See Frank J. Fleming opening the discussion: “This Is Today’s Question: What Does It Mean To Be ‘Civilized’?” And Mark Ellis: “The Future of Civilized Society: One World,” And Aaron C. Smith: “Why Civilization Is a Gift to Bullies.”
Four TV seasons ago, NYC wunderkind Lena Dunham made a pop culture splash with her HBO comedy Girls. Combining offbeat characters, witty scripting, promiscuous sexuality, and typical coming-of-age tropes set in modern hipster Brooklyn, Girls became one of the most talked-about shows on TV and launched Dunham into an odd sort of stardom that positions her as the spokesgirl of her generation. With the collaboration of acclaimed screenwriter/filmmaker Judd Apatow, Girls managed to hit the same sweet spot that Apatow did in his most successful films like Knocked Up – sexually charged slapstick comedy with a heart.
For those of us who left our own coming-of-age stories back in the last century, Girls provided an accessible, if sometimes icky, view into the lives of millennials. But sometime recently, the ick factor has overcome the wittiness. Here’s a bit of dialog from earlier in Season 4, between a 20-something couple who has been dating for about 6 weeks (and have already moved in together):
Mimi-Rose: I can’t go for a run because I had an abortion yesterday. I can’t go for a run, or take a bath or use a tampon or have intercourse for about a week.
Adam: Huh. Are you? What?
Mimi-Rose: Yeah, there’s just a couple things I can’t do because I had an abortion yesterday.
Adam: Uh, was it mine?
Mimi-Rose: Yeah of course it was yours. I didn’t want to talk about it beforehand, I just wanted to do it. But I haven’t shared with boyfriends in the past and I wanted to be more open with you
Adam: You’re…trying to be open with me. How many abortions have you had?
Mimi-Rose: I’m not going to share that with you because that is private. I’m not going to ask you how many girls you’ve gotten pregnant.
Adam: None. It’s not private. I’ve gotten no girls pregnant except for you now. (Smashes dishes)
Now most rational human beings would expect that to be the end of the nascent relationship between our young Mimi-Rose and Adam. But the writers throw in a twist! By the end of the episode they are back together! This could actually have been an interesting development – a commentary on the co-dependence of two narcissistic, immature souls cast adrift by a culture than doesn’t teach the value of life, honesty, or responsibility.
Dunham, in her post-show commentary, makes it clear she intended no such lesson in humanity:
And I was like, Mimi-Rose is so independent, she’s a person who doesn’t need validation or support from any one to make decisions creatively , emotionally, romantically … and I also like the idea of showing someone who is getting an abortion and is not tortured by it.
Well, there you go.
*Strong Language Warning*
Girls has gone from a show in which kids grapple imperfectly with the curveballs of life to a piece of nihilistic agitprop that celebrates the odious as the heroic.
It’s perhaps not surprising that Dunham has jumped the shark from storyteller to propagandist; she’s become increasingly political in her public pronouncements over time, while her recent published memoir had to be “revised” after the original edition included an apparently made-up rape allegation. Until now, we were able to maintain the fiction that she’s a talented, if misguided, young woman who can at least weave together a good story with interesting characters.
Which brings us back to the Apatow connection. In celebrating the odd and offbeat in his films, Apatow never dipped into nihilism. His characters ultimately survive the consequences of their usually absurd actions through love and dedication, not through a triumph of the feminine will. His touch was apparent through the first seasons of the show, and elevated it into something worth talking about. No longer.
Apparently Apatow has left the creative side of the show entirely, abandoning it to become nothing more than a reflection of Dunham’s unpleasant worldview. It’s a shame, but one has to wonder – is this intentional? Is he deliberately giving us an unfiltered peek into the ugly side of millennials?
If so, maybe we should keep watching the show after all as a cautionary tale our future.
See Frank J. Fleming opening the discussion: “This Is Today’s Question: What Does It Mean To Be ‘Civilized’?” And Mark Ellis: “The Future of Civilized Society: One World“
Most people use the word “civilization” as a sign of progress, something to which we should aspire. We’ve slowly worked our way out of the muck, pulling ourselves towards enlightenment. Someday, we will all be shiny and happy. History will end.
The dirty little secret that people don’t want to admit is that hard men and women built our society. The soft could not conquer the New World or rise in the industrial revolution. The great conflicts of the twentieth century – two hot wars and a half-century of cold war – required men and women with steel in their bones and ice in their blood to fight.
We’ve tried to polish off those sharp edges and call it improvement.
And in doing so, we allow bullies to flourish.
Cruel prey upon the weak.
We act civilized. We pass rules, tell kids to talk to adults. I got bullied as a kid. And let me tell you something. Adults are useless. Rules are crap. The most well-meaning adults trying to enforce rules can’t be everywhere.
And when you fight back, zero-tolerance policies punish prey the same as predator. And it goes on. More rules get passed. “Civilization” isn’t the answer.
Violently making sure everyone on the playground knows you will not be a victim is the answer. Celebrating your son or daughter when they come home with a bloody nose and split lip is the answer.
Think back a couple centuries ago. People used to duel over slights to their honor.
Has “civilization” and departing from this tradition changed anything? Are our kids any safer with “zero-tolerance” rules that treat the predator and prey the same?
Can we honestly call that civilization?
We know it’s wrong. Our television shows, the windows into our cultural subconscious, prove that we hate how rules bind the good and empower the vicious.
My parents grew up in a “less civilized age,” when society possessed less formal rules but ran on unwritten consensus and understanding. They understood the system and watched Dragnet and The FBI, stories about hardworking men in gray suits working within the system to enforce the law.
Today, with all of our rules and regulations, we cheer for the anti-heroes.
I just watched Bosch this weekend. Aside from being a great adaptation of Michael Connelly’s series, LAPD detective Harry Bosch gives us a great example of a good man trying to find justice in a civilized world.
See the opening of today’s series here: ”What Is the Future of Religion?” by Frank J. Fleming. Also check out Aaron C. Smith’s installment here: “The Future of Religion: Why Judeo-Christian Values Are More Important Than Science“
Recently, ISIS ransacked a museum full of ancient Assyrian and Akkadian artifacts in Mosul. They upended works of art from the 7th century before Christ and whacked enormous chunks off of them with sledgehammers. There’s a video.
If you think this is the least of our ISIS problems, you’re not wrong. You can tell me a single human life is worth more than everything Raphael ever painted, and I won’t argue with you for a second. When they behead Christians and hurl gay men to their deaths, those are inestimable losses. A museum raid pales in comparison.
But I still felt sick watching them do this, and I think there’s a reason. I think there’s something in this video that drives home what we’re dealing with here. It’s like pulling the face off the Terminator to reveal the hideous grinning gears and diodes underneath. Watching ISIS destroy art shows me exactly who they really are.
It comes down to why we make art. To my mind, it’s because there’s something about being human that’s more than just facts. I can tell you perfectly well in prose what kind of sandwich I had for lunch, or how old I am. But to tell you what it’s like when I look at the night sky or fall in love, I need poetry. Or a painting. Or something — anything — that conveys the indescribable catch in my chest. “Where words fail, music speaks”: there’s something bigger than language in the human heart.
Now, all those big bull-lion-eagle-dude sculptures in Mosul don’t do a lot for me personally. But I recognize that irreducible worth in them: I see that someone felt something he couldn’t say in words. Something about the nobility of the human form, the humanity and inhumanity of the divine. So he got a big rock and he started chipping away at it until it spoke for him. He gave the thing in his heart a shape in the stone. That’s what Shelley meant in his poem about emotions “which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things”: that statue records a moment inside the soul of a human being. And that record is worth preserving.
