Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Hard Bigotry of No Expectations

HonestReporting.com. has a story about The Dubliner, which claims to be "widely regarded as the definitive guide to Irish culture", publishing an op-ed piece that "not only disputes Israel's right to exist but also denigrates Jewish history and culture at the same time":

"In the immediate aftermath of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's call to 'wipe Israel from the face of the map', this magazine's November issue publishes an opinion piece alluding to the same idea by former Irish Labor Minister Justin Keating. While couched in less violent terms than Ahmadinejad, Keating claims 'the Zionists have absolutely no right in what they call Israel, that they have built their state not beside but on top of the Palestinian people, and that there can be no peace as long as contemporary Israel retains its present form.'

Keating not only takes issue with Israel's right to exist but, unlike any serious historian, also questions the entire Jewish historical and religious connection to the land, asking. 'Did the Jews of the Old Testament come from what is now Israel? The answer is No.' .... Keating portrays the Jews as 'people who occupied some land two thousand years ago for a historically brief period, to the detriment of those who have been there since.' .... Keating even states that the UN Resolution of 1947 did not give Israel the right to exist as a sovereign state, claiming 'they [the Zionists] have continuously and relentlessly violated that resolution for more than half a century, so that any tatters that now remain are void, by their action.'"

Ever wonder why the United States and Israel are the most hated countries on earth, or why Judaism and Christianity are the most despised religions? If you listen to the American or European left, they feel absolutely no compunction or hesitation to spew the most vile and bigoted rhetoric about America, about President Bush, or about our history of "genocide" and "imperialism." Since anyone with a shred of common sense or historical perspective can see that this is nonsense, one has to ask, "what is going on?" It's not that these critics are stupid, or uneducated, or necessarily even bad-intentioned. And yet, they believe things that are not only untrue, but cannot possibly be true.

As I may have mentioned before, as a psychologist looking at history, I am not particularly interested in ignorance, which, after all, is perfectly understandable and can afflict anyone. It simply means that you don't know something. What is far more interesting from a psychological standpoint is what I call motivated stupidity, that is, the promulgation of some patently false belief based on underlying emotional need.

Every day we hear about the horrors perpetrated in the name of Islam, and yet, the left ignores them. Or, if they do pay attention to them, they try to explain the horrors as having been warranted by something we must have done to them. This happened just the other day, when Chris Matthews made some particularly idiotic statements during a college speech about how we must try to understand "why our enemies hate us."

You will notice the reverse is never true. It never occurred to Matthews to say that Islamists must look within and ask themselves why we might have some hostility toward them. No one on the left asks, "Gee, I wonder what Saddam must have done to deserve getting toppled by President Bush?," Or, "I wonder why Israel needs to build that big fence?" There is a sort of barrier to natural curiosity, a rigid psychic defense that curtails rational thought and says STOP! DON'T GO THERE!

This leftist attitude actually betrays more than a "soft bigotry of low expectations" toward Islam. Rather, it is a hard bigotry of no expectations toward the Muslim world.

For example, I believe the Palestinians receive no criticism from the left (and the world community at large), not because they think so highly of them, but because they have think so badly about them -- in fact, they actually have no expectations whatsoever about them.

In other words, it is not because the Palestinians are so wonderful that they are immune from criticism, but because everyone knows that it would be absurd to hold Muslims to the same standards as Christians, or Jews, or Zen Buddhists -- to any standards of decency at all, really. No one is shocked at the barbarity of the Islamic world, whether it is committed by terrorists, or perpetrated in the name of the Saudi or Iranian governments.

For example, if a single Christian soldier in Iraq went nuts and killed a single Muslim, there would be riots and protests all over the world. Why? Because we expect certain behaviors from Americans and from Christians.

So in a perverse way, the more we are hated by the left, the more it is a kind of tribute to us. Imagine being foolish enough to have any moral expectations of the Chinese, or the Palestinians, or the Saudis, or the North Koreans. We expect them to behave barbarously. And they never fail us. And when they do behave in their predictably bestial way, it is never their fault. It is either overlooked completely, or blamed on some provocation, some "underlying cause." But it would be ludicrous to think that a leftist would ever look for an exculpatory "root cause" of Israel's behavior toward their bloodthirsty Arab neighbors.

You will notice how this plays out in the U.S. When an idiot like Pat Robertson makes one of his predictably foolish statements, he is lambasted by comedians, and rightfully so. But why are there no jokes about someone who was not just a moron, but truly evil, like Yasser Arafat? Likewise, Christianity is fair game -- note, for example, all of the jokes about the Catholic church's homosexual priest problem. (Correction -- because of the dictates of victimology, that scandal had to be fraudulently changed into a "pedophile priest" problem to make it acceptable for ridicule.)

Why is there a blackout on jokes about Palestinians, who are so eminently jokeworthy? Most of my attempts at good-natured humor on this site would never be considered acceptable to the MSM, who go out of their way to treat Islam not just the same as other religions, but better than other religions (and yet, somehow more fragile at the same time).

This is so ironic, because it obviously has nothing to do with the secular left's affinity for religion, which they otherwise despise. In other words, Islam is not a protected species because it is a religion. It is protected because it is anti-Western, because its adherents tend to have slightly darker skin than caucasians, and because it has been granted victim status. Therefore it is untouchable.

The fact that we don't mercilessly make fun of our enemies is part of the same syndrome that has prevented Hollywood from making any movies about the war on terror, for fear of insulting Muslims (and, of course, because they don't want to show our military engaged in a heroic struggle against evil). We live in a morally upside down world, in which making fun of the Islamist ideology is forbidden, but committing mass murder in the name of Islam is explained away.

So if I ridicule Palestinians, it is because, despite all evidence to the contrary, I still have some expectations of them. This is unlike the bigots of the left -- bigots like Juan Cole, who heap scorn on the United States but make every excuse imaginable for the moral failings of Islam. We will know that Muslims have come a long way when they can start making fun of themselves in the same way that Americans have always made fun of themselves, their institutions, their politicians, and their religion.

Oh well. What can you do but laugh about the situation?

Do you remember when Arafat died, how his wife, Suha, rushed from Paris to be by his side? Turns out that was actually part of the pre-nup: they had agreed to be together over his dead body.

Jeopardy answer: "Thuggery, buggery, and skulduggery."
Question: "What were Yasser Arafat's favorite activities?"

At least they have a right to medical care in the Palestinian territories. One lady brought her 13 year old to a psychiatrist, worried that he had become obsessed with not killing himself. And they're trying to do something to rid their classrooms of the psychotic anti-Semitism. I don't know if I like that idea. It means their children will have to learn bits and pieces of genocidal ideology from each other, instead of from an expert.

They keep saying that the problem is that Islam has just been "hijacked" by the terrorists. I don't know about that, but maybe Israel needs to Lojack the Palestinians, so they know where they are at all times.

But anti-Semites have it so easy. If you want to boycott the Palestinians, what are you supposed to do, put off purchasing that new suicide belt?

And now the Palestinians even use teenage girls for suicide bombers. In fact, the girls don't actually use suicide belts. Rather, they call them "chastity belts," because it's the only way to be certain they'll never be seen holding hands with a Christian boy.

Bottom line: in Palestine, it's every parents' nightmare to die before their children.

But I give the Palestinians credit. They've evolved from primitive kinship structures to barbarous gang affiliations. With luck, they can eventually became a racket, and then perhaps a crime syndicate. Evolution doesn't happen over night.

Now the Palestinians are complaining that it's unfair for us to withhold funds until Abbas institutes some meaningful reforms. I guess they have a point. It's like we're biting the hand that steals from us.

At least with Abbas, they finally have a moderate in there. Sure, he's a Holocaust denier, but at least he's a moderate holocaust denier. That is, he believes that six million Jews were inconvenienced in WWII.

So much conversion to the Nation of Islam goes on in American prisons, it's more accurate to call it them "Islamic gated communities."

It's making some judges a little concerned. One guy was sentenced to eleven years behind bars, double that for good Muslim behavior. And Farrakhan insists that they have their own chaplains in prison. They bow their heads and say, "Let us prey.... on Jews and other infidels."

But we need to be fair. According to CAIR, when Muslims give money to charity that ends up in the hands of terrorists, it's no different than when charitable donations end up in the hands of the military wing of the Salvation Army.

On the positive side, CAIR has issued a strongly worded statement that unambiguously condemns sawing off heads by either side in Iraq.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Unintelligent Debate

Er, one topic I don't think I'll be posting about again is Intelligent Design. It just doesn't generate a fruitful dialogue, because the debate seems to consist of "true believers" on both sides. If you take a moderate position, as I do, then the extremists on either side see you as arguing against them, and you simply end up talking past one another, like one of those political TV programs.

There are radical secularists just as there are religious fundamentalists, and I certainly belong to neither group. People in my camp (which it should go without saying does not include literal creationists) are perfectly willing to concede every single point of genuine scientific discovery, but those on the anti-ID side are unwilling to concede a single point of metaphysical reasoning or acknowledge a single one of the genuine problems that plague a purely reductionist view of life and consciousness.

I do not believe there is any evidence that will convince a true creationist that evolution has occurred, any more than I believe there is any evidence that will persuade an anti-ID reductionist that science is competent to explain only a very proscribed plane of existence.

