One of my favourite concepts from the field of 20th century comparative mythography has to be Eliade’s notion of the Eternal Return. That idea that many rituals are, in effect, ‘re-enactments’ of prior and supernal Mythic Events; which not only carry their more overt (and often quite ornate) beneficial purpose for the participants, but which also, through their repeat performance – their *recurrence* – also re-immanentize, re-invest within our reality the essential Mythic elements that they are but a pale shadow of.
Now, ordinarily I would probably draw from a more … orthodox, and unambiguously positive example to illustrate this principle. A Hindu marriage rite, for example, wherein the Dulha and Dulhan are held to be (as) Vishnu & Lakshmi. But for what I am about to address – which is how these dimensions can have tangible impacts and effects *decidedly* less positive, and well beyond the bounds of the conventionally regarded “sacral”, we are instead going to speak of something else entirely.
Namely, Pakistan’s ongoing efforts to LARP as this or that Islamic/Turkic/Arabian (etc.) expansionist force, at least partially in a bid to compensate for its evident civilizational (and, for that matter, military) inferiority complex as compared to India.
Now, here’s the thing. Pretty much all militaries, and many nations engage in the *broader* typology of behavior I’m identifying here. And it can be a pretty fascinating insight into their national and/or organizational psyche to see just *which* past or mythological [and most especially, *mythologized past*] elements they choose to most overtly draw upon in these areas.
The English, for all their sins, had a certain sense that this could … go both ways, as it were. So while, on the one hand, you see them going around naming battleships “The Iron Duke” after their great hero, the Duke of Wellington [as in, the adversary of Napoleon at the arguable high-water mark of the British martial mythology in 1815 at Waterloo] … they *also* spent an appreciable portion of the later 1800s effectively in a low-level national panic about how while they *might* be the ‘new’ Roman Empire of the day – this therefore *also* meant that they might very well suffer the *same fate* as the Roman Empire, and were therefore constantly on guard for signs of the moral decadence which the Victorian historiography of the day pointedly insisted was responsible for much of the eventual ensuing civilizational-imperial collapse.
In other words, they were aware not only that Myths [and, by the 1900s, what else could one call the national standing of the Duke of Wellington *than* a Myth, a part of a National Mythology all the more *enduring* because it was the ‘spirit’ within the hard-corpus of verifiably occurrent history] could be somewhat totemically invoked … but *also* that one’s place *within* a myth is not something that, *once* invoked, is entirely at one’s own discretion, nor choosing – and can go *decidedly* wrong if one is not aware of the actual course of such things.
The Americans, who often like to think of *themselves* as the latter-day Roman Empire [to Britain’s now-faded Thassalocratic Noveau-Athens … and note which one of those, even in antiquity, was often regarded as being the “brains” of the operation], would do well to think upon this – as part of the dominant experience of being “Roman”, whether under the latter days of the Republic, or right the way through the Empire, was getting involved in wars in the Middle East, specifically against the Iranians [well, Parthians], and thence losing *very* badly with high body-counts for negligible gain nor glory. [Also, something something “republic dies, empire arrives” – in part because the self-declared “Optimates”, the Elites in conventional politics, wound up so out of touch that a ‘Populist’ potential dictator comes to actually enjoy *more* legitimacy with the people than the extant Establishment …]
Although it is perhaps an open question just how much leeway to change course or even simply to slow down one really has, once one has found one’s self upon the highway to the teleology zone which true myth in its recurrent state axiomatically implies.
[Otherwise, it’s another kind of myth – perhaps a deliberate subversion, or the transition to a different kind of myth or closely related but divergent one … or, for that matter the “just so” story perhaps best exemplified by the Prophetic tradition of the Old Testament … and funnily enough, also the Rev. Rolinson’s occasional reading of Karl Marx – as an “IF THIS GOES ON…”, which implicitly demands that, in order to avoid what happens if this goes on, that the it no longer go on.]
