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Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Pomposity of Colonel Blimp

My nephews doubt I shall be able to continue my blog much longer, since the end is approaching for OPEC.

For them, OPEC if the Organization of Pomposity Exporting Clowns ( or Countries if you like) and they find the deposits of Pretentiousness and I-know-better-than-you as deep and as vast as my own are sure to run dry. Ha!, I say to that. I say that I am the President G.W. - Global Warming Bush of Pomposity.

I got his insight and the ring-tailed nastiness of Cheney. I am the roughest gaucho of all the Pompous. They used the image of Colonel Blimp, which image brings the notion of pomposity and irrelevance and too many kippers for breakfast. It is an old image no one today is familiar with. I think that they are the pompous ones. They threaten to insert my likeness into their clip of Coulter being chased by Wesley Snipes. This is serious. I must find a stargate.


Lebanon Day 18

I believe it has been 18 days. I may be off. The Lebanon operation is certainly looking as if it was planned to be very quick, clean, and effective. Since the enemy refuses to lay down, it is becoming down and dirty and drawn out. It begins to resemble Iraq.

How Long Will You Live?

I am going to briefly touch on quality of inner life issues. The most important thing to remember is you will have the same identity. And here the pertinent question is: Can you live with it? Life can be tricky. Every mistake you make may or may not be remembered. Can you look at yourself in the mirror every day until you’re 90? If you get rid of all the mirrors, what memories will disturb you in the dark of night? Just like the film Match Point…but few are so lucky. And even being lucky to escape the law does not mean lucky to escape the evidenced by the apparition of the dead women in the kitchen at the movie's end. Always act in a way that you’ll never regret…ever. Be loyal and truthful, be brave and courageous, be honorable and faithful. Respect life in all its forms. Respect the word of God.

Friday, July 28, 2006

My Nephews

I never really paid too much attention to my three nephews, nor did they to me, until that fated day when I sent them a note for a graduation party. We had had some light-hearted stationery made up and it featured the drawings of a man, under whom was my name, a woman, under which was my wife's name, and so on. You get the idea.
The last picture was a dog and under the dog was the name Carl. This was my idea of a joke. We did not own a dog. We were allergic to dogs. We had never owned a dog. When we visited people who did own dogs and the great brute mastiffs jumped up on us or did that leg thingey, we did not gleam with delight.
When the owners said, "Rover, come on. So-and-so doesn't want you jumping all over him.", we did not contradict this observation. Sometimes I gave one of those sickly smiles and said, "Indeed. Indeed, Rover."

When conversation turned to pets, I would say things like, "Ah, that's all right for you doggie-types to say.", or  "You probably do know more about mediaeval Europe, living with the animals in the house as you do...". And so on.
Well, I had the dog placed on the stationery because I liked comic books. When someone were to ask me ( they never did) why we had a dog on the stationery, I would say, " Carl barks." This meant the artist, Carl Barks.
My nephews did not ask. They saw the letter and drawings and went into gales of laughter. I mostly enjoy the way they watch Fox News and talk and laugh at the screen. Bill O'Reilly is a favorite target. They have compiled a file of Ann Coulter clips which they play with disturbing frequency. I ask if they think she is becoming insane. They answer they do not care. They think she bears an uncanny and humorous resemblance to the monster aliens of the first season of Stargate: Atlantis. So they play the recordings as sort of a monster-alien-armageddon-brave-new-world news broadcast.
Or, it is a preview of the futuristic Vampire news which they've intersperse with Blade cuts. Of course, they stole the idea for the Coulter destroying Tokyo sequences from South Park, at least I think so. Then Takashi Shimura and Raymond Burr versus Coulter-zilla... You get the notion of this. I would like to say they have too much time on their hands, but they actually have time for charity work on the sly..don't say I told you so.

