The Mortal Gods
QAnon figurehead Q has gained a sad following of people who have no option but a desperate hope of enlightenment. In a world without hope, people crave certainty. Those with no inner life (the majority of humanity I suspect) are eager to see some solid and certain truth. With no skill in the analysis of the complexities of the real world, these folk demand a clear, simple and unassailable definition of reality. They demand black or white. Incapable of confronting the ambiguity that is fundamental to the actual real world, they demand a simple and understandable fact of the world, a fact that is simply untrue but comprehensible to the simple mind.
These followers’ animal nature demands a simple clear uncomplicated perception of a simple assessable primitive truth: a nature which is no longer accessible in the confusing artifice of the complex money-driven reality of the modern world. These people are the fundamental basis of the right-wing juggernaut. They demand a parent, a leader, a benevolent protector. Unfortunately, with their juvenile understanding of the world, a world of cowboys and indians; of soldiers and communists; of heroes and villains, they must see a clear distinction between what is good and what is bad.
In the real world, of course, this crystal clear distinction is an illusion. The world is complex with many areas of uncertainty which the enlightened individual addresses with calm reflection. Unfortunately, the majority of people are incapable of such deliberate consideration. To confront the unimaginable requires an unusual constitution; and yet, this is the actual world. The actual world is messy, filled with compromise and disappointment. The mortal god serves to reconcile this reality with the hoped-for certainty of the simple primitive world of the regressive imagination: an Ayn Rand manifestation of simple clarity which leads ultimately to failure and despair.
To live honestly in the real world demands that we live as members of a complex community of beings, each with eir own resources and needs. When we isolate ourselves in tribes separated from the rest of humanity, we establish a private fortress with no connection to reality, a fortress against reality, against the true humanity of our community. We establish a pitiful simulacrum of a dessicated delusion of harmony. A simulacrum of comfort and childish ease. Those enamored of this meaningless world nonetheless drive our reality by amplifying the influence of their mortal gods. Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Q and Donald Trump will fill the god-shaped hole in these piteous human hollows desperate for the meaning that will satisfy their need.
Meanwhile, those who are seeking an actual solution to the problem of how humans may work together toward a lasting community of loving beings are constantly confounded by those followers of the mortal gods who simply amplify the venal desires of their wretched deities.
Our political system has become a game of deity against deity. Nancy Pelosi drives all Democratic supplicants to conform to the great capitalist Democratic vision. Donald Trump drives all Republican sycophants to conform to the disciplined desire of the undeserving children of wealth. Independent voters claim the hollow glory of the jaded outside observer. It is up to those who have diligently claimed the ability to think for themselves to reclaim the destiny of humanity.
Have a conversation with one of these people on the right or the left. You will hear a stilted recital of their deity’s proclamations and Facebook memes. I myself believe that Bernie Sanders’ proposals for the future of the U.S. are second to none; but, even Bernie supporters (perhaps a majority of them) follow because he presents himself to the fearful as a benign protector.
I was having a beer at Very Nice Brewing Company in Nederland, Colorado with an old friend from my High School and a few of his friends. It was difficult having a conversation with people I didn’t know so I mentioned that my spouse and I had recently sponsored a reading of the U.S. Constitution at the Nederland Library. The male of the unfamiliar pair quickly responded with, “Now, do you believe that the Constitution is open to change or that it is perfect for all eternity?”
“Well,” I said, “article five of the Constitution allows for amendment so, I believe it’s open to change.”
“Ah,” he responded, “then you don’t understand…”
His spouse immediately broke in with “We believe that what was written by God, like the Bible and the Constitution, are not to be questioned by Men.”
Then her husband started babbling. I wasn’t making sense of anything he was saying. It was just more word salad tossed around the idea that the Constitution was a holy document. After several seconds of this, I sought to confirm what I had heard with, “You believe the Constitution was written by God?”
“Well,” the husband responded, “it was written by men inspired by God.”
“And these men,” I suggested, “could not have made any mistakes. Every word was transmitted from the mind of God. So what about the slavery references?”
This was when the husband exposed a concept that I had never before reviewed with the care it deserved. “Now I’m not gonna change your mind and you’re not gonna change my mind…”
I immediately interrupted with, “I’ve changed my mind three times this week, why couldn’t you change my mind?”
He then moved back to the drone of the familiar speech he had heard and repeated over and over. I sat, mouth agape in all likelihood, as he sermonized. When the beers were drained and the entire group got up and exited the pub, I followed along deep in thought. Why could his mind not be changed? How could he hold a belief so solidly that it was immutable? Suddenly it struck me: maybe because his mind was not accessible in some way. Maybe his whole personality was completely submerged. Perhaps everything he was saying was simply a recapitulation of what he had heard. Perhaps he had memorized this or perhaps, like a child imitating his parent, he was simply repeating the words of an authority figure, the words of his hero, his exemplar, his deity. I wasn’t talking to him because he was literally not present.
At that point, some strange inconsistencies I was seeing in the Trump promoters of the time started making sense. None of their claims were tied to reason so why were they saying them? Maybe they weren’t arguments at all. Maybe they were simple, mindless recitations of statements made by their mortal gods. Maybe, like a fundamentalist quoting the Bible rather than explaining how an old man in the sky will do magic for them when asked properly, these people are not thinking at all but instead reciting the comforting balm that assures the dormancy of their frightening thought processes.
