Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Theocratic Agenda: A Dark Future Ahead - An Essay

Imagine a world where the people have no right to choose how they are governed, where laws are based not on contemporary morality, but on ancient mysticism. Imagine a world where the slightest thought out of line can be grounds for execution. It sounds like something gleaned from the pages of the most disturbing dystopian science fiction, but it is the world we all face if the Christian right seizes power.
The Christian right are defined by Wikipedia as “Christian political groups that are characterized by their strong support of socially conservative policies. ” Social conservatism is, of course, the belief in a strict authoritarian adherence to traditional values . For the purposes of this essay, these are the definitions that I will be using, as they are the most relevant to my argument, as well as the most neutral and accurate.
The idea that mankind could benefit from a theocratic state is by no means a new one, nor is it an exclusively Christian one, but as I live in a predominantly Christian country, it is Christian theocracy that concerns me the most, although I will touch on Islamic theocracy as well.
The term ‘theocracy’ was coined by Josephus Flavius in the first century AD to describe the political system employed by the Hebrews. Taken literally, it describes a system in which the head of state is believed to be in direct communication with – or in some extreme cases the pure embodiment of – God himself . The biggest danger in this system, obviously, is that there can never be any proof that the head of state truly IS in direct communication with a supreme being, and thus there can never be any proof that the way that the law is interpreted isn’t simply based on private prejudices held by those in positions of power. When viewed this way, theocracy becomes the ultimate tool for manipulation. A leader can use the faith of the people to serve his/her own purposes. Even if a person were to disagree with a policy put in place by the state, their total faith in the word of their God coupled with their fear of punitive measures would prevent them to speak up. Thus, the power of the state becomes absolute.
Another issue raised by the potential absolute power granted by a theocratic system is the right to vote. Voting is used within a democracy for the purposes of policy change and leadership change. Under a democracy, the people are given their say and so the system changes with the populace. However under a theocracy, the workings of the system are interpreted by the leader via their ‘direct communication with God.’ This means that they are essentially free to adopt a ‘dictator-for-life’ position, and name their successor without question. Voting, under this system, is not only unnecessary, but it is also undesirable for the advocates of such a system. You can vote FOR a theocracy, but you cannot vote UNDER one, therefore you cannot vote one out. In short, once a theocracy is established there is no peaceful way out.
The great irony of those who advocate authoritarian theocracy is that they consistently say to those of us who oppose it that it is their right to vote for a theocracy if they wish and that we mustn’t stand in the way of their right to vote. Indeed, they have the right to vote any way they wish, but we also have a right, and that is to ensure that we have the best possible life, and in this case that means being as aggressive as possible in our opposition to theocracy, which means pushing our beliefs in the faces of the Christian right.
It is surprising that many in the Christian right, who believe that their respective nations should become theocracies, are highly critical of Islamic theocracy. They dismiss Islamic theocracy as violent, barbaric and restrictive without realising that these are precisely the conditions under which a Christian theocracy could exist. This is a quote from far-right online encyclopaedia Conservapedia that illustrates the hypocrisy demonstrated by the Christian right in terms of theocracy:
“Theocracy may also describe any government which seeks to impose religious principles or law, such as the Sharia, or the Hindu laws of Manu Smriti, on its population, even if the government is formally secular.
One well known example of such a state is Saudi Arabia who's [sic] legal system is based on the Sharia law, Saudi Arabia also has a religious police.
In Israel, civil cases under the Halakhah (traditional Jewish law based on the Torah) are allowed. ”
I would be interested to know exactly how Andrew Schlafly, the owner of Conservapedia, believes a Christian theocracy would differ. As soon as religion is allowed to influence even the smallest part of the law, then this vision of an undesirable theocracy has been realized.
It is not necessarily true that all theocracy is bound to fail however. The Pharoanic dynasties of Ancient Egypt managed quite a successful theocracy. However the likelihood of a Christian theocracy having the same level of prosperity and success as Ancient Egypt is next to impossible. The Christian right would have to abandon those policies that can be considered out of date and those that hinder the rights of the people. However, if these policies were abandoned, it would remove the framework that would keep the populace in line with the ‘right’ beliefs, therefore negating the purpose of the theocracy, because, when you get down to it, isn’t the core purpose of a theocracy the political enforcing of religious law? And if you take away the enforcement aspect (as forcing religion on others legally speaking contravenes human rights) then you give people the freedom to reject religious policy and thus the theocracy, although technically in place, has no real power and will, over time, merely transform into a democracy.
The reason that the Egyptian theocracy was a success lay in the fact that there was no real non-belief. The populace agreed with every law that was made because they believed wholeheartedly in their religion. That kind of society does not exist nowadays, so the laws of a modern theocracy would be questioned, and the questioners would be severely punished, as the bible can be interpreted as recommending. 
Something that many theocracy advocates seem to overlook is that Jesus himself spoke out against theocrats. In biblical times, the Hebrews were ruled over by the Pharisees, and Jesus was supposed to have had several run ins with them, disapproving of their brand of authoritarian theocracy.
There are some within the Christian right who attempt to justify this fact. The owner of a social conservatist blog called ‘Rhology’ informed me, when I pointed out that Jesus opposed authoritarian theocracy, that: “you're wrong about this. He many many times expressly said that He was submitted to the will of the Father, Who is the final authority. YOu're ignorant of Jesus' teaching.”
I was also told by this person, when I pointed out that Jesus stood FOR the rights of the people rather than against them: “I suppose so. SO what?”
The ‘so what’ is that they have just openly admitted that Jesus stood for human rights, and yet they also have asserted that he also stood for authoritarianism, simply because he believed himself to be under the authority of God.
Another misguided attempt to justify social conservatism, whilst still citing Jesus as a source, is the Conservapedia entry on the Pharisees. It does admit that Jesus was anti-authoritarian, and that the Pharisees were authoritarian theocrats, but it also describes the Pharisees as “liberal intellectuals…who opposed His [Jesus’] logic and insisted twisted Biblical law to defend their authority. ” It then claims that they “rejected anything that was not based in authority, and defined themselves to be the sole authority. ”
This is a clever, although evidentially lacking, claim on Conservapedia’s part. The only thing that can back up the claim that the Pharisees were liberals and Jesus was a conservative are the Conservapedia definitions of these words. It describes Liberalism as “A liberal is someone who favors censorship of Christianity plus increased government spending and power, as in ObamaCare. ” and it describes Conservatism as “A conservative is someone who rises above his personal self-interest and promotes moral and economic values beneficial to all. ” And then goes on to state that “A conservative is willing to learn and advocate the insights of economics and the logic of the Bible for the benefit of all. ” This differs hugely from the actual dictionary definitions of Liberal and Conservative.

