It worries me how often we pass our own opinions off to others as if they had the weight and dubious Divine provenance of the allegorical Ten Commandments.
But then, when you look closely at the carved tablets of rock Moses staggered down the mountain with, doesn’t a certain wry suspicion wrinkle the corners of your mouth?
To put it bluntly, don’t some of these Godly pronouncements smack just a tad of ordinary human big-headedness, neurosis and control, and show the narrow-mindedness and prejudice of human, rather than Divine, Patriarchs?
Isn’t it just a trifle damned convenient that Him Up There thought just the way we do?
Leaving that to one side, however, we do, as a species, put an awful lot of moral weight on what are, basically, imperfect fellow human beings’ biased thoughts, neurotic twitterings and, all too often, refusal to face the bloody great sequoia in their own eyes because they are too busy telling you the God/Philosopher/Prophet-given rules for flicking the smallish splinter out of your streaming orb!
But, when you get right down to it, commandments can be translated very quickly into one simple sentence: ‘This is what I think, I am always right and, therefore, you should think/behave/believe this way, too!’
With a doom-laden post script for those of a religious bent, ‘Or else, you’ll go to Hell/Hades/Bognor Regis and be boiled in eternal oil/turned into a human colander through vigorous pitch-fork activity/forced to work as a Chalet Maid at Butlins forever. Hahahahaha!’
Trouble with ‘Thou shalt not’s, whether Biblical or otherwise, is that they give people ideas for transgressions they might never, in the normal run of events, even have considered.
A peaceful agricultural type might never even have noticed his neighbour’s house, wife, servants, animals and what not (Don’t you just love the way the wife-coveting is on the same level as that of the personal possessions, livestock and miscellaneous? Says it all, in my view!) – but, having learned to read and then asked the local Rabbi to explain ‘covet’ to him in words of one syllable, or gestures so unambiguous as to bring tears to the eyes and unmentionable urges under the loincloth, said tiller of soil and spreader of manure would suddenly find himself riddled with covetousness – and, in all probability, confusion – as he fought the urge to mate with his pal’s ass (as ’twere!), collect prize dung from the wife and half-inch the house!
Ditto adultery! Bet that had never occurred to the locals prior to the Ten Commandments! And then, wham, bam, the arse on the girl in the tent across from yours suddenly seems leaner, perkier than your own plumptious lass’ – and soon you are sneaking across, after the goats have shut up for the night, to get with the adulterous begetting…
Thou Shalt not Kill? Yes, that one’s been an outstanding success, hasn’t it? Really nipped the problem in the bud, that one did! By God, we were knee-deep in stiffs before Moses meandered back and bellowed out Number 7 loud enough for the assassins at the back to hear it clearly!
I’m not saying there isn’t some sense in these laws – clearly, there is – but the small and parochial concerns point far more to Papa Moses himself that any Gurt Thundering White-bearded Deity. One would have thought that the latter would have been far more concerned with the Big Picture than who was doing what to whose what!
What such tumultuous messages come down to – whether delivered by Biblical Patriarch on the Hot Line to God, or would-be Messianic Cultist or Bossy Joe from Twatville who just likes the sound of his own voice – is, ‘Thou must do it MY way because I say so! It is MY way or the Infernal Low way!’
Okay, we do not tend to threaten one another with Eternal Doom these days, unless we are part of a very odd sect, but we still regularly use emotional blackmail as an aid to getting our message across. In the 21st century, we are much more subtle – and use psycho-babble to freak out our victims.
Same basic idea, though: If you don’t do things their way, a) you are an inferior being and probably riddled with rampant Borderline Personality Disorder; b) you’ll really really regret it because you’ll never get any better and c) nobody will love you, or even like you, anymore because you have proved you are an unlovable failure!
But these pronouncements, like their Biblical counterparts are a bit rich, aren’t they? The killing one, for example: Issued by a Deity who, with his fellow Gods, has been the biggest serial killer in recorded history! These buggers smite first and ask questions afterwards! No wonder humanity has never quite got out of the murder habit!
In human terms, it is often those with the best-carved tablets of stone, and the most convincing rhetoric, who, when it comes down to it, have sorted out their own problems the least effectively (often because they genuinely believe that they are sorted and, therefore, don’t have any soul work left to do!).
Maybe a simple question and profanity system would weed out the Thunderous Wheat from the Flatulent Chaff.
When someone roars, ‘Thou should do it this way!’ at you, say back unto him/her, ‘Do YOU do it that way?’
And if the other tries the old, ‘Nay! But I am far beyond thy level, Oh measly worm!’ (or words to that effect), a brisk, ‘Fuck off, then!’ (with an optional knee in the groin for the terminally insensitive) should do the trick.
The most echoingly-convincing commandments are still only opinions, and opinions which have been filtered through the ‘kidneys’ of paranoia, prejudice, cultural beliefs and levels of tiredness/sex deprivation/hunger. Bits, it is true, will have nourished the system, but an awful lot comes out as waste, or wee to continue the excretory metaphor!
You may well level the same discerning arrow at this post – but I don’t want any of you to bow down and worship my words, or change your life habits because of them, or set up impressive-sounding schools devoted to them!
Bugger that for a game of Gods and Goddesses!
I write as catharsis, entertainment – and, at least some of the time, with my tongue wedged firmly in my cheek and the Imps of Dark Humour cocking their little legs against the po-faced Trees of Righteousness!