Monday, February 27, 2006

A response to X and The Cutter

"As a famous sufi from Mali once said: there are three truths - My truth, your truth and the truth."

I remember the saying from a Marine Corp. boot camp drill sgt. who said, "There are three ways of doing things: Your way, the right way, and my way." The father of Jaws' author Robert Benchley, jr. wrote that there are two kinds of people in this world: those who put people in two categories, and those who don't. J. Fichte, one of my favorite German philosophers to hate, wrote of materialists and idealists that "that's just the way they are." Sometimes that lack of sophistication is profound. But not always.

Many years ago when I was a boy I found that I was so short of common sense that I "haint got a lick ern't." Well, silly me. I went to a foreign country and found a library where I got an essay by Karl Menninger on Common Sense. His thesis is that what passes for common sense isn't as valuable as some would have us believe, and that critical analysis, logic and rigorous reasoning and testing of assumptions, of empirical evidence, ie the ways of science, are stronger and better than "common sense." Years later I encountered Thomas Paine. When I get back home I'll have a lot to talk about.

In these long years on the road back home I've found there are actually more ways than my way, the right way, your way, the Marine Corp. way, and so on. There are ways that have no words or images to explain them. There is the Tao, there is the Eightfold Path of Wisdom, there is the straight and the crooked, the is Pathways to Madness. There is Heidegger's Paths. Thomas Grey sums it up nicely in its simplicity:

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow'r,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Awaits alike th' inevitable hour:
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Shakespeare, Macbeth (V, v, 19 ) puts it even better:

"Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing."


All of the above are filled with common sense observations backed up by rigorous analysis. We ponder our own paths even when we don't think openly. Even the drug addled and drunken, they have to poison themselves to quell the voices of internal inquiry. Some poison themselves with the intoxicating certainties of ideology or eschatological religion. To question is to live in a state of constant fear. The world's oldest known book shows us the depth and universality of the fear: When Gilgamesh holds the dead body of Enkidu he asks "Where Is my friend? Must I too, like my friend, lay me down, never to rise again forever?"

We observe in the course of our lives events that crush us, and if we have no defence, no protection, we are crushed. I don't despise those who seek protection. Only a fool wouldn't. Only a man who hain't got no senz. But there are ways, and then there are ways. We can look to Pascal's totally inadequate wager. We can look at Kierkegaard's rational fideism. We can look here, there, and anywhere; but in the final leg of the journey we come to see that we have to decide all by ourselves alone. I like Rimbaud's version: that these paths are bitter that can only lead to the end of the world. All of these considerations are based in some way on common sense and practical applications in daily survival, and all honed on the sharpening stone of life. We think whether we like it or not, and the thoughts are frightening for many. Eventually, sometimes soon, we just decide and go on regardless. And then there are those who don't get it. For some the Truth is the unknowable that remains after the illusion is removed.

We all of us know intuitively that there is mystery. That would be common sense. Some aren't satisfied with that as a way of knowing. Some of us, when confronted by X become cutters of illusions, those who shear away the veils of deceit and self-deception. We want to know, and we do so knowing that it can only be tragedy in the knowing. My cat knows nothing. My cat is happy. We who live lives of knowing live lives of fear. Every step through life is for us a torment. The path leads to death. We know. We know that we are fallen, and we do not live the lives of cats. We live lives of tragedy.

Islam, as so many of our pre-paid public intellectuals would have us repeat, does not mean "peace." Nor, as so many taqqiya artists would dun into us, does it mean it mean "submission." Islam means slavery. In Islam, man's relationship with his god is one of salve to master. It is total and complete. It is a willing surrender. Man, in a state of islam, is not the owner of his own life. Man is reduced, (according to me,) and elevated, (according to Muslims,) to the state of farm animal. According to Islam, the Moral is revealed in the Koran, and its practice is prescribed in the sunna. There is no more to know, and to think there is more to to veer into apostasy, to tamper with perfection, an therefore to become less. In Islam there is no fall, there is no path, there is no moral. There is only the acceptance of Islam and its ritual practice thereafter. There is no moral. There is no tragedy. It hardly rates as comedy.
****

Between the above sentence and this I stepped out for lunch. I could parse the experience to infinity. I don't because of lack of imagination and because I have control .Of the infinite number of possible things I might have considered only one is of any significance, and that only by personal choice: I noticed a man in a billiard shop breaking a rack of balls. My guess is that the balls went pretty much where he intended them to go. He has control. However, I'm not satisfied with that. I must also consider David Hume's understanding of the event I choose to consider. Billiard man has expert control over his game. His reality conforms to his efforts, and his expertise comes from practice, from common sense, and from deep analysis of the ways of billiards. Were we to explain to him that all of his expertise is of no value, that the balls go where they do because it is the will of Allah, he'd shrug and think we're Muslim. Were we to explain to him that all of his expertise is of no value, that the balls go where they do because it is the nature of his habits of mind to assume that because it is his past experience of such that the future must be so, then he would shrug and think we're stupid. Between the aggressively passive Muslim and the aggressively skeptical philosopher lies the shadow of the unknowable, the potential possibilities of billiards. I don't know even the simplest things. I lack common sense.

Below we see a bit of common sense tempered with intelligence and experience:

I do not have an advantage over the truth. Why, even saying such a thing sounds foolish.

My concern is the plight of the Palestinians, for now. I do not preach that I know anything about anyone, but I do ask those who have formulated their opinions about Palestinians question their stance, their motives.

Fichte, like the proverbial broken clock, gets it right: It depends on the kind of person one is. One can look at the potential possibilities of the possible tableau, and from the infinitely parsable, one chooses. Why would one choose concern for the plight of the Palestinians? Why would one choose concern for the plight of the Israelis?

