בָּבֶל – Bâbel, baw-bel’; from בָּלַל H1101 (bâlal);
confusion (by mixing); Babel* (i.e. Babylon), including Babylonia and the Babylonian empire.
The inversion of values can be traced back to the ancient Semitic empires of Mesopotamia, and the fertility cult worship of Inanna-Ishtar, goddess of Sex and War, the “Queen of Heaven”:
Central to the goddess as paradox is her well-attested psychological and more rarely evidenced physiological androgyny. Inanna-Ishtar is both female and male. Over and over again the texts juxtapose the masculine and feminine traits and behavior of the goddess.1
Her androgyny (also) manifests itself ritually in the transvestism of her cultic personnel. The awesome power of the goddess shows itself in the shattering of the human boundary between the sexes: “She (Ishtar) [changes] the right side (male) into the left side (female), she [changes] the left side into the right side, she [turns] a man into a woman, she [turns] a woman into a man, she ador[ns] a man as a woman, she ador[ns] a woman as a man.”2
The most vivid expressions of the goddess’s innate contradictions appear in the following passage:
To destroy, to build up, to tear up and to settle are yours, Inanna….
To turn a man into a woman and a woman into a man are yours, Inanna….
Business, great winning, financial loss, deficit are yours, Inanna….3
Inanna-Ishtar’s cultic celebrations and cultic personnel above all reflect her anomalousness and liminality. She is, one might say, externalized into unordered, carnivalesque celebration that demonstrates a reaching beyond the normal order of things and the breakdown of norms. The goddess’s festivals are institutionalized license. They celebrate and tolerate disorder. They are occasions when social rules are in abeyance and deviance from norms is articulated. Through symbolic inversion they attack the basic categorical differences between male and female, human and animal, young and old.4
“To know and not to know, to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies, to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in them both, to use logic against logic, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it (…) To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just as long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality.”
— George Orwell, defining “doublethink”, 1984
Within a few centuries, the new capitalist spirit challenged the basic Christian ethic: the boundless ego of Sir Giles Overreach and his fellows in the marketplace had no room for charity or love in any of their ancient senses. The capitalist scheme of values in fact transformed five of the seven deadly sins of Christianity – pride, envy, greed, avarice, and lust – into positive social virtues, treating them as necessary incentives to all economic enterprise; while the cardinal virtues, beginning with love and humility, were rejected as ‘bad for business,’ except in the degree that they made the working class more docile and more amenable to cold-blooded exploitation.5
— Lewis Mumford, Myth of the Machine
“Today, many nations are revising their moral values and ethical norms, eroding ethnic traditions and differences between peoples and cultures. Society is now required not only to recognise everyone’s right to the freedom of consciousness, political views and privacy, but also to accept without question the equality of good and evil, strange as it seems, concepts that are opposite in meaning. This destruction of traditional values from above not only leads to negative consequences for society, but is also essentially anti-democratic, since it is carried out on the basis of abstract, speculative ideas, contrary to the will of the majority, which does not accept the changes occurring or the proposed revision of values.”
— Vladimir Putin, Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly, December 12, 2013
* “And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth.
He was a mighty hunter before the Lord: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the Lord.
And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.”