Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Imagine if they were able to impose their own totalitarian government, forcing people to accept their ideology and even to join their militia, all the while collecting "taxes", and murdering at will anyone who stood in their way? Sadly, this is what it is like in India, where the "Naxalites", a group no less violent in its intentions and no less regressive in its ideology than the Hutarees, has imposed a reign of terror for 20 years throughout the mid-section of India, which is often now referred to as the Red Corridor.
Today there is much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth about right-wing political violence in America. And not without good reason. The "Militia" movement, which had lain dormant (and/or gone pro, taking jobs with Blackwater, etc, in Iraq, etc) during the Bush years, began dusting off old copies of The Turner Diaries as soon as word started getting around that a Black guy might become president. The Hutarees are merely the most recent and most telegenic examples of this phenomenon.
But at the same time that American liberals are, if you will pardon the expression, up in arms over such things as death threats and racial epithets directed at Democratic Congresspersons, and even more so over the Hutarees and other "Patriotic" terrorist wannabes, where is the outrage over Arundhati Roy and her love-affair with the Naxalites?
Roy has just completed a self-promotion tour of the US, during which she talked very openly about her sympathy for the Naxalites, India's Pol-Pots-in-waiting. She defended their preference for murdering their political opponents rather than standing in elections by constantly insisting that India doesn't "really" have democracy, therefore the self-appointed champions of the "oppressed" are justified in picking up the gun and shooting anyone who won't comply with their demands.
But Roy's terrorist apologetics are cut from precisely the same cloth as the proclamations of America's own right-wing gun-thugs. The Hutarees and Minutemen and Oathkeepers, ad nauseum, all claim to be fighting against oppression and for liberty. In fact, in terms of ideology (at least on paper), much of the American far-right is arguably less noxious than the Stalin and Mao loving Naxalites!
Rejecting political violence should be a matter of principle, not political expedience. If the Hutarees were Maoists instead of Christians, would that make any difference to anyone? Well, it probably would have led to them being shut down a long time ago, rather than getting as close as they did to their planned rampage of murder of mayhem.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Generally, in Rwanda, the leadership of the Christian churches, especially that of the Catholic Church, played a central role in the creation and furtherance of racist ideology. They fostered a system which Europeans introduced and they encouraged. The building blocks of this ideology were numerous, but one can mention a few – first, the racist vision of Rwandan society that the missionaries and colonialists imposed by developing the thesis about which groups came first and last to populate the country (the Hamitic and Bantu myths); second, by rigidly controlling historical and anthropological research; third, by reconfiguring Rwandan society through the manipulation of ethnic identities (from their vague socio-political nature in the pre-colonial period, these identities gradually became racial) . . . .Belgian authorities had required all of their Rwandan colonial subjects to carry ID cards identifying the ethnic group of the holder. The large majority of Rwandans were categorized as Hutus. At first, both the Belgian government and the Catholic Church, which operated as a seamless extension of the colonial apparatus, groomed the Tutsi minority in the hopes that these could be turned into a local ruling elite obedient to their European masters.
Church authorities contributed to the spread of racist theories mainly through the schools and seminaries over which they exercised control. The elite who ruled the country after independence trained in these schools. According to Church historian Paul Rutayisire, the stereotypes used by the Hutu-dominated Rwandan government to dehumanise Tutsis, were also spread by some influential clergymen, bishops and priests, before and after the genocide. The Catholic Church and colonial powers worked together in organizing racist political groups like the Party for the Emancipation of the Hutu (Parmehutu) . . . .
The call for remorse and repentance still seems unnecessary and problematical for the Catholic Church. In March 1996, Pope John Paul II told the Rwandan people, “The Church... cannot be held responsible for the guilt of its members that have acted against the evangelic law; they will be called to render account of their own actions. All Church members that have sinned during the genocide must have the courage to assume the consequences of their deeds they have done against God and fellow men.”
The Tutsis were favored on the basis of the Hamitic hypothesis, according to which some Africans were less unequal than others, by virtue of their supposedly closer racial affinity to White Aryans. These racially fortunate Africans were dubbed Hamites, and the Tutsis were considered a prime example of the veracity (and utility) of the Hamitic hypothesis.
During the first half of the 20th century, this kind of scientific racism was part of mainstream European intellectual culture. The Hamitic hypothesis in particular became an important doctrine in the academic field of missiology (which is to missionary work as military science is to warfare).
But the Tutsis proved to be insufficiently grateful and obedient to their Christian Aryan betters. And then there was also the embarrassing problem that after WWII, scientific racism not only had lost any credibility, it was now considered morally bankrupt at best, and a great evil at worst. In fact, horror of horrors, even European colonialism itself was going out of style!
And so the Belgians and the Church embraced decolonization and democracy. But now the Europeans promulgated a racially infected view of independence and democracy: cynically pitting the Hutu "people" against the Tutsi "oppressors." In such an atmosphere, Rwanda gained formal independence during a "social revolution" which saw the first large scale massacres of Tutsis by Hutus.