[Also, on a brief side-note, I’m not quite sure *what* to make of the British occasionally somewhat *inverting* this trope – their mid-20th century armoured car and light AFV namings including the “Saladin”, the “Saracen”, the “Sultan”, and the “Scimitar”; which, in addition to being terms associated with their *foes* of a thousand years before, especially in terms of the Saladin, also connoted a *successful, victorious* one, at that. Later developments, such as the Spartan, and much more recently, the Saxon, show a shift back towards the Classical and Germanic mythic reference points that the British had often otherwise preferred; although for various reasons, I somewhat doubt we’re likely to see a recurrence of the quite *direct* naming conventions often applied in World War Two – wherein the British fielded the ‘Crusader’, the ‘Churchill’, the ‘Cavalier’, the ‘Cromwell’ (leaving aside that these last two were, strictly speaking, on *opposite sides* of the English Civil War – the point is, all four are indelibly “English” and autochthonous to that land), and so forth. There’s also something potentially rather perplexing about the American military’s hardware designations including the Stuart and the Lee – as these were Confederate officers who’d fought *against* the United States, for the secessionist cause, albeit in the latter’s case, with well-renowned gallantry and acumen .. none of which stopped the British from promptly re-naming their lend-lease supplies of M3s to the Union arch-rival of him, “Grant”. But I digress. And rather wildly]
This brings us back to Pakistan in the later 20th and early 21st centuries.
Now, I should at this point note that I am rather heavily biased (shocking, I know); both against Pakistan in a contemporary and in a historical sense, as well as against every name I’m about to mention which they’ve chosen to invoke for the designations of their relevant military equipment. Not because the Pakistanis have made use of their monikers, you understand, but due to their historical crimes against Hinduism and against what would one day become India. In other words, *precisely* the reasons why the Pakistanis have tended to choose them.
Yet that’s where things start to get rather “interesting”, and what actually forms the basis for the insight that sparked this piece. For you see, while I may have stated my personal distaste for these men, especially in a *historical* sense, the Pakistanis have proffered their contrasting vocal enthusiasm for them in a manner that suggests a historical lack of sense. An almost cultivated blindness to anything about them other than “was engaged in at least one military action proximate to modern-day India, killed Hindus” (or Sikhs … or, in the case of the Ababeel ballistic missile, having slightly annoyed an [Abyssinian] war-elephant when small birds dropped pebbles upon it).
Now that *matters*, because as we shall soon see, the net effect of invoking a myth, constructing a myth out of memory and history, and then inviting yourself into its realm and its confines and its constraints upon your field of futures … well, it does not so much place one within the “subjunctive” position, as it does the “supine”. And once you’re there, you’re running on *its* narrative train-tracks, instead of your own.
Which is part of both the charm and the potential ‘curse’ of Myth – it’s like a locomotive [indeed, *logomotive*, you might say]. Powerful, rather impressive to look at, and capable of unfurling a paradigm-shift swathe of civilizational development which can even link otherwise disparate persons at opposite ends of a supercontinent [indeed, this is *precisely* what is entailed by the mythoreligious concept of the Indo-European-isphere, at least in part] … but while it *might* get you *much* faster and carry *far more* with you, along a pre-determined, pre-defined route – it doesn’t do “corners” very well; especially if they’re unanticipated [i.e. derailment occurs, which brings with it its *own* potentially rather catastrophic consequences – up to and including a “death of god” period within your surrounds and community, in which all manner of pseudo-post-modern silliness might ensue! Or even the outright disintegration of the community altogether, sans the common elements which bound it together being active and actively regarded, received, re-enacted, re-immanentized – “potent”, in other words, respected, retold, lived by and therefore under], or aren’t, at the very least, along a gentle curving gradiant, or actively facilitated via the use of a turntable [this, in a certain sense, apart from potentially overextending my metaphor all the way to the Isle of Sodor, is arguably what Zoroaster attempted to do with the early Persians – take the ‘mythic engine’ of their people, which was the previously-prevailing Indo-Iranian mythic orthodoxy … and then, having decoupled it as much as possible from its carriages, turning it about 180 degrees on just such a device … which is why so much of everything’s inverted, and they’ve spent perhaps three thousand years attempting to push things [back in the opposite direction] uphill].
What I’m arcening towards here, is that the Pakistanis *really haven’t considered* the actual nature, much less the ramifications, of the myth(s) they have found themselves attempting to parachute themselves within. And yes, yes I shall actually address directly how this an importance *well* beyond the trivial or the (pseudo)academic. But first, let’s consider the examples I’ve chosen with which to illustrate this point. Which are all various grades of missile, and therefore centerpieces of the Pakistani military-cultural establishment. There are, of course, quite a range of instances that could be drawn from, ranging across Pakistan’s somewhat less than illustrious military inventory and history; but we’ll stick to these five relatively recent (mid-2000s to late 2010s introduction to service) designs, and the mythic saliencies of their rather pointed namesakes.
