A Civilization with Madness
Updated: Oct 10
By Mara Powers
During the pandemic, I've been watching the spectacle of politics in my home country with perplexity. I’ve come to think of the U.S.A. as the D.S.A. - Divided, rather than united. It's been almost debilitating for many of the creative types I know. Inspiration is at a standstill, if not mostly depleted. We have split into different narratives to the point of cognitive dissonance, which, to me, is the downfall of civilizations. It fits the narrative of my writing to a haunting degree, as my work has been spent imagining the cause of the fall of Atlantis. Seems specialized, I know. It feels that way.
The fabled downfall of Atlantis has hovered in the back of minds for centuries. Whether it be history or myth, the myth of its existence is history itself. I've been studying this myth almost as long as I have been cognizant of the written word. There is far more to the story than just the downfall of a civilization. The work I have done is a homage to the building of consensus reality. Isn't that the point of a nation, anyway?.. To find a way of governing that allows us to co-exist despite our differences in belief?
My work has been called political allegory by book critics. I didn’t set out to study politics. At first, I was fascinated with Atlantis. I always thought, how amazing would it be if history confirms that humans once reached a pinnacle of civilization only to be the cause of its own downfall to the extent of reaching total extinction? Regardless of whether Plato invented it in his writings, his message seemed to illustrate the folly of improper governance. The myth of Atlantis is, thus, itself political allegory.
My writing process hasn’t been normal by any means. I have gone down my own “rabbit hole” over decades of research. I’ve read both secular and esoteric research around the evidence of pre-diluvian civilizations. This term references the Biblical time period before the flood of Noah. Having been raised Catholic, I was fascinated to find out that other myths and cultures speak of a disastrous flood that wiped out what came before. But what did come before? There is no evidence save for the megalithic monuments of the world coupled with mythology, geological records and carbon dating of the rocks. Many of these monuments are built with technology that has to surpass our own, considering the vast perfection of their design and construction. But I digress.
In becoming a pre-diluvian detective, my decision to “rebuild” Atlantis in a fictional narrative has turned me into a world-builder. I had to fill in the gaps, and thus my research expanded far beyond the details of what is known about the myth itself. In all fiction, there has to be a thread that carries the story. My thread has been built around a question that has burned in my mind for most of my life – why does evil exist? In choosing that thread, I have had to delve into psychology. Thus, my work has become philosophical in nature more than my genre of Fantasy suggests.
Through history, Atlantis has become the subject of many Utopian novels. These historical books reflect the author’s idea of an idealized world. They were quite fashionable in the Middle Ages. To write a Utopia is to write a political allegory, and so I have fallen by default into that definition. Utopia itself is a fantasy. Why? Because of evil. Humans can’t exist outside the struggle of polarities. To me, evil is the poison splinter of humanity that keeps civilization from harmonizing. I have personified it in my narrative with the shadows that have invaded the crystalline power source of Atlantis. Despite the simplicity of that breakdown, my work is far from simple. I have researched all the types of government, and ultimately, as with everything to me, my answer is “all of the above.” I find a smattering of each does the trick, and in so doing, I have assembled a governing system in Atlantis, and by default became someone who writes about politics.
Many say we are witnessing the fall of Democracy, but I have never understood why we are even called a Democracy. We are a Republic with a touch of Democracy chased with Oligarchy. Agree or disagree, it’s all basically philosophy anyway, and I am far from expert on the matter. Our history is littered with war and disagreement. It makes me wonder how humans can even begin to get along. We can’t even agree on moral truths.
Religion should be the means by which we all find moral unity, but, in fact, it’s one of the greatest dividers. That is where government is meant to step in with laws to unify. But now it seems as though we can’t even agree on which laws should be the basis of our consensus. In my opinion, evil is the cause of it all. Call it demons. Call it the devil. Call it whatever you decide, but deceit and greed are the culprits, and these are human qualities. Whether they come from inside, or some outside source, it is our individual responsibility to harness these human traits, and temper them with compassion. But people seem to have decided we are victims of our circumstances. Even if we are, it is up to us to decide to be better. If we cannot tune our own moral compass, how can we do so collectively?