More details and extensive documentation concerning the role of the Church in the Rwandan Genocide can be found in great quantity in the following:
Doing the Lord's Work in Rwanda
Conflict and Genocide: Lessons from the Rwanda Experience
Preparing the Way for Genocide in Rwanda
Monday, March 29, 2010
The horror of Rwanda's 1994 genocide, in which between 500,000 and 1 million people (10-20% of Rwanda's population) were exterminated in the span of just 100 days, is such that one is tempted to attribute it to a sudden, inexplicable outbreak of psychosis. But as Kimani outlines in his Guardian article, the genocide was well prepared ahead of time, and the ideological and psychological preparation not only stretched out over many decades, but it had the direct participation and support of the Catholic Church in Rwanda. And the killings were carried out methodically under the direction of rational human beings in complete command of their senses.
Kimani's point being, to state the obvious, that an apology is in order for Rwanda as well:
Oscar Kimanuka, a writer based in Kigali, had earlier written a similar criticism of the Church back in April, 2008: Pope should apologize to Rwanda.
The losses of Rwanda had received no such consideration. Some of the nuns and priests who have been convicted by Belgian courts and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, respectively, enjoyed refuge in Catholic churches in Europe while on the run from prosecutors. One such is Father Athanase Seromba, who led the Nyange parish massacre and was sentenced to 15 years in jail by the tribunal. In April 1994, Seromba helped lure over 2,000 desperate men, women and children to his church, where they expected safety. But their shepherd turned out to be their hunter.
One evening Seromba entered the church and carried away the chalices of communion and other clerical vestments. When a refugee begged that they be left the Eucharist to enable them to at least hold a (final) mass, the priest refused and told them that the building was no longer a church. A witness at the ICTR trial remembered an exchange in which the priest's mindset was revealed.
One of the refugees asked: "Father, can't you pray for us?" Seromba replied: "Is the God of the Tutsis still alive?" Later, he would order a bulldozer to push down the church walls on those inside and then urge militias to invade the building and finish off the survivors.
At his trial, Seromba said: "A priest I am and a priest I will remain." This, apparently, is the truth, since the Vatican has never taken back its statements defending him before his conviction.
Kimanuka's call for an apology was very thoughtfully taken up and further discussed in an article by Henry Makori, at the time editor of the Nairobi based Catholic Information Service of Africa (click here to see what is up to now).
See also the series "Heart of Darkness":
Part One: "By This Sign We Prosper"
Part Two: Christian Demographics Fun Facts
Part Three: Doing the Lord's Work In Rwanda
Part Four: Conflict and Genocide: Lessons from Rwanda
Part Five: Preparing the Way for Genocide in Rwanda
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Flanders starts out her interview by posing the question of whether or not "incipient fascism and nationalism are running amok" in India. This is typical of the blind hatred for India and Hinduism that is now de rigueur among American leftists.
Roy also appeared last week on Democracy Now, where her segment was introduced like this: "We spend the rest of the hour with acclaimed Indian writer and activist Arundhati Roy on the dark underbelly of India . . . ."
India is a nation with a population of about 1.2 billion, of whom about 800 million are eligible voters, and of those about 60% turned out to vote in the national elections last May. This election took place, without any more irregularities than one might encounter in the US or in any Western European nation. Nevertheless, Roy and her slack-jawed American fans insist on dutifully intoning the mantra that India is "supposedly" a democracy, or "calls itself" a democracy.
Meanwhile, Roy continues to pimp for the murderous thugs known as Naxalites, whom her ignorant American devotees, like Laura Flanders, stupidly refer to as "resistance fighters."
When we look at Buddhist or Taoist cultures, for instance, we don’t see enduring bureaucratic apparati generated in order to hunt out ‘heretics,’ torture them into ‘confessions’ of their errors, and murder them by way of ‘rendering to the secular arm’. Why not? This isn’t to say heretic-hunting appears nowhere else - a species of it exists in some forms of Islam, for example. But why did the institutional Inquisition arise in the West, in Christianity? Why was it extolled as a fine contributor to ‘social stability’, even by influential ‘secular’ intellectuals? I realise that these may be uncomfortable questions, but it seems to me valuable to inquire. We need to understand and avoid such institutions, which we also see in modern totalitarianism. We must beware of the temptation to generate or adhere to an ideocracy - especially in times of economic and social disruption. As Sinclair Lewis put it in the title of his 1930s novel, It Can Happen Here. The West has a great legacy that emphasises not centralised power, but decentralisation, subsidiarity, federalism. This is the legacy of cherishing individual liberty, a very precious contribution to the world, and one I would like to emphasise.I have just started reading Arthur Versluis' 2006 book The New Inquisitions: Heretic Hunting and the Intellectual Origins of Modern Totalitarianism, which I was drawn to because Versluis sets out to show "how secular political thinkers in the nineteenth century inaugurated a tradition of defending the Inquisition." (!) Versluis is a leading American scholar of Esotericism and is Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at MSU.
[Arthur Versluis, in a November, 2007 interview with Amol Ragan for "Battle of Ideas"]
In The New Inquisitions, Versluis asks difficult and uncomfortable (to some) questions about (1) the nature and origins of state sponsored ideological repression during the Middle Ages in Western Europe, and (2) the relationship, if any, of that pattern of ideological repression in that time and place to modern totalitarianism.
From what I can tell, Versluis is himself a Christian, so it is hardly his intention to attack Christianity. He is a careful scholar who is guided first and foremost by his desire to understand his subject better, wherever that desire may lead. And so Versluis does not shy away from things that some Christian scholars might prefer to avoid or, worse, attempt to misrepresent.
