CHAPTER NINE: IMAGINARY VALUES
BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL
THE POKER GAME
In reading With Hidden Noise as a cosmogram, we generate an imaginary model permitting more than one way to view the world. We may take the ball of twine in different ways to symbolize: Wholeness, Art, the Earth, the Continuity of Consciousness, or in a Shakespearean sense as an emblem or an allegory: the Theater of Life, or of the World. It surrounds a secret center, mysterious and originally empty,from which free space (though dark and contained), sounds the hidden noise as a secret from within. The voice may be a muffled one, rolling around the inner cylinder of the twine torus; again, it may sound clinky or rattling--to some ears even strident--when it strikes the metal plaques. The generator of this rare music we imagine to be the key: if we could but identify this "object," then we will have solved the enigma, the Zen Master's koan. While this conundrum may not be, precisely, "the sound of one hand clapping" our analysis and insight suggest it is something like that, as in the cadence of a single die.
From this imaginary point of reference, through the Void, and once again baffled back through the windings and the bindings of the ball of twine, we are reading the cosmogram, as it were, born again anew: as an instrument of analysis, rather than only as a subject. Our model-reading program intends to define both the heads of the bolts and the nuts holding the structure of the symbolic sculpture together. By applying literally revolutionary means--that is, by up-ending the piece as it stands on the four bolt-end "legs"--we may loosen the nuts and back them off so as to remove the bolts. It will be sufficient to remove only three, then if the fourth is but loosened, either one of the plaques may be rotated. In such a way, the ball of twine can be opened-up, thereby allowing a newly free flow of energy via the ends of the torus, like the polarized flux of a magnetic field.
As we see in this reading, the two brass plaques do not function as a conventional dichotomy; they appear, rather as parameters defining or containing the energy symbolized by the ball of twine. For example, in the misunderstood dialectic baldly presented as LIFE and DEATH, we see that if one of the plaques is read as DEATH, the other plaque should really be BIRTH, and the ball of twine in between should be LIFE. If the "containing" notion of DEATH is extended to be read as TRANSFIGURATION, RESURRECTION, or REBIRTH, then BIRTH may be extended in the other direction as GESTATION, CONCEPTION and SEX. Thus we might see the ball of twine as all that between Thanatos (Death) and Eros (Sex), at the same time recalling one of the recurrent, punning words of Rrose Slavy, since BOLTS--in Germanic and Old English usage--originally meant heavy ARROWS (EROS, RROSE).
Again, we may think of the two brass plaques as representing TIME: with one of the plaques as FUTURE, through which the LEGS and free feet protrude, and the other as PAST, through which the bolt HEADS protrude, then the PRESENT must be the space in between, separated by the bolts and occupied by the ball of twine. By this rather abstract scheme, the organic ball of twine easily may be read as the world, our home and our planet, the Earth--or, even closer to home (and without, necessarily, any contradictions) as the self. In such readings, the heads of the bolts indicate that which is relatively fixed in space and time, their effect being to press the brass plaque of the past up against the present. The bolt heads thus symbolize the source or origin in the historical past, much as we speak of the head of a trail or stream. In the "marked state," these are the famous fronts, the puppets attracting attention, the strawmen (and women) consumed by the flames of any necessary sacrifice, the people, in short, whom standard histories would have us believe were the actual prime movers of world events: Imhotep and King Zoser of Third Dynasty Egypt, Alexander, Cleopatra and Julius Caesar, the Emperor Justinian and the Empress Theodora, Ferdinand and Isabella. How to explain, for example, the large marble sculpture of Queen Isabella, la Católica, flanked by her page and Christopher Columbus (with Ferdinand conspicuously absent), Her Royal Majesty's imperial head directly under the cupola of the state capitol's dome in Sacramento, California: a state in which none of the three had ever set foot?
