Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Compassion Sucks, Literally!

Part of the reason that human life is unavoidably tragic is that a lot of evil is done by people who are nonetheless convinced they are doing good. They must convince themselves of overly-simplistic "truths" because most people are incapable of living permanently in uncertainty (or with a humble faith in their Creator) about the meaning of human existence. Humanity being a rather complex and somewhat irreducibly mysterious thing, relatively few people respond to the mystery and complexity of our lives with a hard-won humility. Far too many - though especially the young - are caught up in an overwhelming desire for dogmatic certainties. Beyond the common inability to face existential uncertainty, a pragmatic reason why everyone doesn't choose humility is made obvious enough by our competitive world where not only getting the upper hand but having the mere appearance of being right may have rewarding consequences in the political and economic marketplaces. That's true at least until those who have been rewarded for merely having the appearance of being right have to face up to the full reality, and those misled demand payback.

If there's one class of people whom I would like to see payback (by humbly disappearing from view), given their long history of hostility to reality, it is the present generation of baby boomer academics, especially those who lead political opinion in the universities. I was reminded of this yesterday when Pastorius somehow got hold of what he thinks is a real email from a University of Florida vice-president:
November 26, 2007

To: All University Students
From: Dr. Patricia Telles-Irvin
Vice President for Student Affairs

Re: Official Response to a recent advertisement for the movie "Obsession"

Throughout our country, we have witnessed a rise in offensive behavior and actions taken against others, which has created greater divisiveness and misunderstandings among the various ethnic groups residing in our communities. One of these events occurred on our campus recently with the promotion of an event.

Advertisements for the movie "Obsession" sponsored by several student organizations appeared during the past several weeks on campus bulletin boards and they illustrate the importance of balancing freedom of speech with responsibility.

The ads, which promoted a showing of the movie on Nov. 13 and a panel discussion afterward, entitled "Radical Islam Wants You Dead," offended many Muslim students on campus. Regardless of its original intent, the language reinforced a negative stereotype, created unnecessary divisiveness and contributed to a generalization that only furthers the misunderstanding of the religion of Islam.

We cannot speak of rights without also addressing the responsibility associated with our actions or statements, including understanding the potential consequences. One of our roles as a learning institution is to teach our students to express themselves freely, and also in a fair and conscientious manner. In an academic setting, differences of opinions are strongly encouraged, yet such opinions must be based on accurate information when describing other members of the community.

Unfortunately, in the case of the "Obsession" ads, that did not happen. I believe the groups that posted them owe the campus, and particularly campus members of the Islamic faith, an apology and a clarification.

At the University of Florida we have embraced a set of values, one of which is diversity. Diversity is not just about having representation from various cultures on campus, it also is having each member contribute to an inclusive and safe environment and collectively enhancing our understanding and appreciation of the richness brought by such differences. The University of Florida is committed to being
an institution of excellence, where all members are valued and feel safe on our campus. Our role as an institution is to create opportunities for students to learn in an open and accepting environment; one that emphasizes respect for all. Let's remember that part of our mission is to prepare each other to be effective members of a global community. With that in mind, I encourage each member of our campus community as a start to learn more about the religion of Islam and some of its tenets of peace, hard work, charity and compassion.

There is little room for divisiveness in our world if we are to find peace and understanding among us. We all can win if we focus on greater inclusion and understanding as well as the delicate balance between our rights and esponsibilities.
My initial, overly hot-headed, response to Pastorius was as follows:
This woman calls for responsibility in the use of free speech. Well, ok, because freedom and responsibility are synonymous: real freedom emerges from necessity.

But what about her own conception of responsibility? Do you think there is a snowball's chance in Florida that she will ever engage in a serious debate in which she is challenged on her dhimmitude or her diversity ranting by someone well informed and articulate on the problems with such?

The clue to her non-thinking is here:
There is little room for divisiveness in our world if we are to find peace and understanding among us.

This is pure Gnostic Utopianism. Does she not know how irresponsible it is to give young people the impression that we can live in a world without conflict? Does she not know that conflict is inherent to the human condition and the real evil is done by those who think they have some "solution" to it? She is a totalitarian but she's too stupid to know it. That is why she will never engage in a free and open debate in which her own conception of responsibility is challenged.
Pastorius then more calmly replied:
I would add, that when she says there is little room for divisiveness, she includes critical analysis. The method of critical analysis requires that we make distinctions and have arguments. Distinctions and arguments are inherently divisive.

In fact, if you think about it, all thinking requires that distinctions be made, so thinking itself is divisive.

When you get right down to it, this woman would prefer that no one thinks.
I think that is a fair summary of what happens when you get university officials demanding an avoidance of "divisiveness". Nonetheless, I would agree with Dr. Telles-Irvin that you should call people out when they are saying things that are untrue. But I would not use the method of a school matron rapping knuckles. If you believe in free speech, you enter the debate, you don't try to stand above it and simply say, officiously, "you lied, you have no right to your free speech".

I don't know what was on the supposedly offensive posters, beyond what the email states: "Radical Islam Wants You Dead." While I agree that such a generalization leaves something to be desired - for example, it is more true of Jews and pagans, perhaps, than Christians - it's pretty clear that there are various kinds of people that some of the more incensed Muslims of today would like to see dead. The traditional choice that Islam offers peoples of the book - conversion or dhimmitude or death - can come to mean, for Muslim fundamentalists, that a non-Muslim not willing to convert or act like a dhimmi should be killed, after due warning and when one is in an appropriate position to do jihad.

