The Age of Barbaria

Bronze_coin_of_Pontius_Pilate_Jerusalem_mint_2...

Bronze coin of Pontius Pilate

La Era de Barbaria (Spanish)

The Age of Barbaria

Annual trips back to the year 33 began in the Age of Barbaria. That year was selected because, according to surveys, Christ’s crucifixion drew the attention of most Westerners, and this social sector was important for economic reasons since trips to the past weren’t organized, much less financed, by the government of any country (as had once happened with the first trips into space) but by a private company. The financial group that made the marvel of traveling through time possible was called Axa. Acting at the request of the High Chief of Technology, who suggested infinite profits through “tourism services,” Axa transported groups of thirty people each to the year 33 in order to witness the death of the Nazarene, much as the tourist commoners did long ago when at each equinox they would gather at the foot of the pyramid of Chitchen-Itzá to witness the formation of the serpent from the shadows cast down by the pyramid upon itself.

The greatest inconvenience encountered by Axa was the limited number of tourists who were able to attend the event at one time, thus hampering the millions in profit expected by the investors. For this reason the group maximum was gradually raised to forty-five, at the risk of attracting the attention of the ancient residents of Jerusalem. That figure has been maintained at the request of one of the company’s principal stockholders, who argued, reasonably, that the conservation of that historic deed in its original state was the basis for the trips, and that if each group produced alterations to the facts, it could result in an abandonment of general interest in carrying out this kind of travel.

Over time it has been proven that each historical alteration of the facts, no matter how small, is nearly impossible to repair. Such damage occurs whenever one of the travelers fails to respect the rules and attempts to take away some memento of the place. The most well-known was the case of Adam Parker who, with incredible dexterity, was able to cut out a triangular piece of the Nazarene’s red tunic, probably at the moment the latter collapsed from fatigue. The theft did not signify any change in the holy scriptures, but it served to make Parker rich and famous, since the tiny piece of canvas came to be worth a fortune, and more than a few of the travelers who have since taken on the trouble and expense of going back thousands of years have done so to see where the Nazarene is missing “Parker’s Triangle.”

A few have posed objections to this kind of travel, which, they insist, will end up destroying history in ways beyond our notice. In effect, it has: for each change introduced on any given day, infinite changes are derived from it, century after century, gradually diluting or multiplying its effects. In order to notice a minimal change in the year 33 it would be useless to turn to the holy scriptures, because all of the editions, equally, would reflect the blow and completely forget the original facts. There might be a possibility of tracing each change by projecting other trips to years just prior to the Age of Barbaria, but nobody would be interested in such a project and there would be no way of financing it.

The discussion about whether history should remain as it is or can be legitimately modified also no longer matters. But the latter is, in any case, dangerous, since it is impossible to foresee the resulting changes that would be produced by any particular alteration. We know that any change might not be catastrophic for the human species, but could potentially be catastrophic for individuals: we might not be the ones who are alive now, but someone else instead.

The most radical religious groups find themselves on opposing sides. Barbaria’s information services have recently discovered that a group of Evangelicals belonging to the True Church of God in Sao Pablo, will make a trip to the year 33. Thanks to the charity of its faithful, the group has managed to gather together the sum of several million charged by Axa per ticket. What no one has yet been able to confirm are the group’s intentions. It’s been said they will blow up Golgotha and set fire to Jerusalem at the moment of the Crucifixion, so that we thus arrive at the greatly anticipated End Times. All of history would disappear; the whole world, including the Jews, would recognize their error and would turn to Christianity in the year 33. The entire world would live in the Kingdom of God, just as described in the Gospels.

Others dispute this as conspiracy theory, or they question how the travelers could witness the Crucifixion without trying to prevent it. The theological answer is obvious, which is why those least interested in preventing the martyrdom of the Messiah are his own followers. But for the rest, who are the majority, Axa has decreed its own ethical rules: “In the same manner in which we do not prevent the death of the slave between the claws of a lion when we travel to Africa, neither must we prevent the apparent injustices that are committed with the Nazarene. Our moral duty is to conserve nature and history as they are.” The crucifixion is the common heritage of humanity, but, above all, its rights have been acquired totally by Axa.

