Saturday, February 11, 2006

Magic Eightbob Time

Today's post will be a bit late. It is now 6:30, and I have agreed to look after the beast at 7;00, thus allowing Mrs. Gagdad to sleep in. Not enough time to work out what I want to say. I'm in the process of downloading it from the beyond right now, and the ingredients have not yet coalesced. It has something to do with death cults (including leftism), grief, martyrdom, the moral vanity and superiority of the easily offended, the affable gallantry of President Bush, turning the other cheek, and disidentifying with one's thoughts and unpleasant emotional reactions. At the moment I don't see how, but Petey promises me that it will all "add up."

In the meantime, does anyone have any questions? As before, I would be happy to field any and all inquiries, except, of course, from our resident troll. The questions can be for me, for Petey, for Mrs. G., and can be about any topic you wish. Again, if I don't know the answer, I can probably point you in the right direction, or at least come up with something that will plausibly convince me that I know what I'm talking about.

Most of the questions last time around were quite challenging and thought provoking. Unless they are particularly straight forward, I'll probably devote an entire post to each one. Last time I tried to answer two or three at a time, and the posts got too long and disjointed.

The blog is probably going to be changing if not ending soon. I'm getting a little antsy dwelling in the known, and would like to return to my normal state of affairs, which involves pushing into the unknown. If the blog is to continue, it will have to involve more of that. So many blogs already do such an outstanding job disseminating the known to those who would like to know it. Is there any interest in a blog that disseminates the unknown to those willing to unknow it?

Answer hazy. Ask again.


Thank you all for the kind words. I'm extremely touched.

Just to clarify--this has nothing to do with the family. I actually have plenty of time for them. Nor does it have anything to do with being burned out. It really does just have to do with what I said. It's not a matter of time. It's a matter of timelessness. But timelessness takes time.

There's a certain level of depth that can only be achieved with a lot of unstructured time spent in the bewilderness. Doing the blog means that I have less time to make those "raids on the inarticulate," to develop new ideas, to or to deepen and synthesize some of the new ideas that are bubbling around in my brain.

The realm of the known is like a big, bright spotlight that illuminates everything in its path. We can even imagine that the spotlight shows all there is. But obviously, the vast majority of reality lies outside the spotlight. For a long time, I've felt that I've been making progress in venturing beyond the edge of that light. In fact, I sort of measure a given day in terms of whether or not I made any progress in that direction.

I literally think of it as a frontier. Just as humanity moved westward until the external frontier closed in the late 19th century, I think of the interior horizon of the cosmos as the new frontier. We've only just begun mapping it. So to the extent that the blog prevents that, that's the problem. How do I continue it and retain my inward mobility in the vertically expanding cosmos?

Friday, February 10, 2006

Complaint Department: Do Sick Cultures Produce Sick People?

Yesterday I received several emails from someone who was unable to post his comments on the blog. He is not my usual many-monikered troll, but someone who's comments deserve serious consideration. He is apparently a psychiatrist--or at least an MD--who falls squarely within the politically and academically correct view that one cannot say that certain cultures are more likely to produce mentally ill individuals.

He says that I commit "the same logical error that ShrinkWrapped" makes, which at least places me in illustrious company. That is, "You cannot make a jump from cultural personality styles to individual psychopathology. There are far more shame cultures on the planet than guilt cultures, which we assume to be superior... Mediterranean cultures, including Moslem, are normatively paranoid and shame-motivated."

In other words, there are more shame cultures than guilt cultures, so therefore the latter cannot be deemed superior to the former. It's all arbitrary--perhaps even just the usual ethnocentrism that causes one to inevitably think that one's own culture is superior to others.

We could go further and say that the majority of cultures throughout human history have practiced human sacrifice. It is an absolutely universal practice that appeared all over the globe. As such, we cannot say that individuals from cultures that refrain from human sacrifice are any different from those, such as the Aztec, who systematically murdered some 20,000 sacrificial victims a year, cutting out the beating heart of the victim and drinking their blood in order to appease an angry sun that might otherwise extinguish without a constant supply of fresh blood. It's just a different belief, that's all. In the Aztec world, Jeffrey Dahmer would be just a regular guy.

Slavery was also universal. Thus, we cannot say that there is anything different in the personality makeup of someone whose empathy causes them to instinctively recoil at the thought of enslaving another human being, vs. someone that has no such empathy and thinks slavery is a wonderful idea.

I assume that you and I cannot even contemplate what it would be like to have sex with a child--we can't even go there, so to speak--but we are no different that the ancient Greek men who were emotionally incapable of loving women, and instead used young boys as their sexual outlet. Just a different cultural practice, that's all. Sex is just an instinct. Its object is of no consequence, be it a goat, a child, a woman, or a watermelon.

