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

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

What It Means To Kill People

I have written somewhat obliquely of Simone Weil's essay on the Iliad. In this essay, she charts the dynamics of war. These include the ultimate and irrevocable process that turns human beings into objects. This means, for example, that the victim is simply an object to be destroyed because in the minds of the warrior the enemy is less than human. At the same time, the warrior him/herself becomes less than human. They lose that human quality of empathy that usually marks the response to the pain and suffering of others.

A decent review of this process, as US soldiers are now enduring is given at Psyche, Science, and Society. Quoting Chris Hedges, the snippet ends:

Prophets are not those who speak of piety and duty from pulpits-there are few people in pulpits worth listening to. The prophets are the battered wrecks of men and women who return from Iraq and find the courage to speak the halting words we do not want to hear, words that we must hear and digest in order to know ourselves. These veterans, the ones who dare to tell the truth, have seen and tasted how war plunges us into barbarity, perversion, pain and an unchecked orgy of death. And it is their testimonies, if we take the time to listen, which alone can save us.
How many Xtians are voicing these sentiments, I wonder? How many of them have really understood the Jewish prophets and Jesus' sayings about forgiveness and love? Their chocolate Bible, it seems, is only laced with bitter hatred for those who don't think, act, and look like them. And they are always at a loss to remember the words that Jesus added to the commandment to love your neighbor--he includes the enemy as well.
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more [than others]? do not even the publicans so?
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. [Mat 5:43 - 48]
Many people think this appeal to perfection is absurd and outlandish. They say that it's impossible. But that is indeed the message of Jesus. To do, say, and believe the impossible. If you don't accept Jesus then it's fine. But if you do, then you should at least recognize that every time you say a word that leads to more hatred for the enemy you are not doing what He says you should. It is really that simple.

It seems to me that it's not easy for those who wish to impose their own understanding based on fear and despair in place of the unconditional demand for love and peace that Jesus says God wants. Read more!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Xtianity and the Religious Right

Christopher Hedges has written a provocative book on the rise of the Religious Right in US politics. In this video, he speaks about this phenomenon and provides the rationale and facts behind his argument.

Read more!

enduring freedom

Is this a political statement or what. It's a Japanese form of dance theater called bhuto. But the allegory (?) is about torture (?).

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Sankai Juku

Seeing this theater--is that the right word?--troupe live was one of the greatest aesthetic experiences of my life. When I saw them in Albuquerque, they were on stage for over 2 hours. It was a truly mind-altering experience. It is something I tried to do in my own drama.

They have put Artaud into practise in a very real way.

Believe me, this stuff is much better than drugs.

Read more!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

History of the NeoCons, with Religion and the Bush Too

This is what you've all been waiting for: a documentary on the religious and neoconservative politics behind the Bush administration.

Be sure to also watch

part 2
part 3
part 4 Read more!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Exorcism Chant: For the Iraq War

This recording of the so-called [Ketjak: The Ramayana] Monkey Chant is famous among avant garde writers and artists. This recording from UBU Web gives you the full flavor of the mesmerizing ritual and chant.

According to the notes, it

is a creation of this century, it is descended from something much more ancient — the trance dance, the dance of exorcism called sanghjang; its ancestry is clear. Ostensibly, the ketjak is a reenactment of the battle described in the Ramayana epic — in which the monkey hordes came to the aid of Prince Rama in his battle with the evil King Ravana — complete with a chorus imitating monkeys, as they chant the syllable tjak.