La France: Les chats et les chiens

I was talking to a fine new lawyer who is domiciled south of the Mason-Dixon line. We spoke of our interesting friendship with the French. I believe Bill O'Reilly had made some penetrating remark. Well done, Mr. Bill! ( And where, oh, where is Mr. Sluggo when we need him?) Or perhaps it was Mr. Tucker Carlson who seems to be still searching for his lost bowtie. Since both of us have had some experience with cats and dogs, we decided to try to use animal metaphors to describe France and the USA. Well, that was just too simple. I mean, the French are cats and the Americans are dogs. You know how remote cats are. They are indeed inscrutable. They do not enter into our comraderies. They have their own secret sciences and religions. Whereas we might very much expect dogs to gleefully join our worship, cats obviously make pilgrimage to some secret fane and participate in rituals not meant for human eyes. We might expect dogs to study physics and give a high-five all around when they engineer a better water bowl, but cats - we think - would look at our knowledge and say something like: "This species is where we were 2,000 years ago...but for the Prime Directive, we might assist them." Dogs would watch sports on ESPN and debate sports topics. Cats would consider even PBS to be a bit too infra dig.

Politics at the Pseudo-End Times: 1

I do not like writing about politics. There are so many other people who do it. They speak about it, too. Endlessly. And the standards for entry into the field are so very low. I was at my parents place, painting the outdoor furniture, hurrying to beat the rains.At night they listen to Fox News. This evening, Bill O'Blabs-a-lot was talking to fellow media-monger Gretta Van Chatterbox. The very odd Alphonse-Gaston routine they were doing caused my father to yell at the TV, " Let him talk, for goodness sake!" I chortled to myself, secure in the knowledge that I would never descend to listen to Fox News, even when the TV volume was cranked up to the maximum. I sometimes think of my parents sitting in front of the TV with their hair blowing behind their heads, as if the audio were a wind machine blasting in their faces. I will restrict Politics to areas where it mixes with Religion; that witches' cauldron of Western Society from its beginning. From Cairo's Al-Ahram Cairo Review of Books:
Elsewhere in the same section, US historian William Polk, in a piece dated March 2003 ( Une sombre affaire / A Sombre Affair ), reviews the arguments given by the Bush Administration for the invasion of Iraq. Dismissing these as fantasies, he outlines the "hidden agenda determining American relations with Iraq: the new strategic conception of American world domination; the messianic faith in Christian fundamentalism; and the connection between Christian fundamentalism and Zionism."

This is a statement of enormous range.It is not my intent to argue about the truth or falsity of such a statement.

It is my interest how such statements come about.

I believe that a human being is so complex that all the above motives could exist without the individual having them all grouped together in a coherent belief system.

Words and Reason help us to create such a coherence. However, this coherent belief system is not absolutely necessary for an individual to act. The belief system expressed in words is more like a description of actions.

Actions and words, actions and words.

I disturbs me that a writer could discern the features of the face of our new neo-conservative Interregnum of 2000 to 2008 so early on. This is all a part of our Narrative of End of Times. We differ in the details, but almost all of us believe we are headed for destruction.

What happens when a majority of a society believes in inevitable doom?

We'll find out.

The Emotion of Truth: 2

Previously we said that two people may feel certainty about statements that appear to be inconsistent. The example was from my youth when I was taught that Protestants could not enter Heaven and my neighborhood chums, who were Protestant, were taught that they would have no such impediment merely because their beliefs were different from the Roman Catholic Church.

This is a good example. Both sides use the same Holy Book. We concluded that even though both sides feel certainty, this feeling cannot imply the truth of the statements made. We have a procedure of verifying statements which is heavily influenced by our history of scientific work over hundreds of years.
What was Aristotle's verification procedure? We do not really know. When Aristotle affirmed certain things about sea creatures, he made some howling mistakes. However, he must have thought them correct.
How did he go about verifying propositions about sharks, let's say? Did he walk down to the harbor, talk to the fishermen, who in turn winked at each other and proceeded to give the old professor an outrageous cock and bull story?
We do not know. We know his Logic, but the basis for the truth of some of his statements about the world is a mystery. We have procedures for verification. We test, we re-test, we insist on third-party reproducibility of the tests, and so on.

