Worth Reading…

Serious question: when is outrage appropriate? Because I’m a progressive democrat and Donald Trump is now president of the United States. As I write this, my Facebook feed is falling apart. I’ve seen videos of riots in the streets, people punching each other in the face, friend unfriending friend, and many deleting their accounts from pure…

via On Outrage: Trump is the Obstacle and the Way by Marco Bronx — Modern Stoicism

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Some Movement (re prior blog entry, ‘Stereotypes’)

Salvete, qui legentes —

Just after I’d posted the blog entry ‘Stereotypes’ the other day, the news came out that the attack in San Bernardino was indeed politically and religiously motivated — although strangely targeted.  It’s apparently the same old Wahhabist anti-Western violence, this time on a more modest suburban scale.  (Guns furnished, gladly, by the membership of the NRA. That’s another and potentially salutary group, apparently currently composed of nincompoops, that needs to wake up — but that’ll be a different story.) 

The news-worthier part of the story is this:  that American Muslims are raising money to give help the families of the victims of that attack.  Here’s a link to the article:  http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-muslim-fundraise-20151208-story.html , and to the organization:  http://www.celebratemercy.com/ .  The fund itself is called “Muslims United for San Bernardino”; they acknowledge that donations of money will not correct the evil done or ameliorate the suffering of the survivors, “but we do hope to lessen their burden in some way.”  God knows, there will be funeral expenses and more such petty miseries.  But what is news-worthy is this:  American Muslims are human, and despite their particulars many of them have simple human sympathy for the victims and their devastated friends and families. 

“Since 9/11, we’ve felt we need to come out of our cocoons,” said Shaykh Mohammed Faqih of the Islamic Institute of Orange County [ https://www.facebook.com/m.ibnfaqih/info/?tab=page_info ]. “We’re as American as anyone else … but if society is not feeling it, it means I’m not doing enough.”  Again, Sheik Faqih is of a younger and American-grown generation of Muslims, but by God! he’s got the right attitude.  He is connected with a religious organization called the AlMaghrib Institute [ http://almaghrib.org/ ]. 
Dr. Faisal Qazi, the Southern Californian neurosurgeon who initiated the fund for the families, has several interesting things to say.  “The American Muslim community has had extensive and intense conversations in the last decade about our role in society.  What you’re seeing is the coming of a new generation of American Muslims being emotionally and physically invested in whatever transpires in society.” 

Some Muslims do speak out against the violence, despite those voices sounding weak.  But they are there, nonetheless.  For example, see www.m-a-t.org/ , a Canadian Muslim organization that speaks against it, albeit with a conservatively religious voice.  Across the pond in the UK, there is a yearly “UK Arbaeen Procession” which is a Muslim-organized multi-faith march for “unity and friendship between people of all ages and cultures” [ http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/hundreds-muslims-marching-against-terrorism-6977099 ]. 
Better still, to me, is www.freemuslims.org , a group proud to be an American-Muslim organization “willing to attack extremism and terrorism unambiguously.”  They acknowledge that too many Muslim-American authority figures are not so willing and some are indeed sympathetic to terrorist aims.  This adds a note of realism to their stance, that they admit that people in Muslim-American communities have divergent opinions on the crisis.  “Free Muslims will challenge these beliefs and target the sympathetic support given to terrorists by Muslims”, says their ‘About Us’ blurb on their website (above).  

All in all, this gives me hope.  American Muslims may finally be waking up, especially the younger of them.  Now, could some of these sympathetic organizations actually be concealing terrorist supporters?  Sure, it’s possible.  But in what part of human history has there not been angry people?  The Republican Party is made of little else, it sometimes seems.  There have been more peaceful times, certainly.  But think about it:  the USA and her republic have survived the Depression, World War II’s Nazi Bund, urban riots in the 60’s, and (of course) the September 11 attack.  Even if — okay, when — there is more terrorist bloodshed here at home, still the republic, the American way of life, will survive.  It’s too good to be thrown away.  And I think a lot of American Muslims would say the same.

Bene valete.