In fact, the changes will be increasingly inevitable. After six years of trips to the year 33, one can see, at the foot of the cross, bottle caps and magic marker graffiti on the main beam, some of which pray: “I have faith in my lord,” and others just limit themselves to the name of who was there, along with the date of departure, so that future generations of travelers will remember them. Of course, the company also began to yield in the face of pressure from dissatisfied clients, leading to a radical improvement in services. For example, Barbaria just sent a technical representative to the year 26 to request the production of five thousand cubic meters of asphalt and to negotiate with Pontius Pilate the construction of a more comfortable corridor for the Via Dolorosa, which will make less tiresome the travelers’ route and, besides, would be a gesture of compassion for the Nazarene, who more than once broke his feet on stones that he failed to see in his path. It has been calculated that the improvement won’t mean changes in the holy scriptures, since there is no special concern demonstrated there for the urbanism of the city.

With these measures, Axa hopes to shelter itself from the storm of complaints it has received due to alleged inadequacies in service, having to confront recently very costly lawsuits brought by clients who have spent a fortune and have returned unsatisfied. The cause of these complaints is not always the intense heat of Jerusalem, or the congestion in which the city is entrapped on the day of the Crucifixion. Above all the cause is the unsatisfied expectations of the travelers. The company defends itself by saying that the holy scriptures weren’t written under its quality control, but instead are only historical documents and, therefore, are exaggerated. There where the Nazarene really dies, instead of a deep and horrifying night, the sky is barely darkened by an excessive concentration of clouds, and nothing more. The Catholics have declared that this fact, like all those referenced in the Gospels, should be understood in its symbolic meaning and not merely descriptively. But most people were satisfied neither by Axa’s response nor by that of Pope John XXV, who came out in defense of the multinational corporation, thanks to which people can now be closer to God.

Translated by Bruce Campbell

The Humanist (USA)

Respect Without Rights: The Privatization of Morality

The Pope with American President Ronald Reagan...

Image via Wikipedia

Respeto sin derechos: la privatización de la moral (Spanish)

Respect Without Rights: The Privatization of Morality

Jorge Majfud

Despite the violent reactions of the owners of the world, the humanist wave that radicalizes the recognition of fundamental equality among human beings will not stop.  But the price paid in the last seven centuries has been very high.  Like any change in values, even when pointing to the center of the humanist paradigm (in part accepted by conservative discourse, very much despite itself), it must necessarily be considered “immoral.”

Just one example.

The very definition of “marriage between two people of the same sex” hides a preconceived idea: if the body possesses a penis and testicles, it is a man; if it possesses a vagina and ovaries it is a woman.  Biological sex is identified with gender.  We know that gender is a cultural construction; there is nothing biological about the fact that little girls are dressed in pink and boys in sky blue or that teenaged girls would die to look and act like a barbie doll while their brother is out looking for a scar or a prostitute to confirm his manhood

Paradoxically, it is understood that in order to be a “man” or “woman” it is not enough to possess a virile member or a reproductive womb: it is necessary, first of all, “to behave like” such, according to the naturalized formulas.  At the same time, in order to confer the category of sin upon a sexuality different from our own (supposing that all of us heterosexuals practice sex in the same manner), it is alleged that that person has chosen to be that way.  To respond to this accusation, the partisans of gay rights allege that their sexual condition is not rooted in a choice but in an innate, genetic fact.  The most repeated argument in support of this idea is formulated as a rhetorical question: “Have heterosexuals chosen their heterosexuality?”  A new paradox is derived from this argument: in order to defend a right to freedom, freedom is annulled as a legitimating principle

Now, although we can accept two antagonistic categories, nature and culture, we must observe how both concepts are manipulated to the benefit of one sector or another.  For example, the ability to give birth (in Spanish “dar a luz,” to bring to light, one of the more beautiful metaphors) is proper to women, therefore we could define it as a “natural faculty.”  The problem arises when that faculty is interpreted by other members of society according to their own values, which is to say, according to their own interests.  Thus arise feminine roles that have never been dictated by nature but by social power

Recently, a legislator from my country repeated on the radio a well-known rationale. 1) He supported the right of lesbians and homosexuals to “be different.” 2) For this reason, he would not vote in favor of legislation that attempted to extend to them the same legal rights we heterosexuals enjoy because 3) he was in favor of the defense of family and values.  4) The defense of heterosexuality is the defense of nature, he concluded

We should observe that to allege a defense of values, without specifying to which values one refers, constitutes a new ideolexicon.  The implication is that it is possible not to possess or not to be in favor of “values.”  Nevertheless, nobody lacks a determinate system of values.  Even criminals and even more so organized crime are based on a determinate system of values.  Very traditional values, if we review the history of crime, whether private, religious or governmental.

