lord of the skies

In the last few days we have been seeing an increase in military air exercises in the area—low-altitude flights presumably in preparation for strikes against Iran in which the only opportunity for surprise is flying beneath the radar.

To anyone who thought my August 4th essay “True Faces” was unduly pessimistic about the chances for an honest and peaceful resolution in our relations with Iran, I offer as vindication the September cover story in The Atlantic by Jeffrey Goldberg, “The Point of No Return,” in which Goldberg says there is a better than 50 percent chance that Israel will launch a strike against Iran by next July. He bases his prediction on interviews with about forty past and present high-level Israeli decision makers including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Here’s the scenario Goldberg paints, lifted directly from the cover of the magazine:

“One day next year, Israel’s national-security adviser and defense minister will simultaneously telephone their counterparts at the White House and the Pentagon, to inform them that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has just ordered roughly 100 Israeli air-force jets to fly east toward Iran. The Israelis will say they are attacking because a nuclear Iran poses the gravest threat since Hitler to the survival of the Jewish people. They will tell the Americans that Israel was left with no choice. They will not be asking for permission, because it will be too late to ask for permission.”

The biggest question in Tel Aviv right now is to what extent they can involve the US. One Israeli general told Goldberg: “We are very good at this kind of operation, but it is a big stretch for us. The Americans can do this with a minimum of difficulty, by comparison.” Official visits by Israelis to Washington are intensifying as they continue to pressure the Obama administration to do the heavy lifting for them.

Yesterday I was once again indulging my current passion for listening to choral music when I heard the sound of a jet passing by. The combination of the music and the sound of the jet reminded me of a 1963 film I’d not seen since I was a teenager, Lord of the Flies. The opening soundtrack features an English boys’ choir.

Like most other teenagers of that era, I read the book by William Golding and had uncritically absorbed its lesson: In the absence of state authority, human beings will degenerate into a condition of chaos and depravity. You know, choir boys will all become savage murderers. I was able to stream the movie on the computer yesterday, and reflected on how this allegorical tale had framed and shaped my assumptions and thinking since then.

Lord of the Flies was required reading at my school, and now I ask: Why? To what design or purpose?

Today I see that as a child I swallowed Golding’s message hook, line, and sinker.

And yet as I summarize what I’ve learned through life in the 47 years since then—today as I look around and see how Authority has betrayed us at every turn in so many critical ways—now that I understand Nature’s innate capacity for self-organization and its use of this ability to adjust to change, innovate and create, and thereby ensure its survival—I realize Golding is wrong.

Now that I’m no longer an impressionable child and have seen for myself how the world really works, I reject Golding’s story as an artifact of thought control aimed at suppressing Freedom and Self-Responsibility in the culture. Lord of the Flies is negative, defeatist, and anti-creative.

It was a cautionary tale for a generation of young people raised on Father Knows Best. It denies the god-ness that is in all human beings and the positive possibilities and actualities that emerge when people are truly free.

As I think about the fact that Lord of the Flies was required reading and consider its authoritarian message—as I revisit the movie adaptation that was so popular among my peers during its theatrical release, but see it now with mature eyes—I have the strongest impression that Lord of the Flies was administered to me and to millions of other kids like an inoculation and booster before getting some of us in line for Viet Nam.

Golding used a dead aircraft pilot juxtaposed with a slaughtered pig’s head to create a “beast” that catalyzed this marooned group of English schoolboys into unthinking, ungovernable depravity.

By the end of the story, the two most intelligent characters had just been murdered. Blinded by blood lust and their bodies covered with war-paint, savage youths were burning down their island paradise to flush out and murder Ralph, their vanquished leader. They would have sharpened a stick at both ends and put Ralph’s head on it.

Ralph is saved from this certain fate by the unexpected appearance of a naval officer in a gleaming white uniform, the symbol of Authority. Golding leaves it to us to ponder the meaning of a dead pilot as the cause of a problem, and a living officer as its solution. (Okay, I get it.)

Now the lords of the skies are practicing their attack runs in our mountains. Is this in preparation for service to the beast?

Time will yet tell if we burn down paradise.


Groove of the Day

Here’s what I was listening to when that jet went by yesterday. I was trying to decide which of these two voices I like best and realized it’s a question I can’t (and probably shouldn’t) answer.

So here are two versions of the same etherial selection from Fauré’s Requiem:

Listen to David Meredith performing “Pie Jesu″

Listen to Andrew Swait performing “Pie Jesu″


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