Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Pandora's Box

I had been to two lectures in two weeks that dealt with the issues of fear and violence, both by men who spent 45 minutes flexing their not inconsiderable intellectual muscles to unpack the ideology of 'fear of the other' that is the obsession of the world today.

In both lectures, groans of rueful liberal laughter greeted cleverly constructed barbs aimed at the beliefs of those less clever, questioning and therefore enlightened than those in the room, ranging from our boy George to anyone who has read a newspaper article that included the words terrorism, religious war or September 11. The scary thing about people with open minds (I try to belong to this group) is that we are just as absolutist, divisive and irrational as the neo-cons, the evangelicals, the jihadists and the Joe Average that we deride in our little nests of learning.

We construct intricate arguments for all sides of the story, go to extraordinary lengths to qualify our remarks and use smoke and mirrors to hide the fact that one must always stand on one set of beliefs to even be able to critique another. No matter how clever your speech, no matter how cutting your remarks, you have to hold convictions to argue, you mine the western culture of understanding, speaking and listening in the very language you use to communicate your message, the forum in which you preach your message and the audience who hear your message.

Somewhere around here is a link to a David Foster Wallace speech and his first anecdote is that of the young fish who do not know what water is. As I walk out of these intellectual love-ins, I am those young fish, all those stunningly original words are remembered now in reference to prior thoughts and I am awash in an ocean of assumptions, myths and outright propaganda. There is nowhere for me to go but madness.

There is only one way that I can see for me to scramble back over the cliff and lie, panting and safe on the dry land of sanity and hope, and that is to cease this self-congratulatory criticism, this endless preening in the intellectual mirror, to control my tendancies to let my intellect free to ravage those that are not me and my immediate audience.

There is a frightening stream of recycling that pervades western culture at the moment. We recycle fashion, music, ideology, politics and images. Our intellectuals critique and deconstruct, our engineers preserve, our politicians parrot and our children are fed regurgitated history and culture in bite-sized portions that are tenuously linked to each other by adults who fancy themselve clever for their 're-interpretation' when their wit is lost on a generation who do not understand the references because they have not the classic education to know what they are looking at.

We are the eternal problem of the snake eating it's tail, forever reflexive and contemporary and losing our chance to strain towards innovation and progress. I know I am fond of wailing that knowing thyself and thy history is important, but history is not there to be repackaged to make yourself look clever at a dinner party! History is there to act as a cautionary tale - forward, forever forward is it's mantra - I do not exist when I am looking back at myself obsessively, only myself when I am hurtling forward in hope.

B'ah. I claim firstly to be a historian, secondly a writer and thirdly a woman in search of a life of learning. But I am too often seduced by the tripping silver of my tongue, the breadth of my recall of my wide reading, the nimbleness of my brain when in search of universal truths. Firstly I am a show-off, secondly I am a smart-ass and thirdly I am a shell of knowledge.

Originally posted on Exiled Britophile, a blog I updated for about twelve months when I returned home from London. Due to it's frank discussion of how horrid I found Perth, these pieces had only been read by my London readers until 2011.

Bear with a Head Cold (reprise)

Second day at home sick, re-reading my post from yesterday, a little concerned that my 'humour'(?) may have been as logical as his 'facts', bored, bored, bored, I think I may have another crack at his ... what I would not like to flatter by calling writing, perhaps more a collection of words ..?

Okay, let's start from the top shall we?

Spanish Newspaper article on Judiasm (In English)

Yup, sure does mention the Jews. Not sure it is an in depth exploration of Judaism as such, but it sure mentions the Jews. Great. Also mentions Muslims at least as prominently. Still, don't want to get too specific here. It is in English also. Points all round for the first line.

All European life died in Auschwitz.

Snappy, emotive, very self-flagellatory, good parallel between genocide and the death of Western Reason. Plenty of good, fact based arguments coming up I reckon.

