Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Messiahs, Willing and Unwilling

In the hard times coming, people will seek answers. There is nothing new in this. What will make it a tricky and dangerous time is that we'll be looking through the lens of anger, of xenophobia, of fear and we'll be steered by the impulses that will be driving mass mood to depths of anger and despair not seen in centuries.

Right now, while we are still on the cusp of the plunge, the would-be Messiahs will be kooky, usually harmless, and sometimes unwilling:

In Internet Era, an Unwilling Lord for New Age Followers
By Scott James, New York Times
Raj Patel’s desk sits in a dusty, cement-floored nook in his garage, just beyond a parked gray Prius, near the washer and dryer. They are humble surroundings for a god.

Followers of Share International, a New Age religious sect, claim Raj Patel is the messiah Maitreya. He denies the claim, but he cannot persuade them.

“It is absurd to be put in this position, when I’m just some bloke,” Mr. Patel said...

...Mr. Patel’s journey from ordinary person to unwilling lord is a case of having the wrong résumé at the wrong moment in history. For this is a time when human yearning to find a magical cure for the world’s woes can be harnessed to the digital age’s instant access to a vast treasure-trove of personal information...

As we move deeply into this great psychological purging that the West is about to embark upon, expect the Messiahs to get angry, to demand sacrifice and blood. This is one of those wildcards that I have no clue as to how it will play.

My expectation is that at first, we'll see a polarization of attitudes typical of other stressful times faced by humanity. Many communities will see a return to barebones Christian fundamentalism, to harsh Old Testament values and I fully expect to see many a Bonfire of the Vanities erupt across America, probably live-streamed on video feeds. Others will turn to hedonism and reckless violence, figuring they have nothing to lose.

Once that phase is burned out, when the modern-day flaggelants have either died or healed from their wounds, when the hedonists have realized that crawling into a bottle or getting so stoned that they can't utter a word won't fix anything, when these "solutions" have been found wanting, that is when I fear we will see our Messiah - whether a secular overlord come to set things "right" or the eruption of a new religion poised to sweep the West - either way, the harnessing of this universal impulse to need a Messiah to guide the people will almost certainly lead to vast changes in governance and community.

Stay aware. You'll see this one coming. I'm just not sure how we can avoid the steamroller once it gets going...

No comments: