Friday, June 24, 2005

Let's Invade Sweden

Is Europe doomed to become a province of Islam, as so many of our public intellectuals fear? Maybe yes--if Europeans sit back smoking pot, letting the world slide into decay, taking Europeans down along with it.

We live in a world that sends men to the moon, a world that splits atoms, a world that feeds millions of starving and superfluous peasants who want nothing better than to destroy the modern world that supports them in their mad dash to commit their own vast populations of dysfunctional primitives to death by want. Let's get weepy over war, say our dhimmi brothers and sisters, let's bang the drum for diversity, and let's all sit around communing with Mother Nature as the savages destroy the very modernity that keeps them alive while they destroy us and themselves along with us.

Or let's not. No maybe--if we decide to strike back at the lotus-landers letting the world slide into decay, Europeans with it. Maybe yes we can take the savage world by the throat and kill them to the point the remaining live life like helots, slaves cringing in terror of our might, men and women so fearful of our displeasure they beg to be like us, and more: that they beg to be more than simply men and women like us but that they become us as much as we are us. Let them suffer to death as they are if they will, and those who come after will be ours and us.

If we can go to the moon and split atoms, then we can rip the world's peasants from their dogmatic slumbers and kick them till they join the world of the living, if they choose not to die by our benevolent hands. Maybe maybe--let's start the slaughter by attacking our very own anti-war dhimmis before we go on to destroy the primitives holus bolus.

Below we will look at excerpts from Orianna Fallaci on dhimmitude and the decline of the West in terms of cultural suicide in the face of Islamic invasion; and also at memetics in terms of how we receive and transmit ideas cross-culturally, ideas good or bad regardless, and how the idea of the spread of Islam and dhimmitude and cultural suicide is little more than yet one more transitory pseudo-intellectual fad that will and definitely can and necessarily should pass into something better.

We've written many times before that most people believe what most people believe, logic and reason having little or nothing to do with public opinion and personal beliefs. Where do ideas come from? Why do many in the West feel strongly that Islam is a religion of peace hijacked by a tiny minority of extremists who have no valid reason for committing acts of terrorism in the name of Islam while anyone with the patience to read the Koran, the ahadith and sira can find out within a day that Islam is a fascist poligion that does indeed require its true believers to do exactly that which we in the West have opined that they do not do by virtue of their religious belief. Why do we cling to our ignorance of Islam in the face of the obvious falsity of our wrong and obviously wrong opinions? Regardless of our opinions about the right or wrong of Islam, the clear and provable truth from Islam itself and from Moslems themselves is that we are self-deluded and aggressively so and determinedly so. No one can read the texts of Islam and come away with any other conclusion than that which is clearly and repeatedly stated in the Sunna, that Islam is a violent and triumphalist poligion. We have our opinions because they are the norm in popular circles, spreading from the epicentre of the dominant ideology, in this case from the politicians of Europe and, yes, from Washington, D.C., even from the slack mouth of George W. Bush himself.

We face at this time a culture that is on the path to self-destruction by means of self-willed dhimmitude. One group of people are moving in on another, which over-all is fair in biological terms. Our problem is that it is the other group that is doing the moving by virtue of its suicidal longing for destruction of the host, a cancerous spread of primitive Islam into the world of Modernity, and we are allowing it to happen.

Here we can look at Richard Dawkins to see his ideas on memes, how cultural ideas live and die. We might gain some insight into the spread of the idea and ideology of Islam as a political ans social force in the West. The following excerpts come from Wikipedia on Dawkins.

Dawkins observed that cultures can evolve in much the same way that populations of organisms evolve. Various ideas pass from one generation to the next; such ideas may either enhance or detract from the survival of the people who obtain those ideas. This process affects which of those ideas will survive for passing on to future generations. For example, a certain culture may have unique designs and methods of tool-building that another culture may not have; therefore, the culture with the more effective methods may prosper more than the other culture, ceteris paribus. This leads to a higher proportion of the overall population adopting the more effective methods as time passes. Each tool design thus acts somewhat similarly to a biological gene in that some populations have it and others do not, and the meme's function directly affects the presence of the design in future generations.

One controversial application of this "selfish meme" parallel results in the idea that certain collections of memes can act as "memetic viruses": collections of ideas that behave as independent life forms which continue to get passed on even at the expense of their hosts simply because of their success at getting passed on. Some observers have suggested that evangelical religions and cults behave this way; so by including the act of passing on their beliefs as a moral virtue, other beliefs of the religion also get passed along even if they do not provide particular benefits to the believer.

Others maintain that the wide prevalence of human adoption of religious ideas provides evidence to suggest that such ideas offer some ecological, sexual, ethical or moral value; otherwise memetic evolution would long ago have selected against such ideas. For example, most religions urge peace and cooperation among their followers ("Thou shalt not kill") which may possibly tend to promote the biological survival of the social groups that carry these memes.

A tendency exists in memetics to disparage religious memes. However, some speculate that traditional religions act as mental immune systems to suppress new and potentially harmful memes. Interestingly, we can compare this scenario with the action of a virus (here a religion a "bundle" of religious memes) proving ineffective and maladaptive if it kills its host(s). For example, popular Christianity forbids both murder and suicide (an idea from Augustine of Hippo's The City of God), and its precise definitions of heresy ensure that "properly" educated Christians cannot accept new religions which advocate such actions.

The West is an "open society' that doesn't filter or restrict ideas or memes as strictly as do most other cultures and nations. Our plurality allows for the religious Right as much as for the radical Left, allows for the pornographers as well as for multi-national corporatists of the world-at-large. Our ruling ethos is multi-culturalism, diversity, and simple openness to the right to privacy of pursuits of individual happiness. Fascists are as welcome to practice their beliefs as are extremist Libertarians and all those in between, within the bounds of relatively lax laws. And because there is no state ideology, no state religion, no overweening government control of the minutea of privacy there is room for the growth of memes that are cancerous, such as Islam.

Some complain, freely, that the religious Right is a danger to the democratic ethos of America, and they are to be feared more than any single group otherwise. Fair enough. We do complain. And the religious Right is powerful, as is CAIR and the ACLU and numerous other groups of varying degrees of extremity. We live in a culture of plural memes, but it is the meme of Islam that threatens the weak cultures of Europe with death. Islam, a proven violent poligion bent on domination and conquest of the entire world, if one will take the time to learn about it from its own texts and adherents, not simply some tiny minority of extremists but the entire umma of Islam, being every believing Moslem on Earth without exception, like it or not, believe it or not, and ignoring it or not. Islam is a cancerous meme that is made to conquer the world in the name of and in the practice of Islam. Any one who becomes familiar with Islam will see and know it clearly and directly, and it is beyond debate for rational people. But most people are not interested and are not logical at all, relying on the beliefs of others to find and validate their own beliefs.

Orianna Fallaci begs to differ with the majority of Europeans who get along by going along. Her writings on the nature of Islam have her involved in a court case in Italy, a case brought against her by Moslems. Below are some excerpts from an interview with a man who doesn't seem to know his subject well. Fallaci does.

In a Wall Street Journal interview, Orianna Fallaci, currently facing criminal charges in Italy of "vilifiying Islam," speaks to a man who doesn't seem to understand that Huntington is a world-class dhimmi, and who likely doesn't even now understand Fallaci's points as below:


Prophet of Decline
An interview with Oriana Fallaci.

Thursday, June 23, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT

NEW YORK--Oriana Fallaci faces jail. In her mid-70s, stricken with a cancer that, for the moment, permits only the consumption of liquids--so yes, we drank champagne in the course of a three-hour interview--one of the most renowned journalists of the modern era has been indicted by a judge in her native Italy under provisions of the Italian Penal Code which proscribe the "vilipendio," or "vilification," of "any religion admitted by the state."

In her case, the religion deemed vilified is Islam, and the vilification was perpetrated, apparently, in a book she wrote last year--and which has sold many more than a million copies all over Europe--called "The Force of Reason." Its astringent thesis is that the Old Continent is on the verge of becoming a dominion of Islam, and that the people of the West have surrendered themselves fecklessly to the "sons of Allah." So in a nutshell, Oriana Fallaci faces up to two years' imprisonment for her beliefs--which is one reason why she has chosen to stay put in New York. Let us give thanks for the First Amendment.

Ms. Fallaci speaks in a passionate growl: "Europe is no longer Europe, it is 'Eurabia,' a colony of Islam, where the Islamic invasion does not proceed only in a physical sense, but also in a mental and cultural sense. Servility to the invaders has poisoned democracy, with obvious consequences for the freedom of thought, and for the concept itself of liberty." Such words--"invaders," "invasion," "colony," "Eurabia"--are deeply, immensely, Politically Incorrect; and one is tempted to believe that it is her tone, her vocabulary, and not necessarily her substance or basic message, that has attracted the ire of the judge in Bergamo (and has made her so radioactive in the eyes of Europe's cultural elites).

"Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder," the historian Arnold Toynbee wrote, and these words could certainly be Ms. Fallaci's. She is in a black gloom about Europe and its future: "The increased presence of Muslims in Italy, and in Europe, is directly proportional to our loss of freedom." There is about her a touch of Oswald Spengler, the German philosopher and prophet of decline, as well as a flavor of Samuel Huntington and his clash of civilizations. But above all there is pessimism, pure and unashamed. When I ask her what "solution" there might be to prevent the European collapse of which she speaks, Ms. Fallaci flares up like a lit match. "How do you dare to ask me for a solution? It's like asking Seneca for a solution. You remember what he did?" She then says "Phwah, phwah," and gestures at slashing her wrists. "He committed suicide!" Seneca was accused of being involved in a plot to murder the emperor Nero. Without a trial, he was ordered by Nero to kill himself. One senses that Ms. Fallaci sees in Islam the shadow of Nero. "What could Seneca do?" she asks, with a discernible shudder. "He knew it would end that way--with the fall of the Roman Empire. But he could do nothing."

The impending Fall of the West, as she sees it, now torments Ms. Fallaci. And as much as that Fall, what torments her is the blithe way in which the West is marching toward its precipice of choice. "Look at the school system of the West

Ms. Fallaci describes herself, too, as "a revolutionary"--"because I do what conservatives in Europe don't do, which is that I don't accept to be treated like a delinquent."

"The moment you give up your principles, and your values . . . the moment you laugh at those principles, and those values, you are dead, your culture is dead, your civilization is dead. Period."

Can we condemn the dhimmi class of the West? Indeed, some are conscious fascists and collaborators with fascist Islam who have a clear goal in mind: the destruction of Modernity and the imposition in its place of Romantic fascist barbarism. But for the majority of dhimmis the real problem is one of irrational and near hysterical frenzied hatred of the Myth of America. It is a learned behaviour, a metastasized meme that is destroying the Western host. It is mostly a pose, an attitude that can change overnight, and one that will change when Islam becomes a greater military threat than it is now, a threat that will in time lead to the extermination of the Islamic world and its people, a goal the unconscious Islamic civilization's primitives long for in their intuitive grasp of their own failure as a functional meme in the age of Modernity.

And what accounts for the hysteria in the West?

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The United States' image is so tattered overseas two years after the Iraq invasion that communist China is viewed more favorably than the U.S. in many long-time Western European allies, an international poll has found.

"It's amazing when you see the European public rating the United States so poorly, especially in comparison with China," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, which surveyed public opinion in 16 countries, including the United States.

In Britain, almost two-thirds of Britons, 65 percent, saw China favorably, compared with 55 percent who held a positive view of the United States.

In France, 58 percent had an upbeat view of China, compared with 43 percent who felt that way about the U.S. The results were nearly the same in Spain and the Netherlands.

The United States' favorability rating was lowest among three Muslim nations which are also U.S. allies -- Turkey, Pakistan and Jordan -- where only about one-fifth of those polled viewed the U.S. in a positive light.

Only India and Poland were more upbeat about the United States, while Canadians were just as likely to see China favorably as they were the U.S.

The poll found suspicion and wariness of the United States in many countries where people question the war in Iraq and are growing wary of the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism.

"The Iraq war has left an enduring impression on the minds of people around the world in ways that make them very suspicious of U.S. intentions and makes the effort to win hearts and minds far more difficult," said Shibley Telhami, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

The overseas image of the United States slipped sharply after the Iraq invasion in 2003, the Pew polling found, and it has not rebounded in Western European countries like Britain, France, Germany and Spain.

However the U.S. image has bounced back in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country which benefited from U.S. aid to tsunami victims, as well as in India and Russia.

The survey found that a majority of people in most countries say the United States does not take the interests of other countries into account when making international policy decisions.

It also found most would like to see another country get as much military power as the United States, though few want China to play that role.

People in most countries were more inclined to say the war in Iraq has made the world a more dangerous place. Non-U.S. residents who had unfavorable views of the United States were most likely to cite Bush as the reason rather than a general problem with America.

The polls were taken in various countries from late April to the end of May with samples of about 1,000 in most countries, with more interviewees in India and China and slightly less than 1,000 in the European countries. The margin of sampling error ranged from 2 percentage points to 4 percentage points, depending on the sample size.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. [So sue me.]


We'll look in a future post at the ideas of Neil Postman and the ideas of Avishai Margalit and Ian Buruma to see what conclusions they have in this regard. In the mean time, skipping ahead, we offer our own untying of this Gordian Knot of anti-Modernist fascism and dhimmitude. We have argued at long length that the solution is a
Walkerian conquest of the primitive world, the enslavement of its populations, and of the permanent colonization of the primitives who survive our conquest to the point whereat they are us and we are them, universally and naturally Modern, regardless of sentimental nonsense today about the relative virtues and values of "others." In politics we have no friends. Morally we have no equals.

