When I push the “On” button on my smartphone, the image that appears is one of a seaside Mediterranean cathedral. It is made of white stone.
“It looks so pretty.”
What the Americaness doesn’t notice is that behind the ghostly numbers telling the time, the cathedral is riddled with shrapnel.
I know well enough, since I took the picture myself and poked the gashes and snarls of metal embedded in the doorway. Artillery shells exploded here within recent memory. Here, where German tourists now waddle around in flip-flops and souvenir t-shirts. Here, within fifty paces of the kind of beach described as “must-see” and “breath-taking.” Here, where you can sip a cheap cappuccino in the sun and enjoy the quiet rhythm of lazy tour groups shuffle into sight, into the cathedral, quickly out again, and off to the beach. Swedes; Englishmen; Americans; Germans (Austrians?); Englishmen; Chinese retirees; Japanese retirees; Germans; Slovaks? Not with that economy. Poles perhaps? More Germans. In smoky bars that liven up after dark this menagerie of tourists looks very homogeneous, but during the day the locals turn brown and the foreigners turn red.
This spot is so quiet, so peaceful, so welcoming to the wallets of all kinds of vacationers from all over the wealthy world. And yet this romantic scene of European integration (or shall I say, E.U. integration) belies much darker realities. The obese tourists from Germany sip Fanta Shokata™ by the Coca-Cola Company™ as they wander past twisted metal from 76.2 mm mountain artillery shells embedded into the building. One of these wayfarers’ parents might have done some nasty things to one of the Polish tourists’ grandparents. Possible too some nastiness was exchanged with the forebears of the locals. Likely even some shared nastiness with the locals against the people who launched the shells into this area. Not that it would matter to these Europeans now. They’re modern and progressive. They’ve overcome the bigotry and narrow-mindedness of the past. They will all live among one another, in peace and harmony as brothers among nations. The motto of the European Union: “United in diversity.”
What I describe is, of course, not just ordinary in Europe, but in the world. Few places have escaped the judgment of Gnon. Anyone still alive today is descended from a group of people more vicious than the ones who now express themselves only in history books, if even — history is written by the victors, after all. It was not only the cathedral that was injured. In certain notorious parts of Southern Europe, damage from shrapnel can be seen fairly commonly on all sorts of buildings, residential and commercial both. The damage is left unrepaired out of poverty as often as it is left unrepaired out of spite, or defiance. In one Southern capital, NATO bombed a building of the defense ministry in the downtown area of the capital city. For a decade it stayed half-ruined, but no one left their posts or positions. Even in Northern Europe, large undetonated munitions from the last big kerfuffle are found buried among the cities of modern Western civilization.
All these signs are signs of Gnon. They are evidence of natural selection, not necessarily genetic, though often so. More often, and more importantly, they are evidence of the natural selection of adaptive and maladaptive behaviors, attitudes, delusions and outlooks. As right-wingers, we are familiar with the idea of Darwinism as it applies to free enterprise and evolution. These are just the two most obvious examples of the principles of natural selection. Nassim Nicholas Taleb does an excellent job of introducing the same principles of Darwinism and selection into many other domains of life, and does a good job of implying everything is always under natural selection, including the mundane things. One’s beliefs, behaviors, attitudes, delusions and outlooks are under constant selection, though the effect is not as glaring and well-studied as in biology or economics.
In practical terms, this means that if (for example) one is a little bitch, witnessing one’s childhood home turn into vapor will instill a good dose of stoicism into one’s psychology. The shocking, immediate, undeniably-real disproving of the childish pretensions that the world is fair, or that one is entitled to good things, or that the future is always bright and sunny — gone like smoke in a wind. All that will be left will be the communion with reality. Then again, it appears not everyone is equally capable of communing with reality. For some the communion is natural, for some it requires practice, and for some it requires monumental effort. And some unfortunate souls can only wish for mercy from Gnon in the form of a quick and painless selection out of the competition of life.
I note too that I purposely use the word “commune:” it seems that to immerse oneself in reality is the secondary state of man, secondary to the primary state of fantasy and easy delusion. To overcome the primary state, no less an effort than one comparable to the effort to commune with the divine is required — full of ritual, constant reminder, deep contemplation and a degree of faith and/or willpower. Just ask a bodybuilding fundie. Not coincidentally, we reactionaries and traditionalists might be inclined to argue that the divine is real and the real is divine. Communing indeed.
Far be it from me to pontificate on the material causes of an inability to commune with reality. I will, however, take the liberty of pontificating on a link between an inability to commune with reality and a lightening of the requirement to do so every once in a while. He who lives in wealth and comfort, by definition, is absolved of the necessity to “clean house” in his soul. Comfort, it appears, could be defined as a respite from confrontation with Gnon. And yet this definition is a denunciation too, for a respite from Gnon could never be permanent, only temporary — only a distraction. Without the constant confrontations with Gnon and his pressures for natural selection from the smallest habits and thoughts to the greatest civilizations, one cannot respond and adjust to Gnon’s new conditions for survival. One consequently only delays the potential for a permanently selective event, one that selects one soul, heart and body whole straight out of the race.
Deprived of the rough guiding hand of Gnon, someone like my Americaness can only see the pretty parts. Trained to be human not on the dictates of Gnon but of Elua, of human wish and folly, there can be no shrapnel in the pretty little church. Who would shell a cathedral? Why would they ever have a reason? Don’t they know we’ve reached a modern paradise of wealth and freedom and fraternity and comfort for all? Didn’t they get the memo? Who forgot to tell them?
Somehow, the West, which drowns in its own wealth, has become atrophied to the pushes and proddings of Gnon on a mass scale. Avoiding Gnon in the form of everything from STDs to staggering societal debt has become a popular past-time. It seems forgotten that denying Gnon sacrifice is unwise, for he can only return later with twice the vengeance. The West operates under the false belief that no selection will ever have to be countenanced again — equality shall rule, and no one shall ever have to judge anyone else for any reason. Not even Gnon may judge! This belief is clearly insane. Not that it would now matter to the Europeans milling around the cathedral. They’re modern and progressive. They’ve overcome the bigotry and narrow-mindedness of the past. They will all live among one another, in peace and harmony as brothers among nations.
And yet, that’s what the Yugoslavs said in 1989. And would you just look at those cathedral doors?