|HOME||8 prerequi- sites of victory||Faith versus "True Faith"||Is “War on Terror” a “War on Islam”?||Religion after war on terror||Blog, part 1||Blog, part 2||Contact & credentials||Victory and free speech|
Custom is a powerful thing, substituting as it does fresh thinking with ideas so long-worn by constant use that they appear all but obvious. That the Sun circles the Earth was obvious for many centuries – yet, it turned out to be utterly wrong. We are equally used to the progressives’ claims that they have clear and rational minds. But I think this, too, is just a myth.
Consider, for instance, the recent NPR’s story of International Criminal Court’s investigation into ethnically-motivated mass murders committed during the latest exercise in democracy in Kenya. For all its gruesomeness, it seems hardly a news item that should stand out for being illogical or irrational; yet, when I heard it, it struck me as such.
For don’t we have here, hidden in plain sight, a conflict between two different progressive notions? Isn’t there, in the actions of the court, a clear-cut imposition of Western cultural values on the African mindset? Aren’t we in a post-colonial stage of the world, the stage of non-interference, of self-determination, of multi-culturalism? Aren’t Kenyan events a cultural thing, to be treated with appropriate sensitivity, and isn’t the intrusion of a European court into Kenyan affairs a gross example of cultural insensitivity?
How do the actions of International Criminal Court, acting at the behest of the progressives, square with the supposedly post-colonial mindset of non-intrusion into self-determining, post-colonial societies that should be the hallmark of the progressives’ thinking?
It was, after all, 19th -century colonialism that imposed the west-European mores and legal procedures into the world of – using Rudyard Kipling’s phrase – “half-devil and half-child” (or the “noble savage,” if Kipling strikes as rather too harsh.) Having conquered, plundered, and “civilized,” by introducing Western legal norms, Africa and a good portion of Asia, the colonial powers recognized the inhumanity of their colonial ways after WW2, and, in a repentant, multi-cultural mood, withdrew, leaving their formerly captive nations to the fate of national freedom and “self-determination.”
What was to happen was predictable – and, for that matter, predicted. The very great and unjustly forgotten English poet and universal genius John Ogilby who, among his many other achievements, created the genre of modern fable (to which his imitator, Jean de la Fontaine, gave great popularity), added the following moral to his version of the Aesop’s fable of the “Young Man and His Cat,” way back in 1651: “No punishment, no penalty, nor hire / Can repulse Nature led by strong desire / So barbarous people civilized with care / The least occasion turns to what they were.”
Which is precisely what happened as shackles of colonialism fell. But the good people of Europe clearly did not expect the fruit of their colonial “civilizing” to go to waste, and their forcibly “civilized” captives to revert to their old ways – ways much enhanced by the use of modern, West-invented weaponry. Instead, with a surprising lack of multi-cultural understanding, not to mention lack of consistency, the Westerners created an “international criminal court” that, disregarding all differences in “cultures,” and in clear violation of the principle of multi-culturalism and self-determination, claims universal jurisdiction. Instead of dispassionately dismissing gruesome events in Rwanda, Congo, Darfur or, recently, Kenya, with an “ah, this is their culture,” the good people of Europe and the US display astounding cultural insensitivity in trying to drag the culprits to the Hague. While seemingly leaving the colonial mentality behind, Europeans just cannot help thinking in the old, universalistic, colonialist terms.
These good, progressive people are consistent only in being inconsistent. For instance, they refuse to apply their anti-aggression, anti-violence, anti-colonial feelings to the Arab-Israeli conflict. All “Arab lands” outside of the western part of Arabian peninsula were gained by the Arabs through conquest – including Palestine that was a Jewish state for a millennia and a half, until Roman emperor Hadrian dispersed the Jews following the Bar-Kochba revolt. And yet, instead of greeting the emergence of modern Israel in its ancient homeland as the prime example of justice, as exhibit A of legitimate owners of the land reclaiming it from later, imperialist conquerors, as the triumph of national liberation triumphing against imperialism, the good people twist their good consciences into a pretzel, accusing Israel of imperialism, and seeing descendants of Arab imperialists as innocent victims needing protection!
This is not to say that murderous criminals should stay unpunished – but is rather an appeal for consistency and clarity of thinking. If good and progressive people of Europe and US think that Western values of the worth of an individual, of personal liberty, and of impartial justice should be universal – than why talk of multi-culturalism?
If, on the other hand, all is relative – than they should stop their hand-wringing.
And dismantle the International Criminal Court in the HagueTo Top of Page
Dictatorships amaze a political junkie with reports of 99.99% of eligible voters going to the polls, of whom 100% cast votes for the ruling party, and dazzle a visiting foreigner with huge rallies of enthusiastic citizens arranged in well-organized columns that give aesthetic pleasure to dear leaders watching those public devotions from some imposingly monumental structure.
No matter what such government does, the public, for the sake of its safety, always approves. Hence, the government can do whatever it pleases, be it in the interest of the public, or not; whatever the well-suppressed private grumble, in public the public happily agrees.
But political coercion is beyond the pale in an increasingly large part of the world. In the west, after all, politicians have to compete with each other, selling their vision of proper state policy to the electorate via free, public, and contentious debates, with public awarding the helm of the state to a party and a politician with a superior political vision and a more advantageous policy.
This seems an ironclad way to make the government dependant on the electorate, and have it follow people’s will. And it does. The public policy is up to the electorate – which means that, to avoid a disappointment, the public should better participate, and make sure that suggested policies of candidates for high office indeed match public’s interests.
Yet, such rational approach to electing government officeholders is not always the case. At times, we do not behave as rational creatures, but base our election choices on irrelevant, if not irrational, criteria – the charm, the smile, the voice, the rhetoric, the looks of a candidate – in brief, on what is known as “charisma.” If that is what captivates us, if that commands our loyalty, than the ruler thus elected has as little reason to incorporate public’s wishes into his policies as does any dictator. If people will vote for him not because of his policies, but of his smile, why bother?
That the irrational plays huge – and utterly detrimental for the public – part in politics is no secret. Writing over three and a half centuries ago in the context of the English civil war, and wondering what caused many Englishmen to support the King rather than the Parliament, the great poet John Milton observed: “If men within themselves would be governed by reason, and not generally give up their understanding to a double tyranny of custom from without, and blind affections within, they would discern better, what it is to favor and uphold the Tyrant of a Nation.”
Closer to home, relations between American Jews and President Obama are the prime modern example of “reason” getting sidetracked and suppressed by “custom and blind affections.”
Let’s start with the “custom.” Since 1920es, when they were attracted by the genuine warmth of the immensely popular four-time New York governor and 1928 Democratic presidential candidate Al Smith, the Jews voted overwhelmingly Democratic. And it was not an irrational decision back than, since the Jews saw “progressive” causes as helpful in overcoming the legacy of latent and lingering anti-Semitism (like quotas on acceptance into the ivy-league schools). But once that goal of equality was achieved some two generations ago, Jewish allegiance to the Democratic Party slid into a mere matter of “custom.” And proceeding in the unthinking, well-worn track would have been all right have the American Jews had not a single care in the world.
But they have one, and at that, major policy concern: safety and well-being of Israel.
Israel needs America’s understanding and support – and by and large, previous American administrations, both Democratic and Republican, obliged.
Enters Senator Obama, a candidate for US presidency. A highly charismatic man, he plays fully on electorate’s susceptibility to “blind affections.” A Democrat, he is ready to take advantage of predominating “custom.” But his position on Israel, as evinced by the pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli company he keeps, and his own previous statements, is highly problematic, causing a clear conflict for the American Jews. What would they do? Would “reason” prevail, causing them to overwhelmingly vote for the proven friend of Israel, Senator John McCain, though he is a Republican, or would “custom and blind affections” take the upper hand and cause them to vote for Obama?
Well, we know the answer - nearly four in five Jewish votes were cast for Obama – and, moreover, we know that suspicions about Obama were well grounded, as he did not moderate his anti-Israel position once in office, despite the overwhelming Jewish support for him.