"But as perceptive observers have noted, the ketjak is primarily a dance of exorcism. Its connection with the sanghjang remains unbroken. As pointed out by Walter Spies and Beryl de Zoete in Dance and Drama in Bali, "Most of the movements are exorcistic in origin and contribute together to produce a tremendous unity of mood … to drive out evil as by an incantation. The cries, the crowding, lifted hands, the devouring of single figures, the broken lines of melody bewildering to butas [demons], who can only move straight ahead, all enhance the exorcistic effect."
I post it in the hopes that it will exorcise the demons that plague this nation as it continues to go about its regular routines as though nothing else in the world is happening. And as though its country are not killing and being killed in the name of something they'd probably oppose if they just cared enough to ask. Read more!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Summer Reading List

In the midst of writing several stories, I am reluctant to read anything in the fiction genre for fear that they might produce some undue influence on style and/or framing ideas (I know, the anxiety of influence).

Anyway, I am in the midst of reading Tugenhat's lecture on analytic philosophy. This is a very important teacher, since he studied with Heidegger, yet chose to break from that tradition and embrace analytic philosophy, much like Habermas but in a more interesting way I think (mostly because he eschews Habermas' systematic generalizations and he's a much more careful thinker).

I've also been taking slow bites at Pilgrim's Progress, a great book even for those who aren't of a religious disposition.

Anyway, looking to a time when I have time to even read, I have been looking for fiction books that I might or might get to this summer. I've been thinking of looking into G. Eliot and Dickens, just to get a flavor of the polyphonic, as Bakhtin called it. But I also want to expand my list of American writers, which is woefully remiss and mostly includes the "classics."

I went on a Delillo rampage a month or so ago, and found his work very exciting, but there's that bugaboo about influence that I want to let the dust settle around. This rampage itself occurred after my mad rush through Pocock, Appleby, and Q. Skinner's historical work, with several side trips into primary source material relating to the eras they write about. Pocock, especially, has been important, since his understanding of writing history and providing a framework within which to understand texts related to action has helped me solve some issues I had with narrative.

My very short list of tentative books for the summer, then, includes Lizard Cage, a book so far distant from the milieu that I'm writing about that I imagine there'll be little overlap.

And then there's this book I just read about at the History News Network blog. It looks very promising, since it brings together contemporary political situation with prescient foresight.

The book was written back in 1976. Called Baghdad Blues, it's a mass market thriller that follows the efforts by a black CIA agent to manipulate events in Iraq. The following description of the book's ending suits my present political and philosophical temper quite well:

At the novel's conclusion, the small band of American diplomats is in retreat from a violent, chaotic Baghdad. "We drove across Queen Alwiyah Bridge, renamed Freedom Bridge," says Burrell, "and I looked at the low Tigris, almost as much sand showing between its banks as water. Upriver was the bridge where the bodies had been hung from the lampposts." Our present debacle in Iraq, one is reminded, takes shape neither on a blank slate, nor across a backdrop of ancient and simple sectarianism, but on a landscape scarred by more than a century of European and American involvement.

Greenlee gives his protagonist a perspective of the Iraqi landscape that is deeply shaped by the radical internationalism cultivated by an age of decolonization. Reporting on the Americans' surprise at the Iraqi coup, Burrell concludes, "Only a bunch of white folks, so hung-up on always being right about everything, so hung-up on themselves, could have been surprised about what had happened. The signs had been everywhere, and it really took talent to avoid them, to turn the facts into something entirely different."
It's truly amazing how some people can see into the future and how stupid other people are in not seeing the writing on the wall. The author of this blog piece notes that the book should be on Pres. Bush's reading list. I think that's right. I know it's on mine. How about yours? Read more!

Justice Vs. Power - Chomsky Vs. Foucault, Part 1

It's rare that you find face to face confrontations between major thinkers. That's the beauty of modern international transporation and communications--sometimes you can get these rare events to happen.

Though I disagree with Chomsky's philosophy and lean more towards Foucalut's, I am more in line with Chomsky's politics than Foucault's--at least at the time of this debate. Foucault later changed his political stance, though there's a very nuanced view of power relations that I think Chomsky is blind to.

This latter aspects of politics is stressed by Simone Weil, and it is something she learned from Machiavelli and which few Leftists--except perhaps Foucault--understand.

Read more!