Again, I am specifically saying that I draw a sharp distinction between the method of science (which I endorse unreservedly) and the metaphysic of scientism (which in reality was abandoned by serious philosophers long ago, when it was understood how intellectually impoverished the program of logical positivism was).

I fully accept what science discloses as true, but then ask what it means, fitting it into a larger framework that includes the other planes of being. But the extremist anti-ID crowd seems intent on trying to disprove the existence of God by using science, which is metaphysically incoherent. As soon as you opine on the general meaning of science, you have left science behind and are engaging in metaphysics.

And once you are engaging in metaphysics, you are playing by other rules. For example, if you actually believe that the universe behaves only according to rigid laws, then all of your assertions are merely the result of rigid laws, so there’s no reason to believe they are true.

Thus, if you believe that only empirically verifiable statements are true, then you've just made an empirically unverifiable statement. If you believe in logical atomism, then there is no way to account for the unity of consciousness. If you believe that human beings are nothing more than Darwinian machines, there is no way to account for all of our "luxury capacities" that only emerged long after our brain had stopped evolving. Quite simply, if you believe that human beings may know truth, you have left materialism far behind.

To some it will undoubtedly sound like an argument from authority, but in this case, I will just have to say that God exists, and that it is impossible to have a universe or a scientific discovery incompatible with that fact. In other words, I would never use science to try to prove the existence of God, as God's existence is proven through other methods. Rather, I am interested in how science reflects the existence of God, which was actually how science got underway originally -- with the scientifically uwarranted belief that a divinely ordained rational beauty inheres in the cosmos, and that the same beautiful rationality dwells within us, allowing us to obtain knowledge about the world in a completely unproblematic way.

In fact, it is almost as if we were designed to know things like higher math or to make fine distinctions in the realms of art, music, poetry, and all sorts of other things that have no Darwinian utility but which reveal the splendor of a nonlocal reality shining through our own. I certainly see it. But not with the eyes that came about through natural selection. Those eyes see only what the materialist sees.

Intelligent Design (11.25.10)

Several readers have asked me to comment on the issue of “intelligent design.” This is a debate that sharply divides even conservatives. For example, last week Charles Krauthammer wrote a blistering editorial claiming that ID was nothing more than a "tarted-up version of creationism" which "may be interesting as theology, but as science it is a fraud. It is a self-enclosed, tautological 'theory' whose only holding is that when there are gaps in some area of scientific knowledge -- in this case, evolution -- they are to be filled by God." He goes on to say that ID "violates the most basic requirement of anything pretending to be science -- that it be empirically disprovable. How does one empirically disprove the proposition that God was behind the lemur, or evolution -- or behind the motion of the tides or the 'strong force' that holds the atom together?"

Respectfully, while Krauthammer is brilliant with regard to politics, here he is simply mischaracterizing ID in order to heap scorn upon it. It is not surprising that many conservatives reject ID, because conservatives are generally logical people. However, one can prove anything with logic, so long as the conclusion follows logically from the premise. If your premise is faulty, then so too will your conclusion be faulty.

Perhaps I should emphasize up front that I wholeheartedly agree with Krauthammer that intelligent design should not be taught or even discussed as science per se. For intelligent design accepts what science discloses as true, but then asks what it means on a "meta" level. It's like the difference between studying history vs. studying the meaning of history, two entirely different things. Science generates only tentative conclusions, which is as it should be. It is the job of theology and philosophy to decipher the meaning of what various disciplines disclose about reality. Science itself is devoid of meaning, which is, again, as it should be. In itself it can make no pronouncements whatsover on the origin of the cosmos, the genesis of life, the meaning of consciousness, the purpose of human existence, the purposes to which science should be put, etc. It's just a shame that children are no longer taught philosophy, and instead are taught idiotic and fraudulent things like African American studies, feminism, multiculturalism, etc.

Bottom line: teaching intelligent design in a science class may be good metaphysics but it is bad science. However, at the same time, using science to justify a materialistic philosophy is junk metaphysics, because doing so is simply dressing up assumptions as conclusions. In fact, we could take Krauthammer's exact words and apply them to scientific reductionism: "it is simply a tarted-up version of materialism which may be interesting as a sort of godless theology, but as philosophy it is a fraud. It is a self-enclosed, tautological stance whose only holding is that when there are gaps in some area of scientific knowledge--in this case, evolution--they are to be filled by chance. Materialism violates the most basic requirement of anything pretending to be philosophy--that it be logically coherent. How does one logically disprove the proposition that pure chance was behind the lemur, or evolution--or behind the motion of the tides or the 'strong force' that holds the atom together?"

Science is simply a method designed to quantify and measure objective realities. By its very nature, it is barred from addressing subjective reality, nor can it measure qualities (without reducing them to quantities). Scientific fundamentalists who dismiss ID generally elevate the methodological reductionism of science to an ontological reductionism, which is completely unwarranted and inappropriate. It is to announce that what science systematically ignores cannot exist.

Krauthammer suggests that ID is a closed system, when in fact, the opposite is true. The very reason why science, when elevated to a metaphysics, generates so much paradox and absurdity is that it is a closed system, regarding only the material realm as real. Therefore, everything outside materiality escapes its purview. In point of fact, science, if taken to its logical extremes, undermines its own assumptions in several ways. That is, science has run into several “limit cases” that long ago proved its inability to account for the whole of reality. In my book I go into a lot more detail, but I will simply hit some of the highlights here.

One of these limits is disclosed by modern physics. Bell’s theorem proves that reality is nonlocal, meaning that the universe is internally related and that it has connections that transcend space and time, the implication being that the universe itself cannot be contained within our artificial bounds of space and time. Physics provides us only with a mathematical net or “container,” but not the content, which slips through the container like water through a sieve. The world, even at its most fundamental level, exceeds our ability to measure or contain it. Science begins with the assumption that the cosmos is composed of externally related parts (logical atomism), while modern physics shows that the universe is fundamentally an internally related whole that has the capacity to operate "vertically" in a top-down manner, i.e., from whole to part. Indeed, this newer understanding of wholeness allows us to get past many scientific paradoxes and blind alleys in a way that materialism never will.

Another limit of science is called the “Universal Complexity Barrier (UCB),” an idea developed by David, I mean William, Dembski. In addressing the origins of life, the real problem is the origins of information, not just any information, but the staggeringly complex information found in the DNA of the simplest living thing. There are only four ways this complexity could have come into being: 1) chance, 2) necessity, 3) some combination of chance and necessity, or 4) design. Not too long ago, scientists simply assumed that chance would have eventually resulted in the emergence of life. However, this was before it was understood that life has only been here for 3.85 billion years, and that the planet was too hot to sustain life prior to about four billion years ago. Therefore, there was only a window of about 150 million years for chance to operate, which is far too short a time.

The problem encountered here by scientific fundamentalists is that the hypothesis of chance runs aground against the dictates of the UCB. To take an example, a hundred monkeys pounding away at a hundred pianos will never produce the works of Duke Ellington. At most, they may produce a few bars of Take the A Train, but there will always be an upper limit on how much “complex specified information” (CSI) will result from pure chance, and beyond which the monkeys cannot go.

Other scientific theories to account for the emergence of life are just variations on the same theme, but they all come up against the UCB. For example, the combination of chance and necessity can result in a little more CSI, but nothing approximating the complexity of life. Scientists have also been searching for an “evolutionary algorithm” in nature that can account for the emergence of life, but no matter what they try, they cannot surpass the UCB. In short, it is a completely scientifically accurate statement to say that the simplest living cell could not have come about through any neo-Darwinist scenario of chance and necessity. Therefore, one may safely conclude not that God exists, but that the universe was either full of complex specified information from its very origin, or else that it cannot be a materially closed system subject only to “horizontal” causes found within nature. However, if you simply leave the matter there, you are a curiously uncurious person. Personally, I have no difficulty at all positing the existence of a cosmos with more dimensions than four, and which has both horizontal and vertical causation. After all, this is how our minds operate vertically to control the horizontal processes governing our material bodies.

Also, one must remember that natural selection is proposed in a medium called language, which natural selection is helpless to explain. To be perfectly accurate, either language explains natural selection, or natural selection explains language. Both cannot be true, for if language is reduced to a completely materialistic explanation, there is no reason to believe that it is capable of encoding and transmitting truth, so the assertion becomes logically self-refuting.

Another limit of science is Godel’s Theorems, which forever proved that there is no mathematical system that doesn't contain assumptions that cannot be justified by the system. The implication of Godel's theorems is that any consistent logical system will be incomplete, while any complete one will be inconsistent. Godel also believed he had proven that semantics--that is, meaning, or quality--can never be reduced to syntax--that is, mere order, or quantity. As such, the mind can never be reduced to matter, and the mind's ability to know far surpasses any reductionist explanation. Roger Penrose later used Godel's theorems to prove that the mind cannot be a computer, and that the mind exceeds the ability of any formal systen to capture it, much in the same way that nonlocality shows how reality exceeds the formal system of quantum physics.

Godel further believed that any scientific theory that tried to eliminate all paradox and inconsistency was doomed to failure and that "sooner or later my proof will be made useful for religion, since that is doubtless justified in a certain sense."