And why would he? “Custom and blind affections” are still in full effect – witness the manifestation of those when he met with the leaders of several major American Jewish organizations. Reports tell us that Jewish leaders were non-confrontational and did not press him on the substance of his policies – only on the style, advising him not to be so vocal in his pressure on Israel, but to exercise it while below the radar of public awareness. So Jews are no cause for worry, let alone “change” in policies, if this is the mainstream Jewish reaction:
“On Monday he met with a group of 16 Jewish leaders representing most points on the Jewish political spectrum. By most accounts there was a lively, respectful and potentially useful give and take. Concerns by some about the perception the administration is asking much more of Israel than of the Palestinians and the Arab states were heard and will hopefully be addressed; the president’s commitment to Israel’s security and to the “unbreakable” U.S.-Israel bond was understood and appreciated by the Jewish leaders… President Obama’s penchant for listening to divergent points of view will serve him well with a Jewish community that may be united on some core issues, such as support for Israel, but which is an exemplar of diversity when it comes to the details.”
How can this Jewish Week’s editorial be of concern for Obama? The paper chose to lie, in the last paragraph, about “Obama’s penchant for listening to divergent points of view” while it is obvious to anyone who read the first one, that he prefers to surround himself with “yes” men, as he invited merely “leaders representing most points on the Jewish political spectrum,” not all, i.e. those who would have been tough on the substance of Obama’s policy, not just its style, were simply not invited. But to point that out would have been to criticize a charismatic Democrat – a clear breach of “custom and blind affections.” And nauseating obsequiousness of the paragraph in the middle just makes one want to throw up.
Or how about the recent op-ed in another paper much revered by the well-educated, middle-class American Jews – the New York Times, in which Thomas Friedman thus enlightens us on the subject of settlements: “For the last 40 years, a succession of Israeli governments has misled, manipulated or persuaded naïve U.S. presidents” into not objecting to settlement activity which created “a huge moral, security and economic burden for Israel and its friends” and concludes that, with regards to his stance on settlements, Mr. Obama “has nothing to apologize for policy-wise.” Mr. Friedman’s bizarre “argument” which ignores facts that are common knowledge everywhere except for the White House could only have been made under the intoxicating influence of “custom and blind affections.”
And if those rule, why needs Obama learn about the Middle East conflict, rather than proceeding with the current policy based on utter ignorance of realities? Why adopt the policies to actual facts? Whether he is pro-Israel or anti-Israel, it is all same as far as American Jews and their support and votes are concerned. So why bother?
George H. W. Bush’s Secretary of state James Baker famously said to have uttered in a private conversation “F- the Jews. They don’t vote for us anyway.” He was clearly a cold, calculating, quid-pro-quo politician, giving nothing without getting political support in exchange. Not voting Republican, the Jews could expect little of him, and he gave up on them. But being taken for granted – Obama style – does not provide leverage either. Obama simply takes the “don’t” out of James Baker’s assessment, and proceeds just like him.
The lesson for the Jewish community from all of the above is this: as any other group, Jews are safer utilizing heads, not hearts, when dealing with politics and politicians. The crush Jews have on the Democratic Party started with Al Smith, and should end with Barack Obama. “Reason” – the cold, analytical calculation of each candidate’s potential policies, rather than the warm and fuzzy feeling he emits, is what needs to be in the driver’s seat as one plans to give a political donation or heads to a voting booth. Be ruled by “custom and blind affections,” and the man in the White house will either take you for granted, or give up on you. In neither case will you exercise any influence over the actual policy, perhaps getting only some hard-wheedled, but empty rhetoric.
To be safe and to keep Israel safe, play it safe. America has a two-party system, which served the country rather well, and may serve the Jewish community well, too. Turn away from your current one-party allegiance, and make a good use of the choices that the two-party system offers. Use your reason, and don’t rely on “custom and blind affections” that are very much prone to let you down, as the case of Barack Obama so amply and dangerously shows.To Top of Page
Here is an old joke. The wife asks her husband, "How does you secretary dress?" Not giving himself one second to think, the husband replies, "fast!"
People betray their utmost secrets in totally unexpected ways. "Obama says Bush falsely accused him of appeasement " -- but Bush did not even mention him, leave alone accuse him of anything -- at least, not any more than the wife in the joke accused her husband of philandering. Yet, the Senator jumped up and shouted "don't insult me!" when hearing "Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along," reacting just as the husband in the joke.
IThe Senator did so only because he recognized himself in President's words. Had it never occurred to the Senator that negotiating with the terrorists and their sponsors is futile at best, and deadly at worst, he would never have thought that the President referred to him. Obama's only reaction, left unarticulated because so obvious, would have been "Sure that's an idiotic thing to believe in!"
But from Senator Obama's actual reaction we know for a fact that this is not what he actually thinks...To Top of Page
Two very different kinds of emotions beamed from the Earth to God's throne on this day six years ago: rejoicing and praise on the one hand, and pain, outrage and pleas for solace and revenge on the other. Some danced for joy that His will was done, that the towers of the infidels were no more, that His kingdom of goodness and light was on the way; some recoiled in horror at the evil mind that could conceive of hijacking plains full of people and smashing them against buildings full of people, and driven to despair by a thought that darkness and evil were about to overwhelm the world.
God heard all that - and one cannot help wondering what He though. Did He rise to greet nineteen noble martyrs for True Faith, offering to each the choicest pure virgins as a reward for selflessly doing His will? Or did He send them straight to the other place? Did He berate the thousands of souls just arrived from New York, Washington and Pennsilvania for not heeding the existence of True Faith, or did He give them comfort?
do not pretend to know. But I strongly suspect that He was neither surprised, nor moved by what He saw and heard on that day.
Because He was around for longer than us, and what to us seemed an unthinkable, incomprehensible tragedy of historic proportions, to Him was something all-too-commonly seen on the planet Earth. Instances of murder - of sadistic mass murder, for that matter, with the sole purpose of pleasing Him and doing His will were so common in the past as to make a recital of them as tiresome as it would be sickening. Yet, every time that would happen - like when the Jews were killing each other over worship of the golden calf, or over whose interpretation of the Law was right; when the Christians were burning each other alive over heretical beliefs and killing each other in unceasing wars of religion; when the Moslems were butchering each other over who was the True and rightful successor of Mohammed - one suspects that God waited to see whether we Earthlings would pause to think, and realize that True Faith was an oxymoron; that the notion of "truth" is applicable only to what can be verified and proved or disproved - while the fact that God talked to someone who claims to be a "prophet" is, by the nature of things, not verifiable. Of all the faiths there are in the world, none can be proven to be "True," though each can be claimed to be appealing - which is very different indeed.
So on 9/11, just as on every preceding occurrence of violent outburst of "True Faith," the Lord God must have asked Himself, "will they, down there on Earth, start thinking seriously about Faith and Truth, and notice that mixing the two simply makes no sense? Or will their emotions find release in warfare unaccompanied by deeper thinking?"
But God's 9/11 hope that humanity would finally discover that the notion of "True Faith" belongs in the ash heap of history, with such other delusional and murderous Truths as Communism and Nazism, did not come to fruition. No serious re-thinking of our attitude to religion occurred in the aftermath of the tragedy; no meaningful arguments were thrown back at the bin Ladens, Ahmadinejuds, Khomeneis and Nasrallahs who confront us under the banners of "True Faith," to tell them that they are simply wrong because there is no way for them to know what they are talking about.
One suspects that seeing the deja vu repeated yet again, all God did on 9/11 was mumble sadly the wise but gloomy saying of His, "there is no new thing under the sun."To Top of Page
During just one week, the situation in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict became dramatically clarified. The good cop Fatah - bad cop Hamas arrangement which threw sand into the eyes of the Israelis and the Europeans, giving Europeans a pretext to do what they love best –pour money into Palestinian pockets, albeit “bypassing” the Hamas government, and forbidding the Israelis to take effective (that is – military) measures to stop the flow of weapons into the Gaza strip under the Egypt-Gaza border for fear of “undermining the ‘moderate’ Abbas,” is gone.