From our favored viewpoint in history at the advent of the twenty-first century and replete with our newly sophisticated understanding of wholistic information systems and how data banks may interact, we can regard with a mild sense of superiority, in retrospect, the way history used to be taught in schools, as a succession of kings and queens and the sequence of their wars. War has been the pathological melodrama of our modern species: that is, since some six or seven thousand years ago when the Kurgans swept down into Old Europe. The generals (and admirals) all sallied forth into battle with the blessings of their priests, and then turned into (or turned it over to) the kings for rule and governance, accompanied again by sacerdotal prayers. But where in the composition of history, we might ask, has been the incisive intelligence or analytical curiosity to peer behind the personae, the masks, or to twang the puppets' strings?
In our comprehensive reviewing of published, academically accepted history we continually explore for the invisible power structure behind the visible kings, prime ministers, czars, emperors, presidents, and other official head men, as well as for the underlying, hidden causes of individual wars and their long, drawn-out campaigns not disclosed by the widely published and popularly accepted causes of those wars.
[Fuller Critical Path, pp. 47, 83.]
Together with the generals, kings and priests--the three: military, political, and religious domains, respectively, with admitted overlappings and interpenetrations as part of the understood bargain--the fourth element represented symbolically by one of the corner bolts in With Hidden Noise is finance: not just money-- since actual cash has become largely a nuissance--but for the full range of influence bought by the power of wealth and property, including lines of credit, leverage, and especially the matter of interest.
The one history we have NOT on the news-stands is the history of Usura....But the history of where such and such tyrant, dupe, idiot, bewigged pustulent Bourbon, bewigged pietist diseased Stuart got his money and how, from Caesar's time (despite Rostovtzeff and the unreadable and dull Ferrero) to our own time is not clearly written. Who paid for such and such wars, what save poverty prevented so and so from making more wars, with more splendid equipment?
...All this is still blank in our histories. "Wars are paid for by depreciation of currency," wars are paid for in blood and carnage. Indiscriminate murder is respectable, discriminate murder is criminal, and so forth, so weiter, etcetera.
No biography of a public man or of a ruler or prime minister can henceforth be accepted as valid unless it contains a clear statement of his finances, of his public acts in relation to public financing. Did he or did he not aid in, connive at, swindling the people into paying two dollars taxes for every dollar's worth of material bought for the public?
Peace movements financed by war-profiteers who are still in the bank and gun business or whose subsidy is derived from munitions' sales are unlikely to conduce to the new paideuma. ["Paiduema" is Pound's term for an enlightened and radical approach to comprehensive education.] Pacifists who refuse to examine all causes of war, from natural fitfulness on through the direct economic causes, are simple vermin, whatever their level of consciousness, their awareness or unawareness of the nature of their actions and motivations.
[Pound, Guide to Kulchur, pp. 115 ff.]
BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL
For three millennia in ancient Egypt the outlook was optimistic. The realization and fulfillment of life after death contained the happy possibility of resurrection, for though the Lord Osiris sat in a sort of Last Judgement as the goodness of one's heart was weighed against the feather of Ma'at, there were no threats of a cursed damnation. The multiplex beast in attendance at the ritual was there to gobble up any vestiges of the merely personal ego, not as a demon agent of Hell. No "salvation" was required, because there was no Hell.
After the continuity of venerable traditions through Egypt was disrupted and both its intellectual and spiritual lineages severed to serve the jealous purposes of Alexander's new imperial vision, the Hellenistic syncretists, doubtless sensing that something important had been lost, set about gathering together whatever bits and shards of the ancient systems remained. When Rome pursued essentially this same model of imperial design, it was surprisingly accommodating to the local patterns of worship such as could be integrated with the master program of its own supervening mythological pantheon. Caesar turned to religion, eventually, as the last desperate means by which it was hoped to control the disintegrating vestiges, the economic, political and military fabric of the threadbare Roman Empire.