First up, and in no particular order, the ‘Babur’ series of cruise missiles – named for the first Mughal Emperor. Who, as we all know, was of Turko-Asiatic extraction and from a lineage that had its origins arguably nearer to present-day China than to India, north of the Himalayas upon the Asiatic Steppe. And who, as is perhaps less immediately well known, also spent much of his military career in repeated failure, mostly fighting against other Muslim powers – including the Punjab-centered Lodi dynasty, who would arguably have a better claim to being the forebears of modern Pakistan proper, than the post-Mongol descending and Kabul-domiciling Babur who attacked them from the northwest.
A not entirely dissimilar pattern plays out when we consider the ‘Ghauri’ ballistic missiles – named after Muhammad Ghori, of the Ghurid empire which rampaged across a significant swathe of the SubContinent’s NorthWest from its original and eponymous heartland in west-central Afghanistan. Its period of localized suzerainty was a relatively brief one, however – collapsing into internecine infighting following Muhammad Ghori’s assassination, which lead to its being swept aside by later Muslim conquerors from further North/West after only a few decades; although not before it had bloodily captured a number of main population centers still integral to modern Pakistan such as Lahore and Multan, from their more easterly-origin rulers, as well as seizing Ghazni itself in Afghanistan to retaliate for some previous slight against their forebears.
And while it *could* be argued that the naming of the Abdali short-ranged (~200km) missile may represent something of a break in the above pattern, on grounds of its namesake – Ahmad Shah Durrani of the Abdali – at least having been born in what is presently part of modern-day Pakistan … the fact is that this figure is claimed, and with good reason, by the Afghans as the father of their nation, where he is buried. Fighting initially for the Persians under Nader Shah, his major successes upon the Subcontinent proper were initially against the Mughals – and included both a prominent sacking of Lahore and the forced surrender of Sindh to him by its previous occupiers. There is, no doubt, a lively debate to be had over just whom out of Durrani or the Marathas actually did more during this period to effectively erase the Mughals as a viable power, much less “empire”.
The last ‘Afghani’ missile which we shall take a brief look at, is also the one that somewhat initially inspired this piece – the ‘Ghaznavi’. About the same time that I was writing my this year’s Indian Independence Day article – On The Gates of Somnath Temple – and therefore reading a bit about Mahmud of Ghazni, for reasons that should be obvious (for non-Indian readers, the short-version is that Mahmud staged a number of escalating invasions of northern India, during the penultimate of which he committed a most abominable act of iconoclasm against a prominent Shaivite holy-site – and then carried off its magnificent carved gates, in addition to the shattered pieces of the Jyotirlingam and all the gold his forces could carry … before, several hundred years later, having an invading *British* army disturb his mausoleum and liberate what they *thought* were the Gates of Somnath Temple in order to repatriate them to India. Never let it be said that the British did not *occasionally* attempt to do the right thing. Eventually. And subject to much protest from other British – most notably, Lord Macaulay, in that particular instance); I happened to note that there seemed to be an escalating tide of Pakistanis with internet access excitedly posting about both the Ghaznavi missile, and the figure for which it was named.
By now, the pattern – and therefore, some of my reasons for raising an eyebrow at why Pakistanis are so enthusiastically identifying with the name in question – should be immediately familiar to you. An Afghan-origin warlord who swept down from that place, steam-rolling various Muslim kingdoms and polities along the way, setting up a thankfully rather brief regime which pretty swiftly collapsed in upon itself amidst squabbling, infighting, and what can almost literally be called a “chronic backstabbing disorder”, before eventually itself being subsumed outright by the *next* lot of Islamic imperialists from the east. Perhaps amusingly, by one of the *other* figures who’s lent his name to a Pakistani missile, in fact – Muhammad of Ghori, whom we met but a few paragraphs above.
