My poem As Above, So Below was originally inspired by the plight of the North Korean people – specifically the 150,000 to 200,000 estimated denizens of the regime’s torturous gulags.
In my own reflecting on this dreadful and strikingly overlooked fragment of the modern world, as well as in my reflections on the human rights crimes in other nations, such as Sudan and Syria, I can’t help but be overcome by feelings of confusion and bewilderment. How can individuals – from the despotic leaders and their military generals, down to the lowest soldiers and guards – how can they perpetrate unspeakable horrors and heinous crimes against their fellow human beings – including women and children? [We’re talking nightmarish shit – a full Khmer Rouge redux].
I’d like to think that these thoughts are the result of my being a rational human being and not simply the product of childlike naivete, or the embodiment of First World pontificating, and I find it rather sad that I would even question such a thing, but the inescapable truth is that there is something that vexes me about the inhumanity of it all: there is just something seriously fucked up and dark about the depths of human nature and the soulless depravity of its most ghastly and abhorrent capabilities.
And in my ruminations on this ugliness, the utter loathsomeness of it, I began questioning why this is and how it came to be. Sure – I could turn to books for answers, such as this and this, but it would seem that an answer should be more simple than the undercurrents of social psychology and the underpinnings of moral philosophy. So, in positing my own answers to this from an invariably egocentric and ethnocentric perspective, I began thinking that perhaps modern atrocities are a resultant product of modern societal shortcomings – i.e., there is no proverbial village to maintain the accountability of moral and social responsibility to one another. Venturing down this rabbit hole further, I reviewed this hypothesis in the context of various Pre-industrial stages of society in reverse chronological order from Agrarian, to Pastoral, to Hunter-Gatherer culture. The result of this existential inquiry I turned into the poem As Above, So Below.
A couple things that may shed more light on the 4th and 6th stanzas of the poem can be read here (Warning: contains a poem with potentially graphic subject matter relating to culturally driven female genital mutilation, which has occurred for centuries) and here (safe for kids) respectively.
Another note I would like to add about my own perspective on what causes human divide is a brief anecdote about a video I watched on youtube where three Sikh women discuss the importance of beards on their men. As I watched this, I couldn’t help but feel that it is precisely this line of thinking (‘We are separate, we are different’) that keeps us separate from one another – and thus capable of judging in such a disparaging regard.
Bless the atheist for doing what is morally sound not based in his belief in a culturally rooted G-d, nor in his fear of hell, but in his own personal code of integrity.
However, we must always remember the words of Eric Hoffer: “Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil.”
[“a devil” in this case being the group that the leadership of the mass movement derides the people into hating – or the person or group the individual hates as a result of widespread cultural influences.]