Wednesday, May 31, 2006

More Hindu-Christian Dialogue

Trip:

http://conversionagenda.blogspot.com/2006/05/experiences-of-india-trotting-kashmiri.html


Read abt the issue from someone who has first hand experience of persecution in India


SR:

Hi again, Trip!

I don’t find your source credible. “Christians are required to eat meat” makes sense as an anti-Christian prejudice among Hindus, but no sense as a description of Christian practice. I’m a strict vegetarian myself. So are many Trappist monks. All Catholics are expected to abstain from meat one day a week, and for the forty days of Lent each year, although that tradition is not as strong as it was. Nothing says you must eat meat on other days.

In any case, even if what this man said were true, it would not be an example of religious persecution. It would simply be a legal contract, with obligations on both sides, rather than pure charity.

Trip:

For India to be one civilization, it does not have to be politically united. I don't understand the logic, civilization is culture, not politics.

SR:

Agreed. Then the partition was not, as you claimed, the “ripping apart of an ancient civilization.” QED.

Trip:

Similarly, British were totally responsible for mishandling the partition. besides, british unwritten policy was divide and rule. they are the ones who started dividing Indian administration under their rule on religion lines. British and scapegoats? Thats some claim. whether they wanted India divided is anyone's guess, but that they planted it and mismanaged it is a fact.

SR:

The British may have botched the partition. It was certainly done in much haste; but where were the Indian voices at the time asking the British to stay longer in order to do a more thorough job?

Divide and conquer? Interesting, then, that Canada unified before its independence, as did Malaysia, and Tanzania, and the United Arab Emirates, and Australia. To an untrained eye, it almost looks on balance as if England preferred unity to division among its former colonies.

Still, a good scapegoat shouldn’t be given up without a fight.

Trip:

When you reject India as one civilization, thats straight out of a mission book. Once the eastern states of India became majority or fully converted, they started demanding a separate nation for themselves, and now we have a full blown insurgency there. Many a times, the church has been blamed of fuelling it. Its a historical fact that the church is NOT BEYOND THE LUST FOR POWER.

SR:

You forget: “For India to be one civilization, it does not have to be politically united.”

Becoming Christian, too, is not a “rejection of Indian civilization” – you forget your claim that Hinduism is not the same as being Indian.

Trip:

India IS the world's oldest SURVIVING civilization. The reason being all the other civilizations you mentioned changed culturally (under religion or communism) but India did not. India assimilited all. Chauvinism would be saying its the most superior.

SR:

I think it is reasonable to argue that Indian culture was changed more by Muslim rule, British rule, and Aryan invasions, than China has been by Communist rule. Modern Chinese can still read 5,000-year-old Chinese manuscripts, more or less. Modern Indians would need to learn a different language.

Trip:

How easily you dismiss the witchhunts and inquisitions. Even if withcraft is 'considered' a crime in your book, the person you are calling a witch, still has some rights. You almost assume that because the book or its guardian said something is bad, then their unspeakable torture and painful deaths are ok.

SR:

I oppose capital punishment. However, given that one believes in witchcraft, an accused witch has the same rights as someone accused of any other serious crime, neither more nor less.

Trip:

It sounds lame when you say the history writers were anti church. Personally, admitting mistakes is a great virtue and first step in gaining credibility. This is not meant for you, but the Vatican.

SR:

I think you’re still missing the point that the Vatican has apologized for the Inquisition.

Trip:

Again, what abt the religious and human rights, for which you are so concerned? While going into Hinduism and Buddhism, you totally forget that Buddhism originated from Hinduism and By the time peaceful invaders came here, Buddha was considered a manifestation of Vishnu (God) in Hinduism and Buddhists had started idolatry. I think you should stick to the 'our truth superior' speech only and not comment on Indian history. Again, great centres of buddhism were destroyed by invaders and not by Hindus, a great loss. Over centuries there were some clashes between kings following hindusim and buddhism, but none of the religions mandated it.

SR:

I don’t see how it is relevant to any of the points made that Buddhism emerged from Hinduism. Nor is it relevant that Hinduism’s triumph over Buddhism was by conversion, and not by the sword (Sri Lanka currently to the contrary): how is this different from Christianity today?

Trip:

Equality is Indeed a social concept. the problems (some or all) of feudalism, serfdom, slavery, peasantry, apartheid, racism, imperialism, male chauvinism and indeed casteism existed in every single country of the world irrespective of their religious inclinations.

SR:

This is partly true, but it is a question of degree. In few other places has class difference been as extreme as in India: where, for example, members of one caste would avoid even the other’s shadow, let alone eating together. And in what other religion does it seem to be so clearly sanctioned by scripture?

Trip:

Even today many of them exist in all the countries. And the all pervasive class inequality exists in all. Whatever success we have had against these are after the removal of religion from state. If equality 'happended' because the book said so, then the devout spanish would have left the natives alone after they has successfully converted or exterminated them and most of the problems mentioned above would have been extinct from most parts of Earth.

SR:

Fair enough; let's look at that. In fact, their Catholic faith produced a different relationship with native people among the Portuguese, Spanish, and French than among the more secular English or Dutch. You can see it in the Americas, or in comparing Macao with Hong Kong: the Spanish, French, and Portuguese intermarried, and became one nation with the original natives. The English and Dutch kept strictly apart. This is because the more devout Portuguese, Spanish, and French considered the native people their equals, so long as they were fellow Christians. The more secular British and Dutch regimes did not.

Trip:

In India, higher caste christians do not marry lower caste christians (I have witnessed first hand). Its a social problem as the concept of caste does not even exist in Christianity ( and neither in Hinduism according to Suresh Desai, I'm really no authority).

SR:

I'm no authority on Christian marriage customs in India; this may well be true. Even in Canada, supposedly a classless society, some care a great deal about class in deciding whom to marry. It is a universal human tendency; the question is whether the religion sanctions it. Christianity is actively against it.

Trip:

I never said Hinduisms way to God is superior to yours, but after talking to you I'm beginning to think so. Simply because it does not confine me intellectually in Dogma and gives me freedom to look inside me and look for God. It gives me freedom to look at you, a devout christian and look for Him too. Quite modern for a religion as old as the time (not literally in case you misunderstand).

SR:

The relative absence of dogma in Hinduism can be seen in two ways: either as allowing greater freedom of thought, or as a lack of guidance. Or a lack of results.

For comparison, would science be more admirable if it did not claim to have any idea what the moon was made of, so we were free to believe that it was made of green cheese, or papier mache, or the dessicated remains of dreams? If we could still believe the earth is flat?

Trip:

I'd posted another link which talked of personal experiences of the author with mission malpractices. You removed it.

SR:

No, you are confused. It remains where you posted it, in the comments section. And I’ve also reposted it above.

Trip:

Besides, you have been talking of technicalities and not morality (concerning God) when it comes to these issues. Thats quite a give away too.

SR:

Like the peace of God, Trip, here you passeth all understanding.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Hide Your Daughters

A column that I regularly receive by email began this week with the following statement:

“The most dangerous weapon in the human arsenal is not landmines, or machine guns, or even nuclear missiles. It is the male libido.”

What could be a plainer expression of prejudice? Men are more evil than atom bombs.

And a familiar one. Sex crimes were the standard accusation against blacks in the US South fifty years ago—reread To Kill a Mockingbird. Black men were supposedly unable to control their sexual urges, and were forever raping white women. God help the black man caught alone in a room with a white woman—see Native Son.

They were the stock in trade of Nazi propaganda against Jews in the 1920s. “The Jews,” Hitler explains in Mein Kampf, “were largely responsible for prostitution and the white-slave traffic.” (Shirer, Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, p. 26). Julius Streicher filled his Nazi weekly, Der Sturmer, with “lurid tales of Jewish sexual crimes” (ibid, p. 50).

Sex crimes and crimes against women and children were the standard claim against Germans in allied propaganda in WWI, as they are in the propaganda of all wars: the rape of British and Belgian nurses, bayoneting babies, and so forth.

It is, in sum, the standard charge against any group against whom you wish to stir up hate.