Our ostensible allies, our supposed friends, so-called sovereign nations: what more could be stupider? Our Western, Modernist Revolutionary meme is potentially triumphal. Islam and other forms of fascism are memes no different than Relativism and other forms of Post-modernist ideology. This is our thesis, our meme: Let's invade nations and conquer their people, take over their land by force of arms and threats of death and destruction, and let us win by main violence: Let's invade Sweden!

You smile, dear reader? Is it a foolish idea, one that cannot possibly come to pass in this our modern world of civilized people in the land of legality and simple common sense? Well, stop smiling because this is a serious proposition, and one we must consider seriously if we are to turn back the invasion of Islam and the tide of self-destructive savagery of the primitive world threatening to overwhelm us and our progress toward universal good.

We are revolutionaries in the history of Mankind, a group unlike any others who've existed in the world, and our ideas are not merely better, they are universally better and more functional and beneficial to all than anything in our human past. Our revolutions came by way of violence against those who opposed the progress we take as given, and the violence was massive and brutal. It is a price we paid for our revolutions, and others must pay the same price, especially those who would destroy our progress here and now.

Haul out the guillotine, hone the blade, oil the gears, restring the works. Loose the blood-dimmed tide, and let's move ahead our revolution to the farthest reaches of Humanity. Let's start with Sweden. Let's go, Berzerk!

Europe generally, Sweden in particular, has been invaded by the cancerous meme of Islam, and Malmo is a Moslem city today. Will Sweden object to a million American colonists showing up at the airports, armed and aggressive militant triumphalist Americans, who will descend on Malmo to rule and colonize the city in preparation for a general invasion and conquest of all of Europe and eventually of the entire world? Who cares? Ideas, so-called, are generally semiconscious attitudes gathered from the surroundings and from ones mates. Culture is learned, and if one is imbued with ones culture, one must either give it up in favor of a better meme or one must die in resistence to it. Will we face masses of crazed Swedes throwing meatballs? Unlikely. More likely is that Sweden will adjust perfectly well and easily to restored democracy and European tradition, something much harder to create in the primitive world of Islam, to be done regardless.

Sweden, isolated fromAmerica as is in the concept of the West-As-Evil-America is not yet totally irrational. But consider the following excerpts on memeology:

In traditional population genetics the normal genetic variation, selection, and drift do not lead to formation of a new species without some form of "reproductive isolation"; i.e., in order to split a single species into two species, the two subpopulations of the original species must ultimately lose their ability to interbreed, which would normally maintain their heterogeneity. However, once separated, natural selection and/or just genetic drift acting on the normal genetic variation in the two subspecies will eventually change enough characteristics of the two subgroups that they can no longer interbreed, which by definition means that they will comprise two different species. Examples of reproductive isolation include geographical isolation, where a 'suddenly' appearing mountain range or river separates the two subgroups; temporal isolation, where one subgroup becomes entirely diurnal in its habits while the other becomes entirely nocturnal; or even just 'behavioral' isolation, as seen in wolves and domestic dogs: they could interbreed, biologically speaking, but normally they do not.

A similar phenomenon can occur with memes. Normally, the population of individuals having a meme in their consciousness is heterogeneous and mixes enough to keep the meme intact although it covers a wide range of variations. Should that population become split, however, without sufficient contact for the two different subgroups of variations of the meme to equilibrate, eventually each group will evolve its own version of that meme, differing sufficiently from that of the other group to appear as a distinct entity.

One example of this occurring on the Internet is the Kellerman meme. A search of the web and/or Usenet for the word 'Kellerman' will turn up a large number of citations, describing at great length the behavior of a 'Dr. Arthur Kellerman', who, with the willing assistance of the Centers for Disease Control and the public health lobby purportedly fabricated studies in order to implicate firearms (and by extension their owners) as a menace to public safety, for the purposes of statist control of the population which the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution the right to keep and bear arms would otherwise thwart. The authors of these pages and postings describe purported machinations, "junk science," a subsequent recantation by Dr. 'Kellerman', and the use of his work by gun control proponents.

In reality, no "Dr. Arthur Kellerman" exists, at least not in any connection with the above description. There is, however, a Dr. Arthur Kellermann (with double n), who has indeed published several papers estimating the overall impact on the public health of firearm availability and various aspects of firearm storage, as part of a career in public health and emergency and trauma medicine. As in any such series of studies, Kellermann's work has strengths and weaknesses, which pundits rigorously debate both in the literature and online. However, even after eliminating matters of opinion and statements which are not fully supported, the remaining verifiable facts of Kellermann's studies and career remain virtually unrecognizable in the negative descriptions of 'Kellerman.'

The original meme of Kellermann and his work on gun-related violent injury has generated a new meme, "Dr. Kellerman is a evil lying gun-grabbing enemy of freedom," by the classic genetic phenomenon of a deletion mutation. The sub-population involved had strongly negative attitudes towards Kellermann's work as well as a lack of first-hand familiarity with his studies and career. Because of the "reproductive isolation" caused by the total non-intersection of the results of searches for "Kellerman" and "Kellermann," the 'Kellerman' meme drifted even further in the direction of negativity, unchecked by facts related to the real Kellermann. As this group encounters new individuals of similar general outlook, they introduce new recruits to the 'Kellerman' lore only, and go on to produce their own websites and postings furthering the rapid progress of this meme.

This phenomenon also demonstrates two other features of memes the "meme-complex," a set of mutually-assisting "co-memes" which have co-evolved a symbiotic relationship, and the "Villain vs. Victim" infection strategy.

Is the learned-insanity of the Anti-American meme spreading? Of course, and it will only worsen. As the rise of Islam grows, so too will its counter meme, non-Islam, meaning fundamentalism of other religious expressions, yes dear reader, the mightily feqred "Religious Right." Politics will lose its current (dubious) validity and make way for dissent in the form of equal and opposite reactionary ideology: those who wish to combat Islam will devolve into religious fundamentalisms of their own themselves. The political Left will abandon its pseudo-intellectual pretentions and go fling itself into the sheer irrationality of fascist Islam in opposition to the remants of Modernity. We can look forward to the end of science as a religion in the West from that point on. We can look forward to our very own scarey faces in the mirror.

Some (such as Dawkins himself, see [2] ( consider religion itself a meme or, more exactly, a memeplex or group of memes. To observers infected by a different set of memes, it appears that some fundamentalist evangelical movements act only to add to their own numbers. The movements in question devote what appears to their opponents as an inordinate amount of time to evangelical activity, and therefore may seem to unsympathetic observers to serve no other function. This makes it possible to characterize them as self-serving, and in some cases as a particularly virulent virus. On the other hand, for the meme to continue to propagate, it must provide some spiritual or emotional good: catharsis, a release from worry and guilt, a sense of salvation, happiness, moral energy, etc.

