|[a] Rapt RF|
This post is not meant to be the least bit humorous. It is meant to send a deeply ironic message across the ages to those who take today (it is 12:05 a.m. on Saturday, May 21, 2011 as I post this) as anything other than an ordinary Saturday—for anyone who has felt hints of a rupture...or something like that. As difficult as it may be to believe, it is also not meant to offend those who believe today to be different. Really. All I want to do is to "problematize" it a bit, as we say in the academic biz. My purpose is sincere, as even readers who might be offended thus far will see if they keep reading. Anyone who knows the subjects in which I am interested will also know that I have little patience with "rationalist" defenses against "superstition." Far from it. I seek to understand how ideas shape our lives. All ideas. All lives.
Alls I'm sayin' (as we are said to say back home) is that these things are complicated. I think that most readers of this blog will remember that I have been sayin' that...for some time already.
Here's the context. Thirty years ago to THIS day (I can prove it), I submitted an essay as part of my anthropological and religious studies work at Carleton College. I cannot help but post it today. It should not be hard to see the cruel parallels, and perhaps remind at least a person or two that "the end of the world" is not a new idea in the least. It wasn't even remotely a new idea in Homer's time. Or probably Grog's.
There are much more important questions to ponder today, however. If you are reading this at any time after May 21st, as I am sure most of you will be, I hope you will note the parallels in the last segments of the essay—with the sun rising again, and things remaining just as terrible as they had been before...only much worse. It is always worse when you destroy your infrastructure out of sheer frustration and hopelessness. As I typed the last paragraphs of this essay on Wednesday, May 20th all of those many years ago, I cried. It still chokes me up to think about how helplessness against Western technology could lead to wrenching despair.
Sort of makes "end of the world" t-shirts and suppers seem suddenly kind of silly, doesn't it?
I have compressed the essay, since I realize that it is too long (and way too old) for most people to want to read. I have included three short segments below, and the rest is linked to my "business book" website, The Emperor's Teacher, so as not to take up too much room here. This excerpt does not include the endnotes; check the full text (there are links below) for full documentation.
Robert André LaFleur (young, and in college—long, long ago)
Millenarianism and Resistance Among the Xhosa, 1779-1880: An Essay in Cultural Explication