In attempting to describe the "spiritual but not religious" NewAge++ idiocy that America is now massively exporting to the rest of the planet, I hope I have at least begun to show that the phenomenon is anything but new. I hope also to show that -- unless by "spirit" one means some vaguely intensified emotionalism -- it is difficult to the point of impossibility to separate whatever it might mean in that breathy contemporary formulation from ideas that have always been conceived of as religious. And religion covers -- in every sense -- a multitude of sins.
The Orientalist spirit of Transcendentalism that came out of Concord, Massachusetts in the early 19th century became the engine of manifest destiny -- a.k.a. God's Will -- that so effectively cleared the continent of its indigenous peoples. The table-rapping Spiritualism that came out of upstate New York around mid-century helped clear the way for occultists like Madame Blavatsky, who in 1875 established the Theosophical Society in New York City with her persuasive talk of "root-races" and providential Aryan supremacy. The eugenics movement, which came out of fears that America's destiny might not be quite so manifest, was given comfort and momentum from parish and pulpit across the nation, planting seeds that would flower in evil as the Third Reich's "final solution."
Like mold in cheese -- or in bread and wine -- race, religion and genocide are interwoven by a mycelium of fear and hatred of "the other" that cannot be isolated from the cultural substrates on which they have mutually incubated, fed and multiplied. Through a convenient amnesia with respect to its own history -- call it a collective unconscience -- the United States has escaped much of the "credit" it deserves for this insidious multiplication. To take one example: the demonstrative role its spirited boosterism of "racial hygiene" played in the Nazi Holocaust.
But America was itself the product of a much older spirit sans religion -- colonialism -- which crossed Adam Smith with moral sentiments, Malthus with money, and Darwin with depredation to produce a truly global Anglo-Saxon empire. God save the Queen.
I could easily insert pictures here of talky televangelists and recent US presidents along with their current crop of victims in Iraq, but that would be too obvious, too... I don't know... somehow almost vulgar. Plus, I'd hate to abuse my increasingly shaky right of free speech. Connect your own dots. Meanwhile, bravely pressing on...
Pictured to the left is The Most Honourable George Nathaniel Curzon, First Marquess Curzon of Kedleston, Viceroy of India from 1898 to 1905. Much light is shed on just how honorable Curzon really was by a wonderful book by Mike Davis called Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World. A brief quote is supplied stage right. The following related photographs (reproduced courtesy of Davis) are taken from The Structure of Global Apartheid and the Struggle for Global Democracy. The caption reads...
Famine victims, India, late nineteenth century. The staggering death toll from famine in Victorian India – about 7 million in the 1876-78 famine alone – was the result of the British policy of exporting food from India and collecting harsh taxes even in times of serious drought. The grain imports in Britain were to improve British diets and simultaneously keep grain prices stable. In recent years, as India has moved to conform to the era of market liberalization, it is again exporting food even as people starve in some parts of the country.
C.J. O'Donnell, a distinguished veteran of the Bengal civil service, sarcastically commented, "With famine following famine in nearly every province of India, and desolating plague everywhere, who will deny that we have at last found a truly 'Imperialist' Viceroy?" Just before New Year's, Curzon demonstrated his doctrinaire imperialism by cutting back rations that he characterized as 'dangerously high' and stiffening relief eligibility by reinstating the despised Temple 'tests.' ... the government boasted that the tests had deterred 1 million people from relief.
~ Late Victorian Holocausts
the unlikely story of how America slipped the surly bonds of earth & came to
believe in signs & portents that would make the middle ages blush
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SPECIAL THANKS TO
New Age "Asiatic" thought ... is establishing itself as the
hegemonic ideology of global capitalism. (Zizek)
Monday, March 13