Here Thar Be Monsters!

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9.6.12

All Take No Give

There are stories that float around society and occasionally surface as cautionary tales to scare us into submission.  Usually, the details of these stories are pure conjecture and speculation, but with constant repetition, they become truth that is unquestionable.

One such story is the tale of Easter Island.  In case you've lived under a rock for the past 200 years, that's the place in the South Pacific with the giant stone heads that no one ever seems to be able to figure out.  The story surfaced again recently when some real whiz kids (I'm being facetious) dug down and discovered, lo and behold!, the heads had bodies!  Not that the discovery is all that important.  For most of us, we just scratch our chins and nod appreciatively for a few seconds and go on with our lives.

Of course, once the heads hit the news, the old saw about how the islanders cut down all their trees and killed off their own society because they weren't judicious with their use of resources surfaces once again.  The fact is, no one knows exactly what happened on Easter Island.  There are scant written records and just a bunch of stone heads to tell the tale.  But why let facts stand in the way of a good story?

The thing about these stories that is never spoken, never written and never addressed is the cause of events like the one that killed off Easter Island.  Any inspection and speculation always stops just shy of the real reason these things happen.  We can't speak the fundamental truth, because it would undermine Everything.

You see, what killed off Easter Island, and the Maya, and the ancient Egyptians and Romans, for that matter, is always the same reason.  It's a greedy, resource-intensive elite that suck the land dry of anything of value in order to sustain their lavish lifestyles and enrich their coffers.

It usually starts with religion, our old friend and bug-a-boo.  Religions demand that there be some privileged group within society who have a hot-line to the gods.  Only they can receive and interpret the messages from on high, and so they must be attended and obeyed without question.

It usually starts innocently enough.  The gods want a pile of fruit or a burnt offering (pilfered and consumed by the elite).  Later, it always escalates into grand temples and palaces, elaborate rituals, wealth and riches, and so on ad nauseum.  The gods are never happy with a little, they ultimately need everything their chosen representatives on Earth can get their hands on.

These elite can never work or pull their fair share.  They must always devote their complete attention to communing with the gods to get the information needed to continue subjugating society.  Consequently, huge supply chains spring up to support the ever growing and burdensome elite as they demand greater and greater sacrifice to the gods.

Inevitably, these elite start handing out laws, supposedly received from the gods.  This, in turn, becomes government, which itself demands constant attention and maintenance, since it too is a tool of the gods/elite.  More and more labor and resources are devoted to maintaining these institutions, to the point that they begin to encroach on the daily activities and supplies of the regular folks. 

The regular folks can't attend to things like crops or hunting or productive activities, because so much of their time and effort are consumed in serving the elite and their institutions.

For their part, the elite do really well.  All they have to do is sit around and look thoughtful, and for that, they demand the very finest of everything - arts, crafts, food, buildings.  They grow, and spread, and prosper, and in so doing, they demand more and more resources to maintain their fancy lifestyles. 

And hey!  If you little people don't hand it over, the gods will get very angry and throw lightning at you, and your crops will fail and your kids will be born without fingers...and on and on.

At some point, the society reaches a tipping point.  It takes so much effort, time and resources to sustain the elite and their institutions that society collapses.  The people's strength fails for lack of food.  They have no homes because all the materials went to building temples.  They have no clothes because the finest textiles went to ceremonial vestments.  The best livestock were sacrificed to appease the gods/elite.

At this point, either the regular folks all die off from starvation and disease, or they wander off to less oppressive climes.  No longer able to care for their basic needs, the regular folk cease holding up the pyramid of power.  More often than not, the regular folks go on a murderous spree, slaughtering all those they perceive as having caused this mess.

This is the way all empires pass, whether it be one isolated island in the South Pacific, or one that spans the known world.  Eventually, the elite demand more than the masses are willing or able to give, and the whole house of cards comes crashing down.

On Easter Island, the answer to the mystery is literally staring us right in the face.  The elite demanded that the people create these massive stone heads.  The project grew to absorb the entire output of the society and destroying the limited resources available.

No doubt, the "head" idea was sold by an elite who (thinking more of their own aggrandizement) convinced the regular folks that these heads would protect them from angry gods.  They had to do this project or perish in the wrath of the Invisibles That Only We Talk To.  No doubt, the elite were very proud of their 'achievement', but the result was to consume all the useful things that sustain daily life.

And so it collapsed and left us with a mystery.  Only it's not really a mystery if you look closely and compare the outcome with dozens of other civilizations throughout history.  They all follow the same path.  And it was all caused by inbred, insane elite who lost complete touch with reality by insulating themselves with the administrations of the societies they controlled.

Take a look around you.  How many churches, banks and government buildings do you see?  Calculate how much time, money and resources have gone into building those structures and the institutions they represent.  Think about what EXACTLY you get back from them?  How many ghost stories have you bought to support these things that give absolutely no value back to society?

Now look at the Moai heads on Easter Island.

See a connection?