Common sense tells us it's a minor conflict that involves very few people, only a minute number of whom we could ever in a whole long life-time ever know on a personal level. Of all possible conflicts between others, those we are not, why would we concern ourselves with this one, one of the least important and least harmful to the greatest number? Objectively, the conflict is trivial in Human terms of scale. Who cares? It's a small and low-intensity conflict between a small number of primitive hunter/ gatherers, beduin, and a group of Modernists who have inserted themselves into the midst of resentful reactionaries. Common sense would suggest that everyone just get over it. Instead, it is the defining issue of our time. Where we stand on this issue defines our world views, our epistemologies, our very reason for being. We don't get over it. We fetishise it. This conflict, if it exists at all, only exists for us because we choose to think so. I choose to involve myself in this conflict, man-made as it is, for a number of reasons, personal and public.

Publicly, it is of concern to me as a matter of control. I might admit to a smidgen of common sense. My common sense tells me that this struggle is one between Revolution and Reaction. I opt for Revolution if only because that's the kind of person I am. My sense tells me that there is less illusion in Revolution than in Reaction, and that once the illusion is cut away, what remains, the obscure, is probably closer to truth than otherwise. I opt for the revolutions of Modernity because I find there is less of my cat's life in Modernity that in Reaction. There is greater control in free inquiry than in slavery. There is greater freedom of inquiry in Modernist Zionism than in primitive submission to 7th century tribal rites of Islam. More enquiry is less illusion; therefore, more likely the possibility of truth.

Principally, I am against Zionism.

I understand the practical benefits accruing from the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648. The concept of national identity and group solidarity leads in its own way eventually to the concepts of self agency and joint stock companies. It leads to the individual acting in enlightened self-interest within a community of like persons. That would be your capitalism. That would be your billiard player. That would be control.

One reason I hate Fichte, also von Herder, also so many others in the course of this blog I've written about, is the concept of exceptionalism based on ethnicity. Our writer above is likely against Zionism for the very reasons I argue against Fichte. If there is a universal moral, what makes one group based on ethnicity excused from its obeyance? Why are they excepted? And what gives them the right to impose upon another group? To claim exceptionalism is to deny universality. One will not find me denying either ethnicity or moral universality. The one I argue from experience and analysis, the other I argue for simply because when one cuts away the illusion there is left the mystery.

I favor Zionism on the grounds of the observable benefits of the Treaty of Westphalia. Some Jews argue against it on the grounds that it violates the principles of universality and the oneness of Man. Zionism is an exceptionalism. Some Jews argue against Zionism on the grounds that it contradicts their religious views, altogether obscure to me. And finally, we are left with the observable fact that all Jews are Jews. We could be skeptical, but let's not. Let common sense prevail for now. Zionism is in conformity with the Treaty of Westphalia, a treaty most of us accept as given. Large groups are due nations based on numbers, unities of custom and tradition over time, of common language, by self-definition. Jews and Kurds seem to qualify on those grounds as nations. One must honestly ask if Basques and Eskimos do. And to answer that honestly, one might refer to Engel's later writing partner, Eduord Bernstien, who claimed that in the life of nations there are those who can and those who can't. One must sometimes bow to the somewhat humorous realpolitik of Communists.

I argue in favor of Zionism partly in terms of prudence and practicality, that with a large group of identifiable ethnic people one must form a nation in the general and in the individual interests; and that this particular group is singled out for extermination by too many other groups to bother counting, both now and throughout much of our history. The universality of the moral of Man is not the same as the universality of the brotherhood of Man. Frankly, mate, we ain't kith and we ain't kin. I would like you better not as a pretender to my brotherhood but as a man among men. Scots wa hae where Wallace bled, like them or no, those are mine in some remote sense. One of the last men to go down during the collapse of Constantinople, he was a Scot. I know about him because he is mine. The Jews know because the Jews are theirs. I know that a Scot died defending the Greeks. I know there is transcendence. I know too that the Greeks have never heard of the Scot who died trying to defend them. I know that between Donald Grant and Dagald Walker there is a bond. I know that between the Highlands and the Horn lays the mystery. I favor Zionism because it is demonstrably less illusory than the Caliphate. I can see Donald Grant in Constantinople and I can see myself in Jerusalem. There is truth in the existence on the ethnicity of the Jews as there is truth in the ethnicity of the Scots. The brotherhood of man is illusion. There is prudence and benefit in the Treaty of Westphalia, and there is illusion in the Caliphate. Proof? Look so far as Sophia and so near as London. Look so far as East Jerusalem and look so near as West Jerusalem. The stance is telling. One is reactionary or one is revolutionary. It depends on the kind of person one is.

These past eight months of near daily writing on the intellectual history of reaction will show that Modernity is revolutionary and beneficial, less illusory than reaction, and therefore more likely to be the mystery of the remaining.

All I know is the machine is targeting Palestinians, a microcosm for the future of the non-corporate world; if you have any doubts, see the aftermath of Katrina for more evidence-- on North American soil.

I'll return again to the metaphor of the billiard player. Recently we posted a comparison between B.F. Skinner and Viktor Frankl. One argues for environmental determinism, the other for self-agency. This is of a piece when one argues for or against Palestinians, so-called. There is a machine that controls or there is not. Frankl, inmate of a Nazi death camp, accepted the externality of the machine as obvious and given, and he accepted his agency within. Most died,;and like Primo Levi, Franlkl survived. We can count the survivors. The drowned, as Levi writes, had no names because they were dead already. I write this name, and I want you to shout it out in any moment of agony: Tom Cunningham.

My aim, should I have one, is to get people to think for themselves.

Alas, in my experience, people are lazy and peddle anything they see or read, just to be accepted, just to be left alone...

One can see at a glance that this exercise in dialectic is in sympathy to some degree with the idea of getting people to think independently. Not to become excited: I write constantly here and elsewhere about boundaries and authority.

There is a difference between dialectic and education, and the obvious difference is between the Greek and the Latin. The Latin term refers to raising children. The Greek to discussing with independent adults. If we rear by education we infantalise our charges, lapsing into a condition of in loco parentis, of which we here have written disparagingly. If people are going to arrive at independent thinking, then it would be a matter of privacy as opposed to publicity. One has no right to educate adults but much opportunity to discuss as equals whatever comes to mind and is of interest.

