Poeticising Da’wah: An Atheist Critique.

December 9, 2013

There is a video currently doing the rounds across social media platforms that appears to have great power over Muslims. The video is produced by “Talk Islam” and features a speaker poetically expressing his understanding of the universe, and his dismissal of science. Those who have commented on the video range from some who find it the most inspiring poetic expression of Islam in years, to those who it drives to tears – that’s right, I can be poetic too! – and this surprises me for something that is so poorly written.

The video in question is here:

You may think “It’s just poetry, why address it? Let it be….Whisper words of wisdom…. let it be.” I would note that this video is being touted as a video that converts people the moment they see it. It is shown to non-believers as a form of beautiful proselytizing, of da’wah and so it becomes more than just a poem. Therefore, criticism is required.

I am a big fan of poetic creativity, and the poet in this video is expressing his. On a poetically creative level, I fully appreciate his work. But the content – as a form of da’wah – I find to be woefully misleading, scientifically illiterate, and full of fallacy and ignorance. I thought I’d deal with several of the points it raises here. The video is only 6 minutes long, but contains a lot of points, which would take up several thousand words to address. So I thought I’d stick to the first half of the video here, and limit my arguments, in an attempt to show that if the first half can be dismissed as nonsense, the second half isn’t likely to produce anything better.

It is also important to note that he isn’t saying anything new. The cosmological “proof” is used, the God-of-the-gaps is used, and commenting on his own misunderstanding of science is used. These widely used religious non-arguments are simply used a little more poetically here.

So, here are the five points:

“Don’t ask any questions, just go with the flow.” “Just make as much money as you can”.

– Here, the speaker is critiquing Western values. The audio is interlaced with a video showing US dollars. The implication being, the reason we non-Muslims haven’t asked questions, and come to Islam yet, is because we’re too busy obsessed with money. That is his only explanation. We must be too distracted by the accumulation of material goods, to embrace Allah. Both the poet and I agree that the Western World has placed money as a sort of quasi-God, and that this is deeply problematic. Though I would describe an obsession with religion as just as problematic, inhumane and dangerous, as an obsession with money. The two are very similar to me.

What the speaker is doing is a tried and tested method – usually by Muslims – to deflect from the issues their own system creates (institutionalised homophobia, for example), their lack of reasonable argument, and instead seeks to amplify the worst of Western, secular values – to the very extreme – as if they are representative of the entire region and everyone in it. It is of course, deeply misinformed. Indeed, the secular World has created some of the greatest universities in the World, encouraging free thought and wonderful advancements – far more so than any religious state has ever achieved – we do not ban books or words that run contrary to prevailing wisdom, we do not threaten people if they make films or books satirising secular customs.

The very reason I am an Atheist, is because I question (and not least because I wont be arrested, or have my life threatened by the state for questioning). The very reason I reject the Qur’an is because the Qur’an seems so inadequate; is scientifically less impressive than the Greeks were 1000 years earlier; offers no proof or even a shred of evidence for its claims on divinity; is rather badly put together; incredibly inaccurate; is far better explained by its links to the early Caliph’s need to control and unify; spends far too much time on meaningless tribal squabbles and Muhammad’s love life; and anchors “morality” to a single place and single time. And this is before we’ve even started to discuss the possibility of a ‘creator’. But we’ll come to that shortly. I wrote here on where I believe Islam – as we know it – took its roots and why.

It would also appear to me that the phrase “don’t ask questions” is better placed as a description of religion. Apostasy laws, blasphemy laws, attempting to prohibit the teaching of evolution, placing “God” in the gaps of understanding as if that’s reasonable, dismissing contrary arguments as of the “kuffar”, and threats to those who question or criticise certain religions ensure uniformity of belief among those under states that are entwined with the religion. It is a very difficult venture indeed, to locate a page in the Qur’an that doesn’t threaten those who are not Muslim, with terrible pain and torture simply for asking questions. This isn’t the promotion of freedom of thought and critique, this is the business of controlling thought processes and ensuring conformity through threats. The speaker in this video casts stones that boomerang back and hit him square in the face.

“How did we get here, and who made us so perfect?” “Did you create yourself or is it someone else that fashioned you?”

– Hideously false dichotomy. The choice isn’t “either you made yourself, or God made you“. We didn’t just appear, as we are today. Our ancestors – from the single cell, to homo sapien – have weathered such incredibly tough climates and challenges, fought rival species for survival, endured close to starvation and extinction, fostered ingenuity on a wonderful level, created language and tools, adapted to conditions and threats along the way, and died of the most easily curable diseases. That is how we are here. We have our ancestors to thank. We didn’t create ourselves. We didn’t require a God. Natural selection is as close to fact as any scientific theory you will ever come across – including gravity.

