News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: January 2007

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

My Views on the Apocalypse

The previous post may have left some of you scratching your heads. My thoughts about the Apocalypse--or an apocalypse--are might seem out of character. As I have written before, there are many ways to understand that wonderfully surreal book called Revelation. Without rehashing old statements, I want to add that my thoughts have turned to apocalyptic in response to articles that jodi dean is posting at her blog. In response ...

I have added the following in comments at her blog:

Without getting too bogged down in terminology, eschatology relates to anything dealing with ultimate things, such as life after death and so on. Apocalyptic is related to end times and history and the role that the divine or transcendent plays in bringing that about.

Your separation of political and religious seems unwarranted. Many of the intertestamental apocalypses have politico-religious ramifications. Seeing that the Xtian Zionists use a political message is nothing new, therefore. As I remarked to Jodi earlier, there have been politico-relious movements of apocalypsticists from those times and throughout Xtian, Jewish, and Islamic history.

Pocock, for example, notes the political ramifications of Savonarola's apocalypticism, as well as this dimension in English and American revolutionary periods. Pocock makes some interesting comments on how apcalyptic changes one's relationship to time and sees time.

For Pocock, what happened in Savonarolan Florence, for example, was that the apocalyptic message brought time down to earth--so to speak--giving the believers that they had a direct role in the outcome of history. This opposed the Augustinian conception of time and the two kingdoms, since in that framework the two worlds did not intersect except at the end of time, which God was in control of and which humans had no role to play.

I also noted there that: What is unique about the Bush Xtians is that they are using the mythology of apocalypse to support a conservative/reactionary ideology.

As many biblical scholars will tell you this has not been true in the past--apocalyptic movements and the genre itself have referred to and emanated from the socially marginalized and dispossessed.

In my recent reading projects, I have also come across this idea within British politics and American colonial politics. That is, as JGA Pocock has shown, millenarian groups were those who were at the forefront of secularization, as well as the egalitarian-oriented movement of republicanism.

The Busybody blog is doing some interesting things around questions of this sort. You might also wish to check out Mark Goodacre's blog and this posting on Paul and apocalyptic. There's also this interesting page with many good links at the Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean blog.
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My Life and Its Ensuing Chaos

Some of my long-time readers--all 10 or so of you--may wonder where I've got to the last few weeks. As you know, I'm somewhat reluctant to turn the blog into a dear diary for public consumption, although I have posted what some would call artistic renderings of my life.

Let's just say for now that my life has taken a turn toward the rootless, nomadic existence that I perhaps deserve since I have lived it for so long. Cut off from the land that I still dream about, that farm in the Cumberland Valley that probably graces the notes of some old timey tune I have not yet heard, I have wandered the US by foot, car, and thumb for years now.

At times, the journey has been apocalyptic. Like that time I hitchhiked east from Santa Fe. Unprepared for the days without sleep and food, I progressively entered an apocalyptic world of Arkansas boar-hunters, speed-crazed truckers, and ominous news of escaped convicts prowling the highway I was on.

That journey that became allegorical much in the way that Petrarch would've understood, but without the apocalyptic undertones ...

Perhaps it is true that apocalyptic is the song of the dispossessed and outcast. Those who have nothing left but the fear of the Lord that they hope and pray will save them from the final ignominy: living in evil and pain for all eternity.

I must admit that I am predisposed in some way to the eschatological and apocalyptic. This predisposition explains, perhaps, my early attraction to William Blake's writings and the poems I used out to the rural newspaper filled with a rudimentary symbology hacked together from Blake, Bible, and dada.

And I said I would not resort to autobiography...

With so much happening in the world, I find it easy to resort to the apocalyptic, especially in times when personal stress, despair, and uncertainty coincide with wars and rumors of wars. Yet, the personal must give way to some form of analysis that tries to make sense of such things that the simple-hearted can only find terrifying, though their heart of hearts clings to love and fear of the Lord.

