Posted by: Harold Knight | 11/30/2010

Wikileaks, Herman Melville, JFK Assassination, and Religious Experience

Put not your trust in Wikileaks

Put not your trust in Wikileaks

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. . . .
William Shakespeare, As You Like It (Act II, Scene 7)

I’ve been unable to write for most of November. I have several suppositions about why which I cannot (will not) share except with my therapist. In his little-known novel Pierre, or the Ambiguities, Herman Melville writes,

The intensest light of reason and revelation combined can not shed such blazoning upon the deeper truths in man, as will sometimes proceed from his own profoundest gloom. Utter darkness is then his light, and cat-like he distinctly sees all objects through a medium which is mere blindness to common vision. (1)

I haven’t been suffering much gloom lately. I don’t understand why because nothing obvious in my life has changed. Still alone; still taking the same strong-enough-to-kill-a-horse medications; still looking around and shaking my head in disbelief at the lengths to which people will go to avoid thinking about being dead—much less believing it will happen to them; still wondering how humankind has organized itself into such fucked-up (pardon my colorful language, but if you can think of a better word, use it) societies. At least in ant colonies everyone knows who’s on top, and there’s no other logical way to organize themselves to get the work done and provide food and shelter for everyone. Are we smarter than ants? I don’t think so.

I’m feeling gloom coming on. Perhaps it’s the cold I seem not to be able to shake (or cannot shake because of the gloom?). Perhaps it’s the Christmas season when I’m always gloomier than usual (four years ago at this time I was in the hospital unable to function from depression).

Or perhaps it’s Wikileaks. WIKILEAKS!!!!????

The e-mail of anyone who reads The New Left Review has been overwhelmed by a frightening deluge of triumphant “I-told-you-so” messages the last couple of days. They told me so. The world is going to hell in a hand basket, and the corruption, incompetence, and downright evil of the people who control and/or represent us both to ourselves and to the world are enough to destroy life as we know it.

All I can wonder is, “Can anyone really be so gullible to think any of this is either new or unusual?” I’m not sure when the Biblical Psalms were written, and I’m not sure—as  I’ve said here many times—“The lady doth protest too much, methinks” (2)—the God of the Psalms (or any other God) exists. (I have to restate that so no one thinks I’m thumping the Bible.)  At any rate, the Psalmist, writing in about 600 B.C.E. said in Psalm 146,

Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.
His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.
(Psalm 146:3-4)

In case you’ve forgotten, I always use the King James Version, not because it’s God’s language, but because it’s the language of most of the choral settings of the Psalms I know. (See end of post for some wonderful settings of Psalm 146. I almost completely derailed this writing listening to them.)

So 2,600 years ago some guy put all this Wikileaks nonsense in exactly the right perspective. Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help (3).  But here’s my problem with Wikileaks. I don’t care.

That’s not true, of course. But what I care about is helping (although I am eternally and embarrassingly bad at it) my neighbor. We’re all in this together. And those of us who have not figured out how to get into the realms of the rich and powerful (it’s the other way around—people get power first, and then they get rich) are screwed. Plain and simple. Pardon my earthy language again, but it’s true.

Put not your trust in Brian T. Moynihan

Put not your trust in Brian T. Moynihan

I recently participated in some alternative activities surrounding the ground-breaking for the George W. Bush Presidential Library (see http://warisacrime.org/thepeoplesresponse ). The events, both the celebration of power and the miniscule response to it, were, I’m afraid, business as usual. The rich get richer only because they are the powerful getting powerfuller, and the rest of us are left the crumbs of both our own labor and of our society’s productivity.

It’s not that I don’t care. It’s that I’m too old to get incensed as I used to. I have friends older than I who are active in groups that are on a mission to change the world, the incredible (except that it was ever thus) corruption and evil and power-mongering in the name of our “democratic” government (4). Anyone who can’t see that we are all pawns in the great eternal global power struggle among a caste of people who are obsessed with being rich and powerful is simply naïve and ridiculously trusting.

And so Wikileaks comes along and makes us feel, well, powerful in some way. We can bring the bastards down; we can have “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” A friend from the Dallas Peace Center yesterday sent me notice of soft-cover re-publication of yet another book (the author is a friend of hers) on the JFK assassination that tells us who is really running this sorry excuse for a society (5).

To them I say, “Get a life.” And I mean that.

. . . through a medium which is mere blindness to common vision. . .

. . . through a medium which is mere blindness to common vision. . .

Get a life that doesn’t depend on what Hillary Clinton or George W. Bush or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or the Knesset, or Brian T. Moynihan say or do. They’re going to do what they’re going to do. And we can get all wrapped up in that—and fall for Sarah Palin’s and Glenn Beck’s nonsense about how to change things, when what they really want is power—or we can get a life.

If I were you, I’d start by cutting up all of my credit cards. Then I’d buy nothing for the next month that I don’t actually need to sustain my life. Then I’d give the money I saved to an undocumented immigrant looking for work. “All the world’s a stage.” Act on! But for goodness sake, “Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.” We do have some power if we don’t give it to them, starting with Brian T. Moynihan.

If that depresses you, perhaps you’re ready to see “all objects through a medium which is mere blindness to common vision.” Religious experience?
__________
1) Melville, Herman. Pierre, or the Ambiguities, Book IX (1852). London: Constable and Company Ltd. 1923.
(2) Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Act III, scene 2.
(3 ) See:  Weirsma, Hans. “Psalm 146: Commentary on Psalm.” Center for Biblical Preaching, Luther Seminary. WorkingPreacher.org.  2010. Web. 30 Nov. 2010.
(4) The Dallas Peace Center, for example. http://www.dallaspeacecenter.org/?id=1
(5) Douglass, James W.  JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died, and Why it Matters. New York: Orbis, 2008. A review at: http://www.ctka.net/2008/jfk_unspeakable.html

Settings of Psalm 146:
I was looking for one that I can sing from memory—an Anglican Chant version that I can’t find online. But my search resulted in these two that will make your day (neither in the King James Version).

Jan Pieterzoon Sweelinck (1562-1621) – Dutch Calvinist composer
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iATBoXDEw4s&NR=1
An organ toccata titled “Psalm 146,” by Jan Zwart (1877-1937), performed by Harm Hoeve on the Hinsz-organ in the Bovenkerk, Kampen, the Netherlands.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqu0dBctmEs

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Responses

  1. Powerful stuff here. I had to “get a life” or succumb to depression from all the “news.” I was under an illusion (delusion?) several years ago that I would escape the corruption of the US by moving to France. There really is no escape. You do have to just focus on what is most important to you, the things that give you real pleasure in this short life, and the small mark (small goodness) you can leave behind.

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