The Opium of the Suburbs

Opium of the suburbsThe Poet W.B.Yeats coined the phrase “Science is the opium of the suburbs”.

It was, of course, a parody of the phrase “Religion is the opium of the masses”, usually attributed to Marx (actually Marx stole it from Charles Kingsley), and far truer than the original ever was.

This week we have seen, in this very weblog, a fascinating example of just how that opium works. It was provided by a correspondent named Don Knotts who came in cursing and swearing and left like a gentleman. We have no wish to prolong the debate with Mr Knotts, or to criticise him personally; but he says he will no longer visit these pages (which are, after all, intended for femmekin), so we think it is reasonable to use his comments as an example of a tendency that extends far beyond Mr Knotts himself and gives us interesting food for reflection.

The essence of Mr Knotts’s argument [read it here], once he had stopped behaving like a drunk, was to paint a (very creditable) word-picture of the vastness of space and time, as indicated by astro-physics; the catastrophic (in earthly terms) nature of long-term cosmic events and the insignificance of our current earthly life when compared to the endless vistas of light years, the death of suns, the clash of galaxies and so forth.

His challenge was that if were to take a telescope and look at the distant heavens the scales would fall from our eyes (to use a Biblical term that Mr Knotts would likely deprecate) and we should see the terrible folly of believing ourselves to be femmekin, or anything other than good suburban late-West-Tellurian cits.

The psychology of this assumption is remarkable. It is something like the way a Christian might expect worldly delusions to vanish in the face of the contemplation of Death, Heaven and Hell; but Mr Knotts, we gather, is an agnostic wedded to the “religion of science” and the comfortable, if rather anthropomorphic, idea that “science is on the side of everyday reality”.

He seems to frequent sites that spend much of their time tut-tutting (well, actually cuss-cussing) about how terrible and crazy are people who believe anything outside the cosy, suburban world of mundane materialism and vulgar cynicism, and how worrying it all is. Why it should worry them we don’t know, but it seems to be a sort of transposition of religious sentiment; a displacement of the heresy-hunting instinct, only this time not in the Name of God, but in the name of suburban dullness.

And somehow they believe (at least Mr Knotts does, and we are sure he is not alone) that they can call the very Heavens as witness to this religion of nothing-in-particular. Not the Heavens of traditional faith, of course (Darwin forbid!) but the Heavens of Professor Hawking.

He is perfectly sure that if we were really to look at those Heavens with a telescope, and ponder the mysteries of astro-physics, our belief that we are femmekin would vanish and we would see the Saving Light of Suburbia. We might even learn to use four-letter words like “real people”.

The idea simply cannot occur to such people that those same Heavens, whether or not we believe they are what the astro-physicists tell us they are (and we suspect that – on one level at least – they are, though we wouldn’t exactly bet the farm on it), dwarf the comfortable, cussing “realism” of the late-West-Telluri suburbs just as much as they dwarf anything else.

Oh no, the West-Telluri Suburbs are Reality, and Daddy Science is “on their side”.

Quite a touching faith, really.

So is it possible that anyone would try Mr Knotts’s Telescope Experiment and have the desired result? Would any Otherkin, say, gaze at the heavens and realise that all their beliefs were foolery and that the World of the Nine-o’Clock News is underwitten by the Andromeda Galaxy?

Actually, we think it is indeed possible. Many Otherkin that we have encountered do indeed live their lives around what Miss Sakura called the “Totem Pole” of Tellurian suburbanism. Their self-definition is based on their Other-ness from that. They often doubt their own sanity in relation to it. A serious look through a telescope at what Daddy Science tells them are the Real, Big Things might indeed bring them back to what they inwardly acknowledge to be “reality”.

Science – outer space – suburban materialism: three entirely different concepts that have very little to do with each other, but in the semi-educated half-religion of late West Telluria they are all tied together in a sort of comfortable – if utterly irrational – knot known, for some odd reason, as “realism”.

It is the Faith of the Faithless, the Myth of the Mythless, the Opium of the Suburbs.

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Published in: on July 17, 2007 at 10:44 pm  Comments (4)  

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  1. I hope this reaches someone, as it would be most unfortunate if this place is dead, and not being updated, and therefore my words reach empty space. At any rate, these words come to you from a lady who finds herself in the interesting position of holding very similar opinions to those of Aristasians in many areas without identifying with the movement as such.

    Namely, I am a monarchist of the old school, having found, over time, a contempt for the modern political field, and a reverent awe for the days of universal monarchy. I am a defender, therefore, of the Old European Order, and adherent to the political theories of the Comte de Maistre, and an ardent Royalist who hews to the traditionalist Stuart line as a necessity (being of the colonies of the New World which lately have revolted from the rule of the House of Hanover and then foolishly chose to institute Republican rule rather than offer the throne to His Majesty, Charles Stuart, the King across the Water).

