Monday, December 04, 2006

megabus and Against His-story, Against Leviathan! Chapter 5 (Israel, an interlude, octopi proliferate)

Lately I’ve been recovering from a breakup and depression, brought about by facing the fact that the area that I grew up in will be developed. I don’t believe there’s anything I can do about it, since I’m leaving.

O yeah, I just applied to both the La’akea Community and Lost Valley Educational Center for permaculture interships.

I’ll be traveling through the Midwest on Megabus. For some reason they gave me free tickets because I ordered so far in advance. I can totally understand them kicking me a heavy discount, but FOR FREE? There’s a $0.50 reservation fee, but traveling from Cincinnati to Chicago, and then to the Twin Cities, will actually cost me nothing. If I had a magic carpet, I’d spend more money on refueling my body to fight the cold than I am on these tickets. Werebrock is riding in style, and inside his budget even.

It’s pretty chilly in Cincy at the moment. I learned how to make really good expresso today. I had no idea that being a barista required any skills, but for sure it does. Hmmm. I also learned that all the good rock overhangs in my neighborhood are taken. I don't grudge the coons.
Against His-story, Against Leviathan! Chapter 5


The Israelites who withdraw from Egyptian captivity and then proceed to set in motion a worm of their own do not, by their efforts, introduce anything new to the Levant, despite their mentor's innovative theories.

They occupy fields and lodges of those they are able to defeat militarily, and then they try to follow the dead leader's precepts.

In addition to giving them the abstract Yahweh, Moses, is said to have been given his heirs numerous laws by which to keep themselves clean in the Abstraction's immortal eyes. After keeping themselves clean for two or three generations, they start to copy the ways of their unclean neighbors. Raving orators have fits of frenzy as they try to figure out just what it was that Moses had had in mind.

Such public outbursts, fits and trances seem to have been common in all the ancient Leviathans, and they make those places seem almost free compred to the controlled-communication cages we will live in.

Having gotten used to the lodges and fields of the expropriated Canaanites, some of the orators wonder if Yahweh might not want his chosen people to have some of their Phoenician neighbors' "good things," or some of their Philistine neighbors' iron weapons and military efficiency. One raving prophet discovers that the Israelites have only the concept of King of Kings whereas the people of the east, the Assyrians, have the real thing in the person of Ashur-rabi the second.

A man called Saul accepts the challenge and quickly emulates the Assyrians by levying troops. Saul is killed while testing the strength of his troops against the iron Philistines, and a man more familiar with the ways of iron giants reconditions the Israelite Leviathan into something comparable to the Philistine worm. King David then reduces the sons of Levi who have survived until now into efficient killing machines deployed in a permanent army supplemented by iron mercenaries.

With this force, the monarch is at last able to fulfill the rest of Moses' and Deborah's dream, to reduce Moab, Ammon, Edom and Aram. He then allies with the Phoenician Baal-worshippers of Tyre against his former Philistine allies, revealing by the ease of his victory that the iron men were not giants.

The victorious monarch, egged on by another orator, emulates the Baal-worshippers by building a Temple for his god. The fact that this god is not a dead relic from a pre-Leviathanic past but the King of Kings, the abstraction of Leviathan itself, bothers no one. The god of this Temple is treated exactly the same way as the gods of the Ziggurats.

King David's son inherits the crown and reduces yet more people in the god's name, and powerful subservient men fill their houses with good things, also in the god's name, exactly as Babylonians do in Marduk's name, Assyrians in Ashur's and Phoenicians in Baal's. The god's origins and traits are different, but nothing else is, even after the unified Leviathan splits into two bickering Leviathans called Israel and Judah. The stories are Sumero-Akkadian, the Law is Babylonian, the proverbs are Egyptian, the psalms are Phoenician.

There is a glimmer of something differecnt when the orator Elisha rages against this lack of originality on the part of a people with such an unusual god, but this orator does not suceed in launching a new start or even a second Exodus.

