This is Week 2, day 5 of my new 13 Weeks Radical Reading Experiment. I keep a daily journal of the most interesting media that crosses my path each day. See or create something I should check out? Email me at DaveSwindlePJM@gmail.com
Last year I started experimenting with Instagram. Inspired by PJM columnist Zombie I decided to create an account to A) confuse the hell out of people, B) stir up trouble, and C) explore the truth of what people believe in the world today without the baggage of my existing politically incorrect identity clouding how they addressed me.
As with Zombie, with “Thoth and Ma’at Married” people can’t even tell if I’m a man or woman — the handle includes the names of both male and female Egyptian deities of writing (and thus serves as my stealth so-con way of promoting marriage too). They likewise can’t tell at first glance what my religion, politics, or philosophy are. I use the account to engage with people all across the spectrum of cultures and ideas to try to learn more about where their values come from and how they think. On January 10, one of the atheists that I follow posted a photo in which he asked for anyone to ask him his opinion about anything. I asked which side he supported in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Here’s the exchange that followed and the revealing admission from an atheist about where he really learned right from wrong in our pop culture-dominated world today:
So he simultaneously admits he knows nothing but expresses his preset ideological opinion that the governments are driven by money and the militaries by primitivism.
Here’s when I drop my counterculture conservative provocation, defining the evil in the issue and then seeing how he or any of his followers choose to react to the facts:
Did my provocation catch any fish? Yes, two revealing responses. The first a somewhat innocent, naive idealist, and the second doubting my facts.
One thing that I’ve learned in these exchanges over the years is to try to cut to the key points you want to make. Don’t go on and on. Just give the link and state your idea. Over-writing is a sign that you’re not confident in what you’re saying.
Here’s where I pose the question that really matters to me for my research and writing: if you’re an atheist, from where do you get your values? I then offer a number of possibilities. Usually I’ll try to throw out five or six, here just three:
Sounds like a good punk rock song title, doesn’t it? “Let Me Stab to Be Corrected.” This is a much more cordial exchange than many that I have with more hostile secularists. But then again, with this particular meme it allowed for more of a thoughtful discussion. Perhaps I should start experimenting with using “Ask My Opinion” and “Ask Anything” type images to fish for more interesting questions…
I’ve found that one of the easiest ways to remind atheists that there are multiple ways of reading the Bible is to start talking about Maimonides. See Douglas Rushkoff’s Nothing Sacred: The Truth About Judaism for the accessible introduction that turned me on to the Rambam not just as a Jewish theologian, but as a foundational thinker of Western civilization and one of the inspirers of the Renaissance, Enlightenment, and the founding of America.
And here’s where I got the kind of off-hand, not-even-thinking-about-it, honest admission that I look for when engaging in these kinds of exchanges:
It’s hard for me to pinpoint with as much precision as @isaac_of_portage just which specific pop culture properties most influenced my values and understanding of good and evil. There are just so many from Star Wars to Super Mario to the Disney canon which shaped my childhood and initial adolescence much more than the irregular church attendance in mushy Methodism.
Though, as I mentioned in the exchange, seeing Schindler’s List in seventh grade — amidst the controversy of it being broadcast uncensored, commercial-free on NBC — did psychologically scar me somehow. But it’s a way that I needed to be scarred — it was one of the big beginning-to-wake-up-to-evil moments that would take a long time to process. Throughout my life in my obsessions with movies, books, comics, and video games, I understand that I’ve been influenced both for the good and the bad. Some pop culture properties derive from the foundational stories and myths of Western civilization, others are reinventions of the primitive, pre-modern death cults which one needs to understand in order to make much sense of the first five books of the Bible. (I’ve found from years of these kinds of exchanges that many secularists misinterpret the Bible to such an extent that they end up taking the side of the Egyptians and Canaanites, not realizing just what the ancient Hebrews were rebelling against — nature worship, human sacrifice and temple prostitution.)
So when I talk about Pop Culture Polytheism, I don’t do so with complete condemnation, because it is a religion that I have practiced to one degree or another all my life and still do to a lesser, more controlled extent today. Pop culture polytheists are those who use pop culture properties as substitutes – or supplements — to religion. You can be a Christian, Jew, Buddhist, secular humanist, etc. first and a pop culture polytheist second — many people are, more should be.