But of course, to believe all this, you have to believe there’s something there to record. You have to believe a man is more than physical stuff — more than muscle, blood, and bones. What ISIS demonstrated in their video is that they don’t believe that. And their god doesn’t believe either. The video begins with a verse from the Qur’an about idolatry. Then someone declares that “god has ordered” that the statues be destroyed, and so “they became worthless to us.” Exactly: the god of ISIS is a god to whom humanity means nothing. He demands that people be treated like meat, gruesomely sacrificed to his power-hungry nihilism. Of course that god wants the evidence of human transcendence to be pounded into rubble. To the god of ISIS art is, as the man in the video says, just “some stones.”
Now tell me this isn’t a religious fight.
This is what the president, and The New Yorker, and all our well-meaning multiculturalist friends refuse to acknowledge. There is a question in front of us. Do we believe god lusts after power at the expense of human dignity and life? Or do we believe God humbled himself to the point of death for the sake of that dignity and life? I am not a scholar of Islam. I do not know anything about what most Muslims believe. But I know which god ISIS believes in. They showed me again in Mosul.
What ISIS did in that museum is a kind of art in itself. Their video is a performance, an enactment of their core creed. They’re symbolically expressing their belief that the human soul has no worth. It’s not just the destruction of art: it’s the art of destruction.
In Luke’s gospel, when Jesus rides into Jerusalem for the last time, his disciples hail him aloud as the King. The Pharisees want to shut them up, but Jesus says, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.” When the truth is silenced, the whole world screams it in our ears. And the West is falling silent: we’re refusing to put an honest name to the kind of god ISIS fights for. So the message is getting louder and louder — in Mosul, the very stones are crying out.
Don’t let the appearance of Rainn Wilson fool you. Everett Backstrom is no Dwight Schrute, nor is Backstrom yet another take on the Sherlock trend. This smart, funny detective series walks into dark territory to examine the human desire to look toward the light. It goes against formula and against the grain manipulating authority and questioning politically correct cultural norms in pursuit of truth, justice and, even more intriguingly, redemption from evil. Here are 7 reasons why Backstrom is trendsetting, essential counter-culture conservative television that demands a place on the air.
You’re reading the concluding post for Preparedness Week, a weeklong series of blogs about disaster and emergency preparation inspired by the launch of Freedom Academy’s newest e-book, Surviving the End: A Practical Guide for Everyday Americans in the Age of Terrorby James Jay Carafano, Ph.D. You can download the e-book exclusively at the PJ Store here.
5. Mortal Kombat
If the apocalypse means having my skull smashed open on the rocks by Goro while Napalm Death plays then count me in. After all, Reptile is just Shang Tsung’s humble bodyguard for swatting down mortal weaklings in this film. The Reptile can take a few body slams with no problem.
Anyway, if you’re unfamiliar with the Mortal Kombat video games’ plot it shouldn’t matter. The movie involves a brutal tournament between the mortals of Earthrealm and Shang Tsung’s flunkies of Outworld. If Earth’s warriors lose the 10th tournament, the emperor Shao Khan becomes the ruler of Earthrealm.
I’m not going to spoil the ending but it should be fairly obvious that a certain Shaolin monk by the name of Louis Kang lays the smack down on the evil sorcerer and reappears for the sequel, Annihilation. This is the only proper MK film. Don’t bother with any others.
Mortal Kombat is a fine apocalyptic movie for parties or any situation.
Editor’s Note: This article is cross-posted from David P. Goldman’s Spengler blog where it was first published on February 16, 2015 with the title “Jihad and Self-Sacrifice in Islam.” I’ve decided to reprint it here because it serves as a powerful introduction to one of the foundational concepts in Goldman’s body of work: applying Franz Rosenzweig’s analysis of paganism to today’s foreign, domestic, and cultural problems. Read Goldman’s books How Civilizations Die: (And Why Islam Is Dying Too), and It’s Not the End of the World, It’s Just the End of You: The Great Extinction of the Nations for elaboration on this theme and many more paradigm-shifting concepts. For an understanding of the applicability of Goldman’s foreign policy approach in the upcoming presidential primary see my “No to Corporate Neoconservatism, No to Paleo-Libertarian Anarchism, Yes to Augustinian Realism” from August 9, 2013. -DS
Comparative religion is not a statistical exercise: it is meaningless to tally up the victims of Crusaders and compare them to the victims of Islam and quibble about which religion is more violent. Religious war of conquest, that is, jihad, has the same role in Islam that the Lord’s Supper has in Christianity. Christianity (and Judaism) have exercised violence in the past but never sacralized violence. That is unique to Islam among the self-styled Mosaic religions.
The great German-Jewish theologian Franz Rosenzweig argued that Islam was not a monotheistic religion, but a “parody” of one, a monistic paganism in which the old pagan gods were rolled up into a single deity. I have summarized Rosenzweig’s views in a number of locations, and taken the argument further in two essays published a decade ago (“Jihad, the Lord’s Supper, and Eternal Life” and “The Blood is the Life, Mr. Rumsfeld”). Below I offer some extracts from those essays, first published in Asia Times.
It is important to get the theology right — not so much to understand the depredations of radical Islam, which hardly are obscure, but to understand what makes the West different. Violence is incidental to Judaism and Christianity and fundamental to Islam. It does us little good to denounce radical Islam if we forget who we are, and how we came to be here.
All religion is about blood, because all religion is about life. Shi’ite Islam, though, displays an affinity for real blood that disturbs the West. On their holiest day, the Feast of Ashura, Shi’ites cut themselves until they bathe in their own blood. Jafariyanews.com, a Shi’ite information service, reported from the holy city of Karbala in Iraq on February 20:
Thousands of mourners slit open their heads with swords, big knives and razor blades streaming their blood to signify their grief over the martyrdom of [the Prophet Mohammed's grandson] al-Imam al-Hussein [in 680 AD] – the tragedy which caused the sky to rain blood and the earth to bleed. 
Spurting blood is the preferred symbol of Iran’s Islamic revolution. Fountains shooting red dye at Tehran’s Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery recalled the blood of the young Iranians interred there, who fell in the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s suicide battalions during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s.
This turns Western stomachs, despite the universal presence of blood symbols in Western religion, as we observe in the Eucharist as well as the blood sacrifices of the Hebrew Bible. Catholics drink Christ’s blood literally (and Protestants symbolically) to attain eternal life, while lambs’ blood kept the Angel of Death from the doors of the ancient Hebrews on the eve of their exodus.
One dies a vicarious death in order to secure eternal life. Unlike Christians or Jews, whose religions are based on vicarious sacrifice, Islam demands the self-sacrifice of its adherents, in keeping with its essentially militant character. Revealed religion puts blood at a distance; Abraham sacrifices a ram and spares his son Isaac, and God sacrifices his own son in order to spare mankind. That is why blood in Judaism became taboo, to be handled only by the priest or his surrogate, the ritual butcher. Usually a Catholic priest administers the Eucharist. (An acolyte or lay person can give communion when not enough clergy are available, though only a priest or bishop can consecrate the host.) Unlike Christianity or Judaism, Islam has no ritual of sacrifice, nor does it need one, for the sacrifice that Islam demands is that of the Muslim himself.
To understand the promise of Islam, and the aspirations of Shi’ite Islam in particular, we first must understand what religion offers to begin with. All religion is about life, that is, about life eternal. Humankind cannot bear mortality without the hope of immortality, and for this men will sacrifice their physical existence without hesitation. That is true of paganism as much as it is true of revealed religion. The young men of the tribe march to war to protect the existence of the tribe, confident that the perpetuation of their blood and their memory will compensate them for their death in battle. But the expansion of the great empires of Macedonia and Rome made the tribes themselves sentient of their mortality; that is the dawn of history, namely of the knowledge that every nation has a history, and that this history must have an end. As Franz Rosenzweig (who lived from 1886 to 1929 and is one of the most influential modern Jewish religious thinkers) wrote:
Just as every individual must reckon with his eventual death, the peoples of the world foresee their eventual extinction, be it however distant in time. Indeed, the love of the peoples for their own nationhood is sweet and pregnant with the presentiment of death. Love is only surpassing sweet when it is directed towards a mortal object, and the secret of this ultimate sweetness only is defined by the bitterness of death. Thus the peoples of the world foresee a time when their land with its rivers and mountains still lies under heaven as it does today, but other people dwell there; when their language is entombed in books, and their laws and customs have lost their living power.