The columnist goes on to cite the use of underage prostitutes and sex-for-food among UN peacekeepers and NGO representatives in Liberia, and strange claims by Janis Karpinski, former commandant of Abu Ghraib. Karpinski says female soldiers in Iraq died of dehydration in the night, because they were afraid to go out to the latrines in case they were raped. As a result, they did not drink anything after four or so. “In 120 degree heat or warmer, because there was no air-conditioning at most of the facilities, they were dying of dehydration in their sleep.”

Another bit of evidence that men are dangerous is that 2995 men have attended “John School” in Toronto—a punishment for men caught using prostitutes. Another is that Sex Offender Registries are primarily male.

Let’s take these one by one.

the use of underage prostitutes and sex-for-food among UN peacekeepers and NGO representatives in Liberia

UN peacekeeping forces and charitable NGOs in the Third World are perfect places for bullies and sexual adventurers to ply their trade. Supposedly above suspicion, able to approach people with their guard down, little on-site supervision, dealing with people in an extremely vulnerable state. This is an eternal problem for such organizations.

But to suggest the exploiters are representative of all men is a blood libel; the sort of corporate guilt that is the essence of prejudice. It is like blaming all Jews for the actions of a few avaricious ones you have known, or all blacks for those few who commit violent crimes. Most men would not even have the urge to have sex with an eight-year-old girl, much less consider acting it out.

Moreover, there is no reason to suppose from this that such things as pedophilia are more common among men than among women. Men are merely more likely to go to Africa as peacekeepers or NGO reps; no more. North American stats actually suggest that women abuse children more often than men. Yet you won’t read that in the papers.

female soldiers in Iraq died of dehydration in the night, because they were afraid to go out to the latrines in case they were raped


Karpinski is not a credible source. She is herself implicated in rape and torture, has been courtmartialed and convicted for “dereliction of duty, making a material misrepresentation to investigators, and failure to obey a lawful order.” She has also been accused of shoplifting. She has every reason to lie here, to deflect guilt and to get revenge, and she is known to be a liar.

The claim is absurd on the face of it. If the women were really afraid of rape, why could they not contact a superior officer—why did Karpinski herself do nothing about it? Why could they not go to the latrine in groups to protect each other? Why could they not use chamber pots, as our grandparents did, or as we still do in hospitals? Why couldn’t they simply take their M-16? Note too that, while the desert is very hot during the day, the temperature drops dramatically at night. It would certainly not be 120 degrees or warmer.

It is also, according to doctors, impossible to die of dehydration within a few hours, even in the hottest weather. It takes at least several days without fluids (http://www.annals.org/cgi/content/full/128/7/559).

On top of that, it turns out that the army has no records of female soldiers dying of any cause at the rank and in the place Karpinski alleges.

2995 men have attended “John School” in Toronto

Why does this say something about men, specifically? My guess is that each of those crimes involved two people, and the greater guilt is generally assigned to the seller, not the purchaser. So with bootlegging, drug dealing, fencing. Why a different standard here?

Sex Offender Registries are primarily male.

They are also, in the US, primarily black and Hispanic. So, of course, are the prisons as a whole. If this means there is something wrong with all men, does it also mean there is something wrong with all blacks and Hispanics, or, in Canada, all aboriginal people?

And if so, surely it also follows that, if a majority of executive positions are also filled by white males, this only reflects men’s just desserts.

You can’t have this one both ways.

In fact, there is any amount of evidence showing that men are more likely than women to be charged for the same crime, and if charged more likely than women to be convicted, and if convicted more likely than women to be sent to prison. In other words, this is evidence of discrimination against men, not of men being more likely to commit sex crimes. As noted, stats suggest more pedophilic acts are actually committed by women.

The columnist goes on to note that many women are raped in wars.

Perhaps so. But rape is against the rules of war. If it occurs, it is a war crime.

It is, on the other hand, perfectly legitimate in war to shoot young men dead.

So who is being discriminated against?

Monday, May 29, 2006

More Hindu-Christian Dialogue

Birdie:

Since the stay of foreign missions is voluntary in India, according to your logic, they have absolutely no right to complain. Similarly, its voluntary to follow any religion in India( religion is a conscious act, so a new born baby decided later on to follow a religion), so the contractual agreement with the state would be the constitution and the laws. if you don't want to follow the constitution, you can say you are a missionary and move to any 'free' country where no VISA or immigration technicalities are required if you are on a religious mission as claimed by the wise author.

Germans and Nazis are indeed different people. what a weird comparison. But its the same institution that sanctioned the inquisitions in Goa. Hindu places of worship were permanently destroyed and thousands tortured and killed. Just the same way as you say Hindu cast system was created by people who are dead, but the religion is receptive enough to change itself and acknowledge the evils and take corrective action. An on going process indeed, but officially corrected by the state and the religion too, and there's an independent judiciary to protect it. In your case, the perpetrator is itself the state, the institution and the judge. not quite the comparison. Then why not own up and say it was a mistake? If not, then why shouldn't India be suspicious of what you are sowing?

Interesting fact : "Lower caste catholics in India demand reservations." search news. If you say backwordness of certain classes is a religious issue with my religion and not a social one, then kindly explain what in the world is lower caste catholic? their backwardness is finished with theie conversion (thats the promise). Now don't say that too is a hindu conspiracy, as catholics in India are quite well to do. Many prominet businessmen and academicians and stars are from minorities. The richest Indian is a minority too. I'm a low caste Hindu myself. What saved me was education, and no 'seeing the light'.

When I say something is not done in international affairs, you are giving me examples of the same party lecturing others (righly or wrongly, I'm talking abt protocol). I do believe you should take some lessons in logic, but it might conflict with theology.

Whan you take out a religious procession, you have to inform the authorities in India. Same applies to any public religious activity. The idea is not to curb freedom but to make sure there is no social tensions created as these activities have the potencial in the complex yet liberal India. When the law has not been misused in 38 years, including in BJP ruled states, then why are you implying it will be misused? because the boss said so. Whats the problems with following laws? resist misuse, indeed.You saying the religious leader spoke not the head of state is factually incorrect too as the pope himself is against separation of religion and state. Don't be a heretic.

Birdie


Od:

Hi again, Birdie!

Birdie, you seem to be making the same error Trip did a few comments ago: assuming Indian Christians are foreigners. Christianity is the third largest religion in India. There have been Christians in India for longer than there have been Christians in England or America.

Nor can Christian Indians simply leave the country at will in the face of oppression.

You claim that, as an institution, it was the Nazis who sanctioned the persecution of the Jews. This is incorrect; as an institution, it was the German government, which continues to exist, which persecuted the Jews. But this does not justify persecuting individual Germans today, and equally, supposed past wrongs, even if real, do not justify persecuting individual Catholics today.

You also seem to conflate the Hindu religion with the Indian government. If the Indian government bans the caste system, that does not mean that the Hindu religion has renounced it. Admittedly, it is difficult to say what the Hindu religion, as a religion, officially believes, as it has no central authority to speak for it.

I am no expert on the Goan Inquisition proper, but one vital fact about the Inquisition everywhere seems always to be forgotten: only Christians were subject to it. No Hindus were “tortured and killed,” at least not by the Inquisition.

Indeed, strictly speaking, the Inquisition killed no one. Its job was only to certify whether someone was a heretic. What then happened was the business of the civil authorities, although the Church of course bore some guilt if the civil power commonly tortured or killed those so designated.

Historians now believe, however, that only perhaps three thousand people were killed as a result of the Inquisition worldwide, over the three centuries in which it was most active. Considering the frequent use of the death penalty in those days, this is a very small proportion; coming before the Inquisition was far safer than coming before any other court of the day.

As for “owning up” that the Inquisition was a mistake, the Catholic Church has done that.

I did as you suggested and searched Google news for “lower caste Catholics in India demand reservations.” Zero hits. Could you refer me to a specific story on the Web?

You claim that only the Vatican complains about human rights violations in other countries. Not so; just in the latest issue of The Economist, the US objected to France’s ban on abayas in the schools. Common practice.

Whether one needs a police permit in order to hold a parade in India is not of interest; this is a straw man. One needs such a permit in most countries.

You claim that the Pope is himself against the separation of church and state. This is also incorrect. The separation of church and state is fundamental to Christianity itself. It is in the New Testament: “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s; render unto God what is God’s.” It was propounded clearly by St. Thomas Aquinas; and the Vatican exists so that the affairs of the Catholic Church cannot be entangled with the affairs or interests of any particular country.

