Sunday, June 27, 2010

Knowledge Questors visit the Creation Museum

(Link to full photo display)

During the first Knowledge Quest road trip, Matt, Jacob and I took what we thought would be a side trip to the Creation Museum.  Little did we know how crucial it would be for the whole road trip.

For those of you who don't know what it is, the Creation Museum define itself thusly:

The state-of-the-art 70,000 square foot museum brings the pages of the Bible to life, casting its characters and animals in dynamic form and placing them in familiar settings. Adam and Eve live in the Garden of Eden. Children play and dinosaurs roam near Eden’s Rivers. The serpent coils cunningly in the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Majestic murals, great masterpieces brimming with pulsating colors and details, provide a backdrop for many of the settings.
 It was built on the Kentucky/Ohio/Indiana border (in the suburbs of Cincinnati) by Ken Hamm (a nutso Australian who I've written some hilarious jokes about) amid great controversy and has become a flashpoint in the ongoing culture wars in the United States.



Ken Hamm is a young earth creationist.  Unlike old-earth creationists, who believe that the earth is 4.5 billion years old but that it was "created' by a God using mechanisms utterly different than those that the modified molecular theory of evolution describes, or intelligent designers, who accept the basic mechanisms of the modified molecular theory but hold that the only explanation for these mechanisms is teleological (an "intelligent designer") young earth creationists hold that the earth (indeed the entire universe) is slightly older than 6000 years old and was created according to a highly literal reading of the narrative in the Bible's Book of Genesis.

The primary purpose of our knowledge quest had been to explore the Indiana-Ohio border and figure out how to provoke a war between the two states and this trip to the Creation Museum was supposed to be a lark, a little joke.  We knew some of our less ironic friends would be furious at us for even going so we decided we'd atone by taking pictures so they could learn about it without having to go.  We thought the hardest part would be keeping straight faces and getting caught.  We'd concocted a back story about being youth ministers in training.  We'd decided we were "agnostic" about the evolution/creation debate, since we couldn't pull off full-fledged believers.  (We later learned that our best bet would have been to bring women and children and pretend to be closeted gay men --- then we'd have fit right in).  Little did we realize it wouldn't be hard not to laugh.  We'd be too busy being scared shitless.

The ticket taker told us the main exhibit space would take us 20 minutes.  It took us about 5 hours.  (Creationists are very bad at estimating time).

We ended up taking copious photographs, which I'm linking to here.  I think we got almost every display, scrap of text, or what have you.  I've included captions and commentary to explain them and make sense of them, but I'll post some general thoughts here.

We are not philosophers of science, although Matt and Jacob had classes with UT's fantastic Dr. M (who is) and I've grown up around scientists and been doing more with the Theory of Evolution specifically because of some work I've been doing on Plato, Nietzsche and Heidegger (a project on separating formal and final causes and temporalizing formal explanations that I call Platonism after Darwin).  My background is much more steeped in the philosophy of culture and art and social and political context, and that's what I personally have taught to Matt and Jacob.  So we're not going to comment as much on the "science" on the Museum as on how it functions as a "work of art."

The thesis that I'll outline here is that the Creation Museum, taken as a whole, is a masterpiece of ideology for the sake of ideology.  I'll explain what I mean by that a little bit here, but the full explanation is given in the context of the pictures we took and the captions/explanations we provide.  This is also where we'll support this thesis.

Let me offer a brief explanation of what I mean, though: 

We had expected that there would be a lot of emphasis put on offering "alternative explanations" of natural history, but this was in fact not the case.  I suspect that they take the work they've done poisoning public discourse in America for granted.  The sad fact is that far too many Americans think that there is a genuine scientific debate and that the Theory of Evolution isn't particularly well proven.  Of course, this is utter nonsense, but we'd expected the Museum to try to make a scientific argument.

In fact, the main argument that was made was "moral," as our friend Danstead had asserted it would be.  The Museum relied on setting up a false dichotomy: either CREATIONISM or NIHILISM.  Once this dichotomy is established and the need for accepting creationism asserted, the museum then sets up an alternative narrative, which we'll have occasion to talk about below.

The main exhibit dealt with four of what the Museum called the seven C's in their narrative of creation: Creation, Corruption, Catastrophe, Confusion, Christ, Cross, Consummation.  The first four are all taken from a highly literalistic reading of the first few fifteen or so chapters of Genesis.  The last three are taken from an equally literalistic, but now highly selective, reading of the Hebrew Prophets (esp. Isaiah), the Gospels, and the book of Revelations. I say highly selective because they manage to avoid not only the entire social justice message of so many of the prophets and the gospels, but also, for example, almost the entire Resurrection, which is presumably pretty important for most accounts of Christianity.

The narrative, and the initial argument is tremendously, exorbitantly violent.  We had been expecting the Museum to be a foray into the culture wars and to implicitly support the socially and fiscally conservative agenda of the religious right.  Of course it did this, but not quite as explicitly as you'd expect.  And the sheer violence of the narrative was so striking that it seemed excessive for a mere bulwark of an ideology that many people already support --- to say nothing of justifying the enormous price-tag of the Museum.  We had been expecting a patchwork, ad-hoc bunch of dinosaurs and people (something like Jesus riding a triceratops).  We got some of that, but the presentation went far beyond that and was, frankly, masterful.

Why?

To understand that, let's break down what the trip to the museum consisted of.

Our experience at the Museum essentially consisted in four parts:

1) Our tour of the main exhibit.
2) A highly sophisticated planetarium show.
3) A terrifying little film about the last 3 C's (Christ, Cross, Consummation), called "The Last Adam"
4) A speech by the Man Himself.  No, not God.  Ken Hamm, who talked to the kids about dinosaurs, and scared the bejeezus out of the rest of us.

To understand how the Museum functions ideologically, it's necessary to think about each of these parts.

But first, let's divide potential visitors to the Museum (and America more broadly) into three groups.

1)  True Believers.  There are the people who already belong to the Religious Right.  They may or may not be familiar with the highly idiosyncratic version of the Creation story that the Museum tells, but they are already to believe it.  These are the people we saw reading the signs to their kids like scripture.  I think that the bulk of the Museum's attendees belonged to this group.  We might wonder, why employ such tremendous violence against your own group?  Why traumatize people who already agree with you?

2)The Squishy Middle.  These are the people who identify themselves as Christian but don't necessarily consider themselves to be fundamentalists and who are, let's say agnostic about evolution.  They might be genuinely agnostic about evolution (far too many Americans are).  Or they might accept the story they learned in school but, lacking the tools to explain it, they might believe that there really is another side and simply want to hear it.  They consider themselves believing Christians, but they aren't necessarily fundamentalists.  They might have a different interpretation of Christianity, or they might not have a determinate interpretation at all.  They may or may not go to church regularly.