Stanley Diamond will point out that the Book of Job is an apology for this unwillingness to move in a humanly more meaningful direction. Personal wealth in a sea of poverty seems unreconcilable with older modes of sociability to the archaic-minded Job, until he convinces himself to accept the wealth as a reward for blind submission to the inscrutable god.

The smugness of the much later Puritans described by Max Weber is already being publicly aired. Such complacency willnot be denounced until the Egalitarian shepherd Amos rails against it, but by then it will already be too late, as Amos himself will see from the writing on the wall. The thrid Tiglath Pileser will recondition a moribund Assyrian Leviathan into an efficient war engine and start swallowing all of Mesopotamia and the Levant. The militarist's successor, the second Sargon, will swallow the first State of Israel and will deport its inhabitants, and Sennacherib will deal a similar blow to the State of Judah. It will be during their long captivities in Assyrian and then Babylonia that the heirs of Moses will forge something new. The memory of the Messiah who led them out of an earlier captivity will give them not only hope but a solidarity uncommon among captives of any age.

* * *

This lack of originality on the part of Moses' liberated heirs cannot be attributed to encirclement by hostile counter-revolutionary armies, an excuse Lenin's heirs will use later. The Israelites in Canaan are not bothered by the armies of the giants nor even thoses of the pygmies for twenty or ten generations (the number depends on whether or not one can trust the generally-accepted chronology; its trustworthiness will be questioned).

The Hittite giant stops bothering anyone on the Levant because it drops out of the picture altogether. This slouching Leviathan that faced the might of Egypt at Kadesh decomposes so completely that the Greeks who later plant olive trees on its buried fortresses will not even remember its name. The Israelites who write the Book will remember only the Hittites' name, and the grandeur of this Civilization's progress will not be remembered until archeologists of our day dig it out from under mounds of dirt. No massive invasion or drought or tectonic shift is needed to explain the breakdown of this heir to Mohenjo Daro's fate. Egyptian scribes who witness their monstrous neighbor's demise say simply that no one stood up for Khatti. The bands of Myceneans, Phrygians and Ionians resisting conscription into the Anatolian Leviathan's armies are able to storm Khatti's last fortresses for the same reason that Attila the Hun will later be able to sack Rome. The monster has been evacuated.

The immortals do die, after all, and not only when they're swallowed by larger Leviathans. The immortals also die when their human contents withdraw and let the carcasses rot. The artificial worms have no life of their own.

Dancers form circles around Cybele, the Earth goddess, and celebrate their recovered freedom. They will still be dancing ten or fifteen generations later when visiting Athenians will describe them as peoples ruled by queens, which is how the later Athenians will understand people who are ruled neither by archons nor by kings.

It would be an exaggeration to say that nothing remains in Anatolia of the Hittite worm. Former conscripts, the iron-armed Mycenean and Ionian bands of male adeventurers and killers whose exploits Homer will celebrate, are unhealing wounds left on Cybele's Anatolian Earth by the late Leviathan. The segments continue to operate. But these sgments remain nothing but pests on the outskirts of peaceful villages until the Phoenician octopus fills them out with its purple ooze.

The Egyptian giant stops bothering the Levant for similar reasons, although this Leviathan does not decompose as completely as its Hittite neighbor. It freezes. Having to promote potential conspirators, having to buy off leaders of striking labor gangs, having to negotiate with former provinces that defected to Libyan adventurers, Egyptians no longer ventureto do anything their predecessors didn't do. This conservative posture gives Pharaoh, priests and people ample occasion to show proper respect to the dead gods in the temples and shrines. Wasn't this the main goal of the worm's founders? The gods come first in Egypt; modernism and secularism would only sweep away what little still remains of a long-dead past.

The Assyrian giant also leaves the Levant alone, at least for the twenty or ten generations before it swallows and deports the Levant's Israelite and Phoenician inhabitants. But I'll return to this giant later.

