Saturday, July 27, 2013

Classicism and Christianity

It's always entertaining to read the Greek and Roman writings from the first years BC and compare them to the Christian ones that emerged in the first century. What it shows, at least to me, is how much like our own world and our day the problems that, say, the classical dramatists dealt with, and how utterly crude and obscure are the Christian writings. Although possibly not accurate in all aspects, I think that there's some truth in Nietzsche's assessment of Christianity as being a kind of folk belief of ignorant people on the bottom of society.  I have little sympathy for the Old Testament as well, although I think that Judaism as a whole has done a good job of taking it and making something positive out of it.

But what comes out with Christianity, what may have come out at the time and, regardless, is still with us today, is the fusion of bad philosophy with interminable stories that have little to no actual theological or philosophical content.

So on balance, you have that, and then you have the wonderful literature of the classical world, that is clear, that is prescient, that deals with problems that we can identify with today. Seneca the Younger's letters are more coherent than the whole New Testament. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Monarchism, Capitalism, and Republican Socialism

Although it had obvious flaws, the monarchical system of the Middle Ages and upwards did have the positive feature of creating an ideology and a force of social cohesion that was able to withstand the challenges of capitalism, until it finally succumbed. Since that happened, we've been in a kind of vacant place, with whatever forces that want to control society free to have control of it due to the weakness of our institutions. The parliamentary system as it exists at present becomes a plaything of private forces, that it does not recognize as having a particular status separate from that of citizens and citizens institutions. There is a major difference. I think that what's needed is a kind of Republican socialism, Republican in the sense of the French Republic, that also has features of conservatism to provide the framework for cohesion and justice that can fill the space the monarchical system once occupied and serve as a base for resisting capitalism  and private power.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Israel slams EU's decision to prohibit doing business with occupied West Bank companies

Here. I really don't want this blog to become one that focusses too much on Israel. There are bigger fish to fry in the world, quite frankly, but this is timely.

Says Netanyahu: "We will not accept anyone on the outside dictate our borders to us. This topic will only be determined by direct negotiation between the two parties."

Let's look at the logic there: first off, these are agreements between two sovereign countries, who can do whatever they want. Secondly, Netanyahu appears to be trying to dictate to the EU that it should recognize their borders, exactly what he's accusing the EU of. Neither the EU, nor any other country in the world, is obligated to recognize Israel's violations of international law, and the fact that Netanyahu seems to think that what his little presidency says goes indicates the sort of delusions of grandeur that often accompany Israeli politics. Without the U.S. backing it up, Israel is a small, relatively powerless, country in the Middle East. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

As the U.S. goes, so does Israel...

Which is a good thing. The U.S. routinely protects Israel from the consequences to its abuses of human rights that it should rightfully face and finances its military, using its power on the UN Security Council to veto resolutions on a regular basis. In measures submitted to the UN as a whole, at this point the only countries that vote against measures censuring Israel for what it's doing are the U.S. and it's client states around the world, most entertainingly small nations in the South Pacific who depend on the U.S. for trade. Not even Europe votes against measures censuring Israel anymore. We're the only ones that do it, and in a changing geo-political situation that's seeing the rise of China and India, our power to protect our little ally in the Middle East will go down in proportion to our fall in influence.

Truthfully speaking, it's really only the U.S. that feels that Israel is worth protecting at all costs. It would be different if Israel had become a beacon of tolerance and peace in the wake of World War II, justly treating the Palestinians and acting as an example to the world of an alternate way to act, but it's fucked it up. That isn't the path Israel chose, and the rest of world is understandably annoyed by the hypocrisy and outright lies that accompany the U.S.'s defense of a state that, if it were anyone else in the world, would be facing sanctions at the least.

But that exceptionalism is directly tied to how powerful we, the U.S., are in the world, and by putting all their eggs in one basket Israel has made a grave mistake. Once the fall comes, and the state has to start obeying all the rules that the rest of the world has had to obey for a long time, and that the U.S. has pontificated about them obeying while ignoring what Israel does, it won't be pretty.  Of course, the extent of that will be proportional to how fast Israel itself can adapt to the changing reality, but I doubt that our boutique state will realize what exactly it's facing until it's too late.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Responsibility of some commenters for fanning the flames of Islamophobia based on their religion

It's been pretty widely recognized what the role of right-wing, rural, or at least red state, bloggers and writers in demonizing Islam has been....yet what gets almost no attention whatsoever is the role of bloggers and writers who are Jewish in fanning the flames of Islamophobia through projecting their anti-Palestinian and pro-Israel bias onto the whole world. It's not polite to talk about, but some of the most strident voices aimed at destroying any sort of positive image of Islam in the United States, such as Pamela Geller, are not only Jewish but proudly wear their support of Israel on their sleeves, or on the sidebar of their websites, as it were. Yet, while the stereotype of the rural, idiotic, very white, male, conservative anti-Islam commentator gets traction, the prospect of people who are educated, sophisticated, and from the east coast (to use a stereotype), also having beliefs that are on par with those cave men is something that people in general are less likely to confront.

Yet it's extremely important to point this out, because, quite frankly, one group's conflict going on in the Middle East between their beloved country and Arabs should not be an excuse to promote the demonization of a whole religion as well as the promotion of wars against members of those religions. This isn't abstract--we invaded Afghanistan, we invaded Iraq. The people who took their anti-Palestinian sentiment and wove it into animosity against Islam as a whole, and the Arab world in general, supported both of these whole heartedly, and still do. Part of the conservative caucus out there believes that Muslims are secretly on a Jihad to destroy the United States, for example with the fictional "Ground Zero Mosque", interpreted as a signal of Islamic dominance in the United States. These words have consequences, and have had consequences in contributing to tens of thousands of lives lost in Afghanistan and Iraq, both directly and indirectly in the form of internal struggle.

They should not be given a pass because of their religion.