Members of this group fancy themselves to be moderates, and the press flatters them by calling them moderates, flattering them by telling them that they have common sense (this is the highest praise that the press can bestow).  In fact, the principle way in which the squishy-middle's worldview resembles common sense is its amorphousness, and by extension its malleability, its capacity for self-forgetfulness.  Socrates already diagnosed the principle weakness of this view in the Theatetus:  it's really just opinion, and opinion doesn't amount to much.  The squishy middle isn't moderate in that its views fall between the extremes of 1 & 3 (or between any extremes) --- it's moderate in the sense that it's up for grabs.  The squishy middle  enthusiastically supported Bush for 6 years without necessarily sharing his conservative views because they were afraid of terrorism and *thought* they were afraid of gay marriage.  They could equally quickly turn on him after his mismanagement of Katrina made his mismanagement of the economy and the war on terror too difficult to ignore, wondering how any idiots could have possibly ever liked the guy (an excellent question).  They could support Obama not because they shared his technocratic pragmatism or slightly left centrism but because they didn't like Bush and were afraid of a depression.  They opposed him on health-care because they are afraid of change, they soured on him because the economy didn't immediately improve, and 4 years from now when health care reform has actually proven successful, they will think they were always for it.

It's hard not to be angry with group 2, but lets just leave this as an observation about the non-ideological, open-ended relationship these folks have to their worldview.  That'll prove important both to the ideology of the Museum and why I think right wing will ultimately fail with its agenda (I say ultimately--- there may be some painful victories along the way).

Given that this group is going to be at least in principle sympathetic to hearing the creationist folks out, but given their squishy moderateness, we might wonder: why employ such a stringent, violent and uncompromising message?  Doesn't this risk alienating group 2?

Finally, we have:

3) The Sinful Liberal Intellectual Secular Humanist Atheist Elite.  It's entirely possible that folks in group 3 have none of these characteristics, and they certainly need not have all of them (I, for example, am a sinful liberal intellectual secular atheist, but not unequivocally a humanist and not particular elite -- though I am elitist.)  What they have in common is a rejection of the creationist worldview.  Unlike folks in the squishy middle, some of whom might not actually agree with the creationist worldview, folks in group three's rejection of the claims of the creationism is hardened, and not likely to change.  There might be several reasons for this: it might be that these people don't know much about modern evolutionary theory but they accept the authority of the modern scientific establishment; they also might know enough about biology to have a good sense of why the creationists are wrong; or they might simply reject the moral argument and/or authority of the religious right.  I think for me, and for many in group 3 all of these things are partially true.  I probably keep up on current developments in biology more than most, but certainly nothing near enough to have any expertise.  Still, even if I were talking to a creationist with a PhD in biology, I wouldn't accept their claims because I'd assume that the an actual expert could show me what was wrong with them (I'd make an appeal to authority, and this appeal would be warranted).  Finally, I completely reject the morality of the  religious right (and on this point I do have a degree of expertise) --- so any moral arguments they make aren't going to have any weight for me.

While group three is probably going to include most non-Christians, it also includes plenty of Christians who a) know their version of Christianity to be incompatible with the Christianity of the creationists and b)accept the authority of the scientific establishment.  Take my father: a devout Mormon but also a professor of physics.  He rejects any version of creationism or intelligent design; he accepts the modern molecular theory of evolution.  After spending over forty years working as a scientist, he believes that he'll learn far more about the mind of God by learning natural history with an open mind than he'd learn while wearing ideological blinders.  Correlatively, his view of the moral message of Christianity has very little to do with the message that the creationists push so he's not going to be particularly concerned about whether rejecting creationism leads into some moral morass.  I know plenty of scientists in this category.

Of course, from the perspective of the us vs. them message the Museum pushes, there is no real difference between Christians like my father and atheists like me, and that's why I group them together here.

Now, given that folks in group three have reasons for rejecting the views of creationists, we might wonder why the Museum doesn't really try to put forth counter-arguments (this is one of the main things I'd been expecting them to do).  Why instead do they employ a violent, dogmatic narrative which won't do anything to persuade group 3?  Doesn't this just confirm the prejudices of group 3?

With these three groups in mind, let's look at the four main parts of our experience and see if they shed any light on these questions.

1) Most of our pictures are of the main exhibit (the other 3 parts didn't lend themselves as easily to photography).  Again, let me emphasize that the logic employed here is extremely sketchy.  The fragmentary logic that you'll see employed in the pictures is concealed by the immersive character of the exhibit.  I want to emphasize that one of the reasons we took so many photos is so that it will be clear that this fragmentary character is not a function of the selection process we employed.  It's not that these selections are indicative of the logic --- they are the logic.

The best way to understand how the museum functions is to look at the photos.  We've described how it functions in the captions.  Let me summarize of few of the most significant features of the museum and our conclusions about how they function.

 Rather than presenting an argument for the creationist view or to contextualize biology "Biblically," the function of the main exhibit is to impose a narrative, and this narrative is principally mythological.  In this respect the Museum is more like a ride at Disneyland (with themed entrance to prime the imagination, use of technology to employ an immersive illusion, and feelings of thrill or terror folded into a story that is already familiar).

What is most striking about this narrative, as I've already said, is its extraordinary violence.  The transition between each of the "C's" I've listed above involves some scene of sacrifice, graphically and prominently displayed.  Given that this is hardly the traditional, or most literal, way of structuring the narrative of the first chapters of Genesis (which is best understood as being about the formation of the people of Israel) to say nothing of the whole Bible, we might suspect that this decision plays a highly specific function.

In the accompanying photos, we try to outline how these scenes of sacrifice structure the whole exhibit.  For now, let's move on to the second part of our visit.

2)  After we had seen the main exhibit, we went and saw a show in the planetarium, presenting a tour around the universe "with Biblical insights" or some such catch.  It's not immediately clear how much of this exhibit depends on the Creation Museum's ideology.  Aside from some boilerplate "the universe as the artwork of God" stuff and one significant foray into ad hoc speculations that I'll discuss below, there didn't seem to be a lot specifically religious about the presentation, and none of the violent narrative we saw in parts 1, 3 & 4 of our tour.  Nonetheless, Jacob, Matt and I all had the same reaction which was to be suspicious of absolutely everything we heard, seem it ever so innocent.  After we left, Matt said "that convinced me of two things:  1) there's probably life somewhere else in the universe, and 2) the universe is way older than 6000 years."

Even so, I have to say that the presentation was impressive.  It's been a long time since I'd been to a planetarium, and the technology has evolved quite a bit --- I imagine that this is a function both of a turn to LED lighting and far more sophisticated mathematical modelling.  Two particularly impressive things were their "telescoping" the views of the universe from micro to macro and imagining how the stars shift in position as we engage in imaginary faster-than-light travel.

The only strikingly "Creationist" part of the show was how they dealt with light-years, a problem to their account that I'd never really thought about until they called attention to it, whereupon it is obviously fatal to their account.  First they emphasize that the light-year is a unit of distance, not time (technically true, until we take relativity into account and note that at the level of the light-year space and time are no longer wholly distinct.).  Then they propose (without explanation) one or two ad hoc theories thought they say would explain why we can see light from points hundreds of millions of light years away when the light year is distance it takes light to travel in a year.