Bottom line: if blind materialism is true it is untrue, for it can never account for how matter may know the truth of itself. And if it is only matter speaking, what reason do we have to believe what it is saying? There is no knowledge at the level of the senses. Once you acknowledge that human beings are capable of knowledge--which is another name for truth--then you have lifted yourself out of any mere materialistic explanation. When matter is placed over spirit, all qualities are reduced to quantities, semantics to syntax. You thereby circle around and meet with the cognitive pathologies of the left, which also deny transcendent Truth.

Intelligent design does not prove the existence of God. There are much better ways to do that. It's just that science, properly understood, doesn't disprove it, and I think this is what animates the misguided impulse to try to teach ID as science proper. The God that is dismissed by the detractors of ID is simply a caricature, a "straw god" that they apparently internalized somewhere along the way due to an unfortunate encounter with some bone-headed or debased version of religion. And with people like Pat Robertson and Al Sharpton running around loose, those versions of religion are not difficult to find these days.

Friday, November 25, 2005

How Much Would You Spend to Save Your Soul?

This morning I was reading an editorial over at realclearpolitics.com entitledThe Modern University Has Become Obsolete, by Froma Harrop. In it, she argues that "the modern university is a relic that will disappear in a few decades," something that was predicted by the recently departed business management genius Peter Drucker, and something I've been saying for years to uncomprehending friends.

Of course, there was a time when the university was a physical necessity. When asked why he robbed banks, Willie Sutton famously replied, "because that's where the money is." Likewise, people attended university because that was where the knowledge was.

But frankly, ever since the development of the printing press, this has gradually become an increasingly dubious proposition. Even before the liberating miracle of the internet, I used to say that a disciplined and self-motivated individual with a clear educational program in mind could profit more by spending four years systematically loitering at a Borders book store than at a typical elite university.

(Perhaps I should emphasize that I am talking about the humanities, not about things like medical school, where you actually do obtain useful knowledge that must be transmitted by an expert. Most knowledge is clearly not of this variety: history, english literature, political science, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, etc., not to mention entirely fraudulent fields such as gender studies, African American studies, queer theory, et al.)

Harrop notes that there is a company that sells "a virtual major in American history -- 84 lectures on 42 audiotapes -- at the bargain price of $109.95. It covers everything from 'before Columbus' to Bill Clinton, and the lecturers are top-drawer. Some of them teach at Columbia University, where a single history course runs you $3,207." She quotes Herman Melville, who said that "a whale-ship was my Yale College and my Harvard": "Melville didn't need college to write 'Moby Dick.' He needed to read and spend time in the world. Before sailing out on a whaler in 1841, he had already worked on his uncle's farm and as a cabin boy on a ship to England. Drucker urged high-school graduates to do likewise: Work for at least five years. If they went on to college, it would be as grown-ups."

The title of the book escapes me at the moment, but I remember a historian who argued that all societal instruments are eventually reduced to institutions. That is, cultures develop various instruments to cope with the needs of society--religion, a legal system, an educational system, military, etc. While they always start off doing their job, they eventually become mere institutions whose primary task is self-preservation.

In short, institutions no longer perform their instrumental tasks, or else perform them poorly. In the case of our contemporary universities, not only do our children fail to obtain a true education, but they are often taught pernicious nonsense by the likes of Juan Cole or Noam Chomsky or Howard Zinn. At most elite universities, over ninety percent of the liberal arts faculties are composed of such academic frauds and intellectual sociopaths. Imagine actually paying money to have your child exposed to the malignant thoughts of Ward Churchill?

First we must ask ourselves, what is the purpose of a liberal education? Clearly, it is to liberate the mind from its default parochial outlook and to provide a kind of universal knowledge that completes the self and makes us more thoroughly human. It is to become acquainted with the best that mankind has thought and written, in order to come through the other end with a "well furnished mind," a storehouse of ideas and concepts that allow us to think clearly, to exercise philosophical discrimination, to deepen the self, and to make choices that enhance the quality of life. But how many people actually attend college for these reasons, and how many colleges would be able to provide these things even if one were inclined to seek them?

Ironically, we have turned our universities into giant, thoroughly corrupt secular temples that have simply supplanted the religious authorities they were designed to replace. Some university presidents -- who are in competition for the most spineless and craven members of our society -- make over $1 million per year, not because of their ability to ensure educational excellence, but for their ability to fundraise and to appease various tribal interests within the faculty.

Imagine if the situation were reversed, and one could walk over to a local university on Sunday morning and hear Noam Chomsky speak for free, but have to spend $100,000 in order to obtain a truly comprehensive and fruitful religious education. Chomsky would be seen for what he is, which is not even worthless, which is to say harmful.

Many studies have demonstrated that human beings overvalue what is expensive and undervalue what is free. In my own case, I have a Ph.D. in psychology, but despite the expensive education, if I were limited only to what I had learned in my eleven or twelve years of college, I'd have a pretty impoverished intellect.

On the other hand, in the course of writing my book One Cosmos Under God, I feel that I obtained a kind of spiritual education that was truly priceless, and which I could never have obtained in the philosophy or theology department of any major university. Not only that, but in my ongoing self-education since completing my formal education in 1988, I have had to unlearn much of the nonsense I learned in college.

It is disheartening that my generation (the "baby boomers"), the most educated generation in history, should be the most willing to perpetuate the bogus mystique of an elite university education. Having had the experience, they should be the first ones to see through the scam.

Not so for my father, who had only eight years of formal education in England before immigrating to the US at the age of 21. He sent four sons to college, because to him college represented some kind of mysterious, olympian ideal. I'm sure he must have felt self-conscious about his lack of formal schooling, and yet, he had infinitely more wisdom than the average university professor or New York Times editorialist.

As for myself, I have a seven month old son and yes, my in-laws have started an educational fund that will probably assure that he will be able to attend any university he chooses, if he so desires. But I will not be emphasizing that with him. I personally do not care if he attends Harvard or a local community college, or no college at all, so long as he develops a love of truth and a love of learning, neither of which have any necessary relationship to college.

And along the way, I hope I will be able to provide him with a true education that will correct and compensate for the nonsense he picks up in his formal education. In particular, I hope I am able to help him ground knowledge in a much wider and deeper spiritual framework, so that his spirit isn't damaged by the corrupting influence of secular fundamentalism. But only if he's willing to sign over that educational trust fund to my name.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving Limericks, Song Parodies and Gags

I've posted many hundreds of gags at LGF, some less worthy than others, but some worthy of being laughed at one more time before being permanently retired and disappearing into cyberspace. For example, there was the story of the elderly Malaysian chronic adulterer whose punishment, consistent with sharia law, was a caning to the privates. I wrote a limerick for the occasion:

There once was a randy Malaysian
Whose libido was frankly amazin'
They took old Abdul
And caned on his tool
And now it's just one big abrasion.

And then there was the story about Islamic rap groups, for which I submitted the following urban poetry:

It couldn't be any cleara'
I seen it on al Jazeera
Da' crusades neva' ended
Holy soil gotta be defended
We cut on da' throat
Of da' Christian invada'
Show all da' world
'Dat allah's da' greata'

Then there was the story about the proud Palestinian mother whose splodeydope daughter had just murdered a few innocent Israelis. Sung to the tune of the Rolling Stones' "Mother's Little Helper":

Things are different today
I hear Arab mothers say
The pursuit of coexistence seems a bore
So she waves her hand grenade
and a gun that's Russian-made
Seething in her U.N. shelter
With her deadly Mother's helpers
And she's such a sorry sight
In her self-inflicted plight

Another song parody about the farcical "truce" between Hamas and Israel, to the tune of "At Long Last Love":

Is it a hudna,
Or simply a crock?
Will they condemn suicide,
Or keep throwing rocks?
Is it authentic,
This new peaceful road?
Or just a new way, to say, "Reload!"?

Speaking of which, I imagine that in the Palestinian territories, one of those subtle, tasteful mortuary ads might sound something like this: "One phone call and we take care of the rest. A n angry mob, gun-toting fanatics, assurances of revenge, and a wild-eyed, bloodthirsty imam for your time of need."

Bumper stickers seen in the Palestinian territories:

-Practice premeditated acts of violence and gratuitous cruelty
-My Other Car is a Truck Bomb
-Jihad is not healthy for infidels and other vile creatures
-Follow me, I'm lost
-My son graduated Summa Boom Loudly from Arafat Hi
-Pray for world conflagration

Top ten--well, seven anyway--ways you know Hamas and Islamic Jihad have become too moderate:

7. Nobody cares that they're running out of rocks.
6. Days of Rage downgraded to Days of Irritation.
5. People go to car swarms just to pick up chicks instead of body parts.
4. Starting to ask themselves, "are you sure this is how Gandhi did it?"
3. Layoffs at the bomb lab.
2. Hamas and Islamic Jihad putting on delightful joint production of Fiddler on the Roof.
1. Nobody buying the autobiography of Arafat's widow, A Goy Named Suha.

Moving on to our own terror enablers at the New York Times, I must say I still love the city of New York, proving that one rotten bunch can't spoil the whole apple.

One good thing about democracy in the Islamic world is that Muslim politicians all promise to bring less pork to their constituents.

One of Saddam's lawyers was quoted as saying, "I don't mean to play devil's advocate... oh, wait a minute, yes I do."