Od


Trip:

Hi,
Nazis (institution) sanctioned the holocaust, hence Nazis are bad, NOT germans. Nazis are more or less extinct. The church (institution) sanctioned the inquisition in Goa, so it is responsible, not present day portuguese. the church is very much here and has a responsible role to play. This responsibility is what we'd like to see in its conduct and the accountability for its actions just the way Indian behaviour is scrutinized or open to punishment in case of violations of international laws and conventions, the Vatican is too if it seeks equality and the right to sermon. However common theme is its religion so its above the law or Vatican is a special case no religious freedom there. There are other religions too, and if all go above the law, then we are back to the days of barbarians.

There must not be any persecution at all in any state. I totally agree. Its not a perfect world though, and we must try to keep improving always.

Partition of India was not a case of persecution my dear friend, it was a catastrophic event of tearing apart one ancient civilization. Conceived and ably implemented under the God fearing british. Interestingly the whole episode can be tracked back in history to someone far away far back in time having the bright idea of converting the heathens of India to a superior peaceful faith . Quite the same thing we are discussing here.

I think I've said what I had to and I much better understand your point of view now. Thanks for the opportunity to interact and sorry if I said anything offensive in my zeal to point out what I think is major inconsistency in your contention. All the best in whatever you are doing, and stay safe.

Trip


Od:

Hi, Trip!

Partition of India involved and inspired extreme religious intolerance. Many people were killed only because they were Muslim or only because they were Hindu.

As India has rarely been politically unified, it is not reasonable to call this a “tearing apart of an ancient civilization.” Nor is it right to blame the British, who are purely scapegoats here. They had no interest in partitioning India.

And note that, when the Muslims arrived in India, the majority faith was Buddhism, not Hinduism. The subsequent rise of Hinduism, therefore, could as easily be seen as an intrusion on Islam as vice versa. It could also be seen as an intrusion of Hinduism on Buddhism, by the same logic that now objects to Christian missionaries in India.

Od


Trip:

Maybe you can better understand Hindu viewpoint below

http://www.hvk.org/Publications/perception.html

Trip


Od:

Hi again, Trip!

I am largely in agreement with the author, Suresh Desai. There is little point to conversion. It is more important to follow any one religion sincerely. But neither should conversion be prohibited or obstructed. It is necessarily true that one religion is truer than all others, and we must not be prevented from seeking it.

Further comments on specific passages in the article follow:

SD:
… I am very deeply interested in the Hindu tradition and civilization which is the oldest surviving civilization in the world.

SR:
Cultural chauvinism. Egypt, Iraq, Iran, and China would all make the same claim.

SD:
… the missionary activities and Christianity are inseparably associated with Inquisition, with intolerance of science, with the fate of Galileo, Copernicus, Bruno, Joan of Ark, killing of lakhs of women on suspicion that they were witches, crusades and thousands of victims in the Goa Inquisition.

SR:
As noted elsewhere, the Inquisition was considerably less sinister than it has commonly been portrayed.

Christian intolerance of science? This is a myth invented in the nineteenth century. Christianity nurtured science.

The fate of Copernicus? It was to die in his bed a priest in good standing.

The European witch hunts have also commonly been exaggerated. About 50,000 in total were killed as witches in Europe over the centuries, 25% of them male. It was a civil, not an ecclesial crime. Nor is this concern in any way peculiar to Christianity. Witchcraft is also prohibited in Islam, for example, on penalty of death. That law is still on the books in Muslim countries. The execution of witches also continues today among the tribal people of Africa. If you believe it is possible to put a curse on someone, witchcraft is no minor crime.

Crusades? The Christian world uniting to attempt to win back land that had been Christian, and been taken by the sword.

SD:
[Conversion to Christianity is] cultural alienation in a country like India where nationalism is based on cultural and civilizational heritage…

SR:
I find this claim quite sinister. Again, Christianity is more indigenous to India than to England; it is wrong to see it as something culturally foreign. And this passage implies that Christians in India are and should be second-class citizens. It would seem that the same logic would apply too to Muslims, Sikhs, and Parsees.

SD:
Ultimately, what is the objective of conversions? At the spiritual level conversions from one's religion to another are quite meaningless unless the motives are purely mundane…. If the basic motive of the missionaries is still to bring Hindus to the fold of Christianity, no amount of change in strategies … will exonerate them from the eyes of their critics, despite liberal theology and acceptance of salvation through other religions …. These terms are hair-splitting, pure and simple.

SR:
I’m not sure what the author means by this, but clearly, he objects to conversion per se. I think he is basing this on the premise that Hinduism and Christianity are equally true. Even if this is so, individuals still have the right to choose one over the other. But it is logically very unlikely to be so. Hinduism and Christianity do disagree on some things. When they do, one is probably wrong, and the other right. As individuals, we have the right to think for ourselves in this matter.

SD:
One question which continues to plague my mind; why missionaries want to expand Christianity in numbers? There is no evidence that the conversion to Christianity has improved the world spiritually.

SR:
In the New Testament, Jesus himself tells his followers to “go forth and convert all nations.” If Jesus and Christianity are the most efficient means to salvation, if Christianity is truer than other religions, then compassion requires Christians to spread the word to others. It is the same ethic that inspires some to teach, or to become scientists.

Christians of course do believe that conversion to Christianity improves the world spiritually. The same idea is hardly foreign to Hinduism: TM claims the same thing.

SD:
At the same time there are movements like New Religion Movement (NRM) which are weaning the Catholics away from the orthodoxy in favour of Pentecostal churches.

SR:
I’m not sure what the author is referring to, but Pentecostalism, aka “the charismatic movement,” is orthodox for Catholics.

SD:
I once again bring to your notice that mankind is turning its back on God and that is the real problem. Conversions from one faith to another in this context are ridiculous.

SR:
Here he is right. It is far less important to seek conversions from another religion than to help the unchurched and the despairing. I would rather a man were a good Hindu than a bad Christian. However, it is worse than a waste of time to seek to prevent conversions, because it is also a violation of human rights.

SD:
I repeat that equality is a social and not a religious concept.

SR:
Not so. The idea of human equality is explicit in the idea that all men are children of the one God. John Locke based his doctrine of equality and human rights explicitly on this religious premise. Thomas Aquinas also insisted on the equality of man as a matter of theology.

Od.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Pope's Willing Executioners?

Yesterday I opened the book Hitler’s Willing Executioners, which made quite a stir several years ago. Here is the first sentence I read, the introductory sentence of Chapter 2:

“European anti-Semitism is a corollary of Christianity.”

Goldhagen, the author, goes on to state, without qualification, that Christianity has a “psychological and theological need … to differentiate themselves from the bearers of the religion from which their own had broken off.” He says the belief that Jews were “Christ-killers” was “axiomatic,” “according to passionate and continuous Christian teaching and preaching.” This view of Jews was “fundamental to Christian theology.” “The very definition of what it meant to be a Christian entailed a thoroughgoing and visceral hostility to Jews.” “The Jews were …considered to be barely human, if human at all.”

I’ve heard all this before, and Goldhagen properly footnotes it. But it is a load of rubbish. And worse than rubbish. It is hate speech.

Firstly, if Christianity is obliged to be hostile to Jews in order to differentiate itself, it follows that Jews also have this need, and must equally hate Christianity. Meaning, then, that early Christianity would have been right to treat them as enemies after all.

Indeed, the anti-Christian hostility among Jews, by this principle, must have been greater. It has been fairly easy for the average Christian at most times to forget entirely about the existence of the Jews, a tiny minority in Christian lands. It has been a bit more difficult for Jews to forget the presence of Christianity, the majority population among which they lived, and so it must have been a more visible and constant challenge to their beliefs.

But why, in any event, should Christianity need to differentiate itself? Why should it care whether it is considered a form of Judaism? Indeed, so it apparently thought of itself, until the Jews threw it out of the synagogue. In other words, the need to differentiate seems to have been greater on the Jewish side. It follows, on this premise, that their hostility must have been greater.

But again, if those who break away ideologically must nurse a permanent hostility, where is the permanent hostility of Americans towards British and Canadians? And do sons have a natural antipathy to their fathers?