In these past pages we've looked in some detail at the history of social work as an outgrowth of European missionary vocation. Please refer here to archival material on Henry Mayhew. We have also written often on Plato's Myth of the Metals and the Philosopher Kings. Another place to find our positions is Elenchus and Aporia. And finally, in our on-going analysis of gnosticism and the origins of Nazi exceptionalism. In fact, the majority of this blog is dedicated to the discussion of the relationship between the self-identified elites and the so-called masses. If I had a few minutes of peace here I'd write more. As is, I'm swamped by crazy people making incomprehensible demands.

With regards to these toons, they came out last Sept/Oct 2005! My question is why is it a hot issue now, 5 months later? Cartoons by nature are subversive. These cartoons are meaningless without a context. You have to go back to the islamophobic behaviour that's erupted in the developed countries, namely the US and EU, over the last five years, coupled with some elementary knowledge of Islam, to fully comprehend the reactions (on all sides); now, I do not condone those reactions; it should have stopped at flag burning and boycotting Danish goods (the rest is just mob frenzy spinning out of control).

Regarding the cartoons, it should be common knowledge by now that they were originally commissioned by a newspaper publisher who was approached by a children's book writer who couldn't find an illustrator to illustrate his book on Mohammed. He couldn't find an illustrator who wasn't afraid of being murdered by Muslims in Denmark for doing so. What makes Muslim sharia valid in Denmark? Are Danes subject to sharia in Denmark? In practical terms, de facto, yes, if they are afraid to act counter to sharia from fear of murder for doing so. Sharia is triumphant in Denmark if that is the case, and then there is not one law for Danes but two. In effect, if there are two legal systems in contradiction in one nation, then there is no law but that of every man against every man; and that, as Hobbes points out so beautifully in The Leviathan, is chaos and civil war. Worse, it is the end of legitimacy of the original legal Danish state.

From Hobbes to Rousseau to me, we all agree that the legitimate state acts as final and armed arbiter of the civility of the commonwealth. I give up my right to kill my obnoxious neighbour in exchange for the the right to live without fear of him killing me when my back is turned. He and I both give up our rights to defend ourselves in favor of giving that right of force to the state. When there are opposing forces of legitimacy in one land, when there is my force and your force, and when there's no common agreement that mine is valid and yours is not, then we descend into civil war. If the law, as agreed upon in advance by the public and plurality, agrees that everyman has the right to express himself short of direct and immediate harm, then that is the law. To claim exceptions for some based on another form of law, and then to back that exceptionalist claim by force of murder is to defeat the purpose of the original social contract.

The question then is whether the cartoons were a direct incitement to violence. They were published in an Egyptian newspaper shortly after they appeared in Denmark. No one in Egypt seemed to care. Months later, after concerted efforts at inflammation by Muslim provocateurs from Denmark moving through the Middle East with the original cartoons and additional crude forgeries, then there were organised campaigns of public violence. The proof is that the cartoons, rather than being objectionable in the first place, even in Egypt, exist in themselves, and that only provocation made them an issue on the part of those who had an agenda of their own that had nothing to do with objective responses from Muslims who are as free to choose to react to them as they are free not to. The Danes, following legitimate and universally Danish national law, did not provoke violence; but the Muslims, incited, chose to react violently. As Lenny Bruce once claimed: "There are no dirty words only dirty minds." Yes, we understand that Muslims do not and canonically cannot accept personal responsibility for their actions outside the confines of Islam. If we claim that Mohammed is a pig, we can be fairly certain that the average Muslim will kill himself and a dozen innocent bystanders in response. That cannot and must not prevent us from claiming if we so choose that Mohammed is a pig. Regardless of whether Muslims can acept law and responsibilty outside of Islam the fact remains that their law is not exceptional in the greater scheme of the prevailing law. If they cannot abide by the common codified law of the land, then it is not imperative that we obey their law and ours as well, it is imperative that Muslims obey our common law or that they leave for other lands, or that they commit crimes and are processed through the local admisitration of justice as anyone else will be.

The question arises whether this is an act of islamophobia. It might well be, and so what? Again, one must decide what's important in life, privacy or publicity. The individual is private and not the possession of the publicity itself. Or, one may take the opposite view of communitarianism, that the person is indeed the possession to the whole of whom he is an otherwise meaningless atom. That would return us to von Herder and Fichte and the origins of Naziism, which we have dealt with here in other essays in deep and vast detail.

Thank you for your time.

So, it depends on what kind of person one is. Either one pouts people in two categories or one doesn't. One is revolutionary or one is reactionary. Eventually, all paths, glorious or wicked, lead but to the grave.

Before they do for each of us there is the small matter of the details of living. That would include the common sense problem of the reason one bothers. Schopenhauer might be onto something.

Just because I can, I'll repost an old essay below to further my agruments above.

Metaphor, Authority, and the Moral (4)

Why Left dhimmi fascism? How did the West get itself into this bind whereby anyone with a "grievance" can claim victimhood and compensation while the West ties itself in knots of guilt and self-loathing? In past posts we've searched through history to examine the ideas of the Counter-Enlightenment thinkers who concocted the base for this idiocy, thinkers such as Herder, Fichte, Heidegger among others. Recently we've looked at the history of the Renaissance popes of the Catholic Church and the Protestant Reformers. We've seen the story of Sawney Beane, of morality based on the authority of one cannibal living in a cave. Here we will continue on that theme of moral authority and the metaphors that motivate us in our moral lives.

