Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The law of rulers

Bärbel Bohley, Financial Times:

Society [in Communist East Germany] was never speechless or dumb. That was only in public. Problems were discussed round every kitchen table -- much more than they are today. People knew what was happening in the country.

East Germans didn't have much stuff, which meant they could either talk politics or about each other.

Talking about each other did its usual disservice to shared social goals; that this was rewarded by the regime is well known.

But talking politics, by which we mean those "problems discussed round every kitchen table" -- this contributed to the end of the entire lie.

How easily one lie is displaced by another!

"We wanted justice and we gained the rule of law," Bohely told us. "Chic clothes but empty faces.”


Anonymous said...

1999-2000 I experimented with Christianity by going to a local Presby church and getting to know the associate pastor. The whole religion thing never stuck but I did learn one good spiritual thing from that time: the idea the people have a _____-shaped hole in their conscious existential landscape, and they seek to fill that hole with something. Of course the Xtians say "with God" is the proper fit for that particular space on the jigsaw puzzle, but to be honest even the most regular churchgoer isn't really operating at such an existentially aware or questioning level.

Mostly, they just want good cover for their **real** chosen jigsaw piece: materialism/consumerism. And lots of modern Xtian churches are eager to fill that need, to never question materialism as a spiritual thing worthy of your or God's attention. The New Testament has so many modern interpretations and so many assisting "Readers" that tell you what ol' Jesus was saying... the ways in which it's reinterpreted to make capitalism glossy and materialism honorable and Godlike... well, unsurprising probably to any deep skeptic but still it was informative for me.

Folks who dismiss Xtians entirely would be wise to read some Wendell Berry, especially his book about farming -- The Unsettling of America. What Are People For? is another good one.

I'm just not with them on that "God-shaped hole" gig. I think the hole has a flexible shape and can be filled with any activity that gives one a feeling of existential bliss or belonging.

Too many Americans fill that hole with materialism, consumerism, greed, acquisitiveness, envy, me-first-ism, and then look for a religious or sociopolitical thing to give them cover for that hole-filling.

Ben There said...

I second Charles's comment and am also a fan of Wendell Berry.

Also, I'll re-state the obvious and say that the message of Jesus is absolutely incompatible with capitalism.