1. One favoring traditional views and values.
2. A supporter of political conservatism.

a. Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.
b. Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.
Here is another little issue that we would face in a theocracy. Can we really trust conservatives with the absolute power of authoritarianism? After all, they have proven themselves time and time again as willing to manipulate the truth and even lie to push their point. There is also the question of intellect. Studies have strongly suggested that there is a correlation between social conservatism and low cognitive ability . The study suggests that this link exists due to the fact that conservatism requires little thinking (as all it does is defend established ideas) and thus it is attractive to those with a lower ability to think beyond what they are told.
Are these REALLY the kinds of people we, as responsible human beings, would allow the opportunity to take absolute power? The answer is no. The unintelligent should, under NO circumstances, be allowed authority over the intelligent. Not only do the unintelligent not have the same capacity to make the right choice, but they feel threatened by the intelligent, thus they would undoubtedly (and frequently do when in positions of power) make laws that would suppress the rights of the intelligent. They would, and frequently do, use the bible to justify their anti-intellectualism.
The theocracy of the future would be no friend of the intellectual, just as it would be no friend of the homosexual.
In the theocracy of the future, all are doomed, even those who argue for their right to vote for the theocracy, because the conservative, authoritarian theocracy of the future will serve none but those at the top, and plunge the world into a dark age. Except this time, we have no hope for a renaissance.
As the American economist Robert Reich once said “We do not want to live in a theocracy. We should maintain that barrier and government has no business telling someone what they ought to believe or how they should conduct their private lives.”
Please, do your part to maintain the barrier between church and state.
Look at the Islamic theocracies. Do not just dismiss them with a simple ‘oh a Christian theocracy would be different.’ A Christian theocracy would be no different. It would just be in a different language and in the name of a different God.
Please, do your part to keep the darkness and despair of an authoritarian theocracy on the pages of dystopian fiction where it belongs.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Untitled Poem

I am eternal!
Screams the young man
Yet to be confronted with death
I am eternal!

