SODOM & GOMORRAH: Politics is theology. If the neo-Marxists Hardt and Negri have embraced the swarm metaphor and have encouraged revolutionaries to adopt it as their own, the opponents of revolution should look for the parallel theological metaphor to understand the conflict.
The Four Stages of the Locust and the Political Theology of the Swarm
The current wave of uprisings is being described as many things. Some call it insurrection. Others might term it a democratic wave in light of Samuel Huntington’s work. More call it a movement and a trend. We call it a swarm because we prefer to take people at their word. When the revolutionaries themselves adopt a metaphor to describe their actions, the metaphor should be examined and taken seriously. We have much to learn by understanding the religious significance of “the swarm”.
We find swarmers mentioned in the Book of Joel where the prophet discusses the four stages of the locust. There, God states “That which the palmerworm hat left hath the locust eaten; and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten; and that which the cankerworm hath left hat the caterpiller eaten.” (Joel 1.4) We are given here four stages of the locust’s life, as well as the truth about revolutionary movements. Each revolutionary stage advances by consuming the remains of its predecessors. Just as fire glows only when it has something to burn, revolutions appear as progress only when they have something to destroy. As for the four stages of the locust, the Hebrew is more exact. It reads, “Gnawer’s remnant, Swarmer eats; Swarmer’s remnant, Devourer eats; Devourer’s remnant, Consumer eats.” So we first have the gnawers, then the swarmers, then the devourers, and finally the consumers. We are situated in the second stage with the self-proclaimed swarmers.
We find in Revelation 9.2-11 that the locusts ascend from the bottomless bit as an army. They are given a set time to torment the earth and they have a leader who is identified as the “angel of the bottomless pit” whose name in both Hebrew and Greek translates to “Destroyer.” This Destroyer is likely to be none other than the devil himself. I would tender this as a possibility in light of Proverbs 30.27 which states, “The locusts have no king, yet they go forth all of them by bands” since the devil is not here but in heaven (Revelation 12.7-10). Until that time, the locusts are truly a decentralized force.
Though there is a move toward collectivization, a growing swarm-mentality, on the left, we would be wrong to assume that there was a present central leader. Too often on the right, people look at a situation of destruction and assume that there must be a united central director – some cartel of bankers or members of a secret society. The swarmers are unified in the sense that they swarm and destroy, but decentralized in that the will to destruction spreads as a virus from one region to another. Whatever garb it might take, the will to destruction does not require an extensive ideology or articulated concept; it’s an instinctual, base urge.
The swarm metaphor must not be overlooked. Though revolutionaries since Proudhon have utilized religious symbolism, some have gone as far as to openly advocate worship of Satan, this author is at a loss to find another instant where there was a religious parallel so strikingly similar to the political but existed without their knowing. In simpler terms, the old revolutionaries knew they were perverting religious language. The swarmers do not realize the theological metaphor that mirrors their actions. The gnawers were conscious of their theology; the swarmers are oblivious to it. In each of the four stages of the locust, the swarm carries with it certain similarities but evolves into different levels of consciousness.