I walked down the street in Barcelona, and suddenly discovered a terrible truth - Europe died in Auschwitz.

Good bloke, learning never stops for him, always on the lookout for entire swathes of European History that may have slipped through the cracks in the Education System.

We killed six million Jews and replaced them with 20 million Muslims.

Yeeeeeees-no. Hello Dan Brown, taking two facts, squishing them together in a sentence, making a new factual truth. No.

The Huns and some of their mates killed 6 million Jews, waged a few wars during which just as many non-Jews died. Peace was reached, nations were built up again, labour was sought due to sudden, inexplicable lack of people.

Immigration was encouraged, people from all different races and religions migrated. Lots of Muslims turned up since the people in the Muslim World are quite numerous and not so wealthy as the profligate Europeans who like to kill millions of people and still need more flesh for their money-making machines.

In Auschwitz we burned a culture, thought, creativity, talent. We destroyed the chosen people, truly chosen, because they produced great and wonderful people who changed the world.

The contribution of these people are felt in all areas of life: science, art, international trade, and above all, as the conscience of the world. These are the people we burned.

I would like to take this moment to introduce you all to zefrank and his definition of The Wedge Strategy. For those without Quicktime, here is the text version of zefrank's little riff on The Wedge Strategy:

'A wedge strategy is where you focus on a highly charged issue at the borders of rationality and emotion. The emotional content of the issue can create a moral conviction that the issue needs to be resolved at any cost. Tactics that would otherwise be called into question can then be employed to resolve the issue. This sets precedent for the future use of those tactics in other arenas.'

So, with the sneaky little wedge strategy in mind, let's look at these four sentences again. Can anyone spot the emotionally charged issue?

Where are the borders of rationality and emotion? Let's see; don't want to speak ill of the death, check for emotion; not every one of those six million humans could have been a paragon of greatness, wonderfulness and intellectual contribution, check for irrationality.

As a historian, as a historian who studied the Holocaust, as a historian who studied the Holocaust and wanted to JOIN the Jewish religion at age 17, I will never argue with those four sentences because many brilliant, kind and humanly flawed people, undeserving of death, died at the hands of other brilliant, kind and humanly flawed people who either believed the Jews deserved to die, or wished to live themselves and chose another to die instead of themselves.

I just wouldn't construct an argument against another culture using a faux self-effacing acknowledgment of the worst aspect of my own. Call me crazy.

[Well you can call me crazy for wanting to join a religion/nation because it had a cool history and I thought that a person could appropriate history for oneself merely by calling God by another name. That is another discussion altogether however.]

And under the pretense of tolerance, and because we wanted to prove to ourselves that we were cured of the disease of racism, we opened our gates to 20 million Muslims, who brought us stupidity and ignorance, religious extremism and lack of tolerance, crime and poverty due to an unwillingness to work and support their families with pride.

*Claire dances a little angry jig* Where to start, where to start, OH LORD WHERE TO START?

In my other post I dealt with the *cough* author's *cough* claims with matching emotional arguments based on sweeping generalisations. But two wrongs cannot make a right, so I will repeat a theme I mentioned above, just with some different illustrations.

Where are the borders of rationality and emotion? Let's see; ruefully admitting 'we was wrong, evil, weak, racist and intolerant', check for emotion; all Muslims are the same, check for irrationality.

Where are the borders of rationality and emotion? Let's see; no Europeans are stupid, ignorant, religious extremists, intolerant, criminal and poor, with no family pride, the Muslims brought that into our great country, check for irrationality; all Muslims are to blame for terrorists that share their religious beliefs, check for irrationality; Europeans are being punished for the Holocaust; check for emotion.

Where are the borders of rationality and emotion? I don't know, right in front of us every day as people in every strata of life try to assert themselves with violence instead of reason perhaps.

Perhaps in the words pasted together by somebody who is using the argument that ALL of Europe was stupid, ignorant, religiously fanatic, intolerant, criminal and dismissive of familial safety to argue that ALL of Islam is likewise, coated in the inarguable emotion of the Holocaust to make it slide down a treat.

