The most impressive feature of western culture in the absence of any primary and universal beliefs is the readiness with which otherwise secular thought relies on metaphysics to explain human events. And having as they do the ability to explain nothing of universal significance, secular thinkers, all of us, have become accustomed to employing a causal mysticism far exceeding the ephemeral occasionalism of any faith tradition ever conceived by mankind.
We have recently been unfortunate enough to witness two events which have made this sociological inclination, as natural as it may be, incredibly apparent and incredibly disgusting. The first being the recent installment of random murder sprees by, in this case, a well fed son of a Hollywood one percenter in Isla Vista. The second being the grizzly stabbing of a young girl by two other young girls obsessed with appeasing a paranormal internet figure, the Slenderman, a case in which two degrees of virtual reality, a story figure and a social network, came crashing together in brutal frenzy.
The first case was a veritable banquet of grievance. Everyone had a pick at the corpses. Everything from the suggestion that women not have abortions because it might be murder (what is termed the “war on women”) to guns, to depictions of women in movies were and are to blame for this and any future murder sprees. A feeding frenzy it was, resembling a covey of vegan vultures suddenly bloodthirsty ripping into the flesh of poached animal carcasses in the Serengeti. It was a splendid scene, marked as it was with one of the most embarrassing examples of human stupidity in recent memory. I am unapologetically referring to the screeching vituperations of the father of one of the slain victims of Isla Vista, who, in a made for CNN moment, leveled blame on “craven politicians” and “the NRA” for his son’s death. Given that the killer mentioned neither politicians nor the NRA as a motive or influence on his actions, it is, indeed, a rather odd conclusion at which to arrive that these two entities deserve special condemnation. But, the man’s conclusion is neither a rational nor a even a reasonable one. It was, rather, it is, a sentiment in service of an increasingly ubiquitous and always annoying idea: that the existence of guns cause murder. It doesn’t matter that victims in this attack were stabbed to death as well, the only body counts that count are the ones taken by the action of a firing pin.
There are, as it turns out, new things under the sun. This explanation is entirely modern and so takes up a special residence in the history of thought as one which cannot be found in some form in the past. Never in the history of human affairs has an inert object been granted so much agency. Twenty three hundred years ago, Aristotle, in accounting for the destruction wrought by a Spartan phalanx or, more precisely, an iron tipped spear, would have made reference to the fourth of his four primal causes, enumerated in his metaphysics, the final cause. Aristotle’s (I here supply Aristotle with possession of this cause, because, as we shall see, nothing is caused by anything anymore, and it is best that we allow the man what he once had) final cause is one constituted entirely of intention, what the Greeks called Telos. In as much as Telos is telescopic , it gave definition to fuzzy edges. Any reasonable Greek examining a spear would never conclude that there is something about that spear’s spatial extent that causes the particular habit of man to kill other men. And so it is with modern law, an example of the old being new, at least for the under educated. A person in a modern court of law cannot be convicted of murder by reference to the manner and means by which the victim met his demise. The killer’s intentions, and he can only be a killer with intention, is the reference used to establish culpability for murder, a fact of jurisprudence which made necessary, some many centuries ago, the lesser charge of manslaughter.
And so in his emotional ineptness, the father of the victim has therefore absolved the murder of his son, a tactic defense attorneys employ with increasing regularity as the jury of public opinion comes to accept these emotive and, to be very plain, idiotic explanations with greater frequency. The father further admonished to everyone in the country that he does not want our “sympathies” — or was it empathy? Since by his implicit admission his son wasn’t actually murdered, it is perplexing that a person in such a circumstance would not at least accept the condolences of the country for the loss of a loved one in a freak accident. Is it not perplexing? If the reader at this juncture finds that I am beating up on the poor fellow too much, I can say with enthusiasm that it is entirely intentional and that your reaction is ordinary. I have no sympathy for men who absolve murderers by bearing false witness. Speak now solemnly of cravenness.