Or is it only in religion? Then where is the permanent hostility of Buddhism for Hinduism? Or Methodism for the Church of England? Or Catholicism for Eastern Orthodoxy?

No; the idea that Christianity requires hostility to Judaism is nonsense. Just the reverse: as most of the Christian Bible, including the New Testament, is written by people who considered themselves Jews and from the Jewish perspective, their Christian religion is more likely to prompt Christians to identify with the Jews than to hate them.
The Jews killed Christ? No doubt such claims have been made from pulpits at some place and time, but they are not theologically sound, and never were. The Bible states plainly that Jesus was killed by the Roman authorities. And, of course, was a Jew.

No, Christianity and religion had nothing to do with the persecution of Jews throughout European history, though it was no doubt wheeled out as a justification. How could it? The Jews were persecuted already in pagan Roman antiquity; Titus was not Christian. And in Christian history, the persecution of the Jews has definite parallels: the persecution of the Knights Templar, the suppressions of the Jesuits, and the common hostility to the Masonic Lodges. None of these were obviously religiously divergent from the general population—two were Catholic religious orders. What they have in common with Judaism is not this, but secrecy and wealth.

All were relatively secretive and apparently close-knit groups—cabals, to use the term used originally for the Jews--that kept mostly to themselves and that grew extremely successful, especially financially. Because they kept to themselves, they became convenient as scapegoats. Because they were secretive, it was possible to believe conspiracy theories about them. Because they were small in numbers, they were vulnerable to pogrom. And because they were wealthy, and often lent money, there was great financial incentive in attacking them, destroying their records, and seizing their assets. Especially for their debtors.

People who, like Goldhagen, falsely claim that there is some innate and necessary hostility between Christianity and Judaism are sowing hate and fomenting conflict. The only question is whether their intended target is Christianity or Judaism. Ironically, Goldhagen is doing to Christianity exactly what he falsely accuses Christianity of doing to Judaism: misrepresenting it as a doctrine of hate, defaming it.

I suspect he is no fairer to the Germans.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Twain Meet

An interesting cross-cultural debate has been going on in the comments section of this blog recently, under India Ink. I think it is interesting enough that it should get a bit better billing, so I’m moving the current exchange up here as a new post.

Birdie:

"Freedom of religion is a right the people hold and which the government cannot infringe. It is not a right the government holds and which the people cannot infringe. Accordingly, freedom of religion means anyone is free to set any rules they want in their own religious institutions, be they schools, hospitals, or churches, and the government may not interfere. (Albeit many governments, illegitimately, do)."So you are saying once a hindu student joins a mission run school, his religious freedom becomes subordinate to the religious freedom of the school? Extending that logic, once one accepts aid from a mission, his religious freedom becomes subordinate to the missions! If you say a state can not make laws to force a mission to follow a particular path(which the state has not anyways) , then how can that mission make regulations to force students to follow their religious path? That means religious freedom really means religious freedom of you alone. This is the real face of you and your cause.


Od:

Hello, birdie!

Welcome to the party here at Od’s Blog!

That’s right. Once a Hindu student chooses to enter a Christian school, his religious freedom becomes subject to the rules of the school. Similarly, in Canada or in India, entering a mission for aid implies agreeing to follow the rules of the mission. He may be expected, for example, to listen to a Bible lesson, or to join in prayers. So long as his act in entering is voluntary and the religious aspect is made plain, his freedom is not violated. He has freely chosen this implied contractual relationship.

This is proper for the mission, and improper for the state, because involvement in the school or mission is voluntary; while involvement in the state is essentially involuntary.

Thanks for asking.



Trip:

Yes humor is not always so handy. The missions in India had not a modicum of it when it came to da vinci code movie. so that sort of thing happens in matters Indian. don't take it personally.I essentially agree with just abt everything you say abt religiuos freedom. I never even wanted to debate it. What i'm debating is the technicality of there being any persecution. first of all, no schools are being banned from doing ANY activities. No law says there can be no conversions. No law says you can't come to India or do charitable work. no law says you can't mention historical facts or preach to people. the so called 'anti conversion' laws are in place in some states for the last 38 years. 38 sir, and the latest ultra sensitive US report on religious freedom states categorically that there is no misuse of these laws. Then where is the persecution? the leader of india's ruling alliance and the most powerful politician is a roman catholic, the PM a sikh, the president muslim, the army chief a sikh, what persecution are you talking abt??? kindly reply to these and help me get back my sense of humor.when there is no persecution, and still a head of a state gives a sermon to another sovereign state, it's bound to recieve a retort. if you have any knowledge of protocol, this sort of thing DOES NOT happen in international relations.You ommitted the persecutions in Goa and you say the perpetrators are dead. Most nazis are dead or become pious now but we still call nazism bad don't we? Similarly, the casteism in India was banned sixty years ago and those who wrote the vedas are dead too, but missions still use this argument against Hinduism (Fact. check out the mission books). As far as blood libel goes, we in India don't have experience with such things. Even after conceding the authority on the subject to you, i'll tell you some facts - Jews have been living in India since the time before the destruction of the second temple. Not a single case of persecution ever reported. Zorashtrians are living in India for over a thousand years, not a single case of persecution. Same applies to jains and buddhists. Some missions in India work in most remote, poorest and lawless places where the the govt itself loses 100s of securitymen a month (Fact). So the govt can not give complete protection to missions in such parts. Even then there have been no cases of state persecution (there may have been criminal cases ( I don't know of any) but i hope you appreciate the difference). Basically this persecution war cry is hogwash. if you guys use spreadsheets, it will be interesting to compare the decible levels of this cry in a year and the increment in the money that comes into the country.Your comparison of schools with homes is weird. homes are not public institutions teaching state curricula and subject to states responsibility of what happens in them to the students. In any case, no school activity or church activity is banned by any law as you ignorantly claim and my having an opposite viewpoint is not persecution. I'm not impying malice, but i'm saying your views are based on misinformation. So prove what i said is factually incorrect or stop abusing my motherland.Many missions do lot of public service in India and they are given credit too. Mother teresa as an example. India had a three day state mourning after the pope's death recently even when its a secular state ( there has never been state mourning when Hindu shankaracharyas die). India is a tolerant and spiritually generous country and I have no idea what is being achieved by making Indians reconsider their stand.


Od:

Hi again, Trip:

To try to answer your points more or less in order:

The Da Vinci Code is not a comedy.

You say “no law [in India] says there can be no conversions.” That’s true, technically. What the law says is that requests to convert must be approved by the civil authorities, and can be denied. This is obviously not religious freedom; the state has no business telling you what religion you can be, believe and practice. But note that, also technically, you are wrong to say no law says you can’t come to India as a missionary. Unless my sources are wrong, India does not let people enter as missionaries: they must come as tourists, or they must have an employer in India and do their missionary work in their spare time.

Besides the Pope, Amnesty International has also protested a growing trend to religious violence in India (http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/ENGASA200031999). The latest report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, although it withdrew India from its list of countries of particular concern a year ago, states that it is still being “monitored closely,” and that "concerns about religious freedom in India remain, particularly indications that attacks on Christian churches and individuals persist - in some areas at alarmingly high levels - without adequate prosecution.”

You make a good point that the upper levels of the current Indian government show impressive diversity. Everyone agrees that the situation has improved since Congress replaced the BJP in the last national elections. It has been the BJP and some smaller parties, holding government in some states, which have continued to be a problem.

You say this sort of thing—a rebuke from one “head of state” to another--“DOES NOT happen in international relations” (emphasis yours). This is not so. The Pope criticized Muslim nations for religious intolerance in the same week he cited India. This sort of thing is common, even among sovereign states, and the Pope is only incidentally the head of a sovereign state. He is, quite obviously, speaking here not as the chief magistrate of Vatican City, but as leader of the world’s Catholics.

You miss the critical difference between condemning Nazis and persecuting Germans. We indeed still criticize Nazism. Yet we do not blame modern Germans for the acts of others in the past.

You are correct that the caste system is banned in India as a civil matter. But it is still a cultural and a religious concern, as the Indian government itself clearly concedes with its continuing “affirmative action” programs. As you note, many still consider the system justified by the Vedas. It is therefore perfectly legitimate to continue to comment on it and condemn it.

On the whole, India has had an admirable record of religious tolerance; but just as past wrongs do not justify present wrongs, neither do past rights.