It took me a few days to figure out how this chicanery connected to the narrative in what were the cooler parts of the exhibit, and how they connected that narrative of the rest of the museum).  We live in a world that is awash in light pollution.  It's probably been eight years since I was in a place where human light didn't significantly impact my ability to see the night skies --- when I was a kid, I spent enough time in the deserts of Southern Utah to see some of the best vistas you'll see in the United States.  But even if you go to a relatively dark area a little outside of exurban sprawl, you'll be able to see not only vast distances but vast expanses of time.  Leaving aside certain quantum effects, the full significance of which is still being worked out, and effects of the topography of the universe, the speed of light marks an absolute speed-limit, the speed of information itself.  So if I look up at Messier 81, a galaxy that is part of the Ursa Major constellation, I am looking at light that was emitted 12 million years ago.  If somehow, I were able to transport myself there now, I wouldn't see the sun as it is now, I'd see the sun as it was 12 million years ago.  And, because there are such vast differences between the objects I see in the sky, there is no one constant place that light would be coming from.  Out in Messier 81, I would be receiving information about the stars that hasn't reached earth, and vice-versa.  You can say it's a cool trick to shuttle us around, and I'll agree, but we have to preface it by noting that it's just a fiction.  And although I might gain a lot of comprehension with this little imaginative game, there's something very important I lose: the depth of time.  When I look at the stars, I see the past:  I see the evidence of the vast durations of the cosmos.  The little trick here flattens it out, erases the evidence of time from the night sky.  The same trick is evidenced in imagining the universe from a "God's eye perspective" - again, fine as an imaginative exercise, but potentially distorting when the model we thereby construct is taken for reality.

Appearances notwithstanding, then, one of the effects (perhaps not the principle one, but an effect nonetheless) of the planetarium show we saw was to use the awesome sublimity of space (identified with the power of God), to do violence to time, to our capacity to imagine the expanses of time.  Now, I'm suspicious when philosophers compare some sort of conceptual violence to physical violence, but sometimes that comparison is warranted.  As I'll argue below, there is a very real connection between the violence this presentation does to our capacity to imagine time and the auditory and visual violence that structures the narrative of the rest of the museum.

3)  The reason why we did the planetarium second was because we had timed tickets.  In fact, what is supposed to come right after the main exhibit is a short 20 minute video called, "The Last Adam."  This is a weird way of talking about Jesus --- I take it that the most relevant prophetic way of talking about Jesus qua Messiah is as the rightful heir of David.  I think I've heard  him described as a new Adam (I think Paul might analogize the way in which Christians are "born again" in Christ to the way in which we all, on the traditional creation narrative, are born through Adam).  But I'm not sure I've ever heard the term The Last Adam used before.  It is, as we will see, quite fitting here, and fits in well with the enormous leap we'll make from the first chapters of Genesis to the Gospels, interestingly skipping over the entire history of the people of Israel, for example.

When we walked in, the theater was about half-full.  Rather than sitting next to Matt and Jacob, I sat in front of them.  If I had sat next to them, I would have obstructed the view of some kids, and thought that that would be rude, given that the theater wasn't full.  It turns out I would have spared them a lot of trauma.  What followed was a tremendously violent, disturbing and frankly anti-Christian account of the Crucifixion.

The main exhibit covered the first 4 C's in the Museum's narrative (Creation, Corruption, Catastrophe, Confusion), the film covers the last 3 (Christ, Cross, Consummation).  On this narrative, Christ represents the "last Adam" because he redeems the fall, and he redeems Adam's fall on the Cross.  This of course is one of the central stories of Christianity, but notice that there's already at least two significant shift in emphasis: the first is in the relative devaluation of the resurrection (which, although averred to, isn't shown and which is generally de-emphasized in the Museum, which emphasized the idea that the Crucifixion is the final sacrifice required, and not that it overcomes the logic of sacrifice); the second is in the total lack of the Messianic element of the story.  As it is traditionally understood by proclaiming a spiritual kingdom, Jesus underlined the prophetic heritage of Israel, which had a strong emphasis on social justice, de-terreoralizing and de-politicizing it.  None of that here (we might not be surprised about downplaying the social justice themes, but we should be surprised that they don't make more of the frankly theocratic elements of the Messianic story given their love of state power (see photos).

The most bloody part of the film is the representation of the crucifixion, which is sort of an abbreviated Passion of the Christ, complete with anti-Semitism.  But I want to dwell on the weird prelude, where we see Mary talk about having to give up her son as a "sacrifice."  Here is where our biblical literalists introduce an element that has no textual support whatsoever and which I imagine many Christians would regard as un-Christian.

Did I mention that the exhibit has a weird pro-incest display?  I should probably mention that now.



Before we get to the Annunciation, an old Mary, who has just seen her son killed, recalls the following event (nowhere in the Bible so we'll have to assume it was revealed to Ken Hamm in a wet dream):

"When I was a little girl, I remember how our family would look very hard for an unblemished lamb.  This is the one we would bring to the priests as a sacrificial lamb.  My father made sure my sisters and I watched what happened next.  He wanted us to understand how important sacrificing our best was."

While this narrative goes on, we see a man forcing his two young daughters to watch a lamb be violently slaughtered.

We then get an account of the Annunciation which really plays up the "God the Father" and rape-y overtones of the story.  "But I'm a virgin --- the Spirit of God the Father will overcome you." YIKES!

Now, the wholly fabricated prelude to the Annunciation becomes the key to understanding all the last three C's: Christ is the unblemished lamb who is butchered on the Cross, which anticipates the violent holocaustic Consummation where some will be saved by his sacrifice and some won't (and therefore will have to be sacrificed themselves, presumably).

4) Yikes!  We were scared by then.  Maybe it's time for a light-hearted presentation on the Seven Ages of Dinosaurs by Ken Hamm, the founder of the Museum himself! We had missed his earlier presentation and were told that this one would be a little less dark (the other one was on why genesis was important today --- I'm guessing it has something to do with "sacrificing" fetuses) and more geared towards kids.  The basic "Seven Ages of Dinosaur" which were absurd may or may not have been but Mr. Hamm made sure that there was plenty of horrifying and dark overtones on the way.

A few highlights:
The presentation begins with some impromptu "back and forth" with the president of the Creation Museum, who is clearly torn between his resentment of the fact that Ken Hamm is the one who became famous and the tight bond that sixteen years of sodomy on the DL have created between them.  Lots of jokes about "I've known him for millions of years" accidentally letting slip how many gajillions of books they've sold, etc.  We also learn that the museum is situated where it is because it is near the demographic middle of the United States (I haven't checked, but I'm guessing it's near the southwestern corner of the demographic circle they drew).  He forgot to mention that it was perched in a zone of low actuality, but maybe that's because he hadn't been on our knowledge quest.

Hamm's presentation included the same mix of violence, sophistry, vaguely "Biblical" claims and conservative politics (including some telling slams on global warming) that we've come to know and love.  I wrote a whole series of Ken Hamm themed jokes that I'll share with you later.  For now, I'll just note that there is a big emphasis on "competing" with other museums, trash-talking (while showing photos of) various zoos, museums of natural history, etc.

