will instantly put into doubt all three pillars of McWorld, each already shakier than generally imagined: American consumption, European stability, and Chinese growth.
Across the Atlantic, the European Union is demonstrating that it is exclusively a union of big banks and mega-creditors, grimly determined to make the Greeks sell off the Parthenon and the Irish emigrate to Australia. One doesn’t have to be a Keynesian to know that, should this happen, the winds will only blow colder thereafter. (If German jobs have so far been saved, it is only because China and the other BRICs -- Brazil, Russia, and India -- have been buying so many machine tools and Mercedes.)
Boardwalk Empire Times 160
China, of course, now props up the world, but the question is: For how much longer? Officially, the People’s Republic of China is in the midst of an epochal transition from an export-based to a consumer-based economy. The ultimate goal of which is not only to turn the average Chinese into a suburban motorist, but also to break the perverse dependency that ties that country’s growth to an American trade deficit Beijing must, in turn, finance in order to keep the Yuan from appreciating.
Unfortunately for the Chinese, and possibly the world, that country’s planned consumer boom is quickly morphing into a dangerous real-estate bubble. China has caught the Dubai virus and now every city there with more than one million inhabitants (at least 160 at last count) aspires to brand itself with a Rem Koolhaas skyscraper or a destination mega-mall. The result has been an orgy of over-construction.
Despite the reassuring image of omniscient Beijing mandarins in cool control of the financial system, China actually seems to be functioning more like 160 iterations of Boardwalk Empire, where big city political bosses and allied private developers are able to forge their own backdoor deals with giant state banks.
In effect, a shadow banking system has arisen with big banks moving loans off their balance sheets into phony trust companies and thus evading official caps on total lending. Last week, Moody’s Business Service reported that the Chinese banking system was concealing one-half-trillion dollars in problematic loans, mainly for municipal vanity projects. Another rating service warned that non-performing loans could constitute as much as 30% of bank portfolios.
Real-estate speculation, meanwhile, is vacuuming up domestic savings as urban families, faced with soaring home values, rush to invest in property before they are priced out of the market. (Sound familiar?) According to Business Week, residential housing investment now accounts for 9% of the gross domestic product, up from only 3.4% in 2003.
So, will Chengdu become the next Orlando and China Construction Bank the next Lehman Brothers? Odd, the credulity of so many otherwise conservative pundits, who have bought into the idea that the Chinese Communist leadership has discovered the law of perpetual motion, creating a market economy immune to business cycles or speculative manias.
If China has a hard landing, it will also break the bones of leading suppliers like Brazil, Indonesia, and Australia. Japan, already mired in recession after triple mega-disasters, is acutely sensitive to further shocks from its principal markets. And the Arab Spring may turn to winter if new governments cannot grow employment or contain the inflation of food prices.
As the three great economic blocs accelerate toward synchronized depression, I find that I’m no longer as thrilled as I was at 14 by the prospect of a classic Felsen ending -- all tangled metal and young bodies.
July 24th, 2011
Doloras LaPichio on the Chaos Marxism blog (also an LJ friend) said what I should have said.
No to fascism.
No to race-hatred.
No to Islamophobia and other religion-hatred.
No to the belief that "words don't have consequences" and that therefore free speech comes with no responsibilities.
No to allowing memes of hatred to survive unchallenged in our media and in our conversation.
If there's one thing that you yes YOU can do without getting out from in front of your internet connection, it's to slap down anyone who tries to make Muslims
, non-whites, queers or leftists "the Other" who have no rights. (But try to do that without just unleashing hatred against Christians, atheists, conservatives or people who haven't read as many books as you. The "arty queers vs. rednecks" thing is a false dichotomy to stop us embracing the true diversity of our culture and forging unity in that diversity. Ideas are the enemy, not those who hold them.)
I want to extend my condolences with the friends, families, co-workers, classmates and all those who knew the over 90 people murdered in Norway on Friday. I hope sometime soon we will have a society which does not produce people such as the murderer of these young people.
For a complicated series of reasons I've recently become interested in aspects of parapsychology.This has been something of an interest of mine for years but it has mostly been on the "back burner".