In fact, Versluis seems to be motivated precisely because he is a Christian Esotericist who sees his own spiritual "lineage" as being rooted in various forms of medieval mystical Christianity. Of course it needs to be emphasized that Versluis is a scholar writing as a scholar. He is not primarily writing to defend his own religious point of view, but is genuinely interested in a better understanding of an important scholarly question: the intellectual origins of modern totalitarianism.
Versluis honestly seems to think that "heretic hunting" only appears in certain forms of Christianity and not in others. He appears to think that "heretic hunting" and the Inquisition were fundamentally new phenomena in Western Christendom during the so-called "High" Middle Ages, and previously had not been associated with Christendom.
But even Versluis' view still boils down to a clear distinction between, on the one hand, Christianity and Islam as religions that do give rise to "enduring bureaucratic apparati" of repression, and, on the other hand, religions like Buddhism and Taoism that do not. For this to be true it need not be the case that every group of Christians everywhere throughout all of history have been, to a person, rampaging persecutors. It need only be that case that there is a pattern of persecution associated with Christianity (and Islam), and that this is pattern is far less evident or even absent in other religions.
I'll close with another quote from a another religion scholar, Bernard Faure:
The claim that Buddhism is a tolerant religion is based on the fact that Buddhist history does not show the kind of fanatic excesses familiar in the histories of Christianity and Islam. Opponents of the Buddha may have been labeled as "heretical masters," but (in part for lack of an ultimate authority) the accusations of heresy rarely led to physical purges . . . . But [any such] cases are the exception that proves the Budhist rule, and they underscore the contrast with the practices of Inquisition in Christianity.For more on this quote from Faure see this previous post. Also see the first post on What Kind of Religion is Buddhism? and also this post on Buddhism as an example of Religions of the Library.
[Buddhist Warfare, p. 218]
Saturday, March 27, 2010
The May 1st premiere (in Los Angeles) of the film "Islam Rising: Geert Wilders' Warning to the West" has been scrubbed. Wilders himself precipitated this by his decision to, in effect, boycott the premiere and sever any connection with the film's backer, The Christian Action Network (CAN).
Wilders decision came after homophobic actions and statements by CAN and its founder, Martin Mawyer, were brought to his attention. Wilders and his Party for Freedom are pro-gay-rights, including gay marriage.
At first Wilders was only told that the CAN was opposed to gay marriage. His response to that was 'I totally disagree with them about this [gay marriage] . . . . But they can make a film about me.'
But when more information about CAN and Mawyer's hatred of gays was made available in the Netherlands, Wilders quickly called the whole thing off.
CAN was founded by Martin Mawyer in 1990, the year after Jerry Fallwell's original "Moral Majority" closed up shop. Mawyer had been the longtime editor of that groups mouthpiece, the Moral Majority Report. In 1997 Mawyer attacked Ellen Degeneres for "dumping her filthy lesbian lifestyle right in the center of your living room."
In 2000, CAN produced an attack ad against Hillary Clinton, then running for US Senate, which said, in part, "It is rumored that Hillary Clinton is a lesbian . . . . Sometimes, rumors are true. Shouldn't you know the truth?"
Mawyer also sent out a fundraising mailer in 2000 that said, in part: "I am not ready to give this great nation over to one-world government extremists ... radical, disease-carrying homosexuals ... anti-family lesbian feminists ... or anti-American U.N. globalists!"
Some have tried to portray Wilders as tainted by this episode, for even considering having anything to do with CAN in the first place. But Wilders has actually done nothing that suggests any willingness on his part to deviate from a principled position of supporting gay rights and opposing all forms of bigotry, including racism, anti-Semitism, sexism and homophobia.
Consider Wilders' willingness to accept support from people who oppose gay-marriage, while still explicitly stating his own disagreement with that position. Compare that to Barack Obama's alliance with anti-gay "preachers" while campaigning in the South for the Democratic nomination in 2007, including Donnie McClurkin, a leader of the "ex-gay" movement! And unlike Wilders, Obama has never and still does not support gay marriage!
For more on CAN, see, for example, this 2005 profile of them over at the Southern Poverty Law Center.
For more on the film itself and the recent dust-up, here is a blog entry over at the right-wing pro-Wilders blog Gates of Vienna, from just before the debacle. Here is a similar item from a similar right-wing site (the "Inernational Civil Liberties Alliance").
And here is a fairly straightforward news item reporting on Wilders' decision to pull out, from dutchnews.nl.
I hope that Wilders continues to demonstrate that it is possible to take a principled stand against Islam on the basis of defending individual liberty against a totalitarian ideology masquerading as a religion. Such a principled stand has nothing to do with evil bigots like Martin Mawyer.
Friday, March 26, 2010
Now she has churned out a series of breathless dispatches based on her recently completed working vacation among the Naxalite terrorists of the "Red Corridor". Therein, Roy consistently refers to world's largest democracy, her native India, with sneering contempt. Her terrorist friends, on the other hand, (people who are responsible for over 6000 murders during the last 20 years) are invariably described by Roy as charmingly earnest idealists with "lovely smiles" who are "full of fun and curiosity."
Comrade Nehru jumped into bed with the Stalinists back in the 1950's, and the Indian left has never looked back. Nehru's attitude was: screw Hinduism, screw Kashmir, screw Tibet, hell, screw India; if Indians can't become properly British maybe they can at least try to become good Soviet style Marxists. But today even the Russians have long since turned their backs on Communism. Where would Indian leftists be without those diehard Maoist Naxalites and their lovely smiles?
