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Pave the Holy Land with Good Intentions

BY CHRISTOPHER KETCHAM
06.12.2007 | CULTURE

"Razing Jerusalem, Mecca! Free holy land in Baja California! Get it while it's cheap!" I came across this real estate notice recently in a copy of Take a Shit, an odd little zine published out of Brooklyn that proselytizes (if we can call it that) the notion that human beings aren't shitting enough -- backed up too much with meat, Jello, the Internet, suffering from the peculiar condition that doctors identify as scatalitosis, wherein the compost trapped in the intestines actually produces a kind of bad breath. An ex-girlfriend had this condition: common constipation brings it on, too. Extrapolate to human history, the zine argues -- we aren't shitting out the past fast enough: our acculturations, tribal fealties, land fetishes.

Idea for a world-historic laxative: Behold the slavering idiot tribes of Jehovah and Mohammed vying for the high holy ground in Jerusalem. Solution: Deploy the unipolar dominance the U.S. claims so loftily is a force for good and issue, ex nihilo, ultimatums to populations of all sacred sites. Use the traditional caress of American diplomacy, e.g. gunpoint. Proceed to bomb out of existence Mecca, Jerusalem etc. -- wherever God has been fattened on the ground in the Middle East. Confiscate oil for the continued profligate porno-consumerist existence of Americans. As suggested by Take a Shit magazine, launch wide-ranging advertising campaigns for travel to a new Holy Land in far-off inhospitable places. Mars will do, so will the craters of the moon. Barring that, we can offer the bottoms of the oceans or active volcanoes. If things get out of hand, the U.S. can sacrifice Texas, parts of Arizona, and most of Florida for the purpose of welcoming the billions of insane-person believers to the baptism of this new "holy land." Another solution is the mobile Jerusalem model wherein the Holy Land becomes a sort of traveling freak show; the floating fortresses of the U.S. Navy could be accommodated to this effect (better this use than bombing) and keep the holy rollers guessing.

Ultimately, however, this may prove a draconian effort with the usual blowback effects wherever military power is wielded with "good intentions." Indeed, historical patterns suggest that the effort may be in vain. Several thousand years can pass and entire new strata of sacred zones will obsess the human race. Consider the once holy sites throughout the Mediterranean that today are meaningless for contemporary religionists. The island of Samothraki near the Dardanelles, for example, where for ten centuries until roughly 300 AD the mystery cults, heirs of Phrygian custom, convened to worship eunuchs and oaks and waterfalls, where even Philip of Macedon was drawn and where he met his future wife, Olympias, who would bear him a son named Alexander, who went on to be a psychopath (sacred child!). In that tiny space of ten centuries, the superstitionists at Samothraki understood all that was needed to know -- and, of course, they knew nothing. The point is this: Even at gunpoint we may never shit out all the many inherited compartments of acculturation, the weight of superstition, never look into each other's eyes from the base of our humanness. It is the bad breath of history’s scatalitosis.

About the Author
Christopher Ketcham writes for Harper's, Men's Journal, Salon and many other publications.
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