The fig leaf of mythical peace-seeking, two-state-solution-endorsing, man-of-peace-led Fatah no longer protecting Hamas in Gaza, it will be interesting to see how the parties will change their policies. Will the Europeans stick to keeping their heads in the sand, finding new excuses for providing Palestinians with political and material support, and inventing new formulas for doing so? Will the Israelis now feel free to block the flow of weapons from Gaza by re-taking control of the Philadelpi corridor between Gaza and Egypt, and widening it into miles-wide buffer zone – zone so wide that it would be impossible for the Palestinians to dig weapons-smuggling tunnels under it?
The emerging signs are not encouraging, however. “U.S. wants to fast-track peace talks,” reads a paragraph section in a Haaretz report . “In the wake of the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip, the United States said Thursday that the Bush administration will now work to prevent the violence from spilling over to the West Bank. To achieve that, Israel may be urged to make concessions in the West Bank, since the United States aims to accelerate the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to allow Abbas to chalk up some political achievements.”
This shows total lack of understanding of what it is that motivates the Palestinians. They are driven by the belief that they had been wronged, that the cause of destruction of Israel is a righteous one. No amount of concessions on the Israeli side will alleviate this. What is needed is not the pressure on Israel to loose the control on movement in the West bank – this will only result, as we have seen too many times, in the murder of Israelis and re-imposition of the just-lifted road blocks.
Instead, Washington should demand that the Palestinian Authority-run media start explaining to the Palestinians that Arabs wound up in Palestine during Arab campaign of “aggression and occupation,” that Palestine had pre-Arab owners, and so there is nothing wrong with the existence of Israel, and nothing right in trying to destroy it. The stumbling-block in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute being not in the empty Palestinian pocket or stomach, but in the vitiated mind, the first and foremost demand from Washington should be that the Palestinians start fulfilling the key Oslo accord demand – that of changing school textbooks and official media that poison Palestinian mind with unrighteous indignation – unrighteous, for all its self-righteous.
But Washington, perverted by the Iraq experience into deeply unrealistic “realpolitik” attitude, keeps turning away from the obvious, and appears unable to learn. Not even from the fall of Gaza to Hamas.To Top of Page
Moslems do have a few dilemmas, and should think twice before coming to the West, per this blog entry.To Top of Page
They are not. But our reaction to Moslem jihad is different.To Top of Page
As I write this, the motives of the shooter are still unknown. Yet one thing is perfectly clear: there was something in his mind that justified the massacre for him.
And half the world away, in Iraq and Afghanistan – and one hopes nowhere else – there are other people, who at this moment are busy meticulously planning murder of their own countrymen, as well as Americans and others in the coalition. And just as with Virginia Tech shooter, they are calm and collected and resolved – because they also have in their minds a good justification for the murder they are planning.
Remove the justification from their minds – and they will no longer want to murder. To judge by the initial reports, it may have been jealousy that triggered the murder spree at Virginia Tech. This motive will be much discussed on the radio, and TV, and in the newspapers and internet sites. Americans will try to get a clear picture of what went on in the shooter’s mind in an attempt to learn the lessons that may help prevent such tragedies in the future.
Yet in the case of Iraq, we are far less eager to find out which ideas in the minds of the “mujahadeen” cause their suicidally homicidal behavior, and we are utterly unwilling to engage in the exchange that would help remove those ideas from their minds.
The reason for the difference? Jealousy is not a taboo subject, and when it poisons the mind with tragic results, we have no problem discussing it. But replace the word “jealousy” with the word “Islam?” How dare you!
We do need to dare. The lesson of Virginia Tech massacre is quite simply this: ideas running in the mind matter – in fact, they can turn a decent person into a monster. And just as we do not hesitate to study bad effects of jealousy, we should try hard to discover what is it that poisons the minds of the murderous “holy worriers of Islam.” Even if we have to place under suspicion, and subject to critical scrutiny their “Holy True Faith.”To Top of Page
“Jihad,” the first program in PBS’ “America at a Crossroad” series which aired on Sunday would have been a fine journalistic achievement, since documentation that it marshals is truly impressive, and the narrative is lucid and logical – were it not for the decision to insert right upfront a sentence that belongs not in a documentary, but in a propaganda piece: “Islam is a peaceful religion.”
While its purpose of shielding the authors from the charge that they attack Islam itself through the negative comment about Islamic behavior makes some political sense, this statement is not helping to understand what is going on – perhaps because it is so utterly nonsensical.
There are two reasons for that. First of all, prior to 9/11 Islam was routinely perceived in the West as a militant religion. Islam as “religion of peace” is, paradoxically, a post-9/11 notion. Secondly, as I showed in “The Pitfall of Truth,” once Mohammed died, it became simply impossible to know what Islam is, and what it is not; his death of necessity fragmented Islam into as many Islams as there are people who care to have an opinion. Mr. McNeil who hosted the program is certainly entitled to his view of Islam as peaceful – just as Mr. Bin Laden is entitled to his view that Islam is violent. When talking of Islam as “peaceful,” Mr. McNeil should have stressed that he was just expressing his personal opinion of Islam, not some absolute Truth about Islam – which is impossible to know.
Documentaries should be about facts, and time has long come to get past the protective screen of piety and subject religion in general, and Islam (which causes such bloody stir nowadays) in particular to an unsentimental scrutiny that is free of fear of offending, and is motivated only by the desire to understand what is going on. Such effort would have tremendously improved the “Jihad” documentary. But even lacking that, there was no need to spoil it with an utterly meaningless, albeit admittedly politically correct, piece of empty propaganda.To Top of Page
I took a good deal of e-mail spanking for pointing out that atheism is a religion, just differing from others in the number of gods it advocates – zero versus one or more.
My correspondents informed me – via an exchange that very quickly turned surprisingly acrimonious – that I did not understand atheism, which, according to them, was not a “belief that there is no God” but rather an “absence of a belief in God.”
For one, I was glad that that at least there was no disagreement that the “wrong” version of atheism – which was held by the millions under the Communist rule – was tacitly acknowledged to be a faith-based religion, just like any other. If I was wrong in defining atheism when I put together my brief original note, at least I was not off on the nature of that “wrong” atheism.
But let’s look at atheism in its “true” definition – the “absence of a belief in God.”
There are obviously two sets of circumstances which could produce such absence. First of all, it may simply never occur to a person that there could be a God. Such person may never have happened to think of a higher power himself, nor had he ever met anybody to suggest that idea to him. Such atheist obviously needs no excuse for his “absence of a belief in God.” His atheism is not rooted in any mental activity – but is rather rooted in its absence. He is atheistic simply because of innocence of mind – very much like an ancient Roman was innocent of an idea of a proton or a black hole.
And than, there can be another set of circumstances: a person becomes aware of an idea of God, either through his own thinking, or through contact with others – yet chooses “absence of a belief in God.”
Such atheism is no longer the natural outcome of the virginity of mind. Introduction of the idea of God automatically creates a need for justifying the “absence of a belief in God” – just as there had always been a need for justifying the “presence of a belief in God.”
This need for justifying atheistic position had been angrily denied by my correspondents – which I found rather peculiar, given the obvious possibility that there might be a God. Perhaps the word “irrational” is not out of place here, for it is the mark of reason in a human being that he does not just keep chewing on his fodder no matter what is being said to or around him, as does a cow, but defines his position with regards to any newly introduced set of ideas. He may decide not to care because they do not concern him, he may decide to embrace them because he cares and they make sense, he may decide to reject them because he cares and they make no sense – but there’s got to be some sort of mental re-adjustment, requiring rational justification. Atheists with whom I exchanged e-mails clearly cared about the proper view of the world (else, they would not have cared to react to my opinion in the first place), yet adamantly refused to outline the reasoning behind their choice, insisting that no justification for their position was needed.
