Here. Terrifying, soul-rending.
Archive for May, 2011
“New evidence linking Rameses and Moses”
A little synchronicity: Rameses II the Great became pharaoh of Egypt on this date in 1279 BCE; Frye makes reference to him in “Symbolism in the Bible” to correct misapprehension about the “literal” meaning of the Bible. The Bible records not history, but a typological manifestation of concern:
[W]hen John the Baptist is asked if he is Elijah, he says that he is not. Now, there is no difficulty there, unless you want to foul yourselves up over a totally impossible conception of literal meaning: reincarnation in its literal there’s-that-man-again form is not a functional doctrine in the Bible. At the same time, metaphorically, which is one of the meanings of “spiritually” in the New Testament, John the Baptist is a reborn Elijah just as Nero is a reborn Nebuchadnezzar or Rameses II. So, it is not surprising that the great scene of the Transfiguration in the Gospels should show Jesus as flanked by Moses on one side and Elijah on the other — that is, the Word of God with the law and the prophets supporting him. Again, that has its demonic parody in the figure of the crucified Christ with the two theives flanking him on either side. (CW 13, 499-50)
Diminishing return: lower taxes result in lower job growth in the long run — note the nosedive after the Bush tax cuts in 2000.
Uh oh: the larger the high-end tax cuts, the larger the deficit — note the explosive growth of the deficit after the Bush tax cuts of 2000 (red line). Note also that if the Bush tax cuts were repealed, the deficit drifts easily into manageable territory (blue line).
If we’re talking bottom line, here it is: lower taxes have demonstrably meant diminishing job creation (not to mention devastated social services) and larger deficits. We know that’s not been the conventional wisdom since the storied days of Ronald Reagan in the misty past of thirty years ago, but it is the reality.
Even after eight years of Bushonomics that have crippled American fiscal policy, the current government of Canada is about to more or less repeat the same mistakes. Social and government services will be cut in the name of “austerity.” Welfare, meanwhile, is now strictly for corporations in the form of still more tax cuts, the purchase of tens of billions worth of American jet interceptors, and a massive payday for developers with the building of new prisons at a time when crime rates are down sharply after declining for a decade.
Picking up again on our examination of the relation of Christian fundamentalism to right wing politics, here’s Frye in “The Double Mirror” on the false literalism of fundamentalists. (It’s a long excerpt, but it leads up to the last paragraph that makes it worth the effort.)
The traditional view of the Bible, as we all know, has been that it must be regarded as “literally” true. This view of “literal” meaning assumes that the Bible is a transparent medium of words conveying a “true” picture of historical events and conceptual doctrines. It is a vehicle of “revelation,” and revelation means that something objective, behind the words, is being conveyed directly to the reader. It is also an ”inspired” book, and inspiration means that its authors were, so to speak, holy tape-recorders, writing at the dictation of an external spiritual power.
This view is based on an assumption about verbal truth that needs examining. One direction is centripetal, where we establish a context out of the words read; the other is centrifugal, where we try to remember what the words mean in the world outside. Sometimes the external meanings take on a structure descriptive or nonliterary. Here the question of “truth” arises: the structure is “true” if it is a satisfactory counterpart to the external structure to it is parallel. If there is no external counterpart, the structure is said to be literary or imaginative, existing for its own sake, and hence often considered a form of permissible lying. If the Bible is “true,” tradition says, it must be a nonliterary counterpart of something outside it. It is, as Derrida would say, an absence invoking a presence, the “word of God” as a book pointing to “the word of God” as speaking presence in history. It is curious that although this view of Biblical meaning was intended to exalt the Bible as a uniquely sacrosanct book, it in fact turned it into a servomechanism, its words conveying truths or events that by definition were more important than the words were. The written Bible, this view is really saying, is a concession to time: as Socrates says of writing in the Phaedrus, it is intended only to call to mind something that has passed away from presence. The real basis of the Bible, for all theologians down to Karl Barth at least, is the presence represented by the phrase “God speaks.”
We have next to try to understand how this view arose. In a primitive society (whatever we mean by primitive), there is a largely undifferentiated body of verbal material, held together by the sense of its importance to that society. This material tells the society what the society needs to know about its history, religion, class structure, and law. As society becomes more complex, these elements become more distinct and autonomous. Legend and saga develop into history; stories, sacred or secular, develop into literature; a mixture of practical knowledge and magic develops into science. Society struggles to contain these elements within its overriding concerns, and tries to impose on them a structure of authority that will keep them unified, as Christianity did in medieval times. About two generations ago there was a fashion for crying up the Middle Ages as a golden age in which all aspects of culture were unified by common sentiments and beliefs. Similar developments, with a similar appeal, are taking place today in Marxist countries.