Thursday, April 19, 2007

How the Millennium Comes Violently


I. The Burial of the Dead

April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.

-- opening lines of T. S. Eliot, "The Waste Land" (1922).

Winter is over. The Spring Offensives begin. In the way of large scale war, mass uprising or wholesale massacre, the list is long of those that began or happened in April.

The final U.S. government assault on David Koresh and his followers at the Branch Davidian compound outside of Waco, Texas, occurred on this date, April 19, 1993. The terror bombing by Persian Gulf War veteran Tomothy McVeigh and associates carried out in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, was conceived as a reprisal attack against the federal government. Sort of like the eye-for-an-eye mentality common in the Middle East.

What I really like about Catherine Messinger's How the Millennium Comes Violently: From Jonestown to Heaven's Gate (2000) is how she considers various end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it religious groups (they were/are not cults, as labeled in mainstream media, she carefully explains), their actions, and actions against them, on an individual basis. She examines Jonestown (1978), the Branch Davidians (1993), Aum Shinrikyo and its poison gas attack in the Tokyo subway system (1995), the Montana Freeman (1996), the Solar Temple (1994-1997), and Heaven's Gate (1997-1998).

One of her observations: "Repeated acts of violence take on a ritualistic nature, and continually enacted rituals of violence tend to escalate the level of violence that participants find acceptable. This is true for law enforcement groups as well as for members of unconventional religious groups." (p. 274).

In a final section on the 21st Century, Wessinger notes: "Extreme radical dualism -- a heightened sense of good versus evil -- can contribute to the conviction of believers that their group is being persecuted, and thereby intensify the conflict between millenialists and cultural opponents." In a nutshell, this sounds a lot like the world we live in as of April 2007.

Todays Rune: Signals.

Birthdays: Paloma Picasso, Ashley Judd.

4 comments:

luma said...

Erik, feeling me she-ass because I never do not know and I heard to speak. It forgives not to be able to give an opinion. I passed to leave beijus and to say that exactly with very work, I remember always the friends, although not to have in such a way come here how much it would like. Good weekend! Beijus

Johnny Yen said...

Erik-
Thought-provoking post, as always.

This past year in my life, along with the madness in the world right now, would make me believe in apocalyptic prophecies, if I were inclined.

Charles Gramlich said...

I hadn't thought of April quite that way, although it has resonance for me because that's when my father died. Good post.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Yes, the warmer weather is here, which means an uptick of fights and stabbings on the prison yard.