The question of how the entire universe got here – well, we don’t have a definitive answer yet, just like we didn’t have a definitive answer as to the nature of a lunar eclipse, centuries ago. This gap in our knowledge did not then render the Viking explanation of two wolves chasing and trying to eat the sun, any more credible. We place myths in the gaps in knowledge, always have. But we advance because we question. A ‘creator’ of the universe, is simply another gap plugged with an ill-fitting myth.

The speaker then goes on to show a video of Dawkins and Krauss, and subtly hints that an absence of God in our lives, is by extension, an absence of purpose. I find this to be a weak point, and one made out of malice and desperation rather than thought. Oprah Winfrey – a Christian – made the overly obtuse comment that non-believers just don’t understand awe and beauty. This is of course ridiculous, and I addressed it here. It is awe and beauty that drives curiosity and scientific inquiry. The same is true of purpose. As a non-believer, I create my own purpose. My purpose – as a human, with 70 or so short years in which to cram everything in – is to love, to be happy, and to obtain knowledge to the best of my ability, to see as much of the World as I possibly can, and when my time is up, I want to die feeling fulfilled. That is my purpose. I do not require a promise of heavenly reward, or a fairy sky man for that.

“For there isn’t a camera on this Earth that can come close to the human eye. If the whole world was to come together we wouldn’t be able to create a single fly…. so many signs.”

– This is scientifically illiterate creationism, and nothing less. It is a full dismissal of evolution via natural selection. Therefore it is also a dismissal of every subject that is based on evolution; genetics, biology, medicine, zoology, and many more. I am still waiting for a thesis from any creationist that proves the basis of all of those studies to be entirely false. So far, their criticism seems to amount to nothing more than “why are there still monkeys?

The eye is a beautifully elegant product of natural selection. We know this. It isn’t a guess. From simple photoreceptor structures that could recognise basic light in unicell organisms, to the evolution of lenses that regulate light intensity, to the complex structure we now have; each step along the way has endowed the species with a genetic advantage, and so has become increasingly complex in structure. Natural selection can and does explain the evolution of the eye. And it has taken around a billion years.

The speaker weirdly compares this, to a modern camera. Photography has existed since around 1840. Less than 200 years. Which, you will perhaps note, is a little bit less than a billion years – about a billion years less – so yes, we’d expect a bit more complexity, especially with natural selection as the driving force. I’m sure in a billion years, the camera might be a little more complex too.

A predator that has a greater – even to a very small degree – perception of light and depth through mutations to a form of photoreceptor, has an evolutionary advantage and the gene will eventually pass on and slowly improve if necessary. Basic science. It is the reason bacteria become immune to vaccines. They adapt. The eye did the same thing. The eye is naturally advantageous, so of course it is complex. There are not “so many signs” for a creator. There are however vast amounts of collected evidence, and vast amounts of significant study into the evolution of the eye. The speaker here dismisses them all. He isn’t challenging the litany of thesis backed by evidence, he’s simply displaying his ignorance of it. Therefore, he is not promoting thinking, as he seems to believe he is.

“Science tries to justify that all this can come from none, when it’s a simple sum, zero plus zero plus zero can not possibly give you one.”

– Yes. I guess if you’re willing to suggest that all physics can be reduced to basic 2nd Grade maths, this is true. In reality, it’s nonsense. I also suspect he abandons that sum, the moment that the “one” in the equation is called “God”. Indeed, it isn’t science that says we “came from none”, it’s his own faith:
Qur’an 19:67:

“We created him before out of nothing.”

– What the poet is telling us then, is that whilst science is wrong to suggest “something came from nothing” (incredibly simplistic interpretation of scientific inquiry), it’s fine for religious folk to say “something came from nothing…. when eternal magic sky man does it”.

Science has never suggested something comes from nothing. It claims a singularity. The big bang was an incredible moment at which the form of energy that existed at the unfathomable singularity changed and began to expand. We know this. We don’t know how it began to expand (there doesn’t need to be a ‘why’ is began to expand). But not knowing, is not evidence for a God. It never has been. We also know that at a quantum level, virtual particles spring in and out of existence – from nothing – all the time. It is only scientifically illiterate religious folk that cannot comprehend science; they prefer the simplistic answer.

Science goes where the evidence points, not where philosophical conjecture points, and science is not here to place “God” in the gaps of understanding. It is an accumulation of knowledge, not a guess. The existence of “nothing” is of course, self defeating. There has always been something. Existence requires time. Time and space are necessary for causation to exist. Time and space sprang into existence at the singularity, therefore, there was no time or space for a cause of time and space to exist. Causation is a product of the universe and applies to the sum of its parts, it need not apply to the universe itself.

“Everything has a maker, a creator”. “We can believe in the Big Bang but I’d rather believe in He who caused it to explode.

– Again, I suspect this little equation is abandoned, the moment we ask “so who made God?”