Modern physics has done entirely away with Aristotle’s metaphysics and Plato’s Forms, replacing innate ontological tendencies with universal physical laws and forces to account for the varied structures of nature. But outside the physics lab, across campus in the humanities building, a modern mystical inclination, itself a deference to the Oracle at Delphi, has usurped such hopelessly Cartesian rationalism. Here we find wide eyed undergrads at once sucking up the notion that human agency is an illusion and is also very much real when it comes to the white male, because he is the reason for every conceivable evil; ascribing evil a form in the Platonic sense as a white male and guns as the innate formal cause of murder, a circle of incoherence closes on itself.
The editors at the blog from which the girls who stabbed their friend 19 times drew inspiration are paradigmatic of the new sense of things. After learning that the girls had committed this evil in service of a bizarre and disquieting character populating their blog (creepypasta or something even more exceedingly stupid) called Slenderman, the editors of the aforementioned exceedingly stupidly named blog were in the mood to offer condolences to the victim (who isn’t?) but were not of the mind to take responsibility for anything. One editor wrote,
I don’t believe it’s the fault of Slenderman or horror writings in general that this happened. I remember reading scary stories and watching slasher movies when I was a child and young teenager and while they gave me nightmares, they did not instill within me a desire to murder my friends. “
I am, too, not convinced that Slenderman is responsible for anything. I am, though, suspicious that ideas about Slenderman, may, as the girls have attested, have had something to do with it. And if we can, as the above confident idiot demands, take as exculpatory evidence against the suggestion that ideas about Slenderman caused the stabbing the cases in which ideas about him did not cause stabbings, what is the standard of evidence for determining motive of anything?
The reader may now be allowed to form a mental image of this editor, this confident idiot, sitting over coffee at some horribly furnished hipster pub with other equally confident idiots discussing the innocence of Slenderman. An interlude occurs. Something incredibly cosmetic yet meaningless happens. Satisfaction with the aesthetic originality of the event is considerable. Perhaps a few cigarettes are smoked, greetings exchanged. The conversation shifts to the baleful influence Christianity has had on mankind and American politics. Further, the confident idiots induce, though they will all say they deduced, that Medieval Christian antisemitism was the final and exclusive cause of the Holocaust.
It is now necessary to regard the above image as a damn near real certainty, taking place somewhere at some hip club, coffee house, internet forum, or other equally intolerable place.
We too, the reader and myself, are now sitting among the confident idiots. We have no scruples with the idea that Christian ideas about Jews in the Middle Ages influenced the Germans in their decision to kill six million of them, but we waver when committing to the case as a sufficient cause. There was, we argue, much about the holocaust that was scientific and Darwinian. Biological ideas, we continue, informed the SS Eugenics program. It therefore is not enough to make Christianity carry that cross to Golgotha alone. Where we agree, we point out, is that ideas about Jews, whether informed by science or Christianity influenced the Germans to commit the holocaust. The confident idiots are now barely with us. We refocus the conversation back to the Slenderman. If , we propose, we take the girls’ testimony as at least marginally true, and if it is true that ideas about Slenderman did not influence the stabbing, then it was the knife. And since it has been made abundantly clear that guns are the only inert object in the observable universe able to precipitate homicidal ideation, it was not the knife. Then, they exclaim, it was the girls!! Indeed, but why did they stab that other girl? They reply with nothing but a probing stare.
And if it wasn’t the girls, then it was nothing at all that caused the 19 stab wounds in the 12 year old girl from Wisconsin. It’s all pretty spooky stuff. Our interlocutors nod their heads approvingly. Better things happen for no reason, they say, than for reasons that require reflection. And much better, they continue, that things happen for reasons which can be legislated away. We assent.
“Then how,” we demand, ” can we say anything intelligent about the holocaust?”
It is therefore best if we speak of nothing at all.
Modern mysticism is a system of philosophical occasionalism that would make Al-Ghazali and David Hume proud and envious. While Ghazali and Hume were concerned primarily with the motions of the heavens and there indeterminable causes, the modern mystics have accounted for human action by answering with a resolute “nothing” , because nothing is easily marginalized while something is always difficult to contain.