I can do anything
I have the rest of my life ahead of me
But who's to say
That his life won't soon be over?

The people who plan for tomorrow
Always die today
And the people who plan for today
Always die tomorrow

I am not eternal!
Screams the young man
As death watches him from the shadows
I am not eternal!

But I will not die today
I will not die this way

Monday, March 26, 2012

Deep in the Woods

On the outskirts of Morningwood, at the end of the dirt road known locally as Moonlight Drive, lay a dark forest. In the middle of this forest stood a dilapidated old house. This house had long been at the centre of local legends involving the supernatural, and it had become a rite of passage amongst the local high school students to make the journey there in the dead of night.
The legends about the place were varied and unspecific. The only common detail was that a witch had once lived in the house, and that her dark deeds had spawned whatever occurrence was being recounted by the teller.
It was this single universal element of the story that gave the house its colloquial moniker: The Witchhouse.
I first became aware of the legends of the Witchhouse as a teenager. I’m not quite sure how I heard about it actually. I just suddenly became aware that there existed an old haunted house deep in the woods.
I decided one night that I should make the journey to the Witchhouse. I enlisted the service of my friend Billy to drive me to the end of Moonlight Drive. I initially wanted him to come to the house with me but he informed me that according to the legend, if more than one person went looking for the house, they wouldn’t find it. I suspected that his adherence to this particular tradition had more to do with his cowardice than any genuine belief, but I told him he could stay in the car.
We drove along Moonlight Drive at about 11.30. The trees on either side plunged the road into shadow, rendering the Moonlight part of the name a misnomer.
We reached the end of the road and Billy stopped the car. I got out and turned on my torch. Before I closed the door, Billy handed me a camera and told me to take a photo of the house when I found it. I told him I would, closed the door, and set off along the path.
It seemed like I’d been walking for hours when I finally reached the house but a quick glance at my watched revealed that no more than 5 minutes had passed. The front door seemed to have been bashed in (no doubt by others on a similar quest to mine). I quickly snapped a shot of the front of the house before entering. The interior of the house was in disrepair. I went into the nearest room. It was empty except for a fireplace. I walked over to the fireplace and shone my torch in it. A fire had been lit in it recently. There were scraps of half burnt papers lying around the hearth. I picked one up and read it. It seemed to be a page from a diary. The only words I could make out were:

17/9/54 – Friday
  Heard the sound of children crying in the night.
  Walked the house and found nothing that co

Suddenly I heard a noise above me. It was very faint but I could just make it out. It was the sound of a child crying. A chill went down my spine as I debated with myself whether or not I should go and investigate.
I found myself at the foot of the stairs without thinking, shining my torch up towards where the sound was coming from. My curiosity, it seemed, had overpowered my fear and before I knew what I was doing I was walking up the stairs.
When I reached the top I looked at the wall and saw graffiti on the wall. It was a chilling poem:

 If you come here
 You will not survive
 The house of the witch
 Will eat you ALIVE

Underneath it was a crudely spray-painted monster. I took a photo of it and began moving towards where I’d heard the sound (it seemed to have stopped as soon as I reached to top of the stairs).
The room from which I assumed it had been coming from was locked. I looked at the lock, it was shiny and looked like it’d been installed quite recently. It was strange that someone would install a new lock in a dilapidated house that had no front door. I knelt down and looked through the keyhole. The room was empty, just like the one downstairs had been. There was nothing that could have accounted for the sound. Suddenly, a dark shape shot past the keyhole. I jumped back and hit the opposite wall. Suddenly, a pool of dark liquid began to form under the door. I reached out and dipped my finger into it. It was blood. I stood up, shot down the stairs, and was outside the door.
In the confusion I’d dropped my torch, so I tore blindly through the trees, luckily managing not to hit any.
Every step I took, a strange voice echoed in my head, repeating the last two lines of the poem I’d seen written on the wall in the upstairs of the house:

“The house of the witch
Will eat you ALIVE
The house of the witch
Will eat you ALIVE
The house of the witch
Will eat you ALIVE”

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Another Life

[This poem is based on the novel I'm writing, which, in turn, is based on my experiences as a teenager]

It was a thousand lives ago
When I first stepped into the light
Though it seems like only yesterday
I remember endless Friday nights
When we were young and restless
Killing time by the motorway