I have heard it said recently that Science can prove anything.
Not really. Let us assume that you and I attend a Cure concert. Not the original Cure, the later Cure. I say it rocked, you say it sucked.
Consider the statement: " The Cure concert was great." There is nothing apparently odd or paradoxical about this statement, "The Cure concert was great." Is does not strike us as funny, unusual, nor a play on words. Yet if a scientist were to try to prove it true or false, he would run into problems. If a scientist said it was true, we would present your contrary opinion. If he said it was false, I would state my opinion.

The scientist would have to formulate a new statement and a procedure to implement it. He would say, "Let us set up a survey and we shall ask the opinions of all who were at the concert." Then we would have a result such as "51% liked the show and 48% did not and 1% was getting high."
This has a great deal more information than did the original statement, "The Cure concert is great.", but it is not the original. It has been transformed out of recognition into a form which science can actually act upon.

So how do we verify my childhood quandary where the statement might have been "Protestants will not enter Heaven." I said the statement is true, my friend Christian Johann ( he was indeed my friend) said it is false. We cannot appeal to the Bible, for we already have done so. There is no verification procedure for such a statement. ( We could wait until Judgement Day, but then we probably won't be arguing such niceties.)

Well, after a long time of looking at Truth and how it is used, it finally dawned on me that statements such as "Protestants will not enter Heaven" cannot be given a truth-value. They cannot be judged to be true nor false. As paradoxical as this sounds, it also indicated to me the meaning of Faith.

In brief, faith is the way we deal with all statements which cannot be called true nor false, and FAITH is the way we deal with religious statements which cannot be called true nor false.
Notice that Faith or faith is not some garbage dump of the indecisive. Faith is not some second-best alternative for things that are perplexingly not proveable as true or false. Beyond our normal understanding of Faith, it is a concept which ties Logic to Emotion and Belief. As shown by our example, "The Cure concert was great.", the algorithmic nature of language allows us to spin out an infinity of such statements.

I can propound as many such statements as I want, using the template:  "The X is Y"  and  "I believe Y"  and "Someone else believes not-Y" and Y is based in our emotional life. In this instance, "believe" becomes close to "feel".
 And you say, of course, it is a matter of individual taste and everyone knows that all people differ in such things. However, people also differ from each other in much the same way in their religious outlooks.
Am I saying religion is a matter of taste?
No. I am saying that religious statements cannot be proven true or false. Since this is so, we have Faith, or not, as the case may be. If religious statements were proveable, the concept Faith would be totally unnecessary. So the Cure was great, for me. And this looks suspiciously like the language of Moral Relativism wherein we hear such oddities as, "If I indulge in certain actions, they are good...for me...even though most people find them appalling."

Before we go any further, let me remind you of where I am coming from. I worship the one God. I do not require an Intelligent Designer, which I hold to be Idolatry. I do not require proof of God's existence. At a certain point, I have learned to shut my mouth, be silent, and act according to my sense of the Holy; to visit the sick, those in jail, to honor one's parents... I need no diagrams of the prophecies of the End of Times. I want no visual aids. I want to be charitable, truthful, loving, and loyal. And if I never spoke about metaphysics again, it would not bother me in the slightest. I do not admire St. Francis for his metaphysics. I do not respect Abraham for his proofs of God's existence. I do not admire the Caliph Omar because he published theories of the Holy. These people reflect the Holy in their lives.
And actions are always true.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Emotion of Truth: 1