The American Religious Right has a unified message built around religious dogma. By attaching conservative political views to Christian religious evangelism (meme piggybacking), they have associated a set of political ideas/memeplexes with a set of religious ideas/memeplexes that throughout history have "replicated" very effectively. That is, Christianity has won converts for centuries; now in many cases a religious conversion also becomes a political conversion.

Similarly, the scientific method offers a body of social and experimental techniques which, given certain preconditions a free press for the circulation of information, a large number of people predisposed to see the world as a mechanism subject to general rules which can be discovered through repeatable experiments acts highly virulently, spreading quickly through an educated population. By demonstrating its success at making predictions, science as a practice can make itself more attractive to converts. Ideas and attitudes which are not necessarily verifiable by experimentation, but which tend to be held by scientists or feel aesthetically pleasing in combination with scientific discoveries, can propagate themselves in societies where science has a high status by the same process of "meme piggybacking."

Meme resistance

Karl Popper advocated this in the strongest possible terms: "The survival value of intelligence is that it allows us to extinct a bad idea, before the idea extincts us."

Resistance to science and technology has formed a common meme that can guide human cultural and cognitive evolution away from disastrous paths for instance the US and USSR stockpiled but did not use nuclear weapons in the Cold War period. Ignorance has been in some cultures considered a virtue in particular, ignorance of certain temptations that the culture believes would be disastrous if pursued by many individuals.

The Internet, perhaps the ultimate meme vector, seems to be hosting both sides of this debate. Although it would seem to a na�ve observer that no adult user of the Internet could oppose its use by other adults, that does in fact happen, based on any number of criteria from ethics to intent to ability to resist hacking or pornography.

For the full entry, please go to:

Science as religion is an obvious failure, and Islam as a poligion is also an obvious failure; Rationalism and irrationalism cannot co-exist, and yet neither can they exist in themselves. Suicidal Sweden is overwhelmed by suicidal Islam. Two bad ideas overlapping are destroying Europe from within. If we do not invade and conquer then nothing will be left but to invade and conquer later. In this war of memes, the West is losing because of its inherent puralism, its openess to a multiplicity of memes, a meme that itself is destined to die out if we do not preserve it consciously and by force. If Europe is to become a province of Islam, as many of our public intellectuals claim, and as our pot-smoking citizens watch passively while it occurs, then by all means, by any means, let us invade Sweden.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Cargo Cult Science

Why is the West in a state of self-imposed dhimmitude? Why have we struck the attitude, not the deep belief nor the idea of knowledge but simply the uncritical attitude, that we are somehow bad in comparison to the 'Other?' Few outside the clique of highly motivated and entrenched professional Leftists actually go home at night thinking that the West is evil and committed to genocide in its insatiable greed for oil and the trees of the tropical rainforests. Most people simply hold the attitude of a cocktail party guest, a pose for the occasion, that we are so deeply concerned about this or that particular issue--while in sight of company we wish to impress. It's a pose that we will do well to exercise less often, even not at all, in favor of real exercise of our grey matters. Let's skip the dhimmi stuff and try to get real.

Most Westerners, all but a tiny minority of lunatics on the Right who've hijacked religion as a platform from which to shoot at doctors and geologists, feel comfortable with liberal social values; and if we are incautious we will lose those values in place of rabid reactionary values in a violent backlash against our strained smiling in the face of our dhimmitude.We're letting ourselves be taken for a ride by extremist hijackers, and the ride isn't amusing any longer. Someone else is piloting our fates, and it's not looking like we're in for a safe landing. In fact, the situation is so extreme that it's time for us to call 911.

And there we have it: no one wants to be the first to panic.

Is the theatre crowded?


Let's stop pretending that Islam is a religion at all. It isn't; Islam is a poligion, a political ideology of fascism, and it's dangerous to limb and life. All of our pretty noises aren't going to soothe it. Islam is fascism, and those who practice it are not moderate, cannot be moderate, and will never be moderate. Islam is fascism, a new form of Nazi ideology in the old form of Islam. I'm not smiling anymore. Are you?

We might like to recall that we've worked hard over the past 500 years to make progress in the general Human condition, and that progress is under attack not only by barbarians but by our own reactionaries on the Left.

Below we see some of the greatness of our recent past, ideas that came as a result of thousands of years of intellectual struggle against the herd instinct of Islam and its evil relatives. We'll start by including some writing by Francis Bacon, Novum Organum, writing that is in itself not only brilliant but beautiful:

Aphorisms Concerning the Interpretation of Nature and the Kingdom of Man

* * *

The idols and false notions which are now in possession of the human understanding, and have taken deep root therein, not only so beset men's minds that truth can hardly find entrance, but even after entrance is obtained, they will again in the very instauration of the sciences meet and trouble us, unless men being forewarned of the danger fortify themselves as far as may be against their assaults.

There are four classes of idols which beset men's minds. To these for distinction's sake I have assigned names,--calling the first class Idols of the Tribe; the second, Idols of the Cave; the third, Idols of the Market-place; the fourth, Idols of the Theater.

The formation of ideas and axioms by true induction is no doubt the proper remedy to be applied for the keeping off and clearing away of idols. To point them out, however, is of great use, for the doctrine of idols is to the interpretation of nature what the doctrine of the refutation of sophisms is to common logic.

The Idols of the Tribe have their foundation in human nature itself, and in the tribe or race of men. For it is a false assertion that the sense of man is the measure of things. On the contrary, all perceptions, as well of the sense as of the mind, are according to the measure of the individual and not according to the measure of the universe. And the human understanding is like a false mirror, which, receiving rays irregularly, distorts and discolors the nature of things by mingling its own nature with it.

The Idols of the Cave are the idols of the individual man. For everyone (besides the errors common to human nature in general) has a cave or den of his own, which refracts and discolors the light of nature; owing either to his own proper and peculiar nature or to his education and conversation with others; or to the reading of books, and the authority of those whom he esteems and admires; or to the differences of impressions, accordingly as they take place in a mind preoccupied and predisposed or in a mind indifferent and settled; or the like. So that the spirit of man (according as it is meted out to different individuals) is in fact a thing variable and full of perturbation, and governed as it were by chance. Whence it was well observed by Heraclitus that men look for sciences in their own lesser worlds, and not in the greater or common world.