And now - the magnificently crafted crescendo of crassness ...

They have turned our beautiful Spanish cities into the third world, drowning in filth and crime. Shut up in the apartments they receive free from the government, they plan the murder and destruction of their naive hosts. And thus, in our misery, we have exchanged culture for fanatical hatred, creative skill for destructive skill, intelligence for backwardness and superstition. We have exchanged the pursuit of peace of the Jews of Europe and their talent for hoping for a better future for their children, their determined clinging to life because life is holy, for those who pursue death, for people consumed by the desire for death for themselves and others, for our children and theirs.

In summary: We treated the Jews like animals, then in righteous remorse we let other, real animals into our lands and they are killing us like animals.

At no stage does this crazy author, whose words have spread over the internet like poison in a water source, disassociate the masses of the Muslim world from the comparatively tiny number of terrorists, suicide bombers and the victims of the well-documented institutionalised racism of European employment laws and processes.

Perhaps then we have no right to let New York Staters disassociate themselves from the mantle of terrorism that Timothy McVeigh gave them. All Cambodians must be labelled as perpetrators of horrific murder because of Pol Pot. Australians are mass murderers of English Tourists. All the Chinese oppress themselves in an orgy of human rights abuses.

At no stage does rationality shine upon the words of this author, that have regrettably been taken up and passed around by so many as some kind of amazing truth.

What a terrible mistake was made by miserable Europe.

Damn right.

This is a translation of an article from a Spanish newspaper.

Ooooooh, the Spanish should be pissed that they are being credited with owning this imbecile.

Please send this article to as many people as possible, with a request to forward it on. The truth must be told!

Yes, the truth does need to be told. Peace is not won by propaganda, it is won by reason.

Sorry.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Bear with a Head Cold

Just as my soapbox thought it was on holiday for two years as I prepare to write only for my honours thesis, I was gifted with the following annoying piece of written hokum in my inbox.

All the senders that were listed on the forwarding addresses are friends, so I would like to preface this with a disclaimer: I am not arguing with anyone that sent it on, just the man who wrote the words and thought he had found the great truth of the 21st Century. Twat. Also, I am home sick with a head cold. Bear, sore head. You get the picture.

*Warning - Historical Lessons Die Hideous Deaths Below*
[oh, after a quick google I believe it is a Hoax as there seems to be no original source of the article. It has been bandied around the blogs and emails for months now, with so much Acclaim, that I want to say something.]

Spanish newspaper article on Judiasm (In English)

All European life died in Auschwitz

By Sebastian Vilar Rodrigez

I walked down the street in Barcelona, and suddenly discovered a terrible truth-Europe died in Auschwitz. We killed six million Jews and replaced them with 20 million Muslims. In Auschwitz we burned a culture, thought, creativity, talent. We destroyed the chosen people, truly chosen, because they produced great and wonderful people who changed the world.

The contribution of these people are felt in all areas of life: science, art, international trade, and above all, as the conscience of the world.These are the people we burned.

And under the pretense of tolerance, and because we wanted to prove to ourselves that we were cured of the disease of racism, we opened our gates to 20 million Muslims, who brought us stupidity and ignorance, religious extremism and lack of tolerance, crime and poverty due to an unwillingness to work and support their families with pride.

They have turned our beautiful Spanish cities into the third world, drowning in filth and crime. Shut up in the apartments they receive free from the government, they plan the murder and destruction of their naive hosts. And thus, in our misery, we have exchanged culture for fanatical hatred, creative skill for destructive skill, intelligence for backwardness and superstition. We have exchanged the pursuit of peace of the Jews of Europe and their talent for hoping for a better future for their children, their determined clinging to life because life is holy, for those who pursue death, for people consumed by the desire for death for themselves and others, for our children and theirs.

What a terrible mistake was made by miserable Europe.

