What would you be willing to do for those whom you love and cherish the most? How far would you go to achieve those ends, those dreams? What wouldn’t you do?
I was passed an old poem the other day that is oftentimes used as a commentary for capitalism, but, I don’t see it that way. Here is Allen Ginsberg’s famous poem on Moloch:
What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination?
Moloch! Solitude! Filth! Ugliness! Ashcans and unobtainable dollars! Children screaming under the stairways! Boys sobbing in armies! Old men weeping in the parks!
Moloch! Moloch! Nightmare of Moloch! Moloch the loveless! Mental Moloch! Moloch the heavy judger of men!
Moloch the incomprehensible prison! Moloch the crossbone soulless jailhouse and Congress of sorrows! Moloch whose buildings are judgment! Moloch the vast stone of war! Moloch the stunned governments!
Moloch whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is running money! Moloch whose fingers are ten armies! Moloch whose breast is a cannibal dynamo! Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb!
Moloch whose eyes are a thousand blind windows! Moloch whose skyscrapers stand in the long streets like endless Jehovahs! Moloch whose factories dream and croak in the fog! Moloch whose smoke-stacks and antennae crown the cities!
Moloch whose love is endless oil and stone! Moloch whose soul is electricity and banks! Moloch whose poverty is the specter of genius! Moloch whose fate is a cloud of sexless hydrogen! Moloch whose name is the Mind!
Moloch in whom I sit lonely! Moloch in whom I dream Angels! Crazy in Moloch! Cocksucker in Moloch! Lacklove and manless in Moloch!
Moloch who entered my soul early! Moloch in whom I am a consciousness without a body! Moloch who frightened me out of my natural ecstasy! Moloch whom I abandon! Wake up in Moloch! Light streaming out of the sky!
Moloch! Moloch! Robot apartments! invisible suburbs! skeleton treasuries! blind capitals! demonic industries! spectral nations! invincible madhouses! granite cocks! monstrous bombs!
They broke their backs lifting Moloch to Heaven! Pavements, trees, radios, tons! lifting the city to Heaven which exists and is everywhere about us!
Visions! omens! hallucinations! miracles! ecstasies! gone down the American river!
Dreams! adorations! illuminations! religions! the whole boatload of sensitive bullshit!
Breakthroughs! over the river! flips and crucifixions! gone down the flood! Highs! Epiphanies! Despairs! Ten years’ animal screams and suicides! Minds! New loves! Mad generation! down on the rocks of Time!
Real holy laughter in the river! They saw it all! the wild eyes! the holy yells! They bade farewell! They jumped off the roof! to solitude! waving! carrying flowers! Down to the river! into the street!
There are definitely more than trace elements of capitalism imagery here but there’s far more here than just that. And, besides, he’s just Moloch, ever the deal-maker, someone who will grant you your greatest wish and desire as long as you can summon the courage and resolve to sacrifice (to him) that which you most love.
Perhaps this is somewhat timely as well considering the heavy and immense attention that the Marvel Universe is creating around Thanos and his “struggles” to sacrifice what he loves for what he believes is his destiny:
That’s the choice presented to Thanos and it’s the choice, offer, and promise that Moloch offers any man or woman who desires power: I will give you that and more as long as you throw what you most love into the flames.
And Moloch is particularly fond of child sacrifice – need to win a battle or even a war? Give me your children and it shall be yours.
The offer still stands, for you and for me – and it’s terribly attractive and nearly-irresistible. Ginsberg’s poem starts out ominously, almost as a warning:
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness.
It is madness, nothing less and nothing more… and yet, we do this all the time, especially in the world of startups. Men and women of all shapes and sizes and backgrounds and experiences willingly give up the very things that they love and cherish the most for things like money, power, prestige, and self-worth.
And like Thanos they justify their actions and decisions by simply allowing themselves to believe the lie that this… … is their destiny.
We are far too insecure for our own good.