When pop culture is understood as a tool for us to better understand and engage with the world then it’s useful and valuable. When it’s held up as how we should model ourselves, when the figures dancing across the screen become like the gods on Mount Olympus, then we’ve got a problem. And that’s what we have to face and confront today. Pop culture polytheism can be a wonderful thing — my wife and I bond deeply over our shared Disney and Star Trek enthusiasms — but it is only a toolbox, not a foundation upon which to build a life. So in keeping with my third New Year’s resolution…
10 Headlines from Around the Web this Week
Starting With 6 Pop Culture Polytheist Idols of the Age
This is of course something that West has inspired since posing as Jesus on the cover of Rolling Stone. He put out the magick spell of himself as the Messiah and others took him up on his offer.
2. Jessica Winter at Slate: Did Woody Allen Molest His Adopted Daughter 22 Years Ago?
In November,Vanity Fair published Maureen Orth’s revisitation of the Allen-Farrow scandal, including the first-ever media interview with Dylan. The interview was a bombshell: Dylan (who now uses a different name) did not waver from the story she told at age 7 about Allen molesting and sexually assaulting her in the attic of her mother’s home in Connecticut, on Aug. 4, 1992. On her side is her brother, media-star-in-the-making Ronan Farrow. After Allen received a lifetime-achievement award at last Sunday’s Golden Globes ceremony,Ronan tweeted, “Missed the Woody Allen tribute—did they put the part where a woman publicly confirmed he molested her at age 7 before or after Annie Hall?”
So what should an outside observer make of the Allen-Farrow debacle, two decades after the fact?
In his June 1993 ruling, Wilk also denied Allen any visitation rights with Dylan or his older adopted child with Farrow, 15-year-old Moses. In May 1994, in a hearing considering custody or increased visitation for Allen, the Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court cited a “clear consensus” among psychiatric experts involved in the case that Allen’s “interest in Dylan was abnormally intense.”
Popular culture celebrates criminality — both on screen and off. Someday a lot of people are going to be very ashamed that they gave Allen the benefit of the doubt for all these years. I suspect that some day we’ll have a better idea of the full extent of the truth. If Allen is who his accusers claim he is then eventually more victims will emerge. And too many to be denied.
But will anybody care? They still listen to Michael Jackson songs, don’t they?
Why does Martin Scorsese have to keep remaking the same movie about violent, sex-obsessed, macho jerks over and over again?
But you should also know her as YOUR NEW FASHION IDOL AND A GODDESS WALKING AMONGST US.
5. …but also oozes goddess in this sleek, formfitting little black dress.
So is it her fashion sense that’s being worshiped or her skin color?
5. Andrew Johnson at National Review: ABC Swoons: 50 Ways to Celebrate Michelle Obama’s Birthday
In preparation for the first lady’s 50th birthday on Saturday, ABC News hasserved up a fawning list 50 ways to celebrate the occasion.
It highlights Michelle Obama’s most memorable and glamorous moments. Below, ten examples from the list, which you can read in full here:
Dance to Beyonce
Move into a massive new house with your family and invite your mother to move in too
Make the cover of Vogue
Buy a Jason Wu dress
Hang out with your friend, Oprah
There are no winners here. Anna Wintour put Lena Dunham on the cover of Vogue, and Photoshopped out all the physical imperfections that make Dunham, y’know, a human being. Meanwhile, Jezebel offered $10,000 for the untouched photos, and within “two hours of offering [the money], [they] received six allegedly unaltered images.” But not without controversy: Brooklyn Magazine perhaps put it best, or at least the most succinct, with the headline, “Jezebel Offers $10,000 For Unretouched Lena Dunham Photos from Vogue; So, F*ck You Jezebel.”
The high priorities of the leading third wave feminist publication today.
Last night The Wife and I watched the first two episodes of the new season. What struck me as very awkward during the sex scenes is that with the new short haircut and her insistence on displaying her body she honestly looks more boyish than feminine. So these supposedly heterosexual scenes end up having this creepy homoerotic undertone to them. Hannah doesn’t look or behave like a mature woman; in both instances she’s a teenage boy. I knew too many Hannahs in college. She unfortunately is a voice of a generation.
That’s really the nature of the show and of many secular millennial pop culture polytheists: today’s politically correct ideology has pushed girls to aspire to be more masculine and men to be more feminine. In a bigger expression it’s what we see in Michelle Obama and Valerie Jarrett making the big decisions while hapless, wimpy Barack Obama goes out to whine that his approval ratings are tanking because people just don’t like the idea of a black president.