This is a translation of an article from a Spanish newspaper.

Please send this article to as many people as possible, with a request to forward it on. The truth must be told!

The Truth! God (the Christian God, not the damned Muslim god, Allah) help us, The Truth lives amongst us! Quick, spread the word by Mouse and Key across the world, for a Historical Revelation has been given to a Spaniard!

The European Countries Killed Jews in the early parts of the 1940's!

He point no fingers but European countries in various numbers carried out the killings, Collaborated with the killings and engaged in what I believe is called Appeasement, as Jews, along with other Chosen minorities were persecuted, imprisoned and killed in Heroic numbers.

This wave of death became a Tsunami of destruction that drowned the citizens of most European countries, as well as citizens in the countries that were the arenas in which they Chose to wage their wars.

Glory be! A Terrible Truth that the world must know! The Europeans are Racist and Destructive, delighting in nothing better than a spot of War before lunch. And they waged these Wars on People that they Did Not Like, chosen as Politics and Circumstance Dictated.

Ah, but wait, there is more! Along with this Terrible Truth this imbecile is offering us these fabulous steak knives with real circa-1945 bone handles in this exotic pale pink leather case (isn't the leather a lovely skin colour? Exquisite patterning).

Oh yes, and he will throw in this Lesser Researched Truth too, That Muslims are Evil. They are:

Stupid (can't grasp Science or Maths the smelly towelheads),

Ignorant (it's embarrassing that they haven't yet realised that women are for display/exploitation purposes only!),

Religious (superstition is so last millennium, this is the Age of Profit, Money is the new Faith),

Intolerant (they are like us, only, like, sixty years ago! Get with the program guys),

Criminal (not like those lovely men who run Enron, Exxon Mobil, Nestle, AWB and Guantanamo Bay), and

Poor (but get Bono or Big Bob G onside and they will be fine in no time, check out Africa if you don't believe me).

They infest and infect the modern cities of Spain, established and built by the Moors who were dirty bloody Muslims and believers in all that guff about Numbers and Navigation, and then conquered and held by the Spaniards, who ushered in the Enlightened Age of the Inquisition with those paragons of Tolerance, the Crusaders bless their Saintly Infidel-Spitting Swords.

Indeed, miserable Europe has made a terrible mistake. They birthed government-instigated genocide and two world-wide wars, yet despite all the horror visited upon their citizens and ideologies by these disgusting lapses of reason, they decided to right their wrongs by kicking some hapless people, over which they had no jurisdiction, off their olive groves to create a make-shift nation for the guilty refugees from millennium-long European prejudice.

So they made the Jews, the nation that is a religion; the nation of which Christianity is only a cult that got lucky with an Emperor; the nation that are the only people on this planet that had a history of persecution and pogrom against them, yet had not fought wars since the Old Testament; into the most unnatural nation in the world. A nation that now lives by violence and in a sea of hatred, not by their millennia of integration with the country they called home and pride in their difference.

Jesus was a Palestinian Jew and an Islamic Prophet. Look at that sentence for a moment and tell me that in 2006, admitting that history is history and that nothing can be changed now, that there is not some precedence for Christian Europe, Israel, Palestine and the Muslim World to come to some kind of acknowledgement in the near future that each human may believe in whatever they want, but they may not kill another for it.

It is not by repeating the disaster of Israel, the concept that other parts of the world can pay for European mistakes, that we will avoid the terrorist actions of a few Muslims who do not wish to to be the victims of Western manoeuvring. European reluctance to make reparation to the Jews by allowing the Jews back to their European houses, towns, jobs and wealth, and gifting them a country that was not theirs, is at this moment propelling blocks of concrete into the bodies of Israeli and Lebanese civilians.

No, the miserable mistake that terrible Europe is making is that once again they are letting propaganda, not reason, drive their political decisions.

PS This dreadful piece of writing was so terrible I wrote another entire post on it here ...