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Pyramid and the Kingdom

December 10, 2013

I just watched a four minute trop-fest video that came third. I’ve got to say I liked a lot of what it had to put across. I liked its meaning, but I had a problem with some of its concepts if you have a few minutes, can I encourage you to watch it so you’ll know what I mean?:

It’s called “HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE” according to my extensive research (on Wikipedia) it means “Shamed be he who thinks evil of it”.  A few modern interpretations say it means that evil befalls he who thinks there is malicious intent in a rulers actions. It is the Motto of the the Royal Australian Engineers. The Australian Army is called the Royal Australian Army. And in a conversation with a ten year old yesterday, he was asking about the military’s chain of command. It was one of those conversations with kids where you’d give an answer and they’d say “and then who?”

So, when we got to the top of the ranks, this smart fella said “So in America, the President is at the top of the command chain, who is it in Australia?” (at ten I was asking questions like “why is cow poo like the stuff that comes out of my nose?”) I had to scratch my head for a bit before it came back to me- the Governor-General is the head of the defence forces and above her is the Queen.

Ultimately the Queen commands the ROYAL Australian Army in a hierarchical power structure.

A few conversations, in real life and online lately haves raised the issue with me of this power structure because all of us live in it. When I’ve had to go to court, if I call the Magistrate anything but your honour, I can get put in a holding cell. If I say to a police officer “I refuse to recognise your authority to issue me with a monetary fine” I will probably end up back in the same holding cell. The hierarchy has physical powers over my body and if I do something they don’t like, the hierarchy has the power to lock me up for life.

What is less obvious is the way of thinking, or beliefs that underpin the whole structure we live in and, I would argue the illusion that the structure is necessary.

The hierarchical structure, with the Queen in command of the Royal Australian Army as my example here, immediately lends itself to the belief that some people are more important than others. The people at the top command the people at the bottom and it is the people at the bottom’s job to do what is directed by those at the top. Some argue that those at the bottom only find happiness and contentment when they serve those at the top. Indeed, many people who throw themselves into the hierarchy identify with the myths and legends of the hierarchy. In the video the narrator alludes to the ANZAC legend, that giant lie that White Australia was born and formed by soldiers fighting, killing, suffering and dying in foreign wars at the behest of our imperial commanders.

The link between the Afghan wars and the Anzac Legend is a tenuous story that not only our leaders tell us to justify illegal wars, but those who participate in the hierarchical myth tell themselves so they can connect with something bigger than themselves and to help explain, like the narrator in the video, what doesn’t make sense to them on the ground.

Those at the bottom, or those in the way of the power structure are expendable. Or to translate my Newspeak: if they get their bodies blown apart in a drone strike, that’s sad, but has to happen. If a soldier gets severe Post Traumatic Stress from fighting a conflict and comes back to Australia and commits suicide because we spend more money building bombers than on support services, that’s regrettable, but you have to break a few eggs to make an omelette. Iraq has lost 6,300 people this year to violence, that’s regrettable but change is slow. Kids who work as debt-bonded slaves to make our clothes, well, no-one likes it, but that’s progress for you.

The point is people are expendable and the ends are supposed to justify the means. People become not people, but tools to be used by those higher in the power structure for the greater good of all.

What you end up with is a pyramid of power that we’re all born into, those in the Majority World hope to survive it and those of us in the Minority World are told we can climb up in exchange for our time, our sweat, sometimes our blood and always our souls.

Shirking this pyramid is in many ways the hardest and in lots of ways the easiest thing to do. Its hard because you’re told from day one that you need the hierarchy. You are Australian, you should be proud and the greatest honour is to help protect us from the enemy be they Turk (Asian), Japanese (Asian), Communist (Asian), Boat People (Asian), Muslims (Mostly Asian) and if you die for your country, that’s sad- but what an honour!

The honour is the lie told to give you something to aspire to, a story people tell themselves to silence their conscience of the Truth that is ready to break out and bleed if you’re strong enough to hold onto a little bit of honesty. The truth is plain and easy to see, but seldom spoken of.

The truth is, the hierarchy is bullshit. The Governor General has no power over any commander who has not willingly ceded that power to her “Ours is not to reason why, just to do and die” is a cheap excuse to shrug your shoulders when things turned out to be wrong. You followed the order to invade that country, to throw that grenade into that house, to support a war we all knew was false. The GG is just a person learning her own way through life, like any other, and like any other, she deserves that journey.

The truth is, the means never justify the end but violence begets violence. You start a war in Iraq claiming some noble cause or another, you still start a war that kills many, many innocent people that has ramifications to this day. You go to war in Afghanistan and do things no human being should ever have to do, it will break your mind unless it was already broken in the first place. Kids dying in drone strikes or factories in Asia never need die. They die because we choose to be enslaved to a system that says “the ends justify the means”.

The alternative, when I discovered it changed my life. I won’t lie, the process was long and at times painful. I identify as Christian not because I want to go to Heaven when I die (though that’d be swell) or because I like the prestige of old churchy types proudly shaking my hand when we identify with the same faith. I became Christian because the teachings of Jesus offer an alternative to the hierarchy. My blog is not a bible lesson, so I’ll tell you in my own words.

Jesus is recorded as having said that we should love our enemies, love our neighbours and to treat EVERYONE equally. (He used an analogy of students all sitting in the classroom with the same teacher). In Jesus’s Kingdom there is no hierarchy of people there is God, then the all of us on an equal footing.

When you accept this Kingdom of Heaven mentality, suddenly, letting people get killed becomes abhorrent, buying into an economic system that causes harm to people and the environment that supports them becomes unacceptable. In Kingdom thinking, the ends never justifies the means, but the process and journey becomes everything.

Now, I know that a lot of people think of me as a naïve idealist, that my beliefs would never work in the real world. The problem is, that’s Pyramid thinking. The hierarchy wants you to believe that whilst there might be other ways of doing things, none could work and all would be worse.

Those in charge of banks and businesses and armies and governments all want to tell you- “extra imperium nulla salus”

People say to me “helicopters that help flood victims have to have warfare capability”, or “you’d insure your car, so you should insure your country”. The truth is, militarism, a product of the hierarchy eats us all up in the end. All wars in Australian History have not been about insurance, but about taking over land for economic gain. Want to start on about world war two- come on then, I’ve got my Peter Stanley (Australian Historian, not a type of knife)- I’m ready.

The Reality is if we don’t move out of this hierarchy, we are going to keep going to and starting wars with our neighbours (who, as Christians, we’re supposed to love by the way) and making enemies as we compete for resources (who as Christians we’re supposed to love by the way). If we can’t favour the cooperation of Kingdom thinking (even if Jesus didn’t exist as a real person, the ideology is the best one going around) over Pyramid competition, we will destroy ourselves with war, global warming or some other calamity that we haven’t seen yet.

This is not idealism, this is cold-eyed realism. The fight is not on some foreign soil that happens to have lots of resources and access to oil-lines. The fight is in our own political system, our own hierarchy, within ourselves. If we can’t admit to ourselves that children dying in war is not collateral damage, but murder by the failure of all of us to do better than what good can our lives ever come to?

It comes down to each of us, to Speak Truth or Die Trying.

Peace to you and your family,

Greg

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