An Idiotarian Without Imagination

Little Green Footballs named Glenn Beck their Idiotarian-of-the-Year for 2009, which is a fitting, if obvious, selection. It made me wonder about the Idiotarian-of-the-Decade. My nemesis, G. Walker Bush, is perhaps a too-easy candidate. I’ve ultimately decided that such a ignominious award should go to Francis Fukuyama.

Fukuyama is best known for “The End of History,” a 1989 paper based on a lecture that eventually became a full-length book. 20 years after the fact, I’m calling Fukuyama out because the 2000’s saw the clearest implementation of policy based on Fukuyama’s theories, and, simultaneously, the total refutation of these same moronic theories.

Big events in 1989 inspired small ideas in Fukuyama’s head. As you recall, these were the times when the Berlin Wall fell, when the USSR broke up, when the Cold War ostensibly ended. For Fukuyama, these events represented the total triumph of liberal democracy and free market capitalism. Politically speaking, mankind was now at the end of our ideological evolution having successfully reached our “final form of government.” Like all good Modernists, Fukuyama craved a “homogenous state” characterized by “easy access to VCRs and stereos.” It’s very revealing that he considers consumerism to be a hallmark of an advanced society, and not, for example, easy access to healthcare or employment.

Fukuyama is not as well-known in the mainstream as, say, Milton Friedman (or Thomas Friedman for that matter), but he had a profound influence on neo-conservative ideology. If we are literally living at the end of history, if everything from here on out are merely trifling footnotes, what do we make of those who are resisting this history? How do we handle the “various provinces of human civilization” who need to be “brought up to the level of its most advanced outposts?” You wouldn’t be far off if you guessed perpetual war to secure perpetual peace in order that free economies might ineluctably spread to every corner of the globe. In Fukuyama’s old-fashioned metanarrative, those with the wrong ideology are literally backward-looking people, old-fashioned savages stuck in another age. You can justify all sorts of brutal behavior in the name of Progress. Hence the reason, in part, that nuking the shit out of the Japanese was legitimate: for Fukuyama, the nukes literally bombed ideology (not simply, or even primarily, people) so as to permanently erase fascist ideology from their culture. (more…)

Decade Recap

Has this been, like, the worst decade ever or what? Time Magazine seems to think so. They don’t hold back: “Call it the Decade from Hell, or the Reckoning, or the Decade of Broken Dreams, or the Lost Decade. Call it whatever you want — just give thanks that it is nearly over.” I’m surprised this got published, but I can’t say I disagree (some hyperbole notwithstanding). My decade started with promise, then took a sharp downturn real fast. Maybe this New Year’s Eve I’ll rub the belly of a white rabbit to ward off the curse of the fukú.

I like that 2009’s end-of-year lists are all turning into end-of-decade lists. Here’s Telegraph’s list of the top 100 films, and here’s The Times Online’s version; I’ve seen 64% and 68%, respectively, of the films on there. Both lists are pretty shite though, with the possible exception of The Times putting Cache/Hidden at #1. (I may be re-considering The White Ribbon too. We’ll see.) Oh, and Telegraph putting an unreleased film on their list, not to mention Fahrenheit 9/11 at the very top, is pretty LOL.

This has really nothing to do with this past decade, but Zizek’s got a new essay on Lacan.com called “Denial: The Liberal Utopia” that’s worth reading; at least the first section is, I zoned out a bit on the Confucius stuff. His discussion of 1988’s They Live and “critico-ideological glasses” is really top-notch, imo.

Lastly, I have to at least mention this Afghanistan travesty, which I’m hoping will somehow pull the public away from the Tiger Woods drama. I liked Bob Herbert’s NYT essay on this, mostly because he quoted Eisenhower:

“I hate war,” said Dwight Eisenhower,  “as only a soldier who has lived it can, as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.” He also said, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.”

I suspect the impotent Left will wave & holler for a while before giving up and not even protesting when their congressmen quietly vote to fund this escalation. I was hoping the Right would oppose this out of knee-jerk hatred of everything Obama does/says/thinks/is, but it looks like their love affair with cluster-bombs and nifty predator drones will win out; militarism ekes out racism FTW. Well, FTL for Afghans, who will see their “Decade From Hell” stretched a little further.

God’s Word Has a Liberal Bias

The Conservative Bible Project is a tragi-comic effort by some politically conservative Christians to produce a translation paraphrase of the Bible that removes/edits anything that can even remotely be considered “liberal.” It’s not worth writing much about this because the problems with this approach should be so LOLobvious that I won’t waste my time. I will say, however, that I continue to wonder if my alma mater is ever going to repudiate this type of stupidity and permanently sever ties with the batshit-crazy wing — ie WorldNetDaily, Worldview Weekend, et al — of conservative Christianity.

