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Posts Tagged ‘Raj Patel

It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it…

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Anyone might agree that there’s something almost saintly about Raj Patel.  The son of Indian immigrants to Britain, he followed degrees at Oxford and LSE with work at the World Bank and Food First.  Committed to analyzing and addressing the inequities the arise from unmitigated free markets, he has written Stuffed and Starved (“dazzling”- Naomi Klein) and most recently The Value of Nothing.

But there are some who believe that Patel is more than just saintly– he is the messiah.  As the Guardian reports,

The trouble started when Raj Patel appeared on American TV to plug his latest book, an analysis of the financial crisis called The Value of Nothing.

The London-born author, 37, thought his slot on comedy talkshow The Colbert Report went well enough: the host made a few jokes, Patel talked a little about his work and then, job done, he went back to his home in San Francisco.

Shortly afterwards, however, things took a strange turn. Over the course of a couple of days, cryptic messages started filling his inbox.

“I started getting emails saying ‘have you heard of Benjamin Creme?’ and ‘are you the world teacher?'” he said. “Then all of a sudden it wasn’t just random internet folk, but also friends saying, ‘Have you seen this?'”

Benjamin Creme, a philosophical descendant of Madame Blavatsky and the Theosophists, and the founder of Share International, prophesied  the coming of Maitreya, the Christ or “the world teacher”… Patel’s life story matches many of the details that Creme foretold– a flight from India to the UK as a child, growing up in London, a slight stutter, appearances on TV– and so hundreds of Creme’s followers around the world have come to accept Patel as the embodiment of Maitreya.

It’s an interesting prospect:  Creme has described Maitreya, an 18 million-year-old savior, as a representative of a group of beings from Venus called the Space Brothers.  Still, Patel is not amused:

People are very ready to abdicate responsibility and have it shovelled on to someone else’s shoulders.  You saw that with Obama most spectacularly, but whenever there’s going to be someone who’s just going to fix it for you, it’s a very attractive story. It’s in every mythological structure.

What I’m arguing in the book is precisely the opposite of the Maitreya: what we need is various kinds of rebellion and transformations about how private property works.

I don’t think a messiah figure is going to be a terribly good launching point for the kinds of politics I’m talking about – for someone who has very strong anarchist sympathies, this has some fairly deep contradictions in it.

But Patel is caught in a Life of Brian-like bind:  it turns out that Creme prophesied his denial, as well.

As we  ask empathetically “Why me?,” we might recall that it was on this date in 1042 that Edward the Confessor was crowned King of England.  Edward was the last of the House of Wessex (for all practical purposes; his great nephew Edgar Ætheling inherited– but lasted less than six weeks), and marked the transition to Norman rule.

Edward’s secular legacy is the pomp of royal ceremony– he originated coronation regalia and the royal seal.  But as his name suggests, his sacred legacy is more substantial:  Edward was canonized in 1161, and is the patron saint of kings, difficult marriages, and separated spouses.  He was also the patron saint of England from the reign of Henry II until 1348, when he was replaced by Saint George (though he remained the patron saint of the Royal Family).

Edward the Confessor

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