Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Ruminations 99(1) (The year of Oni (鬼, demons) and Yurei (幽霊, ghosts): Looking Back on 2020 in Epigrams and Aphorisms



For the last several years, and with no particular objective,  I have taken the period between Christmas and New Years Eve to produce a s summary of the slice of the year to which I paid attention through epigrams and aphorisms.  It follows an end of year  tradition I started in 2016 (for those see here), 2017 (for these see here), 2018 (for those see here), and 2019 (for those see here).  

At the end of 2019 I wrote as the introduction to 2019's closing epigrams and aphorisms the following:

The year 2019 is ending with the great rifts--opened in 2016, exposed in 2017, and acquiring a greater urgency and revealing the power of its consequences in 2018--now exposed. More than exposed, 2019 marked their explosion, the aftermath of which, in 2020, will be marked by the start of a variety of end games in law, society, politics, culture and economics. Global divisions, more acute in 2018, finally reached moved toward climax in virtually all states, and with respect to all systems--law, compliance, religious, societal, cultural, and economic. While 2020 will likely be the year in which the climax events of 2019 will play themselves out, the year 2019 was in many ways the year of the "big bang" for the third decade of the 21st century. (Ruminations 89(1) (Blasphemies): Looking Back on 2019 in Epigrams and Aphorisms).

The year 2020 has indeed proven to be the year of end games of all sorts, the aftermath of the big bang that was now the faded memory of 2019.  It was a year that was consumed by the COVID-19 pandemic.  But that was hardly all--many things happened under the cover of the virus. This was the year of the transformation of Hong Kong, of the realization that governance was becoming both data driven and managed by algorithms, and of the indulgence in state killings to suit the tastes of their leaders.  It was the year that saw the return of borders and the refinement of the techniques useful for managing the movements of populations from the most to the least developed states.  It was the year the Americans were continued their civil war and in which the rupture of the aristocratic elites produced successful campaigns to demonize virtually anyone.  Indeed, beyond the virus, 2020, appears to have been the year of the demon, it was the year of  oni (鬼, demons) and yurei (幽霊, ghosts); it was the year the demons (恶魔) left hell (地狱).

In this Part 1 we look back on the demons, ghosts, spirits, and hell we have managed to create; the lesser gods of the pantheon of humanity.

1. In the traditions of the West, demons started as a "supernatural agent or intelligence lower than a god, ministering spirit" from Greek daimōn (here). They were lesser gods, acquiring their malevolent nature only during the Christianization of the West when the Greek was rendered from the Vulgate to reference "god of the heathen, heathen idol" and therefore odious and malevolent (here). The West retains the meaning of demon in both its senses--especially in the societal and political sphere.  The apotheosis of Roman emperors into lesser divinities was replaced by the practice Christian Western society to elevate humans to the status of lesser gods through the process of sainthood. Today society continues to create these lesser gods in its own image--only now the apotheosis is toward the status of demon. Lesser gods, nonetheless, they exercise their power against those who work assiduously to make them divine. The year 2020 produced an astonishing number of lesser gods--created in the image of the human groups who were in desperate need of their ministrations.

2. The great demonic apotheosis of the United States was Donald Trump, who in his elevation to the status pf major demon and the loss of the presidential election, transcended the limits of his earthly authority to assume that of a lesser god (As the Trump Administration Fades into the Shadows of History (and Myth) Lessons Left Unlearned) .

3. Sometimes a demon may be created by the brutality (or sloppiness) the means used to murder them; where a millennium ago such botched murders could produce a saint (Thomas Becket: the murder that shook the Middle Ages), today they produce the demon martyr (German doctors say comatose Putin critic Alexei Navalny was poisoned; Murder In The Consulate: Oscar Contender ‘Kingdom Of Silence’ Parses Brutal Killing Of Journalist Jamal Khashoggi), as well as the demon (Editorial: A very abbreviated history of police officers killing Black people).

4. But  demons can be states--whose "Black Hand"(“黑手”) can threaten the internal stability of states and regions (China Condemns New US Hong Kong Sanctions, Taiwan Arms Sale) or the integrity of their elections (The Cybersecurity 202: Democrats and Republicans are ending 2020 as far apart as ever on election security). 

5.  And demons can be collectives of people--they can be amalgamated into a zombie like composite, sometimes animated by the black hand of outsiders, and sometimes self animated as it tears itself from the body politic to become a grotesque rejection that poses a body politic and that must be exorcised to free the good soul from the evil possession (China says Hong Kong will never be calm unless violent protesters removed). 

6. Demons can acquire new names and assume new forms as society crafts the ordinary into a semi divine force of malevolence with very specific characteristics (How Karen became a meme, and what real-life Karens think about it; The Karen Phenomemon). 

7. The Demon be the concrete manifestation of a transsubstantiated spirit of an antagonistic force that can be used to explain the travails and challenges of life for self-consciously constituted amalgams of humans who construct themselves (or are constructed) into a larger organism  (Robert Hill: White privilege in white collars; 'White privilege' is a distraction, leaving racism and power untouched).

8. Demons can serve as the incarnation of the things society fears most, and, because they demons are lesser gods, can also be exorcised by capturing and imprisoning or by eliminating the physical manifestation of demonic power (Harvey Weinstein sentenced to 23 years in prison after addressing his accusers in court)

9. Demons sometimes take the form of the most reified purity; even Lucifer was once known as the fairest of God's angels; in that they have a substantial sense of irony and serve as a reminder of the dangers of temptation and the power of the demonic over human souls (Hungarian Politician Resigns After Brussels Party Is Raided by Police; MEP resigns after police raid ‘sex party’ in Brussels over lockdown breach; Carl Lentz's Cheating Scandal: Woman Details Her Alleged Affair With Fired Celebrity Pastor).

10.  And the old forms of the demon still remain potent--the incubus and the succubus (Matt Gaetz compares Eric Swalwell to this ex-congressman; GOP puts pressure on Pelosi over Swalwell; South African sport under scrutiny over handling of child sexual abuse claims).




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