The husband’s proclamations were stated calmly but when I spoke, there was a hint of panic quickly resolved as he resumed his soliloquy. It seemed clear that his words represented a comfort. They rebuilt a structure threatened by my outside influence.
This isn’t just about Trump supporters. While Sanders’ following is composed of many rational adherents who approve of his foreign and domestic proposals, some proportion of his adherents are also desperate followers who are simply looking for a protector. Please, have a conversation with one of these. Don’t confront, as I did, but ask questions and gently press where needed. See if you see the same response. You are not talking to a subject (an individual observing the world and acting as an agent within that reality). You are talking to an object (the thing that is being manipulated). The manipulator, be it Lou Dobbs, Rachel Maddow or a Russian bot, is the agent providing that person’s response, degrading a real human being to a simple puppet.
We may be observing the response of people who cannot function without a simple tangible purpose. For all of the problems a deity brings, a purpose is provided with distinct clarity. We may argue that the purpose is illusory and self-referential; but it is a purpose with legs, a purpose that has sustained St. Augustine, Baruch Spinoza and even Isaac Newton. It is a purpose for which U.S. citizens will sacrifice their safety and the safety of their families. It is a purpose for which martyrs throughout the ages have yielded up their fortunes and their lives.
The Republican Organization, through its many spokespeople, has provided a plethora of mortal gods to satisfy the needs of those who are desperate, in the threatening reality of Trump’s America, for a deity that actually provides. For some, the deity is Laura Ingraham, for some Tucker Carlson, for many a twisted amalgam of those and some other figures satisfying the basic deity template. It is a template that each strives to emulate as a juvenile strives to emulate a parent, as a Christian strives to emulate Christ, as a Buddhist strives to emulate the Buddha.
Rush Limbaugh represents for his “ditto-heads” a deity to be emulated. No thinking necessary, the thoughts have already been processed and dumped into those followers’ heads for recitation to all who will receive the litany. Donald Trump provides a father figure for all who need one; an angry father, but a father nonetheless. An almighty father — the leader of the free world — a mortal deity worthy of worship. While Bernie Sanders, provided reasonable solutions to reasonable listeners, he too provided a father figure to those who only sought the broken comfort of certainty.
Until the Democratic Party figures out an actual meaningful vision, the mortal gods in the outside world, controlled largely by the Republican Organization, will dominate the voters. Various Democratic Party outliers like Sanders, Cortez and Ohmar may, despite the Party’s protestations, bring some level of vision as well as comfort, but without the support of a viable party, that vision will remain obscured and misrepresented.
The U.S. will continue to be governed, as our founders intended, by the people, people who worship and parrot their mortal gods. The vast majority of those gods are wretched sociopaths. The few who seek to do good in the world, are discounted by the media, the Democratic Party, and Republican mouthpieces. They have a following, but that following remains as esoteric as a karaoke machine with only Laurie Anderson songs. The media assure that their observers see only the approved version of events, only the protests that advance the status quo, only the messages of the approved gods. Those gods may be served. The esoteric gods, on the other hand, are worshiped by the few disgruntled failures who are out-of-touch with the actual desires of society at large (or so we are told).
There are those who do not need such an unquestioned authority. There are those who try to understand the world as it is and act to improve it. Unfortunately, as Adlai Stevenson is purported to have acknowledged, they do not comprise a majority of voters.
While the majority of Americans favor universal health care, low-cost college, a fair and impartial judicial system and everything else that the progressives favor, the actual acceptable mortal gods are united in opposition to those values. The ocean of Republican gods and the tiny pond of Democratic gods make it clear that what is holy is not what you want. Your worship is for the benefit of the gods, not you. They are worthy of your obeisance. They are worthy of your money, your health and your security. Those benefits are forfeit when the mortal gods demand them. Fearful true-believers accept this without question.
Sanders was the only Presidential candidate who understood this. To the rational, he proposed reasonable solutions. To the desperate, he provided a needed parent, a mortal god who could be emulated with benignity. When the Democratic leadership pushes Sanders out, those followers who were desperate will not step back and reflect upon foreign policy positions in order to assess their remaining options. They will not discuss lesser evils with thoughtful friends. They have been whipped into panicked despair and they have lost their daddy. They will not turn to timid, ill-defined and creepy Uncle Joe. They will turn to the only remaining well-established protector. They will turn to the strict but supportive father who will make them great again and drive from the house the strange kids who frighten them.
We the people are voting thoughtlessly by following the comforting dictates of our mortal gods, gods who will be long dead before our children reap the corrupted waste of their greedy harvest. Those who value understanding must grasp that one cannot reason with a fearful child. The child must first be comforted by a trusted authority figure and gently brought to a place where the mind may once again reign. This is our only hope for a future that serves everyone: some political party must present an ethical candidate who understands this. A candidate who rejects the false choices presented in the main stream media and demands the power to serve as both an intellectual innovator and a good shepherd. To those for whom a mortal god is required, a mortal god must be provided.
Julian S. Taylor is the author of Famine in the Bullpen the new book about bringing innovation back to software engineering.
Available at or orderable from your local bookstore.
Rediscover real browsing at your local bookstore.
Also available in ebook and audio formats at Sockwood Press.
This work represents the opinion of the author only.