It is therefore to the Oracles and Seers of modern mysticism we should turn. There are many of them. It is rumored that there are above average concentrations of them in and around the swanky palaces of southern California.
When it happened that a Washington post editorial suggested things without sufficient consultation from the Seers and Oracles, the writers were branded heretics and forever forbidden entrance to the southern regions of California on account of their impurities. The editorial suggested that it was the perverse and truly misogynistic manner in which Hollywood portrays and uses women that the Isla Vista killer was mimicking and that the expectation for female gratification not being supplied, he, in frustration turned to violence. Seth Rogan and his pal Judd Apatow, two progenitors of increasing filth and decadence, were incensed. They offered no real rebuttal except the customary “that’s not true.” They are not responsible for their ideas and behavior and the effect it has on the general culture. Here we come to an incredible intersection. This is the point at which neither the killer nor anyone else is responsible for the ideas that provoke them to action. Remember, it was the guns, craven politicians, and the NRA.
There is, as the rest of us are told to speak of nothing, a freedom of speech enjoyed by the Seers and Oracles that functions in the same way as the indulgences of Pope Leo X, a Medici, and so both a Seer and Oracle as it happens. You get what you pay for. The formula is thus codified: Make overture to gay rights, you are granted permission, free of guilt, to objectify heterosexual women; make overtures to the reproductive rights of heterosexual women, you are granted permission to make pornography and write rap lyrics; support gun control and call the NRA evil, make millions off of needlessly violent entertainment.
Modern mystics forget that ideas precipitate every action, and that these are not innate and settled. Guns don’t fire because they are in hands. They fire because there exists a river of torment behind the forehead and that river seeps to the nerves and depresses a trigger, to use a physicalist explanation. Theses on doors, roughly 95, are needed. Disputatio pro declaratione virtutis indulgentiarum
Recently I had an internet discussion with a good friend of mine, a man I deeply respect even if we don’t see eye level politically or physically, for that matter. He is much taller.
What follows below is my summation of the question at hand, guns being allowed in houses of worship in the State of Georgia. The suggestion was that if you are bringing guns to church, you need to ask yourself why you go to church, “and who or what you are worshiping.” I responded with the following question:
What if you are a Jew in Israel and are going to the Kotel or any synagogue over the green line, or to Rachel’s tomb? Given that G-d demands we protect our lives, it becomes a religious necessity.
To which he responded, reasonably, that there have been many Rabbis who have come out in opposition to the idea of guns in houses of worship. I do not dispute his claim, but I am curios about the rabbis’ point and its relevance. He further mentioned the he is
. . .sure there are Christians who support carrying guns in their churches, but to do so, they will need to act in contradiction to their own scriptures, especially the Sermon on the Mount. The entire Christian religion is based on the self-sacrificing love of its founder, not on a demand to protect our own lives.
I do not dispute this point either. Christianity has a theological foundation distinct from that of its predecessor, Judaism. And this discussion set me to thinking about it. How should Jews feel about self defense? What are the philosophical origins of our assumptions about the value of self defense? Are they Jewish, or are they Greek? My response , hopefully, answered these questions and I thought I would share it here.
My friend, I was not attacking the supposition that here in Georgia it is unnecessary and I do agree that the proposal is a belligerent request aimed more to produce a flagrant display of militancy. I should have been more clear. Apologies.
I was commenting, in my own Socratic way, on the general supposition that there is something wrong with one who arms himself when necessary, even in houses of worship, and the subsequent suggestion that this person needs to rethink their theological commitments. For example, in Israel there are more guns on display and carried by persons on and off duty than anywhere in the world outside of certain neighborhoods in Chicago and a few regions in Afghanistan. And there is a good reason for that, because Jews have a bad habit of being brutally butchered by their peace partners if they don’t have a surplus of guns at their disposal.