The presentation ends with a five minute live infomercial where he informs us of all the products we can buy from them: including a whole biblically based curriculum "Did you know that most history books say the pyramids are more than 6000 years old?" Well, actually, no.  I believe most of the great Egyptian pyramids are 4000-5000 years old, but there are plenty of other structures that are over 6000 years old, such as Tureng Tepe.

We wandered around the botanical gardens for a while before leaving in terror.

Upon leaving the Museum, one will be inclined to ask --- why?

I don't think that it was simply because we were in shock that the Museum didn't really seem to make sense.  It failed to live up to our expectations.  Another way of saying this would be to say --- it exceeded our expectations.

Let's summarize the basic expectations that we'd had, again:

  • We'd expected to have sophistical arguments thrown at us designed to confuse us.
  • We'd expected to have cultural conservativism thrust down us: anti-abortion, anti gay-rights, maybe anti roll and roll, yaddah yaddah yaddah.
  • We'd expected implicit jingoism, pro-capitalism, yaddah yaddah yaddah --- in other words, the weird amalgam of economic libertarianism and traditionalist populism that marks the ideology of the religious right.  We'd expected that to be front and center.
It wasn't that those things weren't there, but they were there weirdly.  The presentation was so thoroughly, carefully and sophisticatedly worked out, but it didn't do those things in anything like the way we'd expected and, it didn't seem to do those things very well.
The reason why it didn't seem to do those things very well were the obsessions with violence and sacrifice that I outlined above, and the grotesque fear this gives rise to, the import of which I asked you to think about for each of the three putative groups going through the Museum.

Although this obsessiveness was crucial to the narrative, it didn't make for a very good argument against evolution, nor did it present a very palatable picture for cultural conservatism  And although it was compatible with the main gripes you'll hear cultural conservatives make, it didn't really argue for or depend upon them that much.

The Museum didn't do what we'd expected it to do.  Maybe it tried to do those things and did them poorly.  But it was so carefully constructed and, frankly, so masterful, that we're better assuming that we hadn't expected the right things.  It certainly did something.

What exactly did it do and how did this obsessive, sacrificial violence help it do it?

Certainly anyone who was "persuaded" by the Museum would be more sympathetic to cultural conservatism, but there are much better ways to make the case for that and it would make sense to make that story more central (by spend more time railing about Adam and Steve and less time promoting incest, for example).  There were throw away bits of jingoism, anti-Semitism, sexism and racism, but they were more reflective of the cultural biases that the Creation Museum had then something it was promoting (as near as we could tell, for example, the Americas were uninhabited until the 16th century or so).

Certainly people sympathetic to that cultural conservatism would be malleable to the economic libertarianism and big business oriented state capitalism that the Republican party promotes.  And although we can suspect that this fact helped to rustle up some of the piles of cizash it must have taken to make the Museum, the whole thing would be a bit of overkill --- too controversial to be that effective of an ideological investment for cynical libertarians trying to harness the ugly populism of the religious right.

There were of course, elements of the self-promoting greediness of televangelism and the Gospel of Wealth (for example, in Ken Hamm's little infomercial).  But it lacked the touchy-feeliness, the shades of New Aginess that effective televangelists depend upon.

So it did all of these things somewhat, but none of them particularly well or particularly clearly.  Was it just an amalgam of these various ideological goals?  But then why the obsessive unifying narrative, especially given that this narrative detracts more than adding to any of these particular goals?

Let's ask ourselves, once again, what the museum actually does.  If it in fact does something very well and if the thing that it does it does as a function of its central narrative, we ought to assume that that is its primary ideological function.  It is from this perspective that we'll understand the Museum as a work of art, an ideological work of art, art for the sake of ideology or, perhaps, better, ideology for the sake of ideology.

What exactly did the museum do?

It scared.  It scared us because it's scary.  And it's scary because it's supposed to be scary.

So why is it supposed to be scary?  How does its fear function?
Let's see if we can hear anything from the horse's mouth:

One of the things that Ken Hamm told us when he was was giving his presentation was along the following lines:  "you know, a lot of people ask me why we have such a realistic scene of Adam sacrificing an animal right when you walk into the Corruption room, but actually that's one of my favorite exhibits because it shows the importance of sacrifice.  It shows that we need to sacrifice to live after the Fall."

Did you notice the weird shift that happened there?

Sacrifice is an important theme in Christianity, right?  Well, of course.  After the Fall, we are all mortal and our morality means suffering.  Our suffering means loss.  Loss means economy and sacrifice.  On the traditional account, Christ "pays the infinite debt for us."  In other words on the traditional account, self-sacrifice is the redemption of suffering.

That's not exactly how it works in the Creation Museum's logic:  there, sacrifice is demanded because the world is a bloody place.  We don't see Adam suffering:  we see Adam sacrificing.  Christ's death isn't taken to redeem the suffering of Adam, it's a grotesque mimicry of the sacrifice we saw him doing.  Suffering is passive.  Sacrifice is active.

At the same time, Christ isn't Adam.  Christ is the lamb that Adam is sacrificing (which makes the Romans or, as the Last Adam says in a bit of Mel Gibsony anti-Semitism the Romans and Jews) the Adams (despite the fact that the museum called Christ the last Adam.)

Ken Hamm also told us that he wanted people to know that the Cross was like Noah's Ark, that if you accepted the Cross, you'd be saved just like Noah was saved.  Go back and see what happened to sinners in the Noah's Ark flood diorama.  If you are saved, Ken Hamm told us, the sacrifice of Christ covers you.  Otherwise, it doesn't.

This is, in fact, the central narrative of the Museum:  the world is represented as a battle field.  The battle lines are drawn up: there's God's word and human opinion: there's the majesty of creation and abortion, drug-abuse, childbirth and death; there's vegetarianism and carnivorism.  But we don't can't just make a battle-field in the middle of peaceful, peaceful America, which was colonized so long ago, "won" from a people who the Museum neglects to mention, how can there be battle lines in the middle of peaceful, peaceful America?



That's where the violence comes in.  In fact, the key to understanding the Creation Museum is to realize that it is not arguing for Young Earth Creationism.  It is using Young Earth Creationism as a prop, to construct a mythological story.

The thing that I've always loved about mythology is that it's malleable, that you can bend familiar stories into unfamiliar ways.  Anne Carson, probably my favorite living poet, does this brilliantly and beautifully.  The Creation Museum does it, well, not brilliantly, but very adeptly.  And certainly not beautifully.  It takes the traditional narrative of Genesis and extracts from it a bizzare and violent account of sacrifice in order to do violence to us.

The Museum-goers undergo that violence.  Because the Museum starts by showing us a battlefield: God vs. the World, Museum-goers think that they are seeing the "representation" or "display" of that violence in the displays.  But this isn't a Museum with displays:  it's an amusement park ride.  Amusement part rides, particularly Disneyesque ones, aren't about showing you something; they are about making the amusement park goer experience something.

