What if there actually is nothing after Death? Capital-D Death. What if there’s actually nothing to prepare for?
Death might become lowercase-d death. Not anything, not something to develop life precepts around. If there’s nothing—nada—zip—we don’t have to consider hell or heaven, though I’m guessing we’d all like to give up hell but retain belief in heaven. Just in case.
I sure did—do, really. I like to retain the notion of an Afterlife. Just in case. You know, a bolthole. Then I could work with things like karma. And reincarnation. But if there’s no afterlife of any kind, all that’s down the toilet. You’d just have to be decent in this life then, because….
Because it seems demonstrably true that those who have killed, cheated, lied, and stolen throughout history (e.g., royalty, pharaohs, tyrants, politicians, presidents & prime ministers, and the high clergy of most all religions) have prospered while they sold what was perhaps a bill of goods to “the people” about good behaviour (i.e., not rising up and getting rid of royalty or corrupt clergy or CEOs). And how not grabbing one’s share of the pie would get you into a “better place” in the “hereafter.”
Ah, the Hereafter.
The Hereafter was a very effective mechanism for large groups of people to be held in check by a mere handful of folks. Controlled.
Today we call them The 1%. There’s a 1% at the top of every society and every culture that has ever risen, been, then passed away.
And then there’s the Eastern notion of karma. That could actually be seen as a very ancient Machiavellian twist. You’re a downtrodden and miserable, poor and landless peasant today because of something you did in a previous life. No, no—not because the deck was stacked against you when you were born into a peasant family, not because we created concepts like “Untouchables,” not because of systems of royalty and feudalism and religious control or the way land is held in your country and has been for centuries.
Nope: you ####ed up in a previous lifetime.
In some of this one has trouble disagreeing with Mao Zedong. I detest the way he went about making changes – especially in Tibet, especially the Cultural Revolution. But the question remains: how do you wrest control out of the hands of the mighty?
How do you actually set right the millennia-long imbalance and massive and worldwide injustice of the ruling classes vs. the peasantry or the proles? How do you do it?
Is there a nonviolent, peaceful way in which The 1% will relinquish their ownership and control of the world’s resources to the 99%?
His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, has said: “Nonviolence takes a long time.”
That’s for sure.
And I see that because, in this case, it might require several future generations of education to effect a nonviolent total reversal of how things are now, of how things work and (as important) what we believe about economic and human rights on the planet in every country.
One can see that taking a very very long time. You just have to look at Cuba or Venezuela to see that. The ruling classes do not let go non-violently.
And then you just have to look at the “unholy” synergy of capitalism and whatever China is, in the factories where people die in fires because they are locked in doing 16-hour shifts for five dollars a day, to see that it will be a very long process of four steps forward and three steps back.
So what of the meantime as the activities of The 1% are actually bringing the planet down, marching it towards its end. Do we have the time for nonviolence?
That seems to be the dilemma as I write: Fires rage in Portugal; people are burned to death in their cars, trying to escape. London is expecting a smog storm while the U.K. simultaneously withers under a heat-wave. Planes can’t take off in Arizona because the temperatures have gone to 48°C (120°F); people changing a flat in L.A. find their jacks melting into the tires. In 2013, Boston had a snowstorm that delivered 71cm of snow in one day.
Even as the weather becomes more and more extreme, and more damaging, and we have mountains of evidence that it is the activities of capitalism, really, that are destroying our planet, our finitely-resourced planet – do we change, do we do things differently so as to preserve this precious life?
We’re going back into coal burning now.
Meanwhile, in the decision-making circles of The 1% the pedal is put to the metal to speed up the exploration and possible colonization of the Moon and Mars.
Much money and our supposedly shared resources are spent on this quest, while people die in fires like London’s Grenfell Tower because the powers-that-be decided the siding on their high-rise should be the cheapest, and nobody made sure the sprinklers worked, which might have prevented the tragedy.
But Mars, eh.
The 1%’s control mechanisms aren’t working so well anymore.
The hoi polloi have had a look-in at The 1%’s lifestyles of multiple mansions, jets, yachts, $80,000 dresses (as Pippa Middleton in 2017 paid that for her wedding dress alone, in a purportedly $1Million wedding staged amidst the poverty and homelessness of the UK, just a few weeks before Grenfell)—and people aren’t buying it anymore.
People no longer accept that certain people are “royal.” In the face of revelations about genetics, they’re simply not buying it anymore. It’s getting more and more difficult for those power groups to pull a Wizard of Oz and scare us with puffs of smoke and loud scary voices: we’ve seen the man behind the curtain.
Which brings us back to death and the Afterlife. If there’s no hell to worry about, no burning in the pits everlasting, what is to keep us in line in this life now?
Predictably, those who rule have come up with what George Orwell foresaw back in 1949—permanent war. Always a threat. From within. From without.
Always an enemy.
Protecting us by revoking our human and social rights. Overruling constitutions. Stacking highest courts. Perhaps even staging false flag attacks to forward the agenda and keep the power. We can’t freak you out with warnings about the afterlife; but we can keep you in line in this one.
I wrestle with the question. Can we have an afterlife without a hell? I think we can. Because we can see how hell becomes created right here. Right now.
And maybe we humans, in relating to our fellow humans and animals, will just learn to behave in certain ways. Not because some third party is railing at us about fire & brimstone in order to keep their own power centres intact – but because treating each other with respect and love is the right thing to do.