I wrote on the idea of “before” the Big Bang here and so wont repeat myself too much, but an excerpt of my argument is important for this point:

“If you conceive of a “before time”, you have created Neverland. A place where time doesn’t exist, but causation exists. You have divorced causation from time, you have divorced time from the universe. I see no reason to accept this as a reasonable proposition, simply because not a shred of evidence is ever provided for such an extraordinary revision of all known physical laws.”

– Following from this, and in relation to the poem, the speaker uses the term “caused”, which suggests that he believes causation has no link to time or space. He of course provides no evidence for this extraordinary claim. He simply places ‘God’ in the gap in our understanding, and has decided that is a logical position to hold, despite the fact that every time the God of the gaps has been invoked throughout history, it’s always turned out to be wrong.

For a poem that is being promoted as some sort of supreme da’wah, it is inconceivably weak on absolutely every point it endeavours to make. It achieves the opposite of what it sets out to achieve, it is several minutes worth of trying to justify the dogma of the God-of-the-gaps. Whilst the poetics, and the over dramatic pronouncements make it seem attractive, the proselytizing fails the moment it begins. Though if we are to take one thing from this video, one idea that the poet makes, that is to question everything, including claims made by way of poetic da’wah.


The Heroes of the Poppy Fields.

November 10, 2013

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Author: Tijl Vercaemer from Gent, Flanders #Belgium) (In Flanders Fields the poppies blow (3/3#)

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: Tijl Vercaemer from Gent, Flanders #Belgium) (In Flanders Fields the poppies blow (3/3#)

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.”
– John McCrae 1915.

They are human beings. They are not immune to horrendous fear and to physical and psychological harm. It is the measure of intense bravery to not only overcome those fears, but throw oneself into the middle of them. They are human beings. Through it all, through what most of us cannot imagine, they fought and died so that people like me have the luxury to write, speak, criticise, assemble, live and love happily and freely and without fear. This is heroism, and it is unforgettable.


Paris stays with you.

June 13, 2013

You can hear the World, in a coffee shop.
It is shapeless rumbles of noise that emanate from all corners and they crash into each other and I think the human mind learns how to drown it out without knowing that’s what it’s doing, dismissing it all as dreary, though it is anything but.
I sit with a book.
Hemingway’s ‘A Moveable Feast’.
It’s a quaint little book that reminds me of Paris, and Michigan and I read it with the desire of a wealthy traveler but the wallet of a beggar.
I first drank a Mocha in Michigan. I’m drinking one now as I write this. I drink one in the coffee shop. If I drink two in the coffee shop, I wont sleep much that night.
But I feel as if I am being judged, if I only have one, yet expect to be in there for an hour or two. So I buy two. And then I don’t sleep much that night.
… and then there’s 37 rue de la Bûcherie.
With its Tudor-style beams overhead, and its drooping book shelves under the weight of so much genius. The staircase has books running up it. There are old typewriters too. Quintessentially Parisian, with a nostalgic charm, as you climb the little wooden ladder to your chosen book.
Hemingway knew it when it was on rue de l’Odéon.
Joyce stayed there. T.S Eliot. D.H Lawrence. Larbaud.
We owe this to the wonderful Sylvia Beach.
On a step, you read “Live for humanity“.
A wonderfully simple yet beautiful command.
It reminded me of Aeschylus, the Greek Tragedian:
To tame the savageness of man, make gentle the life of this World“.
Parisians don’t like you paying with notes. They like coins. Notes seem to offend them. I don’t know why. The man at the Eiffel Tower, selling crepes huffs and puffs if you hand him a note. Maybe they don’t offend him. But they seem to bore him. Bank notes are boring. I’m huffing and puffing just talking about it. Pay with coins. But always buy a crepe on the cobblestoned lanes of Montmartre.
The walls are thin and cracked and the tiny balconies with the black metal frames of the hotel rooms are the beautiful lookout of millions of lovers in the morning, passing through Paris on their way.
She has pale skin, and freckles, and reddish hair which she often brushes behind her ear and she smiles as me. I smile back. It is easy to fall in love with a smile. You can fall in love on a train station platform three or four times before the train arrives, all for a smile.
And then forget it all by the time you sit down.
Even on warm days, I choose to sit inside the coffee shop.
I seldom contemplate sitting outside on the terrace, as I stand in line.
Because when I do contemplate it, I exaggerate the significance of it.
I am convinced that it is reserved for Macbook clad, cigarette’d business people.
The ‘yar…. yar, like… totally‘ people.
And that the busy shoppers walking by would look at me in disgust if I were to sit outside.
And they’d all stand still, in shock.
And they’d cover their children’s eyes.
And they’d go home and recite to their friends, that the man without the Macbook, who didn’t sit cross legged, smoking a cigarette, was sat outside the coffee shop, and their friends would recoil in horror as thunder crashed dramatically over head.
And then I’m back in line being asked what I’d like to order.
So I seldom contemplate sitting outside, as I stand in line.
Because when I do contemplate it, I exaggerate the significance of it.
You can sit outside the coffee shop in Paris though. It is almost necessary. At least it feels necessary. And I like that. You are surrounded by lovers in their romantic dream, and a faint sound of an accordion player. You are surrounded by cafes and shops with dirty old verandahs, and nuns walk by on their way to Mass. You are surrounded by the shading trees and bicycles with baskets on the front. You are surrounded by Paris.
The soft light of sunset that glistens the Seine, and that hugs the Pont Neuf, makes it hard to place the terror of Robespierre’s reign, or the riots at the Bastille, or the Napoleonic era, in such a serene city. But it happened.
Hemingway speaks beautifully of the Jardin du Luxembourg before reminding me of Chicago.
But as hard as I try, I can’t focus in a coffee shop on the book.
The people are too distracting.
But people are fascinating.
Intimate detail of lives are expressed so openly, as if no one can hear.
And so I thought I’d learn to make order from the chaos, and take my little black notebook, and write down the odd snippets of conversation that distract me and make distinction between them.
And not know which face belonged to each voice.
And not know the context of the stories.
And not know the turn the conversations would take, or the ending to the conversations, just a line here and a line there.
Mixed together.
The result – that I have so far written down – is exceedingly mundane, yet fascinating to me.