Before he became a Muslim, Cat Stevens wrote the music for the film Harold and Maude, the story of a morbid, death-obsessed young man bent on killing himself to get back at others. The more things change....

How about Ward Churchill? The fact that this America-hating academic fraud was drawing a six-figure salary at taxpayer's expense brought to mind the words of another Churchill: "Never have so many owed so much to a faux Sioux."

By the way, Churchill never said he was an indian--what he said was that he had "a patchy work history." Either way, I knew the left would turn him into their latest cause s'lob.

The Europeans seem almost helpless to stop the spread of nuclear weapons into the Muslim world. On the positive side, they did agree that nuclear suitcase bombs must be small enough to fit into the overhead compartment or under the seat in front of you.

Did you hear about the uproar over the Pakistani woman refusing to wear a two-piece bathing suit in the Miss World contest? Well, they agreed on a compromise. She's actually going to wear a two-piece after all: a burka with a snorkel.

badda-BING

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Adultolescent Left

Regarding the leftist misuse of language, reader Bryan observed, "There must be something in this kind of nihilism that speaks very deeply to some very strong desires of a lot of people, despite the fact that I cannot understand it at all." He concluded with the question, "I can understand why one might want to be free of the limitations of human nature or economics or gender, but why would one experience meaning itself as fascist?"

My initial reaction was astonishment that anyone is reading my blog. My next reaction was that Bryan had asked an excellent question. I provided an off-the-cuff response, noting that "language is a double-edged sword. Although it is what rescues us from being enclosed in the body and engulfed in the senses--think of the liberation Helen Keller felt when she first learned the sign for water--language can also be experienced as a new kind of prison.

Most people do not speak language, but are spoken by it, and thereby experience it as a restriction on their infantile omnipotence. Think of it as analogous to the collapse of the wave function in quantum physics, from infinite potential to particularized being. If you are something, you can no longer be everything."

Petey has this way of directing me to books and ideas I need when I'm thinking of a particular problem. In this case, he called my attention to the book Mediated: How the Media Shapes Your World and the Way You Live in It, by Thomas de Zengotita. In it, de Zengotita essentially confirms what I touched on above regarding the infinite plasticity of language.

Remember, this is a problem that only seems to affect the left. If practices such as deconstruction are just unalloyed B.S., then they should result in roughly equal amounts of left wing and right wing B.S. But instead they result in virtually one hundred percent leftist B.S., so obviously, the practice "preselects" a certain kind of individual who is then "spoken" through deconstruction. In other words, leftists don't just use deconstruction; rather, it uses them.

One of the points of de Zengotita's book is that we live in a media-saturated age, to such an extent that it is almost impossible for people to have "unmediated" experiences anymore. In other words, we are shut off from the real, and are surrounded by images and messages directed toward us, which facilitates both narcissism and solipsism: "Everything is firing message modules, straight for your gonads, your taste buds, your vanities, your fears."

This is such a sharp change from previous generations, that we have failed to appreciate its effect on consciousness, on our very being. One of the effects is that the media present us with so many options of how to be, that we become detached from who we are.

de Zengotita makes a direct connection between our postmodern, mediated selves and academia, noting that one can well understand “why destabilizing fixed categories and opening up multiple readings” is “all the rage at the university.” He calls it “intellectual shopping,” that is,

“perpetually entertaining options among undecidables, exercising them provisionally, in accordance with a context and the needs of the moment.... One may lease, as it were, a reading, but one never buys, for interpretations are bound to multiply, and no definitive documentation, no historical condition or authorial intent, will ever secure a settled meaning and resolve the play of language--any more than the purpose of soap or shoes can restrain the way commodities are packaged and marketed as representations of something or other, or the way you construct yourself over time by choosing among all these options--soap, shoes, health practices, readings, relationships, careers, whatever.”

Of course, the purpose of adolescence used to be to sort through the various possibilities of identity, and to eventually settle on one. But now, it seems that people become permanent “adultolescents,” identifying with one’s options rather than a real identity.

The problem is, in the postmodern world, reality is “ironized,” so that people are too detached and reflexive to make a commitment to it. Everything is placed in quotes, so to speak, so that sophisticated people no longer speak of patriotism but “patriotism,” not truth but “truth,” not identity but “identity.”

Beginning especially with the 60’s generation, all of these and other categories were thrown so radically into question, that now they are no longer seen as quite real. I don’t want to suggest that I was unaffected by this. For example, I’m quite sure it was one of the reasons why I waited until relatively late in life to have children--children represent one of our last connections to the real--they are simply “given” in the same way that primordial nature is, thereby sharply limiting one's options. Children--especially very young children who have not yet been corrupted by mediated images of themselves--simply are.

Furthermore, once you are a parent, that is it. One experiences the same thing to a certain extent in getting married, because that too forecloses the limitless choices ahead of us. But nowadays, even marriage has been destabilized by the nagging thought that there is someone else, somewhere, some other choice, who will better complete the self. There are so many choices that we are affected by "buyer’s remorse" in every single area of our being--relationships, religion, career, truth. Everything can be different than it is, and we are existentially haunted by that fact.

The postmodernists are half right about language, truth, identity and being. It is true that, in the past, we were naive about the infinite nature of language and about the diverse possibilities inherent in human existence. Where the postmodernists go wrong is in using this fact to throw out the possibility of Truth--that some interpretations and identities are truer than others.

In other words, while past generations may have prematurely foreclosed the world by insisting on one particular truth, postmodernists foreclose the possibility of transcendent Truth by insisting on absolutizing the relative. Ironically, this is why progressives make progress impossible, because progress is measured by its approximation to transcendent Truth. Instead, they give us only "progress."

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Logopathology of the Left

It is corrupting to hear or read the words of men who do not believe in truth. It is yet more corrupting to receive, in place of truth, mere learning and scholarship which, if they are presented as ends in themselves, are no more than parodies of the truth they were meant to serve, no more than a facade behind which there is no substance. --Father Seraphim Rose

The moral and intellectual pathology of the left revolves around its misuse of language. It is not so much that leftist thought consists of lies, as that it is based on a primordial Lie that causes it to enter a parallel universe where, even if they say something that is technically true, they aren’t saying it because it’s true, which makes all the difference.

The primordial lie is the nullification of the covenant between language and reality, so that language is used for its effect rather than as a tool to convey truth. For the left, good language is effective language, whether it means ridiculously exaggerating the danger of heterosexual AIDS in order to increase funding, brazenly lying about George Bush supposedly lying about WMD, or blaming hurricaine Katrina on Bush's environmental policies.

Of late, the left has come under the influence of a new guru, Berkeley professor George Lakoff, who argues that the reason the left’s ideas are so unpopular among Americans is that they simply fail to frame them properly. Conversely, the right is successful simply because they trick people into endorsing things that are against their own self interest by framing ideas in a deceptive way.

If you listen, you can hear Lakoff’s influence in action all the time. For example, you now hear the left trying to frame issues in terms of “values,” since that is something that people seem to care about. Therefore, Howard Dean’s new mantra is that Democrats care about morality more than the Republicans do, because, unlike Republicans, their values do not include making children go to bed hungry at night or forcing people go without health insurance.

In fact, George Lakoff’s analysis of the problems of the left is exactly backwards, because the left is actually incapable of simply presenting their ideas without framing them in a deceptive way. Nor are they able to discuss conservative ideas without mischaracterizing them in a deeply misleading, condescending, and generally insulting way.

The argument about conservatives actually wanting children to go to bed hungry is a case in point. There is not even the pretense of engaging with the merits of the conservative argument on how best to combat poverty. Rather, before the argument can even begin, conservatives are tarred as inherently evil people who enjoy making children suffer. Why even argue with such a sadistic person?

We saw the same phenomenon last Friday evening, in the debate over the Murtha proposal to immediately withdraw our troops from Iraq. Interestingly, on Friday morning liberals were ecstatic about Murtha’s proposal, which was headlined in all of the large liberal papers (not to mention al Jazeera) in its completely naked, “unframed” manner. For example, in the Los Angeles Times, the headline read “War Hawk Calls for Immediate Withdrawal of Troops From Iraq.”

Naively believing that language refers to reality and means what it means, Republicans decided to call the Democrats bluff, and arranged for a vote on the matter. Sensing a trap -- the trap being having their stupid and dangerous idea actually taken seriously -- the Democrats immediately called upon their shape-shifting relationship to language, and magically reframed the debate. This wasn’t about Murtha’s proposal. This was simply about an attack on the patriotism of an American hero! The "swift-boating" of another brave veteran! (The presumption being that the Swifties had engaged in the first degree Murthing of Kerry.)

And of course, the press played along. This is because, as I have argued before, the Democratic party has been reduced to the political action wing of the MSM, which actually speaks for the Democratic party, sets its agenda, and covers its backside in situations such as this. The MSM, which is supposed to be comprised of people called “journalists” who have a more secure relationship to language, turns out to be a research and development lab for leftist experiments against reality.

On Friday morning, for example, my local paper carried the headline “House Combat Vet Urges Pullout,” accurately stating in the first paragraph that Murtha had “called for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops.” But Saturday’s headline was “House Divided Against itself Over Iraq War,” despite the fact that Murtha’s proposal was defeated nearly unanimously. And the paper characterized the resolution as a stunt by Republicans that mischaracterized Murtha’s call for withdrawal, saying that it wasn’t really a call for immediate withdrawal.