Briefly covering the Jewish idea about sacrifice, in Judaism, to take a Talmudic example, when traveling with another in a barren desert in possession of only enough water for one person to survive, the sages ask “who should live?” The answer, after many pages of argument, is “the one who carries the water at the time.” The sages taught that in matter of life and death, we have no right to change the status quo. We are not the arbiters of life and death. There is no prohibition against giving the water to the other, but there is no demand either. It is not a virtue in Judaism to sacrifice any life, including your own, to save another in circumstances of duress. There is, however, a demand to “Choose life!”, to protect yourself from an attacker and to arm yourself if you feel that an attack is imminent, and indeed, a Talmudic injunction, “If someone comes to kill you, rise up and kill him (first).” There is, of course, a number of restrictions on this dictum, but it is codified nonetheless. Though, there may be a slight contradiction. If we are not to change the status quo in the case of the water, what is it that demands that we change it while under attack? The answer: the wicked shall not flourish on earth because the righteous refuse to defend themselves in service of an abstract concept imparted on a first century Jew and the events of his life, about which their is still considerable debate. In Judaism, evil is real, and it needs to be faced, not run from. This sentiment warning of the excesses of abstraction and pacifism was once echoed by a great President of ours circa 1942; and thank G-d that the armed forces of Britain and France decided to uphold it on September 1, 1939. Otherwise, the world, sitting in languid obsequiousness, may have suffered a more severe destruction of Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals, communists and anyone else hated by the Nazi regime, and the rape of Nanking would have happened over and over again.
This, I believe, highlights the difference between Judaism and Christianity in a very literary, if not visceral, way. Christianity, having adopted many of the platonic concepts of the Greek idealism, has a tendency to relegate this life and its sacredness to a secondary position in relation to conceptual and more abstract ideas like love and sacrifice. And in this sense the early church acted like Greeks, bringing upon the world a universal demand to believe a metaphysical conjecture rather than obey a law or dictum and bring G-dliness to earth; and, with its devotion to love and sacrifice, killed thousands in its service just as the Great Macedonian who preceded it, allowing myriad antiquated and retrograde pagan beliefs about the insignificance of mankind to languish on, like a vestigial parasite, into modernity.
This bringing of heaven down to earth that Judaism seeks to accomplish, further, is the reason why Arthur Schopenhauer, himself an inveterate anti-semite, abandoned any Jewish influenced religion completely and absorbed himself in eastern mysticism, trying as he was to leave planet earth entirely, and is one of the reasons why the Bhagavad Gita was cherished by Schopenhauer, Hitler, and Himmler, even while they wrote the philosophical foundations for the holocaust, quoted it, and enacted it respectively. Judaism, as every anti-semite knows, is very involved in this world and is, indeed, the very inspiration for the idea of equality before the law and much of the moral features of the otherwise barren desert of conceptual human metaphysics and asceticism.
I watched this woman’s speech and her description of the people who took time out of their otherwise miserable and meaningless secular lives to encourage her to commit suicide and began to feel at once that we have been again visited by the generation of Noah, obsessively vain, wasteful of life and absent any redeeming quality. As I sat and lathered myself in the perfume of my own self righteousness, a halting biblical encounter disabused me of this notion. I was reminded by means of a force that physics has yet to encounter of Nathan’s admonishing of King David. For those unfamiliar, Nathan had come to king David to tell him of an incident where a rich man had taken the lamb of a poor man, the only thing the poor man possessed and a creature who gave the man his only source of companionship. The rich man had taken it in order to slaughter and serve it to a traveler he was entertaining, even though the rich man had more than enough of his own livestock to accommodate the traveler. Upon hearing this, David seethed with anger, it burst upon him, and he demanded that the rich man be put to death, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.” 2 Samuel 12. And then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!” An allusion to David taking Bathsheba as his wife after killing her husband, the story of the poor man and his lamb was entirely pedagogical. David had sinned against the Lord and he admitted it.
And so as it was with David, it was with me. “You are these people!” And this here is a public admission of guilt for having at times been superficial. Though I have never conceived of suggesting a person suffering from a disease or any “deformity” should commit suicide nor have I verbally ridiculed them, I have, in the not so distant past, judged people on their physical appearance, including myself. If there is anyone reading this who has never done that, you are likely one of the Lamed Vav.
So as went my anger at others for their iniquity went my sentiment about this generation being irredeemable, a psychological circumstance suggesting that sinners demand more mercy than they would ever concede.