We can say the same when the noun values is made more precise with the adjective family: “we defend family values.”  But, which family?  “The traditional family,” comes the response, supposing an absolute, ahistorical, natural category.  And to which tradition does one refer?  In the face of this kind of questioning, there is a quick retreat to safe ground: the Holy Scriptures.  I say “safe” for social reasons, not because of its theological implications, since from the latter point of view there is nothing less unanymous than interpretations of the sacred books.

If the defense is of “the values of the traditional family,” we might understand that the speaker is in favor of the oppression of women, of the denial of interracial marriage, interreligious marriage, etc.  But I do not believe that many people support this position, since this kind of “traditional values” has been defeated in the historical struggle in favor of a secular (not necessarily irreligious) humanism.  Because if many present day religions defend gender and racial equality (and although primitive Christianity also did so in a radical and revolutionary degree for its time), a millenarian history demonstrates the contrary.  We owe to progressive humanism and not to “traditional values” those principles of which even the most reactionary among us now boast.

When one assumes that the prescription of heterosexuality is a defense of nature in order to deny marriage rights to people “of the same sex” there is no explanation of why homosexuals (almost) always came from heterosexual families.  Even more curious: in the need to legitimate the denial of others’ rights, a Catholic priest praised the Uruguayan legislator for defending nature.  This demonstrates the immersion of the priest in the humanist paradigm.  It would have been more logical and traditional to take recourse to the will of God (assuming that anyone can arrogate to himself this right) or some Mosaic law, like those that Jesus used to abolish.  Since it is recognized that the State of an open society should be secular, one recurs to the paradigms of humanism.  But, how does one speak of natural when we are talking about the least natural animal of all the species?  What is natural about the celibate man, sexual abstention or the wearing of skirts in the style of the Middle Ages?

Yes, at least the Catholic Church has a long tradition of recognizing faults and errors.  Which is a virtue and the humanist recognition that ideas like the “Papal infallibility” decreed by the Vatican was an authoritarian fantasy.  The problem lies in the fact that those who hold traditional power recognize their errors a hundred years later, when it no longer matters to the victims.  As if errors were always in the past and never in the present.   As if repentance were part of the strategy of that power in the face of the rise of contrary values.

Since when can a right I possess be perceived as threatened because a peer demands it in the same measure?  Or is it that that peer is a peer but not as much of a human being as I because he arrived later in the world?  What right do some of us equals have to organize a State in order to exclude other equals at the same time that we brag about the diversity of our societies?  Why do we believe we are doing others a favor by tolerating them, instead of recognizing that they are the ones doing us a favor by not rebelling violently in order to finally recoup those rights that we deny them?

Because the right to be different does not consist of having different rights but, simply, the same.

Translated by Bruce Campbell

The Age of Barbaria

Bronze_coin_of_Pontius_Pilate_Jerusalem_mint_2...

Image via Wikipedia

La Era de Barbaria (Spanish)

The Humanist (USA)

The Age of Barbaria

Jorge Majfud

In the year of Barbaria began the annual trips to the year 33.  That year was selected because, according to surveys, Christ’s crucifixion drew the attention of most Westerners, and this social sector was important for economic reasons, since trips to the past were not organized, much less financed, by the government of any country, as had once happened with the first trips into space, but by a private company.  The financial group that made possible the marvel of traveling through time was Axa, at the request of the High Chief of Technology, who suggested infinite profits through the offering of “tourism services,” as it was called in its moment.  From then on, various groups of 30 people traveled to the year 33 in order to witness the death of the Nazarene, much as the tourist commoners used to do long ago when at each equinox they would gather at the foot of the pyramid of Chitchen-Itzá, in order to witness the formation of the serpent from the shadows cast down by the pyramid upon itself.