In short, immediate meant immediate when it suited the agenda of the MSM, but no longer meant immediate when it appeared that immediate withdrawal might not go over too well with the public, the vast majority of whom are not leftists.

Conservatives will just have to learn to live with being framed by the MSM and their Democratic operatives. If you are for low taxes on principle, you really just favor tax cuts for the rich. If you want to have control over your own retirement, you really just want to enrich large mutual fund companies. If you are for the liberation of Iraq, you are really just a colonialist who wants to steal their oil. If you want judges to interpret and not make law, you really want to destroy civil rights and return to the days of Jim Crow. If you are against affirmative action, it can’t be because you think it’s harmful and insulting to blacks, but because you are a racist. If you are uncomfortable with redefining marriage, it can’t be because you actually think that a child does best with a mother and father, but because you hate homosexuals.

You will also note that, when these sorts of accusations come from the left, the media will never make any effort to determine whether or not they are true. Rather, they will preface their story with “Democrats say,” as in “Democrats say George Bush lied about pre-war intelligence.” It wasn’t too long ago that the job of the press was to actually determine whether such statements were true before irresponsibly transmitting them to millions of citizens. In this case, it wouldn’t be difficult for a motivated press to establish the charge as a baseless slur, or, for that matter, to establish the fact that Joe Wilson is an inveterate liar with no claim to credibility.

And of course, this is why controlling the courts is of such vital importance to advancing the leftist agenda, because they need people “on the inside” who don’t believe that words mean what they mean. In the film Devil’s Advocate, there is a scene in which the Keanu Reeves character asks Al Pacino why satan would incarnate as a lawyer. I can only paraphrase Pacino, but he thunders something to the effect of, “because lawyers have a hand in everything!”

In the case of activist Supreme Court justices, it is like having linguistic termites at the constitutional foundation of the country, eating away at its meaning. By reframing the words of the Framers, they can unmoor the language of the constitution from its plain meaning, and thereby create a country based upon the rules of power and expedience. For when language cannot make an appeal to truth, it simply becomes a mask for power.

Friday, November 18, 2005

The Luxury of Narcissism

The esteemed Shrinkwrapped is conducting an ongoing analysis and discussion of the history of Narcissism, which will touch on "the ways in which the personal and the societal have interacted and continue to interact to worsen the problems that stem from the Narcissistic aggrandizement of the self," and "some ideas on ways to lessen the impact of the societal illness so engendered."

Shrinkwrapped notes that "The obvious first question to address is what is the connection between increased narcissism and the fall of civilization. After all, some of our most overt narcissists reside at the pinnacle of our society. We celebrate celebrity, fill our Senate with preening peacocks, pay six figure incomes to "star" university professors, and have no difficulty cheering for our favorite football players as they do their end zone dance; so, again, what is the connection?"

My first thought, was that unless psychological development has an end point, or "telos," then there is no way to distinguish normal from abnormal development. But the Left actively undermines all hierarchies, including the developmental hierarchy that distinguishes immaturity from maturity. However, through a misunderstanding of Freud, they slipped in a reverse hierarchy back in the 1960's, to the effect that, the more uncivilized you are, the more "authentic" and noble you are. Conversely, if you are a normal, decent person, then you are likely a hypocrite, and there is nothing lower to a leftist. Better an authentic sociopath like Che Guevara, Yasser Arafat, or Mumia Abu-Jamal, than a wretched hypocrite.

One of Marx's predictions was that in capitalistic societies people would naturally become alienated and join the glorious revolution. When this didn't happen, Marxists had to come up with an explanation for why the bourgeoisie seemed so contemptibly content. Major leftist intellectuals like Herbert Marcuse and N.O. Brown developed a bastardized version of Freudianism to argue that people only imagined they were happy, but that they were actually living "inauthentic," repressed lives. In order to be "real," they had to express themselves in an uninhibited and unrepressed manner. Thus followed the idealization of the primitive in all its many forms.

This is why entertainers, leftist intellectuals, and the upper classes always play at "downward mobility"--anti-establishment attitudes, veneration of the instincts, body mutilation, profanity as a sign of authenticity and passion, etc. For them the results aren't so devastating, but for people on the low end of the socioeconomic spectrum--urban blacks, for example--the results are catastrophic. For example, with the dearth mature and stable fathers, boys are given no model of mature manhood to strive for. In fact, by spontaneously expressing sexual or violent impulses, they are already at the apex of the leftist developmental model, which is what the old model started with: a narcissistic baby with unlimited desires on one end and no responsibility on the other end.

I sometimes wonder how much the increase in narcissism may be attributable to the fantastic increase in wealth and prosperity in the West over the past 100 years, leading to previously undreamt of levels of affluence, leisure and comfort for the average person. In other words, before 100 years ago (and even 40 or 50 years ago), people were too busy working, subsisting, and dealing with pain, illness and early death to be particularly self-absorbed. Perhaps there was so much more awareness of the frailty of life that it didn’t occur to most people to exalt something as ephemeral as the individual self.

In a way, the transcendence of religion came more naturally in the past, as there was no reason to elevate our brief sojourn in this vale of tears to the ultimate experience. Until the early 20th century, the average person could expect to be in intense and excruciating pain at some point in his life, and perhaps often in life, because there were no powerful analgesics that were widely available. Very few diseases could actually be cured well into the 20th century.

In his book The Great Disruption: Human Nature and the Reconstitution of Social Order, Francis Fukuyama attempted to analyze the reasons for the dramatic breakdown of social order that began in the 1960’s, not just in the U.S., but in every industrialized Western nation: skyrocketing crime and illegitimacy, erosion of traditional family structures, excessive individualism (in the negative sense of the word, meaning heightened narcissistic preoccupation and self-indulgence, abetted by the weakening of any structures that would restrain or channel the self within traditional bounds or toward some transcendent goal).

Clearly, the extraordinary increases in crime, illegitimacy, and antisocial behavior had nothing to do with poverty, as they began their exponential rise in 1963, during a period of full employment and general prosperity, and when poverty rates began falling dramatically. Consider how much less affluent the United States was in 1945, compared to just twenty years later. Many things people already took for granted by 1965 scarcely existed in 1945: residential air-conditioning, supermarkets, fast food, freezers, dishwashers, ranch style homes, tape recorders and long playing records, let alone the mass mediocrity of television. Only 46% of homes had telephones, and more than 25 million farm dwellers had no electricity. Only a third of adults had cars. Very few traveled by air. Obviously there was no birth control which, by itself, prevented sexuality from becoming too far removed from traditional channels.

Fukuyama considers several explanations for the “great disruption” of the second half of the twentieth century, and one of them has always intrigued me. He begins with the question of why, since culture usually evolves quite slowly, would it undergo a sudden mutation in the 1960’s? He concludes by noting that the change was not as sudden as it appeared, but that it merely took that long for ideas that had been percolating at the upper reaches of society to trickle down to the masses.

It was actually in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that ideas that would come to full fruition in the 1960’s were first discussed among elites, artists and academics, for example, the notion that there were no rational grounds supporting norms of behavior, and that all such restrictions were arbitrary. “Nietzsche’s aphorism, ‘There are no facts, only interpretations,’ became the watchword for later generations of relativists under the banner of deconstruction and postmodernism.” Likewise, behaviorists argued that there was no such thing as human nature (much less "fallen" mankind), that the mind is an infinitely malleable “tabula rasa,” and that human beings could therefore be endlessly shaped by social policy, creating the perfect society. At the same time, antisocial behavior was excused, since people were simply a result of their conditioning.

By the “roaring twenties,” all of the important countercultural ideas and values that would later dominate the post 1960’s world were in play among the well-to-do. However, their inevitable spread through the rest of the population was delayed, first by the Great Depression of the 1930’s, then by World War II and the Korean War. Therefore, until the mid 1950’s, people of necessity had to “concentrate more on economic survival and domesticity than on self-expression and self-gratification, which most, in any event, could not afford.” Of course, mental illness has always existed; it's just that we have so many more ways to express it. I think of someone like Madonna, who, in Freud's day, would have been just a typical hysteric. She's just as sick today, but has the “freedom” to express her sickness by making titillating videos and selling books with naked photos of herself.

So part of the answer to the question, Why are people so much more narcissistic today?, may simply be, because they can be. One of the profound changes that accompanied modernity was that every man became "his own priest." Perhaps the the hallmark of postmodernity will be every man his own god.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Petey Files

This blogging business is finally allowing me to get organized. For years, I've been scribbling thoughts, fragments of thoughts, ideas, and ideas for ideas, in book margins, post its, pads, binders, hotel stationery, napkins, matchbooks, and body parts (mostly my own, which makes them easier to track down).

In rummaging through all this flotsam and jetsam, I also realized how often Petey has been communicating to me in his cryptic way. He'll just just throw stuff out, and it's generally up to me to follow up on it. Today I'm too busy to blog anything of substance, so I will simply give Petey the floor, and leave you with a few examples:

--Petey's immutable meta-law: "bad everything drives out good everything."

--"Job one" of leftists is to attack language. After that, they can reach any conclusion they desire.

--Along these lines, he once said "When language becomes unmoored from reality, evolution becomes as static as a dog's bark." (I think this was in reference to Howard Dean; in fact, Petey refers to Democratc ideas as their "barking points.")