A metre. I told him. No. …. Yeah. A metre but He never fucking listens. I hate squatting… oh… before I forget… do you have Fletch’s number? With a big fat cherry on top? There are usually seventeen but I swear she stole one. Yeah things aren’t going too well for me at the minute. No reason for us to stay together when the cat died. Two coffees too many dad. I can’t believe it was 2, I didn’t think there’d be time. Tell her we can go ahead with terminating his contract… yeah he deserves it. Sometimes you’ve just gotta say fuck it, you know? It’s a shame, he seemed nice enough at the time… I never thought he’d do it. Some solids. Walked home until I had a car. Cream on that? I swear mate, she doesn’t even get off the couch, fucking lazy. People die, it happens. They don’t do curry sauce with the chips any more though. Nah Liz told me that it’s likely Jen will be cautioned for it but probably not Bek. Blatantly gay. What if he finds out? They don’t teach manners at the fucking border agency. She ain’t even sucked his dick yet. Twice but sometimes if it’s raining there will be more. Sensed it. Two brake lights I think. Yeah Dave’s had it with Sky, never fuckin’ works when it rains. A girl? Daisy? Or not?. Isn’t it though?. Season 4 was the best so far but. Does it smell funny in here to you?…..no…… oh. Birmingham is quieter I think. Three massive blokes just fucking…just…came out of fucking nowhere. I don’t think they’ll get married. Repping in Mabella I think.

Sometimes I wonder who these people are; their names; what comes next; if they have terrible secrets; when their parents first laid eyes upon each other; their favourite subjects; if they talk to themselves when they’re alone; if they’re in love; if they ever called their teacher “mum”; have they ever ran from the police; how old they were when they first smoked a cigarette; if they play the piano; what expletive do they shout when they stand on an upturned plug?; where they will be when they’re 80; what pressures they’re under; do they write? sing? do they want children? are they scared of spiders? do they have an incredible family history they’re yet to uncover? do they drink? What insecurities plague them? What did they do on their 18th birthday?

Sometimes I imagine their stories.
The old man who sat three tables out from me, wore a grey beanie hat.
He looked cautious and uneasy.
I imagined he was hiding out. I imagined he’d fled to Vegas in the 60s in search of a piece of the pie. The small Nevada town exploded into a heaven of seedy gamblers and quick-buck gangsters in the 50s. Grey beanie wanted in on it. Being a young hothead, believing the World was his to take, he just pushed his luck a little bit too far. He now owed millions of dollars, that he lost in a string of bad luck, back room, smoke filled poker games, surrounded by strippers and the smell of desperate nobody’s, in the mid 70s. He borrowed more and more to try to win it all back. And now he owed. Having packed up in the middle of the night in August, ’76, he fled eastward. Having walked for miles, hitched for miles more, snuck onto trains, and slept with one eye open in the dingiest motels that lined the route, he spent the 80s hiding out in a tiny one roomed shack in the Shenandoah valley in West Virginia, just outside of Jefferson County. He had a stove, and a stream near by to collect water. He hunted for food. He learned to love the basic life. He would sit outside every morning with a coffee, and just listen. Listen to the soft, mellifluous sound of nature. He would close his eyes and the sounds seemed more prominent. They made him feel alive. This is what it was to be living. Vegas didn’t exist. Money didn’t exist. Nothing else existed. Reality though, reality is indifferent to the dreams of absolute serenity of one man. His creditors caught up with him. In 1991, he fled to England. He’s been here ever since. First, in the Welsh valleys; in a town called Hirwaun in the Cynon Valley, before marrying a girl in Yorkshire. He wears the beanie to cover the scar from a barroom fight in Vegas; an easily identifiable scar. His wife doesn’t know his past. He thinks it’s safer that way. And all of the places he’s been, from Vegas, across the midwest, to the Shenandoah Valley, I want to see.
It is me, living vicariously through stories that I attribute to unsuspecting faces.
And here he is. Cautiously watching the World go by, in a little unknown coffee shop, in England, as if any second could be his last, as if Michael Corleone could walk out of the bathroom at any moment and end it all in a flash. I watch him as I take a sip of Mocha.