The Catholic Church has, for many in the West, lost its position as a moral authority. Whether that's right or wrong is a matter of dispute, but it is the objective reality in the West. It leaves a moral vacuum. Worse, it leaves a hatred in the collective mind of the very idea of an organised moral institution. The Protestant Reformation arose from that revulsion the Catholic Church brought upon itself and the world. Unfortunately, Protestantism isn't much better than the Catholic Church, in the eyes of many. The very idea of religion at all, and of God, is a source of hatred for many. For the past 250 years science has provided some kind of stop-gap as an authority, if amoral, but it too is discredited. We are left standing as the children of Sawney Beane, the ignorant children of a cannibal who has raised us to look upon the world as empty of meaning, as people as things to be eaten. We are the vacuous creatures of consumerism. We are assailed by Islam, a vigorous and primitive force of reaction and fascism; and Islam is aided and abetted by those among us who are atheists in a sense so deep that the world has never before experienced anything so despairing: people in the West generally have not anything at all to believe in but MTV.

The argument is that there is no authority to base our beliefs on. We ask an empty universe for answers to our moral questions, and in return we receive radio static and x-rays. It will not do. We ask each other, and we receive nothing better than one man's opinion, he possibly being Sawney Beane. The echoes from the cave of morality discourage.

Some of our more repulsively stupid fellows, usually our intelligentsia, feel that there is no universal truth, that there is only contingent truth, relative morality, and finally, that there is only astrology or tarot cards to base our morals judgements on. Some go so far as to opine that there is no such thing as truth at all, it being a social construct-- usually described as concocted by the dominant class in support of its own power, we being dupes who believe in phantasy that tricks us into acting against our own interests. The idea is originally Platonic, Plato being, as Neil Postman writes, "the first systematic fascist." That "narrative" is the dominant one in the West today. It leaves us in a state of moral stupor. I argue that the current Left dhimmi fascist moral narrative is as corrupt and disgusting as anything the Catholic Church is accused of. I argue that we today are in a state of public moral ruin. We cannot fight Islam if we do not care at all for our own lives. If we have no meaning as people, if our lives are no more worthwhile than the lives of chickens and Amazonian rain forests, then we are doomed to die out and to be overrun by Islam. Many in the West feel that that would be a good thing, the end of our revolutions of Modernity. Those who so argue are fascists. They are my enemies. What do we fight them with? What authority do we claim that proves us right in our struggle to further our revolutions?

We have written here many times on Georges Sorel and the Myth of the General Strike. Sorel is right, in our opinion, that the Myth is essential rather than the kind of myth it might be. We require a reformation of our social and therefore universal myth if we are to not only survive but triumph. I intend to win. To win, to survive at all, we must reform our Myth of what it is to be moral.

Math is a metaphor. Language is a metaphor. So too are Time, Money, Colour, Shape, Extension, and so on. And yet, Human myths, metaphors though those concepts are, they are also Human realities, and they are universal. So too must be our reformed Morality. But it must also be authoritative.


Where do we begin? I begin with the story of Lazarus from the Book of John, 11: 39-44, perhaps surprising for one self-proclaimed atheist:

39 Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.

40 Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?

41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.

42 And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.

43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.

44 And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.

The verses above distinguish clearly the problem of the Moral from that of the ethical. The ethical hardly interests me, it being a matter of how to act like a decent person. I don't much care. It is the Moral that is of concern. Look at Lazarus arisen. His ethical behavior is not important to the story of his reliving. The moral of his new lease on life is what is.

Suppose, if you will, that Lazarus is a smelly and creepy guy who has no job, hangs out in the market place and gropes women, and shop lifts. He might be unethical, but to Jesus that is not important. What is? Jesus could have raised up Brad Pitt or Clark Gable. He did not do so. He chose a guy who wasn't special. He did not pick a man who had qualities the world missed and wanted back for however long the life could last. He chose a guy off the street. Ordinary nobody guy is as important as Brad Pitt for some reason. Why him?

Lazarus, if no one else, must have wondered. And perhaps Lazarus was pleased. But Lazarus must also have been anguished: What was he supposed to do now that he found himself alive again after being so comfortably dead already? He found himself back on the street, in need of the things one requires to keep body and soul together. He had to return to shoplifting and girl groping and smelling bad. His ethical problems pale in the light of what the moral of his story is. Having returned to life, what was the meaning of it? What was he supposed to live? Forget what he was supposed to do, that's obvious: he had to live. But why? Was he supposed to live because the city ran out of shoplifters and gropers who smell bad? Not likely. So what is the purpose of his life? He has it again, and aside from making a living, what is he supposed to be? What isn't trivial? And what is important? What is so important that it makes his new life worth the effort of having raised him up from the dead? Watching MTV isn't likely what Jesus had in mind for him. Being thankful and acting as Jesus's servant isn't likely either because it's not something he would have done had he been allowed to die in peace. No one would like to live again only to do something in the new life he wouldn't have felt right about in the old. Lazarus, I believe, was free to choose his own destiny-- if he could understand what it was. A clean slate. A chance to do anything at all from the beginning. What would he choose? What could be important?

That, according to me, would be the Moral. Not the what but the why. The moral would be as mythical and as real a metaphor as math and time and money.

I argue that we in the West have generally lost the authoritative moral that tells us Why. Our metaphor of Why is as corrupt as the Catholic Church in the Renaissance. We have no legitimate metaphor and no authority we can believe in. We are as lost and helpless as the children of Sawney Beane. Our moral authority could as easily be a cannibal living in a cave. How do we know if he's right or wrong, and if we hear from others, from even so many as all others, how do we know they are right? Everyone could easily be wrong about the moral, as wrong as Sawney Beane. And how would we know? Where do we turn for the answer of true authority? We turn, I suggest, to the metaphor of morality that is as solid as the metaphor of math and as universal.

We in the West do not have an agreed upon universal moral based on true authority. Without that we are like Lazarus standing in the dust wondering what to do next.

Every morning when we awake we are like Lazarus arisen from death: we are alive again and faced with what we live for. What do we live that isn't more of the same trivia? If it's more of the same trivia then why do we live at all rather than not? If it's the same trivia, we would have been better off being dead so as not to have to suffer more of it. Reliving would be no good thing. We wouldn't thank anyone for that. And yet we do wake each morning to face a new day of life. I think we in the West find that harder to do daily. I think Islam triumphs because we have lost our moral.
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And to all who managed to get through that, I thank you.