--The culture of victimization doesn't surprise him, since being a victim allows you to share in the perverse but considerable pleasure of your imagined subjugation.

--Petey detests multiculturalism. He's says that "most cultures are just personal error on a catastrophic scale."

--Petey has no respect for leftist professors. He says "they just sow their bullshit ideas. The poor and the stupid have to reap them."

--Back when we were arguing about whether time had qualities, he said, "Don't be an idiot. Clocks measure space, not time."

--Sometimes he can almost be compassionate. One time he said to me, "Don't worry. Eccentricity is just freedom lived."

--When I first began writing about spiritual matters, he thought I was rather presumptuous. He sharply asked, "Why would you, of all people, have fixed opinions about the unknowable?"

--Once when Hillary Clinton popped onto the TV screen, he muttered, "intelligence without light is just cunning."

--He doesn't have a high opinion of the MSM. He calls it "the crazy glue that holds the liberal fantasy together."

--He says "The topology of the body politic is a hyperdimensional phase space containing valleys with no bottom. This is proven by the existence of Al Sharpton."

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Joke 'em Out of Their Holes

Do you hate the MSM as much as I do? I remember when journalism used to be the first draft of history. Now it's the first draft of rewritten history.

Ever wonder how the New York Times always gets it so wrong? Believe me, it's not easy. They can only do it because they've got a highly trained team of dedicated fact chuckers. No matter what happens, the media never report anything positive coming out of Iraq. There's a term for this: Reuter's block.

That was some election in Iran, a show of real democracy. Iranian elections? That's what you call a farce only a mullah could love. Speaking of farces, they even had elections in Saudi Arabia. In fact, the winners were serenaded with a chorus of Wahhabi Days are Here Again.

And did you hear the new president of Iran was one of the American hostage takers? That's no surprise. Obviously they wanted to elect a man who was there at the time of their founding fatwas.

And the Iranians are still pushing ahead with their Manhattan Project. Personally, I think they should come up with a different name, since there's already been an Islamic Manhattan Project. It was called 9-11.

Of course, they say they're only developing nuclear reactors for peaceful purposes. Personally I'd feel better about it if Muslims had figured out peaceful applications for rocks and belts. For them, it's a wardrobe malfunction when some boob doesn't explode out of his vest.

I guess we shouldn't worry, because the countries of Western Europe are unified in their opposition to Iran obtaining nukes. In fact, they're calling it the Eunuch Pact.

But the Euros have Muslim problems of their own, like in Holland, where they murdered that film maker and their politicians have to have 24 hour security. Now if someone mentions Dutch Masters, I'm not sure if they're talking about painters, cigars, or Muslims.

And the loony left? Forget about it. Why do they always want to burn the flag at their demonstrations? I'm all for flag-burning, so long as the protester first wraps himself in it.

Their big champion is Ted Kennedy. The move-on crowd is probably too young to remember that Kennedy has always had an unwavering commitment to a woman's right to snooze. Under water.

Then you've got the ACLU fighting to put up a blatantly anti-American monument to the victims of 9-11. I guess they have a point, in that the monument will be a real time-saver. I mean, imagine the inconvenience of having to track down 3,000 individual grave sites in order to piss on them.

Then again, since the monument will be on sacred ground, perhaps the ACLU can sue themselves to get themselves removed. If not, maybe we can all file a classless action suit against the ACLU.

And the ACLU is always protecting Muslims, trying to ensure that they are never, ever offended or inconvenienced in any way, even if doing so would stop terror attacks on our soil. I can see their point. It's racist to discriminate against Muslims just because their skin is thinner than ours.

And it's these crazy ACLU types who try to compare Gitmo to the Gulag. I guess in certain respects the Gulag was better than Gitmo. At least in the Gulag, nobody had to read the Koran.

Are you following the Saddam trial? Pretty weird that a guy who has a taste for putting people through plastic shredders also enjoys eating children's cereal. I guess it's no surprise that he likes Froot Loops, since we know his favorite journalist is Dan Rather.

And the Palestinians are still causing problems, as usual. Did you know that none of the maps in the Palestinian territories show Israel? That's what they mean when they refer to the Arab "roadmap to peace."

Did you know that part of the Palestinian's strategy involves having so many children that they can eventually overwhelm Israel with their population? However, demographers are worried that if the Palestinian baby boom continues, there won't be any babies left to boom.

They say the martyrs are just like every other kid, obsessed with sex. But their parents tell them "Be patient. There'll be plenty of time for girls when you're all blown up."

Hey, at least you don't hear about the Palestinians flushing Bibles down the toilet. That will have to wait until they develop indoor plumbing.

The latest is that Abbas wants to enlist the terror groups for security operations. That makes sense, since the Palestinian police can't be expected to prevent law and order all on their own. And making them police does solve the terrorist problem. Next week Abbas plan to conquer disease by renaming hospitals "health clubs."

And why do they hate us so much? True, if it weren't for US interference, the Arab world wouldn't be is stuck in the fourteenth century. Instead, they'd be mired in the twelfth.

And they're always boasting about how great Islamic culture is -- you know, that they had mathematical geniuses who discovered zero over a thousand years ago. That's fine, but the problem is, they've discovered zero ever since.

badda-BING

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Weekend Sermon: Inward Mobility

A few years ago I had a moment of lucidity while at a video store, watching a couple of bereft humanoids milling around looking for something to download into their brain -- to furnish the dreary habitat of their soul, so to speak. They were having great difficulty determining what to rent, as they had already seen almost everything in the store. To my horror, it occurred to me that the average person has no proper imaginative life of their own, but must download programs from other people's imaginations in order to simulate having one. Perhaps this wouldn't be so bad if they were downloading Shakespeare, Dante, or Wodehouse, but most people download infrahuman tripe that enters the psyche and acts like a virus, commandeering the host, reproducing itself, and demanding more of the same kind of nourishment. You are what you eat, both physically and spiritually.

Ensnared in the dream machine that is ordinary life, human beings pass their days absorbed in the relentless spectacle of images, messages, and command hallucinations from the media that tell us what to be, want, and know. Unless you attempt to step off the carousel, you don't realize that it is actually dragging you along by the collar toward the abyss. Life passes away as if it never happened, its purpose perhaps dimly intuited but never realized.

For just as the human baby is born neurologically incomplete, the human adult is born spiritually incomplete. "Birth" for the infant is not actually signified by exit from the womb. Rather, what distinguishes human beings from the beasts is that we are born many months premature, so that psychological birth is a process extending over many months and even years of post-uterine existence.

Likewise, the birth of the adult personality in no way coincides with the birth of the higher self. Just as a baby will fail to thrive and ultimately die if not properly nurtured during its earliest years, our latent spiritual faculties will go undeveloped in the absence of the proper matrix to bring them into being.

This is what it means to be spiritually "born again" from above. There is the horizontal birth of the exterior man, and the vertical birth of the interior man. We are all carrying within us an astral fetus that may or may not come to term before the window closes and the light disappears.

In order to avoid the disaster of an astral abortion, we must detach from the false and illusory Matrix by any means necessary and plug back into the Real. Our commitment to the illusions of the Matrix is called Death, Forgetting, or Sleeping. Detaching from it is called Birth, Awakening, or Remembering.

Both the ego and the higher Self exist as "centers of gravity," like a star or large planet that draws things toward it. The ego draws people, experiences, and thoughts that validate it, just as the higher Self will draw what it requires to experience and articulate itSelf. While the lower self is very well adapted to the the exterior world, it is not necessarily equipped to perceive what touches the eternal. Moreover, as we move through life, its roots grow deeper and deeper, requiring a more complicated context to justify and nourish it.

The unregenerate exterior man will overlook all of the abundant hints, clues, and meaningful coincidences that point the way in, up, and out. For example, he may notice the beauty of the universe, but regard it as mere information rather than a secret influence manifesting from another sphere. The exterior man may even be hypnotized by this tempting beauty, which is a perfectly acceptable response as far as the Prince of this World is concerned, so long as the beauty does not stir him from his metaphysical slumber.

Therefore, before we can truly even think about what lies beyond this world, we must forge a link between our lower and higher selves, so that "vibrations" and messages from the other side can get through. These vertical influences originate from the dark side of our being, so we must begin by discerning between the two kinds of influences and building a line of transmission between the celestial and terrestrial. As you begin assimilating these influences, you will actually strengthen the center within yourself that is able to perceive them.

Again, think of your higher self as a sort of attractor in subjective phase space, pulling ideas and experiences toward it. At the very center of this attractor is an "I" that can only "am" with your help. It exists at no particular place and has a probability to be found anywhere, but only when found there. So long as it is not found, it ex-ists nowhere.

This is why God is encountered in the means available to know him. By our dwelling in God, God dwells in the cosmos, and by knowing God, we are known by him. While we are the image of the Creator, without a clean mirror, the reflected object is either obscure or seems to disappear entirely.

Your true Self is nothing less than the Whologram of your private particle that has already realized its destiny and patiently waits for the rest of you to catch up. Among other things, when you meditate or pray, you are actually making a formal appeal to your "future self" to manifest: thy kingdom come, thy will be done.