But there’s more to it. In the course of my research for that aforementioned Independence Day article, I uncovered yet another instance of attempted “Eternal Return” – in that particular case, Farrukh Sistani (a contemporary of Mahmud, who was reportedly with him at the time) casting this act of iconoclasm at Somnath as being an effective re-enactment of a similar action undertaken on the Arabian peninsula against pre-Islamic pagans there by the rather more famous Muhammad, some several hundred years before. Our source for various details concerning how Mahmud and his coterie saw their own conduct is informed by various missives which he had sent to the Caliph of the Abbasids, back in Arabia; in whose name he had pledged to carry out annular acts of Jihad against India as acts of pious devotion.
Or, to phrase it another way – and perhaps like some Pakistani organs of state and affiliated syndicates today as applies, say, Saudi Arabia – Mahmud was effectively an agent acting under the aegis of a Sunni imperial center, rather than a truly independent actor. And, in terms of motivation, not at all about “defending Muslims” [quite the contrary, in fact, given the impressive death-tolls inflicted by him upon other Muslim polities of the area and era] – just mostly about aggression against India, plunder, and vandalism.
Appropriate, then, for a Pakistani missile.
But consider this – and here I shall quote myself, from my aforementioned Independence Day piece, as applies what *then* ensued following Mahmud’s (in)famed Somnath raid… for I think, especially in concert with some of the *other* recurrent features of those luminaries we have encountered above, that there is something rather important, rather significant, rather salient to it:
“Yet it is a curious thing. The campaign which took in Somnath was also destined to be the high-water mark of Mahmud’s efforts into India – the place where the wave finally broke, and began to roll back. On the way back from Somnath, his baggage-train groaning under the weight of ill-gotten spoils, he found himself harried by Jats, who managed sufficient onslaught against both his forces and pillage-loot that he had to forestall any subsequent substantive military efforts for a further two years while he replenished.
In addition to this, during the course of his final incursion into India, Mahmud is said to have become infected by some disease, that would shortly after kill him – although not before he had witnessed his empire begin to crumble and to disintegrate; a process which took place both without through the loss of territories that occurred following the military defeats that characterized his final years breathing, as well as within through the internal divisions and outright internecine conflict that followed Mahmud as a result of the weakness of the son he chose as his successor and the bloody ambition of the other whom he had fathered. Mahmud, therefore, died a failure; and irreversibly enmeshed in what we might term “contrapasso”. He had sought, as a raider from the west, to establish an enduring power via his feats and prowess of arms, and fueled by what he brought back in plunder from India. He found himself dying of what *else* he had brought back with him from India, losing his martial renown amidst his western provinces, to raiders not unlike himself in a previous era; and with the kingdom, the treasure that he had thusly created, being smashed asunder, his tomb being defaced and *its* relics carried off by a far grander imperial power from even *further* west again. Only, unlike the fate of Somnath (repaired, restored, resurrected, reincarnated ,you might say) for Mahmud and the Ghaznavids, there could be no rebuilding.
The Long Arc of the Universe, is a धनु. It is *long*, but it *does* bend towards Justice, as surely as Its Bowstring is Rta. And, as the saying goes – Time [Kaal] And I, Against Any Other Two.
Or, to phrase it more clearly again – the chartered course of Mahmud of Ghazni’s fate following his most grievous outrage against Somnath, would appear to be a visible manifestation of the concept of शङ्करचेतोविलास – the subtle play of Lord Shiva’s wit.
Such must be the fate of all those who commit such deliberate and egregious abominable attempts against Ishvara.”
There is one final missile we shall only briefly talk about, before moving to the concluding analysis – and hopefully, the bit wherein I tie this all together and you start to see how at the confluence of my spin on Eternal Return [wherein it’s not just that we re-enact myths …. but that through so doing, myths re-enact, re-shape *you*; “we become more like that which we meditate upon”, indeed], some observations on military hardware naming conventions, the Islamic conquest history of the Subcontinent, and the patterns inherent in this last factor especially, there is something of a metaphysical importance [inasmuch as metanarratives can very definitely become almost physical in their force and teleology] there for explicating Pakistan’s recent past, contentious present, and perhaps-crumbling future. That is to say .. that from our external perspective [thankfully *well* removed from the situation across two oceans and the island-continent of Australia], the observation of the Myth(s) which Pakistan has apparently intentionally chosen to situate itself *within* via these naming devices and their accompanying pseudo-civilizational ethos – *also* enables us to better observe just where it is their narrative has been, is, and is going; better, at least, than they themselves seem overtly able to. Although that may be, as I am often wont to suggest, a situation wherein even a mirror shall not show you an image of your face that you recognize if you are determined not to see it therein. But I digress, and we’ll have more upon that in a moment anyway.
