movement, movement

The Empire Of The First World

Posted in books, culture, philosophy, quotes, religion by amoslanka on September 30, 2008

Last night I started reading one of three books I’ve started reading this week. This book is Original Wisdom by Robert Wolff. I actually can’t recall the exact date I acquired this book, its one that has been on my shelf for at least a year. Its purpose is to provide stories of the wisdom of “pre-industrial, pre-agricultural world without cars or cell phones, clocks or schedules, in a lush, green place where worry and hurry, competition and suspicion are not known.”

This is a description of the book I have not read until now, or perhaps did, and lost its words in the forgetability of less familiar themes. After all, as I’ve been talking lately about being a cheering section, rarely does one’s mind stay focused on topics that discuss ideas either contradictory or just not high on the priority list of your own. Our minds have a way of either dismissing them or accepting them through a filter that sort of transforms them into something less contradictory or at least more ambiguous.

The opening line of this book states

Most of us were raised in the Empire of the First World

I need not mention the capturing of my attention with the book’s first 12 words because I hope the themes my mind dwells on lately have been evident through my writings here. But I suppose I cannot help but mention it simply by pointing that out, and I suppose it to be a decent summary for those who have just now stumbled upon my blog. 

I cannot help but recall an article I wrote sometime over the summer summarizing my automatic questioning of conventional wisdom. It is the very nature of the first world, or those in power (either authoritative, environmental, or cultural) to not understand the perspectives of lesser beings on that same spectrum. Hence, it is collectively as a culture, hard for Americans (or perhaps I should say, Americanism, since we are discussing culture here, not individuals) to understand the true feelings, opinions, and plight of the second world, third world, fourth world, and so on. Is this not yet another reason to reconsider what we believe to be right, culturally speaking? 

For any mind willing to (sometimes desperate to) objectively understand the fiber that holds this world together, the chains that bind us to it, and the true definition of Love as Christ exemplified, I believe that road leads through these corridors. These halls are lonely, traversed by few. My curious mind would ask what type of person is most suited to enter them and whether it were a journey I could bear personally but I rarely feel unoccupied enough to allow my mind to wander into triviality. Journeys lead where they lead.

I did not intend, when writing the first draft a few days ago, to enter into anything as personal as where writing this blog has taken me, but I know not how to avoid it, and delete keys I often cannot justify. I’ve lately noticed themes recurring in my reading, themes that add further solidity to previous notions. The word “uncanny” often comes to mind, as in the case with the finding the quote above in a book I bought long ago, but perhaps we find extraordinary circumstances where our hearts wish to find them. Be they something beyond coincidence I do not know, and would not say if I did.

I’ve also started reading a book called The Story Of B by Daniel Quinn. Its a sequel to his more famous novel, Ishmael, which I read last year, and would highly recommend to anyone interested in the questioning (and therefore solidifying) of their worldview. While on the topic of books and quotes about dominant cultures, here’s another, one from The Story Of B:

Evidently it isn’t just the history of the world that the victors get to write, its the theology of the world as well.

Thats an idea to allow to soak in and to consider. Let me know what you think, and don’t just comment with your immediate reaction. Seriously, let it set in for a day and then get back to me. I would love to hear what you have to say.


5 Responses

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  1. ash said, on October 1, 2008 at 11:36 pm

    i wonder: are those who are not victors simply losers? are the villains? are they victims? from a journalistic perspective-i am usually interested in the other side. what DO they have to say? the truth always seems to be somewhere in b/t what the victor says and what the opposition says. i cannot believe that the truth in such cases in completely black and white. and then again, i am often (thought not always) a fan of the underdog.

    but here is a second line of thought, one we discussed earlier…when it comes to the Cross, the answer to life- how would history OR our perspective be different? what IF God didn’t win? what IF he wasn’t always the victor? of course, then, it becomes a question of truth itself. granted i am not saying that i believe anything else…but based SOLELY on the statement you mention…the questions come to exist.

    finally, amos, the statement implies that victors are the ones who are right. but again, what if they are not?

    obviously my response seems to be a list of rhetorical questions and i am aware of your opinion on rhetoric in general…BUT- i think the ideas present themselves and they are worth exploring….

  2. amoslanka said, on October 2, 2008 at 12:57 am

    @ash — in many ways, this entire post is a rhetorical question, one that everyone must dwell on for themselves in order to find their understanding of its subject. of course its undeniable that we live in the first world and that living in any circumstance has its effects on perception, but how trustable that perception is on those grounds is of course the focus of the question.

    In your first paragraph you mentioned that the truth is not black and white, and I of course agree. In all winner/loser situations there is some degree of influence the loser might still have, especially depending on the winner’s disposition or “image” due to winning. Had Germany won WWII, they would be the victor, but would obviously have been the reigning empire of the world with less favor than the allies had. (at least I speculate such) Of course the underdog, or the underground movement is always one that gets some credit or attention, but I think it may receive less of that attention when it is the less evil that is the victor. To continue using the WWII analogy, supposing Germany had won, there would be a much larger subversive movement against the victor than their was with the allies winning. With the allies having won, most of the non-Communist world breathed a sigh of relief, even though one could make the case against many of the ideas that western civilization stands for, claiming many to be equally dangerous. But those ideas are more wholistically accepted by the masses because the masses would like to believe in peace and personal prosperity, all the while, the cancerous ideas (like materialism and competitive militarism) that come along with the perceived good in the world do their damage more slowly.