First I'll look at the pygmies, the Phoenicians of Tyre, Sidon and other independent enclaves, the next-door neighbors of the Israelites in Canaan. These seaborne salesmen are called Red Men or Purple Men by people on all coasts their ships can reach because the Phoenicians have a world monopoly on purple dye and they guard it well. Their purple cloths and garments are as precious the world over as gold and uranium will be in later ages.

* * *

The sons of Levi establish the closest relations with their Phoenician neighbors, going so far as to marry women of Tyre and even, on occasion, prostrating themselves to Baal. I suspect that it is precisely this closeness that helps explain the lack of originality of the Levantine Israelites. The curse of labor falls heavily on the planters and reapers who give a substantial part of their yearly harves for their wealthy neighbors' purple garments and other good things, most of them from distant places.

The prejudiced of later ages will portray all Jews as merchants, but from King David's time until King Hexekiah's the ins and outs of commerce are more alien to them than Baal is. They are farmers, or more accurately, peasants. In our day we would say that the two small Israelite States are economic colonies, they have neither the time nor the energy to be original.

The garments and other trinkets which the men of Tyre give so generously to their hard-working neighbors cost the Phoenicians little, and in return the mercantile towns are supplied with much of their needed cattle and grains from their own friendly hinterland. They don't need to send ships to Anatolia or Syracuse to secure these necessities, and can fill the ships with lighter and more precious things than cattle and wheat.

The Phoenician merchants, whose main secret is to give things that cost them little and take things that cost others much, carry ever larger amounts of things abundant in one place to another place where such things are reare. And they continue carrying until the originally abundant things are depleted at their source, at which point they start to deplete another source.

Before the time of King Solomon of Israel and his father-in-law King Hiram of Tyre, trees as well as elephants teemed in the Levant. After the reigns of these kinsmen, the Levantine trees are all in hulls of ships and walls of temples, and elephants have become as exotic on the Levant as caribou.

Big Phoenician ships now cross the Red and the Arabic seas to tusks from Indian elephant-killers greedy for Levantine purples and Libyan ores. In terms of the reduction of living beings to forms that can be carried on ships, and in terms of reshuffling murdered fauna and flora from places where they thrive to places where they cannot thrive, the Phoenician artificial octopus is a greater rapist of the Bioshere than all the earlier Leviathans combined. The Western Spirit against the Wilderness will owe to Phoenicia much more than pruple dyes.

The twenty or ten generations that start with the demise of the Hittites and end with the Assyrian conquest are the great age of the Levantine metropolis, not of its economic colony. The octopus-like Artificial Men of tiny Tyre and Sidon are the only Leviathans still operating west of China, and I would even venture to guess that the relative quietism of the war engine called Assyria is due at least in part to the onslaught of exotic commodities, the purchase of which strains even Assyrian means.

Yet the Phoenician precursors of Athenians, Venetians and enterprisin Americans are more poorly documented than any other ancient Leviathan. We learn of them mainly from what others say of them. The merchants carry their secrets with them to the grave.

All we know is that their octopus-like empire consisting of ships and trading posts embraces many if not most of the world's shorelines. We know that they establish their ports on the shores of Africa and on Spain's Atlantic shore. Barry Fell will suggest that the Phoenician ships cross rough ocean ages before the sailors of Seville will, and others will suggest they might even venture across the peaceful ocean and give rise to statues of bearded men on Polynesian islands.

We will know that on the Italian peninsula, during or shortly after King Hiram's reign, Etruscans suddenly learn to write their own language using Hirams alpahbet and that in Attica as well as Anatolia the more settled of the roving adventurers also learn to write, and with the same alphabet. We will know of that many of these trading posts, whether Gadir (=Gades= Cadiz) or Tarshish on the Atlantic shore, or the famous Carthage, Sardinia or Sicily, or the numerous posts on the Adriatic and Aegean seas which will later acquire Greek names, quickly grow into octopus-like monsters which plunder and deplete their own hinterlands with the thoroughness of their founders, in order to be well supplied with items when the great ships come in.

