In a post entitled Bye Bye Miss American Pie I wrote that traditional America contracted a terminal disease in the twenties and died in the sixties. Don McLean sang the funeral dirge and Marshall McLuhan wrote the obituary. The terminal disease was liberation fever, and the demon spirit that took possession of the corpse is consumer capitalism. American culture has become a zombie culture, a culture of the undead.
What died was the traditional America shaped by white, mainly Calvinist, Protestantism. That Calvinism continues zombie-like to twitch and flail away on the religious right, and it's a shame because it gives Christianity a bad name now at a time when real Christianity is needed more than ever. But this zombie Christianity is a construct of Dr. Frankensteins like Jerry Fallwell and Pat Robertson. Like Frankenstein's monster theirs has the appearance of the real thing--head, arms, torso, legs, but it's counterfeit. It's a phony construct animated by human delusion. Pull the cord in the back of its neck and it will quote bible verses, but it's rote, mechanical, without any understanding.
It's not a question of sincerity. Most of the ordinary people going to to the zombie churches are as sincere, trusting, and nice as you'd ever want. But so were the people who drank the Kool Aid in Jonestown. Being sincere isn't enough to keep you out of trouble; you need to be shrewd and to see clearly. "Be ye as guileless as doves," says the Gospel, "and shrewd as serpents." But in a mature Christianity, the serpent part (human intelligence) is tamed by and is inspired by the dove part (the spirit) which the former serves. 'Con-science' is the 'together-seeing' by which the two work together fruitfully. Problems arise when one works without the other. In zombie Christianity, there's a division of labor in which all the doves surrender their their intelligence to the snakes who hypnotize them in the churches and on the airwaves.
I digress. The thing I really started out to write about was how consumer capitalism is the disease that killed the spirit of traditional America and has rendered almost everything that was noble in the American idea into some trivial parody of what it really should be. The liberation fever of the sixties and seventies that killed it was a necessary purgative, and would have been health-promoting if somehow the culture found a way to get things into balance again, but for lots of reasons it wasn't possible. And so now in place of what was at one time real and life-sustaining there are parodies and zombies.
We're living now in a hall of mirrors where everything is image and nothing has any deeply sustaining substance. We're starved, and the only thing available to feed on is junk food. We graze, and we move on, and we call our random movement growth. But it's not growth, it's just a bovine feeding, shitting, and roaming to the next pasture. Growth requires setting ones roots into something deeply, and it's this knack for depth that as a culture we seem to have lost. Because there is nothing in our environment, no customs, institutions, traditions that are themselves any longer deeply rooted and alive, and which are therefore capable of offering us wholesome nourishment.
I am someone who has a deeply conservative temperament, but I don't see anything out there of real value worth conserving. It's all empty, dead, and bogus. The so-called conservatives in the GOP are zombie conservatives. They are robotic and utterly predictable in the rote, hypnotic recitation of their scripts which have virtually no relationship to the world as it is. Nothing they say sounds fresh or real. So many of them are bizarre, creepy, quasi humans; they are the undead. Romney is a perfect as their representative.
I'm being only half facetious here; maybe a quarter. I do think that there is something very weird and cultlike that has overtaken the group psychology of the GOP, and I find it very, very disturbing.
In any event, I am not without hope. The whole point of this blog is to be an exercise in striving to see more clearly and to look toward the future in hope. The levee is dry now, but it will not always be. Our job in the meanwhile is to live in such a way to insure that when the thaw comes and the cool waters begin their descent from the mountains, there will be nothing in us to obstruct their flow.
[Ed. This is a repost from just before election day 2012, when our politics was still relatively sane.]