Under the guise of "learning about a biblically-based account of Creation," museum-goers undergo a certain kind of violence.  They are immersed in a world that tries to present itself as real, where a highly ideologized narrative claims to be real.  Within the space of that virtual reality, they see repeated displays of sacrifice.  They see men of God doing violence to people and animals, and they are told that that violence is an inevitable result of sin (but note, again, it's not the world doing the violence, as in the traditional account of Christianity, it's the men of God).  The crucifixion is represented as the apotheosis of this violence.  We are told that this violence that we've been undergoing has been prefiguring the Crucifixion.  And Jesus, who is represented as the "sacrificial lamb," is given the name of the last Adam, the first sacrificer.  Then, we are reminded that, after all, it's our choice: same facts, different interpretations.  You can interpret them in the godly way (the way that the doers of violence interpret them) or in the human way (the way that those who will have violence done to them do).  But it's your choice.  Ken Hamm ended by driving this point home:  he told us, after he'd told us about the Ark/Cross analogy that he'd made that he hoped we all would know that we were there on the Ark, saved (presumably because we no longer believed in evolution.)

"Belief in evolution" or "belief in creationism" aren't values --- they are schibboleths.  If you try to cross the border and you pronounce the word "river" wrong --- well, you're in trouble.  Why evolution?  Here, again, I think the totally ad-hoc character of the museum's justifcations and their highly sophisticated use of technology are both telling.  They both reflect an element of fundamentalist logic that Derrida called attention to when he described fundamentalism as an auto-immune disorder in the body politic: a willingness to use parts of the whole while rejecting, even attacking, the logic that holds it together.  This is what I had in mind when I said that the violence that the museum does to our sense of reason is of a kind with the physical violence represented in the exhibits.  Early critics of evolution thought that the notion that we were related to monkeys was an affront to the dignity of the rational, moral human being.  And yet the Theory of Evolution is one of the most sophisticated expressions of that reason.  And so contemporary moral critics will simply have to do violence to reason, to submit the human body and soul to abjection and violence and undo the marvelous narrative that the sciences are painstakingly putting together.

This is your choice:  you can believe what we tell you is literally the word of God or you can believe in the systematicity of the human endeavor.  Who are you going to believe?  Us, or your own eyes?

Remember, we have guns.

Okay, so this helps us understand what the museum does in a general sense.  Let's ask ourselves again how this might impact the our three groups going through here, and let's recall our questions:

1)  True Believers.  Why use such a violent narrative, such gruesome imagery, and indeed subject "true believers" to this kind of traumatic event at what is billed as a family friendly affair?  The answer seems a little more clear now.  The point is to provide a central, focal, narrative (again, not the one of traditional Christianity), and to provide an "initiation into violence."  The faithful museum goer experiences the violence but then is told, by virtue of their belief, that they are violence-doers, sacrificers, not sacrificees.  The Museum subjects them to violence, but by identifying Christ first as sacrificial lamb and next as sacrificer, and by identifying the Museum-goes as Christian with Christ, the battle lines are drawn.  True believers experience violence and are given an enemy.

2)  Squishy Middle.  Why use such violence against the squishy middle?  Won't it put them off?  Well, it might, but it will force them to see the stakes of their ostensible Christianity.  And they are given the option of identifying with the right side.  The effect then is to vacate position two and two provide strong reasons for taking side 1.  Otherwise, well, otherwise they'll be with our final group.

The Sinful Secular Atheist Intellectual Liberal Elite.  The violent narrative might not persuade this group, but it will give them a sense of what's coming.  It describes their place in this violent, cosmologically paranoid worldview and lets them know of the violence that awaits them, absent the sacrifice.  As the representatives of this camp, Matt, Jacob and I saw the threat quite well and heard the evils that evil, sinful people like us are going to perpetrate (who knew --- I think we're a pretty mild mannered bunch.)  Of course, we were also told by Ken Hamm that he hoped we knew that we were saved.  Still, we probably blew any salvation that evening during our Louisville Creation-Cleanse (featuring Asian fusion food and bourbon tastings).

In short, we can see that the answer to each of the questions is to realize that the experience of terror, the central narrative of violence is to reproduce itself in the Museumgoer --- to make it a plausible narrative.  It's not about Creationism.  It's about the ideology of the Creation Museum which wants nothing so much as to assert it's own importance.

Far be it from me to get all Glenn Becky, but this relationship to ideology is exactly the same as the relationship to ideology that leading social theorists have identified as distinctive of fascism.  Fascisms invest themselves primarily in creating a fantastic, paranoid narrative and in using sheer violence and power to normalize and enforce it.  Although this narrative plays to and borrows from various prejudices, fears and beliefs of reactionary and conservative elements in society and although it cozies up to, and flatters, state power, capital and its justifying beliefs, it really is a different sort of thing.  Fascisms essentially double down on the lies of ideology:  they take those peripheral stories which derive their appeal from their social role and make these lies the central story, deducing "proper" social roles and rules from them.  Thus, the Creation Museum takes various cultural conservative and, to a lesser extent, fiscally conservative (though this would take longer to explain) stories and weaves them together through a central story which is wholly its own invention.  It then casts this story in strident terms and insists that everyone: ally and enemy, understand society and history through its lens.  Once this story is accepted then they are on their turf: legitimacy comes down to nothing more than control over violence.

As I said, the Museum is quite effective at doing this.  It is a brilliant piece of ideology and, when you are emerged in the sights and sounds of the Museum, when you are amongst the faithful, it can all seem quite real, quite systematic.  It's only on further reinspection when you have the chance to take the experience apart that its thinness becomes obvious.  Because it depends for its depth on its claim to both scientific and moral authority.  And it has neither.  On closer inspection, the morality proves to be grotesque and the science beyond shoddy.

And this is why I think the Museum, and here I'll speculate more broadly about the paranoid movement that has morphed out of the religious right and become its own weird tea-bagging thing, will fail.  They depend on convincing people in the middle that the paranoid ideologues, and not mainstream society, are the legitimate exercisers of state power and moral authority (which they conflate, and which conflation drives their insane, traitorous resentment of current state power).  They depend upon the sympathy of the squishy middle, which thinks that it's Christian, which thinks that it's conservative, which thinks that it's pro-family values.  It thinks those things, but it thinks a lot of other things too. It's also basically peace-loving, anti-conflict, uncomfortable with open prejudice and quite content with the materialist culture that the tea baggers claim to hate.

 The paranoid stories the right tells might win them temporary victories, and those victories might be tremendously painful for rational people everywhere.  But absent some huge, demographic shifting event, the squishy middle is going to resemble the Sinful Atheist Liberal Intellectual Elite more and more.

Or so we can hope.

Now, what does all this have to do with Knowledge Quest, with Mad General Anthony Wayne and a young lady named UC Santa Cruz?

