On salvation

On salvation

Allow me some blasphemies.

Christ won't save you.

Shiva won't save you.

Allah won't save you.

The Buddha won't save you.

Now, allow me some more blasphemies.

Obama won't save you.

Mueller won't save you.

Bernie won't save you.

Trump won't save you.

What the past few years have shown is that our culture at large is craving savior figures.

This isn't surprising.

We are in an era of untold complexity. The problems facing us are multifarious, and seem beyond our control. From climate change to war to terrorism to globalization to economic stagnation, we are in a period of history which seems fraught with chaos. The problems we face seem to be the most pernicious of Gordian knots. And Alexander's solution of just taking a sword and cutting through them will not solve our dilemmas. In fact, it will make them worse. That's Trump's favored mode, and we're seeing the results of his actions.

It's a truism that human beings seek strong leaders. Leaders who will elide the world's complexities. Leaders who will give meaning to their existence. Leaders who will explain the world in one way or another, either for good or ill. As a tribal species, that's almost inevitable.

But this is no longer a tenable situation. The world is too complex to subscribe to one explanation. It is too large to be encompassed by ideology. Our world of information puts paid to any idea that one construct can explain away everything.

Set aside for the moment that Trump is an illegitimate president. Set aside for the moment that he was installed via the help of a foreign adversary. Russia wouldn't have been able to have done what it did did it not have clay with which to work. Too many Americans bought what Trump was selling. They were looking for a savior, and found it in a failed businessman from Queens. They were people plopped into a world they no longer understood, where their precious perch at the top was not only no longer secure, but was fated to disappear. They clung to Trump as a drowning man to a piece of rotten driftwood. As with that rotten driftwood, they would eventually drown. But for a few more moments, they would live.

We are past the age of saviors. We are past the time where one man or woman can embody the commonwealth. We see the savior principle in the US, in Russia, in Hungary, in Poland. People who feel dispossessed clinging to a strongman—and it's always a man—who promises to keep things as they were. But that's an illusion. History cares not for Trump, or Orban, or Putin, or Kaczynski. They will have their time in the sun, but history will have its way.

I think about football. No, not the American version, but the sport played across the globe, from suburban parks in the US to dusty pitches in Senegal. This sport points to a global culture, one which erases boundaries, one which unites the world in a joint passion. I look at the global culture being born, where one can honor one's local peculiarities, but still revel in global arts—arts which have a uniquely American influence. The generation coming up cares not for chauvinism, for nationalism. It wants to savor the fruits of freedom, of being able to share information, of being able to enjoy whatever it wants to enjoy, damn the strictures of its parents. Putin might rule now; he won't be able to stand against "The Handmaid's Tale", or David Guetta, or all the trappings of a global culture.

Saviors are no longer to be sought without. They are now within.

What Barack Obama tried to instill in people was this very idea. He never said "I'M the one you've been waiting for," like Trump and Bernie Sanders have. His message was always "YOU are the ones you've been waiting for."

The savior principle is an internal one. It's one to be found within each human. Christ is in YOU. Allah is in YOU. Dolores Huerta, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. They are all within YOU. While we were clamoring for their wisdom, the greatest wisdom they imparted was that the force which animated them was within all of us. They were conduits; we are the energy.

We are now in the age of the common savior. Not the exceptional man or woman, but the ordinary person, doing extraordinary things. You want to defeat the drift towards fascism? Look to yourself, and join with others. The road will not be easy. It will be full of strife. But, standing here, I can see the path clearly. It is the only way forward, where ordinary people take control of their lives. It's a path on which we wrest control from those who wish to dominate us. Oh, there will be leaders; leaders are always needed. But a true leader empowers. A true leader brings out the best in people. He doesn't claim messianic provenance. Those who do are the false messiahs. Cast them aside as you do the dust from your shoes.

Salvation is within you. It has been ever thus.



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