The venerable Rabbi Hillel, challenged to relate the essence of the Five Books of Moses while standing on one foot, replied: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That’s the whole Torah. All the rest is commentary.”
In the unlikely event I’m challenged to elucidate Spectacle doctrine in the same manner, I’d have to go with the above James Baldwin quote that’s graced the Prelude of nearly every Spectacle performance. Baldwin's warning embodies one of The Spectacle’s central concerns: that a society that succumbs to illusion, passively or actively supporting indefensible behavior while wrapping itself in the protective veneer of self-righteous innocence, is ultimately doomed.
I fear this is the road we Americans are traveling. I wonder how this came to pass. I worry that the disease may be too far advanced to cure. The cavalcade of brutality and absurdity that is 21st-century America is reaching a critical mass, the daily bombardment of news, trivia, politics, entertainment, consumerism, advertising and propaganda blotting out a deeper wisdom we once possessed. The consequences are disastrous, and our so-called “leaders” have no answers except those serving their own short-term interests. This egregious lack of leadership puts us all at risk. Put biblically:
It’s not for nothing that Rabbi Hillel concluded his one-footed sermon “Now go and study.” If ‘we the people’ are not to perish, there must be vision. There can be no vision in darkness. Awareness remains the crucial ingredient for creating a tolerant, equitable, sustainable society, and our best chance to oppose the cult of death that reigns in the form of a vast Military – Industrial – Congressional – Gun – Prison – Financial – Pharmacological Complex, defended by a mainstream media nestled within the same corporate infrastructure.
If not now, when?
Martin Luther King Jr. taught that in a dehumanizing and materialistic technological society, only a revolution in consciousness can reverse James Baldwin’s prophecy and transform unreality into reality, arrogant false innocence into reflective atonement, and moral monstrosity into empathy and love. I don’t know that such a spiritual regeneration is possible in today’s America. I also don’t know that it’s impossible. On my best days, that sliver of uncertainty tips the balance from Antonio Gramsci’s “pessimism of the intellect” to his “optimism of the will.”
Here’s Hillel once more, as relevant to our age as to his own 2,000 years ago:
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