75. Sacrifice.

One of the things that sets us apart from the other creatures that share our planet is that we indulge in commerce. Trade.

Trade must have been around for a very long time indeed, from the first moment a person realised that he had too much of one thing and not enough of another. It just makes sense. And it must have made much more sense once we started farming, and manufacturing things like weapons or jewellery.

There's always a good market for jewellery.

There’s always a good market for jewellery.

Another thing that sets us apart is religion. We have gods. We’ve always had gods.

It stands to reason, then, that we should try to trade with our gods. If I give you something precious, Oh Mighty Thing Up There, you will give me something in return. And so, we keep finding evidence that people sacrificed things to their gods. Swords were thrown into lakes. Food was burnt at altars. Jewellery was sunk into bogs.

Sometimes the lakes gave the swords back.

Sometimes the lakes gave the swords back.

The way commerce works is that the more valuable the thing you seek is, the more valuable the thing you offer in its stead must be. Precious offerings got larger rewards. And what could be more precious than a human life. And so people sacrificed other people to their gods. People were thrown into lakes. People were burnt at altars. People were sunk into bogs.

Sometimes the bogs gave the people back.

Sometimes the bogs gave the people back.

The old gods were nasty pieces of work. Blood gods. And some of them were very bloody indeed. When their temple on top of the great pyramid at Tenochtitlan was rededicated in 1487, the Aztecs claimed to have sacrificed 80 400 people in four days.

Most of these sacrifices were of captured enemies or of slaves.  But for some, those sorts of lives were not precious enough. The Incas sacrificed their own children to their sun god.

And we are taking them away from him.

And we are taking them away from him.

The Carthaginians were said to sacrifice their own babies to their blood god Moloch. The consent of the parents was required.

It is hard to imagine what would motivate a parent to offer up their child this way. Or maybe it isn’t. Unlike the enemies and the slaves, these children were adored by their people. They were the favourites of the old gods. The special ones. They were showered with gifts. Raised up on high. They must have felt like gods themselves. Until the knives came out, and their empty husks were cast aside. And those parents?

The ones who stand head and shoulders above the crowd.

The ones who stand head and shoulders above the crowd.

I’m sure it wasn’t so bad to be the parent of one of your god’s favoured children. Their honour would be your honour. The respect, the admiration, the adulation must all have rubbed off on you, and if your economic prospects were somewhat boosted by the whole affair, who would hold that against you? Most of all, some of that godliness must have rubbed off on you, too. And when the knives came out? Well, it must have sucked. But the knives weren’t out, in the end, for you.

Luckily, the world moved on, and our gods became a little nicer. The story of Abraham and Isaac is said by some to represent a turning away from human sacrifice in the distant past, with the consent of the intended beneficiary.

Dinner was a little awkward that evening.

Dinner was a little awkward that evening.

Up until recently, all we’ve had to sacrifice to our gods (if we choose to believe in them) has been some of our stuff. We tithe. We donate. We drop some coins into the collection box. If we feel like it. We can give our time, too, I suppose. We can’t, however, give our children.

Not any more. There’s a new god in town. A god called Fame. And make no mistake, Fame is a blood god. At first, when Fame was a young god, he went out and found his own victims. Janis Joplin. Jimi Hendrix. Jim Morrison. Amy Winehouse. Curt Cobain. The list is endless. But these people were not sacrifices. They were victims of their own excess.

But then something disturbing began to happen. Ever heard of a sandboy? As in “As happy as a sandboy”. Sandboys were not happy at all. They were Victorian child labourers. They live short, miserable lives of grinding poverty, driving around carts laden with sand which they used to scrub peoples’ stone floors. Chimney sweeps were also child labourers. So was the little match girl. There were factory workers, miners, textile workers and glass makers. Many of these jobs were tough and dangerous, and child labourers died like flies.

A GIRL PUTTER

And then someone pointed out that this wasn’t very nice. Laws were passed. Child labour was stopped in most countries where this blog is read. Just don’t think about where your luxury goods are coming from. It will make you sad.

But not all child labour was outlawed in the West. Remember this guy?

Macaulay-Culkin-Home-Alone-the-good-son-my-girl-macaulay-culkin-31171548-675-1000

He started working at the age of four. These girls?

ppsl01_olsen-pics

They started work at the age of zero.

On paper, it all sounds quite reasonable. Yes, these kids are being put to work in proper, adult jobs, but the worlds we create on film need to have kids in them, or they’d just be creepy. Besides, there are some very strict rules around the conditions under which these kids are working. Rules about the hours they should be keeping. Rules about their education. Rules about their money. Rules to keep them safe. It’s all very responsible, and anyone who puts their kids to work in film or music is, on paper, giving them a fantastic opportunity. But.