The last projectile is the Ababeel – which is ostensibly named after the sorts of small birds that pelted an invading Abyssinian army and its war-elephants with pebbles during an abortive attempt to take the pre-Islamic (at that stage – Muhammad would reportedly be born the same year) Mecca. Now, while on the one hand one *might* observe that this therefore somewhat bucks the trend of the Pakistanis naming their missiles after aggressive Afghani conquerors – both in terms of the “Afghani” bit and the “Conquerors” bit, it is perhaps worth pointing out that given the unutterably strong iconographic linkage between India and Elephants [a situation supported since antiquity with various figures including Alexander the Great, and Demetrios I of the Greco-Bactrian kingdom, having Elephantine emblems if not outright headgear in reference to their successes there, as an example] … the Pakistanis are perhaps once more seeking to engage in a bit of the old Eternal Return invocation, as applies calling their missile an elephant-dissuader.
Although at the same time, it is worth pointing out that there is also something else betrayed by this. Namely, the insistent re-casting of Pakistani aspirations, desires, indeed, their faculty of memory itself …. in terms that are, here at least, decidedly “foreign” to them. I don’t merely mean in terms of it being something that’s a part of Islamic history that happened long ago and several thousand kilometers away. After all, I’d be a bit hypocritical in that regard, as a New Zealander making use of Vedic elements, then, wouldn’t I – they’re from either further back and farther away from where I am now than Mecca in the late 500s A.D. is to Islamabad.
What I mean, instead, is that it’s taking a battle fought between pre-Muslim Meccans, and Abyssinians … and then recasting insistently the Indians in the role of the latter [it goes without saying, the Pakistanis’ self-envisaged role as the former, except minus the “pre-Muslim” part]. Which goes towards a fundamental theme of unity across all of these missile-metanarratives of nomenclaturial derivation they seem to be running. They’re *all*, to greater or lesser extents, somebody else’s history. Which only becomes relevant to them, either tangentially [as with this particular instance], or because they found themselves being bludgeoned quite literally to death a lot of the time *by* said history, as it was riding through and firing cannons about the place.
In some ways, it recalls the phenomenon identified by Chomsky when writing about the American co-option of the identities of some of the victims of *its* imperialistic expansionism: “Choice of the name is reminiscent of the ease with which we name our murder weapons after victims of our crimes: Apache, Blackhawk. Tomahawk,… We might react differently if the Luftwaffe were to call its fighter planes “Jew” and “Gypsy”.”
Now, leaving aside that actually, it’s rather more complicated than that, and various Native American tribes appear to be rather enthused about having attack helicopters named after them … what we have here with Pakistan is almost the *exact opposite*. Whereas the Americans name military equipment after peoples they’ve fought and ill-treated [amongst other sources – perhaps this *does* explain their use of Confederate generals for armour designations after all], the Pakistanis do not do that. Otherwise we would see them calling a missile the East Pakistan, the Bengali, perhaps the “Searchlight”, or the Gilgit-Baltistan, the”Kashmiri Pandit”.
Instead, in their inestimable wisdom [for it is difficult, indeed, to estimate something so small, let alone with any hope of precision], they have chosen to name their various missiles and other such things, in many cases, after *those who were conquering them, unmaking the kingdoms of their ideological and ethno-political forebears*.
This is not a case of “if the Luftwaffe were to call its fighter planes “Jew” and “Gypsy”. This is a case of – to speak bluntly – the Israelis calling something of the IDF’s the “Heydrich” [in fact, this is a rather useful parallel – Heydrich *may* have had Jewish ancestry (which he carefully worked to obscurate or disprove in later life), for which he was reportedly referred to as “Moses” as a childhood nickname. Which means he, as a German, was arguably a closer coterminity genetically speaking to many modern Israelis than Babur is to a modern Pakistani – which *still* doesn’t make it a sensible, nor rationally explicable thing for the Israelis to do, were they to actually do so].