I heard from some friends about the King David Hotel story. I can only say that in my view, not all Israelis are good and not all Arabs are bad. That's the point. If it is beyond your comprehension, too bad. The simplicity of the view in the USA that all Israel: good; all Arab: bad; verges on being simple-minded. This results in today's story about the British Foreign Secretary protesting the US use of Prestwick Airport in western Scotland to transport bombs to Israel while the rest of the world is trying to limit the strife. Recently I spoke to some people who were discussing religion. They were of the opinion that Islam was too violent and possibly a bit infra dig for them. So was Christianity that had its history of religious wars to drag along like Marley's chains. They thought the best bet was a Far Eastern religion, such as Buddhism. They were obviously thinking of the Dalai Lama. I pointed out that our experience of Islam comes through the western media, our experience of Christianity is our own, so we intimately know all the dirt of the Christian churches, but our experience of Buddhism, say, is solely restricted to writings and speeches of university educated people to whom we are already sympathetic. I mean to say, we do not read the works of the Dalai Lama to prove that he is a scoundrel and his faith a sham, a process some of us indulge in when it comes to Islam. Not all Buddhists are smiling. The point of this is that when we have sought Truth, and we have diligently applied ourselves to a verification of Truth, and finally are convinced of Truth, we feel an emotional conviction and surety of that Truth. So the truth of X leads to a feeling of certainty associated with X. But the converse is not valid. A feeling of certainty of X does not imply that X is true. (note: I do not include propositions of Faith in this discussion. ) The process to which we are subject is a lifetime of propaganda from our elite and media used to train us to certain beliefs. Since there is not thoroughgoing verification of any of this, the aim is to instill a feeling of certainty. Once we feel the certainty, we conclude that the propositions must be true. By feeling certain that the USA and Israel are always correct, that Israel is God's nation and our country has a special relationship with the God of Israel, we accept these statements uncritically. I know this process is faulty and is a result of invalid emotional logic. As a child, my religious education included the propositions that everyone who is not a Roman Catholic is destined to Hell. I found this hard to accept, particularly since my neighborhood chums included Protestants, whom we referred to as "publics" , meaning they attended public schools. The earliest blessing of understanding I can remember was when I realized that my emotional state of truth and conviction and certainty in my own redemption by being a member of the RC Church must be duplicated, almost entirely, within the lives of my Protestant friends. In other words, if my certainty implies the truth of my beliefs, the certainty felt by Protestants must imply the truth of their beliefs. The logic of it all was overwhelming. The validity of this insight, or gift of understanding from God, was reaffirmed by the fact that the only source of verification was the Bible and both sides had recourse to it, so this was not an unambiguous verification procedure. So we firmly believe, then, statements which cannot be proven true nor false, and we do it based on the basis of previous beliefs. These previous beliefs bestow the feeling of certainty as they encompass unproveable statements into their emotional one-ness.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Bombing in Jerusalem!

On July 22, 1946, the Jewish “Underground” group Etzel planted a bomb and blew up the southern wing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem. 91 people were killed. The area was under the control of Britain in 1946 and of the 91 killed, 28 were British. The Israeli power elite resists any attempt to label Etzel as terrorists. Rather, they were an underground group, and “underground” has a positive connotation. On July 22, 2006, a new plaque was placed on the site commemorating this bombing as a great act. Perhaps understandably, Her Majesty’s government is demanding the removal of this plaque, saying that such an act of “Terrorism” cannot be so honored. I’m sure this was all covered in the evening news. I’m sure you all knew that there were Jewish terrorists 60 years ago, bombing and killing in the Holy Land. Or perhaps we must say Jewish “Underground” groups. If you actually wish to read about this, read it in Haaretz, one of the great Israeli newspapers: This way, you will not be reading some anti-Israel propaganda. To understand how this bombing is viewed, the ex-Prime Minister of Israel, Netanyahu, was present and addressing the crowd. When I was young, I would thrill to the exploits of the Israeli Army. I read Bernard Malamud and Isaac Singer, and saw “Milk and Honey” and “Fiddler on the Roof”. The 1967 war was a triumph in which we all felt we shared. Only later did I discover that I had been a dupe of a concerted effort to portray all Israelis as good, and all Arabs as bad. And this is still going on today. Read the article in Haaretz if you doubt it. I found it difficult to get over this deception when I was young. I heard a Mr. Rose, I believe, on Imus in the Morning today. He used to be an editor of the Jerusalem Post. He said that there was a great irony in the fact that the UN members were condemning Israel while Israel was actually trying to enforce a UN resolution calling for the disbanding of Hizbullah. It did not seem to this man unseemly that Israel is enforcing a UN resolution by indiscriminate slaughter in Lebanon. Does he actually believe the UN intended that the resolution be carried out by bombing Beirut, Tyre, and Sidon? He is a good man, but his vision is severely skewed and there is no empathy for the Arab Other who lapses into a sub-human level in his mind. We even have a group of Christians who feel it is the obligation of this country to support Israel with no questions asked. Religious Celebrities Falwell and Hagee believe this. " Pastor Hagee, the main organiser, said the event was the first of its kind. "For the first time in the history of Christianity in America, Christians will go to the Hill to support Israel as Christians," he said. " Wednesday, July 19, 2006 Evangelical Christians plead for Israel BBC News I do not pretend to understand Pastor Hagee. Notice that the event was very close to the King David Hotel anniversary. I have said that I consider such beliefs to be greatly mistaken. I believe these gentlemen are worshipping the products of their own minds, not God. This is one reason I am re-establishing relations with the Roman Catholic Church: I sense a religious battle approaching in the USA as we watch our home-grown religious celebrities try to establish their own fundamentalist idolatry. Pope Benedict has spoken against the fighting in Lebanon. Our home-grown celebrities applaud the destruction, the more killing the merrier. I have nothing to say about the people in the administration. I am not sure that we should actually consider the current state-of-affairs as a Presidency, rather an interregnum filled with the sleep of reason.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Lebanon as Jallianwalla Bagh