There are three guys I've been reading about and intrigued by. These are Robert A. Monroe, Joe McMoneagle
and Tom Campbell
. Their work or pursuits are inter-related. Robert Monroe
was a US business man and cable TV executive. He claimed that in the late 1950s he had an experience where he felt he left his body. This began happening to him numerous times and he eventually found he could induce this experience at will. This is of course the "astral projection" phenomena claimed by mystics for centuries and which has been a facet of spiritual and New Age movements for decades. Monroe shied away from the term "astral projection" because of it's occult connotations and preferred to call his experience an "OOBE" or "out of the body experience.
Monroe wrote a book about this in the 1970s, "Journeys Out of The Body
". This was a semi-underground New Age /counterculture classic for decades. Monroe described his experiences traveling around the world, to the moon and Mars,encounters with "astral beings" including astral sex.
Mainstream researchers do not know what actually happens in an OOBE. Thousands of people around the world claim to have experienced this. It does not appear they have literally "left their body". The reports of people experiencing an OOBE do not correlate with observable reality. People reported incorrectly the placement of objects, the time on a clock face, etc.It appears that people during an OOBE are experiencing some sort of internal mental construct of the outside world.
Robert Monroe set up a research institute in Virginia, the Monroe Institute to study the OOBE. He and collaborators designed a system of rhythmic acoustic "binaural beats", "Hemi-Sync" designed to facilitate an OOBE and other paranormal phenomena. The theory is that the brain will mimic these beats through rhythmic entrainment and will facilitate states such as Theta or Alpha which are conducive to these experiences. Monroe was careful to avoid his institute turning into a new age or druggy ashram type affair. He was anti-drug and tried to keep an appearance of scientific credibility.
The Monroe Institute offers high priced workshops and classes for people interested in this. According to what I've read the majority of participants do not experience an OOBE while there (perhaps because they try to hard, according to the MI) but often do have such an experience several weeks later.
In the 1980s Monroe wrote "Far Journeys
". This detailed his continuing (and increasingly baroque) OOBE experiences.Monroe developed a cosmology of sorts. Its a bit complicated and difficult to give a summation. Basically Monroe found validation of the idea of reincarnation. There is a "region" , an "energy band" inhabited by people who have recently died. Monroe met deceased people waiting for their next rebirth. Some recently dead people were in a state of confusion or terror. Others did not want to let go of the "material plane". Other people were locked into a tight knit belief system concerning life after death. Monroe says are beings in this "region" who seek to help give guidance to confused people in the immediate afterlife state. This is similar to the system of "bardos" discussed in the famous "Tibetan Book of the Dead". Often one's "afterlife" experience is structured according to expectations. A Muslim will enter the Gehenna (I guess with all the virgins), a Christian will enter Heaven, etc.In one experience Monroe encountered a "colony" or a region inhabited by recently deceased Christian fundamentalists who had very specific expectations of the afterlife.
Monroe said he encountered a few people in this region who try to "suss" or con the system, not without some success. He said he met a deceased friend of his, a jazz musician whom Monroe managed in the early 1950s, who had "constructed" a beautiful seaside house for himself in this "region". Sometime later Monroe found this abandoned, for some reason.
The purpose of our lifetimes, according to what Monroe found, is to learn. People (as well as animals) are "recycled" according to what they need to learn. There are beings ready to help us.
Monroe found more. Our world, as intriguing as it is, is only a small aspect of what's out there. Monroe says he visited other "universes" similar to ours but with somewhat different physical properties. According to Monroe there is intelligent life in "our" universe but its rare. On other "planes" though are teeming with intelligent life, some of it much different from us.The intelligent beings and developed civilizations in these "regions"are not nightmare worlds but Monroe said he had some bad experiences due to cultural misunderstandings. Beyond this there are regions and beings far evolved beyond present day humanity.
Fitting in with occult and Gnostic lore Monroe said he encountered beings who feed off human emotional energy, which he termed "loosh". Unlike other representations of this from occult literature Monroe sees these "energy vampires" as benevolent beings, essentially a highly evolved future version of ourselves.The highest form of energy these beings feed off of is love.
The last book Monroe wrote is "Ultimate Journey" which I'm currently reading. Its quite interesting and so far expands on the cosmology discussed in "Far Journeys".
Joe McMoneagle is a parapsychology researcher and is a specialist in "remote viewing", that is observing objects and events non-visually and from far distances.He was a collaborator of Robert Monroe. In the 1970s/80s he worked for a US Army/CIA parapsychology project, the Stargate Project (I assume the science fiction TV series was at least partly inspired by this). The movie "The Men Who Stare at Goats" (which I haven't seen yet) was based on this.