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(When I was 58 …)

[An old draft entry that I just checked for errors and then inadvertently published for the very first time.  58 would make this ca. 2013 or so.  So view it as something ‘historical’.]

Salvete, qui legunt –

I am 58 years old at this point. Compared to many, I’ve never had a life – but that’s to be judged from which point of view? My default (or automatic) point of view is that I’ve had a simply defective life; that others have had the laurels, the striving, the “bling” of it all. Why do I even reflect on that? I am not the others; I am not “normal”. If I am polite, it comes of fear – the need to manage people to avoid negative face – blame, shame and anger. If I read, it is because I search for some Bling of Knowledge that will validate what I am and save me the expense of hardship and self-discipline. Or I read for pleasure, to escape work, work, work….

From a more reflective point of view, I’ve simply had MY life – personal, inconsiderable, and more or less unique.  In these later years, I’m still trying to come to terms with my own ignorance, and with my own tendency (seen above) to wallow in facile self-criticism. 


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Salvete, qui legentes —

The stereotype of the Muslim Terrorist is omnipresent, and, of course, all the more so now after the November attacks in Paris. 

But I myself would like to know more about the people who de facto share the supposed traits of such a Terrorist and yet are NOT themselves supporters of terrorism.  This is because of my desire to answer a question: Why is there no appreciable voice coming out of the more-or-less Islamic world generally that repudiates or better yet denounces Muslim absolutism?  Are there people of a Mid-Eastern background, a Muslim background, an Arab background, and so on, who can or will solidly denounce Islamic Terror?  If there are, they appear to be invisible or at best, timid. 

I see multiple possible reasons for the silence.
(a)  News is made by violence and extremism, and not by being reasonable. Tales of terrorism and its horrors sell more commercial spots than reason or decency would. 
(b)  The voices might be there, but have simply been ignored by the media as not news-worthy! 
(c)  The voices might be there, but the speakers lacking mutual knowledge, organization or motivation by which to amplify their arguments.
(d)  People who are not maniacs are often absorbed by living their lives, rather than debating foreign policy or inviting trouble. 
(e)  Where poverty and testosterone are prevalent, they strongly inform popular opinion.  This leads to manias and brutally simplistic — even “Final” — solutions.  This “legitimizes” violence for a lot of people. 
(f)  In popular opinion in all cultures, blame is assigned first to foreigners (e.g., “Mexicans are thieves”, etc.) or to fellow-citizens of an opposite political bent (e.g., “Liberals are traitors”, etc.).  Detachment and reason are not to be expected in popular culture, and blame will automatically be assigned to “the usual suspects”, “THOSE people”.  Many people, in other words, don’t know any better. 
(g)  In the modern cultural environment of the Middle East and quite probably in the world diaspora of Middle-Easterners, the anti-Western terrorists are often seen as heroes: to decry them would invite not only verbal retribution against the speaker but also physical assault and murder.  In a word, popular repression silences those who might speak up.
(h)  As in most cultures, “If you’re not with us, then you’re against us!” is very likely the political rule-of-thumb of many in Middle Eastern and Islamic communities.  This amplifies (e), (f) and (g) above; see also (i), following.
(i)  Any criticism of Arab or Muslim extremism will, following the fallacy in (h) above, be received popularly as support for Israel, and as disloyalty to the Palestinian cause.  This could be a problem not only of outward coercion, but of inward conscience as well. 
(j)  In Islamic culture generally, there has perhaps never been much of a dividing line between God, religion and the state.  As a basic and popular idea, then, law may mean religion more than society, and when push-comes-to-shove in debate, religion becomes (mentally, automatically) the constitutional foundation.  As a result, absolutism lies ever-ready in the mind, and God is already installed as the ultimate magistrate of things earthly.  This is a strait-jacket on the mind and not limited to Islamic culture, by any means.
(k)  Tit-for-tat:  It is believed that foreign soldiers and American drones are routinely killing the innocent along with the guilty all over the Middle East, and therefore that every massacre of Westerners (or even other Middle-Easterners) may be seen as justified on a kind of eye-for-an-eye basis. 