In looked like they insisted on belonging to atheism of innocence, to the atheism from before the idea of God was even introduced, much like the Christian nudists during the Reformation who felt that, their faith in Christ having annulled the original sin, they were innocent, pre-Fall Adams and Eves roaming naturally nude in the new gardens of paradise, the idea of clothes being simply out of place. Though of course, unlike the “true” atheists, pre-Adamites did feel a need for justifying their views – and did their best to do so, feeling perhaps what Thomas Jefferson called, when he penned the Declaration of Independence, “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind,” or responding to the need to proselytize.
Yet, the firm refusal by the atheists to provide basis for their views is symptomatic of something that is far more serious than mere indifference to the opinions of others – a symptom, on suspects, of the absence of that basis, perhaps even of realization that their worldview can be justified only by agnosticism – which they claim to be alien to them because it legitimizes a possibility of existence of God – or by the “belief in the absence of God,” which they acknowledge to be a religion and decry as a “wrong” definition of atheism.
Whatever the underlying rationale, “true” atheists’ choice of “absence of a belief in God” is by no means based on reason. But what should we call a firmly held, ardently defended, yet fundamentally irrational – because rationally unsupportable – worldview? My word for it is “religion.” Though, of course, you are at liberty to choose yours.To Top of Page
While I have no intentions of denying entertainment value to books and movies that scare us with various scenarios of alien invasions, let me confess that I think such scenarios are very far-fetched indeed.
Even if other planets are indeed populated by thinking creatures, the inter-stellar distances are so vast as to make traversing them a logistical challenge of almost insurmountable magnitude. Unless there are some totally new, as yet unknown to us means of propulsion and sources of energy, such travel will never be more than a stuff of dreams, and flying saucers more than mere figments of imagination.
Yet somehow, those comforting thoughts are not sufficient to allay the worries about potential success of an alien invasion.
Let us consider a simple question: what is an alien? It is obviously a creature born and raised in conditions so different from our own, that its way of reasoning is altogether different from ours – in fact, is opposite to ours. What we value, they despise. What we find abhorrent, they embrace. What makes us recoil, delights them.
But doesn’t that description ring a bell? No need to travel through the light-years of inter-stellar vastness, enduring cold, loneness, darkness, and many yet unknown terrors of deep space to find creatures of this sort. They abound right here on Earth, too.
Of course, they are not genetically different from us; in that sense, they are terrestrial aliens, not extra-. But in all other respects, they fit the definition to the dot. In fact, they are the products of the same process that would have produced a genuine extra-terrestrial alien.
Because for a very long time Earth was not much less vast than is the Universe. Given very slow transportation and small population, the distances were huge indeed, the population was not contiguous but was grouped in the islands of humanity settled here and there, with only a rumor of other such islands, whose customs were strange, whose religions were wrong, whose intentions were hostile. The very conditions of isolation and differing environments that would infuse alien logic and strange way of reasoning into a hypothetical extra-terrestrial, existed for millennia right on this very Earth.
The last few centuries saw distances between alien populations shrink as transportation improved, and as human population exploded to the point where no place on Earth was left unsettled. As a result, all these intra-terrestrial groups, with their mutually alien and deeply engrained notions of what is right and what is wrong, collided.
The question is, whose way of thinking will prevail?
Many wars were fought in the past to settle this question, and today we are in the middle of a yet another war between mutually alien ways of thinking – the war between Western values and those of Islam. Obviously, there are five ultimately possible outcomes of this war: (1) Islamic world will change by adopting Western thinking, (2) The West will succumb and adopt Islamic thinking, (3) Islamic world will be physically destroyed, (4) the West will be annihilated, (5) no one will survive the conflagration.
The outcome (2) may come about either through the gradual population change, like the one we are witnessing in Europe, or through nuclear blackmail if countries like Iran get this weapon and cause fear of the outcome (5), which is even worse. Outcome (3) is doubtful because the West, while having the capacity, has no stomach to inflict it, and outcome (4) may happen if the West adopts the policy of appeasement.
But the really important question is, how to produce the outcome (1)? We are currently doing it militarily, in Afghanistan, Iraq, perhaps moving soon to Iran.
But is the military solution the only one?
Given that what makes us and our enemies mutually alien is not the genetics, but the way of seeing the world, I think there is another way, too. What we refuse to do at the present – analyzing the logic of Islam, confronting Moslem ideas head-on, and exposing deep errors in the worldview of those on the other side of the front line – can be extremely effective. By helping them realize where they made an error when they chose Islam over freedom, we would remove the very source of alien-ness in them. There will simply be no need to kill them, because they would become part of us.
Of course, that would require a huge shift in our own mindset – abandoning our deeply cherished view that the cultures can only be different, but cannot be wrong. It is this bizarre view that really hampers our success in the war on terror. Once it is rectified, the war can be won by infusing human logic and human values into the terrestrial aliens that now oppose us, and, as a result, turning them into humans.To Top of Page
Alyssa Lappen’s well-researched Australia's Meathead Mufti concludes in a way characteristic of the spirit of the times: the guy says outrageous things, so let’s send him packing.
Granted, the mufti is outrageous. As Ms. Lappen tells us, he thinks that western-style dressed women are “uncovered meat,” so it is their fault if they get raped – and says so in his sermon.
He thinks “that Muslims had more right to the country [Australia] than the "Anglo-Saxon" heirs to Australia's convict ancestors,” and says so in an interview.
He subscribes to “the belief succinctly expressed by Osama bin Laden--"The earth belongs to Allah and thus only Allah's rule should prevail all over the earth," and offers no apology.
He thinks Muslim believers to be superior to others--and believes Islam should rule the world.” – and he says it aloud.
He thinks that Muslims are "best community that hath been raised up for mankind...," that most Christians and Jews "are evil-livers" and that all land belongs to Allah, like a mosque, which can never revert to private ownership” and does not hesitate to let us know.
Hence, the calls that he be deprived of his Australian citizenship and kicked out of the country.
But let’s take a calm look at this. What is going on here? The guy lives in a free country, and freely speaks up his mind. We, in return, get outraged and want to see him off. Let me suggest that we have a problem that is much greater than his.
Because, why don’t we talk back? If he advances ideas we disagree with, why won’t we show him holes in his argument? Why silence him, not debate him? If we do that, we can demolish his argument, and defeat his cause far more effectively and far more conclusively than we can possibly do by sending him into exile. But we stay silent – which is our problem, not his.
Replying point by point to his philosophy would be indeed quite effective. “The divine order of Islam?” What are you Mr. Mufti – talking about? There is no way for you to know whether Koran is God’s word, or not. “The earth belongs to Allah and thus only Allah's rule should prevail all over the earth?" Granted – but clerics’ rule is not God’s rule, per the same fundamental uncertainty. “Islam should rule the world?” – nonsense – for the same reason. “Muslims are "best community that hath been raised up for mankind” – don’t be ridiculous please – read the analysis of Islam included in this article. Australia’s first citizens were convicts? True – but doesn’t each individual answer for himself, not his ancestors? Just because you are a fool, Mr. Mufti, does it mean that your ancestors were also fools, and that your children are destined to be fools too? Perhaps so – but I hope not. Your mother, Mr. Mufti, had no humanity but was mere meat? Well, if you think so, I will hold the same opinion of her, too.
“The answer to free speech issue is more free speech, not less” is the quintessence of the American law in reply to the pleas to sensor obnoxious opinions. Because considered, logical, reserved, analytical opinion – instead of emotional hyper-indignation – is often the best response to the outrageous statements, like those we hear from Australia’s “meathead mufti.” If he can use free speech to taunt us, I see no reason why we should not use it to tell him how ridiculous he is.