The greatest inconvenience encountered by Axa was the limited number of tourists who were able to attent the event at a time, which did not generate profits in accordance with the millions expected by the investors, for which reason that original number was gradually raised to 45, at the risk of attracting the attention of the ancient residents of Jerusalem.  Then the figure was maintained, at the request of one of the company’s principal stock-holders who argued, reasonably, that the conservation of that historic deed in its original state was the basis for the trips, and that if each group produced alterations in the facts, that could result in an abandonment of general interest in carrying out this kind of travel.

With time it was proven that each historical alteration of the facts, no matter how small, was nearly impossible to repair.  Which occurred whenever one of the travelers did not respect the rules of the game and attempted to take away some memento of the place.  As was the most well-known case of Adam Parcker who, with incredible dexterity, was able to cut out a triangular piece of the Nazarene’s red tunic, probably at the moment the latter collapses from fatigue.  The theft did not signify any change in the Holy Scriptures, but it served to make Parcker rich and famous, since the tiny piece of canvas came to be worth a fortune and not a few of the travelers who took on the trouble and expense of going back thousands of years did so to see where the Nazarene was missing “Parcker’s Triangle.”

A few had posed objections to this kind of travel which, they insist, will end up destroying history without us being able to notice.  In effect, so it is: for each change that is introduced on a given day, infinite changes are derived from it, century after century, gradually diluting or multiplying its effects.  In order to notice a minimal change in the year 33 it would be useless to turn to the Holy Scriptures, because all of the editions, equally, would reflect the blow and completely forget the original fact.  There might be a possibility of tracing each change by projecting other trips to years prior to the year of Barbaria, but nobody would be interested in such a project and there would be no way of financing it.

The discussion about whether history should remain as it is or can be legitimately modified also no longer matters.  But the latter is, in any case, dangerous, since it is impossible to foresee the resulting changes that would be produced by any particular alteration.  We know that any change could potentially not be catastrophic for the human species, but would be catastrophic for individuals: we might not be the ones who are alive now, but someone else instead.

The most radical religious groups find themselves on opposing sides.  Barbaria’s information services have recently discovered that a group of evangelists, belonging to the True Church of God, of Sao Pablo, will make a trip to the year 33.  Thanks to the charity of its faithful, the group has managed to gather together the sum of several million that Axa charges per ticket.  What no one has yet been able to confirm are the group’s intentions.  It has been said that they intend to blow up Golgotha and set fire to Jerusalem at the moment of the Crucifixion, so that we thus arrive at  the greatly anticipated End Times.  All of history would disappear; the whole world, including the Jews, would recognize their error, they would turn to Christianity in the year 33 and the entire world would live in the Kingdom of God, just as descrived in the Gospels.  Which is disputed by other people.

Others do not understand how the travelers can witness the crucifixion without trying to prevent it.  The theological answer is obvious, which is why those least interested in preventing the martyrdom of the Messiah are his own followers.  But or the rest, who are the majority, Axa has decreed its own ethical rules: “In the same manner in which we do not prevent the death of the slave between the claws of a lion, when we travel to Africa, neither must we prevent the apparent injustices that are committed with the Nazarene.  Our moral duty is to conserve nature and history as they are.”  The crucifixion is the common heritage of Humanity, but, above all, its rights have been acquired totally by Axa.

In fact,the changes will be increasingly inevitable.  After six years of trips to the year 33, one can see, at the foot of the cross, bottle caps and magic marker graffiti on the main beam, some of which pray: “I have faith in my lord,” and others just limit themselves to the name of who was there, along with the date of departure, so that future generations of travelers will remember them.  Of course, the company also began to yield in the face of pressure from dissatisfied clients, leading to a radical improvement in services.  For example, Barbaria just sent a technical representative to the year 26 to request the production of five thousand cubic meters of asphalt and to negotiate with Pontius Pilate the construction of a more comfortable corridor for the Via Dolorosa, which will make less tiresome the travelers’ route and, besides, would be a gesture of compassion for the Nazarene, who more than once broke his feet on stones that he did not see in his path.  It has been calculated that the improvement will not mean changes in the Holy Scriptures, since there is no special concern demonstrated there for the urbanism of the city.