The pagans of the prehistoric world found immortality in the gods and totems of their tribe; when history intruded upon their lives on horseback, the power of the old gods vanished like smoke, and the immortality of the individual faded before the prospect of a great extinction of peoples. Among all the tribes of the world from the Indus to the Pillars of Hercules, only one claimed the eternity of its bloodline under a covenant with a universal God, namely the Jews.
The blood of the pagan was his life; to achieve a life outside of the blood of his tribe, the pagan had to acquire a new blood. It is meaningless to promise men life in the Kingdom of Heaven without a corresponding life in this world; Christianity represents a new people of God, with an existence in this life. That is why Christianity requires that the individual undergo a new birth. To become a Christian, every child who comes into the world must undergo a second birth, to become by blood a new member of the Tribe of Abraham. Protestants who practice baptism through total immersion in water simply reproduce the ancient Jewish ritual of conversion, which requires that the convert pass through water, just as he did in leaving his mother’s womb, to undergo a new birth that makes him a physical descendant of Abraham. Through baptism, Christians believe that they become Abraham’s progeny.
Before the Bible was written, the Babylonian hero Gilgamesh learned that his quest for immortality was futile. The demigods of Greece, mortals favored by Olympians, suffered a tedious sort of immortal life as stars, trees or rivers. The gods of the heathens are not in any case eternal, only immortal. They were born and they will die, like the Norse gods at the Ragnarok, and their vulnerability projects the people’s presentiment of its own death. To whom, precisely, have the gods offered eternal life prior to the appearance of revealed religion? Eternal life and a deathless mortality are quite different things.
But what is it that God demands of us in response to our demand for eternal life? We know the answer ourselves. To partake of life in another world we first must detach ourselves from this world in order to desire the next. In plain language, we must sacrifice ourselves. There is no concept of immortality without some concept of sacrifice, not in any culture or in any religion. That is a demand shared by the Catholic bishops and the Kalahari Bushmen.
God’s covenant with Abraham is unique and singular in world history. A single universal and eternal god makes an eternal pact with a mortal that can be fulfilled only if Abraham’s tribe becomes an eternal people. But the price of this pact is self-sacrifice. That is an existential mortal act beyond all ethics, as Soren Kierkegaard tells us in Fear and Trembling. The sacraments of revealed religion are sublimated human sacrifice, for the revealed god in his love for humankind spares the victim, just as God provided a ram in place of the bound Isaac on Mount Moriah. Among Jews the covenant must be renewed in each male child through a substitute form of human sacrifice, namely circumcision. Christians believe that a single human sacrifice spared the rest of mankind.
Jihad also is a form of human sacrifice. He who serves Allah so faithfully as to die in the violent propagation of Islam goes straight to paradise, there to enjoy virgins or raisins, depending on the translation. But Allah is not the revealed god of loving kindness, or agape, but — pace Benedict XVI — a god of reason, that is, of cold calculation. Islam admits no expiatory sacrifice. Everyone must carry his own spear.
We are too comfortable, too clean, too squeamish, too modern to descend into the terrible space where birth, death and immortality are decided. We forget that we cannot have eternal life unless we are ready to give up this one — and this the Muslim knows only through what we should call the sacrament of jihad. Through jihad, the Muslim does almost precisely what the Christian does at the Lord’s Supper. It is the sacrifice of Jesus that grants immortal life to all Christians, that is, those who become one with Jesus by eating his flesh and drinking his blood so that the sacrifice also is theirs, at least in Catholic terms. Protestants substitute empathy identification with the crucified Christ for the trans-substantiated blood and flesh of Jesus.
Christians believe that Jesus died on the cross to give all men eternal life, on condition that they take part in his sacrifice, either through the physical communion of the Catholic Church or the empathetic Communion of Protestantism. From a Muslim vantage point, the extreme of divine humility embodied in Jesus’ sacrifice is beyond reason. Allah, by contrast, deals with those who submit to him after the calculation of an earthly despot. He demands that all Muslims sacrifice themselves by becoming warriors and, if necessary, laying their lives down in the perpetual war against the enemies of Islam.
These are parallel acts, in which different peoples do different things, in the service of different deities, but for the same reason: for eternal life.
Why is self-sacrifice always and everywhere the cost of eternal life? It is not because a vengeful and sanguineous God demands his due before issuing us a visa to heaven. Quite the contrary: we must sacrifice our earthly self, our attachment to the pleasures and petty victories of our short mortal life if we really are to gain the eternal life that we desire. The animal led to the altar, indeed Jesus on the cross, is ourselves: we die along with the sacrifice and yet live, by the grace of God. YHWH did not want Isaac to die, but without taking Abraham to Mount Moriah, Abraham himself could not have been transformed into the man desirous and deserving of immortal life. Jesus died and took upon him the sins of the world, in Christian terms, precisely so that a vicarious sacrifice would redeem those who come to him.
What distinguishes Allah from YHWH and (in Christian belief) his son Jesus is love. God gives Jews and Christians a path that their foot can tread, one that is not too hard for mortals, to secure the unobtainable, namely immortal life, as if by miracle. Out of love God gives the Torah to the Jews, not because God is a stickler for the execution of 613 commandments, but because it is a path upon which the Jew may sacrifice and yet live, and receive his portion of the World to Come. The most important sacrifice in Judaism is the Sabbath — “our offering of rest,” says the congregation in the Sabbath prayers — a day of inactivity that acknowledges that the Earth is the Lord’s. It is a sacrifice, as it were, of ego. In this framework, incidentally, it is pointless to distinguish Judaism as a “religion of works” as opposed to Christianity as a “religion of faith.”
To Christians, God offers the vicarious participation in his sacrifice of himself through his only son.
That is Christian Grace: a free gift by God to men such that they may obtain eternal life. By a miracle, the human soul responds to the offer of Grace with a leap, a leap away from the attachments that hold us to this world, and a foretaste of the World to Come.
There is no Grace in Islam, no miracle, no expiatory sacrifice, no expression of love for mankind such that each Muslim need not be a sacrifice. On the contrary, the concept of jihad, in which the congregation of Islam is also the army, states that every single Muslim must sacrifice himself personally. Jihad is the precise equivalent of the Lord’s Supper in Christianity and the Jewish Sabbath, the defining expression of sacrifice that opens the prospect of eternity to the mortal believer. To ask Islam to become moderate, to reform, to become a peaceful religion of personal conscience is the precise equivalent of asking Catholics to abolish Mass.
Unlike the tribes who encountered Christianity in the fullness of its power, in 4th-century Rome or 9th-century Europe, the Arab tribes of the 7th century occupied the borders of a Roman Empire, then in a demographic death-spiral. The New Israel of the Christians was at its historic nadir. First the Alexandrine Empire and then the Romans crushed the traditional life of the nations, imposing their own gods and customs; faced with overwhelming force, the traditional society of the prehistoric world lost confidence in its own hearth-gods and submitted to baptism. Not so the Arabs. Whether the Arab tribesmen conquered Byzantine armies, or merely took over borderlands that the Byzantines abandoned, as a minority of scholars believe, the great movement of Arab tribes against the old empires found no solace in the floundering “New Israel.” In the fullness of their new self-confidence, the Arabs declared themselves to be the true descendants of Abraham, risen up against the falsifiers and usurpers. Islam gave traditional society the weapons to beat back the threat of extinction.
