Is our society any less violent today than civilizations of the past?
On the surface, certainly. However, much of the violence we allow in our society is covered up by several layers of cognitive dissonance, cloaked in the husks of ideological prejudices and repackaged as justice so that we won't bat an eye when the state starts conquering and dividing everything which threatens to out-meme its sovereignty with whatever new cool and sexy thing would otherwise prove itself more persuasive.
One way violence is performed, en masse, is to get people to believe in the concept of 'sacrifice.' You would think that this concept, even in a metaphorical sense, should have no place in a secular society, given what it denotes, yet you hear about it all the time. It’s often so subtle that we don't even think anything of it.
It begs the question: how truly secular is our society?
When the economy dips, we talk about sacrifice.
In war, bravery and honor are always subservient to sacrifice.
We talk about sacrifice for our family at jobs we don't like, or which are not totally optimal for survival.
This archaism indicates our collective, subconscious debt to a type of violence that we have no modern context for, and which we cannot properly comprehend.
And why can't we comprehend it? Is it because we're purer than ancient man? More progressive? More humanistic?
No. It's because we kill with far more impunity.
We've become so efficient and calculated when it comes to death that it hardly means anything anymore. Nevertheless, traces of meaning come out constantly in our language which always have the axle of death as the space between our words.
Drones make military strikes appear no different than a videogame - people in far away countries sacrificed for an empire that doesn't even know or care that it's being fought for.
We eat finger foods at funerals and resort to the tritest condolences as our only real ritual gestures.
Regardless of whether you are a born again Christian who believes in heaven and hell, a Hindu who believes in reincarnation or you're an atheist who considers it no different than a computer shutting off, in death, something utterly unknowable takes place.
There's no escaping it.
Everyone goes to the ground.
Everyone must face it.
The total neutrality of this fact, the utter ubiquity of the presence of death, makes it so that life itself, at least in part, is defined by it...
Not only does death give life meaning, but the way we die gives it specific, special meaning.
If you die of old age, people consider you blessed.
If you are murdered, people consider it tragic.
If you die in war, people consider it honorable.
If you die by your own hand, people consider you a coward.
If you die in a human sacrifice?
Well, this is a conversation the modern world still needs to have, apparently.
It really would depend on the quality of the life in question and the reason for the sacrifice.
Were people sacrificed for bringing bad omens, or because they were virgins and their purity was seen as an adequate offering to the gods?
Were people sacrificed for the good of the village, because there were just too many mouths to feed and someone had to go, or was everyone just uncannily better off once this particular sacrificial victim was not around?
People were sacrificed, perhaps, due to all of the above and more. Oftentimes, sacrifice was a convenient way to consolidate human violence. When the level of conflict within a culture became unsustainable, people tended to zero in on specific groups, and soon, less and less people were considered culpable for everyone else’s misery until, finally, they singled out one person. It was sort of like democracy in a way, only in reverse.
They cast all of the blame of society on that one person, killed them and there you had it! Society was good as new for a time, until the process started all over again after immeasurable social pressures would would build up to a point of maximum tension.
It wasn’t the best model for society, but it was effective.
But then something interesting happened; something unprecedented in history, in fact. This guy named Jesus came along.
Somehow, he seemed to see this pattern of constant sacrificial victimization taking place, even where everyone else didn’t notice it. ‘The son of man will be killed,’ he kept telling his disciples.
‘Now why would someone go and do something like that?’ his disciples would say.
Jesus was at pains make them understand what was so obvious throughout history as he repeated himself over and over. They just sat there shrugging their shoulders and scratching their heads.
Jesus knew all this, not only because he could tell the future, but because this was simply what people did and what people do. Everyone around him, his disciples included, were just too caught up in it to see that this was what they were doing. ‘Forgive them father! They know not what they do!’
So Jesus was sacrificed to appease the angry mob. There was peace for a time amidst so many groups who had previously had only enmity with one another, even though the disciples were sad.
But soon, a new religion with a new narrative came out of this situation. There was a moral revolution.