In the ancient world, the Jews were mocked and ridiculed because of their oddly humane treatment of women and children. In fact, it is my belief that it was precisely this humane treatment of women and children that caused Jews to create psychologically healthier people and to rocket ahead of other human groups. This is why, on a per capita basis, they have contributed more to human progress than any other group, despite the most horrible treatment from other groups. But the view expressed by my reader would suggest that, for example, there is no difference in the mental health of the average Palestinian vs. the average Israeli. One believes life is sacred, the other worships death. Just a different belief, that's all.

In fact, that's exactly what the reader says: "Mediterranean cultures, including Moslem, are normatively paranoid and shame-motivated." In other words, if someone from a Muslim culture is a paranoid anti-Semite and has dysregulated shame, it's normal. There is no judgment a psychologist can make one way or the other as to the general mental health of the individual. He even favorably quotes Nietzsche's famous cliche that "In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule." As if culture is anything other than human personality writ large, and personality a private culture.

The reader goes on to say that wife abuse is indeed "normal" in Iraq and Iran. But "Normal is a statistical concept, not a statement about good or bad." He refers to the famous Milgram Experiment, apparently in the belief that it means that, just because people do bad things, we cannot judge them as bad. It seems to me that this is missing the deeper meaning of the experiment. After all, how do we even know that the subjects of the experiment did something bad if we do not a priori know that it was bad?

I could conduct a similar study and easily prove that a significant majority of human beings are not operating in Piaget's highest stage of cognitive development, formal operations. Does this mean that the ideas of a concrete operations thinker are just as valid as those of someone in formal operations? As a matter of fact, that is exactly what the average postmodern academic would say. It is arrogant for us to distinguish between nuclear physics vs. Indian rain dancing, or psychotherapy vs. going to the hajj and stoning satan to rid yourself of demons.

The reader states on the one hand that while he believes in unconscious motivation, he also believes that personality is "probably heavily genetic in itself, develops and is shaped by a cultural as well as a family context the way a sapling grows towards the sun." Such a view flies in the face of the most cutting edge research on early attachment and its role in most all forms of psychopathology.

In other words, it is hardly as if a child comes into the world with no objective needs at all, and that his personality will more or less turn out the same no matter how he is treated. I know that this is the dominant academic view, and that there is a lot of bogus feminist research trying to prove that mothering and attachment have no major impact on a child's psychological health, but I couldn't disagree more. It is proven to me every day in my clinical practice. Of course there are some temperamentally resilient children who seem to survive unscathed despite having been abused. But does this mean that it's okay to abuse children, and that there is no psychological difference between someone who abuses children and someone who recoils at the thought?

By the way, I see patients from virtually all cultures around the world, so I have rather intimate familiarity with how a particular culture distorts and warps the personality in more or less permanent ways. It is not so much that this or that culture merely produces this or that kind of personality. Rather, I am able to readily discern how a given culture produces a certain type of character pathology. Does it mean that all individuals from the culture are mentally ill? Of course not. But there is no question that it makes it more likely. Of this I am utterly convinced.
As I may have mentioned before, as a psychologist looking at culture and history, I am not particularly interested in ignorance, which, after all, can afflict anyone and is perfectly understandable. 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 widespread belief in some patently false belief based on underlying emotional need.

I believe the attitude that dismisses the crazy beliefs of the Muslim world is another example of the hard bigotry of no expectations. It causes real damage, because it panders to the worst in human beings and lets them off the hook. It is like a bad therapist who simply supports a patient rather than interpreting, clarifying, and sometimes confronting.

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. 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."

My reader and I have just carried on a dialogue in which we were able to observe culture in an abstract way by standing "outside" of it and looking at it the same way that a scientist observes the material world. Is this not in itself inherently superior to cultures that cannot stand outside themselves and view themselves from the standpoint of another? Or is the developmental acquisition of such objectivity no better than being hopelessly immersed in the subjective and emotional, like a child?

I think you know my answer.


By the way, I believe this reader has his own blog. If he has a response, I will be happy to direct you to it.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Why Are Shame Cultures So Shameless?

Who hasn't wanted to approach a cartoon jihadist and ask, "Hey, I thought you guys were from shame cultures. So how come you're not ashamed of yourselves for behaving like such pathetic asses? What gives?"

