Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Bog Politics And Bailouts
I was doing some free-time research on bog mummies the other day, as I often do, and I couldn’t help but think of the economic bailout packages being distributed in the US. In retrospect, I can’t believe I didn’t notice the relationship between these two things until now. Silly me. Let me explain…
Bog mummies are preserved remains of cadavers that were thrown into the bogs of Europe thousands (or at least hundreds) of years ago. As far as archeologists can tell, many of these mummies were human sacrifices – people who were killed to curry favor with pagan bog gods, in order for villages to receive bountiful harvests and divine protection against enemies.
Meet Tollund Man. His time of death is somewhere around the 4th century BC, in Scandinavia, during the pre-Roman Iron Age. He is in remarkable condition for a man left for dead in peat moss. His eyelids are still there and his sheepskin hat is no worse for wear. He’s quite a find.
When Mr. Tollund was about 40 years old, he was garroted at the neck and choked (not hung like a criminal). He was not beaten, slashed or treated poorly before his death. Mr. Tollund’s hat tells that he was no common slacker, and his preserved belt indicates he was a fellow who knew how to dress for important occasions.
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Human sacrifices. A tricky business. Many a culture has been tempted to give up their coveted virgins. The reality is that not every sacrifice was a perfect person. Villagers had no problem with selecting people they perceived as weak or expendable. Mr. Tollund is different than your average human sacrifice because he was not a burdened by a hymen (intact or otherwise), and was not physically challenged. Also, he was carefully laid to rest in a decent patch of bog. Mr. Tollund was not just anybody; he was somebody important who needed to die.
In our generous hearts, we might see Mr. Tollund as a selfless leader who paid the price (and how!). Perhaps, but what if he was doing well for himself at the expense of his clan? Is it possible that Mr. Tollund had to go down because his success was the byproduct of his neighbor’s misery? We could be looking at a man who is the prototype of a corporate CEO who enjoyed one too many bonuses.
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Meanwhile in Washington, DC, modern humans are handing out cash money to stave off economic destruction. Men in private jets with luxurious mistresses are holding out tin cups and begging for credit from the US government, as if our collective wallets represented some kind of bog god who could persuaded to make things better. The government will write enough checks to ensure our safe passage through Wall Street, but it doesn’t mean we like it. It might not even work. So we need a patsy, just in case.
There will be blood drawn over the economic bailout. Maybe not literally, but at least symbolically. Humans are biological creatures, sure, but we are also wired for retribution and drama. I have yet to see a garroting of any CEO’s, but I am fairly certain that a descendant of Mr. Tollund is going to need to be choked to death before anyone feels a bit better about things. That is how the world works.
Someone always has to pay. Right now that person is me. It’s you. It’s your neighbor. This bailout is costing us more than we can count. We will carry a grudge against some guy we perceive as the ultimate bastard. I don’t know how and I don’t know when, but that guy is going down. Deep. No, we don’t do bogs anymore. The new bogs are called blogs. Nothing is too sacred for a blog.
Have a happy day, sir, whoever you are.