People were no longer telling the story of the evil person who had transgressed the prevailing cultural taboo and who was killed in the name of peace. People started telling the story of the innocent man who mysteriously knew he was going to die (even though that’s what happens to everyone who transgresses cultural taboos since time immemorial).
Out of this narrative, which was later called ‘Christianity,’ there was established the conviction that it was wrong to victimize people.
Fast-forward two-thousand and twenty years.
People have long ago figured out the loophole in Christian values: If victimizing is bad, then you can victimize people by calling them victimizers.
Soon, the whole mechanism of sacrifice is flipped on its head in order to perform a very similar mechanism of mimetic rivalry.
Modernity: sacrifice the victimizers.
We bully people and get away with it by calling them bullies.
We ostracize people who are different by saying that they made us feel different and ostracized.
It’s all backward and inside out. Perhaps a Second Coming would fix this.
However, in the meantime, perhaps it would be far more optimal if we went ahead and just legalized human sacrifice.
Codify that which has been happening haphazardly for thousands of years in such a way that it will actually make sense.
Let each special interest group, every affinity group and identity group have one scapegoat per quarter that it can legally put to death. Everyone can celebrate for a time, say whatever they want about the spectacle in question and proclaim their glory to the world.
But they have to pick one person. A whole group of people will not do. They have to consolidate their mimetic hatred, their anxieties and their fears. They have to concentrate their thirst for violence in a singular act of will.
They have to come together and do the hard work of deciding who will pay. They only have a certain window of time in which they can do it and they have a certain date by which to get it done.
There are only a few ways they can do it. No guns. Blades preferred. Stoning. Burning. Gouging, snipping, slicing, gutting, disemboweling, tongue-pulling and dick-ripping are all effective: the violence has to instill in the people responsible as high of a feeling of satisfaction as possible, so that the problem can be considered done and over with.
Also, the sacrifice can’t be consensual where the victim is concerned. This would completely disrupt the formula and turn it into little more than a gladiator bloodsport.
This will give people the chance to see social issues come to satisfying conclusions.
Perhaps they’ll even stop relying on the media to tell them who the enemy is if it becomes legal for them to burn someone at the stake - especially if there’s a time constraint. The news can go back to being about the the weather, the odd asbestos warning, and what art projects children are doing in your community to raise awareness about pancreatic cancer.
It will sharpen people’s goals, put whole cultures in question, make people pause and ask themselves who is worth killing for the sake of peace. Perhaps it will bring groups of people who had once been at odds together in a way they never could have been before.
Did I mention that this is, for all you western fetishists out there, a super westy thing to do? It’s built into the fabric of our subconscious. It’s written into our evolutionary development. We might as well embrace it. Forget about your heathen revisionist religions and all that dirt-collecting dorkery. If you’re not planning to make peace with the divine and the world around you by butchering someone, you’re part of the problem.
Think this is a radical idea? Consider all the conversations that were radical at one point in time but which are now part of the fabric of society.
Five years ago, UBI sounded like something only hectic college students who listened to too much electronica and wrote erotic steampunk novels they never showed anyone would even think possible.
That legal abortion could even be on the table was, for people of the ancient world, unthinkable. They thought they would have to drown their kids in rivers when no one was looking forever.
Who are we kidding? This is what people want.
Think about all of the different groups of people who are supposed to be irredeemably evil, depending on who you ask: white cis males, Jews, feminists, bankers, hipsters, fascists - it’s a bloody genocide waiting to happen.
The war of all against all is getting a trifle tiresome. Let us all take a step back a little bit so we can figure out how to put our best foot forward… by figuring out who will cast the first stone.
If we legalize human sacrifice, the world will be, perhaps, a less violent place. Rather than pretend that violence shouldn’t exist or will someday go away, we can recognize that it’s here to stay, that people will always want to kill someone, so it might as well be someone who satisfies their bloodlust to the point of total societal harmony for a time, rather than a constant civil battle between inane groups with incoherent ideological demands slapping in the streets every weekend.
A platform that involved the legalization of human sacrifice would get me out of the house to vote.
The legalization of human sacrifice would create a world that was, at once, more peaceful, more honest about its inherent violence and more in touch with the sacred.