by David Metcalfe
"This particular time is most inauspicious; at this time the horrible ghosts and constant companions of the lord of the ghosts are visible. Lord Shiva, king of ghosts, sitting on the back of his bull carrier, travels, accompanied by ghosts who follow him for their welfare."
The media is calling them 'flash mobs', but from what I've read of recent incidents there's no real connection to the internet, just a roaming group of 20 or so teens willing to beat and rob whatever mark they set up.
This weekend 4 people were assaulted and robbed near Northwestern University, an upscale neighborhood in downtown Chicago, where violence isn't the norm. One of the victims was a 68 year old man. According to Crane's Chicago Business this is a new development in a series of group related crimes in the area. The end of 2010 saw nearby Michigan avenue, a popular shopping area in the city, hit with a rash of shop lifting carried out by teens in organized groups.
Cranes states that, "in January, 11 teens, reportedly coordinating their actions via text message, stole some $5,000 worth of merchandise from North Face, Filene's Basement and AX Armani Exchange stores. According to a Chicago Sun-Times report, one of the teens yelled “Snatch!” to initiate the shoplifting. Another shouted, “Meet you on the Red Line!”
In these earlier incidents the internet seems to have played a part, but in this weekend's assaults there would be no need for that kind of coordination, just a group of teens and the intent to act.
There's a certain inevitability to it all. Today we're faced with an atmosphere of pervasive fear festering in reports of global violence, revolution, nuclear fallout, economic collapse, conspiranoia, and environmental decay. As one wise Chicago hustler told me, finger placed with reverence to indicate the confirming verse in a Bible resting on his lap, "Good fruit don't grow in fucked up soil."
According to a report in H+ Magazine on a study from the International Journal of Epidemiology, "...when boredom becomes chronic, it’s dangerous. The numb condition lures desperate humans into “make-me-feel-alive” behavior like over-eating, alcoholism, sex addiction, smoking, drug dependency, self-mutilation, fist-fighting, off-road racing, pathological gambling, and vandalism. It can plunge one into poor grades in school or poor work performance. Boredom can spiral into depression, which carries a high risk of heart disease. Anxiety produced by boredom and depression releases hormones such as cortisol. These hormones damage the circulatory system. “Anger suppression” in boredom is also detrimental. Bottled rage increases blood pressure and weakens the immune system."
With unemployment riding high, and the alternatives often menial jobs with no hope for growth or self fulfillment, and a culture with no sense of cultivating meaning, the tender wood is ripe for the flames of youthful rebellion. Studies conducted on the cultural effects of an awareness of death show that individuals from Western society have the odd tendency to become more judgemental and prone to aggression when faced with reminders of their mortality. While corporations reap the benefits from over eating and self indulgent behavior, society feels the sting of the other outlets contemporary frustrations find for their release.
These loosely organized groups of over-exuberant teens exist within a growing surveillance culture whose ends of escalation include weaponized aerial drones and a host of non-lethal weapons specifically designed to counter unruly groups in urban areas. The same technology that fosters increased transparency also allows for increased communication, and rapidly coordinated actions on all sides. High technology and unchanneled frustration, the means and the energy to act, it all has to go somewhere. By some reports murders are down, but across the globe we see larger eruptions of violence and change.
Myths play out in the world, and Shiva, the Auspicious One, has taken the stage to mark an inauspicious time. As the mass media stripmines meaning from our culture, all areas under advertising's vacuous gaze become cremation grounds, and there Shiva lingers to redeem or reclaim .
Shiva, king of ghosts, awakens to a field of culturally dispossessed, economic dead, erupting in violence, abandon and force. Shiva, Tripurantakmurthi, destroyer of the cities of Gold, Silver and Iron, whose aspect is fire as both an end and a renewal.
Ibn Arabi wrote that one should not expect the angelic realm will show itself in a physical manifestation, instead look for the subtle emotional sense that presents itself as a form of communication. In the same way there will be no physical manifestation of Shiva, his body, manifested in it's malefic sense, is a mental fire that ignites revolution and change, a broken urban facade awaiting destruction, an unsustainable infrastructure that fosters its own end.
Shiva exists in all the paths that lead to the cremation ground, the potent null point from which a new cycle can begin. As a wise ruler his coming is auspicious and marks a peaceful society, as destroyer his blessing is to end what is at an end, and set the field for a more fruitful yield. Lord Shiva, King of Ghosts walks the streets of Chicago, testing the times and the hearts of the people.
When the forces awaken, language exists as the only means by which they can be chanted down. In the media's version of the events technology, pranks, shop lifting and assault blur together in the hazy term 'flash mob'. The media's interpretation coordinating the occurrences without the need for a hidden hand. Differences in intention, purpose and motive are erased and a beast emerges that needs to be put down.
Shiva has many names, faces and forms, some fortunate, others speak of destruction. While the media admit to a passive role, they actively write out reality and direct the active consequences of their story. The crossed keys of heaven and hell are contained in the words we use to build our world, the names we give our gods. Today we live with the immanence of myth, and a desperate need for better storytellers.
David Metcalfe is an independent researcher and artist focusing on the interstices of art, culture, and consciousness. He is author of “Of Dice and Divinity – Some Thoughts on Gambling and the Western Tradition,” forthcoming in The Immanence of Myth.
Writing and scrawling regularly for The Eyeless Owl, his illustrations were brought to life in the animated collaborative grotesquery A Serious Enquiry Into the Vulgar Notion of Nature featured at select venues in downtown Chicago during the Spring and Fall of 2010. He contributes to Evolutionary Landscapes, Alarm Magazine, Reality Sandwich, and is currently co-hosting The Art of Transformations study group with support from the International Alchemy Guild.
Pre-order a copy of The Immanence of Myth, published by Weaponized in July 2011.(Or sign up to be notified of its release on Amazon.com)