But the irredeemable aspect of the generation of Noah was their ability to stand in face of the reality that “they are the men!” and, with a shrug of conceit, reply “so what?” Their wickedness had become such a part of them that the concept of wickedness itself was incomprehensible. They possessed no capacity for self reflection, no squirming in the face of their iniquity, no dark nights of the soul where their sin was always before them.
This brave woman’s testimony further reminded me of a Talmudic tale of a Rabbi of great esteem who encountered a man on the road. Because it is said that the Talmud wastes no words, I will quote it in its entirety. Watch the video first then read the story below. Look deep into the words of the story, for there is much more there than its literal interpretation, and indeed, the story of the woman in the video is in the story of the Rabbi.
Once Rabbi Elazar son of R. Shimon was coming from Migdal Gedor, from the house of his teacher. He rode along the riverside on his donkey, and was feeling happy and elated because he had studied much Torah.
There chanced to meet him an exceedingly ugly man, who greeted him, “Peace be upon you, my master!” R. Elazar did not return his salutation but instead said to him, “How ugly this person is! Are all the people of your city as ugly as you?”
“I do not know,” said the man. “But go to the craftsman who made me, and say to him: How ugly is the vessel which you have made!”
Realizing that he had done wrong, R. Elazar dismounted from his donkey, prostrated himself before the man, and said to him, “You are right. Forgive me!” But the man replied, “I will not forgive you until you go to the craftsman who made me and say to him, ‘How ugly is the vessel which you have made.'”
R. Elazar kept on walking after him until he reached his city. The residents of the city came out to greet him, saying, “Peace be upon you, O Teacher! O Master!” Said the man to them, “Whom are you calling ‘Master’?” Said they, “The person walking behind you.”
Said he to them: “If this is a ‘Master,’ may there not be any more like him in Israel.”
“Why?” asked the people.
Said the man: Such-and-such he has done to me.
“Nevertheless, forgive him,” said they, “for he is a man greatly learned in the Torah.”
“For your sakes I will forgive him,” said the man, “but only if he does not act this way anymore.”
Soon after this R. Elazar entered the study hall and taught: “A person should always be pliant as the reed, and let him never be hard as the cedar. And for this reason the reed merited that of it should be made a pen for the writing of the Torah, tefillin and mezuzot.”
—— TALMUD, TAANIT 20A-B
There are many interpretations of this story; one being, and the most relevant to our purposes here, that the Rabbi saw a spiritual ugliness in this man and that he commented on this man’s appearance to shake him out of complacency. But why, if there were such an overtly and obvious spiritual ugliness, did this man so quickly forgive the Rabbi for the sake of not himself but other people? And indeed, if there were a spiritual ugliness in this man, does the evil inclination of man still not lie in the purview of the Almighty, He who created him and all his faculties?
So there are seemingly conflicted strains of thought running through these stories, just as their are seemingly tense, conflicted, sentiments which are evoked by the woman’s testimony.
There is first, as in the case of David, an overwhelming sense of anger and a demand for justice. Is it not written, :”Justice, Justice, you shall pursue it”? It is written; but there comes a time when Justice will pursue you, and it happens to follow, in pretty regular fashion, right after you take it upon yourself to vanquish the wicked.
There is second, as in the case of both the Rabbi and David, a sense of guilt and self reflection, a momentary pause where we survey our own moral landscape and find it wanting. For in the examination of the other, there is always an examination of the self.
And there is the third, the act of forgiveness, a fundamental aspect of Torah and Jewish thought. As it is written above, that is why the writing utensils of the Torah are pliant and easily malleable, because though there is, as a matter of definitional necessity, a center of mass around which forgiveness can operate, forgiveness and its corollary, repentance, are the purpose of the world.
And there is a fourth, the fundamental strain that if the man was spiritually ugly, as the people who abused Ms. Valequez without doubt are, how do we greet them on the road? Are we not too the man? I haven’t the foggiest clue.