What other people, you really have to ask, would go around so overtly lauding the subjugators of their ancestors and civilizational forebears as heroes a thousand, five hundred, less than three hundred years later?
And this is just it. The Pakistani socio-military complex has become so incredibly mono-myopic with its “India Delenda Est” [they are, indeed, salty] mantra, that they have lost sight of almost any conceivable broader picture. Which therefore means they are as surprised as – in fact more surprised than – anyone, when it seemingly inevitably blows up in their face; as we saw not all that many years ago, wherein parts of that country found themselves beset by Taliban-esque [and, indeed, outright Taliban, and affiliates] insurgencies as a fairly direct result of the Sunni extremist and other vectors whom the Pakistanis and their ISI had been backing in Afghanistan in the 1980s “coming home to roost”. In 2001, just after Pakistan had decided to try a radically different tac and actually attempt diplomatic engagement with India, we saw LeT and JeM terrorists attempting to storm the Indian Parliament to scupper the diplomacy process … followed by JeM in particular carrying out a series of attacks against the Pakistani government itself.
This is, as it happens, not merely a case of the Pakistanis having been ignorant of the narrative they had found themselves in, and reaping the consequences of chaos.
This is, if you look a bit closer, a situation wherein the Pakistanis have actually been receiving *exactly the Myth which they themselves* had sought to evoke. Just … a lot closer to its original ambit and impetus – precisely because, when one calls upon such a thing, one is not given the default mastery to re-write its course, its characters, its characterization, and flowing from all of these, its ending, as one sees fit.
What am I saying? The dominant theme of four out of the five missile-metanarratives we have briefly discussed above, is simple. Increasingly militant and increasingly militantly Islamized forces from Afghanistan and surrounding environs come down out of the highlands, and proceed to lay waste to the fractious and infighting-ridden Muslim polities below, en route to attempting to take a stab at India. Where a ‘unified’ country is set up, either by these invaders, or by the people whom they are invading, it seemingly inevitably totters on for a few decades before collapsing via a combination of these external pressures, and the apparent manifest fact that most of these dynasties are their own literal worst enemies. Where there are foreign ‘entanglements’ *beyond* those delivered directly at sword-point, they tend to fall into several categories – either direct and commanding influence from the Arab and Arab-icized centers of the Sunni world much to the West, or from the Asiatic-origin rumbling conquerors to the North and North-East.
The “Myths” which the Pakistanis have consciously [I do not say “self-consciously”, because that implies both an abashment, a capacity for embarrassment as well as an awareness of who and what one actually is, that I suspect is rather beyond their brass and obsidian [i.e. ISI] much if not all of the time] chosen to invoke, and attempted to position themselves as the “bearers” of, the “vessels”, the “vehicles” for – are those of Conquerors, Warmakers (often victorious, albeit as we have seen, not at all enduringly – not that they seem to think about that) against India; empire-builders and Islamic suzerainty constructors who stand astride the north of the SubContinent and surrounds like colossi.
The *realities* of these Myths, is not merely that the “standing astride” bit, entailed (at least in historical terms) the tramping down upon the Pakistanis’ own cities, forebears, literal direct ancestors. But also that they are mutually contradictory – multiple personalities which cannot stand each other by legacy of having often bloodily seized power from each other or their immediate descendants as the essential rite of transition between them (consider Muhammad Ghori against the Ghaznavids, for instance; or slightly less directly, Duranni against the Mughals who descended from Babur). You add all that to the *actual identities* of the figures these Myths are effectively anchored to [i.e. the historical personalities to which they and their imagery are most directly, immediately attached and thematically ascribed in their popular mythomagenings], as Afghan or Asiatic warlords who attack from the West, and who then in the slightly longer term open *themselves* up to the repeat occurrence over and over and over again via internecine strife and interior weakness, papered over with vocal religiosity and recollections of being greater, once, and KHANZ upon the steppe …
… well, is it any surprise that the state of modern Pakistan can aptly be described as “under severe strain”, through a combination of domestic instability and imported hostility from across its western border with Afghanistan – kept together largely by infusions and influences from other places, other powers such as the Saudis and the People’s Republic of China, as well as a vague sense of pseudohistorical animus towards India, the larger,religiously different, and more prosperous (now) neighbour,and then double-buttressed via loudly declared religiosity along with imaginary ‘recollections’ of once upon a time being Great Powers to whose legacy they are the sole, self-designated inheritor.
