Saturday, 16 May 2009

A view from the stake

"Come, come my friends! Come and see me burn!
For I shall be a candle, to enlighten as you learn
To question all your Gods, your prophets and your priests.
For only truth can set you free, and give eternal peace.
I am a heretic, dismiss me if you will.
But ask your Gods this question.
Why do they have to kill?"

- Lines from "The Heretic"
(a work in progress)

Yes, that's right, I'm a heretic. I question all gods, idols, priests and prophets. I don't care whether the deity which you worship is God, Allah, Yahweh, Alex Jones, Richard Dawkins, Charles Darwin or Einstein. It's all the same to me. I have no respect for dogma or doctrine. I will treat all your Holy Books and sacred texts equally. You may put your faith in the Bible, New Scientist or, but I will question all if I believe them to be lacking. I will question everything. It is up to you what you choose to believe; I only ask you to think. I make no apologies for my words, and like any heretic worthy of his stake, I will not recant. And I think I'm in pretty good company - Socrates, Plato, Galileo, Copernicus et al. Remember, if it wasn't for the heretics of this world, we'd all be living on a flat earth with the sun spinning round us 24/7; angels above, demons below.

Questions, questions, questions…

I see far too many people accept ideas, concepts, theories, rules and laws; without ever once questioning them. Why are people satisfied with second-hand information from third-hand sources? Why live in a hand-me-down reality, imprisoned by someone else's thoughts? Have we lost all our critical faculties? Simple questions, but hard answers.

We live in a cyberverse, with an amazing array of information at our fingertips. A few mouse clicks, and we can gain access to more data sources than the Library of Alexandria could ever have hoped to contain upon it's shelves - even with a couple of annexes. Admittedly, we may never see some of the more esoteric works that legend has were housed there; but you see my point. The world of information and opinion has opened up to us. Every academic paper written - with a few buried exceptions - can be found somewhere. We can open up the Washington Post editorial in one window and view the sports pages of the Sarawak Tribune in another! It's all there; so why don't we use it? The truth, or at least something approaching it, is out there. Have we lost our thirst for it? No, it has been taken from us; replaced by "Knowledge."

"Knowledge is power" runs the old adage. This is true, but this simple saying is an ironic twist on it's conventionally accepted meaning. We are led to believe that the "knowledge" we can attain, through the education system, will make us more powerful, and will in turn, empower us to be more successful in our lives and careers. While this may be true for some of us, it is a false promise for most of us. That same knowledge that empowers a few, enslaves many more. How so you ask? By deference to authority.

Deference to authority is a basic psychological trait, common to all species of higher life forms, not just Homo sapiens. It is an essential aid to survival for newly born infants. Our parents are our first teachers. They are the ones who tell us what is good to eat, and what will make us ill. Such implicit trust is necessary if we are to get through those first faltering steps of life, for there will be times when our parents are not there to help us, and we must rely upon their guidance and advice to steer us safely on our path.

But when we are grown, what then? We must now use our own minds to judge what is good, and what is bad. We must acquire discernment, to sift the seeds of truth from the chaff of lies. Cui bono? must be our motto when examining the actions of men, especially those who make the laws; those who shape the world around us; those who make the decisions, which decide our lives for us.

One would think that once released from our parent's hands, into the education system, that such critical faculties as discernment and cynicism would be encouraged and nurtured. Alas, they are not. Instead, the first links in the shackles of knowledge are busily being forged. Our teachers pour "knowledge" from their heads into ours, and we in turn regurgitate it at exam time. We are never taught to question any of it, but to accept it blindly. Why? Because teachers have the knowledge and we haven't. This system perpetuates itself as pupils become teachers, and hand down that same knowledge to others ad nauseum. Yes, I know there are teachers who encourage their pupils to question and learn for themselves, but they are few and far between; diamonds in a seam of coal. I left the education system in the second year of A levels, tired of the bullshit and being channelled down a production line, filled with knowledge, to be popped out of a University course that someone else thought I was suited for; another brick in the wall.

So what becomes of all those little bricks, filled with their precious knowledge? Why, they go off to become doctors, lawyers, teachers, vets, scientists, accountants and all manner of professional little bricks.

The wall gets higher…

Of course, they don't see themselves as bricks. They are professionals. They have the knowledge that we don't. Their knowledge gives them status in society. It also gives them power, not the power to free, but the power to enslave the rest of us who don't have their knowledge. How do they do this? Well, have you ever spoken to one of these little bricks, and questioned any of their pronouncements? Were you one of the lucky ones who got a "Hmmm, you might have something there." Or did you get the standard supercilious glare that says "Just who does this slob think he is? What does he know? I have the knowledge, not him. How dare he question my authority?" How dare we indeed, after all, this little brick is educated, it's been to University. It talks in text book language with long words that we don't understand. It must know what it's talking about. The trouble is, most of the little bricks really believe in the power of their knowledge. They never questioned it when it was given to them.

And you think you're so clever and classless and free…

As we all know, when you build a wall, there will be places where you need to put smaller bricks. These smaller bricks don't have the knowledge that the bigger, professional bricks have. So the masons who build the wall give them uniforms, then people will know that they too, have authority.

The wall gets thicker…

And most of us, with our hard wired tendency to defer to figures of authority, go along with everything the little bricks tell us. And there we have the mortar that holds the whole wall of authority together; an essential early survival tool which has been cunningly and ruthlessly exploited by those who hide behind this stone curtain. The Masters of Power who shape our world.

So what is it to be? Are we content to remain a race of sheep, nibbling at the grass in front of us for all our lives, then blindly offer up our throats to the slaughterer's blade? Or have we the courage to question, question, question?

Welcome to the stake; where the questions burn brightly and fiercely.

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King said...

Hey EOE great blog , just touching base

debrakcarey said...

You have voiced what I have felt for most of my adult life. What I tried to teach my children. What I have tried to bury so I could live in peace with others.

The only difference between you and I is that I still retain my faith in a higher power...and believe, unlike others who profess to 'know' HIM, that HE wants me to question and to think. Thanks for the blog. I was humming the melodies of the lyrics you inserted as I read.