The death of Nelson Mandela has been the occasion for a great deal of self-righteous preening. Barack Obama cribbed from Edwin M. Stanton in his statement, declaring that Mandela “belongs to the ages,” but CNN helpfully recalled more original words from Obama about Mandela from 2010, in which he laid claim to the great man’s mantle:
Through his choices, Mandela made it clear that we did not have to accept the world as it is — that we could do our part to seek the world as it should be….In the most modest of ways, I was one of those people who tried to answer his call.
The tributes to Mandela all sounded similar themes: he fought oppression and injustice and prevailed, transforming South Africa and the world. But Obama’s was by no means the only accolade to contain a self-congratulatory note. Numerous leftists and Islamic supremacists hurried to remind the world that Mandela was once branded a “terrorist,” implying that modern-day terrorists would one day be hailed as new additions to the pantheon of secular saints. Al Jazeera’s Wajahat Ali tweeted:
Let’s never forget #Mandela’s courage once made him despised & feared. The long road to icon-hood is paved w/ persecution & sacrifice.
Yet these modern-day mini-Mandelas, however they may style themselves as champions of the downtrodden and oppressed, laboring mightily against the contemporary incarnations of the architects of apartheid, have a curious blind spot. Mandela fought against an unjust system built upon racial prejudice. His struggle is easy enough to support from twenty-first century armchairs, when the oppressive system is long dead and no one in his right mind would support it or call for its revival. But oppression and injustice are by no means dead on the African continent – they’re just coming from a different source.
Kathy Shaidle did a fine job of Raining on the Nelson Mandela Parade in advance back in July, documenting the former South African president’s history of violence and associations with Marxists and communists. While we’re on the subject, I’d like to continue raining down a little more actual history to mix with the messianic fervor continuing to build around Mandela’s legacy:
I tell you, sir, it will not be 40 years from now and people will question your humanity for legalising abortion.
Those were Peter Hammond’s words to Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela during a 1996 meeting at the South African president’s official residence.
Hammond was born in Cape Town and went into Christian ministry after his service in the South African National Defense Force. According to his biography, he launched ”Frontline Fellowship as a mission of Christians from a military background to serve persecuted churches in communist countries” across the South African border. In the years since they have smuggled hundreds of thousands of Bibles and Christian books into Marxist and Muslim countries. “Peter has been ambushed, come under aerial and artillery bombardments, been stabbed, shot at, beaten by mobs, arrested and imprisoned,” as he has taken his Christian faith into hostile territory.
Upon learning that F.W. DeKlerk’s government intended to legalize abortion, Hammond helped to organize African Christian Action, perhaps the first pro-life movement begun before the legalization of abortion in a country. In the spring of 1996 Hammond was leading marches to parliament, some estimated at 30,000 people. In May of 1996 Hammond was summoned to meet President Mandela at his official residence. Hammond gives a stunning account of their meeting:
This is how the Chicago Tribune describes Nelson Mandela in its obituary:
Nelson Mandela, who guided South Africa from the shackles of apartheid to multi-racial democracy and became an international icon of peace and reconciliation, died Thursday at age 95.
Imprisoned for nearly three decades for his fight against white minority rule, Mandela emerged determined to use his prestige and charisma to bring down apartheid while avoiding a civil war.
“The time for the healing of the wounds has come. The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come,” Mandela said in his acceptance speech on becoming South Africa’s first black president in 1994.
“We have, at last, achieved our political emancipation.”
President Barack Obama hailed Mandela as a leader who left his country with a legacy of freedom and peace with the world.
He formally left public life in June 2004 before his 86th birthday, telling his adoring countrymen: “Don’t call me. I’ll call you”. But he remained one of the world’s most revered public figures, combining celebrity sparkle with an unwavering message of freedom, respect and human rights.
Do we honor the dead by denying who they really were and what they actually believed? I’m sorry to say that I realized Mandela had died when noticing that Kathy Shaidle’s July article — “Raining on the Nelson Mandela Parade” – had all of a sudden received a surge of readers. Here are some of the facts she mentions that you’re not likely to read about today:
That “armed wing” carried out terror attacks at shopping centers, movie theaters and other civilian targets, not just “establishment” ones like courts and banks.
These attacks blew many innocent whites and blacks to bits.
(Note: some of these crime scene photos are disturbing.)
And when Mandela was arrested, the authorities claimed to have uncovered “210,000 hand grenades, 48,000 anti-personnel mines, 1,500 time devices, 144 tons of ammonium nitrate, 21.6 tons of aluminium powder and 1 ton of black powder.”
