31 August 2005

Disaster Porn and Other Bad News

Well, it took Hurricane Katrina, a major national disaster to knock the US 24-hour news spin cycle off Cindy Sheehan. I sympathize with Cindy's pain, and pity her psychopathology, but to me, she is the poster child for everything the Bastard Jihad says about America and the West regarding our hypersensitivity to casualties, our lack of memory and logic, and our lack of will to win. Spinning 24-hours per day on her may have been a way for our desperate national media outlets to fill air time until something more noteworthy came along. But it also gave comfort to our enemies, and in that, it was thoughtless and irresponsible at the very least.

What isn't making the news about Hurricane Katrina is that this is a real test of the fledgling National Incident Management System (NIMS). So far, it looks like there are a lot of bugs to work out of it. Instead of sober reporting covering and evaluating the local, state, and natiional responses (and usual lack of international response) to the disaster, the media fills our screens with "human interest" stories and graphic images of destruction. The same scenes can be replayed many times in a single day, or even a single hour, with almost no increase in information. It's a kind of disaster pornography instead of hard news.

Meanwhile, as Shiite Muslims gather for Ashura, they are betrayed by occasional Sunni Muslim sympathizers with the Bastard Jihad. Some of these sympathizers have actually handed out traditional tea and sweets to the Shiite pilgrims, but with poison in them. And a stampede on a bridge in Baghdad triggered by rumors of a suicide bomber in their midst has cost the lives of more than 600 pilgrims. That's many times more casualties that could have been caused by an actual suicide bomber.

That's the bad news. The Good News is that death and destruction are not the last Word. It's just the word for today.

So turn off all thoughts about tomorrow and get as good a night's sleep as you can. "Sufficient unto this day is the evil thereof," said Jesus, a 1st century Palestinian Jew, whom Christians regard as the Messiah, and whom Muslims regard as the Prophet Issa.

17 August 2005


Occidentalism, by Ian Buruma and Avishai Margalit describes not so much a worldview, but a multifaceted prejudice against the West and Westerners. Occidentalists believe that Western ideas, including liberal democracy and capitalism, are inherently dehumanizing, and have already dehumanized Westerners to the point where they are less than human. Some Occidentalists are violent, like al-Qaeda. Some are Westerners themselves, engaging in nihilistic self-loathing. Indeed Buruma and Margalit trace the literary roots of Occidentalism to the West itself, particularly German Romanticism and its toxic offshoots, National Socalism (Nazism) and Marxism.

They quote Wagner, who stated that the dangerous, seductive Venusberg in his opera Tannhauser, "stands for 'Paris, Europe, the West': that frivolous, commercialized and corrupt world in which 'freedom and also alienation' are more advanced than in our 'provincial Germany with its comfortable backwardness.'" (p22)

Thus Occidentalism is anti-urban (specifically anti-Western urban - the West did not invent the city), but "far from being the dogma favored by downtrodden peasants, Occidentalism more often reflects the fears and prejudices of urban intellectuals, who feel displaced in a world of mass commerce." This is because "in an Americanized society, dominated by commercial culture, the place of philosophers and literati was marginal at best." (p34)

Now, however, "most devout Muslims are not political Islamists so much as advocates of enforcing public morality. They yearn for what they see as the traditional way of life, with they identify with Islam. Even if they have little idea what the ideal islamic state should look like, they care deeply about sexual mores, corruption, and traditional family life. Islam, to the believers, is the only source and guardian of traditional collective morality. And sexual morality is largely about women, about regulating female behavior. This is so because a man's honor is dependent on the behavior of the women related to him. The issue of women is not marginal; it lies at the heart of Islamic Occidentalism." (p128)

So what we have here is a prejudice against the West, which received its first expressions in the West itself. These expressions were adopted for use against the West by those who hated it, and elaborated by various non-Westerners to suit their situations. The most news-grabbing current form of Occidentalism is what I call the Bastard Jihad, which mis-identifies Islam with the pre-Islamic honor/shame cultures in which Islam took root. The role of women in these societies comes more from the honor/shame focus of these societies, which limited the liberation of women that Islam had begun.

Some in these societies feel their religion under mortal threat from Globalization (which they see as Westernization), but their religion is secure. Islam transcends culture and will survive and prosper in any case. Even their cultures will survive. It is only the honor/shame orientation of their cultures that will not withstand the onslaught of Globalization.

Well, good riddance to it. As I have stated elsewhere, Islam already transcends honor/shame morality, because it is theologically impossible to humiliate a Muslim. Yet, the rhetoric of humiliation, based on honor/shame cultures, is what the Bastard Jihad uses to whip up the hatred it needs to motivate its cannon fodder. It's not just an abomination, it's a shame.

04 August 2005

Hiroshima Remembered

This Saturday will be the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, by the United States of America. Given the state of education in the US and the wider world, one wonders how many people realize that the attack was not unprovoked - that the attack was part of a tactic to avoid a massive invasion of the Japan and the horrendous casualties such an invasion would have cost to both to the US and Allied Forces, as well as to the Japanese military and civilian population. That the attack ended World War II. That the Empire of Japan had invaded and butchered its neighbors, and had executed a devastating pre-emptive air strike against the US Navy at Pearl Harbor 3 1/2 years earlier, in order to prevent tue US from interfering with its war in the Pacific. That Japan was so prepared to fight to the finish that it took two atomic bombings to convince their leadership to give up. That anything less that Unconditional Surrender would have been immoral, after what Japan had done to its neighbors, because anything less than unconditional surrender would have failed to dismantle the leadership that made that war.

And now, with hindsight, one wonders whether an invasion followed by an occupation would have led to an insurgency. Perhaps the atomic bombing led the Japanese to believe that if they tried an insurgency, the occupiers would simply have withdrawn and resumed atomic bombing.

Still, there is the realization on the part of those who developed the bombs, especially Leo Szilard, that had the US lost some subsequent major conflict, those who had much to do with the atomic bombing of Japan might have been tried for war crimes. See his short story, "My Trial as a War Criminal," in The Voice of the Dolphins, Stanford University Press, 1961.

That is to say, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and, some days later, Nagasaki, were evil in both their intent and their effects. It's just that they were less evil than the alternatives. May their like not ever happen again to any people.