Given that some or all of this is accurate — I do NOT know that it is, I hasten to say, but some of it seems most likely to an outsider like myself — then it would be no wonder to me if Muslims tended to fall in line in silent support of terror, and to ignore their own consciences in favor of their over-zealous “heroes” out on the prowl, who have bagged yet more infidel victims. 

Vobis voluntatis bonae omnibus, bene valete.  To you of goodwill, all, be ye well. 

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Ah, Give Me the Cold War …

In the 1960s, poised beneath the uncertain nuclear stalemate between the USA and USSR, there continued to be hope for universal peace — the hoped-for product of World War II.  The First World War’s “never again!” notion had gone to hell with the rise of Bolshevism, the world-wide Depression, and the subsequent rise of Fascism in various formats the world over.  World War II made a monstrous desert of much of the earth and a pause ensued — a hostile one, which began to be amended in the 60s and 70s.

At my age, I long for the age of nuclear standoff, when there was still a hope in Hell that Russians and Americans might figure out how to get along.  I have to remind myself that to be fond of such a time is to be unfair to those who had suffered in the Gulag and otherwise behind the Iron Curtain. Still, what fond hopes.

But this is life, and friction governs.  Universally, the molecules and animals are all itchy and will not be patient, fair or just.  Reason goes far to make weapons, only a small way to create peace.  Mao Tse-Tung (the fat old spider) ran China into the ground; Pol Pot arose in Cambodia to patriotically murder and destroy his own people; old Russian fascism (Bolshevism, Stalinism, etc.) got its comeuppance in Afghanistan (little did Americans supporting Muslim resistance realize who they were abetting in their covert operations).  No, not freedom but new fascisms reveal themselves everywhere, and nowhere so well as in their various forms in the Middle East.  Even Israel, child of Jews, a whole people homeless and abused for centuries, succumbed to the Rule of Brutality, and in defending itself became a conqueror and colonizer of others’ lands, aping the success of their own Nazi persecutors and the bile and xenophobia of their racist Arab opponents.

What a world.

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Contrary Old Nature Consuming Me

Salvete, quicumque legātis –

The one thing we know the Universe likes is friction. Collisions, mutations, heat, stress, movement of life, consumption of life by life – it seems to me the broad essential link is movement and conflict, whether it’s at the sub-microscopic levels of nuclear particles, or among the rude little multicellular animals in a scummy pool, or between technologically endowed nations or movements throwing terror at each other, or in the collisions of asteroids, or in the super-nuclear super-heating of ineffably massive stars. Even light, as a body, collides and warms.

Speaking of mutation: According to my doctors, I’ve been visited by a nasty variety of it – squamous cell cancer. I have just turned 60 and now – bang – Nature plays the cancer card. More to come in terms of medical imaging and medical guesswork and treatment. The timing, of course, is less than ideal. A very bad way to begin Lunar New Year.

Once again – just as when I went to pieces in 2006, and then when someone near and dear to us ruined our finances that same year – events are crowding us out. My kids are still trying to find their niches in the new Republican slave economy, trying to become self-sufficient! I’m not expecting, at this point, that I will ever see my grandchildren. My 85-year-old mother (God keep her!) will quite possibly outlast me!

Still, what can you do? Death will come; it will take each down to dissolution. I have no particular fear of death, but I do have a lurking horror of the pain and suffering that may precede it. The final suffering will most likely be horribly intense and lonely, but I shan’t dwell on that. That’s all in the future, and beyond my control. (After all, I can hardly conjure up my death throes and tell them, “No; not that way! I won’t have it!”)

What is, after all, our one sure goal in life? Not conscious, not chosen, but entirely assured? Our death. Each man’s arc of life ends up there, sooner or later, but assuredly. It’s as natural as our facility of movement, our impulses, as universal as germination and birth.

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The 300’s Prayer

A good bit: one particular rendering of the famous Spartan epitaph from Thermopylae:

Go, way-farer, bear news to Sparta’s town
That here, their bidding done, we laid us down.

–rendered by Cyril E. Robinson

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