In any case, it is hardly clear how "Radical Islam Wants You Dead" is less true than the professor's own generalization that Islam is about "peace, hard work, charity and compassion."

While some Muslims might grumble about being called "compassionate", an emotion which implies a sense of guilt (notwithstanding that the "compassionate" frequently deny that they feel guilt, when challenged on the point...), the peace, hard work, and charity are, according to orthodoxy, all contingent on an acceptance of Islamic law which calls, among other things, for the whole world to be subdued by Islam, sooner or later. Since this call has led and continues to lead to much violence and conflict, one has to be willfully ignorant or deceptive to imply that Islam is strictly about peace.

Furthermore, even if one assumes that peace is only promised to those who submit to Islam (whether as true believers or as dhimmis) the evident facts of history are that Islam is full of internal conflict and violence both within and between sects. Whatever the dogmatic ideal, as a pragmatic form of culture Islam does not have a great track record for finding ways to mediate conflict. No doubt this has something to do with the fundamentalist idea that Islam is not open to change. Anything closed to serious debate and reform cannot hope to develop new shared understandings of the sacred, which are the only ways to defer conflict and violence.

This is why freedom of speech is so important. While it's true that the abuse of freedom can foster or exacerbate conflict, it's more importantly true that freedom of thought and exchange of opinion is the only way out of conflict, short of total physical dominance of one side by the other (which only in turns sets the stage for the next challenger to someone's physical dominance). To denounce someone's use of free speech for merely offending someone or some group, while feeling no serious need to demonstrate that the speech in question is particularly fallacious, at least more fallacious than one's own pieties, is to miss an essential truth about our humanity: free speech is less often a road to violent conflict as the only possible alternative to it. If we are not verbally and intellectually challenging those with whom we have great differences in regard to what people should hold sacred, we are either moving towards open violent conflict, or the physical and often spiritual submission of one side to the other.

Free speech is not nice, it's not pretty, and it has nothing to do with avoiding hurt feelings. It is, instead, our only alternative to a world where might is right; and since might can never be uniquely right, since no dictator can last long without taking others' opinions into account, "might is right" is just another form of Utopian fantasy that presages a renewal of open conflict.

There is nothing more evil for a university to teach, in my humble opinion, than Utopian fantasies about overcoming conflict through diversity (as if "diversity" could be a "value" in and of itself: what can be given a value is only a difference which is exchangeable, not something put above and beyond free exchange, not that anything can really be put above free exchange even by the most totalitarian of attempts, though attempts at unreality are no less evil for that...). It is to mislead students on fundamental questions of reality. Conflict is inherent to the human condition, because we are unavoidably in mimetic rivalry over that which is held sacred by any or all. Free and open exchange in the signs and tokens of the sacred is the best way to mediate this conflict relatively peacefully. In other words, unrestricted free speech and a society ruled by free trade in opinion is our best way to keep this conflict maximally non-violent.

Those who would let ideas of "compassion" towards the losers in history's intellectual and cultural struggles dictate their politics and governing authority need to be reminded that "compassion" is a "value" closely linked to violence. It is rooted in our guilt towards the victim of violence or unacceptable inequality. Because it is a form of guilt, "compassion" is only a "value" which can be exchanged - in secular, non-religious, contexts - with irrational and resentment-generating reminders of violence in the air. If you're the victim for whom I have compassion today, you can only hope that tomorrow the tables will be turned. Unless, that is, you are truly committed to refusing and overcoming the trade in compassion and victim status. Compassion, in anything other than the Christian, victim-transcending, God-centered, sense, is a primitive object of sacrificial exchange that has no place in a truly free marketplace.

Rather than the thoughtless, maternalist teaching of compassion, passing for higher education, it's much better to teach young people how to "insult" each other with clever words (though of course one should not always be "insulted" when someone puts in time and effort to insult you - it's often a compliment, a sign that you matter!). It's better not to be compassionate to anyone, not even to your friends or your dieing and suffering mother. Treat them with real respect instead. Treat them as people capable of thinking and confidently holding their own through even the hardest trials of this world. If you treat them like a victim, you're only really telling them that human existence is something fundamentally irrational and intolerable, and that Utopian denials of reality are a necessary, comforting lie. But you don't want your loved ones leaving this world without eternal and realistic hopes for the humanity left behind, or for the Creator with whom many people hope one day to reunite. So instead of teaching Utopianism, which only encourages more violence - when disappointed people, unprepared for hard reality face hard realities and lash out - teach instead the "bitter truth" of human conflict over the sacred. This lesson is the first step to real freedom, and humility.


VinceP1974 said...

Great post!

I responded to this woman the other day.. I was fuming mad... who do these people think they are?
Completely ignorant and outrageous.

My email:
"I saw an email that you sent to the student body regarding the movie Obsession.

How dare you demand an apology from the people who showed the film. Have you actually watched the film ma’am? Do you understand the threat these people (the Jihadis) represent and the power of their movement that is growing every day?

Muslims on your campus are offended? Oh really… well they should be offended by their Radical co-religionists and not people here who have simply NOTICED them.

You said opinions should be based on accurate information… well what is more accurate than TV broadcasts and sermons made by Muslims themselves!

Radical Islam is in a perpetual war against all Non-Muslims. I will not be silent! Who do you think you are that I should be quiet about a threat to my way of life.

You owe everyone an apology."

truepeers said...

Thanks Vince! I think you have a an effective way of putting it. I hope she reads it. If you get a reply, let us know.