Seriously. The Naxalites of India still proudly proclaim their love and devotion to Joseph Stalin and Chairman Mao.
Dependency on one or few individuals instead of developing collective leadership and involving the entire Party membership and the masses in decision-making has been one of the causes that led to great reversals in Russia and China where, after the demise of outstanding proletarian leaders like Stalin and Mao, the CPSU and the CPC turned revisionist so easily.But why would the soft-core Anarcho-Pacifists over at Z-Magazine put up with this shyte, this idiotic glorification of a bunch of AK-47-toting Pol-Pot wannabes? What exactly do they think the admirers of "oustanding proletarian leaders like Stalin and Mao" do with any Anarcho-Pacifists with master's degrees that they happen to get their hands on?
["Comrade Azad" of the CPI(Maoist) in an interview from the June 2006 People's March]
Roy is a regular contributor at Z-Mag, and they are dutifully serializing her latest terrorist travelogue. Like all good American leftists the Z-Magazine crowd know less than nothing about India. They rely exclusively on semi-Stalinist Indian "sources" who, like Roy, are openly anti-Hindu and unapologetic apologists for the Naxalite terrorists.
Anyway, if you have the stomach for it, here is Roy's latest adventure in putting a smily face on terrorism (and who thought of the obscene subtitle "Gandhians with Guns"?? -- there is nothing Gandhian about these Comrades):
Walking with the Comrades, Part One
"Realistic to the point of being inhuman": Christoph Waltz is a Glourious Basterd, and so is Quentin Tarantino!
OK, we finally watched Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds. It is a wonderful film, even glourious. I own very few movie DVD's, but two of them are Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, and I am sure that before long Inglourious Basterds will join them (the one we watched was a rental).
To be brutally honest, I wanted the movie to be even better. My own subjective experience was that it peaks during the basement-rendezvous-gone-wrong scene (more specifically during the brilliant King Kong "joke" scene) and then, well, kind of falls apart. But if Quentin Tarantino were not such a genius it would be literally inconceivable to find fault with this film!
But there is one aspect of Inglourious Basterds that was absolutely perfect: Christoph Waltz's performance as Standartenführer Hans Landa of the Nazi SS. Waltz himself had this to say about Hans Landa, in an interview with Hunter Stephenson of slashfilm.com:
he is realistic to the point where it is bordering the inhuman, you know. He really looks at the various layers of reality, and he understands that there is not just one thing, the world is many things at the same time. And they might appear to contradict each other, but that does not mean that they necessarily do. And it’s a very interesting subject for conversation and discussion, and that’s naturally the ideal outcome of something like this.I suspect that with the passage of time, Inglourious Basterds will age quite well. The period of history that Tarantino has taken on persists in defying all efforts to "explain" it. Were the Nazis inhuman monsters, or were they ordinary human beings who did horribly evil things? If they were monsters, where do such monsters come from? If they were ordinary human beings, how do ordinary human beings do such horribly evil things? And how many Nazis were like Hans Landa, who was "just doing his job", and, in this fictional version of history, turns against his Fuhrer and helps to win the war for the Allies?
But, in reality, it was the "Jewish Vengeance" of Shosanna Dreyfus that was "really" responsible for decapitating the the Third Reich. What is Tarantino saying with that? What does Landa represent? Some dark malevolently amoral aspect of western culture that not only managed to survive the destruction of Nazism intact, but insidiously receives credit for helping to rid the world of fascism? And why is this evil piece of shit so fascinating, so charming, so intelligent and cultured and "realistic"?
And think about it. Hans Landa really did bring down the Third Reich, but not because the Inglourious Basterds needed his cooperation to bring off their plan. It was Landa who allowed Shosanna to live, and it was Shosanna who really pulled off the real "Operation Kino" . . . .
The more I think about it, the more exquisitely multi-layered the King Kong reference reveals itself to be. Could anyone seriously argue that the Third Reich was any more morally depraved than the societies that involved themselves in, indeed, become stinking rich from, the African Slave Trade, not to mention (and there are references to this as well) the Genocide of the Native Americans. But in that case all of our metaphysical head-scratching over how those evil Nazis could be so evil is rather cluelessly un-self-aware, no?
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
There's a new movie about him -- it looks like it could be pretty damn good.
Here's a youtube video of Uncle Bill giving some career advice:
I am disgusted by all attempts to limit freedom of speech in the name of regulating so-called "hate-speech", and I believe that anyone who doesn't think that the Bill of Rights protects the rights of individual citizens to own guns, well, doesn't understand the Bill of Rights. And I believe that anyone who wants to monkey with the Bill of Rights is a danger to us all.
I could go on and on with other legitimate protestations about my appreciation for nuance and subtlety in political matters, and my own loathing of the poison of lockstep political factionalism. But fuck all that. The Republican Party opposed Social Security. They opposed Civil Rights. And now, as a Party, they are monolithically opposed Health Care Reform. So I have to agree with a friend who said, simply, "Suck it, Republicans." That's right. Suck it.
I mean Jesus fucking Christ. Newt Gingrich actually came right out and compared Health Care Reform to Civil Rights, like that was a bad thing:
Former Republican House speaker Newt Gingrich said Obama and the Democrats will regret their decision to push for comprehensive reform. Calling the bill “the most radical social experiment . . . in modern times,” Gingrich said: “They will have destroyed their party much as Lyndon Johnson shattered the Democratic Party for 40 years” with the enactment of civil rights legislation in the 1960s.I mean how can a person say such a thing? And Gingrich is no drooling idiot. In fact, among Republicans he is widely considered to be a towering intellect -- a scholar, even. A scholar of history in particular. And yet he can still bring himself to think: boy howdy, the Democrats have sure fucked themselves again, just like they did with the Negro Question.