Christianity emerged from the swelter of mystery religions in the Middle East--probably influenced by cosmic dualities of Zoroastrian persuasion--counterbalancing the promise of heaven and paradise with threats of damnation and hell. In Egypt, logically, there seems to have been little interest in soteriology, or rituals and doctrines directed toward the promise of salvation. But when the instrumentality of salvation from Christian hell was believed to lie outside the self, pursuit of that end brought risks of an infinite and tragic quest. The pattern of Christian millennialist beliefs, while providing a model for modern scientific theories of evolution with its hierarchy of beings, also provided a ready (if shaky) rationale of disclaiming responsibility for the consequences of human action. If "rebirth" in some other world were the form in which the prize of salvation were to be granted, then there would be little profit in bothering about gross, immediate, merely material manifestations. The disdainful, arrogantly self-elected either hoped or expected to be "translated" like Elijah soon enough, at Armageddon, the Second Coming, when the Last Days are presumed to mark the End of Time. In the traditional, cyclical view of the cosmos, the Apocalypse when All would be revealed --like Ragnarok, Gtterdamerung, or the culmination of the Kali yuga--was but a phase, though a significant, momentous one, indeed!
The linear, tragic, millennialist assumptions about time, the ego and destiny, with a self-righteous paucity of compassion for other living beings (including the many, many who are to find themselves among the non-elect for failing to qualify as True Believers), inevitably raised a plethora of philosophical and possibly psychiatric problems, along with grievous ecological implications. The same pretense that hoped to place the capacity for individual and collective actions beyond, BEYOND, coveniently removed from human power, it was hoped, might also relieve or eliminate human responsibilty. In the teeth of such unilateral attempts to abrogate the law of karma (i.e. that actions produce consequences), "faith," "belief," "salvation" and similar sentimental propensities for wishful-thinking exculpation were among the common alternatives sucked in to fill the void, while awareness and right action, it was imagined, might be "a- voided."
Such special pleading today poses signal risks of undermining respect for mankind's traditional ethical, moral, and spiritual inter-relationship with the subtle web of life on Earth, close to the heart of human culture since the earliest documented beginnings with the cave bear altars at Drachenloch or the flower burials at Shanidar. It has been noted that Saint Francis of Assissi was the only Christian saint formally to bridge this wholly artificial gap (interposed as the consequence of dwelling within the closure of town walls) between the spirit and nature, having not only composed a Hymn to the Sun, but also having preached the Gospel to flowers and animals. These latter were beings without souls according to Church dogma, hence the Stigmatized Saint thus, technically, committed an act of heresy. Perhaps there were other Christian saints with potentially heretical sympathies for Natura, such as Hildegard of Bingen; but they soon learned to keep very quiet about it all.
One of the principal lines of thought to scorn and repudiate the symbiotic lessons inherited from the wisdom of many cumulative millennia since the Paleolithic and the Neolithic, was given voice some 1500 years ago by the early Church Father, Saint Augustine:
His early Christian world of existence is really a stage set up for the events that will lead to the salvation of a fallen world --a salvation that will be experienced only with the coming again of Christ. This event was awaited with great anticipation in the time of Augustine, nearly 500 years having passed since His resurrection.
The Christians and the Roman Catholic Church adopted the Roman system of timekeeping and, like the Romans, used it to perpetuate and maintain the church's increasing power. By the end of the Middle Ages, roughly the fourteenth century, Christianity pervaded Europe and had a tenacious grip on the European way of thinking about time, creation, and history. Although the medieval view of time was allegorical, attaching religious symbolism to all of nature's happenings, Christian thinkers were incorporating Aristotle's views about physical time, the number of motion, and so on, into the teleological, onward-and upward-pulling orientation implicit in the Bible's stories of salvation and redemption. In the natural world, time's scale began to take on the metaphysical form of a ladder, whose rungs were represented by each of God's plant and animal creations. The most rudimentary lower-ordered ones lay at the bottom of the ladder, while God's best attempt at perfect being stood at the top rung. Only man was created in the image of God, and only he was set up to have dominion over all of God's other creations....
[Aveni, Empires of Time, p. 138 f.]
This astounding expression of spiritual pride, with all the effrontery of political pomp, or as cloaked with all the pretensions of religion, encourages turning away from the world as a Paradise-worth-preserving, while conjuring karmically negligent justifications for what has become a plague of our species on the planet. The pernicious influence of this salvationist compulsion was regarded critically (but mis-labeled) by the renowned scholar of human institutions and author of The Golden Bough, Sir James Frazer, who
attributed the defects of Western civilization to "the selfish and immoral doctrine of Oriental religions which inculcated the communion of the soul with God, and its eternal salvation, as the only objects worth living for."