The generation of Noah knew nothing of this. And if they did, they ignored it. Indeed, it is worse if they knew of it and ignored it, than if they were merely ignorant. They weren’t ignorant; they allowed their evil inclinations, an inclination ALL of us posses, to run the show. And in the limelight was a saturated sense of apathy; they didn’t care; and inversion;what was evil was lauded. Some commentaries suggest that even Noah himself was not immune to it. For though Noah was the most righteous of his generation, he would, in relation to Avraham or Moses, seem a cretin. His greatest fault, it is said, was that he did not petition the Lord for the sake of the world like Avraham at Sodom and Gomorrah, nor like Moses after the Sin of the golden Calf when he very defiantly said to G-d himself that if He destroys the people of Israel that he(Moses) should be blotted out of G-d’s book. Noah was apathetic but certain of his righteousness.
I don’t know if Ms. Velasquez has forgiven the people who so viciously assaulted her sanctity as a human being. I don’t know if the people who so assaulted her have repented. But I do know that repentance and forgiveness are the purpose of the world. The ancient sages of Israel attested to this and the whole history of mankind seems a portfolio of evidence of the fact.
I fear, though, that today’s generation has become more like the apathetic and myopic generation of Noah, incapable of real introspection, captivated by the glitter of movies and songs with no content beyond the superficial, a collective Miley Cyrus paying just enough lip service to the idea of innate and invisible purpose and beauty to keep the anemic body of western civilization alive: sentient parasites, after all, are smart enough to not kill their host. And so modern discourse is a poesis of the aesthetic built from the wood that once buttressed fortresses of permanence and conceptual grace.
And in their dark anonymity, they ridicule and abuse an obviously radiant soul because the Vessel which contains it is not sufficiently sculpted in Greco/Romanesque form.
It is said that the difference between the Greek and the Jew is that the Greek saw and the Jew heard; the Greeks sculpted, and the Hebrew is commanded to “Hear O Israel, the Lord your G-d the Lord is One.”
There is nothing new under the sun.The rays of the sun caress all the features of an imperfect world and reflect its light to the eyes of men, whereupon inversion, and a series of algorithms that science has yet to explicate, an image is produced in relation to the position of the subject. Men then make judgments of things. Things. The Hebrew word for “thing” and “word” are essentially the same: Davar. And thus it is said that G-d created the world by ten utterances. Men make judgments therefore on words. But under G-d, as the author of Ecclesiastes understood, where the sun’s rays are dimmed and the rich and precious wine contained in an unimposing, unfashionable earthen Vessel can be consumed, there is all the possibility of new concepts in the form of words, and it is by words that the light of a soul is judged, should be judged, by others.
Men and women make judgments on words. Close your eyes and listen to Ms. Valasquez speak…
I found myself running parallel to a river this afternoon. As is the case most days, I spent the first couple miles determining whether I was running away or running toward something. The question is never sufficiently answered, which may account for my inclination to keep running.
The river was there as it always is, either low or high, slow moving or a torrent. A Greek remarked many centuries ago that one can never enter the same stream twice. Little did he fathom the possibility of an engineered river whose oscillations were more regular than the lunar phases. A small dock I passed was suspended, twisted and deformed, laying in mud, indicating that the engineers upstream had neglected to release water over the spillway.
My run came to an interlude when I noticed a gaggle of geese furiously struggling upstream, their forward motion impeded by the current. They were stuck in that abyss between desire and friction, a momentary occasion in which a mental determination and a physical law are at once in-congruent. “I know the feeling,” I remarked to myself. “Take flight. Why don’t they take flight?” The sky hung low, the clouds just barely caressing the tops of the trees. “Can they not see that they may take flight?” The geese continued their struggle with futility until one impassioned fowl broke free and started a slow advance from the gaggle. The others honked out of either frustration or encouragement. It must have been frustration. They had given up. Turning themselves inward, the remaining gaggle drifted toward my side of the river, rapidly paddling to make the shore without losing ground. They wadded ashore, shaking the water from their feathers. The one alone kept straight upriver.