VinceP1974 said...

Hi thanks.

BTW: Your blog is aweseome. Good job.

If she responds.. which I highly doubt the coward will do... I will let you know

Pastorius said...

Great post, TruePeers.

Compassion is not a value. It is a feeling.

Compassion in action is love. Love is a value.

Diversity is certainly not a value. Diversity is a state of things.

A value is state of mind/spirit which one makes an attempt to bring into action in the real world in response to the state of things.

Tolerating diversity is thought to be a value. One must tolerate diversity in life, which is to say, one can not have one's way all the time.

But, is that a value? If so, it is a passive value. If a value is, as I said, a state of mind which one attempts to bring into action, then what kind of value is one which is passive?

The word tolerate belongs to a class of verbs such as sit, sleep, and rest, which do not connote action.

Christianity teaches us that what we do for "the least of these" (those who have the least power) we have done for God. Does one sit for God? Rest for God? Sleep for God? Maybe so, but I would imagine we'd all rather bring some actions to represent us in the Kingdom of Heaven.

It's interesting how when one analyzes Liberal values, they turn out not to be values at all.

What does that tell us?

Dag said...

It is seemingly near impossible to get cross the idea that people are different from each other, whether as individuals or as groups of individuals. People often have no understanding that to promote the idiocy that we are all the same, that everyone is "equal" that we are all one big family is to dehumanize everyone and to belittle them to the point of making them no more significant than ants or bees. Once that's done, then the controlling and then the killing gets easy.If we accept that others, our enemies for example, are not like us, then we can accept them as they are, as genuine and authentic people who demand recognition as themselves rather than as our view of them as caricatures of us.

We are not all the same. Even delirious maniacs know that. It is the intelligent and sophisticated who can convincingly lie to themselves, not the average person, the smart ones who make this hideous mess of our current culture. As 'Peers has pointed out before, intelligence is over-rated.Give us normal people and we'll have a normal world of decent living. Common sense, though some who've come here deride it, is our best solution to our current problem; but to gain it we have to strip away or tear down or perhaps even nuke our encasements in assumptions. Some ordinary clear vision of reality would be a great relief to most of us. Is it likely? No very.

Since you've brought this up I'm going to put in the evening looking again at Julien Benda, The Treason of the Intellectuals.

See you tomorrow.

truepeers said...

Any well-programmed students of the university may not get what Dag is going on about. How can this professor in Florida be denying human differences when she is calling for diversity?

Pastorius' comments about whether diversity is a value helps us understand. A value is something which creates a meaningful difference, a differentiation which helps the community which trades in it become stronger, or more knowledgeable, or more free. In other words "diversity", if it can mean anything, means the outcome of a production and exchange of meaningful and useful differences.

When, however, "diversity" means more than an open-ended expansion of freedom and difference, when it becomes a governing principle to which all bumptious differences must pay obeisance, so that meaningful, and hence offensive to someone, differences can be downplayed in the name of harmony and "diversity", then "diversity" becomes not a value but a denier of value, a scrooge, a naysayer, a control freak.

In other words "diversity" talk is just a great conceit, a way of pretending to be for something that one is not, just as "multiculturalism" is not really about seriously studying and respecting other cultures for what they are, but denying students real means to deeply analyze other cultures, because real understanding entails judging and valuing differences in free exchange.

Anonymous said...

Well that email was a lot of tosh. More or less what I would expect from an overly sensitive VP of student affairs. It could have been shorter and more to the point. “Some Muslim students are pressuring me to make a statement about some movie most people aren’t interested in. Would students please shut the fuck up so I don’t get bothered with this shit again. Diversity. Divisiveness. Misunderstanding. Inclusion. Shut the fuck up. Diversity.”

I’m in favour of making student’s sign waivers before starting classes. Perhaps something like: “The opinions of others may offend you. Because people can be assholes. There are people on campus who may be assholes and who may express opinions that offend you. In this sense, campus is a lot like the rest of the world. Signing below indicates that you understand this fundamental aspect of human existence and will refrain from demanding bureaucratic vengeance if some random asshole offends you.”


truepeers said...

It's a good idea, na.

However, I have to wonder about your interpretation of the motivation behind the letter. Of course we are just guessing, but I would guess that in more cases than not, "diversity" talk is not simply a result of administrators being bothered by complaining students, as it is the articulation of the administrators' own will to power. Remember, all those students who find they can get attention by complaining about some great moral offense eventually reach the point in life where they have to decide how to make a living and how they can turn their student skills to that end. The professoriat has a certain lure to the professional complainer.

Dag said...

N.A., have I mentioned that the coffee's on me if you ever show up for it? Ye, I even offer to pay for the cream and sugar. That's just the kind of guy I am. I'll even sign a waiver if you bring one.

Being here in this rainforest has obviously rusted my mental hinges. Take advantage of it while it lasts.

Charles Henry said...

That's the kind of thoughtful comment that made me admire your writing at CUANAS so much, back when I first found your website so long ago.

I think you are always at your best when you write about faith... I've been thinking about you wrote all evening (not counting the time spent in the meeting, of course...), it's helped me understand something about a co-worker that I never could figure out before. It's given me a new way to think about interacting with them on an issue that's hurting our mutual efforts.

