Monday, September 09, 2013

Syria Versus The God of Guns

    So on Wednesday, Congress decides whether to bomb Syria. Why, though? Is there just some rule
somewhere that says the US has to throw explosives every time shit gets crazy in the Middle East?

    Kind of, actually, yeah.

    The stated purpose of these proposed missile strikes is to enforce the UN's convention against chemical weapons. Chemical weapons aren't really good for winning wars. They're only really good for killing tons of civilians in horrifying ways. Nobody really likes them except for terrible, terrible people. But if your opponent might be using chemical weapons, you've got a lot of incentive to start using them too. So a while ago, the UN was like "hey guys, let's all agree not to shoot each other with toxic clouds of death. Sound cool?"

    And the world was like "Sure, UN. Whatever."

    Because the problem with the UN is that it's an earthly authority. Lightning doesn't strike you if you break the rules. That's where the US comes in. We HAVE orbital lightning in this country. We spend most of our money on the stuff. The interesting question to me is how we ended up cast as the Old Testament God.

    I think what it comes down to is that all rules are fairly arbitrary. They're all rickety scaffoldings of words meant to restrain the animal parts of us. In order to make the scaffolding relevant to the animal, the violation of the rules has to carry some kind of measurable survival penalty. Ostracization, privation, sky missiles ...

    This kind of thing is a lot easier to accomplish when you have gods to work with. Imagination is much more economical than real-ass guns. But we've long since looked into space and found God missing. If there is a god, s/he's at the frayed edge of a universe we don't have the technology to cross. Certainly not close enough to intervene in time. So we've invented a new god: the god of guns.

This is how many satellites there are.
    We like to act like the space age is over. The truth is, the US alone has at least 459 satellites in orbit. Russia has 110. China has 105. There's about four hundred more besides those. Space isn't very far away, and we're touching it daily. It's just, we're sick of looking into the void. The cameras are pointed back at us now, a god's-eye view. We watch ourselves, and we judge, and we bring the lightning. I've asked before what ordinary humans might look like through that lens.

    So there's a lot at stake in this vote on Wednesday. Not just the future of Syria. Not just Obama's political capital. On Wednesday, congress will have the chance to write the next chapter in a crucial fiction. We'll see whether the US is still up to the task of playing God. If not, I'm curious what new thing will arise to enforce the world's rules.

Cory O'Brien owns no satellites, and has a hard time even remembering how to spell the word. He has a website full of myths (here), and also a book full of myths (here).

[Take a Trip with us... Mythos Media.]


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