Monday, January 22, 2007

We Should Be Haunted
A while back, on the program Nova, there was a program about the excavation of the mummified remains of children who had been sacrificed in pre-invasion Peru. It’s was disturbing for a number of reasons, the greatest being the fact that a society could allow children to be murdered by priests in a religio-political act. This theme was also brought back to me by another television program last fall, the one in which Michael Tilson Thomas analyzed pieces of music. The piece in question was The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky, in which a virgin is chosen as a sacrifice and then dances herself to death.

The program was pretty well done, I would recommend it to anyone if it is rebroadcast. Thomas goes through the piece concentrating on the instrumentation of the orchestra but also goes into the actual substance of the music. In the course of the program scenes of Thomas and the orchestra players discussing the piece are intercut with scenes as the ballet is danced. Watching the dance scenes it came to me that in the four decades I’ve been listening to the music I’d never actually seen it danced. Watching even those brief scenes brought the faces of the murdered, mummified children to mind, a disturbing experience. Those corpses weren’t the imagination of a composer, those children were deliberately murdered in officially sanctioned rites.

Human sacrifice is something that the three “religions of the book” pride themselves on having abandoned. The story of Abraham’s nearly sacrificing Isaac only to have an angel stop him is the beginning of the tradition those religions share. But that’s only the official story. Human sacrifice on a much wider scale has been practiced by all these and all other societies throughout history. To admit that isn’t to play down the priestly horrors of the past, it’s to try to point out that we are no better. Having a wider knowledge of history, science and current events our society, letting blood at a rate that could keep Mel Gibson in business for eternity, we are more barbaric than all the ignorant homicidal theocratic systems of the past put together. And it’s all done, in the end, for the greater glory of wealth and personal pride. The ideology is just an excuse for that. Their bodies are buried in a conscious act by the governments and media who are in on the act. They are covered with layers of trivia and distraction but they should haunt us, they are killed in our name.

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