Governments around the world, such as the ones in the U.S. and Great Britain, placed the ANC on their terror lists, along with the PLO, the IRA and the FLQ.
So when the Left adopted the destruction of apartheid as its new fashionable cause in the late 1980s, the organizer of that “Free Nelson Mandela” concert, Tony Hollingsworth, knew he needed to “personalize” the cause, and give that particular person a big makeover, pronto.
Hollingsworth now admits that the all-star extravaganza “had everything to do with ridding Mandela of his terrorist tag and ensuring his release. (…) Mandela and the movement should be seen as something positive, confident, something you would like to be in your living room with.”
Mandela danced out of prison less than two years after the concert.
Oh, and not long after that, he was filmed singing an ANC song about killing white people:
Read the whole thing and decide for yourself how history should remember this man.
Last week, a dear lady at our church who ministers to widows in Kenya shared a prayer request during our church’s prayer meeting:
A dear pastor who interpreted for us earlier this year in Kenya, was killed by a hippo a few days ago. He left a widow, Mary, with six children.
My first thought was, “What a terrible way to die.” Smithsonian says that male hippos can weigh up to 6000 lbs. and they “have trampled or gored people who strayed too near, dragged them into lakes, tipped over their boats, and bitten off their heads.” Hippos likely “kill more people each year than lions, elephants, leopards, buffaloes and rhinos combined,” according to Smithsonian. They can bite your head off?? Apparently, despite their adorable ears and cute backsides, hippos are aggressive, nasty animals. Death by hippopotamus is not the way I want to exit this world.
My second thought when I heard this story was that I’m grateful to live in a country where we don’t have hippos charging up out of lakes to kill people. I know this may sound silly, but as I’ve been thinking about this, I’ve been filled with an incredible sense of gratitude to live in a country that is exponentially better than Kenya in so many ways. Aside from the marauding hippo problem, the life expectancy there is only 50 years of age. Forty percent of Kenyans die from HIV, TB, or malaria, all preventable diseases. A full 34% die of other communicable diseases. While we are debating Obamacare and screaming about a website that doesn’t work here in the United States, Kenyans are still trying to eradicate tuberculosis and malaria. It’s something we need to keep in perspective.
My recent article “Chicks Dig Porn” garnered a series of interesting comments. The one quoted above stands out, not only as a Top Rated comment among the bunch, but as a clear (if anecdotal) illustration of precisely how ignorant the feminist West truly is regarding female success that falls outside the boundaries of standard feminist narrative.
Spurred on by Cloudbuster, I Googled “African women, politics, feminism” and my first hit provided rather keen insight into the racial gap apparent in modern feminist thinking. Titled “African women are blazing a feminist trail – why don’t we hear their voices?” the Guardian article detailed some amazing statistics:
- 64% of Rwandan parliamentary seats go to women, who have held the gender majority in parliament since 2008
- Both Malawi and Liberia have female heads of state
- Senegal recently elected its first female Prime Minister, Aminata Toure
- The current African Union chair is female
The bottom line: African women are organizing for and securing their own political success. This reality flies in the face of Third Wave Feminist notions regarding the impact of patriarchy and post-colonialism on racial identity. Perhaps this is why we are more comfortable discussing Miley Cyrus’s twerking and Lena Dunham’s lack of black friends; their stories better suit the narrative of inherent white racism that has informed feminism since the 1990s. In America, it is an accomplishment when white and black feminists can unite over hairstyles. Celebrating female political leaders abroad, well, that’s a bit much, don’t you think?
Much has been said recently about the social problems plaguing the inner cities — crime, out-of-wedlock birth, lack of education. We can trace the problems, to some extent, back to the breakdown of the family in those communities. But along with that is a more systemic problem of a breakdown in the churches — a failure to teach right theology and biblical truth at a time when it is most desperately needed. In particular, the “prosperity gospel” preachers have taken advantage of some of the most vulnerable in our society — the poor, the elderly, the sick — by falsely teaching that Jesus is some sort of lucky charm sitting up in heaven waiting to grant our wishes for material wealth and physical healing. They claim the only thing holding God back is our failure to send enough money to some big-haired Trinity Broadcast Network (TBN) star sitting on an ornate, fake throne.