I will perhaps attempt to undertake that analysis in the following days and weeks. If you're out there, drop a note ...
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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Bush Declares War on Iran and Syria

I've been trying to highlight the threat to Iran ever since I first wrote at this blog last year that the US was considering an attack. Then I was told that this threat was nonsensical. Then came Lebanon and the attempt by Israel to do away with those ketyusha rockets and neutralize Hizbullah. ...

I got tired of sounding like Cassandra. Then Bush assigned an admiral to head up Centcom. While dealing with other issues, I haven't had time to document the signs that Bush-Cheney indeed have their sights set on Iran.

Glenn Greenwald has done an excellent job of binding together the tell-tale signs of an impending escalation of threats towards Iran. What Greenwald leaves out is the strategy. These actions that he documents--I believe--are meant to create conditions in which Iran is meant to do something that will "justify" a US attack.

You should also read Steve Clemons' insider report and coverage of what went on in Congress between Sec. of State Rice and Sens. Biden and Hagel.

[Sen. Hagel:]When you were engaging Chairman Biden on this issue, on the specific question -- will our troops go into Iran or Syria in pursuit, based on what the president said last night -- you cannot sit here today -- not because you're dishonest or you don't understand, but no one in our government can sit here today and tell Americans that we won't engage the Iranians and the Syrians cross-border.

Some of us remember 1970, Madame Secretary, and that was Cambodia, and when our government lied to the American people and said we didn't cross the border going into Cambodia. In fact we did. I happen to know something about that, as do some on this committee.

So, Madame Secretary, when you set in motion the kind of policy that the president is talking about here, it's very, very dangerous. Matter of fact, I have to say, Madame Secretary, that I think this speech given last night by this president represents the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam, if it's carried out. I will resist it ...
Bet you heard that on your nightly newscast, huh?

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Welcome to the Roach Motel Iraq

I bury those cockroaches!
-- Tony Montana, "Scarface"

The President just gave his plan on Iraq in what came across as a sober, grim speech that is being touted for its realism and sincerity. The plan comprises several parts, the most prominent of which is the so-called "surge" of troops to Iraq, specifically Baghdad.

I must admit that Pres. Bush's performance last night was one of the few times I could actually listen to him and not find myself in wonderland. He connected sentences in a way that I think his college rhetoric professor would have found laudable. ...

Unfortunately, the disconnect between the old Bush whose almost aphasic news conferences and this new Bush caused my brain to overheat in paranoiac visions.

As I heard Bush unfold his "strategery" I almost (seriously) said out loud "Roach Motel." I swear the man was describing a vision so absurd and so bizarre that I saw US troops being lured into this large trap and dying slow deaths like roaches stuck in glue.

Those unfamiliar with student housing might not have seen a roach motel. These little devices for killing the pests involves luring them into a rectangular box that has an incredibly sticky glue on all sides. The roaches enter, get stuck, and die over several days. In places where the roaches are bad, these motels can literally fill up the entire space of the box.

Why isn't anyone discussing the dangers of this strategy? Are people seriously unconcerned about buddying up US troops with Iraqis whose loyalties appear to be less than certain--and probably more anti-Us than pro-US?

What are the chances that insurgent strategists are rubbing their hands together with glee at the thought of having US soldiers concentrated in one area, open to encirclement and a war of attrition by booby trap and bushwacking?

On top of this, there's that old nagging feeling that you'll have heavily armed potential traitors behind you as you barge in on their neighbors and relatives to find and kill the guy who was a friend last week.

Welcome to the Roach Motel Iraq--where many a soldier in the next few months will feel like they're going nowhere but into the bogs of hell.
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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

War Porn: A New Genre of the Dead

The spectacle of the tyrant, the most despised man on earth--as Americans like to think of their country--is over. The tyrant is dead, long live the tyrant. America the tyrant killer, the castrater of dictators, the lyncher of Babylon, regains its renown for frontier justice in a shoddy, sometimes despicable, affair that the politicians call justice, though a few call it what it is: a piece of theater whose genre has increasingly become known as Iraqi snuff films. ...