These are lives. It is a World that you hear in a coffee shop.
We all share a single ancestor. All of us. And yet here, in a coffee shop, we are all a rich tapestry of easily forgettable, beautiful mundanity, dreaming with stories that aren’t real, and Paris stays with you.


Tribute to a reverie.

November 28, 2012

There is a walk between the little town and the promenade and
the wind blows as the train rolls past.
And the stone wall is old. And it never changes.
And the sound of the sea amazes me. The most perfect sound. Man has never been able to create a sound as mellifluous as the sound of the ocean.
At the halfway mark or there about’s sits
a quaint old ice cream shack.
And a cliff top.
You can climb the cliff top and sit in a state of unbreakable reverie.
I do this. And when I don’t do this, I wish I was doing this.
And the World doesn’t matter.
And the people don’t matter.
And for a short time, you don’t exist. You were a murmur. A blip on the unfathomable tapestry of time. How comforting this is. The shadows that follow you always, slowly wash away each time the tide pulls itself further out. And you hear them crashing against the rocks, and they are meaningless now. And I feel fine. For just a little while.
Sometimes faces pass below and I wonder who they are. What thoughts are they having. How did they come to be here, today?

“In these deep solitudes and awful cells,
Where heav’nly-pensive contemplation dwells”

And then I stop wondering.
And the waves steal my thoughts again, and wash them away. And It’s calming too.
Thoughts of an introvert are masked in public and chaotic and self destructive in private. It never ceases. “Just be yourself” people tell you, not realising that it takes a tremendous amount of energy and concentration to ‘just be myself’.
But everything is beautiful.
Do you ever get the feeling that no one listens to you? And you want to scream? It is a lonely feeling.
The sound you make, is a blur to them. A faint hum on the wind. An irritating distraction more than anything, that quickly passes and is forgotten. A vacant nod of insincerity crosses their face. So you slowly say less and less. Because it’s easier. And then you write. That’s the beauty of the written word. It is a drug.
You don’t have to see their disapproving, or bored faces staring back, or glaring around the room looking for something more interesting than your apparently lifeless words. It is a drug, and it subsidises your wistful desire to be heard. How arrogant it is to wish to be heard.
I feel like a caricature of myself. And everyone else merges into everyone else until the faces are a haze. I don’t remember a time when this wasn’t the case.
But on the top of the cliff with the quaint old ice cream shack below, and the passing faces, where there is no one to talk to,
there is also no one to not listen to you. And the fleeting sense of freedom is ineffable.
The balance is harmonious and sad, all at the same time.
But it suits me just fine that way.


My law on marriage

February 26, 2011

If we are to take the Biblical view, that marriage is between a man and a woman, we must look at what Biblical marriage stood for. Christians who oppose gay marriage, if they are going to use to the Bible to try to justify their prejudices, must be consistent and follow through with the Biblical guide to marriage. So perhaps we should use the Bible to structure a new Federal law on the Defence of Marriage. Let’s call it, Futile Democracy’s Defence of Marriage Act 2010. I took it upon myself to write it up:

Section 1 define marriage:
A marriage is defined as a union between a man and a virgin woman.
Deuteronomy 22:13-21
A marriage is also valid, in the eyes of God and so the eyes of the United States Congress, if it is between a man and his sister.
Genesis 20:1-14
The union also permits the man to take concubines whenever he sees fit.
2 Sam 5:13
2 Chron 11:21

Section 2 relating to women as captives:
If a man within the United States of America finds a desirable woman in a room of captives, he is entitled to marry her on the spot, without her consent.
After marrying a captive, it is required, by the consent of the United States Congress, that the man must first take her home, and shave her head.
Deut. 21:11-13

Section 3 relating to women as property:
Trading in women, is a perfectly acceptable form of property dealing, within the United States of America.
RUTH 4:5-10
Wives must not speak, or offer opinions, especially in Church, except in the company of her superior (husband) at home.
I Corinthians 14:34-35
If a man rapes a virgin, he shall pay fifty pieces of silver, and then marry her.
Deut. 22:28
If a woman is kidnapped at a party, this shall not fall under the law of the United States forbidding kidnapping, as long as the man marries the kidnapped woman.
Judges 21:19-25
When at war, is it permitted that you destroy their cities, kill all men and women and male children, take the female children for yourselves, and marry them.
Judges 21:7-23
Purchasing children of foreigners is acceptable in God’s eyes. You may marry them, as they are now your property.
Leviticus 25:44-46