That story remains to be told

Friday, June 18, 2010

Knowledge Quest Preview

A statue of General "Mad" Anthony Wa...Image via Wikipedia

Prelude: Building the Bed of Telamachus and Consulting the Oracle
Part One: Ohio/Indiana Border:  Mad Anthony Wayne, Conquistador of Triangula, Zone of low actuality
Part Two: Undeconcealment: The Creation Museum, Ken Hamm and The Fragmentation of Ideology at Actuality's Null Point
Part Three: Recovery in Loiusville, City of Pure Possibility, Bourbon and the Cult of California
Part Four: Mammoth Cave, Tiresias, High Actuality and other Cures for Hangovers
Part Five: Return to Ithaca (or Toledo) and the Propitiation to Zeus


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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ten Sets of Innummerable, Unlistable things.

1. The stars in the firmament.
2. The grains of salt in the sea.
3. The ants between Timbuktu and Tajikistan.
4. The proper names of all the nanoseconds in the history of the universe.
5. The possible names of God.
6. The Valid arguments that can be constructed from self-contradictory premises.
7. People who would have been better presidents than George W Bush.
8. Spermatozoa that have failed in their raison d'etre .
9. False beliefs about the nature of love.
10. Regrets.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Antigone in Afghanistan

Antigone And The Body Of Polynices - Project G...Image via Wikipedia
Back in March, I went to the ASLCH (Association for the Study of Law, Culture and the Humanities).  I was giving a paper on Dworkin's notion of integrity and how his deafness to contemporary literary theory caused him to overplay the importance of authority (an idea my sister and I played with in a less academic, more literary context, here).

What I presented on actually has a little bit of relevance to this post, but not much --- more relevant was a fantastic double panel that I went to on legal theory and the Oedipal cycle.  Lots of interesting papers, including a theory proposed that I hope is right that Ismene was responsible for the first burial in Antigone.

Coming out of a paper on reinterpretations of Antigone, there was an interesting discussion of Seamus Heaney's translation of Antigone which, in the context of the Iraq War, made Creon into a George W Bush.  Heaney's version has been criticized for this, since for most interpreters of the play, one of the most important things is that one can sympathize with both Antigone and Creon.  This line of thinking is tremendously importance in political theory and philosophy, thanks largely to Hegel, who argued that both Creon and Antigone expressed sphere of law that were both legitimating and totalizing and therefore drawn into an inevitable conflict.

The discussion was interesting, but in the light of a broader discussion of the contemporary relevance of the Antigone story, I started to wonder whether Afghanistan might be a more interesting story.  In particular, I thought it would allow us to explore an issue which divided the left in a way that the Iraq War doesn't --- not the Afghanistan war itself but what to do right now.

This is what I wrote that evening.  I'd meant to refine it, but I decided that if the analogy works it only works in an absurdist obliteration of tragedy, so I've left it like that.  I offer it today, in homage to the news today that drones have killed Al-Qaeda's #3 operative.

Antigone in Afghanistan

There is a body on a hill.  Antigone and Ismene are just now arriving at the bottom of the hill, each from an opposite side of the stage.

Antigone:  You came.
Ismene: I did.
A:  Because I asked you to.
I: If you'd like.
A:  Well, you're here.
I:  If you'd like.
A: And you know why.
I: I'm here.

The hill shakes and there is an explosion.  The body is blasted into several pieces.

I: Well, what's the point now?
A:  I don't know but it seems that there must be a point.
I:  I don't see it.
A: Ah, but it's there.

Antigone points to where the body originally lay.

I:  Or else it's there.

Ismene points and points and points and points to the scattered body.

A: Let's get to it.
I: I'd rather not.

Enter CHORUS 1, the chorus of tribal elders.

Chorus 1:  
There are many ways a body can die,
It can die in its senescence,
its doddering childhood,
slipping away amid smelly hospital sheets,
choking toothlessly on its dinner.
It can die blue with an umbilical cord
wrapped around its neck.
It can starve, or end infested with maggots.
Bodies can perish collectively,
buried by the earth, incinerated en masse
instantly or slowly.
We have heard that some deaths can be delayed,
That there is a way to die with dignity.
We have heard this.
Some deaths are called meaningful.
Some deaths are called meaningless.
We have heard that there is something called a soul.
We have heard it bears death with dignity.
We have seen bodies die.

Then there is that, there.

When bodies die, the parts
they are composed of stop
working together.  They also come apart.
There is no set order in which this happens.
Lately, we have seen metal bodies,
buzzing and whirring.
They buzz and whir and hiss and click.
Sometime later, another body comes.
This too is metal.
It explodes, but it does not die.
Metal bodies do not die.
This is not a function of their permanence.
In fact, there parts also cease to function, and also come apart.
In fact, the function of some metal bodies
is to come apart, to make other things come apart.
This introduces the process of decay into organic bodies.

But what is this that is walking towards these bodies.
You, who are you?
What are you doing?

Antigone ignores them.  She keeps walking.  Ismene turns around

I: We're walking up the hill.
Ch 1: Why?
I: To bury that those things there.
A (stopping, turning):  that thing there.
Ch 1: What is that thing?
A: A body.
I: Or bodies.
Ch 1:  Whose?
A:  Our brother's.  We're here to get it.
Ch 1: Why?
A:  That is what you do with the bodies of brothers.
Ch 1: But why here?
A:  Because that's where the body is.
Ch 1:  I wouldn't go up there.
A:  Why not?  It's perfectly safe.

Another explosion off stage kicks up dust.  The hill, with Antigone and Ismene on it, is obscured in dust.
Enter Creon, on the back of a jeep, with entourage.

Creon:  Hello?  Who is this?  What is this going up that hill?

Indeed, Antigone and Ismene's outlines are becoming visible.

Ch 1:  It's two bodies.
C: Whose?
Ch 1: We don't know.
C: I can make them out now.  Why --- those are my nieces --- you there!  What are you doing there? What are you doing there?
A & I:  We've come to bury our brothers.
C:  That won't be necessary.
I: Why not?
C: I've already buried one of them.
A: And the other?
I: Others.
C:  That won't be necessary.  I've forbidden it.
A:  We know.
I: But why?
C: That's a state secret.
I: But we all know it -- [she speaks in a mocking, officious tone]  the state must have the right to total control over the disposition and disposal of bodies living and dead.
A:  But the state has always recognized that this right is limited by the limits of the state.
C:  Which are where?
A:  That's just my point.  Who are you?
C:  I'm Creon.  Your uncle.
A:  And who am I?
C:  You are Antigone.  My niece.
A:  And who is my father.
C:  That would be Oedipus, the old king.  But I see where you're going.  He isn't king anymore.  There was another between him and me.
A:  You mean our brother.
C: Precisely.
A:  Which one?
C:  I don't dispute the gist of where you're going, but that's beside the point.  The state, you should know, is hardly the same as the king.  Kings change, you know.
A: And that's my point, precisely.
C:  I see where you're going.  You're going to say that despite established order and procedures, the established laws of patrimony were violated.  But that's beside the point.  Patrimony, like patriarchy, is sometimes subverted.  And sometimes for the better.
A:  That's hardly my point.  I'm talking about that thing you just thought to use against me.  I'm talking about the subversions and the breaks.  I don't care who the king is.  How could I?  I care about family matters.
C:  Family matters are matters of state.
Ch 1:  Then why not leave them in the family?
C & A together:  What?
Ch 1:  Why not keep it in the family?
C & A:  What?
I:  They asked, why not leave it in the family.  They're wondering why we're hear on this hillside.  And frankly, so am I.
C:  As am I.
A:  You wonder why?  You brought us here.
C:  No, I didn't.  It was your brother.  Your brothers.  And your father.  I'm trying to get us out.
A:  I thought you said you all were one and the same.
C:  We are, when considered as orderers of the state, when considered as directors of these men here.