[Dan Balz, Washingont Post, March 21, 2010]
I mean for fuck's sake, Civil Rights legislation was needed in order for African Americans to be able to vote at all! Before Civil Rights, Blacks who wanted to vote in the South were murdered, and the murderers got away with it. Yeah, OK, maybe the Democrats paid a political price for saying enough of that shit was enough. And maybe as a Party they took a political hit, as Republicans spent the next half a century fine-tuning their appeals to white racists, especially in the South.
Gingrich has since tried to "walk back" his comments, claiming that, oh, yeah, sure, like Civil Rights was the right thing to do and all that. But Gingrich can Suck It, too. He was following a very old script, and one that originated in the Democratic Party, by the way. Before the Civil Rights legislation of the 60's there was Harry Truman's advocacy for civil rights, including the desegregation of the military in 1948. Which led to Strom Thurmond and other "Dixiecrats" bolting from the Democrats and eventually landing in a party where racists were still welcomed: the Republican Party.
The script that Gingrich was following goes like this: these dangerous radical experiments (like desegregtion and health care for all) go too far. They represent an unwarranted and unconstitutional invasion of individual rights and States' Rights. At best they amount to reckless governmental over-reaching, at worst they are the thin end of the of the dreaded Totalitarian Wedge. I can't believe this shit still works, but on some people it apparently still does.
I know that not all opponents of Health Care Reform are raving, racist fools. But a very significant portion of them are. And even those who aren't are simply on the wrong side of history. You pay a political price for that, too.
Monday, March 22, 2010
Sunday, March 21, 2010
The Republicans opposed Social Security because it would end civilization as we know it. They claimed that minimum wage laws were tantamount to Communism. They claimed that the Voting Rights Act violated the freaking constitution.
It's happening, it's really happening! Health Care is a Right, Not a Privilege!! Holy shit, what's next? The metric system?!?!?!?
Friday, March 19, 2010
I found Taslima Nasrin as one of the most sophisticated ladies as soon as I first met her. She was one of our bank clients in the early 1990s when I was manager of a bank branch. Quite frequently she used to visit our office for her banking transactions. She was an extraordinary lady with grace and dignity. She used to speak in measured words, walk in measured steps and smile in measured air. Tall and fair, she used to wear modest costumes. She had all the femininity a Bangladeshi docile lady is known for. Never ever I found her agitated. She was never found behaving like those ultraliberal and muscular ladies mimicking a man's gaits or wearing a man's dress. Nobody heard her ever utering any vulgar words. She was a perfect lady a gentleman should tip his hat to.
One day Taslima Nasrin presented me a book containing a collection of her poems and I thanked her for the courtesy. But one night lying on my bed as I read a few of her poems I had but to visualize her from a different perspective altogether. Her poems took me into a topsy-turvy world and my impression about her inner being turned just reverse, an impression diametrically different from the image of her that I formed when I first met her. Her poetic works staggered me; I was too stunned even to talk about the contents of her poems. One couldn't help but be taken aback by her unfurling of a human body in such intricacy in her words that anyone while reading her works could vividly trace and feel the contours of each and every body part or limb of a woman, or of a man, or even of a eunuch. I was baffled by her attempts to smash the taboos in our society. Her works, though bereft of literary wealth, one may find appreciable at least for their erotic element.
Since that night, she returned to my memory always haunting me as a queer specter.
Often I have to remember Taslima Nasrin. My remembrance of her is reflexive. My remembrance is not exactly what is like a gentleman remembering a lady who was a great poetess or like a young man recollecting memories about an atractive girlie. Neither was it a literary occasion I atended that evoked my memory associated with her. Rather, I remember her whenever I come across a courageous lady doing something extraordinary that atracts atention of the melee. I also respect her for her relentless fight against discrimination between men and women though I don't quite appreciate her literary voice supporting the weird bedroom grammars she introduced in her poems.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Sakis Tolis of Rotting Christ
A very good friend has been sharing his enthusiasm for Extreme Pagan Metal with me for the last few months. From the first I was impressed with many aspects of the "message" of this music, although the music itself is not always to my tastes. I was an early adopter of Metal and hard rock in general, going back to the early days of Black Sabbath and King Crimson. In the 70's I was into Uriah Heap, Led Zepplin, Yes, Genesis, and, of course, Alice Cooper. But I was never much of a fan of the much more self-conscious and, in my opinion at least, contrived Metal scene that followed.
But there really is something wonderful going on in the world of Metal music these days (and it has its roots at least as far back as the early 90's). I have already written some posts referring to the band Behemoth and their lead vocalist (and mastermind) Nergal in particular (here, here and here). Other bands who are similarly impressive in terms of their spiritual and philosophical message include Therion, Rotting Christ, and Dimmu Borgir. Other bands that also look promising but that I don't yet know enough about are Opeth and After the Burial, and I am sure there are many many more.
