Notre Dame, a Metaphor

In the course of a few hours, viewed sporadically on my phone and computer, I saw a vision of our global future. It was being performed by an iconic piece of architecture. I mean this metaphorically, of course. You are right, buildings don’t perform, they stand still. We are all standing still as far as climate change is concerned.

Climate, the observer, watches us in our global cathedral, seeing the potential for catastrophe in the old broken environment, and yet continues to watch as we allow our icons to catch fire. 

Climate reflects: “What do they expect?” 

“Wait a minute, there was scaffolding, it was being fixed.” Says Humanity.

“Too late.”

“But, the whole thing didn’t go, and we saved the art.”

“Wouldn’t it be better if this had never happened?”

“Nobody died, or anything.”

“An exceedingly low threshold for success.”

“I didn’t say it was a success.”

“ You defend the actions of humanity as if to call it success. Your arguments imply thin  standards.”

“Look.” “We seldom move until we are pushed, unless profit or sex is involved.”

“So, you are waiting for something big to happen? Floods, cyclones and thunder-snow are not enough?”

“We crave spectacle, why do you think we hired Trump? If we’re willing to risk societal collapse just to get a four-year clown show, why expect rationality at all? Calamity viewed on our devices is the modern-day gladiator fighting the lion.”

“The New York Times reports this today, said Climate: “The Cathedral was a tinderbox. It was all but assured to go up in flames.” Sound familiar?”

“Yeah, but look at the spectacle value! We were glued to our devices, and that NYT 3D animation of the roof of Notre Dame has WOW value. It frightens and enthralls us, it provokes additional spectacle from the media, and it will be knocked off the front page by tomorrow; we have that clown show to watch, you know.”

“It seems as though extreme consequences are an acceptable price for your “Reality Extravaganza”; the device must be fed.” 

“Yeah, we’ve all got front row seats to the end of days.” Brags Humanity.

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world.” Says a bemused Climate.

Trump Gunners

Trump Gunners are a class of classless politicians who are owned by Trump-touting corporations and the NRA. They are for sale to the highest bidder. They wear a fake religious facade, offering prayers not action. Their hearts are made of stone and self interest. They repeat lies. Please vote them out.

Trump’s approach to the recent high school shootings is to condemn mental illness. The implication of this approach is that those of us with a mental illness must be dominated by his authoritarian powers, monitored and controlled. This is not the approach mental health advocates support. Trump has proven himself to be a broad category kind of guy; the variety of folks in the category of say, immigrant escape his awareness and are painted with his big brush of bigotry. He has proven to be unreliable when it comes to making the more refined distinctions involved in the discussion of something like mental illness.

The end result of having our bigotry-inclined president talking about mental illness with his lack of empathy is likely to have a frightening and devastating effect on the image of mental illness in the country. This is not the time to launch an assault on folks who look or act differently in school as his recent statements seem to suggest. Trump is a bully so his authoritarian permission to challenge the odd or unusual people is going to do more damage than good by encouraging other bullies.

Mental health is different from Trump’s deformed bone spurs. Both are a condition of being human, they are examples of many maladies that affect us all. He used his particular malformation to get out of military service, but it didn’t limit him with regard to golf, tennis, or walking around. Society doesn’t cast aspersions upon bone-spurred folks the way it does the mentally ill. We sort out the severity of the circumstance and draw a line: soldiers march, so no bone spurs. It is a clear delineation between what is and what isn’t a limitation. Mental health issues are far more difficult to define, diagnose and regulate. Physical problems like a broken bone can be quickly identified, reset and healed. Depression, anxiety or any other diagnosis in the massive DSM with all of their myriad permutations are highly subjective, so treatment is often trial and error and takes more than plaster and time to heal.

Body chemistry is difficult to understand especially with regard to the brain. Psychiatrist have become pill-pushers and no longer interact through talk therapy; counselors do the therapy but can’t provide sufficient insight to the psychiatrists who spend minimal time deciding what to prescribe. Patients themselves may not be able to articulate the circumstance of their situation with clarity to the intercessory counselor who may not know the right questions to ask. It is hard enough to try to decipher an existing situation without the expectation of predicting future behaviors. So de-bugging the health care system is a real good idea, but it is not the solution to the problem of mass shootings. To use language Trump might understand, there is no collusion between mental health care and the ability to predict violent behavior. (Collusion is the wrong word, but he sure uses it a lot so I assume, given his mental capacity, it is a good substitute for correlation.)

The more pragmatic solution to mass shootings is to limit access to, at a minimum, military (human target) assault guns. Politicians who take money from the NRA, the Trump Gunners, should be voted out of office on that point alone.

An Authoritarian’s Authority

What authorizes an authoritarian to be an authority?

There are two ways to be an authoritarian: one is to be the follower of a particular authority, the other is to be the authority. The passives submit to the authority and defend the authority’s stature in society. They don’t lead, yet with extreme devotion they blindly follow those who take charge. They mimic the arrangement within their own families, using the tradition of a man in charge, and the women and children who submit to his will.

