My Twitter timeline is all about the Pope nowadays. New pope! New pope! one Twittizen tweeted in tongue-in-cheek frustration. I spied a lot of emo reactions to the sight of the newly anointed Pope Francis (an Argentine) coming out of the Vatican conclave to look down on the cheering multitudes. How “blessed” he looked! Pope Francis is “the New Hope”!
It’s nice that we have a new pope. Having a pope is all good. We can all get back to being nice Catholics (in that renownedly broad range of seriousness with which Filipinos presume to practice that faith) and not be too distracted by the lack of a pope that we are made to believe is a situation that is critically relevant to our lives. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We hardly know this guy. As such, what is the basis for all the adulation and all the feelings of “blessedness” and attribution of humanity’s “hope” to this guy?
[Photo courtesy News.com.au.]
I find it quite ironic that the noisiest attributors of humanity’s hope to the new Pope Francis are those who noisily call for our politicians to produce clear platforms and legislative agendas in times of fiesta election. I thought the whole point of this sort of activism was to intellectualise and modernise our regard for our leaders. Yet here we are falling for the theatrics of medieval coronation rituals — the pomp and ceremony, the bright costumes, the regal presentations, etc.
Coronations, and the ceremonies and rituals that characterise them are all proven methods of mass inception as old as civilisation itself. Regal dress, mysterious selection procedures, spectacular public presentations, and big imposing palaces are beautiful relics to behold to remind us of the grandness and antiquity of human civilisation. But let us not forget the real reason all this pomp evolved over several millenia. These are all displays of power meant to continuously remind people of and ingrain in their psyches the notional gap that exists between the aristocracy and the peasantry.
Humans are, by nature, visual creatures. Our buttons are best pushed by visual cues to which we associate our strongest emotional impulses. Thus we are all biologically-inclined to exhibit our strongest and most primal emotional responses to catchy icons — crucifixes, golden arches, swastikas, etc. — strong primary colours — yellow, red, black, gray, blue, etc. — and suggestive body language — puffed up chests, slightly-parted lips, crossed legs, bristling hair and bared teeth, etc. As such, expressing strong emotion at the sight of stuff like these is almost instinctive. It is very human much the same way killing one’s enemy was once an considered a normal part of one’s daily routine.
It is therefore not surprising that we continue to see, say, on Twitter (the micro insta-publishing platform de rigeur of the “socially aware”), these flash manifestations of how potent the visual cues of royalty remain on the average human mind.
It is one thing to be at awe of edifices, tradition, and institutions that remind us of our species’ capacity for wondrous works of art, engineering, and organisation. But we also need to remind ourselves of the monumental effort it took for great men and women to overcome the effects of what these symbolise and the influence these were designed to exert on our minds so that rational and progressive forms of knowledge might triumph over the superstition and ignorance of antiquity.
Viva el papa!
Let us welcome the new pontiff Pope Francis — with modern minds.
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