Aargh! Julia’s doing Culture again today, and another jewel it is too.
Of that, more when my beard and the day are both older. I think tomorrow I’ll do my own desert Island Discs to make Culture Wars: The Culture a round seven days. And then I shall rest…
Then on Monday it’s away with culture and back to random angry rooftop sniping and accentuating the negative for me, with another of my trademark pompous blockbuster social schadenfreude welfare-state bitchin’ bitching sessions.
So no fiction today, but surely culture and the fountain-head (!) these last thousand years pretty much exclusively in these islands - of our shared and publicly-held ideas of right and wrong.
We’ve spent a millennium trying to live up to the following in
Christians and Jews please note that I’m not asserting that the works below are fiction in the sense of ‘made up stories that never happened’.
Atheists and agnostics, please bear in mind that these are the foundations of official and private ideology of most of western civilisation and they were and are roughly the lines (shorn of the historical-context mysticism) by which people of goodwill still try to reach the good life in this world and to…hell? with the next.
My fellow pagans: like it or loathe it the Christians won their culture war, stuffed our predecessors up a treat, and eventually abolished slavery after practicing it themselves for centuries. They also beat numerous continental head-cases in endless wars and created science based in part on the notion of an orderly universe governed by a single and self-consistent god. There’s nothing inherently evangelical in our own tiny fringe cult, but as I have had it explained to me there’s nothing wrong either with helping a kinsman rediscover a lost heirloom, so if you want to look there’s quite a lot of sensible advice on how to live the good life over here – even before it gets all mystic. I particularly endorse the passages on alcohol and friendship.
There’s even a verse about the stupendous importance of towels so don’t panic.
But though our culture has always had its faults and anyone can find an excuse to break their own moral laws when it suits them (I know that I have) and our monotheistic ancestors were no exception, ideas count.
Ideas matter. Words count for something. Repeat words endlessly Saturday after Saturday or Sunday after Sunday generation after generation and sooner or later folk are going to take them seriously. You can see the seeds of Abolitionism in these words: of law and individual human rights; of the idea that girls aren’t merely toys for the boys and that property might be respected with divine endorsement, and so on.
Maybe people will simply love and follow someone with a beard of one sort or another: I know I do.
Both texts have different versions and paradoxical names (the Ten Commandments aren’t merely ten and they aren’t all commandments), but you can still see the shape there of how perhaps it came to be that we feel badly (or a least many of us in the dextrosphere feel badly) about casual murder and bad manners and dishonesty and theft and hurting the weak and the defenceless.
I’ve chosen an example of each text at random or by predetermination or genetic disposition or Fate or Wyrd or at the bidding of the Secret Masters or by what I had for breakfast – I don’t know which, but I do know it’s not because of any particular favourite of mine or any knowledge that I have concerning superior authenticity.
Beliefs count. Ideas count. The words we use and hear used every day over long periods of time can make a huge difference to the way we live our lives and on the quality of those lives, and if you don’t believe me then just you ask any nigger if I’m wrong.
2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the
3 Do not have any other gods before me.
4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me,
6 but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
8 Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.
9 For six days you shall labour and do all your work.
10 But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.
11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it.
12 Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
13 You shall not murder.
14 You shall not commit adultery.
15 You shall not steal.
16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
17 You shall not covet your neighbour's house; you shall not covet your neighbour's wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.
Blessed are they who mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.