Posted by: rogermitchell | April 22, 2013

Margaret Thatcher’s Funeral and the Boston Bombings

One particular prophecy that has gripped my attention over the years is From Isaiah 25:7: “The LORD of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain; a banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, and refined, aged wine. And on this mountain he will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples, even the veil which is stretched over all nations.”

It has been on my mind again this last week, with the unconscionable pomp and circumstance of the funeral of Margaret Thatcher. How to get people out from under the veil of these outrageous power structures and symbols that protect the rich at the expense of the poor? How to get people to see that love and compassion are subjugated to money and power and that our Western representative democracies are built on an already existing domination system that takes that for granted? How to help them realise that it needs to be challenged?

A generation ago I did some research into Youth and Values on behalf of Frontier Youth Trust, funded by the then government Department of Education and Science, which suggested that anomy is a key. Anomy, the noun, and anomic the adjective, refer to events in life that undeniably call into question meaning and purpose at a profound level. As a result the accepted social or ethical standards of an individual or group are seriously undermined. These are happenings that can sometimes lead to mental health issues in later life, such as the death of a parent or sibling, but also include the ‘normal’ transitions, such as changing school, puberty, funerals, weddings, moving home, leaving school, going to university, starting a new job and the like. The suggestion was that these were times when young people were the most open to questioning their values, and changing them. Of course while this applies to young people in particular, whose values are not strongly formed, it applies to adults too. Such times are vital opportunities to help people think beneath the surface of ‘normal’ life.

Events like these can be occasions of great vulnerability, times when people are susceptible to new thought patterns and mindsets for harm as well as for good. These experiences are heightened greatly when anomic sociopolitical and economic events such as war, famine, displacement, persecution and unfair trade agreements are impacting the class, nation, race or social grouping to which somebody experiencing personal anomy belongs. According to the prophet an egalitarian banquet for everybody is the answer! As the exciting new book, Carnival Kingdom, that I am currently reviewing, suggests, this is no trivial symbol, but a banquet like a carnival is a social metaphor for an alternative reality that challenges the deep structure of the status quo. It speaks of bold and radical movement of hospitality to strangers and immigrants and those of other faiths and cultures. We so need this right now!

If the young Chechen men suspected of the Boston bombings are in fact guilty, then they may well fit in this category of people whose personal and corporate anomy combined together into an immense vulnerability.
It doesn’t excuse their actions, but it should help us understand what it may have been like to be them. The death-throws of the communist domination system and its impact on their nation may have led them to hope that the West was not another such system. But it is of course. It is not so overtly oppressive because the power is usually more distributed and hidden. The deep nature of this power will be seen in how we treat perceived enemies like these young men, those perhaps behind them, and the others like them. At its deepest core the testimony of Jesus is love for our enemies. This he said summed up the law to the last ‘dot’ and ‘tittle.’ Making enemies non-persons outside the law in Guantanamo prison in the so-called War on Terror after 9/11 revealed how non-Christian the deep structures of the West really are. How we treat Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will do the same. So do we show him hospitality? Seriously, what do we do? What about the victims? This is not easy, but it is crucial. Comments please.

More in a day or two….

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Responses

  1. Very important point about anomy. I call it hinge points.

  2. It is a great challenge to maintain hope in the midst of this as I watch the system in place move towards MORE control, MORE isolation of the disenfranchised, MORE of the same conditions that led to the destruction…prophetically I need to say that until the church recognizes and moves away from these systems and repents by divesting itself of this model I do not see the governments being affected at all. What I am currently seeing here stateside is a whole lot of finger-pointing blaming the current administration for being sympathetic to terrorist, its as if the Western church has no idea it is guilty…

  3. Really appreciated your insights on these two events. I am really interested in the book you mentioned “Carnival Kingdom” I presume it has not been published yet?

  4. Glad you found the insights helpful. Carnival Kingdom Edited by Marijke Hoek, Jonathan Ingleby, Carol Kingston-Smith, and Andy Kingston-Smith is published by Wide Margin and available right now from http://www.amazon.co.uk/Carnival-Kingdom-Marijke-Hoek/dp/1908860022

    • Thanks Roger for the info about Carnival- Kingdom.

  5. Oh Roger: yet another post that sticks in my head for several days. While I affirm your early research and thoughts I think I need to add some nuance here about the connection between the obnoxious Thatcher funeral and the brothers Tsarnaev. While the connection may or may not be an acceptance of imperial regimes, masked or unmasked, the real issue is the origin of those regimes because that is where the actions of the Tsarnaev brothers is actually the same as the imperial regimes no matter what the rhetoric they used to justify their behaviour.