He points to Chorus 2, the Chorus of Soldiers, which is entering the stage, behind Creon's entourage.

C (continuing):  Who are they but marchers.  They need marching orders.  And we give those marching orders.  It is necessary to maintain the fiction that we are one and the same.  Your brother <Creon points and points and points> violated that fiction.

A:  And so we can't bury him you say?  Maybe he violated that fiction, but aren't you violating it to?
I:  But why do we need that fiction?
C & A:  What?
Ch 1:  Why do you need the fiction, the fiction of a body, a body you need to desecrate?  What is desecration?  Why do you need the fiction, the fiction of a body, a body you need to bury.

Chorus 2:
We are able bodies!
We are able bodies!
We do not know why we are here,
But we know that we will do
What it is we need to do.
We are able bodies!

Chorus 1:
There are many ways that able bodies can die.
They do not die in senescence.
They do not choke on food.
They are filled full of lead,
They are exploded on roadsides,
They die with opium in their eyes,
alcohol in their veins.
They die repenting to themselves
What they've done to bodies,
Able bodies like their own,
What they've seen able bodies do to able bodies.

Chorus 2:
What we've done to able bodies
Has been done to able bodies
Since before your bodies were still able bodies.
We are able bodies.
We can't worry beyond those bodies,
The bodies of ourselves,
Of our friends and brothers, of our enemies.
We worry ourselves less with desecration
Than with survival, with procreation,
A form of recreation
That disposes of our bodies with pleasant disportations,
before their final disposition.
It's a diversion of sorts.

C:  So you see my point.  What would happen to their cheerful dispositions if there were disabused of the fiction that your brother violated.  Without these dispositions, what good would be their disportations, procreations and other recreations?  Which reminds me, you two should be back at home.
I :  I wouldn't mind staying here a while.
A :  We've business to do.
C:  I wouldn't do it if I were you.  Guards!

A few members of the entourage walk up the hill, seize Antigone and Ismene.  They drive off along with Creon, followed by Chorus 2.

Enter Chorus 3, the Chorus of Dead Brothers.

Chorus 3:
We are the dead brothers!
Our bodies are damaged.
Our bodies were bandaged.
Bandages were hardly enough.
We are the dead brothers!
Why did we come here?
We were promised diversions,
diversions and recreations,
inspiration,
procreations, fornications.
What happened to that?
Our diversions turned to dust.
Our spirits to damaged bodies
went downward, turned inward
were broken.
were broken.

Ch. 1:
Why did you come here?
No one wanted you.
You talk of dead brothers.
Where are our dead sons?

Ch 3:
Look closer,
You'll see them.
Look closer,
You'll see them.
Here they are amongst our ranks.

Ch 1:
But you're the unforgotten.

Ch 3:
Oh no, we're quite forgotten.

Ch 1:
But we've heard them grieve you.

Ch 3:
We assure you, we're quite forgotten.
The dead are all the same.

Re-enter Antigone:

A:  I've slipped away from Creon.  Forget Ismene.  She's doing the gods know what but there's work still to be done.
Ch's 1 & 3: Are you sure that's wise? Didn't you hear Creon?
A:  I don't care for Creon.  It's enough I know I'm right.
Ch's 1 & 3:  Right about what?
A:  About responsibility.
Ch's 1 & 3:  We thought that this was about your brother.
A:  That's secondary.  Far more important is responsibility.  We have a responsibility to you.
Ch's 1 & 3: To who?
A: To both of you.  We have a responsibility to finish what we started.
Ch's 1 & 3:  And what did you start?

Antigone faces audience
I understand my presence is far from welcome,
but listen.  I'm quite sincere about why I've come.
My brothers, this is their war, 
I begged them, I implored them
not to do what they did.

Ch's 1 & 3:  For our sake, we wish you'd succeeded.
A:  And for your sakes and my sake, I wish I had to.
But listen, Uncle Creon, he doesn't understand!
He says forget the past!
But how can I forget the past?
The past, it haunts me, its memory haunt me.
I can't but help but be haunted by memories of the past.
I wish it were different.
I wish I could move forward.
But if I can't move forward, then better I understand.
Why are we were?
What was it for?
Surely, it was senseless, was meaningless,
lacking in significance,
And yet it claimed by brothers lives.
Ch. 3: And our lives.
Ch. 1: And our sons lives.
A: And you lives and their lives.
Look, I know what you think.
You think: aristocratic girl with her causes;
But it's much more than that.
It's so much more than that.
I see you <she gestures to Chorus 3>
and I see you <she gestures to Chorus 1>
and I see my brother right there <she points, points, points>
And I ask myself, what for?
Why?
Why?
Uncle Creon says: <she pulls a serious face>
"Its an unjust war.  There's no reason we're there."
And I tell him, "I know,"
And I really do know.
Ch 1: But our country lies in ruins.
Ch 3: And our bodies lie in ditches
A:  And it's my fault that we are here, my desirable fault.
Ch 1: It's not your fault you came here.
Ch 3: We'd want you in America.
A:  But yet I feel it's my fault, and I want something more.  I want to make things right.

Antigone throws dirt over each of the parts of her brother

A:  I hope that that's enough.

exit Antigone.  With a grand drumroll and a fanfare, enter Creon and Entourage, followed by Chorus 2.

C:  Aha!  I thought as much!  He's been buried!  Against my orders, against my express wishes!

Ch 3:  Please bury him.
Ch 1: What's the harm in burying him?  And while you're at it, please help us. 
C:  Silence!  Don't you know?  This is an unjust war!  We shouldn't even be here.
I know what you think.  You think:
"His pride is imperious."
You think
"He's just another claimant."
But I really mean it.
I look at you <he gestures to Chorus 3> and you >
And I ask myself, Why?
And I look at the boys behind me, still alive and kicking,
And I ask myself, why?
I ask myself, why?
If it was wrong when we entered, is it wrong not to leave, so I ask myself, why?

Creon turns back to the body on the hill.

But who did this unjust thing.

Choruses 1, 2 and 3:  It was Antigone.
C:  Who did this thing.
Ch's 1, 2 & 3. It was Antigone.
C: I'll get to the bottom of this if it kills me!
Ch. 1, 2 & 3:  It was Antigone.
C:  Call Tiresias.

A huge television descends from the sky.  Tiresias appears on the screen, a blindfold around his eyes.