Muslims require no ritual of rebirth, for in their doctrine they already are the descendants of Abraham, through the supposed true line of Ishmael, the favored son of the patriarch whose heritage was usurped by the crafty descendants of Isaac — the Jews and their emulators the Christians. Allah sent prophets to all the nations of the world, but the Jews falsified the message of the prophets to favor their ancestors at the expense of the true successor of Abraham. In the revolt against the usurpers, all the tribes of the world enjoy the equality of the horde.
Revolt against usurpation, the revenge of the pure life of traditional society against the corrupt mores of the metropole, is the heart of Islam. The Muslim rejects the supposed chosen people of God as usurpers, and defends traditional society against the crucible of peoples that is the Christians’ New Israel. But Islam also forms a new people, the Umma, the collective of Muslims to which the individual must submit. In the pagan world the young men of each tribe march out to fight their enemies, and delay the inevitable moment when their tribe will be overwhelmed and its memory extinguished from the earth. Islam summons the tribes to unite against the oppressive empires to its West, to march out together and fight until their enemies, the Dar-al-Harb, exist no more.
Islam has no ethnicity; it is not an Arab movement; it is a new people, but a people defined first of all by militancy. The individual Muslim does not submit to traditional society as such, no matter how many elements of traditional society might be incorporated into Muslim doctrine; he submits to the movement of the tribes. That is why jihad is the most authentic form of Muslim religious activity, and why the blood rituals of Ashura the most authentic form of Muslim worship.
As I observed in an essay titled “Does Islam have a prayer?” (May 18, 2004):
If the individual Muslim does not submit to traditional society as it surrounds him in its present circumstances, he submits to the expansionist movement. In that sense the standard communal prayer of Islam may be considered an expression of jihad. Again Rosenzweig: “Walking in the way of Allah means, in the strictest sense, the spread of Islam by means of the holy war. The piety of the Muslim finds its way into the world by obediently walking this way, by assuming its inherent dangers, by adhering to the laws prescribed for it.”
But the rising of the tribes against the usurpers must give rise to a new form of usurpation. Victors in war do not wish to campaign forever; at an opportune moment they will become the new tyrants of the territories they conquer. In the Shi’ite version (as Islamic scholar Bernard Lewis writes):
…the reigning caliphs appeared more and more as tyrants and usurpers, while for many, the claims of the kin of the Prophet, embodied first in Ali and then in his descendants, came to express their hopes and aspirations for the overthrow of the corrupt existing order and a return to pure, authentic, and original Islam.
The “Twelvers,” the Shi’ite mainstream, expect the return of Muhammad al-Mahdi, the 12th of the Imams (the canonical descendants of Ali) at the end of time. Facile identification of this doctrine with the Christian belief in the return of Christ or the Jesus expectation of a Messiah leads some in the West to think of Shi’ism as closer in spirit to Western religion. But the hope for the Mahdi expresses not a quasi-Christian sort of quietism, but rather an encysted revolutionary impulse, and that is what we observe in the Shi’ite fascination for blood.
The blood is the life, and men pass to eternal life only through blood — but whose blood? Self-sacrifice in war is the fundamental religious act of paganism, for it is only by the sacrifice of the young men of the tribe that the tribe has surety of survival among a forest of enemies. Human sacrifice, especially among warrior-cults, is a common religious expression among pagans. But with the notion of a universal God comes also the prospect of universal peace: if all men one day might worship one God by the same name, then the perpetual warring among tribes fighting for survival also might cease.
In proud defiance of revealed religion, the destroyer of the tribes, Islam holds to the primal demand of self-sacrifice. The jihadi’s self-immolation in war, symbolized by the drawing of blood and the bleeding of nature itself, is the fundamental act of worship. The immortality of the individual, put at risk by the encroachment of the metropole upon the life of the tribe, is regained through the revolt of the endangered tribes against the usurpation of the empire that forms its motivation. Shi’ism therefore represents the original impulse of Islam in its purest form, and the shedding one’s own blood an authentic response. The victors of the revolt against the usurpers become usurpers in turn, and so on in never-ending cycle. Again, Lewis:
Most Sunni jurists, even while recognizing the evils of the existing order, continued to preach conformism and submission, generally quoting yet another principle, that “tyranny is better than anarchy.” The Shi’ites, on the other hand, even while submitting, maintained their principled rejection of the Sunni order, and from time to time, more frequently in the early centuries than in the later, rose in revolt in an attempt to overthrow the existing order.
More than in the 7th century, indeed more than at any time in recorded history, the encroaching metropole jeopardizes the life of the tribes. More than ever, the Shi’ites will bathe in their own blood rather than submit to it.
This essay is part of an ongoing dialogue between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island exploring the history of counter-cultures, the future of conservatism and the role of new, emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism. See the previous installments in the series and join the discussion:
- Sarah Hoyt, March 22 2014: Interview: Adam Bellow Unveils New Media Publishing Platform Liberty Island
- David S. Bernstein, June 20 2014: What Is Liberty Island?
- Adam Bellow at National Review, June 30 2014 kicking off the discussion: Let Your Right Brain Run Free
- Dave Swindle on September 7, 2014: Why Culture Warriors Should Understand the 10 Astounding Eras of Disney Animation’s Evolution
- Dave Swindle on September 9, 2014: The 50 Greatest Counter-Culture Films of All Time, Part I
- Dave Swindle on September 19, 2014: The 50 Greatest Counter-Culture Films of All Time, Part II
- David S. Bernstein on November 19, 2014: 5 Leaders of the New Conservative Counter-Culture
- Dave Swindle on November 25, 2014: 7 Reasons Why Thanksgiving Will Be My Last Day on Facebook
- Kathy Shaidle on November 25, 2014: Is America Overdue for a Satanic Revival? (Part One)
- Dave Swindle on December 2, 2014: My Growing List of 65 Read-ALL-Their-Books Authors
- Kathy Shaidle on December 3, 2014: Is America Overdue for a Satanic Revival? (Part Two)
- Mark Elllis on December 9, 2014: Ozzy Osbourne and the Conservative Tent: Is He In?
- Aaron C. Smith on December 22, 2014: The Villains You Choose
- Paula Bolyard on January 1, 2015: 7 New Year’s Resolutions for Conservatives
- Susan L.M. Goldberg on January 1, 2015: The Plan to Take Back Feminism in 2015
- Kathy Shaidle on January 4, 2015: Did the 1960s Really Happen? (Part One)
- Andrew Klavan on January 5, 2015: In 2015 The New Counter-Culture Needs to Be Offensive!
- Clay Waters on January 5, 2015: The Decline and Fall of Russell Brand
- Mark Ellis on January 5, 2015: How Conservatives Can Counter the Likable Liberal
- Audie Cockings on January 5, 2015: Entertainers Have Shorter Lifespans
- Aaron C. Smith on January 6, 2015: How Mario Cuomo Honestly Defined Zero-Sum Liberalism
- Stephen McDonald on January 10, 2015: Why the New Counter-Culture Should Make Strength Central to Its Identity
- Stephen McDonald on January 16, 2015: The Metaphorical War
- Kathy Shaidle on January 19, 2015: Did the 1960s Really Happen? (Part Two)
- Frank J. Fleming on January 20, 2015: What if Red Dawn Happened, But It Was Islamic Terrorists Instead of Communists?
- Mark Ellis on January 21, 2015: Adam Carolla: The Quintessential Counterculture Conservative?
- Aaron C. Smith on January 29, 2015: Objection! Why TV’s The Good Wife Isn’t Good Law
- David Solway on February 2, 2015: For a Song To Be Good, Must It Tell The Truth?
