Scarce Resource Theory (4-5; October 27)

Chapter 4 is quite basically Avalos defining modern scarce resource theory in five sentences—the theory that scarce resources, real or perceived, are a major factor in violence—and then spends the remainder of the chapter critiquing it in relation to a couple of different concepts.  You and I both have read that chapter, which I found to be a sort of white noise chapter, so I’m going to move on ahead to Chapter 5 and something a bit more plumy.

Sacred space, group privileging, inscripturation, and salvation.  In these chapters, particularly Chapter 5, Avalos examines scarce resources and how they derive from religion.  The four categories I opened with are the main four examples of the major scarce resources that are generated or supported primarily by religion. 

First, inscripturation (another word I think Avalos may have made up—Spellchecker doesn’t recognize it either).  The term refers to a written account of what is considered to be “authoritative information about or from supernatural forces and/or beings”.  All major religions seem to be in possession of their own version of scripture—Jews have the Tanakh, Muslims have the Qur’an, and Christians have the Bible (a combination of the Tanakh—the Old Testament—and the New Testament).

In the section on inscripturation, on page 106, Avalos states, “But there are differences between secular privileged texts and sacred scriptures.”  This caught my attention.  He cites the Constitution as an example, explaining that we as a society determined that it was a special document—God’s approval did not factor into the issue.  I, however, wonder that maybe one could argue that god (or God—lowercase or uppercase ‘g’, I don’t care and I’m sorry that I keep switching) is just an entity.  He/she/it is the same as the people who accepted the Constitution, except for the powers that we afford him/her/it.  Don’t you have to believe in god for this to work?  It seems to hinge on Christianity or one of the other “sounding-board” religions (ah, that’s my own term, sorry).  Also, is there any point in thinking about us attributing certain books to God (i.e. God chose this scripture) instead of merely talking about the writing? 

Next comes the idea of sacred space—“a bounded space whose value is placed above that of surrounding places for purely religious reasons”.  I had little thoughts on his section on this, save for the notion that I find often times sacred spaces are attributed to be so by religious people—not necessarily for religious reasons.  For example, if you visit a memorial for a war or for some other violent occurrence, people observe a different code of conduct there than they would on the street.  It’s not necessarily because the sight is sacred for religious reasons, but people may act as if it is sacred for reasons based on their religion.

Linked closely to both inscripturation and sacred space, is the idea of group privileging, or the idea that certain groups have privileges that are not granted to those who are not inside the group.  It’s a very straight forward idea and I applaud Avalos for addressing it—in fact, I’m not sure if I approve thus far or disapprove of what he’s doing.  It almost seems like he’s taking things that all people could possibly agree on, slapping a different name on them, and then using that as the meat of his theory. 

Finally, in the end, we reach salvation (haha—get it?  Okay, I know, weak pun).  Avalos refers to salvation as the “ultimate supernatural prize”.  Salvation is the concept that one receives a better supernatural status by joining a specific group or religion.  I kind of thought this section was weak and a little flawed—he doesn’t seem to address enough (for me, at least) the fact that different religions have very different concepts of salvation.  Even with the Christianities, there are varying ideas—compare that of a Catholic with that of a Protestant.  I’m pretty sure the Protestant would tell the Catholic where to stick his notion of purgatory.  If you break outside of the Christianities, you encounter even more dramatically differing concepts of salvation—yes, they are all related to one’s supernatural (although I’m not a huge fan of that word—metaphysical, maybe?  Hmmmm) status, but the details shouldn’t be discounted.

Basically, Avalos is arguing that the bottom line is control.  Examine oral literature—who controls that?  Text is written and it becomes easier to verify that, but control is still an issue.  If someone controls it, it is a scarce resource.  Before I came to college, I had difficulty reading things and disagreeing with them.  I’d read one book on one point and would think, “Yeah, all right.  This guy has some great points.”  Then I’d proceed to read another book on the other point (for I do try so hard to be fair) and would find myself thinking, “Yeah, all right.  This guy has some great points.”  In case you didn’t notice, my observations were exactly the same for two books covering opposing points on the same issue.  I’ve had to learn to critique and academically consider things I read as I read them.  I felt like I had to write this because it was somehow related, but I’m not sure how—maybe because the people who control text encourage this? 

Which brings me to something else Avalos touches on—the illusion of freedom and thought.  We talk about it—he talks about it—with the media, news, and other established sources, but it seems like people overlook the most important related point—literature.  A published book, I think, allows for thought and consideration, but still has all the same phenomena.  I just gave an example from that—and I don’t think it’s just because I’m a bibliophile. 

In closing, I have just one quick, wary observation.  This may be me being over sensitive (and over watchful), but as I read I wondered if it bugged anyone else that he relied on Christianity.  I now find myself, as a direct result, relying heavily on it in my journal.  I mean, I understand that Avalos is a biblical scholar, but I’d have appreciated him coming out and saying, “I’m going to use Christianity as my main method of exploration” if he was going to do so.  And if he does do this—which, at this point, I won’t lay absolute claim that he does—does this create weak spots in his theory?  After all, religious violence is non-sentient; it does not care what religion you are (I declare it non-sentient as I attribute to it characteristics, ha).  I mean, I’ve flipped forward through the book and have found sections on Islam and Judaism, and those may be three major religions, but I for one think others deserved to be examined and addressed.  And if they don’t deserve to be, Avalos should have gathered the reins and done it anyway.  He would be so much more believable and creditable—again, personal opinion—if he was more comprehensive.  He uses language and stylistic writing tools to try and convince his readers of his points, but it seems at times that he forgets that he believes in his theory and should try to use that to gain approval. 



~ by spim on November 17, 2008.

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