Saturday, October 28, 2006
Egypt, Greece, New Jersey
Went to the Ancient Egypt,Greece and Rome exhibit at the Glenbow Museum on Friday afternoon. It was very good although I was a little miffed reading a museum display promising that Greece was replaced by an "even greater" empire: Rome. Im not sure exactly how to measure an empire but I'd put Greece up against Rome by virtually every measure that is virtuous. Of note to House of Leaves mavens was some wonderful Minoan bowls with the labyrinth pattern proudly embossed. Its very spellbinding to be in the presence of things that are made by human hands nearly 4 thousand years ago.
And speaking of, there was a case of burial statues called shabti. These were carvings of workers you would need to help you in the afterlife. It was very sophisticated and it seemed as though every aspect of organizational behavior was thought of as there were even shabti to organize shabti. Presumably so they don't goof off in your afterlife. As I peered through the glass thinking about how I would pull off a spectacular cat burglary of the place to a Chemical Brothers soundtrack when it struck me how similar this was to Second Life.
Indeed, everyone on secondlife is creating avatars (not unlike the mummy masks) creating imaginary jobs and goals and entire virtual lives. It seems that the Egyptians were doing the same thing by burying with them the same undigital trappings of the secondlife community. Though the tools have changed, little else has changed in the hearts of men for thousands of years.
Speaking of change, I've been enjoying the New Jersey court defense of gay marriage. Of course it has social conservatives explaining the ills of "activist judges." Even the president has used this favorite catch phrase of the right. Lets us forget for a moment that this is really just a synonym for "I disagree with" Part of the rhetoric is that judges are appointed and therefore essentially undemocratic. I guess this doesn't apply to Donald Rumsfeld, Rice, et al? Rumsfeld's acerbic disdain for nearly everyone would assure him of never reaching office if he had to secure the will of voters. Why do we not hear of "activist defense secretaries?" Many Canadians envy the Americans ability to actually vote for their leader (presumably they envy the few who bother turning out to vote for the president) but at least every one in the Canadian cabinet had to face the fickle mob of at least a constituency.
But back to my point, its curious that in all the whoopla of how great American Democracy is( I learned that on CNN,) everyone on the social right doesn't question the content of the decision- they question the institution of the supreme court itself. The American social conservatives share this skepticism of its institutions with the least stable of democracies in the world. When democracy and democratic institutions are not yet habitual in emerging or crumbling democracies, people don't question policy or decisions but the very institutions themselves. Witness common reactions around the world that chose to throw out elected regimes because they don't like them. In stable democracies, people at least separate unpopular policy from the institutions. Its true, stable countries like Canada have been tinkering with our institutions but not because of unpopular decisions, rather to make the country more equitable. Questioning the independence of the courts (perhaps one of the most important metrics in the assessment of a healthy democracy) is just another in a series of disturbing trends in America in the Bush era.
Posted by and then the_doctor