I could probably spend all day trying to make a simple point come out so eloquently, and would fall far short of that mark.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

My son sent me that email on Wednesday night.
I can't help but wonder if Dr. Patricia Telles-Irvin considers the acts of 9/11 to have been offensive in nature.
Personally, I have been waiting for my apology since 9/12...sadly I've heard nothing back yet from the "religion of peace". can bet your bottom dollar that any acts of criticism, or worse, regarding Christianity at UF would be seen as progressive thought and appluaded.
My son wanted to go to Annapolis, when he didn't get the appointment UF was his fall back choice. He knows he is well behind enemy lines up in Gainesville.

truepeers said...

Thanks for the comment, ice. Your son is not alone; many others are going through the same struggle at universities everywhere. Point him towards the conservative blogosphere if he doesn't know about it already; but I'm guessing he probably does.

It seems just possible to me that some day the professors will have to face reality and realize that what allows them the space to be so critical of Christianity is the historical contribution of Christianity itself to secular freedoms. If they keep bowing to the demands of Islamic piety, they may discover they are really Christians at heart.

Anonymous said...


Your point is well taken. This could be an administrator trying to exert authority and enforce an ideological position. I was just struck by the complete banality of the message. It appeared to lack the effort of a true ideological enforcer. It also lacked the nuance of someone who honestly struggled with the issue of censoring debate. The message ends up being a complete mash of shit. For example, open debate inevitably leads to divisiveness because people don’t agree on things. Any condemnation of ‘unnecessary divisiveness’ (and later, simply divisiveness) tells me the author hasn’t thought through the argument in any complex way. She offers some clumsy thoughts on True Islam, which probably indicate an attempt to mollify a sub-section of the Umma that has been gravely offended. No code of conduct or list of school values is ever cited. It comes across as a collection of inanities that will hopefully provide a justification for telling people to shut up.

I understand how you can interpret the letter as the work of an ideological foot-soldier. My money is on this being a case of an administrator shutting down debate to make a problem (righteous complainers and the threat of a bigoted reputation) go away.

All of this being said, the poster slogan (which sounds like a play off of Uncle Sam posters) strikes me as misguided. Killing UoF students really isn’t on radical Islam’s agenda. They’d like to kick the US out of regions they think are their own, overthrow regimes backed by the infidels, enforce a strict moral code domestically, reconquer some old lost land, attain international prestige, and on and on. Taking over America is a pipedream that follows a whole list of more immediate goals. Major terror attacks against America have normally targeted significant symbols of American power. I don’t know of any systematic past plans to kill American university students. Even if we stick to radical Islamist theology (and assume they could take over America), they would probably prefer to rule over a tax-base of compliant non-Muslim rather than kill them. Sure, you can say I’m taking the message too literally, but I do think the discussion of modern Jihadism can do without the lame fear tactics. It looks like the anti-Jihad groups are more interested in provoking campus Muslims than they are honestly studying the issue (which still does not warrant an administative intervention; campus Muslims love provoking their enemies and generally have a free-hand to do so). Then again, these guys are into marketing and mass appeal, which I don’t bother concerning myself with.

[Hmm, perhaps that last paragraph will cost me my cream and sugar privileges.]


Dag said...

Phttt! Sputter! Why you! I'll kill ten innocent bystanders for that remark!

But then again, once I'm over that the cream and sugar still stand. Why? Well, it's a good response; and even though I didn't make I still appreciate it. A few additions on my part, though I don't take them as literal or generally applicable to the Ummah here (in America, as it were,)or universally.

Jihad attack at UNC-Chapel Hill

Jihad Watch, March 3, 2006:

"Jihad attack at UNC-Chapel Hill."

"It turns out that the driver of an SUV who injured several students at my alma mater, UNC-Chapel Hill, earlier today was taking revenge for the "treatment of Muslims around the world." Perhaps eventually Mohammed Reva Taheriazar will explain how the students he injured actually treat Muslims around the world."

(03/03/06 -- CHAPEL HILL) - The driver of an SUV that plowed into a group of pedestrians at UNC-Chapel Hill on Friday told police it was retribution for the treatment of Muslims around the world, according to ABC News.

It happened around noon Friday in front of Lenoir Hall on the campus, in a common area known as the Pit. Paramedics took six people to UNC Hospitals. Five had been released by Friday evening and the sixth was not expected to be admitted.

Officials say none of the people were seriously injured. Three refused treatment at the scene.

Chopper 11 shows the accident scene near The Pit at UNC-CH.
Chapel Hill police say they arrested the suspect, Mohammed Reva Taheriazar, 23, of Chapel Hill, shortly after the incident. Several witnesses were able to give police the rented Jeep Cherokee's license plate number. Police said they would charge Taheriazar, a psychology major who graduated from UNC last semester, with several counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill.

Link to terrorism?

Sources say Taheriazar told police he was seeking retribution for the treatment of Muslims around the world, according to ABC News justice correspondent Pierre Thomas. Taheriazar apparently told police he tried to rent the biggest SUV he could find to use in the attack.

By Friday afternoon, a police SWAT team had surrounded a Carrboro apartment complex where Taheriazar reportedly lived."

And then there's CAIR {Quicky wikipedia quotations):

"Islam isn't in America to be equal to any other faith but to become dominant. The Koran, the Muslim book of scripture, should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on Earth."

Omar M. Ahmad, Chairman of the Board, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), at the Islamic Conference in Freemont, California, July 1998. American Muslim leader urges faithful to spread Islam's message, Lisa Gardliner, San Ramon Valley Herald, July 4, 1998. Should Muslim Quran be USA's top authority?, Art Moore, WorldNetDaily, May 1, 2003.

