American Exceptionalism

Great power is not an infinitely liberating force but a bottomless (infernal) pit.” American Exceptionalism is no different from the exceptionalism of any preceding empire. If fear is the greatest motivating force, when will the fear of the destruction of the planet through human-caused climate change, through human-caused destruction of the environment, through the high possibility of human-caused nuclear annihilation, overcome the fear of the loss of American power and hegemony, which is already dwindling in any case? Do we really want to “make America great again”? Even if that were possible? Are we really so crass and short-sighted that we want to bring about the destruction of the whole world? So far, we are proving that we are so.

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God bless America?

Lest we forget:

https://theintercept.com/2016/06/13/hillary-clinton-and-donald-trump-call-for-more-airstrikes-on-isis-after-orlando-massacre-that-isis-didnt-direct/

 

Well, it just goes to prove that the 2 persons who were the major party candidates for POTUS are both criminally insane. But we have been aiming to get into this mess at least ever since 1953 when USA and UK overthrew Mossadegh, democratically elected leader of Iran, allowing the Shah and his criminal intelligence agency, SAVAK, to brutally rule, beginning the promotion of the virulent hatred that Islamic fundamentalists have for the USA. Rather than try to promote justice and freedom, our insane policy of murder and torture, whether directly by us or through our so-called allies or stooges, has for quite a while now backfired on us. The only solution for radical religious fundamentalism is to promote secular social justice. The USA has done everything to promote the opposite of that, including the sanctions and bombing of Iraq under the Bill Clinton administration, when Bill’s Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, infamously said on national television that the price, the murder of 500,000 Iraqi children, was worth it. How on earth do the American people have the gall to go into their churches and pray that “God Bless America”?

 

Steven Pinker, Purveyor of Humanist Humbug

Steven Pinker receiving the Richard Dawkins Award:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDKCD_PGQ30

 

Well, I managed to watch the first 35 minutes of the whole 58 minute dreary video, dreary not due to the statistics presented, but due to the insufferable conviction of Pinker, a much spoiled man who is isolated from the world and its real problems, that humanity is so much better off now that it has ever been, and that, O, we are so much more enlightened than our predecessors. What insufferable cheek.

His biggest error in logic (and he claims to be a man of reason!) is his constant use of percentages in an invalid manner, which leads him to false conclusions. If you look at a graph of world population historically, the world population is almost always rising, but the rise in population starting early in the 20th century has been exponential. Therefore, when he compares a percentage statistic of violence in an earlier era to a percentage statistic in the 20th or 21st century, he is talking about a vastly smaller number of persons killed, murdered, or maimed in the earlier era compared to the vast amounts of persons killed, murdered, or maimed in the 20th and 21st centuries. The unmistakable, unavoidable conclusion to this is that Pinker values a human life in any bygone era far above that of a human life in the modern era. By Pinker’s own logic, he doesn’t value contemporary lives as being of much worth at all, despite his claims to value human life. In reality, a human life has value regardless of what era a person lived in. Pinker can afford to sit in his comfortable armchair surrounded by like-minded (deluded) liberal friends who have gentlemanly and ladylike manners, enjoying an expensive glass of wine, and ignore such a consideration, which if he had a grain of honesty, he would have acknowledged to himself long before.

Pinker’s conclusion that we live in a less violent world than the peoples of past eras is totally false, and the only possible conclusion is that he is living in cloud-cuckoo-land.

His claim about the elimination of slavery would be laughable if it weren’t so tragically false. He said slavery is no longer legal anywhere. It’s legal in Qatar under the guise of sponsorship laws. It’s virtually legal in Uzbekistan, due to the government’s organization of forced labor in the cotton industry. There may be other countries where slavery is legal. It is also widely practiced in India. He gives no mention of the prevalence of child slavery, legal or not, in countries across the globe. And he gives no mention of sex slavery, which is on a sharp rise in “civilized” countries in Europe and in the USA. He also gives no mention of the virtual slavery endured by millions due to the global capitalists who have created the conditions whereby a wage slave will accept almost any horrific conditions due to the reason that otherwise he and his family will starve to death.