Another area of research for me has been the archetypal patterns in story and myth. We are devoid of mythology in the U.S.A. Instead we are a collection of many myths. If anything, Hollywood and Broadway have provided the best avenues for us to explore this very important requirement for cultural unification. If you look at some of the great psychologists who studied the importance of myth and story, Carl Jung’s archetypes of the human psyche, Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, you will begin to recognize patterns in stories. Hollywood movies have patterns. I’m sure you’ve noticed. There’s a reason for that. Stories are a means of exploring the patterns of our own psychology. Many of the great fiction writing techniques explore these patterns. They are like road maps of our own psyche.
Take, for instance, the cause of our current division. Stories pit heroes against villains. This is an age-old pattern: the need to identify a villain to be battled. This is being employed in politics these days. Political campaigns are creating narratives using the human psyche’s need to identity a struggle between good and evil. Now we have split into various camps where each of us have latched on to the narrative of our villain of choice, and we grasp on to the need for others to follow our narrative with a crusade-like dogma. Whether your villain is the left, the right, the deep state, evil billionaires, Russia, Communism, mainstream media, Hollywood elites, Silicon Valley, Corporations, Wall Street, Liberals, Black Lives Matter, protesters, Conservatives, White Nationalists, Antifa, or even Satanic Pedophiles, each of us is justified in our hatred of our chosen villain. And we will fight tooth and nail to be heard on our social media soap box, because it’s so important that others think the way we do. But we have totally lost the plot. We are meant to disagree. That is what it means to be human. That is what Democracy is: a system where people who disagree can co-exist in relative harmony. We can disagree all we want as long as we don't lose touch with our moral compass. That is really the key for unity. Isn't it? A sense of basic morality?
I am often reminded of the story of the Tower of Babylon. Excuse my secular interpretation, but in building the tower that represented the human achievement of divinity, they lost sight of their moral unity. With the achievement of power, there is always corruption, and the builders of the tower were punished by God in the form of splitting all of humanity into different cultures with language barriers. The moral is, with our limited perception, we simply cannot have access to all knowledge, because we lose sight of a shared value system. In smaller units (family or religions or nations) there is an easier path to this unity. As much as I love having all human knowledge at the tip of my fingers, is the internet really that dangerous? Is humanity going mad with all our access to everything?
This brings me back to my version of Atlantis. In the book, ironically, there is a pandemic going on, and no one knows how or why it exists. It’s a madness that has come to infect the populace, and the illness leads to its victim becoming a shell of what they once were. Those lucky enough to avoid falling into the madness numb themselves with denial, elixirs and apathy, while ignoring the real problem. They are out of balance with nature, and that is what leads to the downfall of civilization.
Yes, we know what happens in the end of this story, but mine is the ultimate reboot, because it reflects our current epidemic with creepy accuracy, and the path to this ending is its own adventure. I wrote it before it all began. This is even the cause of my current loss of inspiration. How could I have seen this coming? I creep myself out. Therein lies the value of ART. Those of us who concentrate on such things are supposed to feel the deeper aspects of our human soup. But somehow I feel dirty. How is it that my work has led me to see all this before it started? Sometimes I wonder if perhaps my characters can help us figure out how to avoid our own demise. But in that, I take on too much. I am just a hopeless romantic with a strange area of study, and a history of looking too deep.
In the myth of Atlantis, the gods decided humans were more destructive to the planet than we were worth. In the story of Noah, he was told the destruction was coming. His job was to save animals. He was an ally of nature. There was no way he could he even save humans because no one believed him.
I was called the Cassandra of Hollywood by my buddy who is a Disney Exec. In the Greek epic story of the Iliad, she was a priestess who foretold the coming of the destruction. But unfortunately, no one believed her.
Stay tuned for more.