"Every Muslim, from the moment they realize the distinction in their hearts, hates Americans, hates Jews and hates Christians. For as long as I can remember, I have felt tormented and at war, and have felt hatred and animosity for Americans."

Osama bin Laden As quoted in Messages to the World: The Statements of Osama bin Laden (2005) by Bruce Lawrence.

Then again, since I keep offering to pay out a substantial amount of hard cash to buy you a cup of coffee and you never show up, let's reverse things so you can buy me coffee, and then you might feel obligated to come and prove your Human decency.

And maybe we might like to meet you for conversation anyway. I take my coffee black so it's even more tempting for you.

truepeers said...


frankly, i think the fear tactics are entirely appropriate, although maybe not for the reasons the fear mongers, or the Jihadis, intend.

It seems to me radical Muslims could not be happy with anything like the present global economic and political system, which relies on a good deal of freedoms that run counter to Sharia. It's quite clear the Jihadis of the bin Laden and Taleban variety want to destroy the global economic and security system. This system presently feeds 6 billion plus people. So how many have to die to realize the fundamentalist ideal of a return to a medieval Caliphate-led economic and "scientific" order?

Many billions, I presume. So it is fair to say they want (most of) us dead, even if we have to haggle over the particular meaning of "want" in this case.

Having said that, I would agree with you that there are probably Jihadis trying to figure out how to keep the infidels working and producing the kind of wealth we presently produce, so that they can tax it and live like the coddled harem lords many of the men dream of being. The thing is, there is really no way of bringing together our present systems for producing wealth and innovation with anything like Sharia or widespread polygamy. So it's just another fantasy ideology of the kind that will lead, if seriously attempted, to many millions and probably billions of deaths. No coffee for you, or Dag, of most anyone else.

Dag said...

I know of accounts from survivors of bombings who say such as "She came and chatted at the door with the man inside and even smiled at the children before leaving the package with them." J. LaCarre fictionalized such an encounter, and though his is in a novel it's an account of a real incident. Most of us wonder, or we don't wonder at all, we just shudder and sicken, when we encounter even in fiction a person who would smile and laugh and play with people the murderer knows he or she is going to kill. It's a sick thing that most of us cannot begin to grapple with because it is too sick in the mind for us to deal with.

Having written that, I have met some such people who will and did and do kill without a hint of remorse or even of hatred toward the people they kill. I met one young man who was so effeminate it was embarrassing to look at him, a man who spoke calmly of killing Israelis he had spoken with and perhaps even liked right up till the moment he killed them. Insane? I have no idea. I cannot fathom it. Like most, I live in an immediate world of reality; but some live in a world of ...I don't know what; and they act in ways I cannot understand, being so far from Human that they scare me and make me lethal. But for me it's personal. I don't see masses of evil beings somewhere out there. I see real faces of people I know and have known. They are some of them decent and ordinary and worthy. Muslims. And then sometimes they go crazy, wild in the mind, smiling and effeminate and embarrassing, and they kill. They are not like us. We can't say they are and remain honest. They are not like us. Who are "they"? I don't know. But I know they exist aplenty in the world of Islam, and that they do not care how many abstract beings die for whatever reason or no reason or the wind is from the West. They kill, and they are not like us. They kill, and they kill for a reason beyond me entirely. They will kill a billion or ten billion or everyone. You might talk to them and perhaps enjoy their company, and they might be nice and then they'll suddenly try to kill you or someone else. People don't matter at all to such as these. Not one person or a billion. It's all the same. It's all nothing. Many Muslims live in a trance. They're not like us.

I don't really care what people think I think about Muslims. I lived among them for a few years and I know some and liked some and disliked some and had relations of various sorts with many. I harbor no general ill-will toward Muslims because I know they are Human like anyone else; and it is that which demands of me that I do whatever I can in my own ridiculous ways to keep them alive if I can. I do not want to see a billion or more Muslims dead because they have provoked the world into killing them at random on a global scale. That would leave us as worse than the Nazis most of hate so intensely. It's not then just a matter of saving innocent Muslims but saving our own souls as well.

I can see it now as I type that there are many, and so many that others likely cannot imagine it, who would smile at us and then kill us all without a thought. We are not dealing with rational and normal people. They are not like us, and to pretend we are all alike is to dismiss the uniqueness of others for the sake of our own intellectual vanities. I can see people I know dying because some pretentious idiots intimidate the masses into silence till the masses someday explode and kill at random. We cannot rightly allow madmen to continue till we are provoked to exterminate them. We can't let our own stop us from stopping the mad. It's murder. We must do something to ensure that reason prevails even if we come out looking like bullies and racists and whatever-the-fuck.

We assume that everyone universally wishes for the same general idea of creature comforts, of social life, of security for their children, and so on. Well, that's not true. Some people, and some cultures, are insane. They don't want good and ease and happiness or security. They want death. And you won't know they're insane till they show you they are. Then you'll know they are not like us.

How is it possible that some large groups of people are fundamentally different from others? I have no clue. But I am certain that individuals can be made more or less acceptable if they have a culture controlled by the strong, for good or ill. One cannot reason with crazy people who will kill out of the blue. Muslims will do that. They will smile and laugh and then try to kill you. Not all, not some all the time. But many too often while others don't notice it's unacceptable. The culture of Islam makes peope insane. They are entranced and seem not to be able to see it for themselves.