With these measures, Axa hopes to shelter itself from the storm of complaints it has received due to alleged inadequacies in service, having to confront recently very costly law suits brought by client who have spent a fortune and have not returned satisfied.  The cause of these complaints is not always the intense heat of Jerusalem, or the congestion in which the city is entrapped on the day of the crucifixion.  Above all the cause is the unsatisfied expectations of the travelers.  The company defends itself by saying that the Holy Scriptures were not written under its quality control, but instead are only historical documents and, therefore, are exaggerated.  There where the Nazarene really dies, instead of there being a deep and horrifying night the sky is barely darkened by an excessive concentration of clouds, and nothing more.  The Catholics have declared that this fact, like all those referenced in the Gospels, should be understood in its symbolic meaning and not merely descriptively.  But most people were satisfied neither by Axa’s response nor by that of Pope John XXV, who came out in defense of the multinational corporation, thanks to which people can now be closer to God.

Translated by Bruce Campbell

Bruce Campbell is an Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies at St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN, where he is chair of the Latino/Latin American Studies program.  He is the author of Mexican Murals in Times of Crisis (University of Arizona, 2003); his scholarship centers on art, culture and politics in Latin America, and his work has appeared in publications such as the Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies and XCP: Cross-cultural Poetics.  He serves as translator/editor for the “Southern Voices” project at www.americas.org, through which Spanish- and Portuguese-language opinion essays by Latin American authors are made available in English for the first time.

 

The Age of Barbaria

Bronze_coin_of_Pontius_Pilate_Jerusalem_mint_2...
Image via Wikipedia

Originally published in The Humanist

The Age of Barbaria

In the year of Barbaria began the annual trips to the year 33.  That year was selected because, according to surveys, Christ’s crucifixion drew the attention of most Westerners, and this social sector was important for economic reasons, since trips to the past were not organized, much less financed, by the government of any country, as had once happened with the first trips into space, but by a private company.  The financial group that made possible the marvel of traveling through time was Axa, at the request of the High Chief of Technology, who suggested infinite profits through the offering of “tourism services,” as it was called in its moment.  From then on, various groups of 30 people traveled to the year 33 in order to witness the death of the Nazarene, much as the tourist commoners used to do long ago when at each equinox they would gather at the foot of the pyramid of Chitchen-Itzá, in order to witness the formation of the serpent from the shadows cast down by the pyramid upon itself.

The greatest inconvenience encountered by Axa was the limited number of tourists who were able to attent the event at a time, which did not generate profits in accordance with the millions expected by the investors, for which reason that original number was gradually raised to 45, at the risk of attracting the attention of the ancient residents of Jerusalem.  Then the figure was maintained, at the request of one of the company’s principal stock-holders who argued, reasonably, that the conservation of that historic deed in its original state was the basis for the trips, and that if each group produced alterations in the facts, that could result in an abandonment of general interest in carrying out this kind of travel.

With time it was proven that each historical alteration of the facts, no matter how small, was nearly impossible to repair.  Which occurred whenever one of the travelers did not respect the rules of the game and attempted to take away some memento of the place.  As was the most well-known case of Adam Parcker who, with incredible dexterity, was able to cut out a triangular piece of the Nazarene’s red tunic, probably at the moment the latter collapses from fatigue.  The theft did not signify any change in the Holy Scriptures, but it served to make Parcker rich and famous, since the tiny piece of canvas came to be worth a fortune and not a few of the travelers who took on the trouble and expense of going back thousands of years did so to see where the Nazarene was missing “Parcker’s Triangle.”

A few had posed objections to this kind of travel which, they insist, will end up destroying history without us being able to notice.  In effect, so it is: for each change that is introduced on a given day, infinite changes are derived from it, century after century, gradually diluting or multiplying its effects.  In order to notice a minimal change in the year 33 it would be useless to turn to the Holy Scriptures, because all of the editions, equally, would reflect the blow and completely forget the original fact.  There might be a possibility of tracing each change by projecting other trips to years prior to the year of Barbaria, but nobody would be interested in such a project and there would be no way of financing it.