He talks about the abolition of torture. But he does not mention the resumption of the use of torture by the government of the United States, and the cast of grossly immoral and (literally) criminal lawyers who provided the pseudo-legal-justification to adopt cruel methods of torture not only at the prison in Guantanamo but also at a host of known “black sites” in Afghanistan (Salt Pit, AKA Cobalt, Code Black), Lithuania (Antaviliai, Code Violet), Romania (Bright Light, Code Black), Poland (Quartz, Code Blue), Thailand (Cat’s Eye, Code Green) and a secret site on the Guantanamo Naval Base, known as Strawberry Fields (Forever). http://anonhq.com/not-finished-yet-think-guantanamo-bad-nine-cia-black-sites-worse-torture-abuse-happened/ This information was freely available to Pinker, if he had cared to look for it. He didn’t. Since he is a citizen of the United States, he really should have looked.

He also does not mention any of the times that the rulers of the world in the 20th century came ever so close to blowing up the entire planet not just once (the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962) but 9 other documented times that folks don’t read about in the corporate-controlled newspapers. If this had come to pass, neither Pinker and like-minded “enlightened” intellectuals, nor any of the rest of us, would be around to discuss the topic in our cozy surroundings.

If Pinker thinks that literacy and our education in propaganda has created a more enlightened populace, that we more modern folks are any better judges of ourselves and the world than humans of past eras, then he is full of the most stercoraceous humbug ever pedaled to a gullible audience.

As Voltaire said (and Pinker quoted Voltaire as saying so), “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” Pinker ought to reflect on the fact that this is precisely so if one takes at face value the absurdities promulgated by the global capitalists and their apologists, of whom Pinker is himself an example.

 

Nietzsche’s challenge

Nietzsche’s challenge: Faith means the will to avoid knowing what is true.

(This usually appears on the Internet as: “Faith: not wanting to know what the truth is.”)

The quote, “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him” is from Nietzsche’s “The Gay Science” (or “The Joyful Wisdom”). “Faith means the will to avoid knowing what is true” is from Nietzsche’s “The Antichrist”.

When Nietzsche says that “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him”, although he is an atheist, he is not referring to the actual reality of God. He is referring to the fact that in the hearts of men and women, God no longer has a presense. Regardless of whether God is a reality or not, we have killed him in our hearts. Nietzsche is saying that we can no longer derive our morals and ethics from our outmoded notion of God. We don’t need God anymore.

This is a huge calamity for a considerable period of time, even if God is not a reality. We are still well within this period of time. It is a much greater calamity if God is a reality, for then we are denying the moral authority of the source of all. This is downright suicidal.

Nietzsche asserts in various places the equilvalent of “Faith is not wanting to know what is true“, and he is certainly not always referring to religious faith when he says it. He spent a lifetime referring to misguided faith in politics and in societies, referring with scorn to the notions of a secular German beer-drinking public. However, in “The Antichrist” he is referring specifically to faith in Christ.

Both Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, the first two “existentialists”, have scorn for Christendom. But whereas Nietzsche scorns religious faith, Kierkegaard defends the Christian faith in God. For Kierkegaard, contra Nietzche, faith is a passionate longing to know what is true. Both think of Christendom as being in a rotten state, but whereas Nietzsche is an atheist, Kierkegaard is a believer in the Son of God, in the reality of Jesus as being a true and faithful sign into the nature of God.

We are all children of the Enlightenment. We have been taught to believe in Reason, and that the pursuit of Reason will lead us to the truth. Does reason have its limitations? And whether reason has limitations or not, are humans unable to utilize it to find truth that is undistorted? Certainly humans have used reason to discover an astounding amount of objective truth about the world. But we have been far less successful in discovering subjective truth, in explaining our inwardness, in discovering who we are. We have lifeless, textbook speculations on our inwardness that are reductive of who we are. Is reason incapable of discovering truly who we are? For perceiving our essence, our inwardness? If reason is incapable of that, is there another mode for perceiving truth?