I don't want to kill these people. Some are personal acquaintances, some are just faces in the crowd; but regardless, I don't want to kill them. We have to accept that some are not like us and that we cannot reason with them. We can't delude ourselves by thinking we should be nicer to them and that they will then like us and be reasonable. Sometimes compassion sucks, and sometimes it literally blows-- up.

What do we do? Well, I don't know. I think I just might go out and join a lunatic church of Bible thumping Gospel singers. Maybe it'll be me and you and some others and a few billion people on top of us who'll say, "Hey, we can't let this continue with the Muslims." Maybe a few billion more Right wing Christian bigots like me can say we've had it with sanctimonious philistine's criticizing us for intolerance of others. Maybe billions of us can put our feet down with some united force and make the Muslims stop the provocation. Tolerance is getting us nowhere we want to be.

Divisiveness? Yeah, let's divide ourselves from the lunatics and see ourselves as real Human beings with some reason and decency behind our smiling faces. Let's hang some of the genuine bad guys right there in the streets for everyone to see and then let's say right out loud, "No more crazy shit. That's over." I've seen it work. It takes a real shock to bring people out of the trance they live in. And then it takes some reminders. Maybe in a hundred years we can play at compassion again without too much concern. But not now. Not anymore in this lifetime for us. Compassion without sense is going to kill a lot of people, and I don't want anything to do with it. I don't think you do either. But what are you going to do?

truepeers said...

Dag, if we are to do something, we first have to develop a discipline (pragmatic, not compassionate) appropriate to the task. As you say, our current "intellectual" elites contribute next to nothing to this need, as do the angry masses of the "counter-Jihad" blogs.

This task will entail engaging the Muslim world, and finding out - through all manner of pragmatic tests - who we can trust and who we can't, helping some and not others: in short, shaping a civil war within Islam in a way that allows the better parties to win out and that allows us to slowly develop minds and cultures in the process. It won't be anything perfect, no final solution to the Islam problem, but perfection is not what sane people want. We just want to feel we are shaping things in a positive direction, starting to change what can't be changed over night.

If we are going to help think through the basis of a discipline appropriate to engaging Muslims, we have to move beyond the pieties and the dancing around the pc, etc. You appreciate this, and yet you are still confused about basic terminology. For example, you start by saying you don't know if Muslims are insane and then you say they are... you don't care what people think of you (you should care) and then you show you do care because you are fighting over what you can and can't say...

It's all too pc to wail about over-generalization. But there is a point to it: if we are going to engage Muslims to avoid the nightmare scenario you envision, we need some way of differentiating friends and foes, those with whom we can ally to various pragmatic ends, and those who are too far gone into the apocalyptic and Utopian "trance" to trust for even a minute. We need to imagine all kinds of lines and boundaries which we will defend (e.g. absolute defense of apostates), without making it all about Islam, without trying to have the final or comprehensive word on what that is, or has been, or could be. To hell with Islam, let's imagine ourselves not here in cyberspace, but on the ground, doing something in the ME. Is our first question, "are you a Muslim- can I trust you?" or is our first question trying to get them to show you something more pragmatic: show me that you are human and not insane, show me that you want to fight the crazy people...

You write as if we can't ever know whom we can trust among Muslims. If we start with that, then it seems we have no choice but to move towards the apocalyptic scenario.

Dag said...

I think you argue for a reformable Islam, which I argue does not and cannot exist if it is Islam per se. Islam is Irrationalism, and if we strip that from Islam so we can engage in rational discussion or reform so it is compatible with Modernity or even with trailer-court living, then it will not be Islam, it will be something else. To see the world as something one must accommodate is to cease being a Muslim. To accept the equality of others non-Muslim is to cease being a Muslim, and to cease to wage war and to decide to end hostilities against all others is to cease being Muslim. In which case, we are not dealing with Muslims but with others. To say my definition of Muslim is too narrow is to miss the point of what a Muslim is. A Muslim is one who submits to the will of Allah, at the least, and from there the better Muslim is the one who submits and practices set rituals to the nth degree. The more reasonable and accommodating a Muslim is, the less Muslim he is till he is not Muslim at all. He might identify himself as a Muslim and he might be seen by others outside Islam as a Muslim, but he is not a Muslim in any genuine sense. He is merely saying so with no reason other than past practice or self-delusion. "Islam is a total way of life." It is so for each and every Muslim, and there are no exceptions. That is the definition of Muslim, one who is a Muslim. One cannot submit to the absolute will of Allah and also accept accommodation with Rationality and still be a Muslim. To think the world of Man is not so black and white is to miss the point of Islam. One is absolutely Islamic or one is not at all. To question Islam at all is to be an apostate. We can deal rationally with apostates but they are not Muslims. They are apostates who were Muslims.

I don't decide who is or who is not a Muslim. Muslims do that and I follow from them. If a Muslim were to ask how I can be the one who decides who is and who isn't a Muslim, I have to respond by saying I decide on the basis of how legitimate Muslims decide. A Muslim who questions the absolute will of Allah is not a Muslim. Allah's will is that Muslims will rule the world till there is no other religion but Islam. It means that any genuine Muslim will wage war or support war forever against non-Muslims forever till there is only Islam in the world. I can't argue with that, and no Muslim can argue with that, so there is no argument to be had. I don't care if people are Muslims. My concern it that in being a Muslim one is required to wage war forever against all non-Muslims. It is what a Muslim must do rather than what a Muslim believes that concerns me. Islam is a total way of life, not just according to Qutb and al-Banna but according to Islam itself. There is no hollow man in Islam. And to negotiate with those who claim to be Muslims who in effect are not Muslims is to negotiate with non-Muslims who have no authority in the world of Islam. To negotiate with a Muslim is to negotiate with a person who has no authority to negotiate anything other than hudna at best, a temporary truce till he is strong enough to attack. It's a totalitarianism for a good reason: it is total. Any Muslim who will negotiate in good faith is not a Muslim. He is something else. who can we trust? A non-Muslim. An apostate, a Christian, an atheist, anyone but a Muslim. There's simply no room for maneuver in the mind of a Muslim.