McMoneagle claims to use rigid scientific protocol in his remote viewing.He does not seem like a crackpot. My interest in McNeagle came from an interest in futurology, I've long been intrigued by what the future will be like. What will the world be like in 2020 or 2050? I've read "The Ultimate Time Machine" by him in which he discusses what he sees up to 2075. He stresses in the introductory chapters where he talks about his theory of time, that he does not make hard and fast predictions. Its not possible to predict the future simply because it hasn't happened yet. It is possible to pick up probabilities. He stresses that what he "saw" was always somewhat vague and he had to fill in his future with educated guess work.
Okay, what did he see? His book came out in 1998.He saw another US-Iraq war starting in 2003. It would be much larger and destabilizing than "Operation Desert Storm". In 2006 connected to this war there would be a financial crisis and something like a depression. There would be a civil war in Libya and a huge amount of instability in the Arab world with every Arab government eventually being overthrown. There would not be stability in this region until 2030.
Check, the rough outlines seem very accurate
In the US mainline Protestant denominations and Catholicism will dramatically shrink while fundamentalist and pentecostalist groups will grow.There will be a new and very influential religion which combines science and mysticism. This will be persecuted and discriminated against by Christians. Taoism will grow to huge proportions in China and become very influential.
Global climate change will become very serious. By around 2050 parts of the US Southwest, Midwest and Florida will have to be abandoned. There will be a major crisis in food production with much US agriculture transferred to the Northwestern states.
Tom Campbell was another collaborator of Robert Monroe and apparently largely designed the "Hemi-Sync system.He also claims to be a cosmic explorer and has had many OOBEs. He is the author of "My Big Toe", essentially his theory of spiritual cosmology. He takes Monroe's ideas and expands on it. His idea is explained in a series of 18 Youtube videos. He comes off as a hard headed physicist and tries for a scientific approach.I am very mistrustful of New Age people who drop the word "quantum" into every other sentence, insist the wave/particle duality and the Schrodinger's cat thought experiment "proves" eastern wisdom but it seems Campbell knows what he's talking about.
By the way, I have not done any of this exploring myself, at least consciously. I am dabbling in it.
I can't resist one more guy. this is Steven Schwartz.(not to be confused with the neocon journalist and convert to Islam of the same name) Schwartz is a futurist and is another expert in remote viewing. He's not a New Ager. His politics weem to be liberal-left, similar to that of Iraq expert Juan Cole and he works as a corporate consultant. He and a team did an interesting "trip" to the year 2050 in the 1980s. Contrary to the zeitgeist of that time what they saw was not apocalyptic or at least not as apocalyptic as many had thought. The early 1980s was the height of the nuclear freeze movement.Schwartzs team told him that you shouldn't be worried about nukes. You should be worried about a series of epidemics and pandemics. Schwartz went on to say that by 2050 there will be a different energy system and some type of decentralized, almost utopian socioeconomic system.
Schwartz has interesting things to ay about the 2012 phenomena. He thinks that people are picking up something from the future, from the next few decades. Climate change is real and will change the life of everyone on the planet. People are picking up on this and interpreting it in their own, socially acceptable way.
June 19th, 2011
A few questions for anyone "embedded" within a spiritual tradition. I do not mean Christian fundamentalists, "if you don't believe in what I believe in you'll go to hell forever". I don't mean New Age channelers, or people who are far gone beyond the barrier of coherence. I do mean Sufis, Taoists, Zen people, spiritual Christians, shamans, etc.
Is there an afterlife? What happens after we die?
Could there be a scientific explanation for this or am I looking at things the wrong way?
Are we on the brink of a global "transformation" or is this longing the product of the alienation of our society?
What do you think of both the "Singularity"? What do you think of the "Mayan prophecy" which most Mayanologists disagree with (as I understand)?
June 17th, 2011
This post will be a somewhat disjointed collection of related thoughts and a few questions. Here goes...
What happens after we die? Can anyone know?
Sometime in the 1970s a researcher, I forget who, identified the NDE, Near Death Experience. Someone on the brink of clinical death claimed to feel themselves passing though a long dark tunnel. After a time this person emerged into a world of light and saw deceased relatives and and friends greet them, This person was told, something to the effect that, "its not your time" , they left this world at the end of the tunnel and were resuscitated. Since the 70s and the advancement of medical technology thousands of people from around the world now claim to have experience an NDE.