Since Birth, Awakening, and Remembering are variations on the same underlying theme, any one of these facilitates the others. You can be born again by flexing your vertical memory, or awaken by remembering your second birth. In either case, your mysterious being is paradoxically beckoning you to become more of what you already are, what you have always been, and what you are to realize in your becoming. Who you are in the fleeting now is but a fragment of an outwardly expanding ripple originating from an atemporal center where the eternal questions perpetually arise: Do you realize that I am? Do you realize who is I am? Do you realize I am that?

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Looking for Comedy in the Islamist World

In Albert Brooks' film, Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World, he imagines himself given a special assignment by the U.S. government: "Maybe the only way to really understand somebody is to see what makes them laugh," he is told. "Go to India and Pakistan, write a 500-page report, and tell us what makes the Muslims laugh."

As a matter of fact, Petey has been looking for comedy in the Islamist World since 9-12-01, but in a different way. That is, he thinks that the best way to really understand somebody is to see what makes them laughable. He makes no bones about his belief that the terrorists are completely insane, and that they are much more worthy of mockery and ridicule than fear or respect. The "war on terror" would end tomorrow if these jihadis would just wake up, have a big laugh, and realize what perfect asses they've been.

But who has ever seen a jihadi laugh, except for one of those hollow, bitter, mocking ones, like Dr. Evil? That's the problem. Something is terribly out of balance if comedians feel free to ridicule conservative Christians or President Bush or Catholic priests, but never conservative Muslims, crazy imams, or corrupt Palestinian leaders. It's like a symptom of the disease we are trying to eradicate. Can't we all just make fun of each other? It's a much healthier way to express aggression.

For example, if I were to run into bin Laden, I might let him know that I actually understand why he needs so many wives. After all, if you're going to play by Taliban tules, you never know what sort of beast lurks beneath that burka. Who wants to make a lifetime commitment to the child bride behind cave door number two, sight unseen? There's safety in numbers.

I read somewhere that Mohammed "is regularly cited as the most common name in the world, though there is no concrete evidence." Oh really? What about all the flying concrete? Not to mention glass and steel?

And the Palestinians? Forget about it. They finally have their own state in Gaza, but I don't know if they're going to be able to do much with it. It can't be easy spending your whole life trying to blow up something constructive, only to see it rebuilt before your eyes.

And state or no state, Palestinian women won't have a prayer. Literally. They don't allow them to even pray with the men in the Mosque. I can't say I blame them. Who wants to go to the mosque expecting a perfectly sublime Day of Rage, only to have these women turn it into a sleazy Day of Lust?

The men are naturally confused and conflicted by standing behind a woman while she’s bowing and kneeling. Rather, women are supposed to face their husbands while bowing and kneeling. When it comes to prayer, the imam is quite adamant about it: "You can't join 'em, so beat 'em!"

But I guess the battle between the sexes runs pretty deep over there. In the Palestinian territories, women don't have the right to bare arms, only the right to bear armed children. And when the children "play doctor," the boys perform mock clitoridectomies on the girls.

And how about the wild anti-Semitism they teach in their schools? Somebody called Abbas on it, and he said he was shocked that they were teaching hatred of Jews in their schools. In an interview in Throwing Stone magazine, he said that in the future, students will be taught to murder Jews and to just leave their feelings out of it.

But what's really depressing is their class reunions. They're so sparsely attended. I don't know why they should be surprised, when their best schools boast of a 90% detonation rate.

Anyway, the Palestinians can always rely on our good friends, the Saudis. Did you know that Saudi banks fund a lot of their terror operations? Of course, they don't just hand out the money to anyone. Rather, you've got to be able to provide a lot of collateral damage.

But it doesn't matter. There's always some Jew-hating American like Rachel Corrie who will take the terrorist's side. Her parents should be quite proud. There aren't many parents who can honestly say that their child was just as useful an idiot in death as they were in life. But still, that doesn't make up for the loss. They sued Caterpillar because one of their bulldozers accidentally turned toward her and flattened her. In fact, this was the first known case of a Caterpillar turning into a bitterflake.

How about Iran? They may be the first culture to skip the toenail clipper stage of technological development and go straight to nuclear power. I understand it's taking some time because they're trying desperately to develop a weapon that will destroy New York but leave the Times unharmed.

Anyway, we've got our own problems in America, what with these Wahhabi-lobbies like CAIR, that supposedly represent decent Muslims. Actually, they don't represent good Muslims, only the rank-and-foul. In fact, those Muslim doctors in the UK botched the terror operation so badly, CAIR is going to sue them for malpractice.

Me, I don't get it with these doctors. If they wanted to destroy western civilization, why did they spend all that time in medical school? Why not just go to journalism school, like everyone else?

And the U.N. is no bargain. They sent those Jordanian troops on a peace keeping mission in Timor, and they ended up abusing the children. Apparently it was a big misunderstanding -- the Jordanians thought it was supposed to be a piece-copping mission. D'oh! From what I understand, the men offered the children candy in exchange for sexual services, in what is already being called the "oral for food" scandal. Personally, I say "U.S. out of the U.N., U.N. out of Timorese boys!"

This was actually going to be a big story in the New York Times until further investigation revealed that the Jordanian peacekeepers weren't even Catholic, much less priests.

But once again Kofi Annan is pulling the wool over our eyes. If only it were wool panties, this story would would be huge in the MSM.

badda-BING

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Monday, November 07, 2005

The French Revolution, cont.

World history took one of its momentous farks in the road with the American and French Revolutions. While the American Revolution was founded on the principles of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," the French version was inspired by a trinity more diabolical in its implications, "equality, fraternity and liberty." In short, while the American revolution emphasized liberty first and foremost, the French revolution gave it third billing behind the all-important "equality."

As the contradictory ideals of liberty vs. equality began to ramify through history, it resulted in the very different nations we see today, for the more liberty a nation has, the less her people will be equal, while the more equality is pursued by state policy, the more freedom will necessarily be attenuated.

The nations of the European Union are, of course, the embodiment of the perennial leftist dream of a cradle-to-grave welfare system. But in order to achieve the goal of radical equality, the Europeans must maintain a confiscatory tax system that radically undermines liberty, since they begin with the assumption that your money does not belong to you, but to the state.

In fact, this flawed understanding of equality is an atavistic and deeply pernicious holdover from our most primitive social arrangements. While it might have made sense in the "archaic environment" of psychobiological evolution in small face-to-face groups, in order for human beings to evolve psychohistorically, it was necessary for them to overcome their "envy barrier," and to tolerate the painful idea that some might possess more than others.

In his classic work, Envy: A Theory of Social Behaviour, Helmut Schoeck notes that our most economically misguided ideas stem from the futile attempt to eliminate envy. In order to placate the envious individual, government must intervene with policies that do achieve the desired end of of creating more equality, but at the cost of inefficiency, lack of economic growth, and ultimately far less wealth for everyone. Only by tolerating envy is economic development possible: "the more both private individuals and the custodians of political power in a given society are able to act as though there were no such thing as envy, the greater will be the rate of economic growth and the number of innovations in general." A society is best able to achieve its creative potential if it functions "as if the envious person could be ignored." Likewise, well-meaning leftists who seek the completely "just society" are doomed to failure because they are based on the idea that it is possible to eliminate envy, when human beings inevitably find something new to envy.

Ironically, the pursuit of equality achieves its goal in a perverse sort of way, by dragging everyone down to a lower level of prosperity. The Fall 2005 Claremont Review of Books contains a revelatory article by Gerard Alexander, spelling out some of the dire results of the pursuit of equality. For example, on average, U.S. per capita income is 55% higher than the average of the 15 core countries of the European Union. In fact, the largest E.U. countries "have per capita incomes comparable to America's poorest states." Alexander points out that if France, Italy or the U.K. were somehow admitted to the American union, "any one of them would rank as the 5th poorest of the 50 states, ahead only of West Virginia, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Montana." Ireland, which is currently the richest E.U. country, "would be the 13th poorest state, Sweden the 6th poorest.... 40% of all Swedish households would classify as low-income by American standards."

In addition to impeding a nation's wealth-producing capacity, the mindless pursuit of equality results in chronically high unemployment. France has lived with unemployment between 8-12% for some 25 years, and if anything, this underestimates the true figure because of forced early retirement and extensive but futile job-training programs. And there is a disproportionately negative impact on the poorest sectors of society, since a high unemployment rate pushes aside the least skilled workers first.

But "ironically," the sense of entitlement that is nurtured in the entitlement society means that its victims will feel entitled to more entitlements, thus resulting in even worse conditions. This is just part of the underlying dynamic of what we are seeing with the Muslim riots in France. "Buying them off' with yet more social programs will only result in a greater sense of entitlement and more unrest, since, once the spigot of a person's sense of entitlement is opened, it is very hard to shut off. This is partly because our sense of entitlement is rooted in the earliest infantile experience, when we are, for the only time in our lives, actually "entitled" to mother's magical ministering of our every need and whim. The universe revolves around the moment-to-moment needs of the baby, which is as it should be. For a baby.