And then in Summer's crazy heat
I sat crosslegged in the grass
And contemplated matters of the heart
Wasted words in a dead end book
Were all that issued from my pen
As i tried to emulate the poet's art

I was drawn into the circle
By six or seven half crazed misfits
Who taught me what it meant to be free
We stood around discussing
The trivialities of life
And all the things that we could see

My heart began to crave
The warmness of another
But at the time I had no idea who
When I finally found her
She said she'd be mine forever
But twelve days later tore my heart in two

So I wandered through life
As though it was a dream
Afraid of what another day would hold
Then one morning I awoke
And I was in another city
And suddenly the world didn't seem so cold

For a week I stayed
In the city of light
Where I let my mind unravel all the pain
And when I got back home
My thoughts were much more clear
As though cleansed by the summer rain

As winter strolled it's way on in
The circle began to break apart
When the King of Fools went away for good
But we all remained blind
To the loss of unity
If only, at the time, we understood

All through winter
Did I wonder
What my life would bring to me
And as I wandered endlessly
I discovered ancient unknown songs
That taught my mind to be free

One day I met Betrayal
Her hair was fiery red
And her eyes were bluer than the sky
Betrayal and the King of Fools
Stabbed my trusting back
And left me there alone to bleed and die

But their efforts were in vain
Cos my spirit wasn't broken
And I stood up to fight another day
It was then that I noticed
The coldness was retreating
And I saw the winter run away

Then summer came with its caress
Warm and sweet against my skin
With the promise of a thousand endless nights
Every night and every day
I lived my life my own way
As I sought out all the suns delights

Then one hot and sunbaked day
In the presence of the King of Fools
I decided that I should lose my mind
All my life I won't forget
The things I saw and felt
The day I let my sanity unwind

Then summer went away
And as I called it to return
Darkness cut me like an assassins knife
But I'll never regret the things I did
All those worlds ago
Cos how can you regret another life?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Visitor

The wind and rain howled through the gravestones as I did my final check for the evening. There'd been a spate of grave-vandalisms and, as the cemetery caretaker, I was responsible for making sure no kids were sneaking in to cause mischief.
I felt a chill go through my spine. Not unusual considering my line of work.
Satisfied that all the gates were locked and that no kids had snuck in, I began to walk back to my house, which stood in the centre of the cemetery.
As I walked between two rows I slipped on the wet grass and banged into a gravestone. I felt the stone give way (many of the older stones were in a state of disrepair, so that one tiny push was enough to topple them). I shone my torch on it and made sure it wasn't broken.
"I'll come back and put you right in the morning." I said under my breath.
I got back onto the path and ran to my house to get out of the rain. I got inside and took my wet things off and changed into dry clothes.
It was warm in the house. My heater had been running practically all day, for which I was thankful. I made a pot of coffee and sat down on my bed (the whole house was split into two rooms, a combined kitchen/lounge/bedroom and a bathroom) and began to read.
Shortly after there came a heavy knock on the door. I glanced at the clock: 11:55pm.
I went to the door and opened it. I was faced by a tall man in a long black jacket. He had a widebrimmed hat on his head that created a shadow which obscured half his face.
From the moment I laid eyes on the man, something about him made me uneasy.
"My car broke down and I was wondering if I could use your phone"
The man's voice had a hollow, vacant sound to it. It was as if he wasn't talking to me at all.
"I-I'm sorry man, I haven't got a phone, but you're welcome to come in until the rain lets up."
What was I doing? Inviting this man in went against every instinct I had. Something deep inside my mind was telling me not to trust him.
"Thank you very much friend."
He came in and I offered to take his hat and coat. He completely ignored my offer and went and sat in the armchair opposite my bed.
"Would you like a cup of coffee mister... mister... I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name"
"Richard, Richard Harry, and coffee would be lovely thank you."
I poured two cups of coffee and brought them over to the lounge area. I handed one to him. He took it. My finger touched his momentarily and I felt a peculiar coldness run through my hand and into my spine. I figured he must have been walking in the cold for a while before he came upon my house.
We both sat in silence for what seemed like forever. His hat obscured so much of his face that I couldn't see his eyes, but I was more than certain he was staring at me. I could feel his eyes on me, as though they were penetrating my mind.
I decided to break the silence.
"So, how did you come to be driving around here at this time of night in the rain?"
"I was on my way home from work."
"What do you  do?"
"I help out on a local farm."
He didn't sound too enthusiastic about my line of inquiry so I didn't pursue it any further.
We sat in silence for another eternity. I started to become drowsy and I asked him if he minded me going to sleep.
"No, you go to sleep, I think the rain's going to stop soon anyway."
With that I got into my bed and fell instantly to sleep. I have no idea how I managed this, considering there was a strange man in a hat and coat sitting less than a metre away from me.
I dreamt about the cemetery that night. I usually did. It was almost all I ever saw. This time was different though, I felt a sense of dread that the cemetery had never once produced in me before, neither in dream nor reality.
The next morning, all traces of the rain had disappeared, as well as all traces of my mysterious visitor.
I figured that he must have left while I was asleep, having washed his coffee cup and put it back on top of the fridge, where I kept them.
As I ate my breakfast I remembered the gravestone I'd knocked over.
I finished eating, put on my clothes, and went to find it.
It wasn't too hard to find, there were still marks in the muddy ground where I'd slipped and the stone was lying on it's front, miraculously unbroken. It was quite a small stone, so lifting it up and putting it back where it had been was no problem at all. I decided to make a mental note of which grave it was so I could call in someone to cement it back onto the base.
The name was quite faded so I had to squint to read it:

