…solidarity to pure wind

May 11, 2011

Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give the appearance of solidarity to pure wind.
– George Orwell

Everybody on the planet is capable of synesthesic thought. Usually we only identify the most extreme and unusual cases of synesthesia and single them out for investigation at the most and a nice little story to tell your mates at the pub at the least. Synesthesia is the ability to transfer the sensation of the stimulation of one sense, to the sensation of the stimulation of another sense. For example, people who see colours and hear a sound corresponding to that colour. Or vice versa. The truth is though, we all do, every moment. The simple way to measure this affect is the bouba keke test. Look at the picture underneath and decide to yourself which is called bouba and which is called keke:

If you are like everyone else, you will call the rounded shape bouba and the spikey shape keke. The reason is the rounded shape we see, corresponds to the rounded sound of “bouba“. Around 1% of people who take the simple bouba keke test will not instantly see bouba as rounded and keke as sharp and spikey. Similarly, 99% of people will not instantly understand why someone else sees green when they think of the number 2. It similar to seeing a bright green shirt and calling it loud. In short, synethesia is involuntary metaphor.

You have all no doubt seen this. Try to say the colour, rather than the word:

This is an example of cognitive dissonance. The tension we feel when the literal translation is somehow impaired by another perception we are simultaneously holding. The above will make you struggle when you get to the word and colour that conflict with each other, because human thinking cannot disregard what we consider to be the literal meaning. We cannot shake that.

This brings me onto the point of this blog.
A few days ago, was the Royal Wedding. Predictably discussion turned to Patriotism. There is a sort of expectation in the minds of the collective, that we are supposed to feel a sense of sacrificial pride to the landmass on which you were born, loyal only to the abstraction of the National flag under which you had no choice in. And I am left in two conflicting minds.

I cannot fight the powerful urge to feel a sense of community when England play (and inevitably hopelessly lose) at a World Cup. I feel a defensive sense of anger, when I hear American Republicans insist that a British style NHS will result in refusal to treat the elderly. When I’m abroad and I hear a British accent, I feel a slight tinge of kinship, even though I have no idea who that person is. The feeling of patriotism is there. The idea of a Nation creates an automatic expectation within each individual to feel a sense of loyalty and pride toward it. Yet, it doesn’t exist. It is the solidarity of pure wind.

The sense of Patriotism and its expectations are quite unnerving. It is a type of respect and loyalty that is supposed to be given without question. We bow in its presence as if its worship is just as natural as breathing. To even question the validity of such authority is considered unpatriotic. We group ourselves, not on merit or on objective morality, but on the idea of where we were born. When the British armed forces are in Iraq, they are there for “our freedom“. Our, being the key word. We are all apparently connected by an abstract principle. They are the “heroes” and those fighting against “us” are “terrorists“, “extremists“, “insurgents” or any other noun we choice to aimlessly proscribe to entire groups of people who don’t agree with the mainstream cultural sentiments of that specific country. We are asked to look at the “enemy” as an “other“. They are not like us, because they are not from our land and our land means we are all one. They are the “enemy” because they are from another land. We look at what happened on 7/7 and see a great evil, we see the deaths of innocent people amplified because “they” are “us”. We hear news of a bombed town or village in Fallujah, and we ignore it, because “they” are far away. But if “they” shoot “our” troops, we get angry.

When Wikileaks released the video of the the American Apache pilots killing twelve innocent people, and talking about it as if it were a video game, or when video was released of American soldiers firing into a prison and throwing a grenade at the building whilst laughing and joking, no one called these people animals, or criminals, or terrorists (in fact, what we do instead, is imprison the guy – Bradley Manning – who released the video). We ignore it. We ignore it, because we have built a Patriotic narrative that whatever crime they commit, they are heroes, but the “enemy” are always “terrorists“.

This comes at a time when Americans are on the streets celebrating the death of Bin Laden. One wonders why? It will almost certainly cause a revenge attack and America may well be the target. Celebrating a death of what is perceived to be the enemy (remember, much of the World considers America to be a great threat and enemy) simply seeks to perpetuate division. President Obama said justice had been served. Justice? Hundreds of thousands of people have had to die in a war, to seek one man? And that’s justice? It isn’t a video game.