What's going on here? Is this a valid experience or interpretation of the "afterlife"? For many people experiencing an NDE this has proven to be a life changing experience (no pun intended).Atheists experiencing this have become Christians. Christian fundamentalists have become Buddhists or pagans.One of my favorite films, Bliss, uses an NDE as a background to its story of an Australian advertising executive and his disillusionment with industrial rat race capitalism.
There are researchers who claim to be able to artificially induce an NDE though ketamines and PCP. What does this mean? Is this a neurological syndrome created by chemical changes in the brain? There is a Canadian neurologist who claims he has replicated the "alien abduction" experience in volunteers though sensory deprivation and drugs. What does this mean?
Because an experience can be replicated though drugs or otherwise altering brain chemistry, does this necessarily invalidate it? All experience is mediated though brain chemistry. Could it be that human sense perception is something like the graphic user interface-GUI of a Windows (or Linux) program, winnowing out and filtering sense perception so we can more readily understand it? Could naked reality be something like bit code, unintelligible to those untrained in understanding it? What did Blake say, "if man could but unlock the doors of perception, he would see the world as it is, infinite?" That quote has been an inspiration to people from Jim Morrison to Aldous Huxley.
Reincarnation-truth or bullshit? If I had to pick a "religion" or spiritual path it would be a rarefied philosophic Buddhism. Technically Buddhists don't believe in reincarnation of the Self, simply because there is no self to be reincarnated, The individual human personality is like a wave on an ocean, a specific self expression of the vast Isness of the universe. It forms temporarily and then releases.Instead of a permanent self or soul there's a collection of personality aggregates, "skanda" which can be recycled over and over.Having said this many Buddhists in reality do believe in a form of reincarnation. The personality aggregates can contain memories and other aspects of an individual personality. They can be expressed over and over in different ways though a sequence of lifetimes as a means to learn.At least that's the theory.
Some years ago I went to a psychic for a reading. Most of these people are charlatans or semi-con artists. This woman was the real thing however. She didn't know me from Adam but she said some very personal things about my self and my family. She said I was an "old soul",I've had many other life times, many more than is common (the theory of reincarnation is trans-temporal, life times are not sequential. One's "past" lifetime could be in the 23rd century and "future" lifetime in the 1850s.) I'm not sure what was going on but for me this person had the ring of authenticity.
On the other hand some of the literature on reincarnation can be a bit wacky. A classic book is "Many Masters, Many Lives" by Dr. Brian Weiss. Dr. Weiss describes a patient he did extensive work with, including hypnotically induced past life regressions. This person described in detail a life she she had in ancient Egypt in (if I remember) 1500 BC. In another life this person described her life as a WWII German fighter pilot. Critics have lambasted this. How would someone in ancient Egypt know it was 1500 BC? The technical details the German fighter pilot described were anachronistic, things no one would have described in the 1940s.
Am I being too cynical?
Another book on reincarnation is by Bruce Goldberg, a Baltimore dentist who turned to hypnosis and claims to have regressed people to past and even future lives. He writes about futures lives of people in the 22nd though 30th centuries and produces sort of a rough future history chronology in his "Past Life, Future Lives and in another book which seems to a rewrite of his first book.
Is there anything to this or is this the product of a hyper active imagination?
I've meditated, on and off for years and I've dabbled in shamanism. There is something to the Imaginal Realm. What this is, I don't know. Once while "journeying" at a workshop at a Unitarian church I had a somewhat strange meeting with the Egyptian god Toth. Guided imagination? Reality? Something else entirely?
What's going on with astral projection? Years ago I read several books by Robert A, Monroe, a pioneer in the field of cable TV, Monroe claimed to have had many experiences in leaving his body. He claims to have traveled to parallel universes and higher or lower energy worlds. "Journeys Out of the Body" and especially "Far Journeys" make for interesting reading. It seems like these books do describe subjective experiences he's had. Monroe started an institute in Virginia designed to teach these techniques to people, the Monroe Institute, which for a time got a good write up in various counter culture media.. I don't know what their success rate is.
On the other hand...