I’m also amused because I, too, started a conservative paraphrase of the Bible. A little over 12 months ago I wrote a draft entitled “A Practical Guide to Waging a Just War: by Jesus of Nazareth” but never put it online until now. Inspired by the CBP, here’s my conservative rendering of Matthew 5:1-13:

Now when I saw your military bases, I immediately went to the mess tent and sat down. Many of your troops came to me, and I began to teach, saying:

Blessed are the poor, for they are easily persuaded to join the armed forces.

Blessed are they that mourn when a buddy is killed, for they shall then have the motivation to kick more ass.

Blessed are the badasses, for they shall conquer the earth.

Blessed are they that hunger and thirst for righteous wars, for they will certainly invent them.

Blessed are the merciful, for they lull the enemy into complacency while we find more grenades.

Blessed are the pure in eyesight, for they shall see their enemy clearly and snipe him unscoped.

Blessed are the warmakers, for they are peacemakers in disguise.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for freedom, because our enemies hate our freedom.

Blessed are you when pacifists confront you, and march in your streets, and say all manner of untruth about you. Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in Washington.

You are the asskickers of the earth. But if the asskickers stop kicking ass, how will the world get democracy? Former asskickers who conscientiously object are no longer good for anything, excepted to be relentlessly hazed and dishonorably discharged.

B.I.F.F. Day 3

Last night’s films were quite a change from the bing-blang-blaow extravaganza that was Dogtooth, A Prophet, and I Killed My Mother. These two were also different in that both had Q&A sessions afterward with the film’s director. I’ve also used some forward-thinking and bought tonight & tomorrow’s tickets ahead of time so I can stop showing up 75 minutes early and still only get mediocre seats.

Petition - Poster2Petition

Country: China / France
Director: Zhao Liang
Length: 123 mins
Grade: B

Synopsis: “Since 1996 Zhao Liang has filmed the “petitioners,” who come from all over China to make complaints in Beijing about abuses and injustices committed by the local authorities. Gathered near the complaints offices, around the southern railway station of Beijing, the complainants wait for months or years to obtain justice. Peasants thrown off their land, workers from factories which have gone into liquidation, small homeowners who have seen their houses demolished but received no compensation, all types of cases are represented. The film was shot right up to the start of the Olympic Games, showing the persistent contradictions of China in the midst of powerful economic expansion.”

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In the Name of Jesus I Waterboard Thee

How’s this for some cheery Memorial Day reading?

Some true believer sez:

“It’s likely even Jesus would have OK’d water boarding if it would have saved his Mom. He would’ve done the same to save his Dad, or any one of His disciples. For that matter, He even died to save all humans.

It’s obvious He would not be happy with those who voted for the candidate who kills because it’s above his “pay grade” to know if they’re alive. Checking the Commandments, killing innocents is against the 5th. Because pro-aborts don’t know for sure life does not exist at conception, they are still willing to risk that it’s not killing.”

The whole post is a confused muddle of half-truths & fuzzy logic, but this part takes the cake. 

It reminded me of those intelligence briefings Rummy used to give to Bush. Nothing says ‘love of God’ like a clusterbomb to the face.

I think one of the worst parts is that all this accomodation to macabre war theology is contingent on a higher allegiance to the Republican party. Torture never looked so appealing ’til Dubya told us it was God’s will.

Torture Follow-up

Someone living out Luke 6:27?

I forgot to link to these yesterday in my post on torture & Christianity:

Terrorists and Torture

Give Me Liberty is an underground student newspaper here at Cedarville University designed to give voice to, apparently, the extremely marginalized conservative voice. It’s an outlet for Republicans & Libertarians to join forces and decry the U.S.A.’s obvious devolution into the U.S.S.R. (this was seriously an article). Also in this April edition, there was an article entitled “Terrorists and Torture” by Nathan Dollison, a junior. Here is that essay as printed (ie, unedited by me):

In today’s world, the issue of torture is at the forefront of the struggle against terrorism, and the debate has been only deepened by President Obama’s closure of the controversial Guantanamo Bay detention center and the uproar surrounding what has gone on behind its doors since the beginning of the Global War on Terror.

On the face of the issue, it would seem that the Christian standing on the debate would be clear, that torture is wrong and that as a Christian, one should not be involved or support such measures. But when one delves deeper into the debate, the lines become much grayer. (more…)

Intuitive Abortion Arguments

Many Pro-lifers love arguments based on intuition: show someone a photo of a fetus (always a fetus, never a blastocyst), and they’re supposed to intuitively feel that this is a person worth saving. So too with their photos of an aborted fetus, proffered in the hopes that America will legislate based on that which we find icky. Here’s my own emotional plea:

This is a zygote. It costs Americans ~$300 to kill a zygote.

This is an Iraqi girl. It costs Americans ~$1.5million to kill an Iraqi girl.