...This, he argued, undermined the unselfish ideal of Greek and Roman society [although] Frazer, an authority on Greek religion, must have known that the salvationist obsession of the Greek Orphics was Thraco-Libyan, not Oriental, and that long before the Jews of the Dispersal had introduced to the Greek world their Pharisaic doctrine of oneness with God, city-state idealism had been destroyed from within. Once speculative philosophy had made sceptics of all educated Greeks who were not Orphics or members of some other mystical fraternity, public as well as private faith, despite the prodigious conquests of Alexander, was undermined....
[Graves, The White Goddess, p. 474.]
The presumption of supreme status for humanity, with the paradigm of some heaven above and apart from the beauties and glories of the real world, became both a corrosive rationale and a cowardly excuse for insatiable exploitation, in the expanded commercial enterprise of the Renaissance. The foundation of modern nation-states entailed shirking the burden of stewardship and spurning the moral obligations that anciently attended assumption of sovreign powers, instead promoting the ignoble Minos, once Tyrant Holdfast himself, into a hustler for the interests of invisible contributors to his political campaign.
Nation-state entities shamelessly were spurred to operate as the gross vehicles, or visible and ceremonial fronts for moneyed interests remaining hidden and protected by the new, wholly artificial, legal shield of invisibility surrounding the modern corporation. After 1600, following the model of the British East India Company, Limited, the advantageous cover of limited liability became increasingly useful to investors and entrepreneurs, and was employed by people seeking to avoid the consequencess of their actions, rejecting a sustainable and sane pattern of "right livelihood," disrupting natural harmonies, and hoping to counter karmic principles that--as even anonymous directors and shareholders will eventually discover--must nonetheless apply.
What transpired--in this view of humanity as the self-appointed crown of creation adopted by millennialist Christians, disdainful of wholistic responsibilities, twelve hundred years after Saint Augustine and in the wake of the Protestant Reformation, in the seventeenth-century--was expressed in two films by Peter Greenaway: The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover and The Draughtsman's Contract, as described and discussed by the historian, Arthur Williamson:
In Peter Greenaway's vision, modern civilization arose in the 17th century as an Anglo-Dutch phenomenon. For him this civilization is characterized neither by liberal nor democratic values, but by an utterly rapacious bourgeois order obsessed with power, commerce, and consumption.
This theme underlies both The Cook and his earlier film The Draughtsman's Contract. Set in England during the early 1690s, the latter film was a complicated murder mystery whose solution required the interpretation of an allegorical painting as well as of a series of views of the large country home which the draughtsman had been engaged to produce. In this extremely rich and densely textured setting, we encounter the post-revolutionary England of the original Whig party. It is the England won by William of Orange in Ireland at the still powerfully evocative Battle of the Boyne. It is the England which in 1695 created a national bank and the first modern monetary policy. It is the England which would then conquer much of the world and defeat the most powerful of the ancien rgimes. This new, commercial capitalist England lives by contract no less in its Lockean political theory than in its daily life, where contracts made with draughtsmen, not artists, lead to sex, not love.
[Arthur H. Williamson, "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover...and History: Peter Greenaway's Historical Vision," Interchange (Fall 1990), p. 12 f.]
This perspective helps us to understand better the motivation of Marcel Duchamp in courageously foregoing, at least in a nominalist sense, the role of professional "artist," so as to achieve his freedom --or at least some degree of independence--from the world of capitalist contracts, with that "utterly rapacious bourgeois order obsessed with power, commerce, and consumption." Yet, with a wise eye discerning the reality of modern times (and with not a little irony), Duchamp formulated an archetypal icon of mechanical sex without love in the Large Glass, and even earlier was among the first and the most daring of modern "artists" to utilize that very impersonal technique and "dry" stylistic approach of the draughtsman.