But for a variety of psychological and cultural reasons, it is possible for human beings to become arrested at the stage of narcissistic entitlement. In 2002, shortly after the attacks of 9-11, I wrote an article on the psychopathology of the Islamic world, entitled, "The Land that Developmental Time Forgot." In it I discussed the psycho-social implications of the pervasive sense of male superiority over women that pervades the Islamic world: "For example, when boys grow up thinking they are superior simply by virtue of 'being' rather than 'doing,' by actually accomplishing anything, it undermines the drive to achieve." I quoted the economist David Landes, who wrote that one "cannot rear young people in such wise that half of them think themselves superior by biology, without dulling ambition and devaluing accomplishment. One cannot [tell boys] they have a golden penis, without reducing their need to learn and do."

And the resultant fragile sense of manhood in the Muslim world feeds directly into the violence of the region, because "violence is the quintessential, testosteronic expression of male entitlement." What we have to imagine is the incredible disorientation these "chosen" men feel, growing up with unrealistically high self-esteem, and believing they are heirs to a superior civilization, but all around being confronted by the social and political disaster that is Islam. Something has gone wrong . . . and someone must pay. Thus the search for scapegoats begins.

I do not know if the young Muslim men of France suffer from the same collective pathology of the peers they left behind, but it would appear so. When you place such an individual in the context of a welfare state that mirrors their grandiose sense of entitlement, then a sort of alchemical explosion takes place: the giant sucking sound you hear in France is unlimited desire meeting unlimited attempts to placate it, with predictable results.

Have you ever seen a baby when it is not getting what it wants? Oh my. It happened just yesterday, when Daddy was ultimately powerless to stop the unseemly emotional outburst that ensued. The same thing will happen in a nation of babies accustomed to an omni-nurturant Mommy who shields them from life's pain and disappointment. If I were to foolishly attempt to inculcate manly virtues such as self-reliance and delayed gratification in the Gagdad boy and tell him to "suck it up," he would take it quite literally and immediately request Mommy. For him it is obviously way too early to "be a man." For France it may be too late.

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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Jimmy Carter, Failed Human Being

America's worst president and even worse ex-president, Jimmy Carter, was on Larry King last night, hawking his new book in which he aggressively slams the conservative movement in general and the Bush administration in particular. Carter was an awful president but is perhaps an even worse human being. Amazingly, his book attacks the very ideas that rescued us from his disastrous mismanagement of the country, a mismanagement that we will likely pay for with blood and treasure for the rest of our lives. And yet, the liberal media treat Carter with a sort of respect and veneration usually reserved for a pope or Dalai Lama (unless it is a conservative pope).

Consider what Carter’s policies did to the economy. At the time he left office, annual growth rates were roughly half of what they had been in the 1960’s. Inflation was at a staggering 13.3% in 1979, while mortgage rates had climbed to 20%. Unemployment had reached almost 8% in 1980, and the crime rate had increased 50% during the 1970’s. And yet, Carter famously blamed the nation's ills on our own selfishness, on a “moral problem” afflicting Americans, adding that we would just have to get used to the idea of a permanently lowered standard of living in the future. By the time he left office his approval rating was at 25%, lower than Nixon on the eve of his resignation. One can only wonder what, in the small reptilian brain of Larry King, disqualifies one from offering economic advice on national TV, and harshly criticizing a president presiding over an economy with better than average growth and historically low levels of inflation, interest rates and unemployment.

Carter’s abetting of the fall of the Shah of Iran represented the singular achievement of the Islamic terrorists we are fighting today. Carter didn’t lift a finger to assist the Shah, whom he considered a violator of human rights. And yet, the Khomeini regime murdered more people in its first year than the Shah’s secret service allegedly had in the previous twenty five (and don’t forget, the Shah was dealing with people like Khomeini; how we could benefit from his likes today).

Carter was openly ashamed of American history, even recently arguing that the Revolutionary War was unnecessary. To this day he proudly insists that he was the first American president in 50 years to avoid sending troops into combat, which is why he calls the failed effort to rescue the Iranian hostages a “humanitarian mission.” He said that our ownership of the Panama Canal “exemplified morally questionable aspects of past American foreign policy” for which we must humbly apologize, and named an ambassador to the U.N., Andrew Young, who deserves his own ignominious post.

Before being named ambassador, Young defended the Black Panthers, arguing that it may take the destruction of Western Civilization to achieve racial harmony in the world, and that perhaps God had ordained the Panthers to “destroy the whole thing.” As he disembarked the plane on his first official trip to Africa he raised a clenched fist in the air and gave the “black power” salute, and maintained that Cuban troops in Africa was a good idea because Cuba opposed racism because of its “shared sense of colonial oppression and domination.” Britain, on the other hand, “almost invented racism.” He defended the Soviet Union’s trial of dissident Anatoly Scharansky by suggesting that in America there were hundreds, if not thousands of political prisoners. And yet, Carter defended Young as “the best man I have ever known in public life.” But John Bolton is a controversial ambassador to the U.N.

Carter not only stood by idly as Islamic terrorists gained their first nation state in Iran, but openly rooted for the communist takeover of Nicaragua. Later, in the run-up to the first Gulf War, he wrote to members of the UN Security Council and even spoke privately to Arab leaders to encourage them to pull out of the coalition and block what President Bush was trying to do. He denied that Korea was an “outlaw nation,” and after one visit there said he admired the “reverence with which [North Koreans] look upon their leader.” He praised Syrian dictator Hafez Assad, and was personally responsible for elevating the status of Yasser Arafat from a genocidal terrorist thug to a respected world leader. How fitting that they are both Nobel laureates, while the man who replaced Carter and began the slow process of rescuing us from his follies is held in utter contempt by liberal elites both here and abroad.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Democratic Hall of Shamelessness

If I weren’t too busy to blog today, I’d probably want to say something about the grim figure of Charles Schumer, whose crass politicization of the death of Rosa Parks is not just an insult to her memory, but offensive to blacks in particular and Americans in general. Amazingly, liberal elites who are outraged by the banal observations of a William Bennett not only let Schumer’s comments slide, but report them without irony as promoting the cause of blacks and civil rights.

I'm too busy at the moment to track down the exact quote, but Schumer used the occasion of Rosa Parks' funeral yesterday to argue that Justice Alito will use his position on the bench to roll back the achievements of Rosa Parks. Unlike Rosa Parks, he will use his "seat" do do evil.

Those words can only be interpreted in one of two ways. Either Joseph Alito and all of the conservatives who support him are vicious racists who wish to turn back the clock and reinstate government-enforced racism, or else Rosa Parks is personally responsible for a plethora of ill-conceived liberal legislation that has had disastrous consequences for generations of black Americans.

If the first is true, then Joseph Alito needs to be run out of Washington on a rail. If the second is true, then Rosa Parks doesn’t deserve a state funeral so much as consignment to an ignominious grave, along with all of the dysfunctional leftist ideas and policies that she supposedly inspired.

Of course, neither of these are true. Democrats don’t really have ideas, but a sort of post-literate iconography, and Parks is one of those icons that substitute for thought. Schumer is simply stealing the quiet symbolism of this dignified woman’s actions in order to cynically exploit them for political gain. More importantly, he is actually undoing Ms. Park's legacy and shoving her again to the back of the bus, declaring to the world that blacks are like helpless children who can get nowhere in life without white liberals like Schumer driving the bus for them.

In the bizarro world of the left, those who believe that blacks are no different than any other race and are fully capable of rising to the level of their merits, are the racists. This makes no sense, for in the Republican party, blacks such as Condi Rice and Clarence Thomas actually get to drive the bus. Liberals despise them for that, for it is a reminder that it is possible to learn how to drive without their help. But who in their right mind would get onto a bus with Al Sharpton, Cynthia McKinney or Maxine Waters behind the wheel, anyway? If Rosa Parks is responsible for Al Sharpton, she has a lot to atone for.

Ironically, Ms. Parks’ right to sit anywhere she pleased on that bus was not granted or invented by a liberal judge, but was self-evidently present in any strict constructionist view of the constitution. And of course, it was overwhelmingly activist Democrats who presided over Jim Crow, and found abundant justification of their racist views in the constitution. The illiberal interpreters of the constitution had to be defeated then, just as they must be defeated now.

The Schumers of the world also forget that Ms. Parks simple action of saying “no,” of staying put, was an implicit tribute to America, just as Mahatma Gandhi’s success in liberating India was a tribute to the British. For if Rosa Parks had tried the same thing in the Soviet Union or Castro’s Cuba (revered by Al Sharpton and so many others on the left), she would have simply disappeared, both literally and figuratively. That is, she would have vanished from the earth before she could have ever entered the pages of history, just as Gandhi would have been an anonymous statistic had he attempted the tactic of passive resistance against nazi Germany or fascist Japan (not to mention the Islamists who terrorize India today). Gandhi mistakenly thought that he had discovered a universal spiritual principle called “ahimsa,” when what he had actually discovered was the decency of the British. Specifically, he had discovered their capacity for shame. Against a people without such a capacity, this type of spiritual resistance is impotent.

Which brings us back to the shameless figure of Charles Schumer, who obviously does not possess a better side to which we may appeal. Ironically, the tactics of a Rosa Parks, or Mahatma Gandhi, or Martin Luther King, presume that the adversary can be shamed. Not so Charles Schumer, whose shamelessness doesn’t even stand out in a party leadership containing the likes of Ted Kennedy, Howard Dean, Jesse Jackson, Patrick Leahy, Dick Durbin, Barbara Boxer, et al. Truly, an all-star hall of shamelessness.

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