First of all these bands are matter-of-fact and completely unapologetic in their rejection of Christianity. But that is only the beginning. As a general rule these bands have gone through something like a "Satanic" phase. In my opinion the influence of Christianity in western culture is so culturally pervasive and psychically invasive that a clean break from the religion of the creed making fisherman is an essential prerequisite in order to, as Bob Marley wrote, "emancipate yourself from mental slavery." This is what the modern Buddhist writer and teacher Sangharakshita has dubbed "therapeutic blasphemy."
But, as I said, reactive "Satanism" is just the beginning. Therion and Behemoth, in particular, have gone far beyond mere lashing out and acting out against Christianity. They have enthusiastically embraced a variety of ideas and images from the modern Occult, ancient Heathenism and Eastern religions. One of the things that is so heartening about the best of Extreme Pagan Metal is that their luxuriant eclecticism has nothing "fluffy bunny" about it!
The lyrics (and CD cover art) of Therion and Behemoth are filled with references to Classical Greek and Roman Paganism as well as the even more ancient Paganisms of Egypt and Sumer (etc.) -- and also to Hinduism, the Norse Gods, Thelema, Runes, Qabalah, Nietzsche, H.P. Lovecraft, u.s.w. But these references are not thrown around randomly by people who don't know what they are talking about. Adam Darski (Nergal of Behemoth) is a serious scholar of history and classicism while members of Therion participate in the Esoteric order, Dragon Rouge, whose founder Thomas Karlsson writes most of Therion's lyrics.
The great thing about all this is that Extreme Pagan Metal now serves as a potential gateway drug for millions of young people. And it is a true spiritual gateway because at least some of the people behind the music have a deep appreciation for and understanding of Paganism both as an ancient way of life and as a living modern spiritual path.
To illustrate, here is an excerpt from an interview with Thomas Karlsson, lyricist for Therion and founder of Dragon Rouge, when asked about Friedrich Nietzsche:
I’m not a nietzschean although I’m inspired by many parts of Nietzsche's philosophy. I especially like his bombastic writing style in works as Also Sprach Zarathustra. A lot of people misunderstand his intensions (maybe I also do) but I think he made a brave stylistic revolution against the ordinary academic style of the modern age, which is as dry as dust. His language is rich as the prophecies of ancient days. Despite the romantic language in Zarathustra his philosophy is perspicacious and free from all illusions. Parts of Nietzsche's philosophy play a role in both my private life and in Dragon Rouge. Necessary to say is that I do not think much of übermench-wannabes. Nietzsche is often misused. Nietzsche himself should have taken a futher step in his philosophy and become an esoteric adept, but he did not and thats why his philosophy is insufficient although it is brilliant in so many ways.It is natural for precocious adolescents to find their way to the writings of Nietzsche, and may it always be so! Just as it is natural for teenagers to gravitate toward Metal music or any other artform that holds out the irresistible promise of rebellion and freedom. But then what? That is the question. The best of Extreme Pagan Metal now offers to lead young people to take the next step. This is good news.
Nergal destroying a Bible:
And below is an interview with Nergal from Polish TV, but with English subtitles: "What we do: we don't give any answers . . . . Imagine two rooms, but circumstances which we live in only allow you to open one of them. We want to be the key that tells you: 'Hey, enter the second room -- maybe there is something cool.'"
"I am the Default American."
Etienne Colbert, June 17, 2010
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Brickley's blog post came just ahead of Wilders' impressive showing in the local elections that took place on March 3rd in the Netherlands. Those local elections, in which Wilders' Party For Freedom made significant gains, could well be a harbinger of what is to come in June, when national elections could result in Wilders becoming the next Dutch Prime Minister.
It is significant that Brickley was eager to label Geert Wilders as "far right", but could only do so while simultaneously explaining that, well, in fact, he is not "far right":
But Wilders is totally unlike 'far-right' leaders in the rest of Europe. He is a harsh critic of racism and anti-Semitism, and he is no friend of "far-right neo-fascist" leaders such as the French National Front's Jean-Marie Le Pen or the British National Party's Nick Griffin. In fact, while those leaders are broadly anti-Semitic and isolationist, Wilders was actually shaped by years spent in Israel as a young man. Hence, he is one of the Jewish state's strongest European defenders, an advocate of the war on terror, and a firm critic of Jihad--stances which have won him fans among national security hawks in the U.S. Furthermore, his economic agenda is radically libertarian compared to most Europeans and could be a vanguard for European reform.That was then. Once the local election results of March 3rd confirmed that Wilders' and the PVV really are on the roll that everyone already suspected they are on, people had to stop treating the man who might soon be the head of state of a major European power as merely an oddity. In fact, Brickley had opened his post with the declaration that "Geert Wilders of the Netherlands is one of the oddest men on the world stage." That was then.
By the second week of March the time had come and gone to simply marvel at Wilders' sudden popularity, his audacity, his hair, etc. And so quite suddenly Glenn Beck, Charles Krauthammer and William Kristol (the last being Brickley's editor at the Weekly Standard) all simultaneously denounced Wilders. Beck called him a "fascist." Krauthammer called him "extreme, radical and wrong." Kristol characterized Wilders' critique of Islam as "Orwellian" and called him a "demagogue." Added to this sudden deluge of scorn was a Fox News "Special Report" by Senior White House Correspondent Bret Baier, which was vaguely negative and mostly substance free.
For a while some of Wilders' fans in the right-wing blogosphere expressed outrage and indignation with Fox News, and there was some speculation about the very likely influence of Saudi Prince whathisname, who does happen to be the largest voting shareholder in NewsCorp whose last name isn't Murdoch, and who did just meet with Uncle Rupert in NYC in late February.