- Mark Ellis on February 6, 2015: President Me: Adam Carolla Vs. the Scourge of Narcissism
- David Solway on February 6, 2015: ‘Imagine’ a World Without the Brotherhood
- Kathy Shaidle on February 9, 2015: Was Rod McKuen the Secret Godfather of Punk Rock?
- Aaron C. Smith on February 10, 2015: Kick NBC While It’s Down: Use The Williams Scandal to Set the Terms of the 2016 Debates
- Spencer Klavan on February 12, 2015: How to Apologize for Your Thought Crimes
- Kathy Shaidle on February 16, 2015: David Byrne: Creepy Liberal Hypocrite
You’re reading a post for Preparedness Week, a weeklong series of blogs about disaster and emergency preparation inspired by the launch of Freedom Academy’s newest e-book, Surviving the End: A Practical Guide for Everyday Americans in the Age of Terror by James Jay Carafano, Ph.D. You can download the e-book exclusively at the PJ Store here.
One of the major issues of our time has to do with the status of Islamic terror. Is it something that should fill us with fear and panic, distract us from the ordinary affairs of life and prompt us to cede extraordinary powers of preventative surveillance to government? Or, indeed, to take the concrete measures outlined in terrorism expert James Jay Carafano’s new book Surviving the End: A Practical Guide for Everyday Americans in the Age of Terror (of which, more later). Or is it merely another of those unpredictable disruptions and upheavals that happen along life’s road, deplorable, certainly, but inevitable, that we should come to terms with and go on conducting business as usual? In light of the recent murderous assault at a free speech symposium organized by Swedish artist Lars Vilks in Copenhagen, followed by an attack on a Copenhagen synagogue, we will no doubt once again hear cautions that we must not over-react to Islamic terror.
Many observers have contended that terror is insignificant compared to natural disasters. Ronald Bailey, writing in Reason.com, argues from statistics that people are “four times more likely to be struck by lightning than killed by a terrorist.” In fact, your chances of being killed by a terrorist are about one in 20 million. Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic develops the same notion, as have innumerable others, namely, that we should refrain from exaggerating the threat of terrorism, given the much larger and vastly more lethal number of accidents and natural calamities. Here ensues the nub of his thesis. Since, as statistics show, Acts of God and quotidian mishaps far outnumber acts of terror, and since even these general misfortunes remain statistically insignificant, Friedersdorf contends we should not trade civil liberties for (excessive) security. From this point of view, the national security state presents a greater threat to our way of life than does the spectre of jihad, creating “a permanent database that practically guarantees eventual abuse.”
Admittedly, there is considerable sense to the apprehension that the surveillance state may prove invasive, as it surely has under the reign of Barack Obama and his decadent administration. Clearly, a degree of balance between liberty and security is necessary, though especially tricky to work out in practice. That the surveillance apparatus can be abused goes without question. That it is necessary, given the number of terrorist attacks that have been thwarted in embryo, is undoubted. It’s a good bet that the matter will never be resolved to everybody’s satisfaction.
Here in Canada, prime minister Stephen Harper has come under fire for criminalizing the promotion of terrorism under Bill C-51, which enhances the powers of Canada’s national spy agency CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service). As the country’s politically correct paper of record The Globe and Mail puts it, “Under the cloud of fear produced by his repeated hyperbole about the scope and nature of the threat, he now wants to turn our domestic spy agency into something that looks disturbingly like a secret police force.” The Globe, of course, like the rest of Canada’s major media outlets, relentlessly lauds the virtues of multiculturalism, which asserts the moral equivalence of all religions and cultures. This means, in practice, affirming the innocence and splendor of Islam to the detriment of Christianity and Judaism. Terror is not Islamic, but a mere excrescence of disordered minds or, alternatively, one of those incidents that may sometimes trouble the daily commute. Nothing to concern yourself about, certainly nothing to be unduly wary of or to keep under stringent observation. The attitudes of the gated community still prevail as the cultural orthodoxy of the day.
The underlying issue, however, is that those who oppose preventative measures, whether from ideological reasons or because they live sheltered and privileged lives, are reluctant to acknowledge terror—that is, Islamic terror—for the particular menace that it poses to our settled way of life or to recognize that we are in the midst of a millennial war that shows no sign of relenting. They are eager to adopt a tactic that we might, on the model of moral equivalence, call category equivalence, the attempt to neuter the unique fact of terrorism by equating it with natural contingencies and “normal” hazards of everyday existence. Once this false equivalence has been accepted as persuasive, the statistical machinery is duly wheeled in, like the eccyclemata of the Attic theatre, to confirm the hypothesis as given. But “[w]hat do we do,” asks Carafano, sensibly enough, “if the enemy isn’t Mother Nature?” Rather than conflate terrorism with nature or accident and urge us to carry on with defiant insouciance, Carafano devotes a considerable portion of the book instructing us to be—and how to be—prepared for acts of terrorist violence.
I am on an email list and received a link to an article in Newsweek called “The Trouble with Men: Why Men Kill Themselves.” Naturally the title has to have a troubling or negative title, it’s about men. The article is about the high suicide rate in the UK and states: “Suicides of men aged 45-59 have risen by 40% in a decade, and account for a quarter of all suicides in the UK.”
There is a graph pointing out that a majority of men (and a number of women) in the UK die by suffocation or hanging: 58% of male suicides and 36% of female suicides use this method. We always hear that it is the proliferation of guns that causes much of the male suicide in the U.S. — but if the guns are the problem, why is there also a high incidence of male suicide in the UK but the method is just different?
We want to live forever. We seek immortality through a variety of means, living vicariously through our children, leaving a legacy in our community, and embracing the claims of religion.
But what if we could actually live indefinitely here on Earth? What if we could elect to live for centuries or even millennia? Would we want to?
Zoltan Istvan thinks so. Reason TV’s Zach Weissmueller interviews the author of The Transhumanist Wager in the video above. They come to an interesting aside when Weissmueller inquires about cultural resistance to the idea of technological immortality. Aren’t some people actually revolted by the idea? Istvan answers:
America and many places around the world are quite religious, especially America…a poll said 83% are still declaring themselves Christian. That makes it hard to want to take death out of the equation, because a natural part of the Christian ideology is to die and to eventually reach an afterlife with God…
While Istvan may anticipate the reaction of some, the Christian faith doesn’t necessarily preclude an embrace of transhumanist technology. It depends on the particular nature of the tech. There’s nothing in mainstream Christian doctrine which would forbid something like artificial organs, for instance. And if replacing organs could extend life by decades or more, why not?
… it’s not as though wanting to live indefinitely is something that’s going to intrude and conflict with one’s religion. It’s just something that’s kind of the evolving nature of the species. And if you can get people to think like that, and not see it in conflict with their own ideologies, then I think they’re going to be more on board with saying, “Yeah, it’s good to live 150, 200 years.” And again, I’m not saying let’s live forever. I don’t think any transhumanists are saying that. I think what we want is the choice to be able to live indefinitely. That might be 10,000 years. That might only be 170 years.
The line might be drawn at technology which changes one’s nature to something non-human. When we look at something like uploading one’s consciousness to a computer, the question must be asked: would you still be “you?” Or would you be essentially committing suicide?
The notion of living indefinitely, unto itself, should actually appeal to the Christian. After all, everlasting life is the promise of Christian salvation, and lifespans greatly surpassing those common today are recorded throughout scripture. Adam lived to 930. Noah made it to 950. Enoch was “taken” before his time at the tender young age of 365. For the believer who takes scripture literally, the notion of living for centuries has precedence.
John Lennon’s 1971 hit single “Imagine” asks us to imagine a world without “possessions,” a world in which “There’s no countries…Nothing to kill or die for.” The song urges us to “Imagine all the people/Sharing all the world,” a “brotherhood of man” committed to “living life in peace.” We may be forgiven for wondering if this vision of irenic inclusiveness would have embraced that other Brotherhood, the Muslim one, as well.