The ultra-Patriotic movement in America also creates its antithesis. There is a section of the Left that is so viciously anti-war it presumes and subtly declares as loudly as it can, that America perhaps deserved 9/11 or at least had it coming. The problem is that America didn’t create militant religious activity, it is simply a case that Nation States that aren’t built around militant religion will always come into conflict it, because the abstraction of a Nation is similar to that of religion; divisive.

It isn’t a case of Islam vs America. America, by its very nature has always been imperialistic and expansionist. It has had designs on Cuba for centuries and it shares this trait with organised religion. When Nation States mix with Capitalism, it is inevitably going to create a strain on religions, and the old power structure in which religion was built into the system is slowly eroded away to the dismay of those who quite liked the old ways, and having had the opportunity to follow the industralised Nations of their own accord, rather than being forced to for the sake of profit.
That tension between the old religiously-led system, and the new more secular way of governing was essentially forced upon the Muslim World for the sake of a more integrated global community, imposed by those in the West who thought our way was somehow “better”. Hassan al-Banna, the creator of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1920s said:

“Politics is part of religion, Caesar and what belongs to Caesar is for God Almighty alone Islam commanded a unity of life; to impose upon Islam the Christian separation of loyalties [into church and state] is to deny it its essential meaning and very existence.”

– Here is the conflict. Islamic nations under the control of fundamentalist dictatorships consider religion to be a necessary part of the existence of the Nation State. The West doesn’t. I would up and leave the UK if we were even to impose strict religious theocratic guidelines to the politics of the country. Islamic nations in the 1920s (and arguably today) are not ready to accept the separation of religion and state, and they must be allowed to walk down that path to religious freedom themselves, without America claiming to be on a moral mission, whilst plundering the area of its resources. We cannot impose Lockean principles on Nations that are not ready for it, because by definition that is not Lockean in itself. That being the case, it is absolutely no excuse to fly planes into buildings killing innocents. If they believe their religion promotes that kind of act, then that religion deserves no respect. If it can be interpreted to include violence and death against innocent lives (which it can) then it deserves no respect. I am deeply suspicious of anyone who tells me I am offending their religion, when their religion says people like me will burn in the pits of hell for eternity. I do not respect that religion. Any religion. In the same breath, I do not respect the armed forces of a Nation who are in a foreign land, killing, to protect its resources. The two systems do not work well together. There will never be peace whilst Nation States and Religion exist.

There was a sudden burst of outrage against the “ground zero mosque” on the grounds simply of “us” and “them“. Nothing more. It was right winged outrage and very hypocritical. The right wing of America tend to have an almost Messiah-like obsession with free market capitalism. But only when it works in their favour. The buying up of the space for the what they have termed the “mosque“. It is like saying “We want no government interferen……what? They’re building a mosque for brown people? WHY ISN’T THE GOVERNMENT STOPPING THIS!!!” It is surely property rights that the American Right believe the government should not be interfering with? Property rights for everyone except those that don’t fit the American Right’s narrow vision of the World? As I stated on my blog entry last year, on the the subject, it wasn’t just a Mosque, it was the Cordoba Center. It will include a Theatre, a Performing Arts centre, a Basket Ball court, Bookstore, Child care, Prayer space, Restaurant, culinary school and fitness centre. It is already being used as a place of prayer for Muslims, and has been for quite some time. As I stated in that blog:

There is nothing that honours the victims of religious intolerance more, than a center dedicated to building relations, and showing that there does not have to be such separation, anger and fear. A symbol of the coming together of Islam and the West, and particularly Islam and America is a stage in contemporary times that we REALLY need to get to, and this Centre is an attempt to provide that link. We should be celebrating it. We should be celebrating that we are trying to move away from the past decade. We no longer want people like Palin and Bush and Cheney making sure fear is the order of the day. Innocent, decent Muslims are no different to innocent, decent Americans.

