If you follow this blog, you might have spotted that I've mentioned the "Heroic age" a few times recently - and, indeed, what I call the New Heroic age, which is the return to a crass kind of medievalism. The New Heroic age is what we are living through now. We are being led backwards, away from democracy and high standards of scientific inquiry and evidence, back to the intolerance, inequality and savage injustices of the Middle Ages.
Why - you might ask - do I keep mentioning this? Well, it's partly because I'm approaching the end of my work on The Grail; Relic of an Ancient Religion for Moon Books, in which I have sought to explain how the stories of Arthur and the Grail were corrupted in the Middle Ages. The "Heroic age" mentality which altered and reinvented the original tales has not gone away. Historians are especially prone to Heroic age thinking, and there are many - way too many - Arthurian scholars and commentators whose Heroic age obsessions blind them to the historical facts of Arthur's Britain. I hope, in my final chapter for The Grail, to explain how the contemporary rush towards medieval thinking (with "wealth-creators" as the new aristocracy and transnational corporations as the new Church) is, and will be, such a disaster for mankind and for the planet.
It is probably unavoidable. I suspect that there is a historical inevitably to all this. Every previous civilisation has foundered and collapsed, usually because of personal greed and a too literal approach to certain religious beliefs, and so we should expect our civilisation to go the same way too, and for the same old reasons. Every Tea Party fundamentalist, every hard line Conservative ideologue, is committed to unravelling the achievements of science and democracy and reviving "god-fearing" feudalism. We are pretty much doomed.
But that does not mean that we shouldn't make a stand for what is right.
I came across the story of Daisy Coleman recently, and it struck me instantly as an example of the New Heroic age stamping its disgraceful attitudes onto our modern world.
Daisy was a pretty 14-year old living in Missouri when she and her 13-year old friend were raped and left for dead by a bunch of boys. That's bad enough. But the ringleader of the abusers was a popular football player from a prominent local family. And even though the sexual assault on two underage girls (who had been rendered insensible by alcohol) was filmed, the boys escaped prosecution.
Instead, the local town - closely followed by the internet - chose to blame the girls for being drunken sluts who had sneaked out of their homes that night and were obviously begging to be raped.
This, dear reader, is the Heroic age at work - in all its despicable, cruel and heartless glory.
1) the rapists were not only protected by their own families; the police and prosecutors bent over backwards to protect them, because they belonged to a sort of local "aristocracy", and the prosector even seems to have lied about the victim's family having refused to co-operate with any investigation - this, it would seem, because political favours were being "called in" and the local Republicans were closing ranks to defend their own;
2) the right-wing media (e.g. Fox News, which is doing all it can to reintroduce the worst kind of medievalism to our planet) happily vindicated the abusers and blamed the victims for allowing themselves to be violated;
3) the hatred of the victims (who were 13 and 14 years old, let's remember, and were left unconscious in the snow after their ordeals) quickly spread to the internet - which is a great conduit for Heroic age spite and political/religious intolerance - where Daisy was libelled, among other things, as an "uber-slut".
There is some good news. The hacktivist collective known as "Anonymous" took up Daisy's cause. Obviously, if her hometown was not prepared to give her justice, it would fall to the international community to demand a proper investigation of these brutal and inexcusable crimes and the prosecution of the perpetrators - those privileged youths who committed their vicious sexual assaults apparently in the knowledge that nobody would take action against them for raping and nearly killing two teenage girls. The case, it would appear, has been reopened (although vital evidence, including the recording of the incident, was seemingly "lost" during the initial inquiry).
The dreadful story of Daisy and her friend is a near-perfect example of the New Heroic age at work. First of all, it establishes a powerful clique of rich and influential individuals who pretty much have the entire neighbourhood under their fat thumbs. That clique breeds offspring who see themselves as a race apart, untouchable by the law, because they are protected by their parents and their parents' political friends. Worse, though - such offspring are raised to believe that they are, in some way, special. That the usual rules do not apply to them. That they are somehow "better" than others.
So when these sociopathic youngsters decide to rape two impressionable, underage girls (the circumstances suggest that the double rape was planned) and then dump them, they did so in the belief that they had some sort of right to do this, and that they would get away with it - which is pretty much what happened.
After all, if in doubt, the full force of Heroic age wrath could be directed - not at the psychopaths who committed the crimes, but at the younger victims. The criminals came from "good" families. One, at least, was a promising football player. Their parents were well-connected (and, I'm sure, churchgoers). Therefore, the boys were not at fault. But the girls! Well ... we know how the Church in the Middle Ages treated women. Especially nubile young women.
In the twisted world of Heroic age thinking, the boys were "good" and the girls were "bad". Powerful bodies, united in self-interest and political/religious extremism, came together to keep the boys out of trouble and to deflect all the outrage onto the girls. Like a medieval knight exercising his feudal rights, the boys (sportsmen, we remember) were simply doing what God expects them to do - to rape defenceless girls and then leave them to die of exposure. And if anyone made a fuss, an avalanche of hatred and abuse could easily be directed at the victims and their families. They would be effectively excommunicated, vilified, cast out like the harlots that they so evidently were - if they sinfully forced those good ole boys to get them drunk and rape them.
This one case illustrates how the New Heroic age works. And if you care for justice, democracy, decency, morality, civilisation and the rights of the victim, you will be appalled by it. Or you might just think, "Hey, it's Bible Belt America, where this sort of thing happens all the time."
What you should realise, though, is that this is the situation which we are all being driven into. One in which a wealthy and powerful minority wield power of life and death over the rest of us. One in which there is no justice, only the rule of the local, like-minded, conservative clique. One in which some are born to rape and the rest of us exist to be their victims.
That's the New Heroic age. And it will destroy our civilisation within - ooh, at a rough guess - twenty years.
(You can keep up with developments in the campaign to see Justice for Daisy here: Operation Maryville)