From a great many perspectives Greenaway is surely right to see the roots of the modern world in the Dutch republic and its anglophone successors. He is surely right to suggest that if we look wisely at the portraits of Hals, Rembrandt, and Vermeer, we will for the first time see modern people, and thus ourselves. But that age and those societies...also created...radical values....[T]he Dutch republic created one of the few 17th century cultures to tolerate Jews, one which nourished no less than Spinoza....Modern British Jewry dates from the contemporaneous Cromwellian republic. So do the cultural roots of modern socialism and radical democracy. The grandeur of modernity no less than its horrors are the products of this era.
[Williamson, "The Cook...etc.," p. 15.]
Oliver Cromwell and his dour company, declaring to be anathema the venerable Celtic heritage of the British Isles, instigated deliberate forays with sledge hammers, smashing to smithereens the megalithic monuments as purported idols of paganism, and therefore presumed to be instruments of the devil. Yet, the Cromwellian republic was instrumental in--and not merely contemporaneous with--the rise of British Jewry to positions of political influence and financial power. In the view of Robert Graves, the relationship was causal:
England's sudden commercial expansion in the seventeenth century was caused by Cromwell's welcome to the Dutch Jews, who brought their modern banking-system to London. If Europeans dislike the results of unlimited capitalism and industrial progress, they have only themselves to blame: the Jews originally invoked the power of money as a bulwark against Gentile oppression. They were forbidden by the Mosaic Law either to lend money at interest among themselves or to let loans run on indefinitely--every seventh year the debtor had to be released from his bond--and it is not their fault that money, ceasing to be a practical means of exchanging goods and services, has achieved irresponsible divinity in the Gentile world.
[Graves, White Goddess, p. 474 f.]
THE POKER GAME
The financing of war had been one of the earliest issues argued by the founders of the new nation of the United States of America as, following the Revolutionary War, Alexander Hamilton (now known to have been operating as a covert agent for British financial interests throughout the entire conflict) declared before Congress,
that it was not the intention of the signers of the Declaration of Independence that the nation so formed should have any wealth. Wealth, Hamilton argued--as supported by Adam Smith--is the land, which is something that belonged entirely to private individuals, preponderantly the great landowners with king-granted deeds to hundreds and sometimes thousands of square miles, as contrasted to the ordinary colonists' few hundreds of acres of homestead farms. Hamilton went on to argue that the United States government so formed would, of course, need money from time to time and must borrow that money from the rich landowners' banks and must pay the banks back with interest. Assuming that the people would be benefited by what their representative government did with the money it borrowed, the people gladly would be taxed in order to pay the money back to the landowners with interest. This is where a century-and-a-half-long game of "wealth"-poker began, with the cards dealt only to the great landowners by the world power structure.
Obviously, very powerful people had their land given to them by the king and not by God, but the king, with the Church's approbation, asserted it was with God's blessing.
[Fuller Critical Path, p. 79.]
The example most pertinent for our discussion of With Hidden Noise is the First World War, which the American people were persuaded to enter, after great reluctance and only as the consequence of an elaborate program of disinformation that deceitfully led the nation into great disadvantage and danger, purportedly to "save democracy."
What it saved was the investment of J. P. Morgan, as the principal fiscal agent of the "Allies" who had been buying heavily in the United States for three years before America was finally deluded into entering the hostilities in order to cover the extended "credit," by restructuring American industry and by implementing new technologies as telephone, telegraph and power companies.
For the first time in history, from 1914 to 1918, humanity entered upon a comprehensive program of industrial transformation and went from wire to wireless communications, from tracked to trackless transportation, from two-dimensional transport to four-dimensional; from visible structuring and mechanical techniques to invisible--atomic and molecular--structuring and mechanics....J. P. Morgan, now representing the "allied" power structures' capitalist system's banks as well as serving as the Allies' purchasing agent, said to the American Congress, "How are you going to pay for it all?" The American Congress said, "What do you mean, pay for it? This is our own wealth. This is our war to save democracy. We will win the war and then stop the armaments production." Morgan said, "You have forgotten Alexander Hamilton. The U.S. government doesn't have any money. You're going to pay for it all right. But since you don't have any money, you're going to have to borrow it all from the banks. You're going to borrow it from me, Mr. Morgan, in order to pay these vast war bills. Then you must raise the money by taxes to pay me back."