Lennon did not live long enough to witness the re-emergence of Islam as a virulent and conquering ideological force, whether via terrorist atrocities or demographic infiltration. Moreover, the Lennon who died in 1980 had travelled some distance from his peacenik persona. Dave Swindle notes, citing several informative sources, that “in his final years before his murder, the songwriter abandoned his famous progressive faith, enjoyed arguing with radicals, and supported Ronald Reagan.” According to Swindle, “Lennon was not a very serious leftist. He was just an artist too heavily influenced by some of the other dominant personalities of his age—the ones most skilled at manipulating talented people into becoming their political pawns, their useful idiots.” The lame-brained Yoko Ono might have had something to do with it as well.
One hopes Lennon would indeed have seen clearly enough not to have been badgered or indoctrinated into macro-cultural compliance by so-called “progressivist” forces, like some of his pop contemporaries. One thinks of the mushy and ill-informed views of a world-class ignoramus like Neil Young or the soft-in-the-head Cat Stevens, originally Steven Demetre Georgiou, who converted to Islam, grew a beard and again changed his name, this time to Yusuf Islam. As a convert to the faith, he wasted no time supporting the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, despite his later, evidently insincere walkback. Such figures now constitute part of our debased Golden Legend, a hagiography of musical legends who, like the majority of Hollywood actors, are also intellectual nonentities. That they have an impact on sensibility is unfortunate, but it is a fact that must be acknowledged. Though Lennon may have repudiated the message of his song, there’s no doubt that “Imagine” has survived him and become an anthem of the doctrinaire left. As Swindle writes,
It’s impossible to know the number of people over the last 40 years who jumped into lives of progressive activism because of Lennon’s music…Lennon and ‘Imagine’ are not symbols the Left will give up without a fight.
*Profanity warning for video*
Lennon, be it said, did imagine a world with “no religion too,” but would he have made allowances, as so many Christophobes do, for the “religion of peace”? Let’s give John Lennon the benefit of the doubt. But we cannot exonerate those who, mistakenly or not, regard themselves as his followers, the crowd of spineless appeasers, professional conciliators and clueless extenuators who continue to insist, in the face of all the evidence to the contrary—historical, textual, scriptural, and empirical—that Islam does not constitute a threat to our existence. From this obtuse perspective, Muslim violence is not the product of canonical Islam but of some twisted offshoot of the faith called “Islamism,” and Muslim immigration to the West is welcomed as a form of cultural endowment from which we will all benefit. Such cognitive dissonance is indeed remarkable, given the virtual destruction of neighborhoods in Western cities and the outrages perpetrated world-wide and on a daily basis by the votaries of Islam.
And as for terror itself, it has, as we have been lessoned by our betters, nothing to do with Islam in any conceivable way; the terrorists are either unhinged or casualties of Western colonialism or victims of grinding poverty taking revenge against their oppressors. They are almost never seen for what they chiefly are: devout believers, many of them highly educated and scions of prosperous families, observing the dictates their revered prophet laid down in a holy book that must be obeyed to the letter. As Mark Durie writes,
In reality, the will to “go forth” for jihad is not a manifestation of craziness—many of its actors are entirely sane. It is not a manifestation of stupidity—many of its actors are quite intelligent. It is not a manifestation of social dysfunction or poverty—many of its actors come from stable and wealthy homes. It is not a manifestation of weirdness—many of its actors are quite ordinary.…Jihadi terror is a manifestation of Islamic theology.
And indeed, one need no longer “imagine” what the “elitist” Western response to the scourge of 9/11 and all that followed in its wake might look like; it is everywhere around us, predictable as the setting sun, a scrolling panorama of ignorance, delusion and cowardice—in a word, surrender. 9/11 should have been a watershed moment, a historical game-changer provoking us out of our ideological torpor. Instead, it was a collapsing dike, as America and the Western world as a whole were flooded with self-doubt, cultural guilt, waves of political correctness and rampant Islamophilia.
And so we continue to deny that the terrorists have weakened our resolve or even altered our way of life. But as Mark Tapson points out,
they have changed our way of life and who we are as a culture. Look at what has become of air travel in the wake of 9/11 and the bungling Shoe Bomber: passengers shuffling along like cattle in long security lines, removing our shoes and laptops, submitting to invasive scans by the useless TSA, etc. This is but one example of our “new normal,” and as incidents like the Boston Marathon bombing and the Jerusalem synagogue butchering and the Sydney hostage-taking become more and more common, they too will become our new normal.
His conclusion is as chastening as it is accurate. “To accept living under the cloud of terrorism while declaring stubbornly that it won’t change us is a terrible self-delusion.” Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, speaking in the wake of the Sydney hostage crisis, is proof positive of Tapson’s thesis: “Australia is a peaceful, open, and generous society,” Abbott said. “Nothing should ever change that and that’s why I would urge all Australians today to go about their business as usual.”
Business as usual? Mark Durie points out that the first jihadi attack in Australia occurred in 1915, when two Muslim immigrants shot and killed four picnickers at Broken Hill. And as Charles Bybelezer reports, September 2014 provided a rich harvest of terrorist events and arrests Down Under: a certain Numan Haider stabbed two police officers before being killed; shortly afterward,
Australian police conducted major anti-terrorism raids in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney [in which at least] fifteen people were detained, including Omarjan Azari—an alleged associate of Mohammed Ali Baryalei, leader of the Islamic State in Australia—who was planning to behead random civilians in broad daylight; then, not long after the Sydney hostage episode, two more Muslims were arrested, including a budding young terrorist by the name of Sulayman Khalid, found with notes outlining plans to blow up a police building and organize terrorist activities at large.
Business as usual!—it can only be the imaginary construct of a political cartel suffering from advanced intellectual glaucoma. The hecatomb at Charlie Hebdo, in which twelve people were murdered, was foreordained, a disaster—or rather, an instance of Islamic “justice”—waiting to happen in the wake of deflationary references to Muhammad. The expression of official horror over the tragedy and sanctimonious empathy for its victims will soon dissipate and tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow will creep in its petty pace from day to day, as per usual.
Interesting article in The Economist (thanks Terry) on suicide:
BEING depressed is like having a terrible headache, says one Atlanta businessman. Except that a few days of rest do not stop the pain: “You’re just expected to keep going.” Trying to “man up”, he sought little help for his condition, choosing to hide it instead. “It all gets so debilitating that you don’t want to go on,” he explains.
He tried to kill himself more than once; fortunately, his attempts came to nothing. But the same cannot be said for a growing share of Americans. The suicide rate has risen from 11 per 100,000 people in 2005 to 13 seven years later. In the time it takes you to read this article, six Americans will try to kill themselves; in another ten minutes one will succeed.
Over 40,000 Americans took their own lives in 2012—more than died in car crashes—says the American Association of Suicidology. Mondays in May see the most incidents. The rates are highest in Wyoming and Montana, perhaps because guns—which are more effective than pills—are so common there (see chart). Nationally, guns are used in half of all successful suicides….
Activists say the government does too little to prevent suicide. Christine Moutier of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention complains that only $40m of federal funding will go to anti-suicide programmes this year. This does not include the billions the government spends on mental-health problems more broadly.
I think the following comment to the article is probably on target about the lack of focus on suicide:
“If suicide doesn’t get enough attention, it’s because it’s mostly men committing it.”
The article points out that women are more willing to ask for help. Could it be that the help available for men is not exactly the most welcoming kind? When the counseling programs focus their courses on “diversity” in grad schools, men’s issues should be a top priority. Not the kind of PC crap that these programs often focus on in men’s studies, such as how to relieve men of their masculinity and make them more like defective girls, but rather training real professionals to deal with, and address, the true discrimination and problems that men face today with regards to work (or lack thereof), marriage, relationships and other male topics. Maybe that would be a start.
image illustration via shutterstock / Piotr Marcinski
Late in the previous century, when the Toronto Star spiked my column debunking Kwanzaa — the editor scolded me for wanting to “ruin other people’s fun” by telling the truth, which in hindsight would make for an apt if ungainly personal motto on my (non-existent) coat of arms — I sent the piece to Canada’s only conservative magazine, the (since defunct) Alberta Report.