I stand by that today. Artificial, yet deafening boundaries like religion (built by faith) and nationality (built by patriotism) are dangerous and lead only to violent tension – always has.

The Imam of the Omar-E Farooq Mosque in Madrassa, Kabul in Afghanistan teaches his students to hate America. He does this, not for political reasons, but, as he puts it:

God says… we can never be friends with unbelievers

Whatever the foreign policy of the United States, Imams like this one, will also preach division and hate, because their religion tells them to. “Religion poisons everything“. One child in the school said that:

America are doing suicide attacks and blaming Osama Bin Laden……. we can never be friends”

– Absolute indoctrination of the worst kind.

The two systems (religion and secular nation states) were always going to come into conflict and I dislike them both. It is easy to say that the Reagan administration created the Taliban and militant Islam to deal with the Soviet threat during the 1980s, but it stands to reason by that very logic that fundamental protestantism created America, and so Christianity, by proxy, created militant Islam. That is the sum total of the logic taken to its limit, by the delusional anti-war Left. The truth is, militant Islam has always existed. It is based on religion and nothing else. The militant branch of Islam had no problem when America was in Latin America supporting right winged terrorists; in fact the militant branch of Islam was working with America at that point. Militant Islam is expansionist by its very nature and has been responsible for both empire, and human rights abuses, much like the nation of America, over the centuries. The two are similar. Patriotism creates two breeds of lunatic; firstly the type who refuse to accept their nation could do anything wrong, and cheer on the streets of Washington when the leader of the supposed “enemy” is killed, like they’ve just beat the top bad guy on Call of Duty but refusing to acknowledge that hundreds of thousands have been killed or displaced using their tax dollars. The second type, is the antithesis mentioned above, who are content with defending militant Islam as a by-product of aggressive American foreign policy choosing to ignore the history of organised religion as one of sheer violence and coercion long before Nation States came onto the scene. Patriotism, like adherence to religion is simply a perpetuation of the inherent problems the two mutually exclusive yet very similar abstractions inevitably create.

I don’t know if it is a natural reaction, when we are constantly exposed to patriotic sentiment, that we adhere to this us VS them principle. I know I certainly do, and it takes me a minute or two to logically think through the implications of unquestioning Patriotism. That, leaves me feeling slightly uneasy.

We are blinded by the perception of what we expect to see.


…wouldn’t you just eat a salad?

January 26, 2011

“we are always asked
to understand the other person’s
viewpoint
no matter how
out-dated
foolish or
obnoxious”

In my Politics class, we sit and have a rather tedious discussion most weeks. There is a bin in the corner, about 3 metres from where I sit. I sit with a bottle of water most weeks and finish it by the time the class is over. I wonder if I throw the empty bottle in the direction of the bin, if I will get it on target. I position myself by swinging slightly backward on my chair. I always decide against it. It is tedious because there is no control over the class. People talk on one table about subjects that are absolutely nothing to do with the original topic of debate. Others frequently don’t understand the point of the arguments made by specific political philosophers, and end up rambling on for a moment or two about nothing. They would say more, if they didn’t speak. The day previous, at the gym, in the changing room, a man was in the toilet cubicle. He obviously thought no one was in the toilet and randomly said “Oh fuck it’s a big one!!!!” I am not sure how to respond to that. It’s obviously a sentence of genius. Do I edge slowly toward the door and leave quietly? Or do I bow down in front of the cubicle and worship this legend as he comes out of his castle? Two Christian girls in our class, during a rather slow discussion on Nietzsche attempted to link the entire concept of democracy (not just modern democracy, democracy in general) to Christianity. Christians often narrow mindedly take credit for concepts they simply didn’t create; usually in the subject of art, as if without Christianity there would never have been a Leonardo. But I’ve never seen such a terrible argument presented as to why democracy is a loving gift bestowed upon the World by that beacon of democracy; Christianity.