The pen is mightier than a sword. We are yet to discover this in the present-day war on terror.To Top of Page
Listening to Jim Lehrer's interview with the Jordanian monarch, I realized how far off the latter is on basic understanding of reality of Mid-East conflict. This reaction was published in the blog of American Thinker. I apologize for using a wrong word in the last paragraph - "acute" instead of "astute." My mistake.To Top of Page
Today’s report on clashes, as well as yesterday’s report of Arabs protesting repair work near the “holy” Al-Aqsa mosque, replete with declamations like “With our soul, with our blood, we sacrifice ourselves for Al-Aqsa," “The soldiers of Satan want to turn Al-Aqsa into a synagogue," as well as previous history of violence emanating from this so-called “holy” site (“The compound, which houses both the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock, is where the second Palestinian uprising erupted in 2000 after a controversial visit by then Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon. In 1996, more than 80 people were killed in three days of Palestinian riots after then Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu opened a new entrance to a controversial archaeological tunnel near the holy sites.”) again begs us to find answer to the question of what is “holy” – the question I asked (and, I think, answered) many months ago in my Greeks, Arabs and stones.
As reports indicate, the murderous “holy” nonsense goes on…To Top of Page
French president Chirac’s stunning suggestion that a couple of nuclear bombs in Iran’s hands are not such big a deal show at least that he is thinking about consequences of nuclear-armed Iran.
It is hard to agree with Mr. Chirac’s conclusion that Iran will be deterred from using a bomb on Israel (which Mr. Chirac clearly sees as the limit of Iran’s ambitions, not explaining why Iran’s dream of eradicating the “little Devil” should not expand into hopes of taking care of the bigger ones too – France including) by the fear of Teheran being “razed” by a retaliatory strike – the fear which is probably absent, given the value attached to “martyrdom” by the ayatollahs; but we should at least applaud him for trying to rationally think this through.
I doubt that such thinking-it-through is done by the peace-loving people who want to avoid confrontation with Iran at all costs – even at a cost of nuclear-armed Iran. If they followed Mr. Chirac’s example and started thinking about the consequences, perhaps they would realize that peace at all costs is merely “peace for our times,” so famously – or infamously – achieved by Mr. Chamberlain at Munich. Such “peace now” is paid for by a far, far bloodier war in the future.
Senator McCain put the alternatives very succinctly when saying that the only thing worse than war with Iran, is nuclear Iran. But he did not allow himself to delve into scary details, the way French president Chirac did. Hopefully, Mr. Chirac’s comment will kick-starting a rational debate about matters, the very thought of which puts reasoning abilities of the average goody person into a deep, deep freeze.To Top of Page
Today’s suicide bombing of an Eilat bakery, in which at least 3 Israelis were killed, with the bomber’s family proud of his “martyrdom” (“We knew that he was going to carry out a martyrdom operation," Saqsaq's [the bomber’s] brother, Naeem, told reporters at the family home in the northern Gaza Strip. "His mother and father prayed for him to succeed,” according to press report), is a fresh confirmation of Islam’s nature as essentially a pre-Abrahamic Canaanite religion of human sacrifice, as I suggested a month ago in Eid ul-Adha, the tribute to MolochTo Top of Page
The Root of Terror encapsulates my understanding of the problem, and, luckily, it was accepted by American Thinker. Many thanks to all who took the time to e-mail me. I hope this will trigger a long-overdue discussion about real causes of terrorism.To Top of Page
Of all things, today’s resignation of Israel army’s chief of staff Dan Halutz and calls for resignation of prime minister Olmert and defense minister Peretz highlights defects in Israel’s government system.
Here in the US, “political appointee” is a negative term that is all but a synonym of “incompetence.” Yet in Israel, none but “political appointees” can sit in the cabinet and hold ministerial positions: cabinet portfolios are shared among the bosses of parties in the ruling coalition, whether they have the relevant professional qualifications and experience, or not.
This is how Mr. Peretz, the trade union leader, became Israel’s defense secretary: by refusing to join the coalition unless he is given the post. The choice between having new elections and having an incompetent defense minister was easy – and, not unnaturally, had pretty disastrous consequences.
Which, of course, does not excuse personal failures of Mr. Halutz, who, as a professional soldier, should have performed far better. But it would have been helpful if a competent defense secretary was there to counterbalance and correct Mr. Halutz’ faulty judgment.
I’ve said it before, and let me say it again: anarchy is not the best of political systems. Democracy, though imperfect too, is infinitely better.
The lesson of the Hezbullah war goes far beyond the few individuals on the top of Israeli political echelon; and unless Israelis start questioning the effectiveness of their political system, the key lesson of the war will not have been learned.To Top of Page
Bush and Einstein was accepted by American Thinker. I’m happy it found a home among some of the most sensible and best-articulated viewpoints on the web and in print. And thanks to AT for great editing!To Top of Page
I never cared to learn what Moslem holidays were about, but having a radio on gives one plenty of information not deliberately sought out – and Moslem callers to WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Kwanza segment enlightened me yesterday on the meaning of the upcoming Moslem holiday of Eid ul-Adha.
Turns out, the holiday celebrates – who would have imagined – Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of his son. Touted as a sign of “loyalty to God,” Abraham’s having a go at the abominable rites of his Moloch-worshipping neighbors who routinely sacrificed their children is turned by the Moslems into the exemplar of proper religious behavior.
Well, at least that sheds the light on some Moslem behavior which we in the West just cannot comprehend. We are puzzled by the psyche of suicide bombers, we are astonished that their parents and friends are as proud of them as if they won a Nobel prize. Well, now we know why – because they see Abraham’s act of “obedience to God” as praiseworthy, rather than damnable. What can be better than sacrificing yourself to God, as Abraham tried to do to his son? Hence, suicide bombers are the pride, the true heroes of the Moslem world.
But Abraham’s relapse into savagery, his attempt to imitate his primitive idol-worshipping neighbors is ought to be treated with pity, and as a lesson to all of us in how easy it is to fall into savage ways. William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” gives us a similar warning through a work of fiction; Nazism, Communism, and Talibanism are tragic real-life examples.
The lesson of Abraham’s attempt at human sacrifice is that we should be wary of such lapses of judgment, and be aware that even the wisest among us are liable to fall. But Moslems learn the exactly opposite lesson from that story – that God is weak and is in need of human help, of human sacrifice. To them, Abraham is a patron saint of suicide bombing. As a result, they got deeply sucked into the idolatrous morass of human-sacrifice culture that is in every respect identical to that of Abraham’s neighbors of old. As Eid ul-Adha demonstrates, Abraham’s attempt to extricate mankind from this morass of religious savagery had – at least in the world of Islam – failed utterly.To Top of Page
Palestinian game of good cop Abbas/bad cop Hamas has finally borne fruit. According to press reports, Israel agreed to Abbas’ request to “bolster” him. With the release of Israel’s kidnapped serviceman not even on the agenda, with Qassam fire continuing unabated, Israel mulls release of imprisoned terrorists, plans giving Abbas $100 million, and contemplates removing of checkpoints.
What’s going on here? Did the Israelis lose their minds? Did America, for her own foreign policy reasons, push Israelis into this bizarre deal? Or is there some far deeper reason for this?
The latter is clearly the case. The thinking of both the Israelis and the Americans is the hostage to the western mentality of pork barrel politics, and accordingly, to bolster the image of “good cop” Abbas, they see the need to lard the Palestinian opinion of him.
But this approach raises two questions, the minor and the major ones. The minor question is: will this work? If Israel opens a cash spigot to Abbas, would the cash-hungry Palestinians get the incentive to vote Hamas out? Of course not: the cash that they can’t get through the bad cop Hamas, they’ll get through the good cop Abbas – so why abandon the principle of “struggle” which gives meaning to their lives?
And the major question is: why does Israel have to make itself weaker to make Abbas stronger, why does it need to "bolster" him through concessions? Why can’t Abbas improve his standing among the Palestinians on his own, not at the expense of Israel?
How? He could do it by educating Palestinians in their own history and religion. Explaining to them that the question of land ownership is far less straightforward than the “Palestinian street” makes it sound, that the “Jewish occupation of Arab land” is only half of the story because it was preceded by the “Arab occupation of Jewish land” as part of Arab empire-building, would certainly help to clarify the background of the conflict, and to advance a compromise resolution of it. Secondly, explaining to the Palestinians that religious grounds for “holy war” which motivate Hamas and its likes are thoroughly idolatrous because it is impossible to know whether Koran is God’s word or not, would help him too by completely pulling the rug from under the Hamasers.