29 comments:

Paul Neuman said...

Wow! Long but worth the read. We come from the same place. However, after the truths of the Bible, the Marine Corps Way is is the only other way that is always right. I learned that when I was 17 years old and still believe it.

dag said...

Paul, I didn't have the honor of serving as a Marine, so I can't rightly salute you. Please accept my firm handshake instead.

truepeers said...

Thanks for this Dag. It is always worth remembering that the only knowledge of the universal we have comes via one or another particular - religious or national - historical experience and its accompanying tradition or institutionalization - the particular experience and tradition by which we have come to understand the world.

Those who in seeking the universal would build a synthesis of all cultures, all understandings, can offer us nothing tangible or concrete as a model on which to base our particular lives. The one world idea, as policy, falls into deadly abstraction and the lies of utopianism. And as for those who would demand universal submission to a common law, they also can offer us no way to differentiate ourselves, no way to be free, unless they admit sectarian divisions in interpreting the law, as even Islam inevitably has.

The universal truth is hence that we must know who, in particular, we are; and that bit of Scots in me salutes you Dag.

Stogie said...

Dag, my brother, you think too much. I think you are over analyzing and getting lost in all the philosophy.

The reason we oppose Islam is simple. They're assholes. Now go have a beer!

dag said...

Cheers, mate.

dag said...

Scots invented beer and philosophy!

Of the rest Truepeers writes, I would end up with twice the length of my post above in addressing it.

Scots also, by the way, invented women and music.

And money.

And color.

Nearly everything. The good stuff.

Muslims are assholes!

rafa said...

I have two older brothers who served in the U.S. military - one in the Navy, the other in the Marines. And my nephew joined the Marines last summer. I am proud of all of them.

You mentioned Lazarus. Lazarus's fate is a million times preferable to that of Sisyphus who expects no hope whatsoever. There is no hope for Sisyphus to stop pushing the rock back to the top of the hill; the rock symbolizes perpetual stagnation and burden. With Lazarus, he died, resurrected, died again, and will resurrect again (at least from a Christian perspective). Change is good, but change is better if it seeks to change the world for the best.

ted said...

You have stated the problem accurately. We have no moral bedrock anymore. Without it we are just part of the problem. we all have to make a decision in this life.

Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.
C. S. Lewis

Sophia Sadek said...

I've worked with muslims, christians, jews, buddhists, and ex-marines. Of all of them the christians and the ex-marines were by far assholier than the others.

When the 9/11 tragedy occurred, one of our students observed that the difference between muslim fundamentalists and christian fundamentalists is that muslim fundamentalists are willing to sacrifice their own lives for the freedom of their people. Christian fundamentalists, on the other hand, are only willing to sacrifice other peoples lives for the freedom of their people.

Prosit!

mara said...

Dagald said: We want to know, and we do so knowing that it can only be tragedy in the knowing. My cat knows nothing. My cat is happy. We who live lives of knowing live lives of fear. Every step through life is for us a torment. The path leads to death. We know. We know that we are fallen, and we do not live the lives of cats. We live lives of tragedy.

Dag, you dance around the truth and do not answer the question I continue to ask you - what is the basis for the authority you claim? How do you know - what truth is
- what moral is
-what goodness is

If your definitions are based only on your own thinking or that of your philosophers, you are right in your conclusions that you live a life of tragedy. But hear the words of Paul in 1 Cor 15:

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory."[g]
55"Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?"[h] 56The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sadly I do not doubt the words of Sophia above, except what she calls a fundamentalist Christian may well be a fake. The real follower of Christ is identified by the fruit they bear: listen to Paul again in his letter to the church in Galatia:

6So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.

19The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

The American church is identified with those who preach Christianity as a cult of self absorption and indulgence. Read your Bible so you can distinguish what is fakery from what is true about God.

Dag, as your friend who has come to admire your passion for the truth, I admonish you to think deeply about what your definitions are based upon and from where they arise.

This is important, because your conclusions as to action stem from your basis for authority. I submit to you that what you are doing is basing your belief as to truth and morality on the light that has been given you as a creature of God (Romans 1:19-20) while you, in the same breath, deny the God that has given you truth.

Mara
Proverbs 27:6

dag said...

Mara, I'm rushed at the moment. As always, you are interesting and thought-provoking. I'll take some time out todya to think more about your comments.

I responded to your last comments some days ago regarding the similarities you question between me and bin Laden. I hope it was to the point. If not, please let me know and I'll see if I cna do better.

As always, Mara, it's a pleasure to read your comments.

Regards, Dag.

truepeers said...

the difference between muslim fundamentalists and christian fundamentalists is that muslim fundamentalists are willing to sacrifice their own lives for the freedom of their people. Christian fundamentalists, on the other hand, are only willing to sacrifice other peoples lives for the freedom of their people.

-this is a rather silly and hateful comment unless you can show that the sacrifices of Muslim fundamentalists do promote the freedom of their people. I doubt you can. A sacrificial mindset can be, and usually is, a form of slavery. Do you think all the suicide bombers of Palestine make their people free? Surely not. They are in fact a people trapped in a death cult, unwilling to support leaders willing to negotiate with reality.

The entire point of Christianity is to unveil the sacrificial mindset, to denounce it and to end its practice. As a result, Christianity (as a continuation of Judaism) is not a religion like the others, because it is so radical and revolutionary in its historical effects. For this reason, your implied moral or other equivalency of two "fundamentalisms" is specious. A Christian fundamentalist is out to build a world in which violent sacrifice is restrained by freer forms of exchange, most notably the global free market presently under construction. Of course, his objective is not to glorify as honorable, many violent forms of sacrifice.
Rather, he would like to sell you a pair of Nikes and a Big Mac instead. No doubt, this is why you hate him.