Research into OBEs (out of the body experiences) show that a person's perceived experience "out of the body" does not correlate with reality. Someone may feel they are leaving their body and look at a clock or other objects and what they report does not correlate with what is there. There is theory that an OBE may be triggered by a temporary relaxation of the part of the brain which controls one's sense of self or place. This may have something to do with why someone on the brink of falling asleep feels either a floating or a falling sensation.
I have never had an OBE myself. I have had many, many flying dreams. In my dreams this often seems to reflect some sort of ability I had as a little kid. During the time I read Monroe's books, years ago I had a lot of flying dreams.
Next-if there is something to parapsychology and "non-dualistic consciousness", including things experienced in altered states of consciousness, could this eventually be shown to have a scientific , a "materialist" cause? The writer Arthur Koestler, former journalist for the Hungarian Communist Party and author of the "God That Failed" about the manipulations of Stalinist Communism, developed an interest in "scientific mysticism". He worked at the Princeton Institute for Advanced Physics. I am not super familiar with his work or thought in this area but it may bear looking into. I have read his "Roots of Coincidence" which was interesting.
It's been recently suggested that I read Wave by Fritjof Capra. I have read his "The Tao of Physics" which I did not think was really that good. (The Dancing Wu Li Masters by Gary Zhukav makes the case for a connection between "Eastern Thought" and the "new science" much better, I think. Capra's "The Turning Point is interesting but doesn't have anything to back it up. Having said this Wave might be along the lines of what I'm looking for.
While I'm at it here...is there anything to all the "2012" stuff? about ten years ago I read several books by Ken Carey. He was a freelance carpenter in Pennsylvania's Amish country. Over a period of a week he had the experience of being in communication with some sort of powerful intelligence. "The Starseed Transmission" is the best of his books . It claims to predict changes and the evolution of some sort of cosmic global consciousness peaking around 2011 or 2012 but emphasizes that we should not get hung up on dates.Carey's Third Millennium is interesting but not nearly as good. Its a bit too hung up on American boosterism for my tastes, but I still see his point. Anyway this is the best of the sometimes funny 2012 stuff I've come across.
Between the Christian fundamentalist "Rapture" and "Tribulation" and the New Age "Harmonic Convergence, the New Agers sound like a lot more fun. I'd pick Ken Carey over Harold Camping any day.
Are we on the brink of "earth changes"? The world does seem like its entering a dramatic period of instability. What's going on? How do I fit into it?
Anyway, can there be shown to be n underlying scientific basis for "mysticism"? Am I looking at this in the wrong way?
Will Ray Kurzweil's and Vernor Vinge's "Singularity" occur within the next few decades? This is the idea that since technological change appears to be increasing exponentially, if true artificial intelligence is possible, this could "implode" into a vastly powerful event horizon or black hole of super intelligence, essentially giving humanity godlike powers. There are different versions of singularity thought. The science fiction writer Vernor Vinge said (at least I think it was him), "if you can survive the next 30 years, you have a good chance of being able to survive to see the far side of the galaxy". I be;believe he said this in the early 90s, for what's that's worth.
Obviously Singularity thought and transhumanism is updated religiosity. Interestingly some early Russian Marxists, the "god builders", Maxim Gorky , Bogdanov, a rival of Lenin in the early Bolshevik Party, and others thought along similar lines.
Is this good, bad, or meaningless?
If you've read my previous post you may understand what's at the root of this. Will I see my Dad again, in some form or other? Am I looking at things the wrong way?
I am reminded of the interesting if cheesy at Speilberg movie AI. The scenario, if you haven't seen it, is set in a near future world beset by global warming. An upper middle class suburban family can't have kids. Do to advances in AI a company begins producing intelligent human like robots, who can play the role of surrogate children. The mother of this family decides to get a robot. She is warned that the "bonding" process can be very intense, that the intelligent robot will regard it's "mother" as a real,biological mother. Okay, the robot is indistinguishable from human boy, except for the fact that he doesn't grow up. The sad part is that he is not accepted by his "father" or later his "brother" (the mother later on is able to conceive). I forget the details but after much viscous taunting the robot , not being programmed to mature emotionally, attacks and injures his brother.The robot makes a series of other blunders. The father says we have to get rid of the robot. Robots in this future world are not legally human and can be destroyed. The mother, heart broken, doesn't have her "son" destroyed but leaves him near a futuristic high tech garbage dump, hoping he'll be able to fend for himself.