Because that is *exactly* what they brought upon themselves when they sought to assume the mantles of these particular Myths. They were so focused upon constructing a rocket [somewhat literally, in these cases] pointed at India,that they neglected to observe that they were now standing in its backblast, and were going to have to push it from behind to try to get it to launch. (And, lest I be insistently misconstrued here – I do *not* just mean the rockets, the missiles, a scant four or five words worth of bombastic military-industrial nomenclature. I mean *the entire thing* that these are but symptomatic identifiers *of*. *THAT* is the mythic corpus, the mythic complex, the mythic *immersion* [rather than, truly, *construction* – it’s rather difficult to *build* such things yourself, they tend more to happen, and/or re-happen, and you catch what waves you can, for the most part] under discussion here!]
It’s like how when the Evolian sorts clamour for the introduction of a “Caste system”, on underlying subconscious grounds that *of course* they think *they’ll* be the ones on top. These concepts, these constructs in actual fact have lives, have internal logics, of their own. They do not merely exist to “serve” just whomsoever might happen to dust off a history book or a wikipedia article, and briefly skim the contents before rushing off to a PR-political event. Rather, in many cases, as applies authentic Myth with a Capital M and associated actual Mytho-Religious Complex to go with it … we exist to serve *Them*. It’s just that, instead of Gods, Who participate in patterns – mythic frameworks that condition and underpin, underlie, underlining reality … the Pakistani one is devoted to serving an altogether different, and fundamentally less sound, as it is far less “anchored” nor internally plausible mythic cobbled-together shanty.
And this is before we get into the observable fact that once the proverbial genie’s out of the bottle, it doesn’t tend to take too terribly kindly to being asked to shove off and leave its new-found playthings be. Only Myth, generally speaking, can actually displace Myth – hence why “culture-jamming” is such an important Thing (although it should be noted that various things that don’t look overtly like Myth .. including many of those inextricably bound up with modern neoliberal-era consumerist culture …are actually Myths, albeit of dire and erosive portent – all the more efficacious and insidious for not making their Mythic facings immediately clear; indeed, often doing the exact, diametric opposite, counting upon the concept that few shall properly perceive that even the out-of-hand *rejection* of even the concept of metanarrative is, in and of itself, a metanarrative as well!).
I am reminded of the words of another Curwen – in this case, a figure in an H.P. Lovecraft short story – who is quoted therein as penning the following: “But I wou’d have you Observe what was told to us aboute tak’g Care whom to calle upp, for you are Sensible what Mr. Mather writ in ye Magnalia of ——, and can judge how truely that Horrendous thing is reported. I say to you againe, doe not call up Any that you can not put downe; by the Which I meane, Any that can in Turne call up Somewhat against you, whereby your Powerfullest Devices may not be of use. ”
While the entire maxim is questionably applicable to this situation, the core kernel of it – be careful what one ‘calls upon’, Mythically speaking, lest one actually get something *just* as potent as advertised … and with a ‘mind’, a narrative logic not your own – is of direst relevancy here.
Another way to approach the point would be the words of Kurt Vonnegut – “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.”
Although one of the *best* insights upon the subject, comes to us from Frank Herbert’s DUNE – “Greatness is a transitory experience. It is never persistent. It depends in part upon the myth-making imagination of humankind. The person who experiences greatness must have a feeling for the myth he is in. He must reflect what is projected upon him. And he must have a strong sense of the sardonic. This is what uncouples him from belief in his own pretensions. The sardonic is all that permits him to move within himself. Without this quality, even occasional greatness will destroy a man.”
The Pakistanis, in other words, have lost “feeling for the myth [they are] in”. Indeed, they double down and put ever more effort into scrupulously avoiding this realization. Instead choosing to posture ever more vehementlyabout re-enacting the actions of Mahmud of Ghazni … with all their bluster – their *pretensions*- being aimed not only at the overlooking of what the historical course of the myths in question meant for what would become Pakistan rather than just India (i.e. invasion and vassalization … at best), but also at the fundamentally fragile and seemingly self-crumpling nature of the ‘mythic states’ [the historical states as points of mythic information and reference] thus engendered.