To finance these enormous payments Mr. Morgan and his army of lawyers invented--for the U.S. government-- the Liberty Loans and Victory Loans. Then the U.S. Congress invented the Income Tax. With the...legislation that set up [this] scheme, "we the people" had, for the first time, a little peek into the poker hands of the wealthy. But only into the amount of their taxable income, not into the principal wealth cards of their poker game.
[Fuller Critical Path, p. 82, 83.]
Because of a subtle but iniquitous human propensity to mistake the mark itself for the thing marked, the use of money as a TOKEN of value frequently confounds people's capacity for clear perception and sound judgement. Important as this seems to be, it is widely ignored in schools, and even in universities. More is involved here, but it could begin with the history of coinage, and with questions about the relationship between works of art and cash, checks or money orders.
When the Sumerians devised a means for recording exchanged commodities as units or quantities of value, we know they initially secreted physical tokens in small clay containers that had to be broken open and examined before the significance could be deciphered. This was probably to protect the confidential nature of the exchange. Then they began to inscribe the nature of the token on the outer surface of the clay container in which it was enclosed, thus--in a manner--bruiting the secret. Soon thereafter, the early Mesopotamians began to do away with the physical tokens altogether, coming to rely on the notational system of symbolic marks, conventionally referring to tokens that, in turn, indicated specific values in terms of real stuff. These niceties of bookkeeping led to the invention of orginally pictographic representations, which then developed into cuneiform: apparently the first integrated, abstract form of written language.
Hesiod, the poet of archaic Greece, asked the searching question, whether one's gold was reckoned in terms of "rams and ewes." Pindar, the composer of Odes, left no doubt about the relative value of that which sustains life and the pernicious seduction of tokens: "Water is good, but gold is like burning fire." The Roman sense of "pecuniary" was also related by its etymology directly to the counting of cattle.
Up until 1500 BCE, all money was cattle, lambs, goats, or pigs--live money that was real life-support wealth, wealth you could actually eat. Steers were by far the biggest food animal, and so they were the highest denomination of money. The Phoenecians carried their cattle with them for trading, but these big creatures proved to be very cumbersome on long voyages....The pair of joined bull's horns symbolized that the particular ship carried real-wealth traders--that there were cattle on board to be exchanged for local-wealth items....Graduating from carrying cattle along for trading in 1500 BC, the Phoenecians invented metal money, which they first formed into iron half-rings that looked like pairs of bull's horns....Soon the traders found that ...if metal were being used for trading, then there were other kinds of metal [previously unvisited foreign countries] preferred trading with people--silver, copper, and gold were easy to judge by hefting and were more aesthetically pleasing than the forged iron bull horn symbols. This soon brought metal coinage into the game of world trading.
[Fuller, Critical Path, pp. 73 ff.]
Progressively abstract notions of credit and accounts began at much the same time, and the Phoenecians probably sought to modify their syllabary in order to render transliterations of foreign speech into the conventional forms of their native written language. As we have noted above, a more successful mechanism for this process was the fully alphabetic notational system later invented by the Greeks. But already with the Phoenecians, we suspect that a key role was played by speculative, financial underwriting of international trade.
Dr. Helen Caldicott--an Australian physician and anti-nuclear activist, co-founder of the Physicians for Social Responsibility, and founder of the International Physicians to Save the Environment, author of Missile Envy, and Nuclear Madness, in her book, If You Love This Planet, addresses the pollution and destruction of the environment as if it were a disease: examining symptoms, formulating a diagnosis, and indicating a preferred course of treatment. Hers is one contemporary, clear and compassionate voice, concerned with saving, not the projected fantasies of anyone's individual ego or would-be soul, but the real joys and beauties of a whole and healthy planet. The search for real causes behind the problems of the planet may enjoy an excellent opportunity to proceed if the world--just possibly, for a while, some seven or eight years before the end of the century and the beginning of a new millennium--recedes from the fearful immediacy of thermonuclear war, slackening somewhat the mood of impending global annihilation. Perhaps we could make no better use of such a reprieve than to pursue the challenging querries of Pound and Fuller about money and war. Writing in 1991--elaborating on a theme first presented in an address given in 1989--Dr. Caldicott declared:
The world is spending a trillion dollars a year on weapons. If we spent $1 million a minute since Jesus was born you wouldn't have spent a trillion dollars. A trillion dollars a year....Two-thirds of the scientists in America work in the military-industrial complex making weapons to kill us all...war is big business. The major form of international currency now is weapons, not oil and not gold. Hence one trillion dollars a year is spent on weapons manufacturing. Death. If that money was transferred from death into saving the planet, we could produce birth control, food for everybody, housing, education for women, (because when women are educated they stop having babies), raise the standard of living in the Third World, produce mass transit systems in every city in the world, stop the CFCs, stop the deforestation, plant billions of trees, stop the pollution of the oceans, stop making plastic and the like--we'd save the world.