But Abbas does nothing to make the record straight and strengthen himself in the meaningful way, and Israel does not push him to; it rather counts that Abbas will look stronger by virtue of his ability to wheedle cash and perks out of Israel. But this is just one other round of the same meaningless action which we saw repeating over and over and over – action which does not address the fundamentals of the conflict, fundamentals which are lodged not in the pockets and stomachs of the Palestinians, but in their minds, that are corrupted by their idol-worship and misunderstanding of their history.
Israelis did not learn from their past experience; they are ever-ready to fall into the same trap of naïve hope of solving the conflict that is fuelled by Palestinian thinking through filling Palestinian pockets, rather than clearing their minds of the garbage of idol-worship and misread history. By giving in to the Palestinian game of “good cop/bad cop,” in which the blandishments of the “good cop” Abbas give Palestinians the perks denied them by the brutal tactics of the “bad cop” Hamas, Israel had lost its nerve and its grip on the situation. Hamas has won. This is Israel’s unconditional surrender to the Palestinian narrative.To Top of Page
In his last speech as defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld was, as always, forceful and direct. All but quoting my own diagnosis of our predicament, he said in his farewell address that "The long struggle we are in is complex, it's unfamiliar, and it's still little understood.”
Not surprisingly, his analysis of the way forward was deeply rooted in that very same absence of understanding that he referred to in his speech. The solution is still to be achieved by the military means alone, through the endurance and sacrifice of America’s men and women in uniform. "You are the ones who live the successes and who endure the setbacks of this struggle” – he told them – “and you are the ones who, above all, know that the cause of freedom is well worth the price."
But if we did have the adequate understanding of our enemies, which the Secretary admits to not having, we’d see that, first of all, the terrorists are not evil, but simply wrong – which of course makes no difference as far as the results of their violent actions go, but makes all the difference in the world in dealing with the problem of terrorism. Error is much easier to deal with that “evil.” Actual “evil” can only be destroyed by killing its bearer. But an error is adequately dealt with by simply exposing it as such. The terrorists commit a fundamental error when thinking that they can know what is the “True Faith” and what is not; and once they are disabused of their self-aggrandizing delusion and realize that there can be no such thing as “True Faith,” that claims to having it is mere idolatry, that there can be only the plain, hopeful, humble, not at all certain “faith” – the terrorism inspired by the non-existent “Truth” will be gone, too.
Some three and a half centuries ago, English poet William Davenant observed that “you can conquer when you but persuade.” Ultimately, this is how every conflict that ever was resolved, got resolved. This is how the Soviet Union ceased to be an “evil empire” – by realizing that Communism was wrong. Today’s Germans are not just Nazis who were forced to embrace democracy, but people who live in democracy because they rejected Nazism. Today’s Japan is peaceful not because the Japanese are militarists living under democratic rules, but because they abandoned militaristic thinking. Today’s Southerners are not the rabid racists civilized by democracy, but people who rejected racism itself. And tomorrow’s Arabs will not be the today’s fanatical “True Believers” who adopted voting, but Arabs who will have realized that their “True Faith” is nothing more than an idolatrous chimera, and will have rejected it.
Had the conflict been less “little understood,” as Secretary Rumsfeld put it, we would have known that the Moslems are sickened today by the very same virus of “Truth” which made the Soviets, and the Nazis, and the Japanese, and the Southerners cheerfully sacrifice themselves for their “cause,” and so we would have clearly seen the need to debunk the “cause” itself. When Iran’s Ahmadinejud sent to the White House his 17-page philosophical treatise aimed to “persuade” us, the White House should not have dismissed it out of hand, but ought to have sent him – a 17-page xerox copy of a couple of chapters from my own "The Pitfall of Truth", to show the Mr. President of Iran where he's got it wrong.
Davenant was right – “you can conquer when you but persuade.” And that is why it is vital that we not only send patriotic Americans overseas to fight and die for us, but that we fully understand the presently “little understood” motivations of our terrorist adversaries, and debunk their ideas – so ideas that motivate people like Mullah Omar, Ayatollah Khomeni, Sheik Nasrallah, and President Ahmadinejud do indeed wind up in the ash heap of history, and no longer threaten us with terrorism, nor prevent the Middle East from being another habitat of freedom.To Top of Page
Ants are social creatures. Their society is complex and well structured. Each ant is assigned an individual function – a worker, a soldier, a matron – and together they build a commonwealth that is a wonder to behold. They live in huge conical buildings that have compartments for housing, for food storage, for nurseries, that protect them against the elements. The ant society is truly a wonder.
But is it a “civilization?”
The answer from the humans is “no” – we call it a “colony,” reserving the word “civilization” for our own societies.
Is that fair? Aren’t the two societies fundamentally similar – the same coordination of effort, the same division of labor, the same spirit of cooperation that helps preserve the collective, and therefore individual, well-being? Aren’t the societies of ants and of humans the same kind of a society?
It depends. There is no uniform answer because there is no uniformity in human societies. They come in two basic varieties. One is based on some “Truth” – religious, social, racial. Naturally, these give no leeway for thinking, since in them the Truth has already been ascertained. It is known exactly what is right and what is wrong, what is true and what is false; nothing is left to think about. Such Truth-based societies – Nazi, Communist, Islamic states – do not differ from the ant society at all, because neither has any use for brains. In the ant society thinking is substituted by an instinct, in human societies it is replaced with some Truth. In both cases the behavior is programmed.
But while there are many “colonies of humans” – places like North Korea, China, Saudi Arabia, Iran – there are human “civilizations” too. These are based on realization that there is no getting at grand “Truth,” that each of us has his or her own vision of what is true, that these visions have to be balanced through compromise, and those of the majority given a status of official policy. Hence elections at regular intervals, and free speech to get at every side of the issue at hand. In “civilizations” the use of brains is paramount, while in a “colony” it is impossible. That’s the main difference between the two.
And today, as terrorists confront the West, are we in for the “clash of civilizations?” The answer is, again, “it depends.” It is a “clash of civilizations” when people from Western Europe clash in the press with the Americans on how to deal with the looming threat. There can be – and there recently was – a “clash of civilizations” at the UN between France and the US, for example. But there is no clash of civilizations when America engages militarily against the jihadis – because those on the other side are not a “civilization,” but a mere colony of humans blinded by their Truth.
When one of the sides engaged in the clash is not a civilization, can we call the resulting conflict a “clash of civilizations”? The answer is an obvious “No.”To Top of Page
The truth of the Aztec religion was obvious to anyone seeing a sunset and a sunrise. These were a perfect proof that a perpetual war was being waged between the good, life-giving Sun and the evil, jealous, deadly Moon, egged on by the stars to kill the Sun. Every night the Sun was being brutally attacked by the Moon and the stars and nearly killed - yet every morning he emerged victorious, after hacking his enemies almost past recovery.
That daily victory of good over evil could only be achieved with a good deal of help. The nightly struggle was exhausting, and to give Sun the strength to fight through the night, Aztecs nourished him during the day by the hearts and blood of young men. The victims died gladly, knowing full well that they earned, just as did those who died in a battle, the privilege to be forever in the presence of the Sun god, to blissfully escort him in the guise of immortal humming-birds. Eternal bliss awaited the ten thousand killed annually to keep the Sun in the good, battle-ready, shape.
Keeping God happy by voluntarily dying in his service? No need to go half a millennium back into Aztec history to witness that. Turn on the radio and listen to the news from the Middle East. Of course, suicide bombers’ paradise is different from that of Aztecs - enjoying six dozen “pure virgins,” not flying after the Sun, is their presumed award. But the alleged pleasures of the other side of the great divide is where the difference between Aztecs and many of the Moslems end. On this side of it, there is no difference at all between the two.