Thanks to the progressive activities of the secretive Phoenicians, western Eurasia is well on its way to becoming a thick web of interlocking tentacles, a place where a free human being can neither jump nor stand nor sit.

* * *

The Phoenician octopus feeds on Israelites and on other peoples drawn to the Mediterranean by an initial decision to resist Leviathanization.

We've seen that earlier Leviathans provoked Steppe peoples to flee or defend themselves, and that either alternative set off waves of motion that could even be felt in distant China.

Mittani, Kassites and Hittites wwere some of the many who braced themselves to confront the Leviathan head-on and then found themselves trapped in a Leviathanic net of their own making. Once armored and entrenched, the iron Httites then set in motion new waves with their conscript-hunts and tribute-raids.

Myceneans, Ionians and Dorians may have descended to Anatolia and the Greek mainland and archipelago in response to Hittite provocations. Linguistically these people are cousings of of Httites, Kassites and Mittani, of Aryans who showed up in India, and even of the Persians who will eventually succeed to the whole of Anatolia and the Levant.

Iranian- (or Indo-European) speaking and Turkic-speaking people seem to move together in the steppes. Later they will turn up together on the borders of Rome's empire; at least they're not strangers to each other. Some of these people are seed planters who move only when pushed; others are pastoral nomads. Some of them are horse-breeders who can move quickly from Mesopotamia to China, and a few forge their weapons out of iron.

Mycenean Greeks were already in Anatolia and on the Greek mainland during the heydya of the Hittite Leviathan. Mycenean vases dating from the middle Hittite period will be found Cyprus, Egypt and the Levant, and as far as Sicily and Ireland; Mycenean olive oil must have been transported to all these places in Phoenician ships, since there will be no evidence of a large commercial Mycenean fleet. They made occasional use of a script, but had neither a king nor a permanent army. Their former community had shattered, but they had not yet encased themselves in a Leviathan of their own, although their Theseus tried hard. They either joined Hittites on conscript hunts or else went tribute huntings on their own; newcomers of almost identical speech didn't treat them as kin but as enemies. The Myceneans fortified their towns and held off the newcomers, probably with Hittite aid. Almost immediately after the demise of the Hittites, one after another of the Mycenean strongholds began to fall to the Ionian and Dorian Greeks.

The indignities suffered by the newcomers before their arrival will not be accessible to scrutiny, since the later Greeks will choose to forget their pre-Leviathanic past. We can nevertheless try to form some idea of the nature of these indignites by looking elsewhere.

On an Assyrian tablet contemporary with the destruction of Mycenae, the scribe of the first Tiglathpileser boasts that in a single campaign to the region north of Lake Van, the tyrant and his army captured thousands of Mushki, by which name the Assyrians designated Phrygians, Hurrians, Greeks and other speakers of Indo-Iranian languages.

The Greeks sweep their Mycenean predecessors away during the period when the Phoenician commercial empire is at its height. Like their Guti predecessors, the Greeks form tribal leagues of warriors led by Basileus, a one-time priest who is now a war chief. Also like the GUti, they remain federated for such a long time that they lose all contact with their original communities. Of their own former deities they bring mainly Zeus, the spear-throwing thuderer who guides the war cheif. They take the Minotaur, the Labyrinth, Helen, Artemis and Demeter from Anatolia and Crete. The Phoenician ships bring them Cadmus, Europa and a Leviathanic project.

The earliest federations, among them the famous Agamemnon's, seem as determined as the much later Mongols to sweep away every trace of what the Greeks will later call Civilization. They raze fortresses and don't rebuild them, flatten palaces and don't copy them, destroy writings and don't learn their script. They use the tablets of Hittite scribes as stones in walls of new fortresses. Their spears are their gods and they live for battle.