Link Byfield, the magazine’s publisher and editor, snapped it up, and asked for more.
I’d been a professional writer for years, but now my career as a right-wing writer had begun.
Byfield died of cancer this week, at 63.
My fellow AB contributor Colby Cosh was and is a libertarian (some might say craggily contrarian) atheist who was nevertheless embraced right out of grad school by the unabashedly Christian so-con Byfields.
Cosh — today, like many former Report writers, a star columnist at a national publication — quickly composed an obituary of Byfield that is, not surprisingly, insightful, elegant and stringently unsentimental.
(The Byfields have a keen eye for talent, if I do say so myself…)
Another longtime colleague, Peter Stockland, attended a tribute to Byfield last September, an event arranged after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Stockland explained Link Byfield’s influence on recent Canadian history with this succinct formula, one that resembles the mnemonic verse British schoolchildren used to learn to keep their kings and queens straight.
No Byfields, no Alberta Report. No Alberta Report, no Reform Party as it was formed. No Reform Party, no [Progressive Conservative Party] collapse. No PC collapse, no [Conservative Party] Harper government.
Some perspective for American readers:
My husband and I attended a lecture about Israel by Melanie Phillips a few years back.
Phillips, while correct on so many issues, remained convinced that Europe’s “fringe” “right-wing” populist political leaders, while anti-sharia, were also racist, anti-Semitic losers and therefore unwelcome allies in the counter-jihad.
Afterwards, my husband took her aside and explained — to her visible surprise – that Canada’s “fringe right wing” populist Reform Party had once been condemned as backward, bigoted and doomed, too; yet one of its founders, Stephen Harper, was now the staunchly pro-Israel prime minister of Canada, having just won a second federal election.
Non-Canadians are, presumably, more familiar with our “free” “healthcare” system, as I call it.
On that topic, Mark Steyn once quoted a fictional Canadian — OK, Quebecois — character’s decision to die a principled death:
Sébastien wants his dad to go to Baltimore for treatment, but Remy roars that he’s the generation that fought passionately for socialized health care and he’s gonna stick with it even if it kills him.
“I voted for Medicare,” he declares. “I’ll accept the consequences.”
But Link Byfield was a real man, not an imaginary one.
That makes what follows all the more notable.
Yet what truly mattered to [Byfield] was having lived out, as far as possible in the midst of a train wreck, a principled reality.
I mentioned an e-mail he sent last summer explaining his choice to forgo chemotherapy because it would not save him, yet would cost taxpayers $100,000.
I said I could not imagine other Canadians who would factor such public policy considerations into their personal health care.
“But that would have been standard thinking among politically literate citizens 50 ago,” he said. “People wouldn’t even articulate it. It would just be something they would think.”
When I asked his source for thinking that way, he said: “Thou shalt not steal.”
— Magnificent (@Ironyisfunny8) January 8, 2015
Ahmed Merabet, the police officer who first responded to the terror attack at the Charlie Hebdo offices only to get shot to death at point-blank range by the attackers, will inevitably become the poster boy for both sides of the Muslim debate. His truth was that of a Muslim who integrated into French society and professionally defended Western values resulting in his untimely murder at the hands of Islamic radicals. That truth is already being manipulated by multiculturalist news outlets bent on defending universalism despite its deathly consequences.
The Atlantic is using Merabet’s story to drum up what they believe to be obvious anti-Muslim sentiment in France, obvious only because news agencies scrambling to cover the Charlie Hebdo story didn’t jump on Merabet’s paragraph to defend Islam against radical Islamic terrorists. (Priorities, people.) Joining with The Atlantic crowd, Max Fisher opines at Vox:
Here is what Muslims and Muslim organizations are expected to say: “As a Muslim, I condemn this attack and terrorism in any form.”
This expectation we place on Muslims, to be absolutely clear, is Islamophobic and bigoted. The denunciation is a form of apology: an apology for Islam and for Muslims. The implication is that every Muslim is under suspicion of being sympathetic to terrorism unless he or she explicitly says otherwise. The implication is also that any crime committed by a Muslim is the responsibility of all Muslims simply by virtue of their shared religion.
Another tragic death of a teenager has ignited a cultural firestorm. Once again, angry voices drape their political agenda over a coffin. Although this time it’s different. The deceased’s mother is not getting the empathy and support of the mainstream media.
A confused and depressed 17-year-old young man walked four miles from his home in Ohio to a highway, where he stepped in front of an oncoming tractor-trailer. Joshua Alcorn died at the scene. When he didn’t show up to delete a scheduled post on Tumblr, it surfaced as a public suicide note.
He wrote that his life was not worth living as transgender. He also wrote of his loneliness and his parents’ refusal to get him gender-reassignment surgery. Instead, he lamented, they would only take him to “biased” Christian therapists.
As you might expect, the “proud” and “tolerant” community are rubbing a grieving mother’s face in her dead son’s troubled life. Without a second thought, their bony fingers of blame point to the parents for the child’s suicide and they scream murder. The purveyors of progressive ideology are doing their best to smear the blood of this precious child on the face and hands of his family and their Christian religion.
It is easier to advise than to have or to retain a sense of proportion, especially when it is most needed. I have never known anyone genuinely comforted by the idea that others were worse off than he, which perhaps explains why complaint does not decrease in proportion to improvement in general conditions. And he would be a callow doctor who tried to console the parents of a dead child with the thought that, not much more than a century ago, an eighth of all children died before their first birthday.
Still, it is well that from time to time medical journals such as the Lancet should carry articles about medical history, for otherwise we might take our current state of knowledge for granted. Ingratitude, after all, is the mother of much discontent. To know how much we owe to our forebears keeps us from imagining that our ability to diagnose and cure is the consequence of our own peculiar brilliance, rather than simply because we came after so much effort down the ages.
A little article in the Lancet recently was written by two historians who are in the process of analyzing the results of 9000 coroners’ inquests into accidental deaths in Tudor England. It seems astonishing to me that such records should have survived for more than four centuries, but also that the state should have cared enough about the deaths of ordinary people to hold such inquests (coroners’ inquests had already been established for 400 years at the time of the Tudors). In other words, an importance was given to individual human life even before the doctrines of the Enlightenment took root: the soil was already fertile.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.
No words have ever proven to be more true especially when applied to the world of super-heroes.
For them, death has always been at best uncertain.
But what there was in the world of super-heroes was virtually non-existent until the silver age when it was learned that Captain America’s youthful partner Bucky was killed at the end of World War II.
After that, death for super-heroes remained a rare event but when it happened, it was usually done for dramatic purposes. In more recent years, death often comes for no other reason than to replace unfashionable white males with more politically acceptable ethnic or gender specific substitutes.
But whatever the reason editors or writers might have for killing off heroes, readers themselves have always taken their demise seriously, hoping for the most part that those who have made the supreme sacrifice are not robbed of their halos.
Unfortunately, the desires of fans for the permanency of death in their favorite comic book universes have too often turned out not to be final. And so, whether it’s clones, robot duplicates, returning spirits, impersonators, stand-ins, or alternate universe versions, most super-hero deaths never seem to last.
Caveat Emptor: although the following list includes characters who have been thoroughly killed (and numbered in the order of least likely to be revived), their deaths have mostly taken place in the traditional continuity stemming from comics’ silver age of the 1960s. It does not take into account any 21st century developments in the Marvel or DC universes wherein most if not all past continuities have been scuttled or confused beyond the average reader’s ability to understand.