Kierkegaard believed so.

C. Stephen Evans, in his book “Faith Beyond Reason: a Kierkegaardian Account”, has a brilliant discussion of these questions. In it he asserts that Kierkegaard’s main concerns are twofold: “an emphasis on the ways that sinfulness and finitude limit human thinking, and on the ways that certain emotions and passions are necessary in order to get at religious truth. If Kierkegaard is right, then a good deal of the intellectual practices and attitudes that are taken as ‘reasonable’ by sinful human beings do not in fact help us get on track with truth. To make contact with truth we need to be reshaped from the ground up, and for Kierkegaard that requires a reorientation of our deepest desires.” 

For Our Sake

I want to put this very simply and emphatically:

We do not exist for the sake of the Other.

We do not exist for the sake of the Other known as God.

We do not exist for the sake of the Other known as our “selfish genes”.

We do not exist for the sake of the Other known as Capitalism.

We do not exist for the sake of the Other known as Democracy.

We do not exist for the sake of the Other known as Science.

We do not exist for the sake of the Other known as Truth.

We do not exist for the sake of the Other known as …..   anything you can name.

We exist for ourselves and in cooperation with each other and in harmony with our environment, or else we don’t exist.

We are weak creatures who need to reflect on this every day.

 

Newt Gingrich’s Sharia Deportation Test

A friend pointed out Newt Gingrich’s Sharia Deportation Test to me:

https://www.buzzfeed.com/hodakatebi/will-newt-gingrich-deport-you-2hjor

I took the quiz. Result: I was told that Newt Gingrich is going to have me deported. That is kind of ironic, since some of my ancestors lived in what is now known as Minnesota at least 10,000 years before any of Newt’s ancestors set foot in North America.

Regarding the quiz itself, I am trying to find it amusing that the “grader” of the quiz judges that I would perhaps be receptive to the idea of living in a country governed by Shari’a, as I regard the separation of church and state as being critical to the establishment of a just society. Also, Shari’a is undoubtedly not uniform among predominantly Muslim countries, maybe even not so within a Muslim country.  So which body of Shari’a, according to the judge of the quiz, do I supposedly lean towards?

I want to stress that my concern is not with religion as such, only with the fundamentalist versions of it, and that I am no more critical of Islamic fundamentalism than I am of Christian fundamentalism, of which I’ve had a belly full of here in the USA.

What I strenuously object to is the view of many fundamentalists that it is OK and desirable that their brand of laws and morality should be willfully imposed on the whole of a society.  I am not a multiculturalist who abandons judgment. I am not a post-modernist thinker who frequently abandons reason and meaning altogether.  I am as opposed to the fundamentalist Christian view that opposes Roe-v-Wade and “keeps women in their place” as I am to the Islamic fundamentalist view that approves of virtual female slavery and, even in some Muslim countries, female genital mutilation. It can be argued, of course, that the theologies of these religions do not support these fundamentalist views, and that the problem is merely a cultural one. But the fact that these fundamentalist views are supported strongly by adherents to one fundamentalist version of religion or another does make it a question of religion.

I am as opposed to the fundamentalist views that are pandered to by Donald Trump and Newt Gingrich and held by Mike Pence as I was opposed to the fundamentalist views of the late Ayatollah Khomeini.

I am not questioning the religion of peaceful adherents to any religion, even though I have no adherence to any religious doctrine, not even that of Unitarian-Universalism, many of whose adherents, by-the-way,  have an uncritical adherence to the notion of multiculturalism. I am not an upbeat liberal who “views plurality as inherently beneficial and conflict between moral values as invariably energizing.”  [I am not speaking of ethnic and cultural diversity per se, but of the insistence of those groups who try to impose their entire version of what purports to be morality on an entire society.] The only morality that I insist upon is that no one is entitled to murder or torture,  or to advocate either one:  this stricture applies to political leaders and their adherents from non-Muslim countries (the USA and Israel, in particular) as well as to political leaders and their adherents from Muslim countries.

