Invisible Empire

The “Invisible Empire” is part of the name of one of the idiotic Ku Klux Klan splinter groups. I guess the idea is that, seeing the Klansmen robed and hooded, you wouldn’t know who they were if you ran into them on the street in daylight, and you had to watch what you said, because the Klan might be, probably were, listening to your suspicious views where and when you least expected it. Well, the designation “Invisible Empire” took on a paradoxical connotation after this, because the Klan was all too visible. Both hateful and pathetically ridiculous. Not so much men hiding themselves in sheets and hoods as beasts masquerading as men. Like Disney’s Goofy, a dog wearing a vest, shirt, and pants. And all the fancy hoods meant were that these stupid hicks were cowards, too. Big surprise! They’re classic bullies. I say, let the Klan show its bravery by giving them a permit to march, but guaranteeing no police protection. I’m very liberal on issues like this. Similarly, I believe any American has the free speech right to burn the American flag. I also cherish the belief that it is the right of every American to beat the stuffing out of anyone he sees doing so. That’s pretty balanced, don’t you think?

But just recently, the phrase “Invisible Empire” popped into my head again, this time for a different reason. I was showing the DVD The God Who Wasn’t There to some poor victim who hadn’t seen it yet. And we got to the part I had first thought the weakest, toward the end where Brian Flemming visited his old fundamentalist High School. It appeared he had a score to settle with a hapless administrator scarcely a match for him. This man professed to have been unjustly cornered by big bad Brian. Plainly, the guy was used to living in a hermetically sealed little worldlet where no one and nothing challenged his programmed views about God, Christ, evolution, etc. He thought it unfair that he should be called out and made to face critical questions that polite Christians would not even think of, much less ask about.

At first, I thought the camera had caught Brian being self-indulgent, casting out his own inner demons, or the Holy Spirit, as the case may be, in public, inviting our cringes. But now I see it differently. This time it really dawned on me what he was getting at, grilling that Christian “educator,” that forecloser of the once-curious minds of Christian students. Brian demanded to know, since the academy professed to help students sharpen their reasoning skills so as to be ready to face an imposing world, how dare they indoctrinate them to believe without hesitation in an invisible empire. For does not Christianity inculcate belief in a vast world of incarnate, atoning gods, ancient miracles, talking animals, armies of angels all at the ready, waiting for the trumpet signal to invade this earth on horseback, etc, etc.? It is as if there is another world suspended invisible above us, one that we never actually lay eyes on. That world sits upon a vast shelf, upheld by mighty brackets and buttresses. They must be mighty to bear such a load! What is the nature of that vast scaffolding that keeps a hidden world intact far above our heads?

It is sheer supposition. It is faith, the sheer will to believe. Just as all one’s life one has been instructed about the existence of an opposite hemisphere to which one has never been, and one still believes in it, so does the mass of mankind believe in that invisible hemisphere of the firmament. It contains freakish beings like almighty gods, crucified saviours who yet live, winged men, principalities and powers, and what all. In the same way, we used to be told tales about the freakish giants and men with their faces in their chests who lived in the Antipodes, the flip side of the earth.

It is astonishing once you think of it: so many people believe with such baseless confidence in a vast universe of sheer supposition. And they warn you that hell awaits you if you don’t believe it, too! Why do they get so upset with unbelievers? Because, no matter how few unbelievers there are, their vocal existence is a fly in the ointment, a dissenting vote to spoil the anticipated unanimity that makes “unquestioned assumptions” unquestioned. For that is what the believer wants: universal agreement so that doubt will never occur to him again.

Someone will point out that almost every aspect of society is man-made and is only kept going by a near-universal, tacit agreement that things should be just so. Even the thief who is arrested for his trade may take some small comfort in his own arrest because it means there are social structures keeping his own possessions and family safe from the felons worse than him. If the crook embarks on a high-speed chase from the cops, he is preconsciously grateful for the lines painted on the highway, without which it would be too dangerous to flee at top speed. Society is a vast system that works insofar as we all agree, at least tacitly, to play by the rules. If half the population decided they were no longer going to use money, it would be a terrible mess, though not as much as a natural disaster might wreak. Natural disasters may wipe away government because they wipe away populations with auxiliaries to get public services up and running again. But a general strike against the dominant paradigm may have the same effect. What has vanished in such a case is the unified will of the population to play the game of business as usual.

What would happen, then, if a great number of the people withdrew their votes and abstained from the common consensus as to the invisible empire above us? Would it collapse under its own weight? Would it fall on top of our heads? It happened to Sir Isaac Newton. Let’s hope we get to see history repeat itself. Better get your hard hat out of the closet. You know, the one you bought when Skylab was about to come down. That was only the beginning of sorrows.

So says Zarathustra.

Robert M. Price
September 2007



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