There are also idols formed by the intercourse and association of men with each other, which I call Idols of the Market-place, on account of the commerce and consort of men there. For it is by discourse that men associate; and words are imposed according to the apprehension of the vulgar. And therefore the ill and unfit choice of words wonderfully obstructs the understanding. Nor do the definitions or explanations wherewith in some things learned men are wont to guard and defend themselves, by any means set the matter right. But words plainly force and overrule the understanding, and throw all into confusion, and lead men away into numberless empty controversies and idle fancies.

Lastly, there are idols which have immigrated into men's minds from the various dogmas of philosophies, and also from wrong laws of demonstration. These I call Idols of the Theater; because in my judgment all the received systems are but so many stage-plays, representing worlds of their own creation after an unreal and scenic fashion. Nor is it only of the systems now in vogue, or only of the ancient sects and philosophies, that I speak: for many more plays of the same kind may yet be composed and in like artificial manner set forth; seeing that errors the most widely different have nevertheless causes for the most part alike. Neither again do I mean this only of entire systems, but also of many principles and axioms in science, which by tradition, credulity, and negligence have come to be received.

But of these several kinds of idols I must speak more largely and exactly, that the understanding may be duly cautioned.
To continue with the Idols of the Mind, please search Francis Bacon:

Bacon's "New Learning" set the forms for a new paradigm in critical thinking. Rather than continuing to muck about in an Aristotlean swamp as before, Bacon devised a new way of looking at the world and testing the results for verity. For all the pretentions of the modern Left they are pseudo-scientists every bit as backward and committed to that backwardness as any witch doctor from Haiti, those who are, as a rule, our leftwing social scientist Ph. D holders. Feynman makes some nice observations below:

Richard Feynman
From a Caltech commencement address given in 1974
Also in Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!

During the Middle Ages there were all kinds of crazy ideas, such as that a piece of of rhinoceros horn would increase potency. Then a method was discovered for separating the ideas--which was to try one to see if it worked, and if it didn't work, to eliminate it. This method became organized, of course, into science. And it developed very well, so that we are now in the scientific age. It is such a scientific age, in fact, that we have difficulty in understanding how witch doctors could ever have existed, when nothing that they proposed ever really worked--or very little of it did.

But even today I meet lots of people who sooner or later get me into a conversation about UFO's, or astrology, or some form of mysticism, expanded consciousness, new types of awareness, ESP, and so forth. And I've concluded that it's not a scientific world.

Most people believe so many wonderful things that I decided to investigate why they did. And what has been referred to as my curiosity for investigation has landed me in a difficulty where I found so much junk that I'm overwhelmed. First I started out by investigating various ideas of mysticism and mystic experiences. I went into isolation tanks and got many hours of hallucinations, so I know something about that. Then I went to Esalen, which is a hotbed of this kind of thought (it's a wonderful place; you should go visit there). Then I became overwhelmed. I didn't realize how MUCH there was.

At Esalen there are some large baths fed by hot springs situated on a ledge about thirty feet above the ocean. One of my most pleasurable experiences has been to sit in one of those baths and watch the waves crashing onto the rocky slope below, to gaze into the clear blue sky above, and to study a beautiful nude as she quietly appears and settles into the bath with me.

One time I sat down in a bath where there was a beatiful girl sitting with a guy who didn't seem to know her. Right away I began thinking, "Gee! How am I gonna get started talking to this beautiful nude woman?"

I'm trying to figure out what to say, when the guy says to her, "I'm, uh, studying massage. Could I practice on you?" "Sure," she says. They get out of the bath and she lies down on a massage table nearby. I think to myself, "What a nifty line! I can never think of anything like that!" He starts to rub her big toe. "I think I feel it," he says. "I feel a kind of dent--is that the pituitary?" I blurt out, "You're a helluva long way from the pituitary, man!" They looked at me, horrified--I had blown my cover--and said, "It's reflexology!" I quickly closed my eyes and appeared to be meditating.

That's just an example of the kind of things that overwhelm me. I also looked into extrasensory perception, and PSI phenomena, and the latest craze there was Uri Geller, a man who is supposed to be able to bend keys by rubbing them with his finger. So I went to his hotel room, on his invitation, to see a demonstration of both mindreading and bending keys. He didn't do any mindreading that succeeded; nobody can read my mind, I guess. And my boy held a key and Geller rubbed it, and nothing happened. Then he told us it works better under water, and so you can picture all of us standing in the bathroom with the water turned on and the key under it, and him rubbing the key with his finger. Nothing happened. So I was unable to investigate that phenomenon.

But then I began to think, what else is there that we believe? (And I thought then about the witch doctors, and how easy it would have been to check on them by noticing that nothing really worked.) So I found things that even more people believe, such as that we have some knowledge of how to educate. There are big schools of reading methods and mathematics methods, and so forth, but if you notice, you'll see the reading scores keep going down--or hardly going up--in spite of the fact that we continually use these same people to improve the methods. There's a witch doctor remedy that doesn't work. It ought to be looked into; how do they know that their method should work? Another example is how to treat criminals. We obviously have made no progress--lots of theory, but no progress--in decreasing the amount of crime by the method that we use to handle criminals.

Yet these things are said to be scientific. We study them. And I think ordinary people with commonsense ideas are intimidated by this pseudoscience. A teacher who has some good idea of how to teach her children to read is forced by the school system to do it some other way--or is even fooled by the school system into thinking that her method is not necessarily a good one. Or a parent of bad boys, after disciplining them in one way or another, feels guilty for the rest of her life because she didn't do "the right thing," according to the experts.

So we really ought to look into theories that don't work, and science that isn't science.

I think the educational and psychological studies I mentioned are examples of what I would like to call cargo cult science. In the South Seas there is a cargo cult of people. During the war they saw airplanes with lots of good materials, and they want the same thing to happen now. So they've arranged to make things like runways, to put fires along the sides of the runways, to make a wooden hut for a man to sit in, with two wooden pieces on his head to headphones and bars of bamboo sticking out like antennas--he's the controller--and they wait for the airplanes to land. They're doing everything right. The form is perfect. It looks exactly the way it looked before. But it doesn't work. No airplanes land. So I call these things cargo cult science, because they follow all the apparent precepts and forms of scientific investigation, but they're missing something essential, because the planes don't land.

Now it behooves me, of course, to tell you what they're missing. But it would be just about as difficult to explain to the South Sea islanders how they have to arrange things so that they get some wealth in their system. It is not something simple like telling them how to improve the shapes of the earphones. But there is one feature I notice that is generally missing in cargo cult science. That is the idea that we all hope you have learned in studying science in school--we never say explicitly what this is, but just hope that you catch on by all the examples of scientific investigation. It is interesting, therefore, to bring it out now and speak of it explicitly. It's a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty--a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you're doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid--not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you've eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked--to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated.

Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them. You must do the best you can--if you know anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong--to explain it. If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it. There is also a more subtle problem. When you have put a lot of ideas together to make an elaborate theory, you want to make sure, when explaining what it fits, that those things it fits are not just the things that gave you the idea for the theory; but that the finished theory makes something else come out right, in addition.