I pointed out that forms of democracy (quite different to democracy today, I accept) appeared long before Christianity stamped its ugly, overbearing foot on the progress of humanity. One of the two girls looked at me as if I was an utter idiot. She told me, in a naturally patronising voice that democracy came long after Christianity and was a product of it. I mentioned Rome to her, and the election of Tribunes of the People’s assembly, the Senate, and that after around 300bc the lower classes were allowed to stand for office, and that although Rome’s democracy was massively flawed; it was still democratic by the standards of that particular time. The Roman people idolised their Republic. They were scared of absolute power. The Ancient Greeks, long before Jesus Christ wasn’t born, invented Constitutions and in some respects, invented Democracy. She said “no“.

Then more talking ensued…

One person talking louder to make themselves known after the last person. About eight different conversations in the same small room is too much even for my confidence and ego to try to fight over. I dropped my argument. I stared around the room and out of the window. My Kindle holds thousands of books. I have downloaded at least 200 so far, and have only started reading one. Tony Blair’s most recent book. It’s very self serving and has an air of utter arrogance about it. He describes himself as a rebel at heart. He was certainly a great statesman and I have a lot of time for much of what he achieved. But the fact remains, his “modernising” turned the Labour Party into a Tory-Lite Party, capitulating to the excessive power of finance capital. I am reading poems by Bukowski too. As you can tell by the start of this blog. I wish I had more time, and a quiet room. That way, I would have spent the next thirty minutes destroying the argument of massively misinformed, delusional Christians. I get a kind of sadistic enjoyment out of it. I don’t respect or understand their view, when their view is ridiculous, and just outright bullshit.

Democracy, previous to Rome can be traced back as far as pre-historic civilisation. Tribes working as a unit would presume to work together far more democratically, for the common good, than any system forced upon humanity during Christianities harsh hold over Europe. In fact, Christian Europe resembled a system far closer to the that advocated in the Old Testament. The first Pope, in the Bible, says:

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.
-1 Peter 2:13-17

I think that’s pretty conclusive. Firstly, I take issue with ‘live as God’s slaves’. No. The Christian God disgusts me. I cannot think of anyone worse, to be the ‘slave’ of.  Secondly, it is evident that the first Catholic Pope demanded that his contempories submit to the sovereign authority, whom at the time, was an Emperor, far removed from any democratic principles. St Peter’s role in the Church spanned four Roman Emperors; Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and eventually being crucified under the despotic lunatic Nero. We don’t know who he was writing about when he demanded we all submit to Caesar. I doubt it was Nero, given that Nero really didn’t like Christians. But even if St Peter had demanded that the Caligula, Claudius or Tiberius were to be submitted to entirely, the nature of those first three Emperors after Augustus should be examined. Perhaps they were deep down, democratic?

Tiberius was massively disliked, especially before he died. He spent far more money on the Imperial palaces than on the people. Although the area that St Peter would have lived for much of his life; Israel, has a town named “Tiberias” after the Emperor………. created by…….. King Herod. Executions for small crime went up under Tiberius. He was a bit of a maniac. In fact, he was so anti-democratic, he had his main opponent in the Senate; Gaius Asinius, executed for treason, simply for opposing the Emperor. Why would a loving God desire his faithful subjects to give themselves up to such tyranny? Why didn’t he demand the overthrow of such evil, for a far more democratic model? Why wasn’t that God preaching democratic values, if democracy truly is the product of Christian logic?

Caligula was no better. He had absolutely every Senator who opposed the Emperor investigated, and if he deemed it necessary, executed. This sent a stark warning to the Senate and the final remnant of the old Republic; submit entirely to the Emperor, or die. He then started dressing as a God in public, he called himself Jupiter in documents, and he made Senators who he distrusted, run by the side of his chariot to show their inferiority. Two temples were created and funded by Caligula, for the sake of worshipping…. Caligula. Perhaps this is the beacon of democracy and rule by the people that St Peter was obviously referring to when he demanded people ‘honor the emperor’.

Claudius, likewise, was not elected by popular democratic means. He was the grandson of the sister of Augustus; Octavia. So he believed, through his bloodline, that he was entitled to the Imperial throne. Inherited public power is about as far removed from democracy as it is possible to get.  He pronounced himself the Judge and Jury in many trials during his reign. Absolutely less democratic than even the hardly democratic Republican era of Rome.