Section 4 relating to adultery:
The punishment for adultery is stoning to death.
Death shall not be enforced before a quasi-trial is given for the wife. If the parents of the wife can prove that the wife is a virgin by spreading the cloth worn by the wife on a table to the City Elders, the husband must pay compensation to the parents and the wife is not permitted to see her parents ever again.
If she is found guilty, she must be put to death.
Deut. 22:22-30

Section 5 relating to pregnancy:
If a wife gives birth to a boy, she must spend a week in isolation because she is, by decree of the Congress of the United States, and God Almighty, unclean.
If a wife gives birth to a girl, she must spend two weeks in isolation, because she is, by decree of the Congress of the United States, and God Almighty, very very unclean.
Leviticus 12:5

Section 6 relating to the death of a husband:
Definitely don’t marry your dead husband’s brother.
Leviticus 20:21
Definitely do marry your dead husband’s brother.
Deuteronomy 25:5-10

Section 7 on divorce:
If a citizen of the United States of America abandons his wife and children, for Jesus, he will be rewarded.
Matthew 19:29
A woman who is divorced for a second time or widowed by her second husband, must not remarry her first husband.
Deuteronomy 24:3-4
Divorce and remarrying, is committing adultery against your first husband or wife in the eyes of Jesus and the United States Congress. This isn’t a law as such, just to let you know, if you get divorced, we think you’re scum.
Mark 10:2-12

Section 8 conclusion:
Marriage within the United States of America, is hereby described objectively as a union between a man, brother, rapist and a virgin woman, another woman, another woman, a few more women, a hostage, a rape victim, and the female children of parents who have just been slaughtered.
But NEVER let a homo marry. This is unnatural and immoral.

I think that just about sums up exactly what the new US law on Defence of Marriage should consist of, you know, if it really is about pleasing God, and not about simply being horrific bigots.

I found this poet, Alvin Lau, in a powerfully beautiful poem exploring the bullshit of Christian homophobic attitudes that are prominent on the American Right wing. I cannot think of a better way to put into words exactly how I feel on the subject of gay marriage, than Lau does:


Futile Scribble

February 4, 2011

I am writing more and more in my little notebook recently, and I’d quite like to blog the notes I make, in some sort of vain attempt to appeal to my creative writing side. So alongside Futile Democracy and Futile Photography, I now own Futile Scribble.

The difference between this blog, and Futile Scribble, is that I do not want Futile Scribble to involve much thought. It is just for simple, quick, off-the-cuff notes that I feel the need to write down, and then to preserve. Almost an experiment for my own sake, to note how my thought patterns change over time. It is also an attempt to think in the moment, rather than becoming deeply anxious constantly through only thinking about the future. I am finding spontaneous note taking, to be rather settling and serene, in an odd way.
That is why Futile Scribble now exists.

Go subscribe!


The curse of stupidity.

February 1, 2011


Taken at Hyde Park
Taken in 2008
Taken with Canon 400D
Displayed because it’s a calming photo, at the end of not so calming day.

————————————————————————-

Trying to beat the drum of
rationality
and reasoning
with someone who is
venomously stupid
is like
trying to
argue with fire.
So i told her
she’s full of
shit.


A snapshot of thought

January 31, 2011


Taken in Istanbul, in 2007.
Taken using a Canon 400D.
———————————————————

I am carrying a notebook around recently. Taking little notes of anything that catches my eye and trying to write down what I see, as if I were taking a photo of it. A snapshot of thought. Like the photo above, not considered, or edited, or planned, or thought about in detail; just a quick note. It appeals to me, because it doesn’t take much artistic creativity. It requires just a pen and paper. I can take photos that mean something to me, but i’d like to be able to use words to create a photo too. This is my first attempt at such a task.

In Leicester there is a boy
student
who walks around with his headphones on through the city centre
singing loudly to himself.
he can’t sing
he’s fucking awful
The odd smirk on his face says he
thinks he’s being “different” or “quirky” or “unique”
but he looks at the floor as he walks
in an awkward
uncomfortable
insecure
transparent
ignorance.
That’s not unique or
an undiscovered, tortured genius
that’s the same as everyone else is, when they’re drunk.
He is the sheep that thinks he’s special
heading for the same slaughterhouse
as the rest of us.


The morning of Bukowski

January 25, 2011


One of my photos from Paris.

A short and sweet blog today. I am waiting on an email back, in order to post a longer, more precise blog. So today, I thought i’d be a little bit spontaneous and post a poem by Charles Bukowski that I have come to absolutely love. I have sat this morning, reading hundreds of Bukowski poems. I think he may well become the inspiration for my next tattoo.

Here is one of my favourites. It is called “I like your books“:

In the betting line the other
day
man behind me asked,
“are you Henry
Chinaski?”

“uh huh,” I answered.

“I like your books,” he went
on.

“thanks,” I answered.

“who do you like in this
race?” he asked.

“uh uh,” I answered.

