Friday, December 14, 2007

The Frumerian candidate

It’s not that I genuinely respect or magnanimously tolerate other people’s religions. It’s just that I am, very politely, totally indifferent. As long as adherents keep the inquisitions, crusades, jihads, slaughter of innocents, and oppression and subjugation of women and indigenous peoples to the bare minimum, I turn a secular sunglassed eye to the proceedings.

So if some people want to go all Jesuit, Unitarian, Trinitarian, Rastafarian, or Santeria over a Romney the Mormon versus Huckabee the Southern Baptist sperm-sibling debate regarding Jesus and Lucifer, I just switch the input line from CATV to DVD and watch some episodes of AbFab and The Young Ones until the media moves on to something else.

I have to admit, though, that I would really like to see a Frumerian run for president. Since there aren’t too many Frumerians to begin with, and fewer still actually living in the United States, and even fewer (probably none) with the natural born citizenship status needed to run, the odds of a practicing Frumerian running for president are virtually nonexistent.

Why a Frumerian? Because Frumerians are cargo cultists, “cargo” being really cool technology and abundant stuff. Almost all Americans are cargo cultists too, but we’re in really heavy denial about it.

Based on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu, the Frumerians worship a messianic character called John Frum. He is depicted as an American World War II serviceman (the greatest generation and all that before Brokaw got around to writing his mawkish book) who will bring wealth and prosperity -- especially houses, clothes, goods, and transport -- to the people if they follow him.
The movement gained traction in the 1940s when some 300,000 American troops established themselves in Vanuatu. The islanders were impressed both by the egalitarianism of the Americans and their obvious wealth and power. This led them to conflate perceived benefactors such as Uncle Sam, Santa Claus and John the Baptist into a mythic figure who would empower the island peoples by giving them cargo wealth.

Followers of John Frum built symbolic landing strips to encourage American aeroplanes to land and bring them "cargo"…. The power of John Frum appeared to be confirmed by the post-war influx of tourists to the region, who brought with them a degree of material prosperity to the islands.

The cult is still active today. The followers believe that John Frum will come back on a February 15 (the year of his return is not known), a date which is observed as "John Frum Day" in Vanuatu. [emph added]
There’s a wonderful story about David Attenborough, back in the 1950s, asking a cult devotee named Sam if he was downhearted that John Frum hadn’t shown up that year.
“But, Sam, it is nineteen years since John say that the cargo will come. He promise and he promise, but still the cargo does not come. Isn’t nineteen years a long time to wait?”

Sam lifted his eyes from the ground and looked at me. “If you can wait two thousand years for Jesus Christ to come an’ ‘e no come, then I can wait more than nineteen years for John.”
Sam’s got a very good point.

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