Shame is not a healthy or adaptive emotion around which to organize a culture, any more than it's a good idea to organize your personality around being easily shamed. Vulnerability to intense shame is a biological marker of psychopathology, whether individually or collectively. It is the sine qua non of what I call a "mind parasite," or internalized pattern of disturbed interaction with early caregivers.

Shame is an important social emotion that was selected by evolution for a very useful purpose. That is, it tempers our narcissism and helps to socialize us. Remember, evolution selected humans as a group animal first--our individual identity is a very recent historical development superimposed upon our primordial "groupishness." Shame is one of the evolutionary mechanisms for inhibiting certain kinds of undesirable behaviors that the child might otherwise find quite pleasurable.

Shame and embarrassment are completely absent in the infant up to the age of at least 12 months, and are generally first observed between 14 and 18 months. By 15 to 16 months, the toddler is particularly susceptible to narcissistic "deflation." Think of the ecstatic, hyper-aroused baby looking into its mother's face for mirroring and confirmation.

Shame first arises in this intersubjective space, depending upon the mother's response to her baby. A rejecting or neutral response leads to a sudden "decrescendo" of affect that feels subjectively like a downward spiral, as if the floor as been pulled out from under one. Shame throws a social "flood light" upon the individual, causing a desire to bury one's face or disappear from view.

Shame is actually a biological state that becomes hardwired in, a sudden switch from sympathetic arousal to parasympathetic dampening. It can be observed outwardly in the infant through such "end products" as loss of social smile, averting the eyes, loss of muscle tonus, and blushing (caused by sudden vasodilation).

We do not come into the world with the ability to autoregulate shame. Rather, it is one of those things that will achieve a "set point" depending on the quality of early attachment experiences. Ideally, shame will be experienced only gradually and in small doses, so as to not overwhelm the child's ability to deal with it. But early and frequent experiences of shame can be a source of transmission of severe emotional disorders associated with the under-regulation of aggression.

When we talk about "shame cultures," we are actually talking about cultures that have failed for whatever reason to produce people who can autoregulate shame. In other words, we are dealing with shame dysregulating cultures. Our own culture has a subculture of such individuals--they are called "narcissistic personalities."

The narcissistic personality is exquisitely vulnerable to dysregulated shame, and therefore builds a personality around the attempt to avoid shame and humiliation at all costs. That is, they cannot have the experience of shame in its regulated state. Rather, it immediately becomes dysregulated, plunging them into existential despair, depression, and confusion. Things like grandiosity, exaggerated self esteem, and a sense of entitlement are all designed to undercut the catastrophic emergence of shame.

Thus, the shame-prone narcissistic personality often becomes the shameless personality, because his shame is just too painful to experience. It cannot be tolerated, so it is simply bypassed or otherwise avoided. These are very brittle personalities. They always show a preponderance of shame over guilt (which is a later and more sophisticated developmental emergence), and they are quick to experience narcissistic rage in response to any narcissistic injury. They are extremely vulnerable to humiliation, and may respond to even a hint of it with self-righteous rage or "humiliated fury."

Now I ask you, whom does this remind you of? What kind of person--what kind of culture--would go ballistic with narcissistic fury at the rumor of a cartoon that insults one's narcissistic ego ideal?

Let us bear in mind that the dysregulation of shame is ultimately rooted in psychotoxic parenting, characterized by an insecure, depressed, angry, or otherwise emotionally unavailable mother. In the Arab Muslim world, women are third class citizens, while boys are elevated to the status of godlike little tyrants with an abundance of unearned self-esteem. In other words, they are valued for doing nothing, just for being boys. These boys are raised by adoring, doting and narcissistically disturbed mothers who project their own idealized, unrealistic ego ideal into their male children, producing an unbridgeable gap between the child's actual self and and their impossibly idealized self.

Voila! Through the systematic denigration of women, the culture self-replicates by churning out grandiose, narcissistic, entitled, angry, and brittle men who project their own devalued, degraded self into women and infidels. In this manner, the cultures of the Muslim Middle East are largely shameless culture filled with men who are disoriented by a world that doesn't mirror the bizarre entitlement they feel is their birthright. This wrong and disappointing world must be angrily torn down and destroyed, replaced with one that will properly mirror their inherent greatness.

We look at the external squalor, backwardness and barbarism of much of the Arab Middle East, and are naturally shocked. But truth be told, it is simply the inevitable objectification of their disordered and dysregulated internal state. That sorry state, my friends, is a caliphate worse than death.

UPDATE--From Little Green Footballs today, with my translation of the unconscious message:

“Defending the prophet [read: regression to infantile rage] should continue worldwide,” Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, told the crowd. “Let Condoleezza Rice, Bush and all the tyrants [read: our projected tyrannical superegos] shut up: We are a nation that can’t forgive [read: we are unbearably ashamed of ourselves], be silent or ease up when they insult our prophet and our sacred values [read: when we are narcissistically injured].”