“I like the 4 horse,” he
told me.

I made my bet and went back
to my seat….

the next race I am standing in
line and here is this same man
standing behind me
again.
there are at least 50 lines at
the windows but
he has to find mine
again.

“I think this race favors the
closers,” he said to the back of
my neck. “the track looks
heavy.”

“listen,” I said, not looking
around, “it’s the kiss of death to
talk about horses at the
track…”

“what kind of rule is that?”
he asked. “God doesn’t make
rules…”

I turned around and looked at him:
“maybe not, but I
do.”

after the next race
I got in line, glanced behind
me:
he was not there:

lost another reader.

I lose 2 or 3 each
week.

fine.

let ’em go back to
Kafka.

Amazing.


Render unto Caesar…

January 22, 2011

As you walk down the Rue de Souffle in the Latin Quarter of Paris, looking straight ahead of you, it is impossible to ignore the pure beauty of the Pantheon as it towers above everything else surrounding it. The road, named after the Architect of the Pantheon; Jacques-Germain Soufflot, is at first glance a fitting tribute to the French master of Neoclassical architecture. Voltaire, who is buried in the Crypt at the Pantheon, is said to have been taken in the funeral procession to the Pantheon, alongside a crowd on the Rue de Souffle, of over a million people.

Inside the Pantheon, you will have already past the huge columns forcefully holding up the entrance. You are then greeted by an amazing inner dome, which reaches to the sky, and is just as wide as it is tall. In the centre, is a giant piece of scientific brilliance, by the scientist Léon Foucault, erected in 1851 with the intention of being the first to demonstrate the rotation of the Earth on its axis. I cannot explain the experiment, because it hurts my head to think about it too much; needless to say, it is a work of beauty.

An equally as beautiful work of art stands at the back of the main hall. I stood in awe for a while at the incessantly attractive sculpture, depicting the “heroes” of the French revolution. The realism is romanticism at its finest, surrounded by neoclassicalism at its finest.

The Crypt is now the resting place of some of the greatest French artists, writers, philosophers, poets and politicians that ever lived. Voltaire, Mirabeau, Victor Hugo, Rousseau, Soufflot, Braille, Curie, Dumas; are all buried in the Crypt at the Pantheon.

And yet, despite all of this, there is a sign within the crypt at the Pantheon, letting people know, that actually, the structure is in constant need of restoration because its falling apart.

The successful failure, as i’m naming the beautiful yet slightly shoddy craftsmanship of the Pantheon in its attempt to resurrect the architectural genius of the Pantheon still standing strongly in the centre of Rome, is mirrored in 19th Century France when it comes to the death of the Monarchy, an attempt at Republic, and the falling into Empire. Rome experienced much the same structure of governance.

The last King of Rome; Lucius Tarquinius was driven to exile by Lucius Brutus in 509bc, and the Roman Republic era began. The end of the Roman Republic arguably ended with Julius Caesar being proclaimed Dictator for life in around late 45bc. Caesar was considered the hero of the common people. His face was stamped on coins, he sat on a throne-like seat in the Senate which had no one had dared to do since the fall of the Kingdom, he then had a statue of himself erected. This aroused suspicion that he intended to overthrow the beloved Republic and establish himself as King (which is probably true), and so a group of Senators lead by Brutus (an apparent ancestor of the Brutus who established the Republic 450 years previous, though it isn’t provable) murdered Caesar in the Theatre of Pompey (not in the Senate house, as most people think), underneath the statue of Pompey; Caesar’s old friend turned enemy. In killing the people’s hero Julius Caesar, his adopted son Octavian soon became the people’s hero, and used his popularity to hunt down and kill all of Caesar’s killers, to do away with Marc Anthony and to establish himself, cunningly, as the first Emperor of Rome; Augustus.

Similarly, as King Louis XVI was killed off by revolutionaries set to form a Republic, the aspirations of a young general who had visions of expanding the territory of France, as Caesar had done as General of the Roman Legions during his expanding of the Roman territory into Gaul (modern day France, Austria, Switzerland); Napoleon Bonaparte. After his success as a General, Bonaparte became First Consulate of the French Senate in 1799. Effectively, granting himself the right of Dictator for life, as Caesar had done. Following Caesar’s lead, Bonaparte started to wear the crown of laurel leaves. Caesar took the idea of wearing a laurel wreath from the old Greek tales of the God Apollo, who was always depicted wearing one. Caesar was putting himself on a par with the Gods. Napoleon was trying to emulate Caesar. It is almost scientific. The violent change from Kingdom to Republic to Empire is almost the necessary result of socio-historical processes that have been seen in Rome, France, and to some extent, the USA. Whilst personal characteristics of people like Caesar and Napoleon, and their lust and arrogance for absolute power are important in the narrative, they are merely one part in a much larger narrative of history that leads from Kingdom to Empire. When Republic is faltering, it is amazing to see, throughout history, an overbearing and maniacal personality appears on the scene almost right on cue, to force his way into the seat of power. Empire is inevitable at that point, and Empire is necessarily imperialist by nature. Napoleon and Caesar were both not popular with the nobility of their respective Country’s before in their younger days. Napoleon felt he was of social inferiority in comparison to the French nobility, he was an introvert and a loner by nature. Caesar’s family had very little political influence and he was a bit of an outcast. Napoleon saw, as did Caesar, that the State was falling, and a strong political and military mind could quite easily fill the gap. Napoleon once remarked:

“What a great people were these Romans, especially down to the Second Punic War. But Caesar! Ah Caesar! That was the great man!”