I find no reason for being personally obnoxious and I try to be pleasant for the most part as an individual; but when it comes to public life, then the gloves must come off and we have to fight to win, regardless of how we seem to others, obnoxious or not, because the stakes are high, the loss is incomprehensibly terrible. We must do what must be done to save those who cannot save themselves, even if we look bad in the doing of it. No time here for sentimentality and hand-wringing and posing. Muslims, as genuine Muslims, cannot be reasoned with. Are they insane? I don't know what that is, but at an intuitive level I know it's far different from what most harmless people are, and Muslims don't qualify as the latter. If being a Muslim is not to be insane I don't know of a better term to describe what seems to be insanity. Maybe Muslims are not insane, but I don't know how else to term such behaviour in the real world. Normally I wouldn't care because people's personal live s are not my business-- till they become violent world-threatening menaces. Then, "they must be insane!"

What do we do? We can start saying "They must be crazy!" We can tart by not accepting Islam as a reasonable mind-set. We can be objective and accept that to be a Muslim is to entrance oneself and live thereafter in a fog of triumphalism and hatred, whether one lives it at a high or a low level. We can cease or delusion that those who are Muslim live in the same mental universe with other people. They do not. They live in a made trance, one made over and over, five times per day at prayer, and cemented in daily life minute by minute in the culture of Islam. Islam is pervasive and it is profound and it is nearly inescapable even for those not Muslim themselves. To deal with it, to break the trance, requires force.

Not all Muslims are entranced. Look at the Battle of Omdurman, Sudan. All accounts I've read show clearly that of the thousands who died that day and the few days after died willingly, Sufis in a mad state, or whatever term is scientific enough to describe it. Not all were in the trance that sent thousands to death over the course of a matter of hours. Some few, perhaps only in the hundreds, were not entranced, and they were, as I read it, merchants who had shops in the city to return to. Families, farms, palaces, nothing kept back the masses from death but a shop that made a profit. The daily here and now of making money kept some few alive. Islam sent perhaps as many as 60 thousand to death for nothing but fanaticism and indulgence of the trance of Islamic death worship. That is the rational response to Islam, like it or not. It doesn't matter if it looks good. Rational living requires a here and now realism in the here and now. The Uri Gellers among us can mentally bend the spoons of culture all we like but the rest of us will have to use our bare hands to make the world of Islam cease its madness and violence. In our current sentimentalist culture of crying in public in front of cameras on television the suggestion of the use of force is a bad thing. I don't care if I look bad in the watery eyes of fools. Practical and pragmatic requires the hard fact of violent forceful intervention to save those who can be saved. Most Muslims, entranced or not, will follow most Muslims even unto death. We, if we are rational, must prevent the leaders from organizing that charge into our arms. We cannot reason with them because if we can they are not the ones leading the charge.

Even the most "moderate" Muslim is imbued with Islam of the most violent hue. Even those who rage against Islam are still deeply committed to Islam at a level that goes beyond any Reason. I too am reflexively caught up in my past, a committed Christian in spite of my utter disbelief in any Jesus here or then or whatever. There is no escaping my innate Christianity. I will never be anything other, nor will the most fanatical apostate Muslim ever be a non-Muslim in this lifetime. He will always be an apostate, never a person of a different sort. Thus, the best one can do is prevent the crushing totalitarianism of Islam on the one who choose to ignore that which is innate. To give that freedom is to allow for the net generation to live with some greater freedom fro the past of Islam. Islam will never wholly disappear from the Human experience now any more than my pagan traces will. Aesir and Vanir are still in the blood, lapsed Christian or no. So it will be with Islam. There is only the immediate prevention of extermination for us to consider. We might dilute Islam over the millenia but for now our duty is to savage the leadership of immediately threatening Islam and stop the incitement to murder as the Muslims are whipped into suicidal frenzies. It is unreasonable to think we can reason with Muslims. We cannot. Those with whom we can reason are not genuine and legitimate Muslims. They are something else and they have little place in this debate.

truepeers said...

Dag, we're not that far apart. Your conclusion suggests pragmatism, notwithstanding your absolutist model of Islam.

But you *are* presuming to define Islam as something absolute and unique. You say you are only listening to what proper Muslims say, but then you are listening to those you think are interpreting the texts correctly. To live by the will of Allah will always take some interpreting.

A satisfactory interpretation of Islam by an outsider should entail an appreciation of a range of ways "Muslims" interpret Islam, balanced with your the outsider's own way of objectifying the phenomenon through comparative religion and a sense, anthropologically, of what is and is not possible, what kind of religion is fantasy and what not..

There can be no such thing as a perfect ritual order, defining a "total way of life" because no ritual can determine the outcomes of inevitable human conflicts that it sets in motion. Muslims do live in history, even if they are not aware of it. And history shapes Islam.

