Science fiction, and the Inka, again: It's been quite a while since observations of cable news made us think of the science fiction film, Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The leading authority on the famous film describes the film as follows:
The film's storyline concerns an extraterrestrial invasion that begins in the fictional California town of Santa Mira. Alien plant spores have fallen from space and grown into large seed pods, each one capable of reproducing a duplicate replacement copy of each human. As each pod reaches full development, it assimilates the physical characteristics, memories, and personalities of each sleeping person placed near it; these duplicates, however, are devoid of all human emotion...The pod people look like actual people, but they actually aren't. They're quasi-duplicates, "devoid of all human emotion."
The slang expression "pod people" that arose in late 20th century American culture references the emotionless duplicates seen in the film. Invasion of the Body Snatchers was selected in 1994 for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
In the last few days, we've thought of those famous pod people as we've watched our own liberal team performing on cable TV. In this case, the participants seem to be quasi-duplicates devoid of all capacity for human intelligence. Their inability to function in a rational way is revealed as they create conflations and confusions concerning questions of who may have meddled, intervened or interfered in the 2016 election.
These duplicates seem incapable of exercising the simplest kinds of human rationality. In particular, they seem to be incapable of grasping such basic facts as these:
Elementary facts which can no longer be grasped:It's especially jarring to see the duplicates playing tape in which people explicitly say that the Russians hacked the DNC emails even as the duplicates seem to think that something different is being said. At any rate, it's impossible to stage a sane discussion if people, or their duplicates, have lost the ability to display the simplest forms of reason or observe the simplest distinctions.
More than one country could meddle, intervene or interfere in some particular election.
One country could meddle, intervene or interfere in an election to a highly significant degree while another country meddled, intervened of interfered in a less extensive way.
Hacking emails could be one way to intervene in an election. But there could imaginably be other ways to meddle, interfere, intervene.
The question of what constitutes "meddling" is a subjective matter on which people might disagree.
Regarding some possible duplicates:
Yesterday afternoon, was that Nicolle Wallace on our TV machine, or was that a duplicate incapable of basic rationality? This morning, was that Joe Scarborough or a replacement? How about Brian Williams, as seen on TV last night? As always, "his hair was perfect!"
They've made us think of the body snatchers, but also of the Inka.
Let's return to Charles Mann's description of the way the Inka empire fell to a small Spanish force led by Juan Pizarro in the 16th century. We're quoting from Mann's widely acclaimed 2005 book, 1491: New Revelations of The Americas Before Columbus.
This empire fell to a small Spanish force? How did that happen, and why? As with other "first contact" disasters, Mann describes the powerful role of epidemic disease in the fall of the Inka empire.
Smallpox enabled the Spanish conquest. Along the way, though, Mann sets the scene as he describes the empire's massive extent:
MANN (page 71): In 1491 the Inka ruled the greatest empire on earth. Bigger than Ming Dynasty China, bigger than Ivan the Great’s expanding Russia, bigger than Songhay in the Sahel or powerful Great Zimbabwe in the West Africa tablelands, bigger than the cresting Ottoman Empire, bigger than the Triple Alliance (as the Aztec empire is more precisely known), bigger by far than any European state, the Inka dominion extended over a staggering thirty-two degrees of latitude—as if a single power held sway from St. Petersburg to Cairo. The empire encompassed every imaginable type of terrain, from the rainforest of upper Amazonia to the deserts of the Peruvian coast and the twenty-thousand-foot peaks of the Andes in between.This spectacularly competent empire was "bigger by far than any European state."
That said, it wasn't all sweetness and light in the empire's administrative behavior. In this passage, Mann describes types of behavior with obvious echoes today:
MANN (page 71): The Inka goal was to knit the scores of different groups in western South America—some as rich as the Inka themselves, some poor and disorganized, all speaking different languages—into a single bureaucratic framework under the direct rule of the emperor. The unity was not merely political: the Inka wanted to meld together the area's religions, economics and arts. Their methods were audacious, brutal, and efficient; they removed entire populations from their homelands; shuttled them around the biggest road system on the planet, a mesh of stone-paved thoroughfares totaling 25,000 miles, and forced them to work with other hroups, using only Runa Sumi, the Inka language, on massive, faraway state farms and construction projects...So successful were the Inka at remolding their domain, according to the late John H. Rowe, an eminent archaeologist at the University of California at Berkeley, that Andean history "begins, not with the Wars of [South American] Independence or with the Spanish Conquest, but with the organizing genius of [empire founder] Pachakuti in the 15th century.Forced removal of ethnic groups, with forced elimination of native languages? Similar practices occurred in the development of this very country. Similar practices are occurring in the world today.