“Today, we are defending the dignity of our prophet with a word [read: we are defending ourselves from our own shame], a demonstration but let George Bush and the arrogant world [read: the real world that painfully reminds us of how pathetic we are] know that if we have to ... we will defend our prophet with our blood, not our voices [read: we will react to our unbearable shame with dysregulatred rage],” Nasrallah added.

Another nugget from LGF:

NEW YORK - Muhammed Zahny is upset - and not about the cold wind that is keeping customers away from his store on Brooklyn’s Atlantic Avenue. “If I lose money, I don’t care,” says Mr. Zahny, who owns “Islamic Fashions.” “But if I lose respect, then I have nothing left.”

Correction. To quote that great philosopher Muddy Waters, "You can't lose what you ain't never had." You are so brittle and your shame is so dysregulated that it just makes you feel like nothing.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Democrats and Spiritual Cannibalism at the King Funeral


Democrats reached another new low yesterday in using the occasion of Coretta Scott King's funeral to launch a personal attack on President Bush, who was there not just to honor her memory, but the legacy of Martin Luther King. As Dennis Prager said in his radio show today, it is not as if she herself was an important person. Certainly she seemed to carry herself with dignity in public, and she undoubtedly meant well, but, like Jackie Onassis, she was famous for who she was married to, not because of her ideas or accomplishments. In fact, like me, I'm sure the President would find many of her ideas naive, goofy, and frankly dangerous. But that would be no excuse to politicize and degrade the solemn occasion of a funeral, much less to cynically use it as a means to score some cheap political points. There is a time and place to debate those things. Not when you're sitting in front of the body, reflecting on the meaning of a life. Unless you're a Democrat.

Of course, this wasn't the first time in recent memory that Democrats have used death as a means to resurrect their moribund political fortunes. For example, we all remember the dignified Paul Wellstone funferal.

And last November, in a post entitled The Democratic Hall of Shamelessness, I discussed the similar politicization of the death of Rosa Parks. Most notably, Charles Schumer argued that Justice Alito would use his position on the bench to undo every advance in civil rights that had been achieved in Parks' lifetime. Unlike Parks, Alito would use his "seat" do do evil. Why this constant demagogic pandering isn't offensive to most blacks is a mystery to me.

The reason why the left politicizes these occasion is that they politicize everything. For the secular left (and this includes the pseudo-religion of the "liberation theologies" of the left), politics is religion, so it is entirely appropriate to politicize a funeral. In their mind, they are actually spiritualizing it by injecting it with their sacred political iconography.

Death is rich with unconscious meaning. Human sacrifice has been characteristic of virtually all religions from time immemorial. It was the default religion of all primitive cultures, and represented a sort of natural curative remedy for ancient man. In the unconscious, there is an abiding belief that one's own death may be averted by offering up a substitute victim, and that a sort of immortality may be achieved by "ingesting" the life force of the sacrificial victim. Thus, in the absence of real religion, Democrats engaged in a sort of cannibalization of Mrs. King, consuming her spirit in order to revive their sagging fortunes. Yes, my friends, a significant portion of Democrats are not just classless and tasteless. They are cannibals--or, if you like, the "dementors" of Harry Potter fame that suck the life out of souls. Same thing. We all have spiritual cannibals and dementors in our lives.

The attack on the President began with the irReverend Joseph Lowery, who said that Mrs. King "deplored the terror of our smart bombs and missiles way afar. We now know there were no weapons of mass destruction over there… [24 seconds of standing ovation] but Coretta knew, and we know that there are weapons of misdirection right down here. [More whoopin' & hollerin']. Millions without health insurance, poverty abounds. For war, millions more. But no more for the poor."

How stupid of Bush to have relied upon the world's intelligence agencies instead of consulting with Coretta Scott King about the WMD. She knew. But why didn't she speak up? Since she and President Bush are the only two people in the world who knew there were no WMD, it seems to me that she's as guilty as he is. Burn her!

And "no more for the poor?" Last time I checked, President Bush had not vetoed a single spending bill, and the government was spending record amounts on entitlement programs. Poverty abounds? Not for people who finish school, get married, and don't have children out of wedlock. But I suppose mentioning that would be politicizing the funeral.