That's not to say that there isn't a kind of self-sacrifice that can sometimes be embraced by Christians - compare, e.g., Christian and non-Christian charity and missionary work in the poor world. In any case, this is an intellectually involved topic, that i won't go into now, since a serious Christian knows that CHristianity is not enough to live by in the worldly world. Many people in the military, e.g., recognize the limits of the utopian inclinations in their faith and thus attune themselves to the need to perform the lesser evil here on earth. ANd frankly they are very good at it, so they are less needful of putting their bodies on the line, as our their more sacrifically primitive enemies.

If you're interested in the question of sacrifice and CHristianity, i suggest you read the works of Rene Girard.

Finally, on the point about CHristian "fundamentalists" in America. One thing to consider is that the evangelical movement in AMerica distinguishes itself from the old mainstream churches by its anti-ritualism. That's to say they are not interested in re-staging the scene of Christ's sacrifice (or any other). Rather, what they are about is celebrating the protection from sacrificial violence that CHrist has brought to them. From this comes, perhaps, their hesitancy to indulge observers like you with anachronistic heroics and deference to some non-existent communal altar downtown across from the Mosque and city hall. Nonetheless, any honest observer of the American military will note, as has Prospero:
[that]we are currently completely inadequate in all of these areas [of the present war for democracy and freedom]--our only real successes have been where we delegated power to our most committed and capable institution (the military) and, even more, the most committed and capable within those institutions (the colonels and corporals and their units), to act in accord with our highest principles. This would seem to vindicate the advocates of small government in their claim that keeping the peace and protecting the nation's security are pretty much the only things we can hope for the government to do well--and even there, it's less the "government" than the sheer existence of the military in time of war as a conduit for patriotic passions (those passions themselves being a conduit for the need for discipline, solidarity and idealism not readily available elsewhere). But advocates of small government must therefore be consistent and not ask the government to do much more, especially now, when we can reasonably ask ourselves, just as we are about to criticize the adminsitration or Congress (much less the media) for not doing x or y particularly well (say, "public diplomacy"), whether it's something that we might do on our own.

Sophia, you come across as someone who pretends not to, but secretly worships violent forms of sacrifice because you're not willing to rule your own life with a humble discipline and to defend the relatively non-violent rules of market exchange in face of democratic globalization's enemies in the various death cults. In other words, you come across as a typical leftist. But maybe i have you wrong?

mara said...

dag, I apologize for not responding to your earlier post in answer to my questions. I did read it and just re-read it also.

My puzzlement remains and so does my question.

The problem is that the law is not enforced, not that there is a lack of laws outlawing islamofascist murderous behavior. Are you advocating vigilantism? If so, then you are making laws according to king dag, akin to king islamofascist.

The thought of teachers with guns is underwhelming. Many teachers are not even able to hit the target of producing literate students. But that is another topic entirely, although certainly related to the sentimental tripe that pervades the leftist mindset and spreads its smell like a rotting corpse.

As far as third world cultures changing, I refer you to Elizabeth Elliott's book, Beyond Gates of Splendor. You are looking at Christianity as a political or social force, and not what it is: the radical transformation of savages into humans who seek to be like Christ. He was no dhimmi. Read the New Testament with open ears and eyes.

I am afraid that Sophia has never met a real Christian. I am not sure that Truepeers has either..."a serious Christian knows that Christianity is not enough to live by in the worldly world." bah.

truepeers said...

Mara, it was CHrist himself who taught us to render unto Caesar what is his. THat's what i meant by my comment. Christianity has no politics; in this sense, it does not provide all we need to know for our worldly lives - it separates morality from ethics, providing for the former, but not everything for the latter. The west is a synthesis of Athens and Jerusalem. We need both because no source has it all.

HeatherRae said...

I don't think I could ever consider someone like those who blow up abortion clinics and Timothy McVeigh "Christians." In the end, their actions show that they could not be that because they violate the very tenets of the faith they claim is theirs. John writes, "We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother." (1 John 4:19-21 NIV)

Blowing people to smithereens isn't exactly "loving" one's brother. A good God doesn't tell His followers to do evil things, as it were.

Christianity has taken the world by storm because from the beginning it has proposed a novel, never-before-seen idea: that God loves us regardless of what we do, that God loves us so much that He sent His Son to take the punishment we deserve, that He is reaching out to each and every one of us and offering the free gift of that salvation. We do not deserve it, but the gift is offered freely, nonetheless. Faced with the concept of a personal Savior who loves you, who knows your name, who sees you out of all of the millions of other people...how can any faith stand up to that?

How can any faith stand up to the idea that there's someone out there, standing on the edge saying, "I have given everything I have for you. I love you so much I went to hell for you. I will never stop loving you, no matter who you are, no matter what you do, no matter how far you fall away from me. I am here, holding out my hands to you. Reach out to me, and I will lift you up out of darkness."

It's been over 2,000 years. He's still standing there.

HeatherRae

mara said...

Truepeer, I do apologize to you if I misunderstood you. Christ did indeed say to render unto Caesar, but isn't his point that you give to your government what is required, taxes, military service, obedience to its laws - but yourself, your mind, your worship belongs to God...?

The obedience to government in comparison to what we owe to our Lord is as important as a coin pulled out of a fish's mouth.

One who lives by the Scriptures can live under any kind of government - although the price to pay may be death. You may be aware of the high price Christians are paying all over the world for their belief in Christ.

The western cultures are based in great part on the Biblical mindset, and it is this that is eroding. Islam is death, legalism, and the very antithesis of the mind of Christ. But Christianity itself is not cultural, per se, and people are finding freedom and truth in Christ regardless of their culture.

We are lamenting the erosion of the western cultures that have given us incredible music, art, and freedom to create, think, be, eat pork.

But to worship the results of the freedom while denying the God that gives us these good gifts, is false thinking and is idolatry.

One day all the nations will bow their knees to our Lord, and I do not think that cultural differences will cease. God is concerned about our worship and what kind of people we are, not what kind of economics we practice or our governmental form.

