Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ten Commandments...and Ultrarunning

From the always-interesting pages of the blog The Smirking Chimp, a musing on the Ten Commandments.

Now, while I do think myself a moral man, but don't espouse any particular religion, this post truly resonated with me.  See, I think that humans, irrespective of any religion or supreme being, would have developed some-sense laws and precepts for the smooth functioning of burgeoning civilization.  These "laws" lend themselves neatly to the Ten Commandments.

Anyway, on to the post.  You should really read the whole thing, it's that good.

Until now, I've always opposed the idea of posting the 10 Commandments on government buildings.

I don't want a theocracy. I don't want religion at all, even separated from government. I'm embarrassed for my species that so many people imagine we haven't advanced at all in millennia. Must we really turn to an ancient book that sanctions slavery and rape, stonings and genocide, to find not only guidance but unquestionable dictates? I'm disgusted by the notion that we should behave decently merely because of an imaginary system of rewards and punishments. Even mice only behave for real cheese and real shocks. How pathetic are we, exactly?

Well, truth be told, pretty damn pathetic. And how far have we advanced over the millennia? I'm beginning to wonder. Take a look at the ten commandments. Setting aside the preamble (worship this god, not that god, or you and your children and grandchildren and great grandchildren will be visited with iniquity), the first thing we're commanded to do is to limit the work week to six days.

A six-day work week would be a huge step forward for many workers in the United States, not to mention the vastly greater number of workers abroad who produce profits for U.S. owners, profiteers, "job creators." That's right, we have lots of little "creators" now, and we are expected to worship them, but -- among other defects -- they tend to create seven-day-a-week jobs. Remember, not only are you supposed to take a day off, but so are your son, daughter, manservant, maidservant, cattle, and strangers. There's no "unless they're building your i-phones" clause. It's for you to judge, I guess, whether foreigners rise to the status of cattle.

Next we are to honor our fathers and mothers. I'm no theologian, but stripping away pensions and threatening to slash Social Security doesn't seem like honoring to me. Enriching health insurance profiteers rather than providing healthcare strikes me as the opposite of honoring. If we honor our fathers and mothers, we're told, our days will be long on the land that god gave us. Well, never mind for a minute where the land came from or whether one species owns it or whether owning it is a helpful concept at all, if the land is going to last long (for anyone to do anything on it) we're going to have to stop destroying it so disgracefully. We're going to have to learn to treat something as sacred, as more valuable that our individual lives -- much less the enrichment of our fossil fuel barons.

Then comes a big one, the first in the list of forbidden actions, the top crime -- until now: Thou shalt not kill. The President of the United States kills and brags about it openly. He kills adults. He kills children. He kills adults and children who were nearby the other adults and children. He kills Americans and non-Americans. He kills people whose names and stories he knows. He kills people he cannot identify but whom he finds suspicious. He kills completely unrelated people by mistake. He kills with drones. He kills with planes. He kills with missiles. He kills with soldiers, guns, and bullets. He kills for no higher purpose found in the 10 commandments or elsewhere. His killing fuels hatred, resentment, rage, and more killing, sparking a vicious cycle of crime. He kills with sanctions and starvation. He kills by commission and omission in great numbers through the choice President Eisenhower outlined when he said, "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed." The President does not kill alone. He has the support of the Congress, the courts, the military, and ultimately the rest of us. Our state governments kill too, in many cases, with "capital punishment." Individuals kill too, in large numbers. And our entertainment, as for the Romans, consists largely of killing -- just take a look at a television or a movie theater. Surely, Thou Shalt Not Kill should be posted on every wall of the White House, flashed in neon lights, and painted in blood.

Read. The. Rest.

Oh, and the link to Ultrarunning?  Just that we who run the backcountry seem particularly to be cognizant of the, you know, moral precepts that underlie the Ten Commandments. We tend to be responsible and non-judgemental.  We honor not only our parents but all people (until they dishonor that trust).  We tend to be of the notion "live and let live" rather than being drone-happy.

Now, these altruistic traits are not limited to Ultrarunners; it's that this is a convenient frame of reference for me.


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