Sunday, May 30, 2010

Primitive Sacred and Oil on the Water

Mark Steyn lets fly with King Barack the Verbose.

One of the most salient and fascinating features of René Girard's mimetic theory is that it dispels the common - and wrong - notions that we humans (a) think for ourselves and (b) left behind all the mumbo-jumbo of our primitive ancestors who did things like ritual sacrifice of first-born children. Wrong on both counts, says mimetic theory.

We are hugely influenced by the desires of others and, therefore, at the whim of those who know this about ourselves and take advantage of it. Think Madison Avenue. Think all those sales flyers that fall out of your Sunday newspaper. Think about going to work, or to a class reunion, or to a dinner party wearing what is hanging in the never-touched recesses of your closet. Why is that? Not because you care what people think, surely.

The Gospel has indeed been hard at work in history freeing us from many of the superstitions of what Girard calls "the primitive sacred." But as the Gospel in general and the teachings of the Catholic Church in particular are abandoned and rejected, the pagan rises again. And one of the most prominent elements of the primitive sacred is the king/priest/shaman figure; i.e., one vested with the aura of the sacred. How that figure accrues this aura and power is important, but for now just realized that the vacuum created by the secular West's rejection of the Christian faith has opened the realm of this sacred human figure once again.

Enter Barack Obama. The adulation and "leg-tingling" of Chris Matthew, the Obots on street corners before the election, the fawning free-ride by the MSM (now showing a few signs of waking up and smelling the coffee grounds) all smack of the mystification of the primitive sacred's legendary divine figure come alive again.

Enter the Gulf of Mexico oil-spill disaster. Nothing seemingly can stop it. Not technology. Not bureaucrats' posturing and grand-standing. And NOT the king/priest/shaman of the Last Self-Help Administration.

His divine status, it would seem, cannot cap this catastrophic act of nature, and, while he is clearly not to blame for it, he clearly cannot do anything to stop it. His post-modern version of the primitive sacred leader - the only alternative to the Church's more realistic understanding of fallen, fallible human nature (even the Pope goes to Confession) - is beginning to look oil-soaked and - hmm - less than divine.

If ever there was a wake-up call from Heaven, in my opinion, this Gulf of Mexico fiasco is one. What shall it be? A modern recrudescence of the primitive sacred? Or a return to sanity in Catholic truth?

Is anyone else asking - or answering - this question?


Frank said...

Two words Athos...home run. Nice one!

Athos said...

Thanks, Frank! If you want to include a book on Girard's mimetic theory for your summer reading list, I'd go with Gil Bailie's Violence Unveiled. Bailie also has outstanding audio resources here.

Reading Girard himself is jolt to the system, but worth it, too!