    The imperial spirit manifests itself as self aggrandizement (whether of the individual or a collective) at the cost of all others. All others are either to be enslaved to serve the imperial construct or, if they refuse enslavement, destroyed. All resources are for the imperial construct, no one else is to utilize them. It is the imperial construct alone that determines how resources are shared/managed and that cannot be challenged. It is this impetus towards a masculinity expressed in the destruction of others that links them all – Thatcher, the US imperial project, the USSR/Russia and the Tsarnaev brothers.

    I read an account by an FBI profiler the other day that commented that virtually all terrorists and those who commit mass murder through the use of guns in the USA are young males, between the ages of 18 and 26. The older Tsarnaev brother was 26 and the younger is 19. The writer added that what motivates these guys is TNT – testoserone, a narrative (doesn’t really matter what it is, in the case of the Tsarnaevs it is anger at the US wars), and theatre (the demonstration of power on a stage that will gain them attention).

    Another article today describes the Tsarnaevs this way: That they were performing a kind of masculinity that took control of the city through public destruction. In the article, a sociologist who has studied white supremicist groups and terrorists notes that large acts of terrorism are very public displays of masculinity. It is the kind of act that young men, who feel like losers, or who cannot achieve power and status in other ways, can do in compensation.

    This hyper masculinist behaviour characterizes Thatcher’s time in office. Think how she publically (sp?) took down the miners to prove she was a bigger and more powerful man then they were (and they were very physical men). Think of her destruction of the ‘state’ particularly those aspects of it that served the poor in order to reward the rich (those who most manifest the imperial spirit).

    So too the USA. It has moved even further into imperialist mode under Obama despite the winding down of the wars. Note his language after the Boston bombing – you can predict, almost word for word what he will say. He is telling the two men who had committed an act of public destruction that only certain folks can do that in the US, not them. He has that power, not them. So he can send drones to Pakistan and pay off the bankers who destroyed the economy for so many people (that is certainly an act of public destruction).

    The Tsarnaevs are no different in their behaviour, in its spirit. The difference is one of scale and authority. They lack the authority in the US to exercise the imperial spirit through acts of public destruction. But make no mistake – their behaviour is hypermasculine and is of the imperial spirit.

    In the article I read today a sociologist of masculinity comments that increasing globalization leads to heightened anxiety on the part of many working class males that they are under attack from feminization of the work place (it is easier to enslave women than men – they are cheaper and less likely to revolt), through economic depressions, outsourcing of work, destruction of the unions (another act of public destruction done by many politicians in the US right now). It is the policies originally put in place by Thatcher and her friend Reagan that started this current version of the whole thing – they were both anti-union and sought to destroy them.

    From what I can gather about the Tsarnaev family in the USA is that they did receive hospitality from the state they rejected. They were on welfare and on various gov’t subsidies at times when needed. I don’t think their actions have much at all to do with the reality of how the state treated them. They were young men, having had a difficult family, abandoned by their emotionally immature father, left to fend for themselves, who were never going to be the winners they needed to be. They fabricated a fictional life and then went out to make their mark on the world. Imperial spirit leaders are motivated in many of the same ways their destruction is just often on a larger scale. But the root of much of it is how we socialize masculinity – what kinds of behaviours are allowed to men (and to the women who want to compete on those terms). And in a globalized world, violence and militarization has become the narrow norm. That is bad for all of us and for the earth. C.

  6. Thanks again for the insight, clarity and courage to express it! Don’t stop!

  7. To presume that our political system is better than non western political systems is naive. The only reason that has merits is because of its roots in the bible Judae/christian influence. But as Jesus always said my kingdom is not of this world. When we dig under the surface in all cultures we meet the unredeemed, the latent darkness, the unsaved soul of man. That why Jesus says ,you must be born again, born from above. To hope that any government will express godly, higher moral values that can stand up to the scrutiny of love for your enemy is like trying to get coca cola from a water faucet. Its never going to happen because it’s not connected to the water supply system.

  8. Hello Brendan,
    How good to hear from you! I fully agree with you that the kingdom, or government of God is coming from a transcendent source. But my understanding of it is that it is a gift for this world. The gift of love for ones enemy that is contained in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus is God’s measure for a new humanity. This new humanity is a people that lives as a gift to the world because they are discovering that resource. The complication for Christians in the West is that they confused God’s transcendence with a hierarchical system over many generations. I think we owe it to the world to make the difference clear, and show how God’s governance really works. This is what I’m up to!


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