Tiresias:  Creon is soft on terror!  Creon is a loser!  Creon is a fascist!
C <ignoring him:>  Who buried the body?
T: <ignoring him> Creon is a wimp!
Creon is a commie!
Creon is a socialist!
And Creon wets his bed!
C:  Who buried the body?
T: I can't say.
C:  Who buried the body?
T:  I won't say,
You Lilly-livered pansy,
I was here Oedipus started it.
I goaded him on.  And it was the right thing to do.
But I'm not responsible for what happened since then.
I told him it would happen, while I goaded him on.
C:  I don't care for your pontifications, I just want your augurs.  I want you to tell me, who buried the body?
Choruses 1, 2, 3 & Tiresias (in unison):  Antigone.
C Tiresias>  If you don't start talking soon, I'll assume it was you.
All:  Antigone.

Enter guard with Antigone and Ismene each tucked under one of his burly arms.

Guard:  Now listen, Mr. Creon, I don't want you to be angry, but there's something I must tell you if you promise not to yell ---
I was minding my own business, doing something or another <he looks bashfully at Ismene, who smiles back at him>  when I suddenly noticed the body was gone!  Well, not exactly gone, but covered up with dirt.  And I looked and I saw her [he brandishes Antigone] which didn't surprise me, but then I looked back at her <he points to Ismene, who smiles broadly.  He nods bashfully and looks away>.  And I realized I'd been had!
C :  Why did you do this?
A:  The will of the Gods is more important than your will.
I: To help my sister!
A:  Silence, hussy!  You had nothing to do with this.
I:  How dare you diminish my role?
A to C: I did this on my own.
C (ignoring A) --- As I have told you, this is treason.
A:  This is a family matter.
C:  It is treason.  Whatever the nature of the original defense, it's unseemly.
T:  Creon is soft on terror!  Creon coddles criminals!  His own niece is a criminal!
C: Take her away.

She is hauled off by some of the entourage.
Enter Haemon


Haemon:  Stop!  Don't you know I love her?
C: Degenerate!
H: I wish you'd spoken to me before you'd done something so foolish.
C:  It isn't foolish to ensure the masses . . . listen.
H:  This should have been a family matter.
C:  Tell that to him <he points at Tiresias>
H:  But why did it come to this?
C:  Listen, it wasn't I who tore the polity apart with this absurd war.  I'm just trying to end it.
H:  I understand that.  But consider the consequences.
C:  The law applies to all.
H:  It's a stupid law
Haemon runs offstage.

I:  Let me be with Antigone.
C:  We've other uses for you.  Antigone will die.
Ch's 1, 2 & 3:  For what? For whose sins?
Ch 1:  For her youth?
Ch 2:  For her brothers?
Ch 3:  Her father?
C:  It pays to be sure the state is obeyed.
But still in my leniency, I'll not kill her.
We'll brick her up.
Forbid the cameras come near her.
How that'll torment her.
And give her food enough,
The Gods won't say we haven't tried.
I: Oh, let me die with her!
C:  We've other uses for you.

The Guard leads Antigone away.

Enter Chorus 4, the Chorus of Women


Chorus 4:
They think we speak with one voice,
That's what they think.
Do we love Antigone.
No.
Well, some of us.
But do we pity her?
Yes, we pity her.
Why wouldn't we?
She's been through the ringer with you.

Chorus 1: Whose women are you?
Ch 4: We are own own.
Ch 2:  Can we get your number?
Ch 4: We are one, we are two, we are three, we are four.
Ch 3:  We're dead you know.  Pity us, too.
Ch 4:  We pity you.
Ch 3:  Mourn for us.
Ch 4: Don't push your luck.
<turning to Creon>
But listen.  We've come to tell you, we're leaving you.
C:  Oh no, you won't.
Ch 4:  We've come to tell you, we've had it with you.
C:  I thought you said you didn't speak with one voice.
Ch 4:  On this we do, prick.
C:  Shit.  What can I do?
T:  DON'T LISTEN TO THEM!  THEY'RE WITCHES!
C:  Shit.  What can I do?
Choruses 1, 3 and 4:  You must undo what you've done.
C:  But I've done nothing.  I've tried to undo what they've done.
T:  DON'T GIVE ME THIS BULLSHIT!
All Choruses:  For once, he's right.  You must undo what the state has done.
C:  But I can't.
All Choruses:  We fully agree.  You can't.  Nonetheless, you must undo what you've done.
C:  But how?
All Choruses:  That's what Antigone and Ismene were trying to do here.
C:  But they were so naive.
All Choruses:  Again, we fully agree.  Nonetheless -
C: So what am I to do?
All Choruses:  There's the girl.
C:  Who?
All Choruses:  You know.
C: Oh.

He leaves alone.

Combined Chorus:
It seems so pointless.
Life is pointless.
This is the sort of thing that gets overlooked,
When we think of the suffering that happens.
We want a reason.
There should be reasons, shouldn't there?
We think if it's pointless,
What's the point of not suffering,
When not suffering is so difficult,
We want something more.
We can't accept
Suffering without something else.
We can't stop
Suffering, so we look for something else.
Those who act unjustly.
Let me not be like them.
Let me not think
My deeds are done in recompense
For what has been done.
Let me bee free of the madness
That taints Cadmus's house.
Keep me free of the pride
That pollutes Cadmus's house,
That thinks suffering demands a response
Apart from itself.

There's a cry of pain offstage.

Combined Chorus:  What?  What's the matter.

Creon runs onstage.
C:  I am too late.  It was too late.
Ch: What happened?
C:  When I got there, she'd already done it.
Ch: Done what?
C: Sucked on the stock of a gun.
She was already gone.
But there was more.  W
hen I entered, there was Haemon,
and his eyes, their death reproached me
as they swooned and turned upwards,
went blank, turned stone.
And before that, his last words were so very stupid,
it was like he was already stupid before he went dumb:

"What's the point?
Do you see now?
Why don't you see it?
Now I've finally shown you,
Now you have to understand."

But that was so stupid.
He could have said anything,
He could have done anything,
If only he had.
He didn't need to believe me,
He didn't need to be like me,
He didn't have to bereave me,
To prove he could belie me.
He could have done anything
If he'd just done something.
Anything at all.

Creon runs off-stage


Combined Chorus:
Let me never be like the cursed house of Lauis,
The cursed line of Cadmus.
It think it's not earth-sprung.
The flowers of Afghanistan spring from the bones of bodies,
they cling upon the hillside, grow stubborn and strong.
The sun sets on Afghanistan,
the sun, celestial body, it careens across the heavens,
eccentric Phaeton.  But nonetheless the sun sets.

Does it go to America,
The sun, celestial flower?

Chorus 2:
My heart longs for America.
Chorus 3:
Our hearts, they say behind us, grow stubbornly in mountains,
The stones upon the mountains --- they're holding us down.

Combined Chorus:
We'd tell you more if we just could.
There's nothing more to say in fact.
We wish we knew how not say what the Cadmeans said.
But it's too late, so on we move,
the world leaving them behind.
It seems Haemon's right.
And now we're done singing.
The song itself is broken.
And so that's why the corpse remains.
But our song is done.

All leave.  The exploded body remains, multiplies.
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