It is also an exaggeration to say the Jews of India have never known persecution. They were driven from their homes and livelihoods in Kerala in 1524, by the ruler of Calicut. And the Indian record is somewhat marred by the death of around 500,000 people during the partition.

As to your claim that the escalating attacks on Christian churches and missionaries are the acts of private individuals, the Pope, Amnesty, and the US government all believe this has been with some government connivance. Pakistan claimed the same, remember, for the fedayeen who sought to seize Kashmir in 1947; it is a time-honored technique in other persecutions. Hitler used it too, in the 1930s.

You argue that homes are not public institutions, and schools are. But we are talking about private, not public, schools. Private schools are indeed private institutions.

Your charge that I have said that some particular activity is currently banned in Christian schools in India is false. Perhaps this is due to your difficulties with reading in a second language?

Pax. Et Lux.

Od

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Geography of Hate

This bit of defamation showed up today on an email list to which I subscribe. As must be clear to readers by now, this is par for the course on the Web.

“GEOGRAPHY OF WOMEN

Between 18 and 22, a woman is like Africa, half discovered, half wild,naturally beautiful with fertile soil.

Between 23 and 33, a woman is like Canada, well developed and open to trade, especially for someone with cash.

Between 33 and 43, a woman is like India; very hot, relaxed, and convinced of her own beauty.

Between 43 and 50, a woman is like France, gently aging but still warm and a desirable place to visit.

Between 51 and 59, a woman is like Great Britain, with a glorious and all-conquering past.

Between 60 and 65, a woman is like Yugoslavia, lost the war and haunted by past mistakes.

Between 66 and 70, a woman is like Russia, very wide and borders are now unpatrolled.

After 70, she becomes Tibet. A mysterious past and the wisdom of the ages.... only those with an adventurous spirit and a thirst for spiritual knowledge visit there.

GEOGRAPHY OF MEN

Between 1 and 80, a man is like America - ruled by a dick.”


So all women are beautiful in youth and wise in age. But men are no more than animals, operating at the instinctual level.

Imagine this one with “whites” and “blacks” replacing “women” and “men.” It’s not hard, really, because most of the prejudices against men today are the same prejudices used against blacks fifty years ago.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Why We're Here

It occurs to me that the Book of Genesis gives us rather clear instructions as to what our purpose is here on this earth; why it is that God created us.

Recall, we are created “in the image of God.”

This does not mean, of course, that we look like Him. He is pure spirit.

No, it must be in the sense that it is our mission to imitate him in his essential nature.

And what is the essential nature of the God of Genesis? Equally obviously, it is Creator.

Just so, Adam imitates God almost immediately on his Creation: as God created all the animals, so Adam names them; as God creates with things, man creates with words. In so doing, he somehow completes the creation. Adam is also charged to be a gardener, working on and improving nature as created.

And Noah, again, the one just man, reenacts the creation. The image of building the ark, despite his neighbours, and his solitude on the waves, is the image of the artist at his solitary work with his inspiration. Noah sending out the dove to find land is man the explorer, but it is also an image of God’s creation of the world, in which “the spirit of God moves over the waters” – the Holy Spirit, the dove—and God then separates chaos into sea and land. What God creates, man is to discover. The mandate of the pure scientist or philosopher.

Noah goes on to become a culture hero, discovering viniculture and inventing alcohol. He perfects in spiritual form what God has made in physical form. And his mocking by son Ham reenacts the fall of son Adam.

And on it goes: our mandate is to explore, invent, create.

It is no accident, then, that the New Jerusalem, the end of Creation, is a city, a work of architecture. It takes the work of God plus the work of man to reach this final goal.

Note how misguided, then, are those eco-radicals who seek a nature untouched by man. Who keep trying to crawl back under that garden gate.

India Ink

I see in several sources today that Indians are protesting Pope Benedict’s criticism of “signs of religious intolerance” in that country.

Interesting; why is this, and not the Pope’s original comment, the story? A news search on Google using the string “religious intolerance India” turns up an immediate 60 stories on the Indians’ protest, but, far down the page, just one story on the original charge. And this from Zenit, that Vatican’s own news agency.

This is dramatic evidence of an extreme anti-Catholic press bias worldwide, in which the Catholic voice is not heard, but any opposition to the Catholic Church is given wide play.

The substance of the Pope’s complaint, as given by Zenit, is this: “The disturbing signs of religious intolerance which have troubled some regions of the nation [India], including the reprehensible attempt to legislate clearly discriminatory restrictions on the fundamental right of religious freedom, must be firmly rejected as not only unconstitutional, but also as contrary to the highest ideals of India's founding fathers, who believed in a nation of peaceful coexistence and mutual tolerance between different religions and ethnic groups.”

Indians themselves clearly understand this has to do with laws in several states which ban, in their words, “forced religious conversions.”

“Forced religious conversions”? This is purely a euphemism. After all, it is the state that has a monopoly on force. For a small religious minority lacking political power, “forced conversion” is be a physical impossibility.

No; what is really banned here is conversion per se. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s spokesman, giving examples of “forced conversion,” cited “using financial and educational lures.” I doubt that any Christian missionaries are offering such things as a quid pro quo; it seems more likely that the mere existence of Christian charity hospitals and schools is objected to here. But even were it so, this is not forced conversion. Any more than one is forced to buy something at the supermarket because it is being offered at a very good price.

BJP leader VK Malhoutra asks the Pope, rhetorically, “If conversion is a right, re-conversion is also a right. Will he agree to it?”

Well, yes. Why does the question even come up? Can Malhoutra point to a single Christian-run country where conversion to Hinduism is illegal? Quite the reverse, surely; not long ago, there were Hare Krishnas in every airport, and Transcendental Meditation Centres on every college campus. Government money is actually spent fairly liberally promoting meditation for cancer victims, say, or yoga for general health at community centres; yet these are specifically Hindu religious practices. There is no comparable government money going for the promotion of Christian prayer.

BJP spokesman Uday Singh objects to complaining about abuse of human rights “in a democratic country.”

This is pure non-sequitor. Hitler was democratically elected. The US South in the time of slavery or in the time of the civil rights struggles was also a democratic country. Democracy and respect for human rights are not related issues.

Others point out that there is not religious freedom in the Vatican.

But there is—because citizenship in the Vatican City is itself, unlike citizenship in other countries, purely voluntary.

I smell a bandicoot.

Which is to say, a very big Indian rat.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Spring Thoughts

News is that Prince Charles has named Leonard Cohen his favorite singer. By appointment to HRH the Prince of Wales.

A creditable choice. For my money, Cohen is the best poet currently writing in English.

Here’s a selection of lyric from his latest album:

The Faith

The sea so deep and blind
The sun, the wild regret
The club, the wheel, the mind,
O love, aren’t you tired yet?

A cross on every hill
A star, a minaret,
So many graves to fill
O love, aren’t you tired yet?

The sea so deep and blind
Where still the sun must set
And time itself unwind
O love, aren’t you tired yet?
O love, aren’t you tired yet?

- Leonard Cohen. The liner notes say, “based on a Quebec folk song.”

You can’t beat that. That’s everything poetry should be.

What does it mean? Maybe better we do not know. Poetry is not about meaning, on the conscious level.

But Cohen is, like most, maybe all, poets and artists and writers, maybe scientists and engineers too, in deep veneration of the universal feminine, aka the Muses. For my money, Cohen goes too far in this; but never mind. This is not just a classical poetic fantasy; it seems intrinsic to the creative impulse. Beauty and creation are themselves feminine things. So all artists and creators love the feminine, and generally, love women in the particular as well.

Scientists and engineers too perhaps necessarily venerate Nature, invariably conceived as feminine: now called Mother Nature, in past ages called Demeter, Gaia, Mae Toranee, Kali, Venus, and so on. God is masculine; therefore physical creation is feminine.

And physical creation, and the universal feminine, involves not just the world in spatial terms, but in temporal terms as well. She is time, and so fertility, or energy, or change (birth, but also death and dying.)

All of this seems encapsulated in Cohen’s perfect little poem: she, Love, is the sea of flux, she is energy, and so too emotional energy: love, lust, regret, hysteria, anger, fear, desire. She is all the cycles by which we measure time: of the sun through the day and the year, the moon winding through its phases; time itself.