Remember this guy?

Brad_Renfro-002

That’s Brad Renfro. He played that kid in “The Client”. He’s dead.

This guy?

Jonathan_Brandis_3

That’s Jonathan Brandis. He was in “SeaQuest”. He’s dead.

This girl?

9298431_ori

That’s Bridgette Andersen. She was in “Savannah Smiles”. She’s dead.

There’s a list of them. It reads like a liturgy.

Corey Haim. Dead.

Dana Plato. Dead.

River Phoenix. Dead.

Anissa Jones. Dead

Chris Kelly. Dead.

Gary Coleman. Dead.

Michael Jackson. Dead.

The list goes on. And on. And these kids really are sacrifices. You don’t choose your future at the age of four. Someone pushes you. They dress you up in your Sunday best, spit on a tissue to wipe the dirt from your face, and trot you out to the next audition. To be the next Brad Renfro.

Surviving isn’t always the greatest thing in the world, either. You only need to look at the current crop of bright young things to see how fame and fortune at a young age can steer your life. Britney Spears. Lindsay Lohan. Amanda Bynes. And they’re just the cream of the crop. Pick a child star out of your memory and chase them down on Google. It’s not a sure thing, but there’s a pretty good chance you’ll find a train wreck.

The glitz and glamour of fame.

The glitz and glamour of fame.

These outcomes are not inevitable. There are those who come out unscathed. Victorious even. Those kids from the Harry potter movies look like a happy, well adjusted, grounded lot. Someone did a good job. Some child stars have gone on to adult stardom. Others have gone on to cheerful obscurity. But the risk these kids have been exposed to is astronomical.

Imagine yourself, at the age of ten, or twelve, or sixteen, with the world at your feet, literally. A ludicrous salary. An adoring fan-base. The adults in your life at your beck and call. Power. Power beyond anything that should be placed in the hands of a ten-year-old, or a twelve-year-old, or a sixteen-year-old.

There's no way this kid will turn out to be a dick!

There’s no way this kid will turn out to be a dick!

And then imagine that one day you woke up and it was all gone. That the world had turned its back on you. Imagine the only question left being the one at the heart of any broken relationship. “Why don’t you love me anymore?”

Offering your child up to the great god Fame must be like standing at the side of a pool full of sharks with your arm around your child’s shoulder, while a hundred other parents do the same thing. You give them a final hug, tell them that you love them so, and then you push them in. And you say, in a quiet, reflective voice, more to yourself than your child “Don’t worry, precious one. Only half of you are going to die.”

Now swim! Mommy wants to be featured in People Magazine!

Now swim! Mommy wants to be featured in People Magazine!

It is hard to imagine what would motivate a parent to offer up their child this way. Or maybe it isn’t. These children are adored by their people. They are the favourites of the new god. The special ones. They were showered with gifts. Raised up on high. They must feel like gods themselves. Until the knives come out, and their empty husks are cast aside. And those parents?

I’m sure it’s not so bad to be the parent of one of your god’s favoured children. Their honour must be your honour. The respect, the admiration, the adulation must all rub off on you, and if your economic prospects are somewhat boosted by the whole affair, who would hold that against you? Most of all, some of that godliness must rub off on you, too. And when the knives came out? Well, it must suck. But the knives aren’t out, in the end, for you.

I have no idea how this situation could be resolved. These kids are worth billions, and besides, we all worship this new god in one way or another. We know what Kanye and Kim are calling their child. We know when the Duchess of Cambridge’s baby was born. We know about Angelina Jolie’s latest surgery. We read the magazines and the websites, and watch the shows on TV. We provide the fame these kids are sacrificed to.

I don’t know how you would change the laws to protect these kids. How do you prevent damage that only becomes evident decades later, when no-one is watching? Maybe we should take a leaf from the book of the Victorians.

Who could have guessed he would grow up to use a banana to trash the theory of evolution!

Who could have guessed he would grow up to use a banana to trash the theory of evolution!

When they decided that child labour was wrong, they took immediate steps to remedy the situation. Children from the age of nine to sixteen were only allowed to work for sixteen hours a day. It seems crazy. What the hell was happening before this? But it was a start. And look where they ended up. Killing a blood god is no easy matter. But that’s no excuse for us not to try.

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44 thoughts on “75. Sacrifice.