This futuristic world is becoming increasingly chaotic. After a period of disorientation the robot boy befriends another robot. If I remember the second intelligent robot is trying to find a way to evade police surveillance and get them both off the planet. The robot boy however remains fixated in trying to locate his mother. There are misadventures and mishaps. The robot boy is caught in an exploding building and is tossed under water, in this world in which global warming in causing is now causing the flooding of much of the world's cities.
The water preserves the robot boy.
A thousand years later a highly advanced "alien" species from another planet visiting an Earth in which the human appears to have become extinct, finds the robot boy, in stasis but otherwise intact. They rehabilitate him and hope to use him to help with their archeology and reclamation work. It turns out the boy is still attached to his mother. It seems he won't really be of much use until he is able to get over that aspect of his programming. It is very complicated and difficult, the aliens say, but they can arrange for the boy to spend one last day with his mother. Because this will be transgressing laws of temporality this can be only for one day. The robot boy, intelligent if naive says he understands and agrees to everything. The aliens set things up so so the robot boy can spend one whole day, a day literally torn out of time, with his mother. They have a nice day together. The boy is back in the brief but idyllic family life he experienced a thousand years ago. The boy and his mother play games and have a good time. The mother is somewhat puzzled about where her husband is but doesn't think much of it. Maybe he's late at work? Towards evening the mother gets tired. She goes to bed and the day is over. the boy is back with the intelligent aliens, now ready to help them.
I can't really convey this well. AI was far from a great film., more of a typical Spielberg kiddy flick, but this part of the film was incredibly moving for me, a bittersweet attempt to capture a lost world.
Epic of Gilgamesh, anyone?
Is this what I'm trying to do?
Shit, shit, shit, shit.
Anyway I know this is a bit long but I'd appreciate it if anyone had any thoughts or comments.
May 29th, 2011
This is really what I wanted to write about-theories of the historical Jesus. This is not a scholarly article, just a somewhat impressionistic overview of ideas which I've come across and that have struck my fancy.
1.) Its been said many, many times that the basic Christian story is derived from a very ancient pagan mythological system, common throughout the eastern Mediterranean, that of the "vegetative" or "sacrificial" god.
A god, usually a young male, is dismembered, somehow torn apart. The god later is resurrected, comes back to his followers.This is obviously derived from agricultural cultures-the god dies in the winter, is reborn in the spring.
There are zillions of examples
Horus and his mother Isis from Egyptian mythology. From a review of "The Pagan Christ" on Amazon
"That the god Horus is "an Egyptian Christos, or Christ.... He and his mother, Isis, were the forerunners of the Christian Madonna and Child, and together they constituted a leading image in Egyptian religion for millennia prior to the Gospels."
That Horus also "had a virgin birth, and that in one of his roles, he was 'a fisher of men with twelve followers.'""
I believe its "The Pagan Christ" which suggests that Christianity, ostensibly a continuation of Judaism, actually borrows far more from Egyptian popular religion. Its been said that Egyptian immigrant communities in Rome prayed to "Mary, Mother of God:, a hundred years before Jesus was supposedly born.
Other gods fitting variations of the "sacrificial god motif"-Attis, Adonis,Tammuz. The song "John Barley Corn", by Traffic, based on an old English folk song, is another example.
Okay, this should be well known by now, its "Comparative Religion 101". People like Joseph Campbell wrote extensively about this.Christianity differs from paganism in its literalness. The savior god isn't a "myth to live by", its historic truth which you must believe or else.
2.) Outside of the bible, there is no evidence Jesus actually existed. As I understand the two sources we have for Palestine under the rule of Pontius Pilate are Josephus and Philo. Josephus was originally a general in the Jewish Revolt of the 70sAD. He switched sides and wrote "The Jewish War" and "Antiquities of The Jews" , containing very detailed and gossipy accounts of the day to day goings on in Palestine in the previous period. There is a wealth of information in his accounts. Josephus may have been overly groveling towards the Romans, he is widely regarded as having been a Jewish traitor, but there is the possibility he was attempting to show his people in a good light to their Roman overlords and tried to "cut a deal" for the Jewish people.