...His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 2 Pet 1:2-3

In Peter's epistle we see a refutation of what you are saying. It is our nature that God is changing, which may well change our economics and culture. But who we are is what is important, not what we eat, wear, live, are governed, trade, etc., which is what our cultures are about.

This is what Sophia is saying - and why I wonder if she's ever met a Biblical Christian who would love her and display to her an attitude and character that she would know is not natural to humans. Humans are naturally "assholish."

And Heatherrae, while I enjoyed hearing what you say, I encourage you to remember that God loves us in our "assholishness" but once His spirit is in us, He expects us to change into something resembling Himself. Part of the leftist dhimmitude attitude that pervades western Christianity is this belief that we can live just like the world - watch the filth on tv and movie, indulge in contempt and nastiness for each other - and yet call ourselves "Christians." It is this that causes Sophia to spit at Christians.

As Paul puts it ... shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? No, may it never be..." Romans 6.

We change over time. We pursue Him. Otherwise we deserve what Sophia says.

I talk too much. Read your Bibles.

Sophia Sadek said...

Mara, you're comments about rendering unto Caesar give us an idea of your misunderstanding of the nature of Caesar. We recommend reading the writings of Julius Caesar. Of course, doing so will not give you a complete picture of what belongs to Caesar. However, it will give you a glimpse.

Christians don't know what to render to whom. This is a problem that has existed since the fourth century. Constantine, representing Caesar, married into the Church (supposedly representing Christ). Since the body of Caesar and the (supposed) body of Christ have been wed, Christians confuse Christ with Caesar, and vice versa.

Caesar does not represent legitimate statecraft. Au contraire! He represents greed, pillage, destruction, rapine, and slaughter. That's why the West Pointers admire him so much.

mara said...

Sophia, besides the problems of the church itself which missrepresent who and what Christ is, there is inborn in man a hatred of God. This hatred of God manifests itself in hating others as well.

You misunderstand what I said.

In the 22nd chapter of Matthew, which is the source of the Caesar quote, the Pharisees, who were not interested in the truth, but only in advancing their own opinions, despite how ill founded or self serving they were, tried to trap Christ by asking him whether it was right to pay taxes. These people had no interest in the truth, but only in protecting their positions and showing themselves superior.

Christ, in telling them to render unto Caesar's what is Caesar's and unto God what is God's avoided their trap.

If he answered yes, it is right to pay taxes, they would expose him to the Jewish crowd as a Roman sympathizer. If he answered no, it is wrong to pay taxes, they would expose him to the Romans as a rebel.

He avoided their trap, teaching that we pay what we owe to the government we are under. Paul in the book of Romans taught the same thing - under Nero's rule no less.

You hate, Sophia - ask yourself why.

truepeers said...

Mara, you are talking as if all governments are evil and Christians just have to learn to suffer under them. I suppose that's true to some degree, but there is also much to be said for envisioning oneself as part of a self-ruling people, in a Republican democracy. And it is such envisioning that requires more than Christianity because Christianity strives for perfection and does not teach one how to draw the lines between us and them, which is necessary to any worldly nation. For example, Christianity cannot teach you whether you should vote Republican or Democrat. The Kingdom of God is not concerned with such matters.

You write:
But Christianity itself is not cultural, per se, and people are finding freedom and truth in Christ regardless of their culture... In Peter's epistle we see a refutation of what you are saying. It is our nature that God is changing, which may well change our economics and culture. But who we are is what is important, not what we eat, wear, live, are governed, trade, etc., which is what our cultures are about.

-it is important to remember that CHristianity is quite unlike, say, Islam, which converts in a process of Arabization, while CHritian missionaries usually first learn the language and culture of their converts and then translate the Bible for them into the local tongue. But what you say above about what is not important - economics, politics - is a counsel of perfection that cannot reach too many ears caught up in the struggle for daily survival or advancement. Who we are as moral, god-loving beings is certainly important; economics and politics and our cultures are also important. If we forget that, we'll end up like one-world demagogues, calling for the CHristian version of the universal Umma. That's like Marxism, or something Sophia might know about.

truepeers said...

First SOphia was bitching about the Marines, now the West Pointers; i wonder if she knows the difference.

Of course to any sane observer, it is obvious that the US is not using anywhere near the full extent of its coercive or military power in the present war. It is doing much to limit the body count, at some cost to its own men. If Americans were really as evil as SOphia likes to think, there would be no Guantamos, e.g., just a lot more dead Arabs. And it's the CHristian thing htat has a lot to do with their restraint, quite unlike any other army historically, except perhaps the Israelis.

Sophia Sadek said...

Apologies to all Marine and Army officers and enlisted personnel. I generalized, and I was wrong.

Let's see if I know the difference. Marines have to bite the head off of a chicken. Or is that only the enlisted Marines?

I'm most familiar with Anapolis graduates, given my profession. In the letters of Abe Lincoln, there's a gem where he tells his Army officers to avoid asking an officer candidate silly questions about Julius Caesar's hair color. There is a certain Caesar cult in the Army.

truepeers said...

If you were serious about it, you could probably find evidence for just about any cult in the US military.

General Mark Clark did some stupid things so that he could enter Rome as a conquering hero in WWII. But does that make him any more a Caesar cultist than British General Allenby was a Jesus cultist when he had his army walk into Jerusalem on foot?

Anyway, what percentage of US soldiers do you think actually know anything about Julius Caesar, Lincoln, or Clark?

Sophia, what, besides the evil that is common to all wars, does the US army do, in the way it prsently fights, that proves they are more like Caesar than Jesus who knew his anti-sacrificial message would do as much to bring war as peace to a humanity immersed in, and blinded by, sacrificial violence?

truepeers said...

Here's a definition of a liberal for you: someone who would rather live in Dhimmi slavery than come to terms with the reality that we have so much freedom only because some tough men do our fighting for us, men who are not impressed by the lies the liberal tells herself about human nature and violence. If Sophia really had to fight for her life or freedom, do you think she would quickly give it up or become one wicked kick-ass warrior? I tend to think the latter, but i admit it's probably not much better than a 50-50 proposition.