Standing above her are the hills of spirit: the Star of David, the cross, the minaret. The masculine, God, order. The call to something transcendent. Something, in some absolute sense, superior.

And yet, and yet… as William Blake said, “eternity is in love with the productions of time.” God is in love with the creation, and with the individual human soul, as a man might love a woman. Some day she will rise, redeemed, Mary redeeming Eve, Sita redeemed by trial of fire, Guan Yin redeeming Mahamaya, Sarasvati redeeming Durga. As Wisdom redeems the Shekhinah from the crusts of her concealment.

This is salvation history: it is the resurrection of the body.

But it is a mystery; something always only dimly and intuitively perceived.


From the same Cohen album: here are the words to “Dear Heather”:

Dear Heather
Please walk by me again
With a drink in your hand
And your legs all white
From the winter.

What is Heather here but heather, the flowers of spring? This is the earth goddess, the fertility goddess, Kore or Demeter, rising from death and winter. “Heather” is sketched on the album cover with hair half black, half white, to show her dual nature: birth and death, youth and age, and, yes, good and evil.

Heather, “all white from the winter” is the world returning to life, visibility, and fertility again, after one more bitter Canadian winter. The ice breaks and the water and the sap and the energy again flows—the drink in her hand. She keeps walking by us again, and each time is old love renewed.

Mary, Stella Maris, Our Lady of Good Help, mother of God, redeemer of old mother Eve, walks by us again.

Mary Magdalen, the whore of Babylon redeemed and again virgin, walks by us again.

Time pauses for the winter. And then walks by us again.

You just can’t do better than Cohen.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Da Vinci Code: Conspiracy to Make Bad Film Revealed

Conspiracy theories are a fascinating thing to watch; properly under the heading of “extraordinary popular delusions and the madness of crowds.” For madness, while rare in individuals, is more or less the norm in groups.

For “conspiracy theory,” read mass paranoia. Yes, there are real conspiracies: the Mafia, say, or Hell’s Angels. But they lack that magic spark, that nous, that paranoia, properly so-called, that the conspiracy theory involves. For a good conspiracy theory ends up explaining everything.

UFOs are a conspiracy theory. Perhaps the most famous, and destructive, in history has been the imaginary conspiracy of International Jewry. The witch hunts of Salem and elsewhere were conspiracy theories; so was Joe McCarthy’s communist infiltration, commonly called by the same name. Ironically, so is Communism itself, which imagines a conspiracy by the capitalist class.

Conspiracy theories are very tempting, first, because they give the world meaning, something that is a basic human need. Second, because they give people a scapegoat, all guilt safely assigned to some Other.

And best—or worst—of all, by their nature, conspiracy theories are impossible to disprove. Because it is impossible to prove a negative. If there is no evidence, that only shows how very pervasive and clever the conspiracy really is. You just can’t win.

But really, a bit of hard-headed reasoning soon shows that such conspiracies are wildly improbable. People just aren’t clever enough to keep elaborate secrets in large groups, with nobody ever spilling the beans. The real-world examples we have mentioned, the Mafia and Hell’s Angels, are conspicuous for being very poorly kept secrets. That is what happens with conspiracies in the real world.

Nevertheless, there are always conspiracy theories circulating; arguably, the solidarity of social groups generally requires them. Marxism continues to thrive, not just on college campuses, but with the left generally. Feminism, with its imaginary conspiracy of men against women, is alive and well.

Conspiracy theories can come to an end, though some, like Marxism and anti-Semitism, are incredibly durable. The JFK assassination conspiracy, for example, is much less virulent than it once was. In part, this may be because JFK, with time receding, matters less and less. But in part, it seems to me to have had something to do with Oliver Stone’s movie, JFK. Stone’s (and Jim Garrison’s) claims were so visibly over the top when laid out in full public view that it somehow made the whole idea that there was a conspiracy to assassinate JFK gradually seem disreputable. The same might be said of Hitler’s excesses regarding world Jewry: once photos of the concentration camps were seen.

And there are signs—hopeful signs—that the new movie The Da Vinci Code will do the same for the International Catholic Conspiracy. Another rather hoary conspiracy theory, which has been given new life recently, up to and including a witch hunt against Catholic priests in Canada and the US on the popular premise that they are broadly guilty of pedophilia and child abuse.

The Da Vinci Code, a mediocre book, has risen to unprecedented fame by exploiting the zeitgeist’s determination to see a vast Catholic conspiracy. This is the way of such conspiracy theories: catch the wave before its crest, and it can propel you to fame and fortune; for hysteria is highly contagious. Joe McCarthy rode his red-baiting from obscurity to fame similarly.

But it is so overblown that, in movie form, it is liable to create a backlash—just as television was in the end too much exposure for McCarthy, and movies too much exposure for the Kennedy assassination. It seems the movie version is running into bad reviews. At Cannes, by the end, I hear, audiences here hooting derisively at the screen. The BBC’s reviewer has pronounced it “long and dull.” “Certainly not fun” – the Boston Herald. “Too much guilt. Not enough pleasure”- Hollywood Reporter. “Plodding” – Screen International. “A stodgy, grim thing” – Variety.

Forgive the pun, but for once, I might be happy to have caught a bad Code.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Have You Heard the Latest?

In response to yesterday’s blog entry, a reader who should perhaps remain anonymous forwarded the following list of anti-male jokes he had just received from a female relative.

And on it goes.

"Men are like Laxatives...They irritate the crap out of you.
Men are like Bananas ...The older they get, the less firm they are.
Men are like Weather ... Nothing can be done to change them.
Men are like Blenders ... You need one, but you're not quite sure why.
Men are like Chocolate Bars... Sweet, smooth, and they usually head right for your hips.
Men are like Commercials... You can't believe all they say.
Men are like Department Stores... Their clothes are always 1/2 off.
Men are like Government Bonds... They take soooooooo long to mature.
Men are like Mascara ... They usually run at the first sign of emotion.
Men are like Popcorn ... They satisfy you, but only for a little while.
Men are like Parking Spots... All the good ones are taken, the rest are handicapped.
Men are like Lava Lamps... Fun to look at, but not very bright.
Now send this to all the remarkable women you know, as well as to any understanding good-natured, fun kinda guys you might be lucky enough to know !!"

I’m sure all the “fun kinda guys” really appreciate being included in the joke. I’m sure they all enjoy being told they are not very bright, are immature, cannot satisfy a woman, and are irritating liars.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said that no group can really be oppressed without their consent. And it’s true. The minute the first black person refused to give up her seat on the bus, something happened.

But it takes a huge amount of courage to be that first person. Rosa Parks was backed up by an existing organization which could, for example, pay for her legal costs.

Men should organize similar groups.

But in the meantime, maybe it’s time all of us “fun kinda guys” replied to such emails by quoting back to the sender the following sections of the Canadian Human Rights Act:

"13 (1) It is a discriminatory practice for a person or a group of persons acting in concert to communicate telephonically or to cause to be so communicated, repeatedly, in whole or in part by means of the facilities of a telecommunication undertaking within the legislative authority of Parliament, any matter that is likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt by reason of the fact that that person or those persons are identifiable on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination.

13 (2) For greater certainty, subsection (1) applies in respect of a matter that is communicated by means of a computer or a group of interconnected or related computers, including the Internet, or any similar means of communication, but does not apply in respect of a matter that is communicated in whole or in part by means of the facilities of a broadcasting undertaking."

Not that the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, as presently constituted, would do a blessed thing. But it might make the point.

You can even send this reply anonymously, if you fear repercussions: just set your email program to an unknown return address you have created in hotmail or some similar service; or cut and paste and reply directly from the anonymous address.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Fun Class Activity

Teaching, like police work, editing, or tax auditing, unfortunately, is one of those professions that attracts bullies. Not that all teachers are bullies; many are very dedicated, and some of the best people I have known were teachers. I am a teacher myself, as well as an editor. But it is worth remembering that the Pharisees of the Bible were teachers.

Some of the textbooks I have seen are hair-raising.

Take today. I ran across an activity in an English book (Fun Class Activities, Pearson, 2000). Students are asked to match the “chat-up line” with the correct response. The chat-up lines are made visually appealing by being grouped around a drawing of a clean-cut blond young man holding a bouquet of flowers.