Like many an egotist, I imagine, who blogs, I watch my sitemeter readings religiously. Perhaps the best interpretation of this is that I--with my background in marketing and business writing--want to perform a minute by minute audience analysis so I can gauge the reading habits, the likes and dislikes of those poor souls who happen upon these pitiful postings.

Early on in this blog's evolution, I picked up on articles that piqued my fancy and either provided a blurb about the piece or simply quoted it and provided a link. One of those pieces was on an article about Iraqi war porn, which was first brought to my attention by Helena Cobban. I wrote some chatter about it and provided a link to the pages where these XXXXXXXX porn pictures were (once) housed.

(Also see Occupation, Sex, Murder, and Prositution, and Trophy Video.)

If I were to rate the most entered page on my blog--according to my maniacal site meter reading habit--it would have to be this posting about Iraqi porn. I know this because sitemeter provides a listing on the search terms that the visitor used on the search engine that pointed them to my blog posting. I can only imagine their consternation when they see that the posting contains some tripe about how immoral this type of porn is.

I first became aware from a Law and Order: CI show that there's a subculture that's grown up around this type of porn. The issue is rather tangential to the storyline of the show, but it's interesting nonetheless that the phenomenon has reached a level where it can form part of the action of the characters in the plot.

The genre of War Porn itself became known in the wake of the Abu Ghraib torture revelations. The couple involved in that torture were filming their acts and hording them, along with their own personal BDSM porn.

The fascination of BDSM porn is best exemplified by the David Cronenberg's film, Videodrome. There the main character (played by James Woods) is a small-time cable owner trying to find content that will increase his audience share. The famous scenes of moderate masochism with Blondie singer Deborah Harry is only a prelude to more and more violent forms of sadomasochism.

In one scene, the James Woods character is watching the torture of naked women and says something along the lines of, "I can't take my eyes off of it. There are no production costs. It's genius."

The moral of the story is that the signal carrying the can't-take-your-eyes-off-it video causes cancerous tumors in the viewer. The whole thing turns out to be the effort by a zealous Christian-style group who wants to kill off anyone who doesn't have the moral sensibility to react in revulsion at the pictures and instead becomes hooked on it like heroin.

I doubt that our own theocrats are smart enough to carry off anything similar to the one shown in Videodrome, especially given their anti-scientific prejudices. Yet, the underlying premise--that a normal, god-loving individual will find such acts shameful and therefore will turn in revulsion--that our god-given shame shields us from such temptations, is one that many Xtian believers assume, though they rarely state it.

(See my postings on Martha Nussbaum's work [here, here, and here]. She has documented this type of argument that is marshaled by those on the right to defend a conservative legal agenda.)

Yet, the film's message makes a powerful statement about the attraction of violence to a sensory-hungry public whose jaded palates crave more and more stimulating images that go farther and farther into depicting the dehumanization of other human beings.

Having said this, let me make a confession. I wanted to see the execution of Hussein on television. I think that it should've been beamed into every household in America and the world. If the man was a monster, and American justice was triumphing in having this execution go forward, then there should have been no qualms about televising it.

Perhaps this is the lesson then: Americans are so dishonest that we can't or won't face the products of our own violence in Iraq. Instead, we want to cover it up, hide it away, make like it didn't happen. But this type of repression is how neuroses form, not to mention psychoses.

Or is the repression itself an indication of the mass psychosis that realizes itself in a delusory world where the horrible deaths of men, women, and children become fantasy attractions for a libidinous tyranny that refuses to acknowledge its own depravity?

And maybe Videodrome is more realistic and prophetic than I imagine.

PS Sorry to all you folks on bloglines who'll see this posting twice; but anyway: I just remembered something I heard on a show dealing with Richard Ramirez, the so-called Night Stalker, who terrorized LA during the mid-19080s. According to one source interviewed for the expose, as a young teen Ramirez used to visit a former ViteNam vet with whom he did drugs. The Vet also showed Ramirez pictures that the Vet had taken of his rape, torture and mutilation of Vietnamese women.

With the prevalence of war porn on the web, it makes you wonder how many young Ramirez's are being formed for future night stalkings and that unique brand of American terrorist, aka serial killer.
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