  1. Spy Garden says:

    I watched the Hunger Games the other night and it made me think of this post: well done! hahahah

  2. A thought-provoking post, that makes me thankful I had a mother who said ‘No!’, and a daughter grounded in reality 🙂

  3. narf77 says:

    (sorry about the spelling…we all have our shortcomings 😉 )

  4. narf77 says:

    By the way Mr 23 Thorns, you should be VERY glad that whatever small troupe auditon you trotted the young thorns off to that rejected their obvious talents while Mrs 23Thorns was away did so. The God’s might not be happy that you lost your chance to sacrifice their tender flavourful blood to a lifetime of leeching on the stage but Mrs 23Thorns is a MUCH more vengeful deity in an entirely more dangerous catagory…

  5. narf77 says:

    The Klingon warrior that you posted an image off must cost a fortune to decorate before battle. Child sacrifices eh? Must have been the ultimate in Munchhausen’s by proxy! I wonder why Moses didn’t choose an AK47. I hear it’s his gun of choice these days…I guess the moral to this post is “Don’t put your children on the stage Mrs Worthington”.

  6. Typehype says:

    Heartfelt and very well said. And all of it true. I agree with Martina above. This post has a place in the media. I just finished reading “All the Beautiful Forevers” by Katherine Boo about Mumbai. As my mom used to say, this tragic, poignant book “will curl your hair.” Lots of unfairness and cruelty in this world in the name of survival and greed.

  7. A great deal of food for thought here. Excellent post.

  8. Lood says:

    I can see why people offered their children up for sacrifice. You only have to be party to temper tantrum number 17 for the morning to think that there has to be a permanent solution the the cabal…

    • 23thorns says:

      You wouldn’t even need to offer up your own kids. Just take them along to the next sacrifice, and then look thoughtful whenever they start playing up.

  9. Martina Wald says:

    You are going to send this piece to major magazines, right?
    Oh, okay, you already have. Fine than.

  10. Much food for thought here. I’ve been exploring the notion of blood sacrifice lately myself – the kind of sacrifices we make willingly and those that happen without our consent.

    On a side note, all this talk of gods reminds me of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. Where do all those forgotten gods go when our minds create modern ones? I enjoyed his take on that question.

  11. Mary Southon says:

    Powerful and beautifully stated. Thank you.

  12. Lyn says:

    We humans could learn a lot about how to treat and protect our children from some species of the animal kingdom. Polar bears, lions and even the cold-blooded alligator are all devoted mothers, and the great kids’s movie, Happy Feet showed us what wonderful fathers male penguins are.
    Sadly, not all the Harry Potter “children” came out unscathed. Jamie Waylett, who played half of the bully boy pair Crabbe and Goyle was arrested for taking part in the London riots and being in possession of an “incendiary” device. He was also charged with possessing and cultivating cannabis. He was sentenced to two years gaol. We live in a sad and selfish world.

  13. ksbeth says:

    powerful message, well said

  14. johnjroberts says:

    “Fame is like a river, that beareth up things light and swollen, and drowns things weighty and solid.”
    — Francis Bacon

  15. smallpebbles says:

    Very insightful, well-written and spot on! thanks….

  16. albertine says:

    Thank you.

  17. Jocelyn Hers says:

    Honey Boo Boo. Look at Mama for an awful example. I may be wrong, I’ve only watched her once, but… I think a lot depends on Mum and Dad. If your child is the only way you can get power or money or satisfaction, that child is going to land up like Britney Spears, ie, as you say, sacrificed.

  18. The Rider says:

    A lot to think about!

  19. dalo2013 says:

    Enlightening post, in the sense that living a normal life (whatever that may be for a person) keep a person grounded. Being grounded makes it more likely to find happiness. Come to think of it, almost every philosophical treaty and religion looks at fame as something that takes “you” away from “who you are” and thus in the end things are not so nice.

    It (fame) is a sacrifice in many ways, and if you are an adult and understand this – then it is possible to remain grounded. For children, it is a bit sad unless the parents put more energy into grounding their child rather than exploitation.

    Love the analogy of standing by the pool of sharks…pretty darn accurate!

    • 23thorns says:

      I suppose part of the problem is that when your child has earned millions of dollars, the balance of power shifts, and you lose control no matter what your intentions.

  20. longviewhill says:

    The more things change…

  21. sisteranan says:

    ok… i’m turning off my tv now…

  22. billgncs says:

    interesting that some believe trade is the precursor to written languages — markings needed to be transported that represented a quantity of goods shipped.

    The Christian God works for me. Much to be preferred over the state.

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