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
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.
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.
The InvestmentWatch blog seems puzzled. They ask “Is Obama Depressed?”
The health care website is a bomb. Immigration overhaul is looking more and more like a bust. The allies are aggrieved about surveillance issues. Israel feels betrayed on Iran. The first black president didn’t even bother to go to Gettysburg, where the 150th anniversary of the most important 270-word speech ever given — the 270 words that welded the nation forever to the all-men-are-created-equal doctrine of the Declaration of Independence — would have given him a respite, and maybe a reset.
Puzzling issues indeed. The least-engaged, most ideologically ambitious president in history messed up a lot of things and now doesn’t know what to do about it. Wasn’t this the man who in his biography said that no one ever punished him or corrected him because his grandparents thought of him as a “poor fatherless boy”? Then he got whisked into the magic-carpet-ride academia and politics reserved for those of a leftist enough bent (he looked for communist professors, after all) with an interesting personal history (for those with oikophobia, a father from a third world country is a bonus). That he also has a hereditary tan doesn’t hurt him at all in those circles, either.
BUT none of that prepared him to be effective or engaged or even to understand the real world.
Ending up in time-out at 52 for the first time in your life is not just difficult. It’s unendurable. He can’t cope with it and he will find excuses, probably excuses that make him a martyr of undeserved failure/reproach.
The fault of course lies in those who deluded themselves into seeing in this non-entity the Light Bringer: academics, political operatives and most of all what used to be the free press of the United States of America. What use is it to be free from governmental control when you will sell your ability to think for a mess of coolness?
The magnificent Theodore Dalrymple, writing in The Telegraph about David Cameron’s back pain (and yes, you should read the whole thing), starts by empathizing,
As an occasional sufferer from lower back pain, I sympathise deeply with David Cameron, whose lumbago currently prevents him from pursuing deer on Jura. A bad back is an utter misery: there is no position that one can adopt for long that remains comfortable. It is like a nagging spouse: it demands attention and cannot be ignored.
But soon transcends that, going into an area often, justly, feared by modern medicine:
Regarding myself as psychologically robust rather than fragile, I was once rather humiliated to discover that my bouts of back pain had a considerable, not to say overwhelming, psychological component. I was in India, and due to return home in a few days, when I was stricken by severe pain that made it almost impossible to walk. There was concurrently a problem with my ticket, but I did not connect the two. The ticket had disappeared into the maw of the airline office (no internet then).
As someone who suffers from both eczema and asthma, I’m often reminded that very real ills of the physical body can come from stress or other emotional states. So why do I say that area is justly feared?
Because there is a great temptation to consider ills as psychological if the symptoms are baffling. A doctor once attempted to diagnose an infection I was suffering from as depression because of certain baffling symptoms. So this type of illness needs to be approached with care.
But does it happen? That is undeniable. Doctor Dalrymple mentions that many world leaders have become addicted to pain pills and other substances while trying to treat vaguely defined “somatized” complaints. Men under great stress show it in their bodies.Nothing to be surprised at. As Dalrymple says
In a giant textbook from 1917 entitled Malingering, dedicated (ironically?) to the author of the National Insurance Act, Lloyd George, we read: “Our views as to the nature of [backache] sadly lack precision, and up to now the condition has not been correlated with any anatomical lesion… It is easy to complain of ‘pain in the back’, difficult to establish the truth of the assertion – a fact of which the fraudulent-minded are well aware.” To this day private detectives are probably better at discerning the truth than radiographers.
Between anatomical lesion and fraud, however, there is a large no-man’s land, probably inhabited by Mr Cameron – and by me. Perhaps also he suffers from that well-known phenomenon, illness that comes on when busy people relax. They have had no time to be ill before.
I know that I, personally, get end-of-novel flu, something that is well known in the writing community. When I let go I get ill. Now think of the myriad situations in which this could affect world leaders, and you’ll see the need for better understanding emotional conditions that manifest on your body.
In private health-care systems, rationing of health care is by price; in public health care it is by waiting lists and administrative fiat. Both have their defenders, usually ferocious and bitterly opposed, but the fact remains that there are some treatments that have to be rationed however much money is available for health care: as when, for example, there are more people needing organ transplants than there are organs to be transplanted. Few people would be entirely happy to allocate organs merely to the highest bidder.
A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine tackles the problem of allocation of lung transplants. A system was in place in the United States that excluded children under 12 years of age from receiving adult lungs as transplants, an exclusion that parents of a child with cystic fibrosis challenged in the courts. The problem for children under the age of 12 requiring lung transplants is that there are very few child donors, so in effect the system discriminated against them.
The reason for the exclusion was that most children for whom lung transplants are considered have cystic fibrosis, a condition for which the results of such transplants are equivocal given the constantly improving medical treatment of the disease. Moreover, children are especially liable to complications from the procedure, though these can be partially overcome by using not whole adult lungs for transplant but only resected lobes of them.