10) Blue Beetle
The Blue Beetle has a long history going all the way back to comics’ golden age but the Blue Beetle, whose rights were eventually acquired by DC, was the Ted Kord version first introduced by artist Steve Ditko in 1966. After DC bought the rights to the Beetle, the character was played mostly for laughs until he was executed in Countdown to Infinite Crisis (2005). Kord’s death made way for an ethnic re-do with a young Hispanic boy taking on the mantle of the Blue Beetle.
Florida woman really did it this time:
Angela Stoldt, 42, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole Friday for the murder of 36-year-old James Sheaffer.
Stoldt and Sheaffer argued over money before Stoldt stabbed her neighbor in the eye with an ice pick and strangled him in a cemetery April 3, 2013.
She wrapped Sheaffer’s head in plastic to prevent blood leaking in her car and transported the corpse to her house, prosecutors said.
Stoldt chopped him up in two kiddie pools and threw a leg in the oven and other limbs on the stove in an attempt to cremate the body, police said.
Some stories are beyond even my ability to make light. I could easily have left aside my qualms with the death penalty in this case.
See the seventh commandment here.
Women are fixers. It should come as no surprise to anyone with an understanding of the sexes that the leading female figure on primetime television is none other than a fixer named Olivia Pope. Fifty years ago women primarily played the role of mother on screen and, in doing so, they fixed things and life was pretty darn perfect. But perfect doesn’t fly on network television any longer. Today it’s all about drama, and drama is conflict. So, we get Olivia Pope: beautiful, intelligent, who fantasizes about marrying an already married man, having his children and fixing a nice little life in the Vermont countryside for them, but is too embroiled in fixing her own life and the lives of those she loves to ever quite reach her American nirvana.
Like Israel’s matriarchs, Olivia Pope has a vision of justice, of order, of the way things should be. The wearer of the “white hat,” she wrestles between good and evil in her many attempts to manifest this divine sense that has been humanized as her “gut” instinct. Watch her and you’ll see the woman in white when she pursues truth, the woman in black when she has given over to evil, and the woman in gray when she questions everything she knows. Being a fixer is a woman’s inherent power and inevitable struggle. It isn’t that we want to “do it all” because doing it isn’t as hard as taking responsibility for it, for the lives under our care. Olivia Pope cares for everyone, wants to save everyone, wants to repair everyone and make everything all better. Her struggle, like that of the matriarchs, is in placing the sole burden of responsibility on her own shoulders. But, the greatest lesson of God-given responsibility is that you are not expected to carry it all alone.
Hope springs eternal, but so do financial crises in hospitals. Once, while researching the history of the hospital in which I was working at the time, I discovered that it had been so short of money in the 1840s that it had been forced to sell some land to a railway company that wanted to build a line near the hospital. The physicians were against the sale, for they feared the noise of the trains might kill the patients, “especially the brain cases.” They were overruled, and when the first train went by they observed the patients anxiously to monitor the adverse effect on them. There was none.
However, psychiatric hospitals seem often to be built near railway lines, which act as a magnet to the patients who are suicidal. Patients of such hospitals who commit suicide while on the premises usually do so by hanging, while those who do so outside usually jump from a tall building or throw themselves in front of trains.
A paper from Germany in a recent edition of the British Journal of Psychiatry analyzes the characteristics of 100 suicides of psychiatric patients who threw themselves in front of trains conveniently near to the hospitals in which they were resident at the time. It took the authors ten years to collect their sample, whom they compared with other patients of the same age, sex and psychiatric diagnosis who did not throw themselves in front of trains. The object of the exercise was to see whether such suicides could be predicted and therefore prevented. The authors rather laconically remark that when a man throws himself in front of a train — and nearly two-thirds of the cases were men — it is likely that he really means to die.
A Catholic friend attended her church’s All Saints’ service on Saturday. She came over afterward to visit and help me with some stuff and told me about the lovely service. She mentioned something she still finds odd. The saints are often depicted with the instruments of their torture. St. Lawrence of “Turn me over, I’m done on this side” fame carries a grill, St. Catherine carries a wheel. Here are 10 of the more brutal martyrdoms.
We found this disconcerting for two reasons: one, the memory of what happened to those people. These were not quick deaths. Two, such tortures are still happening to Christians today. (Warning for graphic links, although the Daily Mail has pixelated them.) Beheadings and crucifixions still plague us. As does sexual slavery. According to the videos there, the blue and green eyed girls fetch a higher price.
When I went to church the next day (I’m Anglican and we do All Saints on the Sunday closest to November 1st) this is exactly what one of our reverends gave his sermon on. Our tormenters don’t let up. That’s what we are supposed to remember on All Saints’ Day, perseverance in the face of anything.
Halloween was always a point of contention in our house growing up. Naturally theatrical, I loved dressing up and relished in making my own costumes. And what kid turns down free candy? Sure, Jewish kids have Purim for these things and more, but when you’re in a mainly gentile neck of the woods, it’s a struggle not to be allowed to join in the party. As I grew into adulthood and took a deeper look at Halloween, however, I began to understand my parents’ objections quite clearly. There are definite reasons why Jews and Christians who base their faith in the Bible should re-think introducing and encouraging their child’s participation in this, the most pagan of American holidays.
Don’t miss last week’s links, collected here: “The 2 Most Disgusting, Soul-Crushing Stories From Last Week (And 81 Competitors)” and Monday’s round-up here: “Man Sent By ISIS to Rape Pit Bull In Neighbor’s Yard? Clown Thugs Terrorize Paris?“ See shocking stories you think should should be included? Tweet them to @DaveSwindle.
At Vice Tuesday:
VICE: What happened to you as a child? Why do you need to make everybody hate you?
Deadanimalsikilled: Maybe I just didn’t get enough attention. Maybe if people cared about me more, I wouldn’t be forced to post such terrible pictures.
Where do you get the photos?
I usually get the images from Yahoo, because I thought that it would be harder for people to find them on Google and realize I was fake. I don’t know if that logic makes sense. I’m just trying to troll people and make them feel really bad.
It seems like they’re trying to make you feel bad, too. How long have you been doing this?
I’ve been doing running Deadanimalsikilled since October 2013. I started with a mouse, and I’m working my way up into larger and larger game. I feel like that’s what a serial killer would do. First a rat, then a crow, and so on.
I get a lot of death threats. People want me dead.
Via Drudge Tuesday:
At Mother Jones:
Fishers are forest-dwelling, cat-sized mammals—and one of the only known predators of porcupines—that were nearly wiped out by trapping and logging during the 19th and 20th centuries. Some of the current threats to the fishers are familiar, like wildfires and logging. But FWS found the misuse of rodenticides, more commonly known as rat poison, to be a “relatively recent and troubling threat.” There are now about 4,000 fishers left in dispersed pockets in California, Oregon, and Washington. FWS cited a study that found rat poison in the blood of 85 percent of fishers studied between 2012 and 2014.
The rise in rodenticide usage stems partly from the proliferation of “trespass grows,” or hidden spots in public parks, forests, and tribal lands where marijuana growers cultivate their goods. Each year, the United States grows about 22 million pounds of marijuana, and nearly half of the cannabis eradicated by law enforcement comes from trespass grows. It’s difficult to overstate how much the grows contribute to the weed industry: In 2013, 72 percent of the outdoor plants seized by law enforcement in California came from trespass grows.
TMZ reports that McDaniel is only legally prohibited from spending time with Shannon’s daughter Anna Cardwell, whom he forced to engage in oral sex when she was 8 years old. McDaniel subsequently served 10 years in prison on other charges, and reportedly rekindled his relationship with Shannon when he was released in March.
According to law enforcement officials, McDaniel has not been in violation of legal requirements that he stay away from Cardwell, who is now 20 and has a child of her own.