This stricture needs to be observed by those in the West who have too little adherence to any notion of the value and meaning of life, as well as by those in the Muslim world who have an excess of conviction that they know what the meaning of life is.

“If pre-modern cultures were generally less bothered by the meaning of life than Franz Kafka, the same would seem to be true of postmodern ones. In the pragmatist, streetwise climate of advanced postmodern capitalism, with its skepticism of big pictures and grand narratives, its hard-nosed disenchantment with the metaphysical, [the notion of] ‘life’ is one among a whole series of discredited totalities. We are invited to think small rather than big – ironically, at just the point when some of those out to destroy Western civilization are doing exactly the opposite. In the conflict between Western capitalism and radical Islam, a paucity of belief squares up to an excess of it. The West finds itself faced with a full-blooded metaphysical onslaught at just the historical point that it has, so to speak, philosophically disarmed. As far as belief goes, postmodernism prefers to travel light: it has beliefs, to be sure, but it does not have faith.”   —  [From Terry Eagleton’s “The Meaning of Life: a Very Short Introduction” ]

I’m sure that Shari’a is not uniform among the many countries that are predominantly populated by Muslims. And maybe Shari’a is not any more or less just than Western law. Maybe the essential difference is that Shari’a is designed to promote social cohesiveness and regards notions of liberty and diversity as not being as important as we do in the West. We in the West tend to ignore the huge costs to social cohesiveness associated with the individual pursuit of liberty and the liberal commitment to diversity.  We live in a system that during better times promotes harmonious frustration, and during worse times promotes the violence and injustice that we see in the USA today.  I wonder what the billions of young Muslims today think about liberty and diversity.  Surely they must be tempted by these liberal ideas that, in the West, are promulgated without much thought, where the words “options” and “choice” are spoken so smoothly and habitually?

I am too used to living in the liberal West, [have had a bellyful of the neo-liberal West] and for too many years have ignored the darkside of our “enlightened” views. At my advanced age I could not possibly think of living anywhere else regardless of Newt Gingrich’s view on the matter. But I’m grateful that I’m still alive enough to learn a thing or two.

 

Bernie Betrays His Backers

Today Bernie threw his support to Clinton, and withdrew his support from his backers, berning them badly.

Today Bernie Sanders betrayed his backers, all those millions of Americans who contributed small sums of money to produce his unprecedented political war chest of $220 million. He betrayed all those millions of Americans who believed him when he said that he was a socialist. He betrayed all those millions of Americans who are fed up with neo-conservatism and neo-liberalism.

Hillary Clinton is both a dangerous neo-conservative and a dangerous neo-liberal.  Her super hawkish actions and positions as Secretary of State on Syria, Libya, Honduras, Ukraine show her to be a dogmatic neo-con, and the candidate most likely to plunge us into World War III, more likely so than her Republican opponent, Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton is also an enemy of the people, being a neo-liberal who supports the anti-democratic and anti-social policies of privatization, fiscal austerity, deregulation, so-called “free trade”, the financialization of the economy (which led to the financial crisis of 2007-2008), and reductions in government spending in order to enhance the role of the private sector in the economy. A vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote for the 1%.  Don’t vote for Hillory. Pillory Hillary instead.  That’s what she deserves.

Shame on Bernie for betraying his backers, for energizing a movement, and then leaving that movement in the lurch.

I’m voting for Jill Stein of the Green Party in November.

I’m not ever again going to waste my vote for either wing of the Republicrat Party, that duopoly of corporate-backed political hacks who have been leading the USA to ruin for a long, long time.