But when the big ships come in and unload purple cloth and ivory, the heroes commit themselves to regaling the strangers with gifts next time. Their neighbors, especially the women among them, squeeze the oil out of olives and the juice out of grapes. The Greeks offer to protect the neighbors instead of harassing them, and they offer some of the gifts they've received from the Phoenicians. They post guards at shrines and dance-grounds where women become demented and gang up against protectors. And the Greeks stock up on vases.

Agamemnon's grandsons turn up on the Aegean's shores as merchants of wine and olive oil. One after another enclaves becomes a tentacle of the Phoenician octopus.

When the head of the octopus is swallowed by the Assyrian worm, each Greek tentacles is on its own.

This story is usually told as the shadowy emergence of the Greeks out of darkness and into the light of Civilization. But at least one Greek who is not yet armored experiences the sequence as something quite different from an emergence into Light.

The poet Hesiod remembers better times. He is contemporary of the Assyrian invasion of Phoenicia, and thus a contemporary of the Greeks preparing to launch a commercial empire of their own.

Hesiod writes of five ages or generations of mortal human beings. The earliest, pastoral nomads who lived somewhere in the steppes and mountains, were

a golden race... And they lived like gods without sorrow of heart, remote and free from toil and grief...
They dwelt in ease and peace upon their lands with many good things, rich in flocks and loved by the
blessed gods.

These first ones are not altogether gone; they

roam everywhere over the earth, clothed in mist, and keep watch on judgements and cruel deeds.

While still in the steppes, the communities of pastoral nomads were disrupted by agents of a Leviathan, and there appeared

a second generation which was of silver and less noble by far. It was like the golden race neither in body
nor in spirit... Zeus the son of Cronos was angry and put them away, because they could not give honor to
the blessed gods who lived on Olympus.

When the earth covered the disoriented second generation, there appeared those who federated against the disruptorers;

a third generation of mortal men, a brazen race, sprung from ash trees; and was in no way equal to the
silver age, but was terrible and strong. They loved the lamentable works of Ares and deeds of violence;
they ate no bread, but were hard of heart like adamant, fearful men. Great was their strength and
unconquerable the arms which grew from their shoulders on their strong limbs. They armor was of
bronze, and of bronze were their implements... These were destroyed by their own hands and passed to
the dank house of chill Hades, and left no name...

Then came the war chiefs praised by Homer, the

hero-men who are called demi-gods, the race before our own... Grim war and dread battle destroyed part
of them, some in the land of Cadmus at seven-gated Thebe when they fought for the flocks of Oedipus,
and some, when it had brought them in ships over the great sea gulf of Troy...

Last comes the fifth generation, Hesiod's own, the victims and accomplices of wine and olive merchants, the Greeks at last initiated into the arts of Civilization by their Phoenician guides. Hesiod writes,

Would that I were not among the men of the fifth generation, but either had died before or been born
afterwards. For now truly is a race of iron, and men never rest from labor by day, and from perishing by
night... Might shall be their right: and one man will sack another's city. There will be no favor for the man
who keeps his oath or for the just or for the good; but rather men will praise the evil doer and his violent
dealing... Envy, foul mouthed, delighting in evil, with scowling face, will go along with wretched men one
and all. And then Aidos and Nemesis, with their sweet forms wrapped in white robes, will go from the
wide-pathed earth and forsake mankind to join the company of deathless gods...

Hesiod's remembrrance of things past gives him a power Moses had lacked: the power to remove his Leviathanic mask while still enmeshed in a Leviathanic web. We will call such a power "critical theory," an insipid name for it. This power will later be shaped into a dagger with two edges, but not by the Greeks to whom Hesiod gives it.

Hesiod's fellow Greeks turn their backs on the gift he so freely gives them because, at the very moment when he is reminding them of their Golden Age, the Assyrian Leviathan is swallowing the Greeks' Phoenician mentors and guides, and Hesiod's companions are preparing to hurl themselves into an octopus of their own.

* * *
Makes me want to investigate this history for myself, how about you? & BTW, the beginning of each chapter is accompanied by a phat William Blake illustration. maybe i'll stick them in when I get a chance.

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