I watched these pathetic creatures a few moments. My presence they regarded with a very conspicuous indifference. They waddled along the shore, upstream, all the while honking to the remaining bird still paddling against the current. I wondered if these birds had forgotten that they can fly. As I wondered about the birds, I began to wonder about the human being. A remarkable metaphor of mankind indeed these birds evinced.
There will come a time, many centuries from now, if G-d himself has not yet had his say, that historians will remark of modernity what I remarked of the flightless birds. It is certain that the geese have their own reasons for remaining grounded in this instance, but mankind seems to have forgotten not only about his capabilities, what he may accomplish, but why it must be accomplished, with what he has. He has forgotten he even has wings.
Future historians are now nodding, genially sharing observations of the last 250 years of western civilization. This period is a remarkable testament, they may may say, etched in stone and canvassed across the digital landscape, of the capacity of man to contrive and believe that which he could never specify. Where were they when He created them from the dirt? Apparently everywhere. For the better part of three centuries, human beings became obsessed with their capacity to describe themselves until the exercise became a codified science, replete with just so stories and ego and ids floating about where there were once souls and matter, marking the only point in science in which Ockham’s razor was very enthusiastically reversed, and blunted. Later came phrenology, with its parts and operators and mechanical whims, then cognitive science, then behaviorism with its inputs and salivary sloppiness. And it all came to nothing; the human sciences insofar as the are performed by humans are unable, axiomatically, to account for themselves, leaving a larger chasm than that which they were supposed to close. A few centuries from now, the propagators of social theory and psychology, if there still remains such attenuated assumptions and people who cherish them, will remark with an indignant certainty that, by G-d, they had seen it all along.
Indeed, they will continue, the Gothic cathedrals of the human soul we so frenetically created, with their spires reaching heights at which it became useless to build, added obscurity to where there was once nothing to obscure. That was the goal, they continue, to complicate the affairs of man to such a degree as to paralyze him. And it was a great success. Human beings at the turn of the twentieth century had become so exhausted by their own explanations that they stopped caring much about their existence at all.
Surely, admits the historian, we must suppose that the social sciences ended when 9 year old children began to commit suicide; when Europeans began aiding suicide for the individuals suffering with “severe psychological distress”, we can mark that point as they era in which psychology had not only failed to explain the soul but had admitted that any clinical relief was either ineffectual or inefficient. Either way, we may suppose that the discipline began its decline when its once lofty goal of aiding people out of mental anguish became one in which it justified nearly every behavioral abnormality.
The wings of man had been clipped indefinitely. For if we are to suppose that he may fly, we must first have concrete design standards for wings.
Society itself, the historian will drone, became one of a mediocre paddling against an ever strengthening current. The ascent of apathy coincided, if not created, the ascent of a libertine meddling. Many westerners of the period grabbed hold of very inane and antiquated ideas of progress and supposed them new. We look back now on the argument for abortion as a recapitulation of Sparta’s institutionalized infanticide. They did not. When historians of the 20th century calculated the life expectancy of the average Greek, they included infanticide in their permutations, decreasing life expectancy. This 20th century progressives regarded with a snide degree of confidence that something had gone right. We now use the same method for calculating their life expectancy, for we have abandoned the regressive idea that a baby killed in the womb is somehow ontologically distinct from a baby killed a few minutes after birth. There was always a spooky mysticism about when murder was murder then. The life expectancy in 2013, with in utero infanticide taken into account, was 50 years of age, about what it was at the height of Hellenic culture.
And the remarkable part is that we considered this period as one of ever sure progress. Concordant, in the spirit of the times, every tradition of the west which had assured its continuity became an object of derision. At some point people became aware of the fact that a once religious institution was now being mediated by a secular court. And the religious tradition itself was no longer permitted in any public venue. From this public space, then, came the vituperation against the western religious tradition, a circumstance only eerie in that no one really noticed what was happening. Though, the secular state did at some point decide that it was going to mandate religious imperatives, charity, in the absence of any real coherent worldview.
Mankind exhausted itself in its own contradictions, much like masochistic flightless birds in a river.
