Upon entering the main landing of the State rooms in Alnwick castle, I was assaulted on all sides by the ego of the present owner. Myself and everyone else entering that space had to have an audience with Mr Percy himself as a large monitor housed in an exhibition stand played a video loop of him spouting his ideas on how to save the world or some such. Even though no-one actually watched the video, we were all required to listen to his pronouncements as we wandered around the landing looking at the pictures and artefacts, his voice constantly following us around. It had an air of 1984 about it.
Even in the other reception rooms there was no escape. Photographs and portraits of Mr Percy with some of his goods and chattels stared out at you from all corners. This guy is an egomaniac.
My wife asked if I had seen the chapel. “Not yet.” I replied and headed for the little passageway that led to it. The passage emerged onto a balcony which overlooked the suitably darkened chapel (why is God best appreciated by the dark? Surely light would have been a more fitting phenomenon?). The pews could have accommodated thirty odd people in total. Directly opposite the balcony, almost at eye level, was hung a couple of old flags. One of them particularly caught my eye. So old was this flag that it was in tatters and it had to be reassembled on chicken wire to keep it together. Although the material was heavily darkened you could just make out the markings of the Union Jack. This symbol of Nationalism had been pieced together with such reverence…
At that moment the lightning bolt of realisation struck the temple of Nationalism. An intellectual earthquake shook the ground I was standing on and the giant pillars holding up the temple trembled, until one by one, they each fell to the ground in an oddly logical way as if they were creating a new structure. When the dust of comprehension had settled around me I became aware of a new configuration of stone where the former temple had stood, but instead of a magnificent monument to Nationalism, there was now a sacrificial alter to the devil himself!
The pieces of the puzzle all made horrible sense now and the Great Lie was revealed; war is a game of the rich and powerful.
In fact economics is the game and war is its dice. Monarchs from centuries ago became monarchs because they were ambitious, ruthless and rapacious – bullies, in short. Bullies almost invariably gather cronies around themselves to further their ambitions. In turn, the cronies benefit from the spoils of the bullying. Eventually, the bully wants to dominate another country to acquire more trinkets. Most people are not bullies and so if a bully asks you to fight some strangers to the death in a far away place for his benefit, you quite reasonably ask “Why should that be of any interest to me?” The bully then has to come up with an idea which will solicit consensus from the people he rules. This idea is Nationalism. Most people are only concerned about their immediate environment; their village. The concept of Nationalism extends the boundary of the village to the shores of this island, even though the vast majority of people would never go to these shores.
This concept is still a little flimsy however and it needed reinforcing with something stronger. Fortunately, another material was to hand which could be usurped like all the other booty a bully yearns for.
Religion was a strong material which weathered well and was resilient against logic. By stealing this booty a monarch could strengthen his position with the people who subscribed to this idea of faith. Thus a connection was forged between a monarch’s primacy and a god’s primacy. The divine right of kings was thereby manufactured.
This is better but it is still not enough to motivate most people to sacrifice their lives for the aggrandisement of a half wit bully. What is needed for the final push over the edge of reason is another half wit bully from another kingdom that wants to take control of a defenceless resource currently being exploited by some other greedy half wits. The argument starts to take on an eerie logic of its own now – ‘You need to protect yourself from bullies like us’ – and consensus is being reached, ‘We are being threatened by another bully so we must protect their, no wait, that must be ‘our’ interests.’
If one country invades another then the feedback loop is complete, ‘Yes, we must protect our village from these invading bullies’.
The devil has his game. Innocent, law abiding, peace loving strangers get sucked into an ever deepening false mythology. Nationalism, god, king and country are all enforcers of the game. All wars are fought for the economic interests of the rich and powerful. Those who fight and die in the wars are the hapless citizens who have been sold a poisoned idea.
As I stood in the building of a rich and powerful man admiring his acquisitions, a line from Shelley’s poem Ozymandias repeated in my head, “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” I couldn’t help updating it for modern times;
Look on my wealth, ye impoverished, and OBEY!