Bill Clinton adopted a subtler approach, using the occasion as a campaign stop for Hillary rather than a frontal assault on the President. He mentioned that he was delighted to be in the presence of his president, his former presidents, and then, slyly looking at Hillary.... He didn't have to speak the unspeakable. The audience got it. More who-let-the-dogs-out woohooing. What's the word I'm looking for? Dignified. You know, like an Arsenio Hall rerun.

Never mind that Clinton's political mentor was that staunch supporter of segregation forever, J. William Fulbright. Unless you are fully bright, you wouldn't know that. I guess this means that Clinton wasn't just our first "black president," but our first Uncle Tom president.

In any event, his self-serving campaign ad was tasteful compared to the vile comments of America's first female President, Jimmy Carter, a nasty piece of work who holds the distinction of having been unfit to be president and now unfit to be ex-president. He immediately brought out that new liberal icon, The Government Response to Katrina, solemnly intoning that "We only have to recall the color of the faces of those in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi" to know that inequality exists.

First of all, it has been thoroughly debunked that the hurricaine affected blacks disproportionately in Mayor Nagin's "chocolate city." However, it is true that we have only to recall the blank face on the mayor's noggin and the vacant expression of the blanco Governor to know that inequality exists. When will people with blank and vacant faces--whether blanco o negro, en espanol--achieve equality with the alert and bright-eyed?

To thunderous applause, Carter also noted that the Kings once were "victims of secret government wiretapping and other surveillance and, as you know, harassment by the FBI," obviously a direct stab at President Bush. Can you imagine if Bush had politicized the occasion by reminding the audience that the Kings had indeed been victims--victims of the Democratic wiretapping program appproved by LBJ and Robert Kennedy in order to infiltrate and disrupt the civil rights movement? Or that, unlike his Democratic predecessors, the present spying program did not confuse terrorists who want to destroy civil rights with leaders who want to advance them?

In another reference to the President, Carter mentioned the Kings' embrace of non-violence to solve disputes. In full peaceive-aggressive mode, he said, "It is always a temptation to forget that we worship the Prince of Peace," and that the Kings "exemplified the finest aspect of American values and brought upon our nation the admiration of the entire world."

This is unlike you-know-who, who just doesn't understand that bin Laden, Zarqawi, Saddam, and the Mad Mullahs would instantly abandon their psychotic aspirations if only we adopted Carter's tried-and-true method of passive-aggressive, I mean, passive non-violence.

Remember how well that worked for Carter when he dealt with Ahmadinejad the first time around? Carter passively stood by and assisted in the peaceful transition to the first Islamic terror state in 1979. When Carter passively and peacefully left office in 1980, Ahmadinejad and his fellow Iranian terrorists immediately released the American hostages. It had nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that Carter was replaced by president who actually had a pair. Remember when Saddam peacefully abandoned his nuclear program after Israel bombed the hell out of it? Or how about when Carter's fellow Nobel laureate Arafat peacefully ended the intifada after Sharon cleaned out their terrorist nests and built a wall?

Yes, passivity and love solve all problems. Except at funerals. Then you've really got to ratchet up the rhetoric and stick it to your enemies.

ADDENDUM--What did Joyce say today?

Sobs they sighdid at Fillagain's chrissormiss wake, all the hoolivans of the nation, prostrated in their consternation and their duodisimally profusive plethora of ululation.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Never Make a God of Your Religion, or Free Your Madrasahs and Your Asses Will Follow

Yesterday we were discussing the cognitive pathologies of the Islamic world, before I was cut off by the dictates of reality. If only Muslims could be influenced by the dictates of reality. Instead, they are spurred by the inexorable demands of fantasy.

Among the ten commandments is the injunction that "you shall not make for yourself a graven image." Why would that be? And what relevance could it possibly have for contemporary people? We don't worship rocks or pictures (perhaps rock stars and moving pictures).

The purpose of this commandment is to check the human tendency to worship idols, the ubiquitous tendency to "bow down and serve" manmade gods, whether secular or religious. Idolatry occurs whenever one holds a value higher than God. Thus it is actually possible to turn one’s religion into a false god, and to value it above all else. Certainly in the Muslim Middle East, it would appear that the worship of God has been completely replaced by the worship of Islam.

For a person who is not operating in Piaget’s fourth stage of cognitive development, formal operations, it is almost impossible not to be an idol worshiper in some form or fashion. Only a person capable of abstract thought can understand that all religious talk is a symbolic representation of something that entirely transcends religious talk--that religion is not about religion, but about something radically beyond religion.

Thus, the injunction against worshipping graven images is an ingenious biblical device for saying, Thou shall not get stuck on stupid. That is, don’t get hung up in pre-operational or concrete operational thought. Rather, God can only be properly thought about and encountered in the more abstract regions of formal operations thought and beyond.