Sophia Sadek said...

Christ promoted a different brand of statecraft. His sword was not one of bloodshed, but one of a winnowing separation of estranged family members.

The U.S. Army is a standing army. A standing army is a threat to liberty. A bumper sticker reads, "Freedom isn't Free." Aside from the intended meaning, there is truth that the typical American definition of freedom has little relation to actual freedom. We still live in a slave republic.

truepeers said...

I dont' quite follow your last one, Sophia. Winnowing separation of estranged family members?

Mathew 10:33-7

"But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.

Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.

For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.

And a man's foes shall be they of his own household.

He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me."

In other words, following Jesus will get you in trouble, even with your family, for he challenges even our biological loyalties in the name of some higher brotherhood. His message demands much of sinful human beings, and some will foresake him because of this.

I don't want to pretend to be any kind of Bible expert, but I can't help but think Jesus was addressing here (re. denying him), the kind of attitude that, in its more secular version, would call the nation that presently takes a lead in promoting human freedom, a slave republic.

But i guess i just don't get it. What, pray tell, is "actual freedom" and how does it differ from the typical American definition?

truepeers said...

Compare Koran 58:20-22

"Those that oppose God and His apostle shall be brought low. God has decreed: "I will surely triumph, Myself and My apostles." Powerful is GOd, and mighty.

"You shall find no believers in God and in the Last Day on friendly terms with those who oppose God and HIs apostle, even though they be their fathers, their sons, their brothers, or their nearest kindred. God has inscribed the Faith in their very hearts, and strengthened them with a spirit of His own. He will admit them to gardens watered by running streams, where they shall dwell for ever. God is well pleased with them, and they are well pleased with HIm. They are the confederates of God; and God's confederates will surely triumph."

It seems to me, Jesus says, if you carry the cross you will anger those who would deny the truth of the cross, even your family. Koran says, those with the true faith hate the non-believers, even their family; do the same, or you won't win God's favour.

Sophia Sadek said...

Truepeers, in response to your query about freedom. Americans are free to be slaves. That's about it.

Imagine an amimal that has been raised in a cage. Its parents were raised in a cage. Its grandparents were raised in a cage. The cage is all that the animal knows.

Now, if someone were to speak to the poor thing about the wilderness, the creature would be think it a land of make-believe.

As for the divine, if you could distinguish between good and evil, you would understand how naked you truly are.

truepeers said...

Yeah, I'm pretty naked, i know that.

But as for the slavery thing, if Americans are only free to be slaves, how come people from all over the world either come to or want to come and live in America? The migration of Americans to live in, say, Nigeria, or Egypt, or India, or China, of France is, in comparison, rather small.

My short answer would be that people come here because they have many more choices what to do with their lives, not just in terms of jobs - productivity - but also consumption. Most all types of food are available here, for example. You don't have to eat the same cuisine every day. Now you could say, if you didn't like people very much, that people are always slaves, slaves to the free market, slaves to the unfree market, slaves to desire, slaves to god. But it seems to me pretty shallow to say, because Americans have too many choices and desires, and in comparison not enough money, time, education, or whatever to gratify every desire, that Americans are just slaves to their desires, or whatever it is you're saying. What kind of freedom is there without attachments and responsibilities, deferred desires, and, most of all, necessities?

truepeers said...

Here's a guy who does a much better job of summing up the point i was trying to make in my juxtaposition of those two quotations from the Bible and Koran.

This is from the brussels journal

"I cannot state this any better than Dr. Jos Verhulst, in his contribution to our Dutch-language section yesterday:

The great public secret behind the whole issue of the Danish cartoons is the following. Nowhere does the core text of the New Testament argue for censorship. There is not a single instance where the New Testament states that a non-Christian should be persecuted for his convictions or statements. With regard to those with whom it is not possible for Christians to co-exist, Christ simply preached secession: “And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.” (Matthew, 10:14). On the other hand, Christ did not allow himself to be censored: He said what He had to say, He “insulted” and “offended” the pharisees, and for this He was persecuted and finally murdered. The core text of Islam is different. It explicitly calls for the persecution and submission through violence of all who hold other beliefs.

It is true that throughout history there have been Christians and Christian churches who, in contradiction with the Christian core text, have engaged in persecution and censorship, and that there have been Muslims who have pleaded for freedom of expression and thought. Even today there are instances where the Vatican calls for censorship (see the Osservatore Romano of 5 February) while Dyab Abu Jahjah calls for freedom. But the dynamics of the core texts that have shaped both civilisations through the centuries, are diametrically opposed. Freedom lovers had the support of the one core text but not of the other.

In the West the general development, against all the authorities, through all the turmoil and in spite of all the regressions, has continued to be towards increasing individualism, freedom of thought, development of science, abolition of slavery and the blossoming of the ideals of equal rights, democracy and radically free speech. The world of Islam, on the contrary, developed into a “close society” where the individual submits to the community.

And now he stands at the dawn of the 21st century: the maligned individual, unsteady on his own feet after executing the inner breach with every form of imposed authority, uncertain, blinking in the brightness of the only god he is willing to recognise – Truth itself, stretching out before him unfathomably deep – full of doubt but aware that he, called to non-submission, must seek the road to the transcendent, carrying as his only property, his most valuable heirloom from his turbulent past, that one gold piece that means the utmost to him, his precious ideal of complete freedom of thought, of speech and of scientific inquiry. That is the unique advance that he received to help him in his long and difficult quest.

Meanwhile he is being beleaguered and threatened on all sides; from out of the darkness voices call him to submit and retreat; they shout that the gold in his hands is worthless, while the brightness ahead of him still makes it almost impossible for him te see what lies in store. In short: what this contemporary individual needs most of all is courage, great courage. And the will to be free and to see, which is tantamount to the will to live.
"