The discussion about whether history should remain as it is or can be legitimately modified also no longer matters.  But the latter is, in any case, dangerous, since it is impossible to foresee the resulting changes that would be produced by any particular alteration.  We know that any change could potentially not be catastrophic for the human species, but would be catastrophic for individuals: we might not be the ones who are alive now, but someone else instead.

The most radical religious groups find themselves on opposing sides.  Barbaria’s information services have recently discovered that a group of evangelists, belonging to the True Church of God, of Sao Pablo, will make a trip to the year 33.  Thanks to the charity of its faithful, the group has managed to gather together the sum of several million that Axa charges per ticket.  What no one has yet been able to confirm are the group’s intentions.  It has been said that they intend to blow up Golgotha and set fire to Jerusalem at the moment of the Crucifixion, so that we thus arrive at  the greatly anticipated End Times.  All of history would disappear; the whole world, including the Jews, would recognize their error, they would turn to Christianity in the year 33 and the entire world would live in the Kingdom of God, just as descrived in the Gospels.  Which is disputed by other people.

Others do not understand how the travelers can witness the crucifixion without trying to prevent it.  The theological answer is obvious, which is why those least interested in preventing the martyrdom of the Messiah are his own followers.  But or the rest, who are the majority, Axa has decreed its own ethical rules: “In the same manner in which we do not prevent the death of the slave between the claws of a lion, when we travel to Africa, neither must we prevent the apparent injustices that are committed with the Nazarene.  Our moral duty is to conserve nature and history as they are.”  The crucifixion is the common heritage of Humanity, but, above all, its rights have been acquired totally by Axa.

In fact,the changes will be increasingly inevitable.  After six years of trips to the year 33, one can see, at the foot of the cross, bottle caps and magic marker graffiti on the main beam, some of which pray: “I have faith in my lord,” and others just limit themselves to the name of who was there, along with the date of departure, so that future generations of travelers will remember them.  Of course, the company also began to yield in the face of pressure from dissatisfied clients, leading to a radical improvement in services.  For example, Barbaria just sent a technical representative to the year 26 to request the production of five thousand cubic meters of asphalt and to negotiate with Pontius Pilate the construction of a more comfortable corridor for the Via Dolorosa, which will make less tiresome the travelers’ route and, besides, would be a gesture of compassion for the Nazarene, who more than once broke his feet on stones that he did not see in his path.  It has been calculated that the improvement will not mean changes in the Holy Scriptures, since there is no special concern demonstrated there for the urbanism of the city.

With these measures, Axa hopes to shelter itself from the storm of complaints it has received due to alleged inadequacies in service, having to confront recently very costly law suits brought by client who have spent a fortune and have not returned satisfied.  The cause of these complaints is not always the intense heat of Jerusalem, or the congestion in which the city is entrapped on the day of the crucifixion.  Above all the cause is the unsatisfied expectations of the travelers.  The company defends itself by saying that the Holy Scriptures were not written under its quality control, but instead are only historical documents and, therefore, are exaggerated.  There where the Nazarene really dies, instead of there being a deep and horrifying night the sky is barely darkened by an excessive concentration of clouds, and nothing more.  The Catholics have declared that this fact, like all those referenced in the Gospels, should be understood in its symbolic meaning and not merely descriptively.  But most people were satisfied neither by Axa’s response nor by that of Pope John XXV, who came out in defense of the multinational corporation, thanks to which people can now be closer to God.

Translated by Bruce Campbell

Bruce Campbell is an Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies at St. John’s University in Collegeville, MN, where he is chair of the Latino/Latin American Studies program.  He is the author of Mexican Murals in Times of Crisis (University of Arizona, 2003); his scholarship centers on art, culture and politics in Latin America, and his work has appeared in publications such as the Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies and XCP: Cross-cultural Poetics.  He serves as translator/editor for the “Southern Voices” project at http://www.americas.org, through which Spanish- and Portuguese-language opinion essays by Latin American authors are made available in English for the first time.

The Humanist (USA)

The Humanist 2 (USA)