The upshot is that Josephus doesn't mention Jesus even once. Other characters of that time mentioned in the gospel accounts are described-Pilate, King Herod. John the Baptist and others. There are two highly disputed descriptions of Jesus in two Josephus texts. As I understand both of them are written in a style much different from that of the other texts. Both are generally regarded as later forgeries. One is thought to have been written by the Christian theologian Ireneaus and the other, the "Bulgarian Josephus" has a brief, odd description of Jesus as a short and rather ugly man.
The other account of that time and place is from the Jewish Neo-Platonic philosopher Philo. Philo lived around the same time Jesus was supposed to have lived. He was heavily involved in politics and was mentioned by Josephus. He describes the oppression of the Jews and some of the political turmoil of his era in "Flaccus" and "Embassy To Gaia".
The Jesus of Christianity is not mentioned at all.As I understand he mentions 8 or 9 people named "Jesus" (Yeshua) which seems to have been a title.One of the Jesuses apparently was a rebel leader who lived decades after the Christian Jesus was supposed to and was crucified by the Romans.
On that note it should be realized that when Jesus was crucified, Barabbas, thought to be a revolutionary leader, in early versions of the bible was also called "Jesus".
Its very likely that what became the Christian Jesus evolved from folk memories of several Jewish revolutionaries, martyrs, and possibly spiritual teachers.
Other possibilities, in brief outline.
3.) Jesus was an Essene. Okay, the Essenes were an ascetic, apocalyptic group or groups which existed during the time of Jesus. John the Baptist is thought to have been an Essene.Hugh Shonfeld, one of the scholars who worked on the Dead Sea Scrolls, described the Essenes as a product of a society under extreme stress where "all hell was about to break loose.There is today a group of people in southern Iraq, the Mandeans, who speak a dialect of Aramaic. There mythology appears to be a fascinating, highly garbled version of Jewish and Christian myths.At least one faction of the Mandeans claim that the Mandeans are descended from the Essenes who migrated to Iraq during the Jewish Revolt. If accounts of this are true, these Mandeans revere John the Baptist, but regard Jesus as something of a failed and evil leader who perverted the message and led his people to disaster.Its an intriguing idea that this band of Mandeans were the original "Nazoreans".
There are holes in this theory though. Its not known whether all Mandeans regard themselves as descended from the Essenes or just one grouping and how literally they take their mythology and lore.I have read a book last year on the origins of Freemasonry-quite interesting although I can't think of the name offhand and this theory was brought up. The scholarship behind this book may be a bit suspect, according to reviews on Amazon.
4.) The crucifixion was faked, although with the best of intentions. This idea was brought up by Hugh Shonfeld in "The Passover Plot". Shonfeld plausibly describes how this could have happened. One of Shonfeld's aims was to bring back what he thought was the Judaic elements within Christianity. For better or worse his idea has become something of pop culture meme. "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" carries this idea further and posits that not only did Jesus survive, but he had descendents who formed the Merovingian dynasty of the Franks. Pure BS but it makes for a fun read.
5.) Jesus was a revolutionary/.Obviously this can tie in with other ideas. I think, but I;m not sure, that the German socialist Karl Kautsky first came up with this. His Foundations of Christianity is an interesting read, the origins of Christianity from a Marxist a perspective.Kautsky and other Marxists saw early Christianity as a form of "proto-socialism", poorer, dispossessed people banding together in a hostile world. The problem was, according to Kautsky and others, is that early Christianity was a "socialism" of distribution and consumption, not of production.The economy, the means of production of the ancient world, was not advanced or productive enough to be taken under social ownership at that time. There were limits on what any revolutionary or reform movement could do.
Edward Gibbons, in his "Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire" blames Christianity for the fall. Gibbon is generally regarded to be a reactionary supporter of aristocracy.
6.) Jesus was a Cynic. The Cynics were a "school" of Greek philosophy. One of the early Cynic philosophers was Diogenes, a man who lived in a barrel, masturbated in public, and in effect told Alexander the Great, conqueror of most of the known world, to "fuck off". The Cynics were political radicals, opposed slavery and believed in equality of women. They were the original hippy anarchists.
In the early 1990s a group of US Christian fundamentalist scholars sponsored by the Southern Baptist Church, began intense research into the origins of the gospels and the life of Jesus. These people apparently researched themselves out of their faith and came up with the theory that Jesus was a Cynic. I don't enough about this to comment on. Its fascinating nevertheless.