But for most of the last week there has been silence. No more voices have been raised against Wilders, nor has any major right-wing spokesmodel come to his defense. Obviously Wilders cannot be ignored. But don't be surprised if from now on the "mainstream" right in the US seeks to marginalize Wilders and tries to contain and rollback any influence his ideas have managed to gain among American "conservatives."
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Two people die during riots by Muslims in Shimoga and other towns in the Indian state of Karnataka, after an unauthorized and innacurate translation of an article by Bangladeshi feminist Taslima Nasreen was published. The original article was a critique of the burqa and other forms of "Islamic dress" for women that Taslima criticizes as inherently oppressive and sexist.
Geert Wilders and his Party For Freedom make significant electoral gains in local Dutch elections despite (or possibly because of) Wilders' ongoing trial for "insulting" Islam, which for some reason is considered a crime in the Netherlands.
Wilders shows his film Fitna in London, despite previously being banned from entering the UK due to his criticism of Islam.
Adam Darski, more widely known by his stage name "Nergal", formally charged in Poland for violation of article 196 of the Polish Criminal Code, which makes it a crime to "insult religious feelings".
Pagans, Atheists, Liberals, Libertarians, Scientists, Historians, Secularists, Virginians, UU's, etc, respond apoplectically to the Texas Board of Education's decision to drop Thomas Jefferson from the history curriculum and replace him with Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin.
Taslima Nasreen addresses the Global Atheism Conference in Sidney, Australia on the topic of "My Struggle for Secularism, Human Rights, Freedom of Expression and For Women's Freedom."
The Justice Minister of the Irish Republic announces that a referendum will be held on whether or not to overturn Ireland's newly enacted law making blasphemy a crime punishable by a fine of up to $37,400.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
But according to Jang: "Three hours or so later, I was woken by a call that they have started burning the villages and people were being hacked to death. And I started trying to locate the commanders; I could not get any of them on the telephone."
Governor Jang is himself a retired military officer, but complains that even though in theory the Governor is the "chief security officer of the state yet you do not command even a fly."
Hey. What the fuck is up with that? All the guy did was stand up on a stage and proclaim that the Catholic Church is "the most murderous cult on the planet," and then to emphasize his point he took a Bible and tore it to shreds, flinging the pieces out to the audience (which he then asked them to burn).
I think I'm in love.
So far the mainstream international media isn't touching this story. I found out about it from fellow blogger Kullervo (please check out his always fascinating Songs From The Wood blog), who first alerted me to this.
The following are excerpts from an article at metaltalk.net:
Apparently, in the first hearing Darski [lead vocalist for Behemoth] stated under cross examination that what he does on stage is part of artistic license and it wasn't supposed to offend religious feelings. However, an expert on religious history and studies from Jagellonian University in Krakow stated that every copy of a bible could be considered a religious icon.Will someone please remind me what year this is again, or even what freaking century?
There was no judgment ruled against Darski in the first hearing, but now that a second complaint has been filed, the matter will be heard by the courts.
If found guilty, Darski faces up to two years in prison.
In a 2009 interview with Decibel magazine, Behemoth bass player Tomasz 'Orion' Wróblewski made the following comments on the Bible-tearing incident."We'd been doing that for two years on tour before it happened in Poland, so we had discussed it many times before. A Behemoth show is a Behemoth show, and Behemoth fans are coming to a Behemoth show. Behemoth fans know what Behemoth is about, know what the lyrics are about, and know at least a little of the philosophy behind the band."
This case is an excellent and very timely reminder of the fact that Islam is only one of the Big Three totalitarian ideologies currently threatening everyone's freedom. Poland appears to have thrown off one totalitarian ideology, Communism, only to fall prey to another, Christianity.
Click here for official Behemoth merchandise, including their "Youth Against Christ" t-shirts! And here is the band's official website (there are both Polish and English versions).
The charges against Nergal are quite real. In July of 2003, Polish feminist and artist Dorota Nieznalska was found guilty under the same law, article 196 of the Polish Criminal Code, which makes it a crime to "offend religious feelings." She was sentenced to six months of "restricted freedom", was forced by the court to close her gallery, and was also required to pay all trial expenses. Her trial received little or no attention in the English language press, but here is a page in English with information about her case.
[Music and lyrics by Nergal]
Bow to me, in adoration
Prophets ov the boundless joy
Sanctify the sin ov indulgence
We worship the sun
We worship the moon
Spreading like rats
Exalted above the stars ov god
All hail slain and risen god!
All hail Dionysus!
"Come, blessed Dionysius, various nam'd, bull-fac'd
Begot from Thunder, Bacchus fam'd
Bassarian God, of universal might
Whom swords, and blood, and sacred rage delight"
War be sustained!
My godless phoenix rise
Ne'er to lifeless shall I submit
Offering solely the sword not peace
Mercy and cowardice extinct within
We worship the sun
We worship the moon
Spreading like rats
Exalted above the stars ov god
All hail slain and risen god!
All hail Dionysus!
Now in 2010 Al-Waleed is actually the largest shareholder in NewsCorp outside of the Murdoch family itself. And earlier this year, the Prince met with Rupert Murdoch in New York "to discuss 'economic and investment issues, especially in the media sector' and a 'future potential alliance with News Corp,'" according to a story by Kenneth Li in the January 21st edition of the Financial Times.
