Thursday, June 10, 2010

Art Liches, Bitches...

This isn't about videogames. It's about power corrupting or some such thing.

But yeah, spooky picture, from Battle for Wesnoth. Because there are community-sourced independent computer games too.

Vampires, warewolves, zombies... we all know they have to "mean something" these days, because if they don't then it's supposed to be silly for adults to be interested in them.

A good straight scare and its ability to shock us out of convention and rut is "immature."

You know, zombies represent modern consumers, vampires represent some attraction to death, or perhaps a faustian bargain, or dangerous sexuality and warewolves represent the Tea-bagger movement.
It's all very simple.

And WTF is a Lich? In fantasy culture a lich is any dude who's used magic to unnaturally prolong his life. But what it takes to become immortal is usually pretty unpleasant and it usually leaves the individual a pretty grumpy old fellow.

Voldemort is the first big "Lich" in popular culture. What does he represent? Sure, "pure evil." I never buy the pure evil BS. "I'm going to take power for its own sake and rule the world!!!" From what I've seen of life, nobody with an IQ high enough to tie their shoes really has that kind of aspiration. No. The people who suck the most are always trying to do some kind of "good."

Another angle is: power corrupts, aboslute power blah, blah, blah....

But I like the liches that bisect this set of themes:
Power over life and death.
To become "immortal," everything that's "you" must die.
What lives on is no relation to what once lived, and what's left is so corrupted, so bizarre that it destroys its original values and ideals.

Look no further than any family business that's ever gone corporate.
Or look at a "Project for a New American Century" seeking immortality for their county and in the process sticking us in a "war without end."

But the best example is religion.
Look at the Buddha. Way back when, some small group of people started a movement of "noble atheism" to fight against the injustice and authoritarian abuses of the popular religion at the time. He ordained women, decentralized the religion and taught non-attachment to things like tradition and taught that God was irrelevant to living a good life.

2,000 years later what's left of the Buddha is a lich, worshiped as God by often centralized, authoritarian structures that use tradition as an excuse to keep women from being ordained, and marginalize ethnic groups or those who disagree.

And the biggest lich of them all?

Jesus.

2,000 years back a social movement formed around a person or persons named (or not actually named) "Jesus" that sought to fight the injustice of abused religious authority. Again. The Roman Empire did what every empire does (what the US is doing in Iraq) divide and conquer.

They gave the "Pharisees" authority over everything, including religion, then armed them, knowing other ethnic groups would fight back. And if they were fighting among themselves, easy time for Rome.

And the Pharisees made getting into heaven an expensive goal, keeping their adversaries in the poor house.

Jesus fought that, teaching you should follow basic principles, "love thy neighbor" and such. And taught the radical notion that wealth did not equate with religious "purity" by living like a slob in the desert. And he ran the fucking "money changers" who charged for purification rituals out of their own temple.

Now what's left of that movement and their "Jesus" is a lich who grants authority to a huge bureaucracy of money changers who use notions of "purity," tradition and ritual to further enshrine their own power. "Jesus" is big business.

So I wonder about all the artists who share that goal: immortality through their work... more later.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very intresting, but you lost me at Jesus. Jesus did die, he just got back up again afterwards, so... zombie. It's the fact that his followers pretend to eat his flesh that confuses people but... yup. Remove the head or destroy the brain.

Or maybe that's just me feeling depressed at the idea of 2.1 billion horcruxes.

Luckymortal said...

Yeah, but zombies don't command their minions to crusade in the holy land, burn women at the stake or invade Iraq.

Lich.

Anonymous said...

Ah, but neither did Jesus. Those things were just done in Jesus's name. I could start a holy war in the name of my cat (and I might), but it wouldn't change the fact that he just wants to eat delicious brains.

Awesome call on Voldemort, by the way. Dunno why that never dawned on me. Horcrux totally = phylactery.

Luckymortal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Luckymortal said...

But what's left of Jesus but his name?

The core "soul" of his ideas, the Beatitudes for example, or all that junk he said like "give up your riches and follow me into the desert" were cut out so that "Jesus" could become immortal.

Those lofty ideals would have contradicted the sort of authoritarian institutions necessary for immortality and they would have offended the wealthy and powerful people necessary to fund it.

Immortality, after all, is expensive and it's hard out there for a lich...

All that's left of the real person (or people) who inspired the Jesus name after 2,000 years is a decrepit wisp: a name and the authority to command legions of unthinking zombies (often using fear, very lichly!)

And the faint echoes of those lofty ideas, hidden safely in a book nobody reads, are rarely heard over the much creepier notion that by giving up our souls and wills to him, we may become immortal.

And that's what Lichin' is all about.