You're not told what is actually happening in your country or on the planet. You watch the news to increase ratings to make more money for corporations. 23 corporations own the media now. The media should be publicly owned, with no restrictions and [they] shouldn't be used to sell stuff. It all comes down to money. It's money that's destroying the earth. We buy it by being seduced by it. We've got to do something about it.
[Helen Caldicott, M.D., "Saving the Planet," Open Magazine Pamphlet Series, No. 4; P.O. Box 2726, Westfield, N.J. 07091, (February 22, 1991), p. 16.]
While it may be an error to believe that money is the ONLY root of evil, it certainly appears to be deeply entangled with the radical causes of the many global calamities before us. This lineage of wisdom has been transmitted since Chang Tzu's report of earliest times in China when knotted cords were used for records, and reiterated (as we noted above) by the belief of the Diggers in seventeenth-century England, that "all the world's evils had come about from the dreadful device of buying and selling." We know that people can behave in beastly ways toward one another even when it appears to be counter to their own financial and material advantage. Ostensibly, however, the principles of operation for many individual and most corporate undertakings are rationalized by statistics of profit and loss. Commercial activity is supposed to be not war, but rather a game--whether poker or hardball--because of the assumption that rules are to be followed, that indeed markets have relevant working principles, and that for economics to be meaningful, accounts must be complete and true.
Generally held to fall outside this conventionally constrained set of activities are the recourses to force and terror: invasion and conquest in military terms, the larceny of mercenaries, or the use of hired thugs, goon squads and hit men. These egregious actions, abrogating the normal modes of social conduct--even though sometimes sanctioned politically--we classify as crimes: robbery, theft, extortion and other forms of conversion, embezzlement or expropriation. Albeit, criss-crossing this fuzzy distinction between the domains of real power and socially acceptible behavior in the marketplace, the court or the sanctuary, there are many machinations and skullduggeries and manifold forms of corruption, collusion, misappropriation, graft, bribery, the suborning of justice, the sale of indulgences, simony, and so forth. Straight talk about this may well be a "hidden noise."
The cover for most such actions is secrecy, widely abetted by the obfuscating cloud of cant and propaganda meant to perpetuate public ignorance about the affairs of business, of government, and especially of the military. Neither exempt from the penchant for the clandestine is the domain of the higher mind--which nowadays ecclesiastics have been forced to share with physicians and scientists. The world knows that power and pride, and the goads of overweening self-righteousness may prod the industrious spirit into action as effectively as the lure of lucre. Though mightily revered today, Mammon stands not alone among the gods: nothing quite so simple, since even easy profits may be sacrificed only for the glory of acquiring a greater market share.
By the very media that should serve as conduits for objective information, citizens are cajoled with mellifluous blather from the money men and inveigled by the spiels from high financiers. The principal formal instrument for this grand deception over the last five hundred years, has been the quasi-person of the corporation. Originally intended by royal charter to limit entrepreneurial losses, the "Ltd." corporate enterprise has fashioned, by legalistic fantasies within the abstract architecture of its own hypothetical ontology, an unlimited motley of mechanical souls: imaginary persons before the law, invented by propertied guile and royal fiat, a veritable cadre of Golems, artificial life-forms spewing the skewed news of the day.