Gigantic evangelical super-churches with thousands of members who flock to highly populated services where they passively follow the show-biz leader’s televised, amplified, melodramatic moralizing illustrate the Evangelical authoritarian theology. They present glossy showmanship and scripted passions. They speak to the ‘audience’ not the individual. People enjoy the show-like ‘service.’ They don’t want fellowship, where everyone knows their name, they want the society of a fast food joint. They walk in, encounter strangers, watch some moralish show-biz presentation and then leave. No muss or fuss. Passions are best raised when someone else is being condemned. Pick on outcasts to develop serious passions and genuine animosity in the crowd. It sells even better than speaking in tongues! The audience walks away having felt something significant. Their prejudices and fears have been justified. They shared a commonality with a big room full of strangers. And guess what, no thinking! This wan’t complicated, it was simple and powerful. The band was great, the lighting spectacular and the sermon was funny and did you see that hairdo? And, Oh yeah, they said, “Jesus” a lot.

Rock Religion

Church or Rock Concert?

This whole event accommodates the anonymity of those in attendance. The edge of the stage, which serves as a barrier between performer and audience prevents genuine interaction. The social pressures of ‘political correctness’ can easily be dismissed in this environment. So, while the spectacular service is a far cry from a KKK rally, similar sentiments can thrive. They condemn the LGBTQ population with a particular vehemence that parallels the rhetoric of the KKK. This creates a specific “us” (the Christians in the room) and places them in opposition to both the specific, and often un-named “others” who exist “out there.” Muslims? Fags, People of color? Immigrants? Whatever frightens you are the enemy. Evangelicals get away with blatant bigotry under the guise of a moral, god-sanctioned, charlatan-lead, feel-good scam. Want fries with that?

I have spent my life in showbiz, both commercial showbiz and fine art, non-profit theatre, ballet and opera. I know the high-end tricks of the trade so to speak. I know the cheap tricks too.  We use the full range of theatrical techniques to accommodate the needs of what is being communicated; we search for subtext and implied meanings of the presentation to find the appropriate level of spectacle required. Rock shows are all spectacle. Industrial trade shows are meant to sell something, they use gimmicks and cheap theatrics and spectacle. Serious art uses the sophisticated, subtle dramatic effects sparingly, only in accordance to the needs of the show and not for the sake of spectacle alone. When a church starts using mindless spectacle to sell its product, that is the sign of a lack of substance and a commercial intent.

Now, a glorious cathedral with incense and music and costumes and grand architecture and cannibalistic rituals (eating the body and blood of a man/god) is a spectacle. But, this spectacle is focused on the teachings of the church, it is the same at every performance whether five or five hundred people attend the service. What ever opinion you may have of the event, it is always coherent and purposeful. The showbiz spectacle of megachurches seems to be focused upon a more commercial intent. Their goal is numbers and dollars and if some moral imperative is not popular, like say divorce, well it kind of disappears from the program. The people on stage aren’t interchangeable the way priests are. The personality is the draw; so star personalities are the selling point not the principles of the faith.

I have been going to USITT conferences since the mid 1970s. This is the US Institute of Theatre Technology. At some point in the 1990s perhaps, I recall, a major shift that added the category of ‘religious theatre’ technology to the concerns of the Institute. It was a clash of cultures to start, but once the realization that money was readily available from evangelical churches for equipment, technology and employment they started to fit right in. Rock-shows had always been the big money innovators in lighting and sound technology. Suddenly, these churches had more cash and desire to buy the tech than fine art theatres did.

So, a Mass is a Mass, but a megachurch is not another megachurch, they are selling different

pay to sin

entertainments and their message is flexible. A lot of money is involved and their flexible moral foundations allow for mulligans for horny politicians the way Catholics sold indulgences in the middle ages. Trump is the perfect star for this kind of production. His salesmanship and showmanship provide the ultimate con for gullible and unthinking followers. Trump is the Pied Piper of the submissive authoritarian Evangelicals.

 

So, while the Catholic Church is authoritarian in the sense that it is autocratic, dictatorial, tyrannical, draconian, oppressive, repressive, illiberal, undemocratic; disciplinarian, domineering, overbearing, iron-fisted, high-handed, peremptory, imperious, strict, rigid, and inflexible, it relies upon adherence to a legalistic and clearly defined set of rules. The head of the church is more or less trapped by the established codes and mandates of the 2000 year old institution. His status has been achieved by surviving a political bureaucracy.

anti-gay megagay

The cult-like following of a megachurch leader is personality-driven and that translates into dollars. The codification of the theology is in its infancy so there is no permanent legalistic formula for compliance. The charismatic leader is likely to teach what he feels rather than what some academic theologians have concluded so the theological infrastructure is already on shaky ground. When times get rough, hate rhetoric is the tie that binds the allegiance. It is more emotive than say, God is Love; they may agree with that aphorism but faggot enflames them to the core. Passion = dollars and butts in pews.

Anti-Gay Tract

It takes a lawyer to read and comprehend the details of Pope Francis’ APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION on LOVE. He did make an effort to dress up the language, to make it readable, but that merely confuses the vile attitude toward LGBTQ folks in the document. The Catholic approach uses a thinking person’s bigotry as a foundation while still relying on the awe of the cathedral, the smell of the incense, and the glorious music to sell their spiritual bureaucracy.

 

The Evangelical approach is pure passion, no need to read or translate anything. This is from a 2010 Guardian article on the Saddleback Megachurch:

…popular evangelical Christianity is religiously vacuous. It is directed to secular ends which, arguably, should be promoted by secular means. Saddleback is religion for people who don’t like religion: transcendence is not on the menu.

Evangelicals live in Madonna’s Material World and they are material girls (metaphorically). Her song is about choosing a mate but the criteria is cash, and love is never mentioned. Donald Trump is the ultimate material guy. Trump needs God the way a material girl needs love. She doesn’t.