Politics is the art of articulating control and some voices have more profound global impact. Our modern age has given us dogma in legal language codified as legislation that was born of cowardice, forged in privilege, and wielded against the marginalized.
The “Tower Of Babel” is a great Judeo-Christian story of incredible relevance here. This was the story that made me doubt the existence of god but also awoke a kind of panic about authority within me. The Book of Genesis, in general, turned me off from the idea of God because it reminded me too much of Stargate. As a text the Judeo-Christian Bible does pick up quite a bit with all kinds of great philosophy and tremendous insight. But as a child I could not get behind the fascist god of genesis. The story of the “Tower of Babel” presented us with a humanity that came to gather after god’s genocide with the flood. Now, ostensibly, you might think this was the lesson of the flood–to learn how to love one another again, to work beside one another, to share a common language.
I have always interpreted this to mean sharing the language of love. This sounds hippie-dippie but stay with me: think of the time a stranger went out of their way to help you out with something simple. Maybe you were a little lost and in need of directions, maybe it was a quick freebie snack, maybe it was someone who didn’t make you feel like shit when you had to mention a boundary about personal space and genuinely accommodated the situation with humor. That was a time when you shared the language of love with someone and it does let you peek into a view of what those from “Shinar” experienced.
When people are taking the time to be present one another as individuals with a different contexts that require calibration for full communication they tend to get a lot of shit done. This is why you may have been subjected to work retreats even though that’s an industry in and of itself that has forgotten the purpose of the exercise. Another quick glance into the extent of empathy would be those rare and precious moments when you feel uncertain where your body stops and your lover’s begins.
The people worked together to build a tower to God because they shared a language, a purpose, and a plan to accomplish it and they were getting shit done. “A tower to god” is a symbol from my understanding. Perhaps, though, it was a tower. I look to our space programs and global space stations, I see the beginnings of a Tower of Babel. When you get to such heights you stop splitting so many hairs about the differences between individual humans because you’re united as earthlings exploring the cosmos. That’s the dream we seem to come back to across the ages, at least.
I see also a people who were united against suffering and actively working together to put an end to poverty and class distinction. That could certainly be symbolized by a tower to God, a path to “world peace” which is just another symbol. A point of solidarity where problems aren’t assigned to individuals to bear but to all people making the weight of the work light.
Regardless of my interpretation, the passages never actually identify anything bad or wicked that was done. It is presented as laudable. And what is God’s response when he comes down from the heavens to take a look at the progress of his beloved children, the humans? “ Behold, the people are one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.” (Genesis 11:6, King James) That’s one of the most beautiful sentences ever: nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. It has been ordained by the creator: if we all just learn to communicate with one another and really put our heads together without excluding anyone, there’s nothing that can hold us back.
But in this story, God is a unity buster. I actually picture him as a union busting thug with swinging chains to inspire fear. “Come, let us go down, and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. So the LORD scattered them abroad from there upon the face of all the earth: and they left off building the city.” When they stopped sharing that common language, the good faith effort to put in the labor to listen, they abandoned their common task and their tower to God. United we stand, divided we fall. Divide and conquer.
Solidarity is not when the marginalized shut up about their needs. It’s when we listen to the needs of the marginalized and re calibrate the work because if we’re leaving people behind then we’re never going to get the “tower” built. We need all the minds and all the hands and it’s a constant act of work that has no end point but elevates us with every step forward.
Those at the top of hierarchies put substantial effort into halting communication between those they stand on top of. It’s why feminists decry “girl-on-girl hate” as a tool of the patriarchy. It’s how a few moles can destroy a movement, largely from fear and distrust among the unified ranks. It’s why there is so much internet surveillance.
The internet is a Tower of Babel. It’s a total whirlwind but it is not without form. If it is chaotic it is because a star is being incubated. Our great accomplishment has been this great tool of communication that is allowing us to be informed of the experiences of other. I’m delighted by blogs no matter how ridiculous they are. I encourage as many people as possible to compile documentation of their existence and experiences. I do get annoyed that all of this beautiful data and information about the human experience is corralled into proprietary ownership. It’s why I hate Facebook. They’re sitting on a goldmine of understanding and it’s solely being used to sell people more stupid shit we don’t need to plug into a landfill and aid the destruction of everything we know and love on earth.
It’s so easy to break up ranks and stop communication. In the best of circumstances it’s a difficult endeavor. Often times we break down out of frustration because it seems as impossible as breaking boulders apart with your bare hands. Bosses don’t communicate, they command with one way declarations enforced with many inventive forms of violence.
But still as a rant, I am learning to stop and clear my emotional cache every time a new human crosses my path. I don’t know anything about them and all of my filters, settings, and information about other humans really might hinder me from calibrating and identifying our common language. Idealism is believing that it’s there because we’re both made out of spare star parts and galactic shrapnel. Some humans have negative and malicious intentions towards me but paying attention to each person as a new individual allows me to identify threats more quickly because I’m not making assumptions that blind me to risks.
If you focus solely on risk elimination, you can easily move into paranoid myopia. If you focus solely on identifying alliances, you can move into dangerous naiveté. Maintaining a balanced perspective for every human (not just the ones your mental cache filters as immediately beneficial to you) is helpful because it offers protection and opportunity. It won’t happen all at once and it is an emotional muscle that has to be developed that does take training and isn’t easy and will go away if you stop putting daily work into it. Not everyone has the spoons for it everyday but like all muscles, doing what you can do on a consistent basis will build strength and that is always a victory to be celebrated.
I used to be more cynical because there is no end point in a Tower of Babel. The universe is expanding, you can’t reach the top, the top is a lie. Space doesn’t function like that. What is being developed isn’t a vertical thing but it is something that can be developed that carries us in a direction that is feebly known as “further.”
But this is all wild speculation anyway.