Evidently, in their case, not even “occasional greatness” shall be required in order for them to (self-)destroy.
Now, in some ways I may have come across as presenting an altogether rather pessimistic tone throughout this piece. Promulgating a seeming notion that *only* an established corpus of stories, mythic archetypes and blueprints, are capable of being emulated … and that ultimately, the entire thing is so far above the “pay-grade” of even the political system of a nuclear-armed power that we’re individually or in small groups akin to mere atoms within the pawns upon the great cosmic chessboard, and so should therefore not bother with contemplating such things – not least as it’s all, perhaps, largely “predetermined” anyway.
And this both is – and isn’t – the case.
Certainly, for somebody who is ‘unconscious’ about the whole thing, there is going to be comparatively limited ability to exert any influence whatsoever upon the course of proceedings. And even where we *are* more overtly aware of the fact that we *do* occasionally find ourselves living within Myths [rather than ‘just’ stories – those are commonplace and lower-case, after all], it can be frustratingly difficult to do too terribly much with this information. That generally requires i) greater insight into just what sort of Myth we’ve arrived in; ii) an altogether increasingly uncommon understanding of how we might ‘redirect’ ourselves or the unfolding, unfurling course of the Story [which can mean how to pull off a substitution at an appropriate branching point, and with/to what]; iii) above all, the right – indeed, *rite* – kind of mindset for inhabiting Mythic Reality in the first place. Which is rarely, if ever, a fully “rational” one according to the currently prevalent standards of the day [Myth, after all, tends to arcen back somewhat, almost deliberately; hence why, even in an age of prevalent firearms, dragons *tend* to still be slain with weapons you might feasibly find in the Bronze Age, and wielded by the representatives of a similarly archaic socio-political structure, such as a Knight a Kshatriya or a King … or, for that matter, a Priest, but we shall expand upon that *particular* concept elsewhere, some other time]; and in addition to or even instead of the *knowledge,* the *perceptiveness* to become aware of at least some of what’s going on, also entails the ‘enthusiasm’ to play one’s part, well.
Myths (re-)acquire Force from Belief. Belief is crafted and shaped via Familiarity and Impression [Impressiveness … Rule of Cool is an actual theological precept – at least some of the time, anyway; and subject to the subjective nature of “Cool”]. Familiarity and Impression come from Resonance. Resonance derives, most frequently, from Myth. Although not always the same ones, or even the same types of ones,as that being adopted or eventually Perceived. Which is the ‘trick’ of a skillful re-writer – being able to string together various elements that *have* resonance, into something that ‘hangs together’ *just so*,without these unraveling apart again due to interior incompatibility and disparateness, or via some part being *too* close to another, more powerful mythic course that then ‘hijacks’ the narrative stream and redirects it accordingly in its overpowering direction.
Oddly, some people who *aren’t aware at all* that they’re doing it, seem to be inestimably better at it, than some people who *are* aware of things on at least some level, and who are actively trying to. Whether this is because the former category are more powerful in their narrative saliency so as not to even need to try and ‘force’ it; or whether it is that the latter, in much the same manner as “cool”, are doomed not to be it whilst they are overtly endeavouring to attain it … is a question that can, for now, be left to the reader.
My closing thought upon these matters, is a simple one.
It is both difficult and dangerous to attempt to assume, much less *construct and then assume* a Mythic mantle. One must be *damn sure* that one has properly, correctly, studied it, all its ins and outs, and also one’s self, before even beginning to do the former; whereas the latter is a house of cards which weigh as titanium when they fall, and flense the skin from bone when they paper-cut if blown or tumbling.
It is not enough, to borrow a Scooter-ism, to “take care to get what you like or you’ll be forced to like what you get”, although that is, of course, also the case. Rather, it is upon us to take care to receive what is *right*, otherwise it shall be right what we get. And for that, I am a great believer in the resonant, redoubtable, resplendent value of Old.
I therefore place faith in true Gods, true Myth. Not in the contrivances of the moment designed by people far too clever for their own, let alone anybody else’s good – who approach even civilizational-tier metanarratives [let alone the cosmological ones] as being little more than over-filigreed exercises in PR.
But, then, I *would* say that, wouldn’t I.
It’s arguably a part of my Place in the Myth.