So, that leaves us with the notion that St Peter, when asking his people to submit as slaves to God and as subject to Caesar, did not care one bit for democracy, or for personal and intellectual freedom, or the plight of the Imperial subjects and the injustices within the Empire. And so we must conclude, that early Christianity has more in common with its Middle Ages history, than it does with a couple of Christian students’ warped interpretation of democratic history.

Christianity during the Middle Ages was most certainly responsible for the most cruel period of human history in Europe. It was also used as the basis for Monarchy. Kings and Queens did not use Christianity in a manipulative sense just to hold on to power, they genuinely believed, as did their subjects, that they had a divine right to rule, laid out by God. They had inherited the throne of David. That was the justification for Monarchy ruled by ruthless, violent Christianity. Henry VIII was so worried about how he was to be viewed as a King by God, that he divorced Catherine of Aragon, on the pretence that God had punished him by giving him no male heir with Catherine, because she was his dead brother’s wife first.

The Pope arguably had the most power in Europe during the Middle Ages. English people did not consider themselves English first. They considered themselves loyal to the Pope. They did not elect the Pope and they had no say over the policies coming out of Rome. They merely had to accept what the Vatican was telling them. Thomas More (who, quite comically, is now a Saint) advocated the burning to death of anyone who dared to own a Bible in English. Catholics believed only the Vatican and those who were scholarly and rich enough to read Latin, should have the right to interpret the Bible for the rest of the Catholic World. That couldn’t be less democratic if it tried. It wasn’t until Henry broke with Rome in 1534, that England as a culture and a united people started to take some shape. But even then, the despotic power of Rome was merely transfered to the despotic power of the King. No form of democracy was created. The beginnings of Protestantism were not democratic. Americas beginnings were not democratic. The Athens system in the centuries preceding the apparent birth of Jesus included a system that did not allow women or slaves the right to vote. America, similarly started off, for a very long time actually, not allowing women or slaves or anyone whose skin colour was slightly darker than their own, the right to vote.

Skip a couple of Centuries to America, and some would argue that Christianity was responsible for the birth of the nation. Not true. The historian Robert T Handy argues that:

“No more than 10 percent– probably less– of Americans in 1800 were members of congregations.”

Most of the Founding Fathers were Freemasons and Deists. They were, as was America, products of the Enlightenment. Freemasonry and the thinking of the Enlightenment, the moving away from strict Christian dogma, is far more important to the development of early America. George Washington, the first President of the United States of America, and the man who was essentially the pillar on which the early Republic stood and managed to survive the early years, was a devout Freemason from the early 1750s, until the day he died. He became a master mason at the end of the 1590s.

Thomas Jefferson famously despised the dogma of organised religion, stating:

“Question with boldness even the existence of a god.”

Jefferson received a letter from the third President, John Adams, stating:

“I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preserved — the Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced!”

It is thus evident that the United States was not the product of some new found Christian love and appreciation for democratic principles. The Constitution specifically states that there shall be no religious oppression. It does not mention the wondrous contribution Christianity has made to the onset of democracy.

Democracy, like Capitalism, like falls of Kingdoms and Republics and Empires is the result of social evolution and the collective cultural mind of a population rebelling to meet the challenges of major shifts in consciousness and technology and economics. It is not the result of Christian dogma.

The historical reality is almost always, on every issue, entirely at odds with Christian delusion. They never accept it. They invent history. Just like the two girls invented history, and invented their own special brand of logic in my politics class. It was however, one of the only times that my mind hasn’t wandered in that class. Usually we talk about one particular philosopher and it just gets too crowded with the sounds of unrecognisable voices blurred together. It all just sounds like a constant irritating ringing in my ear. There was a man sat out a chip shop in Leicester yesterday. It was 11am. The chip shop must have only just opened. He had a huge bowl of chips. He had his legs wide open, to accommodate the mass of draping fat that swung down below his knees as he sat. At that point, wouldn’t you just accept you may have been wrong all those years? Wouldn’t you just eat a salad?