When we talk about the "third world," we are presumably talking about economic development, but there are also first, second, and third worlds of cognitive development. In fact, most of the Islamic world retains a retrograde cognitive style that features transparently infantile mechanisms such as paranoia, grandiosity, denial, and splitting. To the extent that they are literate--and even in a country as “advanced” as Egypt, some fifty percent of the women are illiterate--religious narratives are simply superimposed over a magical and mythological mode of thought. Thus, although they have a “written” religion in the form of the Koran, it is really treated more as an idol, fetish object, or graven image, as defined above.

For example, not only is no Muslim free to interpret the Koran in a symbolic or non-literal manner, but pathetic souls who spend their lives literally memorizing the Koran are revered as people of great spiritual achievement. They may not even understand what they have memorized--in that regard, they are more like idiot savants than anything we would recognize as a saintly person of spiritual discernment. Imagine revering someone who had wasted his life memorizing the Bible cover to cover, but never seeing into its wisdom.

Of course, the Koran is a wildly disconnected jumble of incoherent and contradictory sayings, dreams, visions, threats, and warnings. To a large extent, one may similarly regard the Bible as lacking innate coherence. The big difference is that Biblical exegesis has always involved trying to see through the contradictions to a higher unity, whereas this higher mode of cognition would be expressly forbidden in Islam.

It is almost as if Islam mandates that its followers remain mired in a lower level of cognitive development, where they cannot think abstractly and apprehend the hidden unity underlying the diversity of the world: thou shall get stuck on stupid. As is to be expected, in reacting so infatoddlerously to some silly cartoon images, they have taken an injunction against graven images and turned it into one.

Naturally, this developmentally earlier form of cognition also poses a great impediment to the emergence of scientific thought, since science always proceeds by reducing an outward multiplicity to a higher unity. But long ago, the Muslim world decided that if science discovered something that confirmed the Koran, then it was irrelevant, while if it discovered something that contradicted it, it was blasphemous. As such, they can only imitate science, but not think scientifically.

Concrete operations thought does not look for an overall unity in the universe--it doesn’t construct a logical analysis that makes all aspects of reality fit into a coherent system. Instead, it merely collects facts and tells stories. Facts that contradict the story are either omitted or else somehow fitted into the mythological framework. It is a fact, for example, that Muslim culture could not have discovered Einstein’s “Jewish physics” in a thousand years of trying. But the mad mullahs of Iran have no difficulty in being parasites on science and integrating atomic energy into the myth of inevitable Muslim superiority and entitlement.

The lower orders of cognition are inherently narcissistic and egocentric, in that the individual has difficulty decentering himself and adopting the point of view of another. Thus, in the Muslim countries reacting most violently to the cartoons of infamy, Christians and Jews have no rights at all, and are routinely depicted in the most degrading way. Throughout the Muslim world, their print and broadcast media feature the most lurid and grotesque anti-Semitic images the world has seen since nazi Germany. And yet, they are violently outraged by some comparatively benign images published in a country that isn’t even Muslim. What could be more childishly narcissistic and egocentric?

Unfortunately, one of the downsides of the universalizing tendencies of formal operations thought is that it can lead directly to the modern cognitive pathologies of cultural and moral relativism. That is, the person in formal operations can see that there are always multiple perspectives, so why should one perspective be privileged over another? Islam, Christianity, wicca, what’s the difference?

The difference, of course, is that only someone in formal operations thought has the luxury of this kind of liberal tolerance that is unknown--and unknowable--in the cultures that he is elevating to the moral and intellectual status of his own. If there is one thing that is not tolerated in the Muslim world, it is tolerance. As such, the modern “tolerant” liberal equates intolerance with just another form of tolerance.

This is how the most sophisticated thinkers and wackademics of the West conspire with the totalitarian con-op thinkers of Islam, producing a new cognitive offshoot that hamstrings us in properly dealing with our sworn enemies: totolerantarianism, or the enforced tolerance of the intolerant. This politically and academically correct stance is the sine qua non of a graven image, for it involves bowing down before a manmade ideology that equates the lower and the higher.

Thus, there is a hidden unity between the postmodern left and the premodern Islamists: it is a tacit conspiracy between those who make a god of their religion and those who make a god of their irreligion, between the intolerable and the intolerant.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Concrete Operations Thought, Graven Images, and Islamic Backwardness

First of all, I'd like to thank Petey for taking the helm of the Cosmos yesterday and sharing his, ahem, subtle commentary with us.