So maybe this explains why the American right-wing's favorite propaganda outfit has suddenly started attacking Geert Wilders as a "fascist"?
Personally I find the newly unleashed anti-Wilders position at Fox a very welcome development. Too many American right-wingers have mistaken Geert Wilders for one of their own.
It is true that Wilders holds many positions consistent with American political conservatism. But whereas the American right has become addicted to the support it receives from slack-jawed religious fundamentalists, mysoginists, homophobes and racists, Wilders is a man who is waging a principled war against religious fundamentalism, and who strongly and frequently invokes his support for women's rights and gay rights, and who has nothing but contempt for racists and racist groups.
It is very unlikely that Fox has turned on Wilders (who has in the past been showered with praise by Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly) due to any disagreements over principle. Rather it appears to be the case that this is due simply to the influence of Saudi oil money, combined with the prospects for future media profits to be made in the Middle East and throughout the Muslim world.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Also, you have far right Dutch M.P. Geert Wilders. Last year, he was banned from the U.K. They said his presence could threaten community a harmony and therefore public safety. Last week, not only was he allowed into England, he was at the House of Lords, where he screened a film on the Quran.In the same segment Beck demonstrated that he doesn't know the difference between Dominique de Villepin and Jean-Marie Le Pen (the former being a conservative, the latter being a genuine fascist and racist).
The right and left are growing again in Europe. The left — listen carefully — the left in Europe is communism. The right is fascism, in Europe.
Wilders has consistently denounced Le Pen (and knows who he is!), as well as the British National Party and similar racist groups in Europe. Wilders is also strongly in favor of gay rights, an issue on which he is to the left of Barack Obama. And Wilders is a feminist who criticizes the Left in Europe for not standing up for women's rights in deference to seeking more votes from Muslim immigrants.
The American far-right is predictably apopleptic over Glenn Beck's sudden change of heart with respect to Wilders. I suppose it is possible, although extremely unlikely, that Beck's tiny, primitive reptilian brain somehow managed to realize that Geert Wilders supports (and exercises!) the right to criticize, and even condemn, theocratic totalitarianism, and that that is not really a position that Beck and his ilk want to encourage.
Monday, March 8, 2010
Essentially all of the victims were Christians who were systematically slaughtered in well planned attacks on villages south of the city of Jos. Over 400 victims have been buried in a mass grave in just one village alone: Dogon Na Hawa.
Will Connors, writing for the Wall Street Journal, names four different villages that were attacked: Dogo Nahawa, Rasat, Zot and Shen. Connors description of how the attacks were carried out is chilling:
The attackers came at night and surrounded this small farming village, firing shots in the air to scare residents from their homes. Men, women and children were hacked with machetes as they rushed out. Several houses were set on fire with residents still inside . . . .
Officials and witnesses say the latest attack appeared well planned and brutally executed. The attackers didn't shoot victims, but rather shot into the air to lure residents out of their homes, where they awaited them with machetes.
In January, hundreds of Nigerians in the city of Jos and surrounding areas died in violence between Muslims and Christians. Most of the dead were Muslims, many of them women and children, massacred by Christian mobs, who then stuffed many of the bodies down wells.
And now a wave of reprisal attacks, on at least as murderous a scale as those in January, has occurred. Preliminary reports are that predominantly Christian areas of Jos and nearby villages were the target. One Christian village, Zot, has been nearly wiped out, according to eye-witnesses.
One report out of Nigeria puts the number killed at "more than 500."
Sadly, this is just the latest chapter in the ongoing story of deadly violence between Christians and Muslims that has taken thousands of lives over the last two decades in Nigeria, the most populous (and one of the wealthiest and most "developed") nations on the African continent.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
By now everyone has heard all about the "sex scandal" involving Swami Nithyananda. Lost in all the commotion is the simple fact that Nithyananda has done nothing wrong. He does not advocate celibacy, nor does he claim to practice it. The activity that was captured on hidden camera was obviously consensual and all parties were adults.
The real story is that obviously elements of the Indian media went to great lengths to set up this Swami, who appears to me to have more in common with Western New Agers like Eckhart Tolle than with the genuine, ancient, traditional teachings of the Sanatana Dharma (although it is hard for me to picture Trolle rolling around in bed with a beautiful Indian actress -- although on the other hand that might actually improve my estimation of him!). The Indian media has gone on a Hindu-bashing feeding frenzy since the first airing of these sex tapes (which show a lot of kissing and rolling around, but not, well, sex.)
My own view is that Nithyananda has done nothing that is either criminal or immoral or even offensive. His "teachings", such as they are, should stand on their own. It is even possible that this Swami's teachings have served some useful purpose in a world where most people lack any spiritual direction whatsoever. Perhaps what he has to offer is better than nothing.
Many people today want a celebrity guru to follow. They want a large organization to be part of. They want a spirituality that is validated in the wider culture (preferably on television). These folks end up following the James Arthur Rays, and the Eckhart Tolles, and the Swami Nithayanandas.
Not all teachers who become well-known automatically become corrupt. And some teachers become corrupt without ever being well-known! But just because a person has sex is, in no way, a sign of corruption, or a sign of much of anything.
Personally I think the whole idea of celibacy is for the most part a very bad idea. I find nothing of merit in it, nor do I feel any admiration for those who espouse and practice it.