Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”---Genesis 22:2.
There’s a divisiveness fundamental to the Republican Lottery-style economic policies---“Give us your money and we promise you’ll hit the jackpot!”
You. You will hit it. Not any of them.
You are or will be one of the winners. They are the losers. And it’s not up to you to worry about what happens to them. You don’t even have to worry, because they’ll be fine, the good ones among them anyway, the ones who are deserving, the ones who earn it, the ones who meant to be winners like you.
By now it ought to be universally acknowledged that Paul Ryan’s plan to balance the budget and sink the debt not too long after most Baby Boomers are dead is based on the assumption that in the future we’ll all be rich. The good and deserving among us, at any rate, but aren’t we all good and deserving?
The future will take care of itself. But only if here in the present we do the right things to appease the gods.
We must sacrifice the poor and everybody in the working and middle classes who is not us.
Calling what the Republicans are up to government by lottery should conjure up allusions to Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery which most of us read in high school although apparently many of us learned that the lesson of that story was Make sure you are among those who get to throw the stones. But I have religion on my mind this morning, not literature.
The other day I wrote about how when pressed to defend their perpetually failing economic policies of rewarding the already rich in the half-hearted hope that the not-rich will benefit in some way, someday, they resort to magical thinking and call upon their Radian gods.
Mammon and Moloch in their incarnation as the Market will descend from the heavens, showering us with money.
Since I posted that I’ve been itching to tell you who Moloch is. Tell you who I think he is, at any rate.
Mammon we all know. Mammon is money and it’s easy to see how the worship of money is written into every chapter and verse of Ryan’s budget.
Moloch was an ancient Middle Eastern god with no other function than to mess up people’s lives and make them miserable. Other cultures had gods and goddesses of fortune. Moloch was the bringer of misfortune, a malevolent demon who hated human beings and got his kicks ruining their lives out of spite and anger. He enjoyed making bad things happen to good people and to bad people and to people in between, to any and all people. He sounds like the demon they worship out in the Utah State Legislature, the one who allows women to be raped and girls to be molested and abused by their fathers and brothers because he likes babies and doesn’t much care how they get themselves conceived and born.
The two differ a bit. Moloch liked babies for the pain and suffering they can cause getting born, the economic hardship that is often required to raise them, and because they themselves become new targets for his whims and his wrath. The Utah demon god likes babies because they are so darn cute and old men and old women who don’t have to take care of them can get all gooey at the thought of them.
But they are alike in demanding human suffering and pain in exchange for leaving us alone.
The demon-god in Utah can be mollified with prayer and penance and will from time to time decide to reward his worshippers with his benevolence and favor. Moloch had to be constantly appeased or he’d make life, which is hard enough as it is, even worse. And the preferred way to appease him was with sacrifice. Human sacrifice. Human child sacrifices, mainly.
Who is Moloch these days?
Allen Ginsberg identified him in all the institutions that organize, empower, and reward human rapacity and greed.
Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unobtainable dollars! Children screaming under the stairways! Boys sobbing in armies! Old men weeping in the parks!
Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch the heavy judger of men!
Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judgment! Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stunned governments!
Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is running money! Moloch whose fingers are ten armies! Moloch whose breast is a cannibal dynamo! Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb!
Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows! Moloch whose skyscrapers stand in the long streets like endless Jehovahs! Moloch whose factories dream and croak in the fog! Moloch whose smoke-stacks and antennae crown the cities!
Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch whose soul is electricity and banks! Moloch whose poverty is the specter of genius! Moloch whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen! Moloch whose name is the Mind!
Moloch was a destructive god. But we’re talking about people who’ve made a religious tenet of creative destruction. They’ve turned virtue and vice on their heads so that greed and selfishness are positive goods. Moloch is the idea that the strong are meant to triumph over the week. Moloch is the belief that the willingness to inflict pain on others is a sign of courage. Moloch is the conviction that heartlessness can be the truest form of compassion. Moloch is the will to dominate. Moloch is power for power’s sake. And Moloch still demands to be worshiped with sacrifice.
And not shared sacrifice.
If all were to go according to Ryan’s plan, it’d be ten years before the first seniors would have to make do without Medicare as it is. That’s five Congressional and two Presidential elections from now.
This is a plan that pits older Boomers and their parents against their younger siblings, their children, and grandchildren. It is, as John Cole rightly calls it, a bribe.
Vote for us and we’ll cut their Medicare while we make sure yours continues as everything you need it to be.
You might think, reflexively, or want to think, “Come on. Nobody can be that selfish and cruel that they’d wish a sick and poverty-stricken old age on their own children and grandchildren!”
But then you’ll remember all the mothers and fathers since the dawn of time who have gladly, gleefully sent their sons off to die in foreign wars. You’ll remember that the tragedy of Iphigenia didn’t strike its original audiences as a fairy tale and that there are still people today who read the story of Abraham and Isaac without having to assure themselves that Yahweh isn’t really going to make Abraham slice his kid’s throat and not because they believe that He Who Shall Not Be Named is just testing. They’re fine with it because they know Abraham passes the test, he’s willing to do it if God wants him to. And these people worship this sadistic and selfish demon and want the rest of us to worship him too.
But mostly what happens, what the Republicans expect to happen because they work to make it happen, is that people either don’t allow themselves to think about it or they scapegoat.
They don’t have to think about their kids, don’t have to worry about them. Their kids are going to be fine. Their kids and grandkids are going to be among the winners. It’s their kids who’ll suffer. Them. Those others. The losers.
The losers will suffer. And they will deserve to suffer because they didn’t practice the virtues and do the hard work that makes the winners winners. Worse, the losers, by indulging the vices that made them losers, made it harder for the winners to win. In fact, often they ruined it for people who should have been winners, would have been winners.
So it’s all right to feed them to the fires, to spill their blood on the altars. And if their children have to be sacrificed too, well, then, it’s the losers’ own fault and it can’t be helped. It must be done. It’s for the good of all. By these sacrifices, the god will be appeased and more of the winners will be spared. Many of the losers will be turned into winners. All be well, as long as the fires burn and the blood flows.
And so it goes, up and down the line. Their health care is sacrificed. Their schools and educations are sacrificed. Their jobs, and their benefits, and their retirements, and their homes, and their children’s futures.
And of course such a vicious and bloodthirsty god is going to attract sadists into his priesthood.
Related exegesis: Sadly, Republican politicians aren’t the only acolytes in the Temple of Moloch. The Pain Caucus may be the only truly bipartisan group in Washington. Here’s Michael Grunwald writing in TIME about the gushing over Ryan by the Pain Caucus’ media apologists: Profiles in Cowardice: How the Beltway Punditocracy Gets Paul Ryan's Plan Totally Wrong.
And Bruce Bartlett interprets Tea Party Scripture.
Hat tip to the Linkmeister.