Desacralize the Totems

Perhaps they are essential elements of construction, like load-bearing walls; but every society studiously erects its own totems. These being symbols of veneration that establish a consensus for how a people may placate the supernatural powers they believed would render judgement upon them.

American Indians perched their symbols atop poles, others crafted idols, and pre post-modern whites built cathedrals. While varying widely in impressiveness by each civilization’s capacity, these symbols represented not only fealty to a higher power, but also to its required battery of beliefs and behaviors. Aztecs couldn’t merely acknowledge Mictlantecuhtli; he demanded ritualized cannibalism as a testament to their piety. Funny how little things change.

Though practically all symbols become desiccated with time, losing their potency and eventually succumbing to new totems, which then commence the same process anew. In every iteration, the spellbound population is as convinced of the truth and finality of their current convictions as the now ridiculed and discarded worshippers were before. I have no doubt whatsoever that Polynesian natives once tossed their neighbors over the lip of a volcano with the same absolute moral certitude of today’s black-masked bolsheviks attacking “Nazis.”

That they are simply cultural blowflies in the blossom of their totems’ brief preeminence never seems to occur to each period’s pious flock. Sun-mocker, famine-bringer, witch, racist, homophobe: accuser of heresy must certainly be the world’s second oldest profession.

Of course conservatives and those generically on the right can be cited for their own totems, which they invariably relinquish upon leftist demands. Though if totems are truly essential to functioning society as a sort of communal bonding agent, then we should take great care to ensure the ones we embrace are not extraordinarily maladaptive. Those that are existentially maladaptive, which is to say much of post-60s modernity, will eventually fade to derision like all rest. Whether we survive its lifecycle is an entirely different question.

That’s why the process of desacralizing these totems is so critical. Everyone understands the contemporary obligation to fall prone in a uniform whoosh at the invocation of hate. Making a mockery of that grass-skirt ritual accelerates its desacralization. In contrast, every instance of but I’m not… fortifies the liberal totems. I once had a brief debate with a prominent figure on the right who went to great efforts in pronouncing a particular non ism. I remarked to him it’s fine he holds that sentiment, though his defensive denials had one broader effect only: to harden the accusation as a cudgel against his own side. Never publicly sacralize liberal totems.

By appearances, Trump intuits this. As there was little held sacred in his scorched-earth press conference yesterday. Of course not even Trump would cut down the ism-tree, though other hallowed liberal objects were slashed-at by the president unceremoniously.

Most prominent of these is the media, which Trump prudently refuses to sacralize in the slightest. More people should note his approach. What makes NBC’s high school graduate Chuck Todd (in triple parentheses) more worthy to interview the president or opine on public policy than a random Hare Krishna loitering outside the Palace of Gold? It’s not intellect, or objectivity, or expertise in any field of endeavor whatsoever. He, and practically all those of his hated trade, are certain they are entitled to public deference by virtue of fronting the corporate media megaphones of leftist billionaires. But that’s not actually sufficient to earn anyone’s respect. Amusingly, Trump gives them in contempt precisely what they have earned.

Just as a thing is sacralized by deference, it is desacralized by mockery. And being mocked on the highest stage certainly facilitates the cycle. Trump should proceed further. There is no requirement at all that the White House grant press credentials to the full leftist menagerie. He could leave CNN and the Bezos Blog banging outside the gates. Access to the President is a highly valuable currency. A man should be judicious in enriching those committed to his destruction.

So bring in citizens, bloggers, and people who live in places without michelin stars. Legitimize the samizdat, desacralize the totems, and accelerate the transition. Mictlantecuhtli is ready for the company.

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13 thoughts on “Desacralize the Totems

  1. Pingback: Desacralize the Totems | Reaction Times

  2. A lot more media than just CNN and the Bezos blog deserve to be left outside banging on the gates.
    The caterwauling would die down after a couple weeks when nobody noticed their absence,their viewership and/ or sales continued to tank despite increased hostility to Trump and 24/7 whining about being denied access to the white house.

  3. Thank you for yet another eye opening perspective.

    One criticism:

    Aztecs couldn’t merely acknowledge Mictlantecuhtli; he demanded ritualized cannibalism as a testament to their piety. Funny how little things change.

    Your essay is weakened insofar as it takes an inaccurate and gratuitous shot at Mexicans, in my humble opinion.

    • I’m guessing as to the inaccuracy you have in mind, though I meant Aztecs literally, not as a metaphor for mexicans. And ritualized cannibalism was accurate.

      “The worship of Mictlantecuhtli sometimes involved ritual cannibalism, with human flesh being consumed in and around the temple.”

      My “funny how little things change” quip was a reference to the liberal totems that require us to also eat our own (metaphorically, this time).

      • Thank you for your reply.

        I’m willing to accept the historical claims as to the Aztecs (although given what I have seen of mainstream journalism and history recently, a critical eye would not be unwarranted with respect to any victors’ history). I didn’t have a problem with that part of the paragraph.

        I did suspect the “funny how little things change” could be a reference to contemporary Mexicans, perhaps having something to do with the border or cartel violence, or just a general shot at a “less advanced” neighbor.

        The actual intended reference is brilliant, but it may be so subtle as to pass unappreciated by a few of us.

        Carry on!

  4. In a brief but beautiful moment, Trump offered to host a GOP debate, revealing just how much he “intuits” and desacralizes. Romney wavered, but ultimately decided it was too risky to be interviewed in this most unconventional fashion. He later endured the fully acceptable terns of debating both Obama and Candy Crowley, only slightly stunned. Likewise, he only stammered a little the day after Benghazi when he realized that his tweet was real the scandal. Thank God he remained polite through it all!

  5. A formulation I’ve been seeing frequently from the left is the appeal: Don’t normalize this! Don’t normalize Trump; don’t normalize the alt-right; don’t normalize chuck wagon patties. This is obviously what I’m discussing here, as the phrase is simply a cry to keep the liberal totems sacred. It’s a difficult chore once the dam starts dissolving, so we’ll see how many fingers they can spare to keep it plugged.

  6. My feelings toward the main stream media have been transformed into this

    “If I had my choice I would kill every reporter in the world, but I am sure we would be getting reports from Hell before breakfast.” William Tecumseh Sherman

  7. Pingback: This Week in Reaction (2017/02/19) - Social Matter

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