Here are the questions and responses, “correctly” matched up:

Q: Do you think it was fate that brought us together?
A: No, it was just bad luck.

Q: Would you like to join me?
A: Why, are you falling apart?

Q: Your face must turn a few heads.
A: Yours must turn a few stomachs.

Q: Can I kiss you?
A: OK. But mind you don’t burn yourself on my cigarette!

Q: What do you think of the music here?
A: Better than the company.

Q: I’d go to the end of the world for you.
A: Yes, but would you stay there?

Q: Could you give me your name, please?
A: I don’t think Amanda would suit you.

Q: What would you say if I asked you to marry me?
A: Nothing. I can’t talk and laugh at the same time.

Q: I think I could make you very happy.
A: Why, are you leaving?

Q: How did you get to be so beautiful?
A: I must have been given your share.

Kind of puts all the males in the class in their place, doesn’t it? Just imagine a similar exercise based on systematic put-downs of blacks or Jews—let alone women.

And we wonder why boys are falling behind or dropping out of school.

Monday, May 15, 2006

We Must Move into the Future, Not the Past

Orwell, in his great essay “Politics and the English Language,” warned about the tendency of political language to deceive.

There are many current examples. I mentioned “progressive” last post. It means nothing. Who is actually in favour of “regressing”? “Positive” or “affirmative,” as in “affirmative action,” drives me crazy. The Nazis loved this one: they pushed, for example, for “positive Christianity,” which turned out have nothing to do with Christ, but to be Nazism elevated to the status of a religion. And who, from the phrase itself, could guess what “affirmative action” really means? Obviously, the phrase is designed to deceive, and this is proof in itself that the policy so named is indefensible.

Less current today, but favoured by Nazis, was “people’s.” To be “for the people” is obvious nonsense. As opposed to what or whom? Paving stones? You do not hear it so much in the pure form in contemporary Canada, but you do hear “the (Canadian) people want…” and “the (Canadian) people do not believe…”

“Working families” or “working people” has replaced “the working man.” But, since nearly everyone works, coming out in their support is not significant. Nor is Tony Blair’s vapid promise to “govern for the many, not the few.” Hardly a brave and principled stand in a democracy.

More current, and perhaps less obvious, is to be for “women’s rights.” This is just a modern form of the old classic appeal to “motherhood.” Women have always had a great deal of social prestige, and they retain it, even if they have largely rejected motherhood per se.

I have mentioned “the environment.” Implicitly, this means being for cleanliness and against dirt. Who supports dirt?

To “promote dialogue” can be promised on anything. It sounds good, and commits you to do nothing at all.

Advertising copyrighters point out that nothing sells like the word “new.” So too in politics: the call to “modernize” or “keep up with the times” is often heard, but it means nothing in particular. Conversely, there is the common jibe that one’s opponents are living in the past.

In the Canadian context, “Canadian values” is often heard. This is the old strategy of wrapping oneself in the flag. But there is no reason to suppose that something or someone is better sheerly for the sake of being Canadian.

Similar to this is the ugly but ancient practice of scapegoating: in Canada, most often, implicitly condemning something merely by pointing out that it is “American.” There is no reason to suppose that something or someone is worse sheerly for the sake of being American.

Next time you hear a politician speak, I propose you use the following handy scorecard. One point for each time the following or a similar phrase is used. Vote for whoever gets the lowest score. He or she is the most honest.

Next opportunity, I will do the same; and we’ll see how the results fall.

move (Canada, us, the nation, X) forward ________________________________

new, change, modernize, keep up with the times ___________________________

American (criticism implied) ___________________________________________

Canadian values, the Canadian way of life _______________________________

dialogue, study ____________________________________________________

the environment, ecology, conserve ______________________________________

women’s right or rights, women’s issues _____________________________________

working families, working people __________________________________________

the (Canadian) people, people’s ________________________________________

Canadians (represented by the speaker as having one common view) _____________________________________________________________

progressive ____________________________________________________

positive, affirmative _______________________________________________________

negative ___________________________________________________________

empower, empowerment ___________________________________________________

break down barriers __________________________________________________

equal, equality ______________________________________________________

peace, non-violent, non-violence ________________________________________

anti-racism _________________________________________________________


I encourage you to write in with your own additions. There are surely some I have overlooked.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

We Must Move Forward, Not Back

The local government telecommunications monopoly plans to launch a new advertising campaign.

Being a monopoly, it has no particular need to promote its products. The thrust of the campaign instead is to show their commitment to “values and beliefs” such as “equality, education, non-violence, empowerment, breaking down barriers, and … preserving the environment” (Gulf Times, May 12, 2006, p. 3).

They are not spending this money on advertising in order to lose friends. They want to boost their public image. Their prime need is to preserve public support for their monopoly. Accordingly, you can be sure they are not pushing values that anyone actually opposes. That would be counterproductive.

Who could be opposed, for example, to peace and equality? Even Adolf Hitler was for peace and equality. “Germany is entirely ready,” he declared to the world on coming to power, “to renounce all offensive weapons.” War, he warned, is “unlimited madness.” But Germany wanted “equality with all other nations” (Shirer, The Rise and fall of the Third Reich, p.p. 209-210). Pity about that warmonger Churchill.

It follows that any politician whose public platform is no more than such things as equality, non-violence, empowerment, educating the young, breaking down barriers, or preserving the environment, is not to be taken seriously. He is not being honest; he is only kissing babies. Like patriotism, such platitudes are meaningful only as the last refuge of a scoundrel. If a politician stands for this and nothing more, assume he is a con artist, only out for himself; or that he has another, hidden agenda.

By the same token, if a politician claims his opponents oppose equality, empowerment, educating the young, preserving the environment, non-violence or the lowering of barriers, the onus is very much on him to produce some evidence of this. If a newspaper or a network or the media in general portray one particular party as doing this, bias can almost be assumed.

And, say, doesn’t this describe the modern left in general? Al Gore and Stephane Dion and David Suzuki, say, with their environmental crusades? And their use of the term “progressive,” as if progress were something they alone endorsed? Or that stupid phrase “we must move into the future”; as if there were some alternative?

Whatever else you may say about them, the modern left relies heavily on double-talk and deceit.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Untouched by Human Hands




Okay, I'm a computer nerd from way back. Here's something new and fun; I've been noticing these machines, like the old passport photo booths, popping up all over the place. Instead of producing a photo, they produce a computer-generated "sketch."

And, truth be told, they look a lot better than nine out of ten sketches you'll have made by a human artist down in Battery Park, at the Citadel, or at the CNE.

My kid, to the left, looks like a Norman Rockwell; my wife looks like an early study by Van Gogh.

And me? Al Capp.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Damn. There's Ink All Over My Jeans

Last week, I went clothes shopping with my wife.

She picked out two pairs of jeans; brand new, but made to look faded, and with little frayed bits carefully sewn on here and there. I asked her why she wanted to buy new pants that looked old and worn. She answered, “it’s the fashion.”

Indeed it is; as it has been for perhaps fifty years.

Jack Kerouac did this; it shows how powerful is the pen. With one book, he dictated the fashion sense of Filipinas clothes shopping in Qatar sixty years later. Everybody everywhere wants to look like the people he described in On the Road. Or like Marlon Brando in The Wild One—in which Brando was reportedly imitating Kerouac’s own dress.

Kerouac, of course, would hate this. He wanted to escape conformity, not to promote it. The frays in the jeans of his Mexican fellaheen, and in his own jeans, were real; it was not fashion, but necessity.

Artificially worn and frayed jeans are the perfect symbol of how Kerouac’s ideals have become perverted; how the Pharisees always take over.

For his ideals were the traditional ideals of Roman Catholicism: Blessed are the poor. Blessed are those who mourn. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. Blessed are the peacemakers. Blessed are you who are hated and persecuted, for so they persecuted the prophets before you…

These are not the people buying these faux-frayed jeans today.

But the social world is the world of illusion. It is a world in which only the clothes matter; a land of masquerade. The poor pretend to be rich, while the rich pretend to be poor. The ruling classes claim to be oppressed, while the oppressed try to pass as members of the ruling class. Racism is called “anti-racism,” discrimination is called “equality,” conformity is called “non-conformist,” liberalism is called “conservative,” conservatism is called “liberal,” the selfish are called compassionate, and the compassionate selfish.

