Aeon.com lost me today. I’ve been slipping away for a while. Now to mix the metaphor.
A python does not squeeze its prey to death. That’s too much of an effort, which means a waste of calories. It’s all about calories (money). So the snake waits until the mammal (us) has made itself a bit smaller, maybe by exhaling or maybe stretching longer. Then the python fits itself to that smaller diameter. The same thing repeats and repeats until finally the mammal doesn’t have enough room to take a breath. Then it dies and the snake can eat it without wasting calories on struggle.
This is what Aeon and other websites are doing. Like Vivaldi. Tell us what you like! As a convenience, we will only present what you like so you don’t have to go exploring or think about alternatives. Pretty soon, that perimeter of “what-you-like” will be all you can get. You’ll starve your mind and shrivel to blankness, and then you won’t be much trouble to swallow.
The bait on Aeon was the “high quality” BBC tone and the TIME magazine science. Lurking in the background was the restrictive right-wing philosophy of Templeton. When I looked him up — and I’ve known about him for more than thirty years but didn’t ask questions — that was one veil of illusion falling away. What AEON had in the background was “landed gentry” — the King’s Friends, cleverly disguised as a monastery. It has nothing to do with religion in the sense of sacredness. It has everything to do with walls, privilege, elitism — the things Christianity has come to represent.
It’s not really about either Christianity or religion. It’s about empire, siphoning off all profit to the hoarders. Empire is the formation of institutions that control, protecting and feeding the snake. When the pundits and surveyors talk about how religion is dying in America, they mean institutions are collapsing. Protestant denominations are not and never were a religion. They were splinter groups of institutions, usually dissenting over some slight or dogma or economic force, protecting their icons, going to court to secure their communion silver. They have nothing to do with belief, and everything to do with the status quo and solidarity, even when they are a splinter group that has drawn their walls in closer and higher. It’s “Game of Thrones.” Game of Altars.
I’m not sure Aeon knows what they’re doing. I was going along until they hooked up with medium.com and immediately went to sequestering: “My Aeon.” It’s the same old narcissistic splintering.
Everything people in America know about religion they learned at the movies. It’s all sci-fi written by a tableful of writers in LA, usually mostly Jewish and bearded. Maybe some seculars flirting with Zen. Maybe a few brash and accommodating women. Their game is the python game: make a movie that makes money, remake the same movie on a smaller scale (budget), then another a little smaller, until the audience is so conditioned that they never realize there is anything else out there because they can’t get their breath.
Maybe one or two of the people at the table stand up and invent some kind of wall-smasher —Netflix? And then Netflix becomes the squeezer. And now the squeeze is on George RR Martin to do more, better, nakeder, bloodier. . . but the “show runners” get antsy and start by-passing the original author, doing the python on him. Amazon, Amazon.
In past years we’ve seemed to free ourselves from the squeeze by keyboarding past the institutions, but here we are again — lonesome for the Seventies when the “free” weekly newspapers really were “free” — really alternatives instead of just another cartel. Now I watch one broad institution after another go down, only existing at all on the reputations of the earlier years. PBS and NPR now charge for a “passport.” “Sesame Street” has been diverted to profit.
At first TED talks and AEON and all the other trademarked shows had a backlog of rich surprising material that hadn’t had an outlet. By now we’re down to the reruns and imitations. Everyone went to business schools or became a techie. They have nothing in particular to use for content. Just a Rolodex database and an agenda.
Montana was once dominated by a big squeezer snake: the Anaconda company, based on copper. We didn’t get rid of them, they just squeezed out all the profit and left. Missoula was once our literary treasure and moral center but now it’s notorious for rapist athletes and selling its public water. That’s only the local version of a national — no, an extra-national -- phenomenon. The planet has been Trumped. Nations are obsolete.
First the corporations convinced the courts they were a “person,” a Christian concept derived from the fantasy that God was flesh, carnal, incarnated, one of us. Then they convinced the courts that they weren’t here, so therefore needn’t pay taxes. We’re a nation unfinanced by ghosts.
What blood was left drained off in the pretense of “contracting out” torture and wars not even waged by people — rather by zombie predator drone machines guided by gullible young people sitting in a trailer in Indiana and developing PTSD when they finally realize what they are doing. Any citizen who made trouble was criminalized and incarcerated where, for lack of anything better to do, they all infected each other with AIDS: don’t-blame-me capital punishment when there are no drugs or condoms.
The cloud of viruses coming out of the African jungle aren’t teaching us what we should have learned when the sub-saharan people began to die of famine. Today the newsfeed is saying that young women are having much fewer — like 40% fewer — pregnancies out of wedlock. The explanation proposed is that they are taking care of their health. The reality might be more like the sci-fi stories based on near-universal sterility due to environmental pollution. There is a flood coming. Not a biblical flood to wipe out the wicked, but a coastal flood around the planet that will wipe out Johnny Depp’s cherished island paradise, along with the sodden peasants of Bangladesh who barely survive, the glass-walled fancy beach houses, and downtown Manhattan.
We see now that our illusory march of progress from blob to fish to gladiator to programmer was wrong all along. We are a sheet, a web, a vast varying continuum of relationships. And we’re torn, worn thin.
The anonymous writer on Wikipedia says: “The word aeon /ˈiːɒn/, also spelled eon and æon (in American English), originally meant "life", "vital force" or "being", "generation" or "a period of time", though it tended to be translated as "age" in the sense of "ages", "forever", "timeless" or "for eternity”.
Nothing is forever. The website called “Aeon” is not “my aeon.” It’s a constrictor. But I grieve. I thought they were real.