In summary, the idea is to give all of the information to help others to judge the value of your contribution; not just the information that leads to judgement in one particular direction or another.

To continue this article, please go to:
Although the excerpt below is an ordinary observation it does articulate clearly a common attitudinal problem in the Left's attachment to barbarism. After putting in too many years learning the stupidest damned stuff, finding a position that pays for doling it back out, and gaining ones sense of personal and societal worth, well, who's going to give that up just because it's stupid stuff?

The Enchantment of Reason
Pierre Schlag
(Byron White Professor Constitutional Law, UC Boulder)
Published by Duke University Press/NC in 1998
Book Review by Bobby Matherne ©2005

[page 11] The discipline [of law] can begin to seem somewhat solipsistic. The thought arises that it may be the sort of discipline destined to find the answers it seeks because it has already constructed the answers. This is not a pleasant thought. It is particularly unpleasant and yet particularly applicable to those disciplines that look the most like the "methods" of the police.

Understandably, few disciplinary thinkers can be counted upon to consider the emptiness of their own disciplines with great enthusiasm. The disciplinary thinkers will resist this possibility for three reasons.

First, those who, like thinkers in law, have invested hard, painful labor into the mastery of dry, obscure, and maddeningly intricate grids are unlikely to consider such a thought for very long. On the contrary, what one would expect from such thinkers is a certain ressentiment against those who have not experienced the dreary toiling in the disciplinary trenches. As a general matter, the more painful the mastery of a discipline was to acquire, the less its practitioners will be willing to give it up.

There is a second reason that disciplinary thinkers will fail to own up to the possibility. For disciplinary thinkers to pursue the possibility that their discipline is organized in solipsistic lines would be to relinquish the advantages that their discipline has bestowed upon them. The cost is highest among those who have been most successful. These leaders are the least likely to turn against their discipline. In American law, loyalty to the discipline is particularly alluring because the discipline is understood (however erroneously) to feed into the channels of worldly power: high government office.

There is a third, perhaps even stronger, reason that disciplinary thinkers will not consider the emptiness of their discipline. It turns out that the solipsism of the search that always finds the object it constructs is not a problem specific to any particular discipline, but rather one that is more or less common to all. If the problem is well nigh unavoidable, why then not stay with the grid that one knows rather than switch to the ones that one doesn't? Why turn against the grid?

Why not simply run the academic mazes like the police and continue the "exaggerated application of a principle or a set of principles"? Why not continue to polish the grid, monitor its relays, supervise its connections?

Philosophy, the philo of Sophia, love of wisdom, is in short supply among our dhimmi philobarbarist comrades, and they aren't about to give up a good scam even if it brings the house down in ruins around them. We as a society have to find our own courage as individuals to create a revolution of attitude to bring things round to a new paradigm of attitude, one that will in all liklihood eventually be just as ridiculous as is the one now but one that we can leave for our children to combat. For us, for now, the struggle is against this version of fascism, this dhimmitude and philobarbarism, this collaboration with fascist Islam. It akes some clear thinking, some honesty, and a willingness to suffer the scorn of ones fellows for not conforming to the current cocktail party dress code.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Left Philobarbarism

The sanctimonious ego of the philobarbarist knows no bounds in its quest for self-justification for loss. Man is a competitive animal, and Modernism is as hard as any life before this, a life so hard that not to be eaten is some great achievement in itself in daily living to this day, even in a modern office setting, even if only metaphorically. The competition to survive, let alone to excel, is intense and maddening, and it is increasing as Modernity accelerates into a pace we can barely comprehend even as we live in the vortex of change within our own societies. Just to survive a day at work is an awesome trial for many of us, and to win is nearly impossible to realistically hope for. Life is tough, and for those who can't handle the competition the only chance of even an illusion of success is work in a protected enviornment, such as low-level government bureaucracy or a socialy restricted workplace where the rules of competiton are rewritten to favor those who cannot compete equally in the natural world of competitive endeavour, i.e. within non-profit institutions and organizations. Uncompetitive institutions and organizations are made for the losers who can't cope in the competitive world but who are still active and bright and motivated to excel regardless, those who, however, lack the skills and talents to actually achieve in their own right. Modernity is brutal in a way that life itself has never before experienced until a mere 150 years ago with the wide-spread rise of the Industrial Revolution. Nothing analogous to Modernity has ever risen before, nothing even close, no matter how brutal times have been prior to ours. Ours is a time of complete change, a revolution of Man's life, and it is swamping the majority in its wake as the ship of the modern industrial state moves on. Many are stranded in the leaving, and some, standing left behind are wondering why they didn't find room for themselves for this grand voyage into the new world of Modernity; and left behind they are angry and bitter, egotistical, vain, belligerent, and self-hating, envious and enraged at those who have gone on--for no obvious reason other than that of imagined and assigned privilege: caste, class, sheer good luck--anything but the truth that some survive and others do not because life is brutal and uncaring of individuals or masses. The deserving sink while the leaden float away. And it is those who see the others leaving them behind who, if they have some ability, some skill, some talent, those who could have if only only, those are the ones who, having been left behind, live in violent resentment of those others they see, others they must see, as inferiour to themselves, those "almost weres" who find that if only things were less competitive than they actually are they could then rule the world as kings and queens, as Golden People themselves. And finding that the world of life is not as they think it should be, they turn away from what is to what is phantasy, to a world of their own making, a world of artifice and reaction, a world created for themselves where within the confines of their own walls they can block out reality and make believe till they, are in their own minds, the kings and queens they think they really should have been in a better world, one that if only they can create it truly, therein they will find the recognition they think they deserve. If only they can make a perfect world from that which is now, there they will be known for what they are in their own minds rather than as that which they are in the world as it is, the world they hate for leaving them behind, the world that just doesn't see them as so special as they see themselves.

The problems of the mediocre arise from their expectations,personal expectations brought on by prosperity.Those who are educated, competent, bright enough, and all that anyone in the past could ever hope to be find themselves not quite good enough to fully make it in a competitve world of Modernity. Ths solution? Stop Modernity, stop the competition, lower the bar so the mediocre can climb over it into success and so they can proclaim their success and show it to all who now see them as the mediocrities they are.