Here then, are some of the sour fruits of the venal grail-quest mockingly performed with impure hearts: the "royal," as Skeat showed, misrepresented as "real." In any democratic nation living under the rule of law, theoretically, the disclosure of all corporate financing could be mandated; with the well-being of the planet at issue, the acts of privately held (as well as public) corporations could be rendered subject to appropriate scrutiny. Resistance to such a process of opening goes back far beyond the greed and chicaneries of pirate/gentlemen petitioning Isabella in the fifteenth or Elizabeth Regina I in the seventeenth century, at least to the ideas of kingship (or queenship) and the invention of private property as promoted perhaps originally by the patriarchal, Neolithic, Anatolian cattle barons.
Sensitive souls may find it absolutely astounding what villanies of exploitation people willingly suffer just on the off-chance that they might, themselves, be able some day to practice the same upon their fellow beings, charmed by the siren's song of "getting rich." Yet it may be mere intellectual indolence or some form of morbid mental lethargy that inhibits a reasoned examination of the true foundations for "Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness," in contrast with the illusory substrate of the corporate house of cards. A widespread, vulgar, and unexamined (however insistent) belief in immanent reality of corporate fictive entities protests too much in the anxious redundancy of the phrase "body corporate." But the terms relating to CORPORATION all emmanate like ephemeral, exuded vapours, from the Latin corpus that referred explicitly to the substantive, material aspect of one's being--as in calling a dead body a CORPSE.
So your tax dollars are used for corporate benefit. The best way to make a buck in this country if you're a corporation is to build weapons, because they make 75% profit. There's no competition. It's a cost-plus industry, whereas if you make cars you only make 15% profit. So you can't afford not to be making nuclear weapons and delivery systems if you are a corporation in this country. Therefore, every company, directly or indirectly, is involved in making weapons of mass-destruction, even General Foods, who make cereals, etc. How come? They sell their products to the military. So the corporations have you by a stranglehold. It's a corporate White House....The Congress is a corporate Congress.... So you can't get there unless you're a millionaire or unless you're bought out by corporate money before you get there. That's not right. That's not democracy. So something has to change. The Pentagon is run by corporations. The Department of Energy, which runs the nuclear power plants and builds all the nuclear weapons is run by the corporations....So the DOE is run by the corporations. It's a pretense to think that the American government is run of the people, by the people, for the people. Now, therefore, you need another revolution.
[Caldicott, "Saving the Planet," pp. 1 ff.]
[The Beatles, "Revolution," in Alan Aldridge, editor, The Beatles: Illustrated Lyrics, Houghton Mifflin, Boston (1991), p. 102.]
Executing the literal, physical revolution of With Hidden Noise, as if reading a paradigm for our times, we may imagine the four bolts to suggest a syncretic fifth, the "quintessential" idea of PERSON: as both the real, individual human and the imaginary corporate being. The latter began with the sycophantic notion that a king (or queen) is somehow intrinsically different from thee and me, and in mysterious ways better than other ordinary human beings. Later, this rank and disingenuous propensity, deliberately confounding "royal blood" with "real blood," perversely led to misreading the emblem of the Holy Grail as an apologia for the presumptions of monarchy. Now, the old image of the monarch may be out of style, but the shout rings out from a legion of poltroons: "The king is dead, Long live the Corporation." The idea of a corporate establishment is superior to the convention of kingship requiring an incarnate person to embody the abstract notion: superior precisely because the "person" of the corporation is intangible, shape-shifting, and diffuse, at its own convenience invisible, unavailable, irresponsible, and--transcending the prime disadvantage of being a living and dying king--(in theory) immortal.
The conclusion that the well-being of the world requires some sort of revolution should be obvious--obvious at least to the one eye that looks at our situation in the world, "close to, from the other side" of dismay or hysteria. The eye focussed on accumulating short-term monetary profit and material gain (whether of the private or corporate person) is peripherally blind, myopic, and occluded. But even as the full, stereophonic enjoyment of musically bruited secrets requires a pair of ears, this vision of revolution promises a revelation, as in a gleam of pure light, probably to be enjoyed best by opening both eyes.