    I’m sure this entire reply is kind of an un-organized chain of thoughts..

    I’m also reminded of the boiling frog analogy. Throw a frog in a pot of boiling water and he will jump out. Put the frog in warm water and slowly turn up the heat and the frog will strangely stay in the pot, slowly boiling to death. In a world where we can implicate even the ideas that we hold to be supposedly good and right, ideas can turn out to be either the boiling water of tyranny, or the slow heating water of consumeristic suicide.

    Another of the big problems is that either side can increasingly be some good and some bad. Parker always quotes CS Lewis on this subject saying that the most believable evil in the world is wrapped in good. Its how evil ideas get sneaked into our mindsets without realizing it until its too late.

    I also don’t mean to paint all “losers” as the lesser of the two competing evils, or even as inherently evil at all. Perhaps it is the nature of absolute truth in this broken world we live in to lean toward the underdog, or to lean toward the subversive. I think this is more often the case than we realize, especially when considering the contexts of God’s people (isreal) within the world and the nature of Jesus’s teaching. Its obvious that his teaching is not something that most people even come close to understanding, which is why you could say that a vast majority of “Christians” are more often clinging to the culturalized “religion” of Christianity than to Jesus himself. And whats more, Jesus was likely much more political than we give him credit for, but in a completely subversive way. Thats exactly what he did: everyone expected him to arrive and be the political savior of Israel and to be the king in the way humanity thinks of kings, but instead Jesus arrived just as political, just in the opposite way the people expected. This is what makes Jesus so hard to grasp- because even today we still are trying to put a golden crown on his head. Wendell Berry has a good quote: “Christ’s life, from the manger to the cross, was an affront to the established powers of his time, just as it is to the established powers of our time. ”

    Perhaps Love is by definition, subversive, the underdog, and not what we thought. Not because its absolute definition has changed, but because all along we tend toward the opposite of love. If fallen humanity tends away from love, that it is likely that most of the world is not loving. We were misunderstanding Jesus’s entire point. That he was serious when he said “you can’t serve both God and money” and to love the least of these is to love Him. Maybe those are big signs that our first world mindsets and the theology that comes with it (prosperity gospel?) are a part of the world that Paul told us to be in, but not of.

    I’m not sure if any of this rambling (at 1am) of mine answers questions, offers rebuttals, or anything of the like. Perhaps I’ve just gone and complicated the subject even more. Perhaps I’ve even contradicted myself a time or two. (which just so happens to be what I blogged about tonight)

    Either way..

  3. ash said, on October 2, 2008 at 1:40 am

    “…because all along we tend toward the opposite of love. If fallen humanity tends away from love, that it is likely that most of the world is not loving”-you

    i disagree w/ this…there are two major things that i believe mankind craves more than anything- 1-to be loved, 2- to avoid pain. we become self-protected beings b/c of those things…nevertheless, we crave love…whether we understand true love, god’s love or not is irrelevant. but i think as a people, we LEAN toward love b/c we need it, we want it…we’re obsessed with it.

    the root of every person can be selfish, but it is created in us to want to be loved to and love others…no matter what capacity it may be in….it still exists.

    even hitler (going along w/ you ww2 bit) wanted to be loved…by the world, revered and craved power…and it is b/c he probably lacked the love he needed and wanted most of his life.

    machiavelli observed that it is better to be feared than loved…but if you could obtain both…then that was even better. but FEAR comes from the need for or the absence of love.

    god lets us choose…and we can be inherently evil and selfish. but i believe b/c we are made in HIS image, we have an inherent tendency TOWARD love rather than the opposite of it…(which by the way is not hate, rather indifference).

  4. amoslanka said, on October 5, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    @ash — by tending away from love, I meant not that we don’t crave it, but that we tend not to give it. the trend is especially noticeable in this new age of individuality, sexual liberation, and self gratification (from about 1960 until now) we are increasingly looking only for our own gratification. in this case, it is exactly, as you say, love that we crave, its just that we’ve forgotten how to give it. If we all put our own gratification above all, none will be served or given love because all are looking for it to be given to them before they give back. And avoiding pain and becoming self protecting beings follows this exactly- we are afraid to love first.

    We want love, but we’re too selfish and scared to LOVE FIRST. Thats what I mean by this.

  5. ash said, on October 5, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    here’s the thing amos…the way in which we crave love is the way in which we often give love. so by giving love the way we crave it, ultimately, it is a selfish way of loving. this is the rule of thumb when considering our love languages- and how they manifest (i assume you’ve heard this train of thinking…i happen to believe it). so in some sense we do love first, just not in a way that the world needs…or each person we meet, rather how we expect to get it back.

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