But the ego of the mediocrity is collosal. Rather than accept his or her station and status as a might have been, they create with their limited abilities phantasy worlds and reified systems wherein they do become the images of themselves they wish to see. Within the protected and non-competitive confines of artificial systems the mediocrities promote themselves within their own circles of self-indulgence and self- congratulations. Inside the bureaucracies and controlled enviornemnts of soicialistically engineered group psychologies they get to play "grown-ups" all by themsleves. And who gets to be the "children" in these little psycho-dramas of pretend employment? In the West proper it is the disenfranchised, the down-trodden, the workers, the poor, the exploited, those who are victims of society who are marginalised due to uncontrollable and determined aspects of person and identity such as race, gender (sex,) and sexual preference, or drug abuse, insanity, criminality, stupidity, and ad nauseum. Anyone who cannot take care of him/herself is grist for the mill that makes quasi-real the phantasy of the 'adult play-world.' Those without the wherewithal to escape the clutches of the poverty pimps are turned-out by the 'grown-ups' who protect the lumpen proletariat from the evil system that doesn't recognize the worth of these mediocrities who really have little to offer beyond what anyone else provides in the course of daily living in a competitive world. It is difficult for many of these people to accept that they aren't really interesting or special after-all. We know it, and they know it. So what can they do? Well, they can be morally superior, and they can be so by saving the world, the evil world, the world of Modernity that hurts those they've appointed themselves to infantalize. And, thanks to a prosperous economy, the state indulges these mediocre losers in their phantasies. We can afford it. And then we actually start believing the bullshit, believing that we have done something wrong to have som amny people in our cities who are dispossessed and criminal, dysfunctional, and in need of such endless protection from us and the world we've worked so hard to create, maintain, and expand, not simply for ourselves but for our children and posterity, for universal humankind. We who make the world as it is, we take on the idiot conceits of the mediocre who inflate their status by inventing titles and honors for themselves like Roumanian aristocrats, mediocrites who demand more and more from the lives of the living to expand their little phantasy empires of despair. There wouldn't be all those dispossessed if not for us, and the price we pay for our success is guilt, assuaged by yet more hush-money to the dhimmis who cannot survive otherwise but by accepting their state as mediocrities in mediocre places.

For the ambitious and conceited failure there is the political Left to huddle in and from there to expand and to control more, to make places of power to dominate their inferiors, those too weak to defend themselves from the psychopathic poverty pimps of the ersatz Left. And the more we indulge the phantasies of the pimps the more they dress up and strut their worthless hour upon the stage of their own making, peopled by props of povery made by poverty makers, the Left itself. but that's not nearly enough for those who have failed: they must be recognized as masters in their own Hegalian dialectic of dominance and submission, they must have that recognition to know that their own emptiness is seen to be something more than emptiness. They require that the world recognize their "moral superiority," and the world's guilt. And since it is an utter emptiness it must always be filled anew with more guilt, and it must create more insecurities in the lives of the mediocre to cover up the endless lie of their own importance. We keep paying for the saccharine feeding-frenzy of the morally, intellectually, psychologically starving Left.

Those mediocrities who cannot cope with themselves in the modern world turn on those who can't defend themselves at all; and in the world-at-large it is the infantalized barbarians who are the victims of the Left.

When the Industrial Revolution hit its high notes in the 1850s in England there was without any doubt massive social destruction and personal destruction that today, looking back, makes one sick to see. Looking at the works of Dickens, Zola, Mayhew, and Engels is enough to make the modern man angry and disgusted by the behaviour of capitalists and their inheritors. The cold savagery of early capitalism in industrial cities is a preview of the death camps of Nazi Europe. Those who did not resist the death culture of early captialism are little better than the capos of the concentration camps, and those who did resist, those who formed the Socialist resistence to capitalism are alike to the French Resistence to the Nazis. but this is not the age of early capitalism today, and Modernity is not an extention of Nazi Europe. Captialism has socialized and democratized, while the Left has remained in conflict with Modernity against the progress of socialization and democracy in captialism of our time, hearkening back to the resistence to capitalism of 150 years ago, now bereft of a constituency of labouring masses. Who are "the masses" exploited and in need of protection and rulership by the the higher political and moral consciousness today's Left Philosopher Kings? In the change from raw captialism to Modernity, the synthesis of the American and French Revolutions with the Industrial Revolution, who now is the progressive?

The left, having lost its raison d'etre, the exploited industrial working class, has turned to the pre-industrial, pre-modern peasantry to use as proxies in the fight for a Romantic ideology of utopian fascism.

On a world scale, who are those less likely to cope successfully in the modern world than the usual suspects, the Islamic peasants? The Left, rather than continue its legitimate course along Bernsteinian Revisionist lines has abandoned Progressivism and has launched itself full-bore into Romance fascism. The Left has taken on the substitute constituency of the peasantry of Islam. In looking for a stable to run, the Left has found Islam, a maleable group of pre-modern "Noble Savages" it can rule with near impunity in the same manner it rules the lumpen-proletariat in the West. By taking the scum of the Earth and idealizing them as something 'Other' and by hijacking the public discourse through sophistic "relativisms" the Left has reified a new class of "exploited workers" to use for their own ends, those ends being power for themselves, status, and wealth, none of which come from legitimate efforts but only fuel the emptiness of the agenda that has no goal but reaction and the reification of personal phantasy on the part of the failed Left intelligensia, i.e. those who do not and cannot survive in the world of Modernity themselves at the level of success they believe, wrongly, they are entitled to.

Those who don the filthy cloaks of false sanctity and who parade themselves around the islands of reaction in the world aren't just fooling themselves by playing on the false vanities of the stupified peasant world to conjure the peasants' support for this idiot personal phantasy but they are also conning the West itself into believing that the West is evil in its pursuit of progress.

The dominant ideology of the democratic West is now Left fascism, not the ideology inherent in the mode of production, i.e. captialism. Our social relations are not based on the mode of production but on the mode of communication, dominated almost entirely by Left media, meaning that the discourse is Left, and the false consciousness of the masses co-opted into unconscious identification with Left fascism is destructive of progressivism. If we read in the papers and see on television often enough that the West is stealing oil and destroying the rain forests, and that we are doing so because of the inherent evil of the capitalist system, then in time, and that time is now, we will believe such rubbish to be true. If we do not feel guilt we might at least be pursuaded to pay jazya of a sort. We pay for them to play.Those who are certifiable losers in the competition for the scarce resoure of recognition in the master-slave relationship of life are doomed to play a different and inauthentic game reified for the sake of their own recogntion in the relationship. The thrpw-away pieces the Left losers use in this board game of self-delusion are the barbarians; and to promote the cause of the barbarians, the noble savages, is to increase the power and prestige of those who sanctimoniously 'protect' them. Below we will see some of the result of such protection.

June 21, 2005, 8:21 a.m.
Baffled in Basra
Self-defeating behavior persists.