This is not a coincidence, but a direct result of the fact that the present-day mindset of a great many Moslems is exactly identical to that of the Aztecs of five centuries ago. Both think that they can help their god. Both are assured that the great reward awaits them if they die while doing him a favor. Both are in possession of the ultimate Truth.
And this last point brings to the fore one other similarity between the Aztecs and so many of today‘s Moslems: religiously speaking, both are idol-worshippers - and in the worship of their idols, both practice identical rites of human sacrifice.To Top of Page
With what is going on in Iraq, it is not surprising that many approaches are being suggested to dry out the Iraq morass, or at least to help us step out of it. Train more Iraqi police, draw down US troops, involve Syria and Iran, resolve Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
All these solutions share a feature which I find not just curious but extremely revealing of western attitudes: being either political or military, they do not require Iraqis to change, but rather turn on the vision of Iraqis of tomorrow as we see them today - tribal/religious bigots with murderous/suicidal disregard for those around them.
But why not tell the Iraqis to change? Their religious views being wrong - because they are based on the idolatrous “True Faith” religiosity - why not open their eyes to the fact that, in talking of “True Faith,” they cannot possibly know what they are talking about, and, in religious terms, commit idolatry? Why not explain to them that the problem of the third party makes full separation of church and state (and of “truth” and “faith,” for that matter), and democracy not just an imposed western innovation, but a universal necessity?
Why not CHANGE the Iraqis? Why not take their eighth-century mind, and upload into it the wisdom and experience accumulated in thirteen centuries that followed?To Top of Page
It is amazing how many facts that we now take for granted were bitterly opposed when they were suggested for the first time.
The textbook example, of course, is the reception of Galileo’s proof that Earth moved round the Sun, not the other way around. In the ensuing brouhaha Galileo prudently rescinded his views, acknowledging to a Mr. Inquisitor that his argument was just a senior moment, and promising to refrain from further speculations on celestial matters.
And to think of it, it was not a big deal. Whether the Sun moves around the Earth, or the Earth around the Sun - what difference does it make for us, down here?
But negligence of seemingly abstruse matters can have outcomes that are far more tragic. Trying to deal with extremely high death rate in maternity wards, Scottish doctor Alexander Gordon suggested, back in 1795, that obstetricians should wash their hands in carbolic acid before assisting at childbirth. He was ignored.
Fifty years - and many thousand deaths - later, Oliver Wendell Holmes repeated Dr. Gordon’s suggestion. He was ridiculed.
Dr. Holmes’ Viennese contemporary Ignaz Semmelweiss came to precisely to the same conclusion on his own, and again warned that the doctors were introducing fatal infections into maternity wards. He was laughed off by practicing physicians, took it hard, and died insane. If was only in 1867 - more than seventy years after the suggestion was first made - that, on Joseph Lister’s insistence, doctors adopted strict rules of hygiene.
The story had a happy end, but how many had to die to prove the establishment wrong?
And today, we are faced with another threat - terrorism. Just today we were warned of 30 terror plots being tracked in England. All sorts of theories are being advanced by the political and academic establishment to explain terrorism, or to explain it away: historical, economic, educational. All sorts of methods are suggested to fight it: military, fiscal, political.
Yet one reason for terrorism is outside the pale: True Faith, or, more precisely, idolatry. We hear day in and day out that terrorists pervert religion, that terrorism has nothing, just nothing to do with religion. “The MI5 chief's analysis indicates the huge problems that the government, security services, Muslim communities and wider society face in getting a grip on the mechanisms of radicalization,” we are told by today’s BBC analysis entitled Can radicalism be tackled? But why are there “huge problems?“ Because we are unable to deal with the source of terrorism - idolatrous religiosity. Our very culture forbids us from looking at the problem from the prospective which demands criticism of another’s piety. Whatever we say, we must not touch religion. We must be nice, we must be polite, we must be respectful, we must be politically correct. Religion at fault? Look the other way!
Well, isn’t that just another case of blatant disregard of unpleasant reality, like the one we saw in Galileo’s story, or that of advance in antiseptics? Shouldn’t we know better by now than to discard ideas when they collide with deeply entrenched established opinions?
We’d better. If it takes another seventy years to prove to those dismissing the notion that idolatrous religiosity is the root cause of terrorism and that idol-worshipper’s piety needs to be attacked and debunked, we will have lost the battle: the terrorists will get an atom bomb before terrorism is defeated.
Many thousands had to die before the notion that doctors better wash their hands - and wash their hands better - took root. Millions more will, if we don’t address the single most important root cause of terrorism: idolatrous religiosity.To Top of Page
This morning brought the news that Israeli soldiers shot at the crowd of women, killing two. The ladies’ fault? Nothing more than shielding Palestinian gunmen holed in a mosque and helping them escape from Israeli soldiers. Naturally, this caused fresh accusations that Israelis shoot at civilians.
But who is a civilian?
The prefect definition is given in Aesop’s fable of the farmer and his donkey. A farmer leading his heavily loaded donkey down the lane suddenly spies a band of armed people approaching, and panics. “Let’s run fast before they see us and take you away” he tells the donkey. “And what will happen to me if they do?” asks the donkey, “will I have to work, or not?” “O, you will work as hard as you work now” replies the farmer. “So why should I run?” asks the donkey. “You or they - it is all same to me.”
Which describes a civilian to the dot. A civilian is the one who is neutral because he sees nothing for him in the conflict’s potential outcome, one way or the other, that would justify the suffering it inflicts. Those who care enough for the cause to run into the line of fire when they can stay back are not civilians, whether they are armed or not, whether they serve as swords or as shields.
Were there any declared civilians? There were some. At the height of English civil war, with both the royalists and the parliamentarians requisitioning crops and horses and stationing soldiers in people’s houses, gangs of “clubmen” sprang up whose business it was to keep either side away. But other than this example from three and a half centuries ago, no such explicitly civilian behavior comes to mind - though, to think of it, the Irish who rioted in New York against the Civil war draft may have been declared civilians too.
And while the borderline between the combatants and the civilians may not be as clear-cut (though we do instinctively feel that civilians are those “innocent”), stone-throwing children and human-shield women are certainly not civilians, but are rather combatants shielded by the best armor our culture provides - either the armor of under-age impunity, or of the notion that women are mothers and it is unthinkable to harm them.
This armor serves them well: stone-throwing teenagers get off easy because we are hard-wired to sympathize with those “under eighteen,” and our gentlemanly instincts make us invariably indignant when we hear of a hurt done to “innocent women.”
But how about the “not innocent” women and children? How about those women rushing to succor armed gunmen, as they did this morning in Beit Hanun? How about those “women and children” placed atop firing positions to prevent the return fire, as is the common tactic of both the Palestinians and the Hizbullah? How about those children throwing stones at Israeli soldiers?
Don’t sympathize with them when they are hurt. Because they are not “civilians.”To Top of Page
Make a choice: which of the two is better? They sure differ in appearance - one is big and has a hood, another is just a modest-looking little creature. One makes a lot of show and noise, the other is modest and quiet.
So which should we prefer? Well, the venom of either one is deadly. Perhaps, there is no choice here. Both are essentially the same.
Which is not infrequently the case of seemingly opposite political figures, too. The west is strongly backing Palestinian president Abbas against Hamas that was elected by the Palestinians to rule, because the “moderate” Abbas backs a deal with Israel that would end the conflict, while to Hamas the very idea of Israel is an anathema. Isn’t there a huge difference between the two?
Not really - when it comes to what is really important, to the goals rather than tactics to achieve them.
Gaza is the case in point. One would think that, after Israelis exited Gaza, “moderate” Abbas would nurture the chance to show the world that Palestinians can be good neighbors of Israel, and would prove wrong those foretelling that the withdrawal will only result in further attacks on Israel from Gaza.