Which is more valuable, the zygote or the Iraqi? Which has more dignity? If you had to kill one, which would it be and why? How many deaths of one justify the loss of the other? 

The intuitive argument is thus: can you really honestly look the little Iraqi girl in the eyes and tell her she is worth no more than a diploid cell? That “what it means to be human” is simply to have a genome? 

Some (many?) of you now undoubtedly think I’ve “crossed the line.” So think carefully: what is that line, precisely? And why have I transgressed? And do your answers to those questions give clues to what’s wrong with the abortion debate and what to do about it?

Interventionism for Fun and Profit

Yesterday I came across this Congressional Research Service report listing “Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2004.” I took the data and made a graph:

It would appear Presidents Clinton & Bush enjoy playing chess with armed forces. It will be interesting to see the updated report through the present year since the first 5 years set us on pace to out-do the military extravaganza of the ’90s.
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Constantine’s Sword

Last night I watched Constantine’s Sword, based off the James Carroll book of the same name from seven years ago. It chronicles Christianity’s role in perpetuating antisemitism and our disgraceful ties to violent regimes.

The story and critique is mostly clear-eyed, and powerful when it takes a personal bent (Carroll has led a very interesting life). I’m uncomfortable, however, with how much antisemitism he reads into the Gospel accounts themselves. He intones, at one point, “At every Good Friday service, with the reading of that Passion narrative: ‘The Jews, the Jews, the Jews’… it really hits the ear. And Jesus is against the Jews. And I don’t know how else Christians can hear this story.

This strikes me as odd, for I’ve only ever read this story in one way. How else do I hear this story? I hear the Gospels blaming me. Who crucified Jesus? I did.

There’s a Goethe quote that I take quite seriously — he says something like “There is no crime so heinous that I cannot also imagine myself committing it.” This is good theology, and this is ignored theology. It requires hideous, uncomfortable self-awareness.

Our human tendency is to always marginalize, to “otherize.” I am not like that one or those people. When, in fact, the truth is much more disturbing. “It is a simple tenet of human nature,” writes Dave Grossman, “that it is difficult to believe and accept that anyone we like and identify with is capable of these acts against our fellow human beings. And this simple, naive tendency to disbelieve or look the other way is, possibly more than any other factor, responsible for the perpetuation of atrocity and horror in our world today.”

There’s a poignant moment in Constantine’s Sword where Carroll is at Auschwitz-Birkenau and while contemplating the past nightmares but present-day beauty, the guide fills the void by simply saying: “There is no meaning… only Auschwitz… only butterflies… silence.”

What drives me crazy is the American pretension at moral authority. Dresden alone wiped out whatever supposed moral capital we’d accumulated in fighting the Nazis, not to mention our unspeakable atrocities inflicted upon Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

I think the point is that none of us personally have any moral capital either. My heart is totally bankrupt. At the end of Jesus’ famous quip in Luke 6, I read in an extra clause:: “…and in reality, you will never be able to remove the log from your own eye.”

Of course, this hints at the missing piece here that was filled in for us by a murderous Judeofascist extremist who had a blinding encounter with a Jewish carpenter. It changed his life. And this is the crux: “While we were still terrorists, Christ died for us.”

An Open Letter to Christian Troops

An Open Letter to Christian US Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan: Who and Whose are you? An ex-Army elite powerfully describes why our culture of violence and revenge is diametrically opposed to the radical message of Jesus.

Loving the enemy neutralizes the category of enemy.Unfortunately, even with phalanxes of chaplains ready to distort and press the message of Christ into the business of war, this means that you are now part of an organization that has no reason to exist without an enemy. The ethic of the military is inscribed in the infantry phrase, “close with The Enemy and destroy him.” The ethic of Christ is inscribed in neighbor-love — love of anyone who is near, and enemy-love — the unmaking of the category of “enemy.” These two perspectives — military doctrine and the ethic of Christ — cannot be reconciled.

Christ told you to “love your enemies.” Break the cycle of enemy-making.

Yet the armed forces are based, at their very core, on the existence of an enemy to destroy. The very doctrine that governs your organization, your technology, and your methods, cannot exist without The Enemy. To accomplish that, the armed forces must do two things: they must devalue the lives of all who are not members of the nation, and they must set up an idol to supplant God.

This was written by Stan Goff and originally posted here — I’ve used the other link because it’s easier to read. Beyond the big picture, Goff and I seem to also share similar views of what demonic forces are — ie, structures of injustice. This view sees the satanic more as systems that perpetuate anti-Christ thought/behavior, and less as wily little ne’er-do-wells that are invisibly hopping around between us and magically prodding us toward sin. He’s also right to diagnose and critique a larger zeitgeist, since the problem is the entire politics of revenge of which the military is only one (albeit major) outworking.