Having said that, you may be right that most Muslims can't be negotiated with, that the desire for supremacism will always be there. And we do have to be prepared to act accordingly. But what does it gain us to begin with the assumption that this must always, forever, be true? What do we gain from assuming that the Irshad Manjis, or simply the pragmatic Musharrafs, or the Westernized Benazir Bhuttos, or the more secular Algerians, can never make any significant headway because they are not real Muslims? If we start with this assumption we tell ourselves a lie about human nature, we tell ourselves the lie that there is such a thing as a ritual order that cannot be eroded.

Maybe I am calling for reform, maybe I am calling for negotiation, or maybe I am calling for the ending of Islam. I don't know. That's not for me to decide. It all depends how Muslims respond to pragmatic choices I would like to put to them, if I were a political leader in the West...

No matter how much most Muslims want to live in a trance, those who are generally interested in political power have to live, and always have lived, in a world of rational calculations. No system/leader can be totally totalitarian and survive. The entire history of Islam is a back and forth between pragmatists/decadent enjoyers of life's pleasures, and fundamentalist passion. Islam cannot be the kind of Islam you think real Islam is, for any length of time. That is a fantasy ideology. And for people who want to live with other people in the modern world, they can't ever be the kind of Muslim you say a true Muslim must be. So why do we have to tell all the "apostates" they are not really "Muslims" like they think they are? Why not let them "deceive" themselves and inherit the future as modern Muslims who will slowly give up the fantasy supremacism, while we deal harshly with the rest?

SO, we don't negotiate with"Islam" as you define it; we simply negotiate with those "muslims" who show signs of being rational.

Why are people so insistent on having models of reality and insisting that we must act accordingly, as if the acting would never compromise the model? Since we know, or should, that no model of reality can forever survive our knowledge of it, why don't we develop a new way of thinking into the future, one less reliant on definitions...?

It should be clear that we have to defend basic lines (without over defining them) that make the West what the West is, such as the separation of church and state. That kind of thing comes first, and we just don't listen to anyone who says, well that's not compatible with my religion. Well tough. And, after it's clear that certain points are non-negotiable for us, then if someone still wants to call himself a "muslim" and as long as he shows no support for Jihad, can we live with that person, rather than killing them all?

I'm not arguing against the use of force. I'm not arguing for sentimentalism. I'm asking how we can conceive the rational use of force... And that implies there will be someone to negotiate with about our use of force...

I'd like to go into this more, but I don't have time now... social obligation...

Anonymous said...

Here is an update of sorts to this issue from Patricia Telles-Irvin.
My son forwarded her email to me yesterday, and I thought there might be an interest in it here.

Ms.Patricia Telles-Irvin seems to be backpedaling just a bit here. Maybe her first email generated just a bit more attention than was expected.

To: All UF students

From: Patricia Telles-Irvin, Vice President for Student Affairs

Subject: My e-mail last week

There has been much discussion about an e-mail I sent Nov. 26 regarding the posters advertising the movie "Obsession."

Since that time, some important dialogue has been exchanged between
members of the student groups involved. But over the last week, there has been some misunderstanding on the university's position on certain points.
Please allow me to clarify.

* The university supports the rights of students to freely express themselves on any issue.

* The university condemns terrorists acts and those who perpetrate them, regardless of who they are. And we clearly recognize there are people who use Islam to support violence.

* The university has no intention of taking disciplinary action against anyone involved in creating or distributing the posters. That was never a consideration.

* The university has heard allegations that the posters were removed by people who opposed their message. Efforts by the University Police Department and Student Affairs to confirm this or identify offenders were unsuccessful. Removal of posters from proper venues is prohibited by the university's policies and will not be tolerated.

The original intent of my e-mail was to foster greater understanding and communication among groups. As we all surely know, free speech is a cherished right not only in this country but also on this campus. We
should always feel comfortable expressing our diverse opinions.

Dag said...

There's my chuckle for the day.

I've written here a number of times that we need "permission" to contradict the dominant narrative of the time, and that we need a "shield" if try to do so without it. In this particular case, both things are apparent: That people feel they do have the permission from their peers and community to speak out against folly and outrage in public; and that they will not be shattered by doing so because they are now protected by the weight of public scrutiny, as it were. No longer can a minor apparatchik spew the ordinary Party line unchallenged.

No longer? ell, of course I indulge in another chuckle. But the times they are a'changin'.

truepeers said...

Thanks for that ice. I'll post something in a little while about it...

Anonymous said...

This whole "event" seems to be dying a slow and tortured death much to the displeasure of the esteemed Dr. Patricia Telles-Irvin.
It now seems the actions of the esteemed Dr. did not go unnoticed in the office of the Attorney General for the State of Florida. Dr. Telles-Irvin follow up email, which I posted here, was a backpedaling attempt to cover her six after she was informed that she "might have violated students' free speech rights with her Nov. 26 letter condemning the film's posters" by the AG. Seems the hunter may now be the hunted, ain't that a shame.
Read the two links below for the whole story. If desired I'll keep you informed if the good Dr. is sent packing.

Gainesville Sun article:

St. Petersburg Times:

Note- both news outlets referenced are very liberal and no doubt support the good Dr., the saving grace here is the state gov. of Florida is mostly Conservative and dominated by republican elected officials.

Dag said...

Ice, when Ms. Hyphen gets her severance I would love to know about it.

I looked at the links you include. The Lefty letters to the ST. P Times are likely typical of the readership you mention there, so it's good to see in print that not everyone is intimidated by these lunatics. It's encouraging to see the media having to show that they are not in total control.

I look forward to the day you send us an up-date showing the whole lot of them are on the unemployment roll.