As a very rough conceptualization of what is above swirled about my brain, I looked again at the bird still in the river. He had advanced a little farther and the angle of sight revealed the wake the creature was creating on the surface. It wasn’t the wake of progress, it was the wake of a febrile uselessness, a self denigrating angst.
It only took a moment and one. The bird who had been still paddling, unfurled its wings, flapping in one burst and throwing its body into the air, it took off, honking hysterically. The birds still waddling honked themselves and took to the sky in pursuit.
Nice try, Hezbollah, but the epicenter of this Muslim inquisition lies at the heart of Islam itself in Saudi Arabia. Your coreligionists have found you to be more of a threat to regional stability than the Jews are always considered, a rare ideological interlude indeed, one the New York Times strains to avoid, and have declared full Sunni Jihad against you.
I can think of nothing more invigorating than a religious war between Sunni Arabia and Shia Persia. Circumstances are to become increasingly interesting and increasingly baroque, an unceasingly rufescent tapestry, as these barbarians bring and eclipse the horrors of the Catholic/Protestant wars into the 21st century, replete with be-headings, torture, and suicide attacks in the name of a religion whose texts all but demands blood sacrifices from both, and all, sides. Though brutal, the wars between Catholics and the Protestants were tempered by the very real fact that they were acting in stark and visceral opposition to what their religious texts instructed, and it was often the light of Biblical morality that cast such a confounding diffusion pattern as to allow an accord between the two warring sects, proving, alas, that men are only as good as the least righteous among the prophets of antiquity and only realize folly after inflicting considerable misery. Whereas in Islam, there is no folly except to be peaceful with the Jew or Christian, or to forgo the hatred of the week. Violence is a raison d’etre expounded and printed in beautiful Arabic calligraphy and found resting prominent on bookshelves in every household in the region, memorized by every Imam, and believed by every suicide bomber. I only pray that Israel remains safe, attacks when it must, and vanquishes the forces of darkness in which she finds herself so intractably enmeshed.
“Check your privilege”, for example, is a profoundly stupid trope that states that only those with personal experience of something should comment, or that if a person is making an argument, they should immediately give way if their view is contradicted by somebody with a different life story.
Laurie Penny is an absolutely prime example; she does it all the time. The other day on Twitter she told people not to rise to what she felt was a race-baiting article by Rod Liddle in the Spectator. She was quite right. Everybody with a blog knows what “don’t feed the trolls” means. However, she was angrily contradicted by the black comedian @AvaVidal who told her that people of colour were striking back and they should rise to…
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“War and violence is not the answer,” is a constant and sometimes sonorous ethical proscription, and then demand made, by and of those who have never had to fight or had to defend. War and violence, however, are not only sometimes the only answer, they are necessary and sufficient means of solving particularity violent problems.
I have heard this nonsense as an undergrad, where properly prim and well fed philosophy students expounded their oral, or moral, superiority and congratulated each other for their courage in doing so. Commendations were shared by all. Gandhi, they said, was the datum by which a man’s devotion to peace should be measured. Though, they forgot and forget, Gandhi suggested that the Jews of Europe practice passive resistance against the Germans, and he then suggested that it would have been better if the holocaust victims had committed mass suicide instead being victims of mass murder. Jews were killed for being Jews, and they would have been very enthusiastically killed by the SS if they were protesting Jews as well; the SS wasn’t much discouraged by distinctions of that sort. — As an aside and as a posthumous nod: It must be nice, Herr Gandhi, to have such a surplus of Hindus at your very literal disposal — This, of course, illustrates the difference between protesting the British and protesting Hitler. One requires a mere nuisance like Gandhi. The other requires a recognition of evil and its violent eradication.
And then I remember the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, who killed as many of those Nazi Bastards as they could, and the Jewish Brigade of the British Army, and I am consoled by the fact that both the British and the Jews were and are more moral than Gandhi and undergrad students of Philosophy. The most unfortunate thing is that there are many well meaning historically illiterate individuals who continue to champion Gandhi and his philosophy. But it is not a moral philosophy unless it can deal with most, if not all, moral demands. Gandhi’s fails the most basic one: the preservation of human life.