Here Lies
Died September 4th 1928
Requiescat in Pace

A chill ran down my spine and suddenly I realised why my visitor had made me so uneasy. All the cemetery gates were locked, and my house wasn't visible from the main road, so for him to end up finding my house he would have had to have been in the cemetery to begin with.
And it seems he was...

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Tale of Writers Block

1:26pm... dear god is that the time? Fuck it all I'd better get up and actually do some writing. If I can. There's just too much to write about and not a single word that does justice to the images inside my head. I'd better have some breakfast. They always say food helps creativity. I'll chuck on some music as well, music always helps. Something that puts me in the right frame of mind to write. Grateful Dead maybe. Yeah, Grateful Dead, which album though? American Beauty I think.
Breakfast time. It's past lunchtime so I'll have noodles and call it brunch. Boil the jug. Walk away. Sit down. Try to write for a bit. Fuck this. Can't. Write. A. Goddamn. Thing.
I can see it clearly. Every detail of the situation I want to put onto paper is right in front of me. But it isn't 'write' in front of me. It's, like, impossible to put into words. I could try to find the words but I'm sure the English language could never do it justice. No human language that has ever existed or will ever exist could adequately describe the images in my head. God I wish I had a cup of tea or something right now.
Holy shit. I boiled the jug to make noodles. How long ago was that? Oh my god, I've been sitting here staring at this screen for half an hour.
I'd better boil the jug again, It'll be cold by now. I'll actually stay in the kitchen this time, so I don't forget I boiled the jug.
Noodles noodles noodles. I love Mi Goreng noodles. They're like an orgasm on my tongue. No wait... that sounds bad. I mean they're really good.
Noodles are in the microwave. Time to make the tea. Gotta make sure it's strong enough. I can't stand weak tea, it's always either too milky or too watery and I hate it.
Right, got my tea and noodles, time to try and write again.
Goddamnit, I just can't break through my writers block. I know, I'll write something else. I've got it! I'll write a short story about having writers block! Perfect.
Open a new document.
Oh fuck off Vice City, I clicked the icon next to you, I didn't click on you. Esc. Esc. Esc. EXIT GODDAMNIT! Thank you.
Right, open new document.
Start to type: '1:26pm... dear god is that the time? Fuck it all I'd better get up and actually do some writing...'

Blue City Blues

Blue city
Blue city
Tell me all the things you see
Blue city
Blue city
You’re gonna be the death of me

The world don’t need another poet
But nonetheless here I am
A poet? Ha
If I can even call myself that
I’m just another angry man
Unimpressed by the state of the world
Trying to get a revolution
By writing a bunch of meaningless words

Blue city
Blue city
Whisper all the things you know
Blue city
Blue city
Bathed in an unnatural neon glow

I’ve lived a while now
And I’m beginning to understand
That life is just a game of cards
In which we are all dealt losing hands
The only way to win is lie
Convince them that you’re something more
Otherwise they’ll see your face
And in it shut the door

Blue city
Blue city
Show me who I really am
Blue city
Blue city
Show me if you can