But Petey's assistance notwithstanding, I'm still backed up and somewhat short on slack. I was planning on writing an interesting post on Piaget's concept of concrete operations thinking and how it relates to the Biblical prohibition against making graven images, and then tying this into the Muslim cartoon controversy. But I have to conduct a psychological evaluation in a godforsaken place called Ontario, which is situated right before you fall off the edge of the world. It takes a good two hours to get there, and now I have approximately 17 minutes before I have to hit the road.

For those of you who don't know, Piaget was a child psychologist who documented how our style of thinking develops from infancy to adulthood. He may have been the first to recognize that it wasn't just a matter of the content of our thought, but its very form, or structure, that changes. His four main stages are called sensori-motor, pre-operational, concrete operations, and formal operations (more on which later).

Concrete operations thinking usually emerges between the ages of seven and adolescence, when children become more aware of the differences between thought and reality. But they still interpret reality in a very concrete and literal way, and have only a limited ability to think abstractly. Suffice it to say that much of the Arab Muslim world is mired in concrete operational thinking. In other words, we err in thinking that we simply have some cultural dispute about the differing "content" of our thought. Rather, this dispute is much more over the very form of thought.

That is--and this is, of course, a sweeping generalization--the average person of the West is in formal operations thought, while the cognitive "center of gravity" in the Muslim Middle East appears to be mired in concrete operations. This is partly because the higher stages don't just emerge on their own. Rather, they must be modeled by the culture. We generally develop to a point allowed by the culture. After that, you're on your own. History shows time and again that more primitve cultures actually punish people for developing beyond the group, as they represent a threat to the myths and cognitive structures that serve to contain their collective anxiety.

In the course of writing my own book, I came across a book entitled Stages of Faith: The Co-evolution of Religious Thought and Science, By Michael Barnes. In it, the author demonstrates how our conception of God and religion necessarily change as we move through Piaget's cognitive stages. God is a very different reality for someone in a more developed psychological stage. In fact, thinkers such as Ken Wilber and Sri Aurobindo have outlined developmental stages beyond formal operations, which was Paiaget's final stage of development.

In the Islamic world, there is no room whatsoever for these higher stages with the exception of Sufism which, as we have mentioned before, constitutes a tiny fringe of Islam.

And that, my dear bobbleheads, is as much as I can say in 17 minutes. I don't even half tome to spiel-check what I wrought. I'll have to get back to it either later today or Tuesday morning, assuming I don't drive off the edge of the world.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Islam, the Liberal Media, and the Hard Bigotry of No Expectations

I'm taking the day off, so I'm letting Petey take control of the keyboard today. Oh sure, Petey likes to hide behind a facade of so-called spiritual detachment, but I can see that he's quite hopped up by this aptly named cartoon controversy, as it demonstrates the cartoonish and loony moonbat buffoonery of our out-of-tune goons living in their liberal media cocoon.


Here is the headline from the San Francisco Chronicle, taken from their website:


"American media outlets faced a dilemma Friday that underscored the sensitive nature of depicting Islam.

"Should they publish the satirical images that have offended millions of Muslims across the globe? Or should they censor themselves, denying a chance for readers and viewers to judge the cartoons for themselves?

"Most decided against reprinting the images."

Pathetic. Does this not underscore the vast difference between the politically correct--and therefore illiberal--MSM, and the free-thinking and truly liberal blogosphere? It is unimaginable that the MSM would ever refrain from offending any group upon which they have not contemptuously conferred victim status. But if you are one of their iconic victim groups, then it's hands off: blacks, feminists, homosexuals, Muslims. If the leaders of any of these groups were intellectually honest, they too would be offended by the media coddling and condescension. But they are not. Everybody knows that feminists are fragile little flowers that are easily offended--as in the Lawrence Tribe kerfuffle--and that you cannot just come out and confront them with uncomfortable truths. They might faint or go into hysterics.

Nor can you ever depict homosexuals in a negative light. If they are less healthy, more depressed, have shorter life-spans, and are more prone to suicide, it's our fault. And don't ever publicize the fact that children from intact black families with a mother and father do as well as their white counterparts. And religion is a stupid and pre-modern superstition for people too afraid to deal with reality, unless it's a third world or non-traditional religion. Then it's a venerable belief system worthy of our respect, even if we don't know what the hell its dopey adherents are talking about.

The article continues:

"As the news value of the cartoons increased, broadcasters and print publications had to decide whether their duty to inform the public would outweigh the potential for offending Muslims."