He did not - because such approach is not on his mind. The title of this morning’s AFP report from Ramallah - "Abbas, Hamas PM condemns Israeli 'massacre' in Gaza" says it all. Israelis entered a town in Northern Gaza to stop firing of rockets from there. In ensuing firefight, six Palestinians and an Israeli soldier were killed. Hamas condemned the “massacre.” But how about a “moderate,” “peaceful” Abbas? Did he tell the Palestinians that to end killing in Gaza they should - guess what - stop shelling Israel, release the Israeli soldier they dragged into Gaza from Israel, and focus on something more productive than building tunnels under the Egypt border and smuggle in massive quantities of weapons?
Surprise, surprise! He said nothing of a kind. Along with Hamas, he condemned the “massacre.” The language of the two is interchangeable. Attribute Abbas’ remarks to Hamas and you will never notice that something is off.
So is Abbas any good? Is he any different from Hamas?
Well, to be sure, he is - his “peaceful” tactic is to smother Israel by flood of “refugees” while Hamas’ “violent” tactic is to destroy it by the force of arms.
Which is about tantamount to the difference between an adder and a cobra.To Top of Page
“Atheists top book charts by deconstructing God” in yesterday’s book review section in the Guardian discusses success of a slew of newly-published books that examine phenomenon of terrorism from an atheistic perspective.
Such books illustrate a fascinating contradiction: while claiming that atheism is a rational alternative to religion, they only succeed in making it crystal clear that atheism is nothing more than just another religion.
While differing from other creeds it such details as the theory of Creation and the number of gods (zero versus one or more), atheism shares with the rest of them the claim to be the ultimate “Truth,” the muddiness of “proofs,” as well as the zeal with which its True Believers advocate their creed - and ignore its problematic spots.
Because, to think of it, atheist’s position is even more vulnerable than that of theists: God’s verbal silence is in no way a proof of his non-existence, and so there is always a possibility that He will reliably reveal Himself (“reliably” is the key word here; because of the problem of the third party, “scriptures” like the Bible or the Koran are signally unreliable as evidence of His revelation or as records of His word). But there is not even a theoretical possibility to prove the atheistic hypothesis. No matter how long we don’t hear from God, the possibility that He exists is still there.
And so, we need a more sensible cure for the malady of terrorism than an unrealistic hope that terrorists will convert to atheism. Solutions offered by its apostles are unworkable because, even in theory, their claims are un-provable.To Top of Page
To judge by today’s report entitled Danish court rejects cartoon suit, there is such thing as “anti-blasphemy law” in Denmark. Who would have thought?
It was lucky for the biblical Abraham that there was no such law in ancient Mesopotamia, when, as per the Talmud, he blasphemously broke his daddy’s idols and than added insult to injury by telling his outraged sire that they were useless.
Some thousand years later, Socrates found to his chagrin that there was an anti-blasphemy law in Greece when he was sentenced to drinking poisonous hemlock for violating that law by thinking too much.
Yet another twelve centuries or so passed, and Mohammed had to flee his native Mecca because blaspheming Meccan idols was not allowed by the Arab sheikhs.
And now that the idol of Islamic “True Faith” came under attack from a bunch of cartoonist, the Danish government promptly introduced the “anti-blasphemy law” to defend it.
But is idolatry worth defending? The problem of the third party makes it impossible to know whether Mohammed was a prophet or not, and to claim that he was, is idol-worship. Under our present condition of not being able to know who is a “prophet” and who is not, what is God‘s word and what is not, “blasphemy“ is simply impossible, Mohammed cartoons or not.
And isn’t it absurd to forbid something which does not exist in the first place?
PS - there is some more stuff on the Mohammed cartoon brouhaha on this site - see Of yachts, cartoons, and dilemmas of political correctness, Reflections on eighteenth-century Mohammed cartoon, and the 1788 Mohammed cartoon itself.To Top of Page
In all his speeches, the president never misses the opportunity to remind us that Islam is a peaceful religion. Every newspaper and every magazine that write on the subject invariably stress that same point.
But such perception of Islam was not always the case. In fact, it was not the case until quite recently, as I happened to discover by rather aimlessly poking through the not-so-old books.
Consider this sentence commenting on a drawing of Arab horsemen on page 102 of Desmond Stewart’s admiring “The Alhambra: A History of Islamic Spain” that was published in the series “Wonders of Man” by Newsweek in 1977: “Islam is a militant faith, and even a mounted contingent embarking on a pilgrimage can project a martial aura.”
Or how about this one, that concludes the chapter on the decline of the Roman empire in the “Empires Besieged” part of the magnificently illustrated series “TimeFrame” that was published by Time Life Books in 1988: “And in A. D. 570 a boy named Mohammed was born in the city of Mecca in the Arabian desert, whence would soon blow the storms of the militant new faith.”
Or this analysis of the reasons for the success of Arab conquests in the century that followed Mohammed’s death, given on page 43-44 in “The Enterprise of War” volume of the same series (1991) : “Inspired by the belief that death in battle would win them the automatic admission to Paradise, they burst out on the Arabian peninsula with a relentless ferocity that initially swept all before them.”
It is worth noting that all these books were published before 9/11. Did that tragedy have anything to do with the change in the western perception of Islam?
The answer just has to be “yes.” It was on 9/11 that the question of the role of Islam in violence became more than academic; and it having been politically prudent to distance Islam from violence, the view of Islam as a peaceful religion was aggressively pushed.
But politics apart, is Islam peaceful, or is it violent?
The answer to this question depends on whose Islam you are talking about. The moment Mohammed died, Islam - fully in accordance with the problem of the third party - split into as many Islams as there are those who care to have an opinion on what Islam is ought to be; some of these Islams are peaceful, some are violent.
Which one is yours? Its up to you to decide.To Top of Page
The reaction to the news of North Korean nuclear test was altogether predictable: “Let’s isolate them, let’s blockade them, let’s cut off aid” on the one side, “let’s talk to them” on the other.
Both approaches are based on the same fundamental premise: that by seeing the negative impact of the nuclear policy on their already tottering economy and the well-being of their people, North Korean leadership will change its course.
But is that premise correct? Are North Korea’s leaders convinced their economy is tottering? Do they know their people are suffering? Do they think the West is strong enough to deal with the North Korea?
Unfortunately, the most probable answer to each of these questions is, “no,” “no,” and “no.”
As with any other messianic regime, North Korean leaders are sure that theirs is the land of bliss. The leaders are tightly wrapped in the bubble of their own economic splendor, and see nothing but happiness all around them. The state exists only to keep the Leader happy - which means keeping the real reality hidden well. The only purpose of the Leader’s entourage is to constantly keep this façade of universal happiness moving as the Leader moves. Whenever he goes, the Leader sees smiling, happy children singing and dancing; whenever he steps outside of his palace, there are well-fed, well-housed people who are besides themselves with expressions of gratitude to the Leader. All the talk of North Koreans’ unhappiness is obvious and blatant capitalist propaganda.
Moreover, the position of the West is also seen differently by those enveloped by the fragrant incense of Communist religion and peeking out of its thick smoke. To North Korean leadership, not only are those living under Communism the happiest of beings, but those living under capitalism are the most miserable ones - and moreover, their countries are on the brink of imminent collapse from the strain of the on-going class struggle, and are about to join North Korea in Communist bliss at any moment. In fact, it is precisely to prevent this outcome, it is precisely to stall the historically inevitable arrival of Communism, that reactionaries and capitalists threaten the North Korea, this beacon of human progress.
And so, here is the view from the other side: the happy, strong, and prosperous North Korea is threatened by poor, weak, doomed regimes that are about to collapse. Since capitalists are weak, why not negotiate from the position of strength? Since they are headed for historical oblivion, why keep promises made to them?
All of which shows the limits of “realpolitik:” it is based on the premise that the other side sees the same reality we do.
Which is not at all in accord with reality.To Top of Page
Copyright 2005-2006 -- All articles and illustrations at this web site are Copyright protected material. Use of these articles and illustrations is subject to appropriate restrictions under United States, International, and local Law.
Unless otherwise stated, Copyright by Vel Nirtist.
Site designed and implemented by Silk Road Design Arts http://www.srdarts.com.