My nephews asked me what I thought of events in Gaza and Lebanon. I paraphrased a scene from the film "Gandhi" as best I could: "General Dyer, exactly how does a Lebanese child victim of a bombing raid apply for aid?" If this is unclear to the reader, I suspect that there is much that is unclear. I achieve a certain level of clarity and understanding if I believe that 60 years ago someone decided that genocide should change its target from Jews to Palestinians. Truly, the Narrative of Blood Sacrifice is a scenario from which we cannot seem to escape. Therefore, we struggle within its grasp and change it every possible way we can, but it is still the same destructive way of viewing the world. The victims change; the perpetrators change; the onlookers change; but the underlying process does not. The Intuition of future disaster - end of times or whatever - is an intuition that we cannot escape the Narrative of bloodletting, and Isaac or Ishmael must ceaselessly be sacrificed in an obsessively-compulsive ritual from which we find no exit. What dark god compels us?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

First Post of July

I have been absent for some time, not being on vacation or otherwise occupied, but because I did not like what I was writing. I have a vague, horror-filled memory of actually posting something about a female named Coulter. Surely I did not do that.

When Canada was still a Dominion, I attended University at an institution where Marshall McLuhan had taught. McLuhan said " The Medium is the Message". This is clearly true. The message in Ms. Coulter is not truly a factual statement about the beliefs and aspirations of her fellow citizens; it is about her.

Similarly in the case of Mr. O'Reilly and Mr. Tucker and most other celebrity talking heads: the talk is all about the talker, not the country, not the future, not history. Celebrity Talking Heads are presenting themselves and their message is "Here I am". (This is accentuated in our country by the ever-present Cult of Celebrity.) Therefore, if we find their selling of themselves to be attractive, we embrace the message. Along with the message, we tend to accept the statements accompanying their presentation of themselves. These statements are usually political or moral propositions. We mold these into an emotional consistence, though not necessarily a logical consistence.

What we call our belief systems are systematic and consistent only in the sense that they are affirmed by the same person at the same time and are emotionally consistent within the emotion life of that person. To assume that a belief system actually has some other relationship with the external world is a narcisscistic solipsism. I will restrict myself to the heavy topics or the light topics in the future, not the middle-weight topics which are neither fish nor fowl, are neither cold nor hot - the topics of Celebrities of the Media, the Arts, the State, and the Church who sell themselves and whose image we consume in a diseased parody of our religious past.