Friday, September 02, 2005

Soma

Soma

Soma (2001)

Soma by Stephen T. Naylor:

Soma is a very difficult deity for many outside of India to comprehend. He works on numerous levels, all of which are tied together rather strangely. Soma is firstly a plant. He is also an intoxicating drink which was brewed from that plant. As the blood of animals and the sap of plants, Soma courses through all living things. He is Inspiration to those who seek it, and so is the god of poets. He is also the god of the moon. He is the dwelling place of the venerated dead, as well as the divine cure for evil. The ancient Hindus did not differentiate between these divergent aspects; all were the god Soma.

[...]

As a drink, Soma is the ambrosia of the gods. It was due to this influence that they could rise above all obstacles to achieve their goals. Indra was a great drinker of the substance; before his confrontation with Vritra, he drank rivers of it to gain the strength needed to overcome the fearsome dragon. Agni also consumed it in large amounts. Soma was what gave the Vedic gods their immortality. It was also a drink for mortals, a golden-hued nectar which was derived from the Soma plant, which may be a species known as ephedra vulgaris to botanists. This drink brought hallucinations and ecstasy to those who consumed it. It helped warriors to overcome their fears in battle, and it helped poets to become inspired to create. Soma was a bridge between the mortal world and that of the gods. This drink is the same as Haoma in Persian mythology.

From a summary of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World:

In the "brave new world" of 632 A. F. (After Ford), universal human happiness has been achieved. (Well, almost.) Control of reproduction, genetic engineering, conditioning -- especially via repetitive messages delivered during sleep -- and a perfect pleasure drug called "Soma" are the cornerstones of the new society. Reproduction has been removed from the womb and placed on the conveyor belt, where reproductive workers tinker with the embryos to produce various grades of human beings, ranging from the super-intelligent Alpha Pluses down to the dwarfed semi-moron Epsilons.

Stupefied by soma, and exhausted by a long-drawn frenzy of sensuality, the Savage lay sleeping in the heather.

Soma (2005) by Chad Michael Ward at Studio Underhill

Selected references to soma in Brave New World:

"All the advantages of Christianity and alcohol; none of their defects."

"..there is always soma, delicious soma, half a gramme for a half-holiday, a gramme for a week-end, two grammes for a trip to the gorgeous East, three for a dark eternity on the moon..."

"the warm, the richly coloured, the infinitely friendly world of soma-holiday. How kind, how good-looking, how delightfully amusing every one was!"

"Swallowing half an hour before closing time, that second dose of soma had raised a quite impenetrable wall between the actual universe and their minds."

"By this time the soma had begun to work. Eyes shone, cheeks were flushed, the inner light of universal benevolence broke out on every face in happy, friendly smiles. Even Bernard felt himself a little melted."

"I don't understand anything," she said with decision, determined to preserve her incomprehension intact. "Nothing. Least of all," she continued in another tone "why you don't take soma when you have these dreadful ideas of yours. You'd forget all about them. And instead of feeling miserable, you'd be jolly. So jolly."

"When the Warden started booming, she had inconspicuously swallowed half a gramme of soma, with the result that she could now sit, serenely not listening, thinking of nothing at all, but with her large blue eyes fixed on the Warden's face in an expression of rapt attention."

Now that Bush is making puddle-jumping photo ops in the post-Katrina disaster area, I'm afraid that (once again) the American public will be hoodwinked into perceiving that Bush is presidential. The soma stupor will set in, and the poll numbers will rise. Hollow pictures resonate more than words, and what Bush says won't matter (like today's insightful analysis that "I'm not going to forget what I've seen. It requires more than one day's attention") because only the sleeves-rolled-up Prezdent being briefed (live) will imprint on stupefied brains. But it's interesting that the foreign press has passed on swallowing the media soma. From the U.K.'s The Independent:

President Bush faced not only the fallout of Hurricane Katrina but also an intense political storm yesterday as relief experts, government officials and newspaper editorials criticised everything from his administration's disaster preparedness policies to the manner in which he made his public entry into the growing crisis on the Gulf coast.

The New York Times said of a speech he made on Tuesday: "Nothing about the President's demeanour yesterday -- which seemed casual to the point of carelessness -- suggested that he understood the depth of the current crisis."

No less trenchant -- and more heartfelt -- was the Biloxi Sun Herald in Mississippi which surveyed the disaster around its editorial offices and asked: "Why hasn't every able-bodied member of the armed forces in south Mississippi been pressed into service?"

[...]

Experts on the Mississippi Delta pointed out that a plan to shore up the levees around New Orleans was abandoned last year for lack of government funding. They noted that flood-control spending for south-eastern Louisiana had been chopped every year that Mr Bush has been in office, that hurricane protection funds have also fallen, and that the local army corps of engineers has also had its budget cut. The emergency management chief for Jefferson parish told the Times-Picayune newspaper: "It appears that the money has been moved in the President's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay."

And Reuters had this to say:

Many newspapers highlighted criticism of local and state authorities and of President Bush. Some compared the sputtering relief effort with the massive amounts of money and resources poured into the war in Iraq.

"A modern metropolis sinking in water and into anarchy -- it is a really cruel spectacle for a champion of security like Bush," France's left-leaning Liberation newspaper said.

[...]

Commentators noted the victims of the hurricane were overwhelmingly African Americans, too poor to flee the region as the hurricane loomed unlike some of their white neighbors.

New Orleans ranks fifth in the United States in terms of African American population and 67 percent of the city's residents are black.

"In one of the poorest states in the country, where black people earn half as much as white people, this has taken on a racial dimension," said a report in Britain's Guardian daily.

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn, in a veiled criticism of U.S. political thought, said the disaster showed the need for a strong state that could help poor people.

"You see in this example that even in the 21st century you need the state, a good functioning state, and I hope that for all these people, these poor people, that the Americans will do their best," he told reporters at a European Union meeting in Newport, Wales.

No functioning state in Bush's America -- unless you're a "have more." Today, in Operation Photo Op, Bush told a grieving woman to "Hang in there" -- and the soma-addled anchors ate it up. I think a comment by Barry Champlain (nice Talk Radio name) over at City Pages accurately captures the moment:

Amazingly, as the cameras followed Bush and the weepingly grateful citizens through the (dry) rubble of his tour area, you begin to notice one thing:

The weepingly grateful, multiculturally-balanced group of citizens ARE THE ONLY "PEOPLE" IN THE ENTIRE GODDAMNED VIDEO.

Amazingly, they turn up as if on cue, at the end of the shot of Bush, strutting like Bush struts down half a block in front of collapsed houses (never once stopping and actually LOOKING at any of them, evaluating, BTW). And there they are. The grateful subjects. Nobody else. For the duration of the video.

The more things change... sigh. Gotta keep "catapulting the propaganda." And BTW, the anchors are already kvelling about the president's immense comfort to... what... four people?

That's Bush -- a man of the (few) people. Now, hang in there...and watch him drive...away...

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