Why is that? What does one have to do with the other? Isn't the whole story about the fact that millions of religious idiots are offended by some silly cartoons? The issue is not whether or not they should publish satirical images. The real story is that millions of people in the world are so cognitively stunted that they don't even know what satire is. Nor irony, detachment, critical distance, and self-understanding, for that matter.

Now there's a story! "Islam Implicated in Middle East Failure to Launch: Millions Left Stupid."

This highlights another point: that the liberal victim is not really a victim, but an aggressor. Of course there are true victims, but officially sanctioned liberal victims use their victim status to generate real power in the world. Victims can say and do anything, and certainly do not shy away from throwing their weight around. They have real power and know it. And they are protected from consequences of using that power illegtimately, in ways that you or I could never be.

This is why liberal victims are always bullies. They don't have legitimate power or knowledge, only illegitimate power and knowledge. They can passive-aggressively end debate an a second by playing the victim card and knocking you over the head with it. Isn't this what these Muslim barbarians are doing, with the complicity of the MSM? Aren't they really just a bunch of pathetic losers immersed in a pseudo-religion that only deepens and justifies their moral, intellectual, spiritual and economic squalor? I think so. But if you point it out, you are the aggressor, so that any reaction on the part of the victim is given sanction.


"'CNN has chosen to not show the cartoons out of respect for Islam', the cable news giant announced Friday. CBS Evening News made a similar statement Thursday."

Yeah, right. In reality, CNN and CBS have chosen not to show the cartoons out of both cowardice and out of contempt for Islam, knowing full well that these are dysfunctional people whose feelings must be protected and given extraordinary deference, like a retarded person. These so-called journalists are cowards, bowing before the sacred icon that they have created. They worship at the altar of the Holy Victim, and thereby receive absolution for their sin, the sin of actually coming from a Judeo-Christian civilization that is superior in every way to anything Islam has ever created.

I wonder if the craven dolts at CNN even know about how other religions are regarded by Islam, how barbarously they are treated in Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia?

"'We always weigh the value of the journalistic impact against the impact that publication might have as far as insulting or hurting certain groups'," said Chronicle Vice President and Managing Editor Robert Rosenthal. 'In this case, we described the cartoons and felt that was sufficient'."

Oh yes. The Chronicle would never publish anything offensive to evangelical Christians or to conservatives.

"The Associated Press also declined to use the cartoons. And because AP distributes photographs, text and video used by other news outlets, its decision had a broad effect. Speaking by phone, AP executive editor Kathleen Carroll told The Chronicle, 'The cartoons didn't meet our long-held standards for not moving offensive content. The AP is not just an indiscriminate warehouse for information. We put a lot of care into what we put on the wire'."

How can that be? Oh sure, Gagdad Bob tries to hide behind a facade of so-called spiritual detachment, but I can see that he is offended every day by something printed by the AP. Have they ever once considered his feelings?

The liberal do-gooders of the MSM are enablers that create real monsters. For if you turn someone into a victim just to assuage your own guilty conscience, you deprive them of their humanity. They are no longer real human beings, just caricatures floating about in your liberal imagination. Freed of the burdensome expectations we have of civilized human beings, the victim's aggression is gloriously liberated. A bully has been created. A monster that has the instincts of an infant in the body of an adult.

But they are victims. Oh yes, they are victims of Western liberalism, of the hard bigotry of no expectations. Because with no expectations, they have no chance to become fully human.


Why do I even bother? Classic Steyn:

... If I had a sudden yen to burn the Yemeni or Sudanese flag on my village green, I haven't a clue how I'd get hold of one in this part of New Hampshire. Say what you like about the Islamic world, but they show tremendous initiative and energy and inventiveness, at least when it comes to threatening death to the infidels every 48 hours for one perceived offense or another. If only it could be channeled into, say, a small software company, what an economy they'd have.

... we should note that in the Western world "artists" "provoke" with the same numbing regularity as young Muslim men light up other countries' flags. When Tony-winning author Terence McNally writes a Broadway play in which Jesus has gay sex with Judas, the New York Times and Co. rush to garland him with praise for how "brave" and "challenging" he is. The rule for "brave" "transgressive" "artists" is a simple one: If you're going to be provocative, it's best to do it with people who can't be provoked.

Thus, NBC is celebrating Easter this year with a special edition of the gay sitcom "Will & Grace," in which a Christian conservative cooking-show host, played by the popular singing slattern Britney Spears, offers seasonal recipes -- "Cruci-fixin's." On the other hand, the same network, in its coverage of the global riots over the Danish cartoons, has declined to show any of the offending artwork out of "respect" for the Muslim faith.

Which means out of respect for their ability to locate the executive vice president's home in the suburbs and firebomb his garage.

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