    I had the fortune as a child to not attend the modern public school system, which is an atrocious system of propaganda, and instead am primarily an autodidact. I have read all the works of philosophy from Socrates and Plato through Aristotle, the principle Stoics, Aquinas and the other church fathers (though I am not Christian, I approve, in the fashion of Action Française and Charles Maurras, of the social institution of religion in society, as necessary to providing the fundamental underpinning of the State, and legitimizing a hierarchy of rule founded ultimately in the Divine, of whom the old Byzantine title for the Emperor describes the position best: “The Shadow of God upon the Earth.”

    Forward from the medieval philosophers I found myself naturally hewing to the line of Kant and the Transcendental Idealists; Hegel is to me the final form of his thought, and the Teutonic system of Metternich’s counterrevolution such of a state as there needed no improvement upon, nor could there have been (that this makes me a Right-Hegelian almost goes without saying).

    Now, the Pit as you prefer to call it (and I prefer the more expansive designation of ‘Anglo-Consumerist Society’ which has become the centrepiece of a deranged world-civilization), you assert only began in the 1960s. I’m curious as to why. To someone of my sort, who certainly rejects the whole of modern society–finding the village Mir preferable to the independent farmstead (and may the reward of the noble Alexandr Solzhenitsyn be great, who stood up against our consumerist society and condemned it as he did communism), the orders of medieval society as the natural expression of a people, and authoritarian monarchy limited only by traditions established ab antiquo, the normative government for the vast bulk of humanity–the creation point for the present domination by the consumerist English-speaking peoples, over the Teutonic civilization of the Hohenzollerns and Habsburgs, is necessarily a result of military victory by the Entente over the Central Powers in the First World War.

    So why do you prefer to set the date for the beginning of the Pit to the 1960s, rather than the seemingly more explicit (to traditionalists of my vein) point of the military defeat of the Central Powers (and to a lesser extent, Russia)? Cannot it not be said that the defining events were the Kerenskyite revolution, the failure of the Caporetto Offensive to take Venice (even as successful as it was), and the failure of Operation Michael to seize the rail-junctions of Amiens?

    I am, of course, very much also inclined to regard modern Tellurian civilization, as you would put, as being quite transient. Their own economic “science” is based on the ludicrous proposition that infinite growth is possible, whereas realistic science indicates to us that our energy resources on this planet are necessarily finite. We may therefore abstain from participating in the system (which to me very much includes refusing to vote, and appealing to such divine powers as I hold dear, to restore the King, as the Cossacks of the Caucasus do for sake of the Tsar) and wait with fervent hope for the day when the dictates of science in fact, with delightful irony, condemn the scientific-religion and mass consumerism of the Pit.

    Plagues and famine will sweep the Earth, governments will collapse and civil wars will commence over the dwindling resources and chaos. At this point those of traditionalist bent, well prepared for the coming crisis, may ignore such political systems as remain, speak directly to the desperate population, and dare to put the chances of a successful counterrevolution to the test on the field of war. It is a necessary result of the beliefs of traditionalists of my bent to see this as the only natural way for the resumption of something in most ways resembling the old order, which will of course have to take place in the same way that the Caesars of the early Empire became the Avtokrators of the Dominate: Through a long period of transitional dictatorship in which the twilight of this modern civilization is guided down to a ‘soft landing’ from its heights of terrible brilliance, terrific folly, and arrogant, democratic power.

    Having in this communication therefore broadly laid out the specifics of which I may hope to see in our future, and what I believe, I would like to simply say that I am much interested in conversing in detail (and ultimately through electronic relay text communications, with several others, if you are interested) on matters of Aristasian metaphysics, and in particular, your philosophical critique of modern democratic-consumerist civilization.

  2. Rayati Honored Miss Marina,

    I apologize that comment has gone unanswered for so long. I have posted your comment at our interim forum which you can find at http://pub44.bravenet.com/forum/3724255489/show/918672 .

  3. Well, I may disagree with Don Knotts and his ilk, but the only thing we know are our experiences.

    If you’ve only ever been hurt or never found your soul mate, you may not believe in true love. In the same vein, if a person has never known what it is like to be otherkin/spiritual/whatever they may find these things don’t exist. In a sense, they don’t exist for that person.

  4. They are simply blind to them, like primitives busily sending their drumbeat messages through the jungle, utterly oblivious to the patterns of electromagnetic radiation in the shape of bad “classic” rock radio beaming at the speed of light over and through their little heads.

    Worlds within worlds- we traverse them regularly. Others only dream them; still others think we are dreaming while they are awake when it’s just the opposite. Who is the dreamer and who the dream?

    Contrary to Peter Pan, faeries really don’t care if we are believed in or not. It has no effect whatsoever on our ability to shape reality. Just sayin’.


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