This helps remind us of an important point—especially as judged by present-day standards, human behavior has been heartless and cruel all over the world, down through the annals of time. This isn't a terrible thing to remember when childish professors and hapless journalists are scolding the nation's second graders, and their parents, about the beliefs and behaviors of English settlers in New England in 1621.
Especially as judged by present-day norms, people have been heartless and cruel down through the annals of time. People have also exhibited crazy ideation. This brings us back to the question of how this powerful empire fell.
Mann stresses the role of one of the epidemics which arrived in the Americas with microbes brought by the first Europeans (and their pigs), devastating indigenous populations who lacked resistance to these European diseases.
Among the Inka, the epidemic helped create a war for power as the empire's elites took ill and died in great numbers. In describing the way this civil war unfolded, Mann describes the role of royal mummies in the empire's culture:
MANN (page 98): The ferocity of the civil war was exacerbated by the epidemic's impact on a peculiarly Andean institution: royal mummies. People in Andean societies viewed themselves as belonging to family lineages...Royal lineages, called panaqa, were special. Each new emperor was born in one panaqa but created a new one when he [ascended to power]. To the new panaqa belonged the Inka [the emperor] and his wives and children, along with his retainers and advisers. When the Inka died his panaqa mummified his body. Because the Inka was believed to be an immortal deity, his mummy was treated, logically enough, as if it were still living. Soon after arriving in Qosqo, Pizarro's companion Miguel de Estete saw a parade of defunct emperors. They were brought out on litters, "seated on their thrones and surrounded by pages and women with flywhisks in their hands, who ministered to them with as much respect as if they had been alive."Crazy ideation has flourished wherever we humans have ventured. In a way which struck us as extremely ahistorical, Professor Silverman, an actual history professor, rolled his eyes at some of the religious ideation of English settlers in what is now New England in 1621. The childishness of these observations made his Thanksgiving Day column a natural for the New York Times.
The Europe of 1621 was possessed of crazy ideation (and barbaric conventional practices) as was the world of the Inka. As noted, crazy ideation has flourished wherever we humans have been.
Back to Mann! In this passage, he continues to describe this peculiar aspect of Inka ideation and conduct:
MANN (continuing directly): Because the royal mummies were not considered dead, their successors obviously could not inherit their wealth. Each Inka’s panaqa retained all of his possessions forever, including his palaces, residences and shrines, all of his remaining clothes, eating utensils, fingernail parings, and hair clippings, and the tribute from the land he had conquered. In consequence, as Pedro Pizarro realized, "the greater part of the people, treasure, expenses, and vices [in the empire] were under the control of the dead." The mummies spoke through female mediums who represented the panaqa’s surviving courtiers or their descendants. With almost a dozen immortal emperors jostling for position, high-level Inka society was characterized by ramose political intrigue of a scale which would have delighted the Medici..."The mummies spoke through female mediums who represented the panaqa’s surviving courtiers or their descendants." So it went as smallpox devastated the Inka ruling class, precipitating a debilitating civil war which helped bring down the world's largest empire.
The mummies spoke through female mediums! We first compared this crackpot human culture to that of the mainstream pundit corps in 2006. The comparison has come to mind again in recent days we we've watched the established oracles of our own liberal tribe unsuccessfully attempting to function in the face of the massive disorder into which our own society has been thrown.
Their earlier conduct helped give us our Trump. In the past dew days, they've seemed a great deal like duplicates. This is where the corporate mouthpieces of our floundering tribe seem to stand today.
Sadly, it's all anthropology now. According to leading future experts who speak to us through nocturnal submissions the haters like to deride as mere dreams, this was pretty much the best our limited species could do.
We've checked with Cassandra; she's embarrassed for our tribe. In an obvious brush with greatness, the oracle of Delphi was there. Distraught, she refused to opine.