The Worship of Marduk
Old Thrashbarg said that it was the ineffable will of Bob, and when they asked him what "ineffable" meant, he said look it up.
This was a problem because Old Thrashbarg had the only dictionary and he wouldn't let them borrow it. They asked him why not and he said that it was not for them to know the will of Almighty Bob, and when they asked him why not again, he said because he said so.
I MAY HAVE BEEN A LITTLE TOO HARD on the author of that email, and perhaps on BP, as well.
I claimed that each of them intentionally distorted the public worldview—that, in fact, they lied.
The reality may be both better and worse.
It's actually possible, in both cases, that they weren't technically lying in the normal sense of the word.
It's possible that there was no clear intent to deceive the public, because the question of truth didn't even cross their minds.
I've written about this before: there's an attitude toward language, a kind of rhetoric, which is only concerned with the effects of what is said—and not at all concerned, one way or the other, about the truth of what is said.
It's actually possible that both the author of the email about teachers and those behind the public statements of BP are operating in this tradition: viewing language, not as a way to convey truth, but as a tool of power and manipulation.
This way of thinking about, and using, language may have existed as long as language itself.
But it was honed and perfected in the propaganda arms of early human kingdoms, in the worship of Marduk, or of Baal, or of Amun-Ra, where the distortion of the common view of reality for political ends reached a complexity and power previously unimagined.
The priests who concocted stories (with no evidence) of gods and goddesses, who claimed to have special knowledge about reality, and who used that claim to manipulate the populace for political purposes, took the same attitude toward truth as BP, or the email above.
The question they asked wasn't "is this true," but "will this work".
That attitude toward language is one of humanity's greatest, and oldest, enemies.
It's an attitude that is almost always held by rich and powerful people who wish to manipulate the culture for their own benefit: priests and kings, wealthy corporations, corrupt politicians, political propagandists.
The ancient priests in Babylon taught that the world was a place created by Marduk.
They also taught that humans were created by Marduk, for the express purpose of serving the gods and bearing the burdens of life.
So, if you were a commoner in the Kingdom of Babylon, you saw yourself as created for no other purpose than to live a burdensome life, in obedience to the priests, and by extension, the king.
That's a powerful and heady warping of worldview—changing the world that you live in, or believe you live in, in order to control your behavior.
Of course this didn't happen overnight.
Babylon was an inheritor of a long tradition of stories about invented gods—stories which promoted the kind of central control which made it possible to establish the first political hierarchies and force hunter gatherers, who had had, up until then, a powerfully egalitarian culture, into the grueling and less healthy lifestyle mandated by the agricultural revolution.
The second creation story in Genesis 2, which is much older than the one which precedes it, contains, again, the idea of humans being created to cultivate plants on behalf of heaven.
It's probably no coincidence that these three things:
a priest class which wove the spell of a false worldview over the populace, and
the move to a foreign and unhealthy agricultural lifestyle
...all happened at the same time.
Deceit is a powerful tool.
And the antidote to deceit—whether it implies...
ridding oneself of the illusion that Marduk has created your world
(imagine how difficult, how counter-intuitive that would have been for someone living in ancient Babylon), or
questioning the political subtext of an email, or
taking the public relation statements of a major corporation with a grain of salt,
...is, finally, an internal struggle: a spiritual discipline.
It's not an easy struggle.
It may mean questioning things that both your community and your training forbid you to question.
It may mean risking disapproval, and even feelings of guilt, in pursuit of the truth.
But without that struggle, we will always be the slaves of deceivers.
It's been going on for ten thousand years.
And we haven't lost it yet.
At least, that's what I think today.