The prosperity preachers say that all that stands between a poor (or sick) person and a huge payday (or good health) is a lack of faith and a donation to the ministry of the preacher. They perform before massive crowds, including Joe, sitting in his living room in Paducah, Kentucky, and claim that God is telling them — right at that very moment (or later if you’re DVR’ing the show)— exactly what He wants each and every member of the audience to do at that very moment. It’s preposterous, but these charlatans find easy prey in those who are in dire financial circumstances or who suffer with physical ailments. John MacArthur has said that it “is no different from the lowest human religions—a form of voodoo where God can be coerced, cajoled, manipulated, controlled, and exploited for the Christian’s own ends.” It’s no different than the way state lotteries take advantage of the poor with promises of a life of ease for the small price of a Powerball ticket — except that the preachers claim to be speaking for God, which is sobering and tragic at the same time.
Earlier this year Reformed (as in Reformed theology) rapper Shai Linne called out some of those preachers in a song called “Fal$e Teacher$“. And he names names — Benny Hinn, Paula White, Creflo Dollar, Joel Osteen, TD Jakes, and others — acknowledging in the song that “today the only heresy is saying that there’s heresy.”
His music is startling in a hip-hop culture known for profanity and violence. Linn raps about hardcore Christian theological truths that many seasoned Christians can’t speak about intelligently — limited atonement, amillennialism, the hypostatic union.
When doctors knew nothing and could do even less (if actively harming patients with their treatment counts as doing less than nothing), they hid their ignorance and therapeutic impotence by the use of impressive-sounding Latin terminology. Even when they spoke in the vernacular, they did their best to be incomprehensible, and generally succeeded. Portentousness was then a substitute for prowess.
Doctors are still inclined to use impressive-sounding words for the same purpose: or at any rate, so their critics say. Idiopathic is a learned way of saying that the cause of a disease is unknown; and when a disease is said to be multifactorial in causation, it is an implicit avowal of ignorance: for diseases should at least have necessary causes if doctors can claim to understand them.
Actually, most diseases are multifactorial: necessary conditions of causation in medicine are common, while sufficient conditions are rare. For example, the presence of the tubercle bacillus is a necessary condition for the development of tuberculosis, but not sufficient. Many are the people who are infected who do not get the disease.
An ill-understood condition that is thought nevertheless to be bacterial in origin is noma, or cancrum oris. This is a horrible disease that starts as an infected gum and then eats away a large part of the face, killing the patient or leaving him deformed for life. It now affects mainly children in Africa, but it once occurred in Europe and America and was common in the victims of German concentration camps during the Second World War.
Its cause is unknown, unless extreme poverty and malnutrition can be accepted as causes. Nevertheless, these are an insufficient explanation of the disease because, even in severely impoverished conditions, most people do not get it.
A Swiss group, working in a confined area of Niger, a Sahelian country that was once a French colony and that supplies the uranium from which France generates three quarters of its electricity, tried to find the cause of noma, that is to say a bacterially necessary precondition for its development, by comparing 82 children who suffered from it with over 300 matched control who did not. In summary, they failed to do so as have others before them, though certainly not for lack of trying. Their report of their efforts appears in a recent edition of The Lancet.
Egypt’s pound has fallen by 40% since last December, from 6 to the dollar to 8.25 to the dollar on the black market. The prices of basic food items like beans and milk have risen by more than that, pricing all forms of protein out of the range of the half of Egyptians who live on less than $2 a day. And the worst is yet to come: according to the U.S. embassy, the Muslim Brotherhood government has vastly inflated its estimates of this year’s wheat harvest in order to keep export orders down — because it doesn’t have the money to pay for them. Egypt reportedly got $5 billion in emergency loans from Libya and Qatar (although it is not clear how much of that can be spent), but that barely covers the government’s arrears to oil companies operating in the country. I published an update on Egypt’s economic free fall in Asia Times Online this morning.
Mohammed Morsi’s Islamist government is living hand to mouth, stiffing suppliers and exporters, and cadging emergency loans, but it hasn’t ordered a shipload of oil or wheat since January. When things get this bad, everyone who can get dollars out will. The ship is sinking, and the cry is, “Women and children last!”
Here’s an example.
Just after I filed the story, Al Ahram reported that the country’s cotton exports had dropped 40.6% between September-November of 2012 and the same period of 2011 (hat tip: Daniel Pipes). According to the Egyptian daily, the drop is due to much larger domestic purchases of cotton by local textile companies:
Egyptian textile companies bought 415.8 thousand metric quintals of the local cotton in the period September-November 2012, a whopping increase of 326 percent compared with the corresponding quarter a year before.
That makes no sense, because Egyptian textile exports also fell by a big margin.