By Steven Vincent

Basra, Iraq — It comes on the government-run TV station every night at nine. Opening with a percussive anthem, the eight-minute segment features a montage of stirring images: soldiers rushing down streets; policemen roaring around in pick-up trucks; infantrymen peering through rifle scopes; a SWAT-like team bursting into a house and rousting its inhabitants; soldiers deploying across rubble-strewn fields; more cops; music; the Iraqi flag; smiling children; soldiers; cops…

In most countries, such rousing depictions of constabulary and martial vigor would smack of police-state propaganda. But this is Iraq, where heroic images of security forces are meant to bolster public confidence that the new national government can stand against psychopathic Saddamites and blood-thirsty jihadists. Civil libertarians may squirm, but many Iraqis view respect for the police and army as fundamental to nurturing a democratic spirit. (Once upon a time, most Americans did too, before the era of "pigs" and "baby-killers.")

Still, this is Iraq — or more specifically, the city of Basra, where image and reality often clash, especially when it comes to the police. A few weeks ago, cops at the Al-Jemayat station house broke into a gun battle over accusations that some were former Baathists. A businessman told me that his partner was recently kidnapped and held for ransom by four men, who used their own police cars to commit the crime. Last May, the city's police chief admitted to the press that 75 percent of his force was "unreliable," and 50 percent was affiliated with religious organizations. And who is behind many of the assassinations (100 during one week in May) of former Baathists around town? Ask your local policeman — or, on second thought, don't.

Basra's police force isn't the only example of the social and psychological dysfunctionalities that plague this city of 1.5 million residents. Even as brave and dedicated people here begin to reconstruct their lives in the face of daunting problems — terrorism, a lack of investment funds, corruption, and a political process dominated by incompetent religious parties — others seem just as determined to, well, totally screw things up.

Take "Emergency 115." Recently, the city, with British assistance, instituted a "911"-style system for residents to dial in case of need. Humanely enough, the Brits designed 115 with a provision that allows Basrans to contact help even if they lack SIM cards in their mobile phones. (Land-lines are few and unreliable, so people live by their cells, which require the constant purchase of expensive "scratch" cards to replenish their minutes.) "We created 115 so the call is free," a British officer who supervises the program told me.

Gang atfa gley, Robert Burns might say. For a certain segment of Basra's population discovered the hilarity of making bogus emergency calls. To add to the fun, they remove their SIM cards and remain on the line for hours, tying up the system and preventing people with real crises from getting assistance. According to the British officer, "Only about 5 percent of people contacting 115 call actually need help."

And probably even fewer call with medical emergencies. This is because public hospitals in Basra are medical emergencies, short on medicine, equipment, manpower — everything, it seems, except germs. Private centers are another matter, as evidenced by the Al-Moosawi Hospital, a sleek, clean, expensive establishment that looks American right down to the anodyne artwork on the walls. According to director Zaineldin Moosawi, the hospital contains 36 beds and serves up to 250 outpatients a day. "We even have a dental clinic," he enthused.

What they don't have is the one thing you'd expect in a well-equipped Iraqi hospital: an emergency room. "We had one," Dr. Zaineldin recalled. "But it got to be a security problem, with all the gunmen coming in." Seems that young tribal bucks would go a-feuding at night, get themselves shot up, then demand that the Mooswawi Hospital patch them up — and woe to the medic who proved unable to save a wounded brother or cousin's life. "The British encouraged us to shut down the center," said Dr. Zaineldin.

Then there's garbage: Basra is choking in it, from shredded plastic bags ensnared on coils of barbed wire to archipelagos of rotting offal floating in the city's canals. A few months back, the Brits — yes, them again — initiated a program that would pay trash collectors to cart waste material to a landfill in the desert. The plan seemed to work: Contractors brought truckloads of trash to the site, earning dinars in return. But the city seemed no cleaner. As the Brits soon discovered, contractors were loading up their vehicles with garbage from already-existing piles, located on the edge of town or smoldering in the city center. By the time the British rejiggered the program to compel contractors to direct their attention to city streets, the funding for the project disappeared, a victim of canceled plans, bureaucratic reorientation, or — more likely, locals say — theft.

I don't mean to paint a bleak picture of Basra or its residents. Well, maybe I do. It's painful to watch so many people persist in self-defeating behavior, especially considering that with its potential revenues from oil, agriculture, and tourism, Basra could become the next Bahrain, Dubai, or, for all we know, Orlando. No wonder a few Basrans have expressed the despondent wish, "If only we could empty people out the city and start over again with a new generation."

Many would start by ejecting the city's religious parties, which seized control of the political process after the January 30 elections. I don't have space to outline all the changes these groups have imposed on this once tolerant and carnal city; suffice to say, no booze, no discos, no music CDs, no un-hejabed women — and heaven help you if you're ex-Baathi. And that doesn't even consider the hundreds of small but significant problems created by various sheiks, sayyids, and imams.

Consider the brouhaha over Basra's work week. Last year, the Allawi government announced it was adding Saturday to what was then a Friday-only Iraqi weekend. Outraged, many religious leaders took to the streets in protest. Why? Because Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath. With its political machine under the sway of the turbans, Basra caved, declaring itself a Thursday-Friday zone. No matter that the city's business week would have only three days' overlap with its Western counterpart. Muslim dignity was restored.

Except for one inconvenient fact: Many Basrans are employees of state ministries in Baghdad, which remains divided on the weekend controversy, with some ministries opting for Thursday, others for Saturday. "What passes for our social lives here is even more unsettled now," said a woman who works at an NGO that last June switched from Saturday to Thursday. "It's always the same here," she added with resignation. "Everyone is confused."

Everyone, it seems, except the religious parties themselves, which always seem to know what to think, do, and say, especially compared to the city's frightened intellectual class. Consider, for example, Professor M. and his run-in with renegade Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. An expert in radical Shiite movements, Professor M. wrote a well-researched, politically neutral history of the Sadrist phenomenon, which ran on the front page of a daily newspaper. Unfortunately, the periodical accompanied the piece with a photograph of a Basran crowd that included women who were not wearing hejab!

Reaction was swift. Sadrists claimed that M. and the newspaper had conspired to defame them — a charge, of course, both parties vehemently denied. No matter. M. began receiving increasingly disturbing death threats, which climaxed when someone fired a bullet through his front window. Despite his innocence, he published an open-letter apology to the Sadrists in the newspaper, which, to mollify the populist thugs, reprinted the article with a more acceptable photo of women bundled in their Islamic-sanctioned fabric prisons.

"Liberation brought us freedom of the press," an Iraqi journalist once told me. "And as long as you don't probe into matters like civic corruption, organized crime, or the religious parties, you're free not to be killed."

And that's the way it is. For every step responsible Basrans move forward — a gradually improving security situation, glimmers of economic development, some political leaders who are beginning to understand they must provide benefits for their constituents — irresponsible, ignorant, and frequently violent elements drag the city backwards. A race, or competition, exists between the forces of enlightened synergy and progress and traumatized entropy and decay. Basra teeters between the two, its future up in the air. And with Basra, so goes the rest of Iraq.

— Steven Vincent is a freelance investigative journalist and art critic living in New York City. He is blogging about Iraq at