Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Religion of the future? Woody Allen in Sleeper getting absolution from a sideshow gumball machine.
Without an external brake a man becomes his own god and then anything is possible. That is the theme behind Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Kurtz had, "No restraint. No restraint at all." He became a monster. The film based on HoD was Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now. The production of which was effected by the director, cast and much of the crew themselves acting out drug induced debaucheries in which they were each their own gods. A high level of technical expertise can be retained without any belief in the system that created the knowledge consumed. In the movie Kurtz, Willard and Kilgore are all equally lost. What does Kurtz then die for?
The real life model that Milius and Coppola claimed to base Kurtz on was MG Michael D. Healey. The film as such was a slander of a fine gentleman. General Healey is I am proud to say a friend of mine. His biography is here.
Hasan's slideshow was not badly done. The failure to respond to his central tenet, that muslims are very troubled by wars waged against other muslims, was an example of PC causing the can to be kicked down the road with tragic consequences. An honest response would be to say that every faith demands that you accept responsibility for the justice of your cause before you commit violence. Indeed under the Nuremberg precedent every member of the Armed Forces is held to that standard. So yes muslims are allowed to ask if it is for a good cause that we ask them to kill other muslims, in exactly the same way that christians or jews should be concerned before they kill muslims. In our system we have enabled sufficient clarity and reliance on the wisdom and mercy of the people, as expressed by our democratic values and republican system, that arbitrary and abusive use of force is unlikely. That supports good order and discipline. If Hasan or any muslim feels that they cannot be bound by the orders issued by an authority not controlled by muslims because the edicts of such are inherently unjust then indeed they cannot serve, in any capacity and not only in a conflict involving other muslims.
As a Physician Hasan appears to be a technically incompetent affirmative action baby. Asking how he got into Medical school edges uncomfortably close to unanswered questions about how Obama got into, well really everywhere. It is interesting how dramatically his presentation improved after two days to rehearse a script. The Left castigated Reagan as an actor who read his speeches. They refused to believe that he read voraciously and actually wrote much of his best work. The difference between RR and BHO goes deeper. Reagan was a good but not great actor, nevertheless he knew that over time the only way to carry off a role was to inhabit it. Reagan sounded good at Point du Hoc or speaking with only a short time to rehearse after the Challenger disaster because he believed in the words. Obama is at root the hustling charlatan that Ayers described in the "autobiography." His first public reaction was a disaster because unscripted he had nothing inside to draw upon. He has perfected a trick of feeding an audience what it wants to hear, pulling in cadences from black churches the same way that white musicians sold the patterns of R&B to a larger audience. Unlike the musicians or the true statesman there is no reason to believe that he understands or believes in the content behind the presentation.
There was more intellectual communication in the ancient world then our arrogant contemporary world understands. Why people even learned about people from other lands before there was an internet! Back in those primitive times two groups traveled around to help pollinate cultural content. The first were merchants, who usually would observe but not share because you don't give anything away and the customer doesn't want to hear your ideas while he is haggling over the price of dates. The second were soldiers, who did often travel with priests, artists and other intellectuals in tow and who were not the least bit shy about sharing their information, cultural or genetic, with those they met.
While I do not see the idea of God intending humans to deify I do see how the question of persistent personality as the soul returns to God could resonate with the concept of angels. Most people confuse the concepts of angels and saints. The alternative is the idea that even if the soul persists the identity is burned off in the presence of God. The Buddhist concept of soul transmigration and extinction through nirvana is not only rooted in vedic Hinduism, itself based on a core belief in a unifying divine force in the universe, Brahma but also in Hellenistic philosophical concepts that came with Alexander's army. The Greeks knew the Jews, even if they disagreed, the Jews knew the Persians, the Persians knew the Greeks, etc. So not only was Christianity molded by Jewish, Greek and Egyptian sources but all these currents were flowing between the Mediterranean and Central to South Asia. Indeed the odd character out in all this theological ferment was Islam. They seem to have come late, heard everything second hand and gotten the important parts wrong. Perhaps trade routes had shifted and made the Hejaz into a real backwater. For those of us who enjoy making references to Tolkien's ainur (vala or maia), elves and humans waiting in the Halls of Mandos this is a good time to plug in the links.
The god of Islam is like Calvin on steroids, arbitrary and angry. Only this time inconsistent, as Hasan noted capable of changing the perfect revelation to demonstrate the flawed perception and incompetence of humans. This is a god who discovers a "kangaroo straight" rule in the middle of a poker game, or boxes of ballots in the trunk of a car after an election.
(who linked to the Einstein-Freud correspondence)
Thank you for that excellent find that I intend to spend some time studying. These displaces the time I had set aside for Postmodern Pooh, really a friend gave me that. What Einstein, and maybe Freud, fail to consider at my first glance is the nature of the regimes that would constitute the prospective world government. How can a sum be any better than its' parts? The possible role of totalitarian regimes in the League, Soviet or Nazi was before them. The experience of Fascism was already ten years old but the example does not inform their discussion. Freud noted that Medieval christian nations would ally with muslim nations against other members of Christendom. He does not consider the possible effects of having the Qadis sitting in the Law Courts and the cities of Rotterdam, Milan and Manchester occupied by muslims.