The pen is powerful. But it can produce one hell of a backfire.

Monday, May 08, 2006

How Many Men Does It Take to ...

A propos of nothing, a female colleague came by my desk and regaled myself and another male colleague with the following joke at work today:

“Question: What’s the difference between a savings bond and a man?

Answer: If you leave it long enough, a savings bond will eventually mature.”

Har har. I guess we were properly put in our place.

Yet, if a man told a similar joke at his workplace to two women, at women’s expense, it would be “sexual harassment.” He’d likely be out of a job, with a ruined rep. We two victimized hearers would probably be rolling in cash.

Ah, for a little sexual equality in the workplace.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Our Lady of the Slough of Despond

I still recall a shocking letter to the editor of the Toronto Star some years ago from a psychiatrist. He argued that religion caused mental illness. His evidence was that the mentally ill tended to gravitate to churches.

Unfortunately, many psychiatrists think this way. Starting with Freud: Freud argued that religion is emotionally toxic. He called religion a sickness—an "obsessional neurosis"—that leads people to live sexually repressed, uptight, and therefore unhappy lives.

Indeed, hostility to religion is intrinsic to psychology as a discipline; because it really exists and is justifiable only as a substitute for religion. What, after all, is a “psyche”? The word is the Greek equivalent of the English “soul.” The most obvious place to go for “knowledge of the soul” – psychology, properly speaking—is therefore religion. To set up a separate discipline is to imply that religion is not valid.

Psychiatrists and psychologists will generally, therefore, steer patients away from religion; it is the competition, and their livelihoods depend on this. Because they do, they are positively harmful to the mentally ill. Indeed, the very idea of psychiatry may be harmful to the “mentally ill,” inasmuch as it tends to distract them from contacting a priest. Because this is really what religion is all about: the healing of spiritual “illnesses” or states of ill-being.

Consider this:
- 28 percent of those who never attend church declare themselves "very happy,"
- 39 percent of those attending weekly think they are “very happy.”
- 47 percent of those attending more often than weekly are “very happy.”

(from University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center. See http://www.davidmyers.org/Brix?pageID=54)

What could be more obvious than to tell someone who is depressed to go to a church?

Yet government actually funds them to go see a psychiatrist instead. And there is an uproar if public money goes to a church.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Fascism is Postmodernism

One of the more dangerous lies we are taught about Nazism is the clam that it was a right-wing movement. This shields the left-wing from comparisons with Nazism, which are otherwise pretty obvious. And this makes it more likely that we will fall for the same errors again. Indeed, it looks as though we are.

But there was no question to Germans of the time that National Socialism was Socialism. Albert Speer writes, in his autobiography, that when the Nazis did well in the 1930 election, “my father had the darkest forebodings, chiefly in view of the NSDAP’s socialist tendencies.”- Inside the Third Reich, p. 43.

Nor was there much question to the Nazis themselves, apparently. Ribbentrop announced to Hitler, on one return from Moscow, that “he had never felt so much at ease as among Stalin’s associates: ‘As if I were among old party comrades of ours…’” (Speer, p. 243). While Hitler rarely had a good word to say about anybody who was not present, Speer reports that he “spoke admiringly of Stalin” (p. 418) and “regarded Stalin as a kind of colleague,” even as his army was invading Soviet Russia.

He had no such regard for Churchill or Roosevelt. Speer theorizes that he fought hard in the West, but left the frontier relatively open in the East, due to sympathy with Stalin’s regime (p. 565).

Like postmodernism and political correctness, Nazism was particularly popular on college campuses. Speer was converted to Nazism by his students, as a young faculty member.

“My students urged me to attend. …It seemed as if nearly all the students in Berlin wanted to see and hear this man [Hitler].”- pp. 44-45. “[M]y student friends … were predominantly indoctrinated with the National Socialist ideology.” – p. 50.

Nazism, like postmodernism, rejected the past and rejected all the established rules. This appeals to the young; for one thing, it removes their disadvantage in knowledge and experience compared to their elders.

Like the modern left, Nazism called for “affirmative action” and “social justice.” The Jews were simply the bourgeois, just like straight white males today. The party was “demanding that [Jewish] participation in … various areas be reduced to a level consonant with their percentage of the population.” – p. 50. Exactly as “progressive” as with quotas for males or “whites” today. Goebbels warned against “the infiltration of more bourgeois intellectuals who came from the propertied and educated classes.” (p. 51). The ideologue Ley lumped aristocrats with Jews as the enemies of National Socialism (p. 525).

As a bedrock principle, Nazism, like postmodernism, believed in cultural relativism: they called for physics to be “cleansed of the outgrowths which the by well-known findings of race research have shown to be the exclusive products of the Jewish mind and which the German Volk must shun as racially incompatible with itself.”- Speer, p. 319. Just as feminists talk of “male” science or logic, or leftists complain of “cultural genocide” if you teach aboriginal children “European” science or math.


Contemporary Marxists make much of the claim that Nazism is not socialism because it did not nationalize industry. But this turns out, according to Speer, to have been purely a tactical decision for an emergency situation: “one did best to let industry handle major tasks directly, for government bureaucracy … hampered initiative.”- p. 286.

Indeed, Speer observed as the war progressed that “a kind of state socialism seemed to be gaining more and more ground, furthered by many of the party functionaries” (p. 485). Numerous factories “seemed destined to fall under state control after the war” (ibid). At Speer’s urging, Hitler reassured the owners that this would not be the case. But Speer called Hitler’s assurance “a good deal less precise and unequivocal than I had expected” (p. 488). Speer indeed came under attack by Goebbels, Bormann, and the party for his tendency to let industry alone, and his top aides and the industrialist he worked with were branded “reactionaries” (p. 533).

We do not know for certain where Hitler was headed, had he won the war.

But it seems pretty likely the modern left is headed in the same direction. Perhaps we will find out.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Oil's Well

The good old Economist magazine makes the argument last week that we are not running out of oil. (Economist, April 22, pp. 65-7). Here are the facts:

- Only one third of known, accessible, conventional oil reserves have been pumped.
- Many parts of the earth have not yet been explored for oil.
- This does not count tar sands and shale oil. The US, Canada, and Venezuela have more oil, if these deposits are included, than does Saudi Arabia currently.
- This does not count fully two thirds of even known conventional oil, which is not recoverable by current methods; but may well be in future. Indeed, the only way this will not be exploited is if all development of oil technology comes to a full stop. The only way this would happen is if we no longer need oil.
- At the current price of oil, oil stocks can be profitably supplemented by other forms of energy. At $70 a barrel, ethanol, oil-from-gas and oil-from-coal become attractive. Indeed, they are viable at any price above $40.

Put all this together, and it is even unlikely that oil can remain at the current high price. It should start declining toward the $40 level as more alternatives come on stream.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Silent Stars

Many maintain that failing young is a godsend. It tends to produce success in the long run.

Consider, conversely, the experience of Jack Kerouac. A small-town boy from Lowell Massachusetts, from a poor petit-bourgeois French Canadian family, he snared a football scholarship to Columbia. In those days, Columbia was a football as well as an academic powerhouse. Without campaigning, he was elected vice president of his sophomore class. Ivy League, a star halfback, and a student leader.

And then, one night, he looked up at the stars. And they were not impressed. “I suddenly realized that all my ambitions, no matter how they came out… wouldn’t matter anyway in the intervening space between human breathings and the sigh of the happy stars… It just didn’t matter what I did, anytime, anywhere, with anyone” (Jack’s Book, p. 27).

Exactly so.

Welcome to the essential insight of depression.

And the problem is that it is perfectly true.

Kerouac dropped out of Columbia and started writing. He became a religious seeker. And he died, essentially of alcoholism, at 47.

Now here’s the puzzle: who is more to be pitied? Kerouac, who saw through it all and never recovered, and clearly suffered horribly, or the vast majority of people who go through life never realizing that it is meaningless?

Personally, I pity more the latter; the non-depressives.

But I do believe there is another, happier alternative. One that Kerouac came close to, but never fully embraced. The experience of nothingness is the essential experience that makes an artist. But it is also the essential experience that makes a saint. It is the dark night of the soul.

Failing young is a curse. It makes you believe in things.