Napoleon, had himself crowned Emperor, emulating Caesar’s adopted son, Octavian (Augustus) in 1804. The French Empire expanded at first, but soon crumbled under his leadership. He successfully defeated coalition partners of Europe five times, before tempting fate with an ill conceived invasion of Russia in 1812, and was forced to abdicate and exiled in 1813. The strong and mystifying exterior of Napoleon, soon crumbled, like the walls of the Pantheon.

One could argue that Napoleon is actually not at all the personified mirror of the Pantheon, and actually far more successful than Julius Caesar given that Caesar was murdered before he could become Emperor, whereas Napoleon was successful in turning France into an Empire, taking control of most of Western and Central Europe in less than twelve years, and lasted a decade more than Caesar after taking power. Napoleon was a genius. Although, one would have to take into consideration the lasting legacy of both Caesar and Napoleon. For example, every Emperor of Rome was referred to as Caesar, for over 400 years after his death. The name Napoleon has long since died, other than Orwell’s use of the name for a horse in Animal Farm. After the fall of the Roman Empire, Europe was plunged into centuries of the Dark Ages; a truly regressive era in our history. When Napoleon fell, France thrived. The people adored Caesar. The people did not adore Napoleon. Caesar was proclaimed a God, and worshipped as such for the next half a millennium. Napoleon never came close to such accolade. The model of Rome during the Empire has been the inspiration for great artists, architects (such as Souffle’s Pantheon, and even as far as the Capitol building in Washington D.C), sculptors, writers, and people like Napoleon have tried to copy the system of governance for centuries since the final collapse of Rome in the fifth century. I cannot imagine the short phase of French Empire is going to be the inspiration for any such renaissance. The greatest poets during the Renaissance in Florence and Milan were crowned with a laurel wreath, in the style of Caesar to show that they were the masters of the poets. The legacy of the Roman Empire is far stronger and has a greater romance attached to it, than Bonaparte’s France.

The brief revival of the French Empire under Napoleon III was arguably more successful in terms of policy successes and the modernisation of France as an industrial power. And yet Napoleon III is often overlooked as a key figure in French history. His taking of power from the 2nd Republic which was established after the fall of his uncle, Napoleon, was largely a result of the fact that the new Republic was not a Republic at all, having abolished Universal Suffrage and a left over from the political upheaval of the fifty years previous. Stable government had not been known in France by the time Napoleon III took control, for around sixty years.

By the time Octavian became Emperor Augustus in Rome, the Republic had been dead for a long time. Whilst Augustus’ reign was far superior to Caesar’s and Napoleon’s and most Emperors with perhaps the exception of Trajan, he only managed to become Emperor – albeit cleverly and shrewdly – by building on the groundwork laid by his adoptive father, Julius Caesar. The political instability and the uncertain population was crying out for leadership; Octavian provided it.

Rome has a proud tradition. It, along with Ancient Greece certainly spawned Western Neoclassical art and architecture that has produced, with inspiration from the Ancient World, some spectacular works of art. The library in Helsinki is a great example of a Neoclassical building with a modern twist. Le Petit Trianon at Versailles in Paris, has a White House-esque look to it, fundamentally Neoclassical, but modern in feel. St Peter’s in Vatican City, is beautifully designed, and looks back across the Tiber and across history, to its Roman and Pagan ancestry for inspiration. Rome is the father of such brilliance. As it is politically….

If the line of history is to play out again and again, then surely it is not a coincidence that the Republic of the United States of America, which emerged as a result of the violent revolution against Kingdom, is often considered to now be an Empire. But, why is there no Emperor? Why has the Republic not collapsed as History would proscribe? Is America a new kind of Empire? A purely economic Empire, that is a product of advanced Capitalism? A Capitalist American Empire that requires a Napoleon-esque strategic mind, not for Statism and the old conception of Empire, but for ruthless business, coupled with aggressive foreign policy; the new Empire. And so no longer requiring of an overbearing, too powerful Centralised State with a single powerful person at its helm, because that would be contradictory to its “free market” economic purposes and so does it transcend the part of history that would proscribe the fall into the hands of a single person, because the Emperor, is no longer a human being, but instead the excessive power of capital? Or is it destined, after a period of prolonged success, to follow an inevitable path of history?