The American system of allocation of lungs for transplant into adults takes into account various factors, such as years of potential benefit from transplant, the imminence of death without transplant, the statistical chance of success of transplant, and so forth. Ability to pay does not come into it; in other words it is a socialized system, but there is a mechanism of appeal for those relegated to low priority which the more educated and wealthier are better able to take advantage of. No explicit judgment is made about the relative social or economic worth of the individual, however, for that way madness, or at least extreme nastiness, lies. And the authors of the article think that, on the whole, the system works well, for it seems to stand to reason that those who would benefit most should go to the top of the waiting list.
I once had a small transplant dilemma of my own…
The top story right now at TMZ is about Michael Jackson’s daughter:
Note the particular ad that TMZ decided to follow it, minus the cropped photo of female breasts used to grab attention to the left of the text:
Any relationship between the two? Isn’t that kind of strange — the insistence on sex and death at the same time?
On April 10 I published the next step in my developing self-improvement program, an application of Charlie Martin’s 13 Weeks method to my problem of better organizing my research. I looked forward to diving back into a deep reading routine filled with novels and culture while blogging my results here at PJ Lifestyle so all the wiser, more enlightened souls who make it their business to fill the comments section with their manifestos could tell me what an idiot I was for not seeing the world exactly the way they did.
But then on April 15 — Patriot’s Day — bombs exploded at the Boston Marathon, resulting in 3 deaths and 264 injuries. The real world had intruded on the Wonderland of Books I’d constructed for myself. As Charlie has pointed out from time to time in his 13 Weeks series, life has a way of throwing off our plans.
For days the country sat in nervous panic as police searched for the killers. Partisans of every persuasion speculated about the motives of the evil monsters who would load pressure cooker bombs with shrapnel to mutilate the bodies of innocent human beings they had never met. David Sirota of Salon longed for the murderous act to serve as fodder for his goal of demonizing his political opponents. I liked the way PJ columnist Roger Kimball put it on on the morning of April 18:
One of the curious, but also most predictable, responses to the Boston Marathon bombings from the Left has been the fervent expression — amounting nearly to a prayer — that the perpetrator or perpetrators of this act of mass murder be “homegrown,” preferably white, male, Christian, and conservative.
Why? Why does the Left prefer to have its terrorism served up by Timothy McVeigh rather than Durka Durka Mohammed Jihad? It’s an interesting question. That the Left exhibits this prejudice is, like Falstaff’s dishonesty, “gross as a mountain, open, palpable.”
David Sirota, writing at Salon, gives almost comic expression to the genre in an essay with the really special title “Let’s hope the Boston Marathon bomber is a white American.” Why does Mr. Sirota wish that the Boston murderer of 8-year-old boys be a white American? Because a spectral quality called “white male privilege” operates insidiously behind the scenes. If Timmy McVeigh blows up a government building, says Mr. Sirota, only he is blamed. If Mohammed does it, Muslims are likely to be “collectively slandered and/or targeted with surveillance or profiling (or worse).”
What do you think of that argument? I think it’s hooey.
But how can intellectual and cultural warriors do battle with hooey level arguments? PJ Media Legal Editor J. Christian Adams offered advice to the Benghazi whistleblowers that is just as applicable to every American striving to fight for these issues in their own way:
I know a thing or two about being a whistleblower. I appeared on the Huckabee show this weekend (see video below) and explained how simply telling the truth is the way to shield yourself from the sinister deceptions from places like the Huffington Post and the George Soros-funded Media Matters. They can try to smear you, but the truth of your testimony will rise above their smears.
All we can do is present the truth about the nature of the enemy. If that doesn’t work, then what else is left?
There’s nothing that makes Hollywood more nervous than portraying Islamist terror. As far back as 1994, James Cameron’s True Lies was denounced as racially insensitive for imagining a chillingly plausible Islamist terror threat involving nuclear weapons. Cameron, anticipating accusations of unfairly linking terrorism with Islam and Arabs, took care to try for “balance” by placing an Arab-American character on the good guys’ side (the actor who played him, Grant Heslov, this year won an Oscar as one of the producers of Argo). Yet the advocacy group the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) slammed the film anyway. The hysterical 1998 movie The Siege imagined that, in an overreaction to a terrorist attack, Brooklyn would be placed under martial law and all young Muslim men would be interned in Yankee Stadium. Ridiculous.
Since 2001, of course, Hollywood has almost completely avoided showing any Muslim involved in terror, changing the bad guys in 2002’s The Sum of All Fears from Palestinians to neo-Nazis. The 2005 Jodie Foster movie Flightplan, about an abduction on an airplane, used a hint that Arabs might be responsible as a red herring. The actual villain: an all-American air marshal played by Peter Sarsgaard. Several Middle East themed movies like Ridley Scott’s Body of Lies essentially saw a moral equivalence between the U.S. and the Islamists, saying both sides were up to comparably nasty stuff in the War on Terror.
Another example of the kind of violent fantasies that one can expect to start seeing bubbling up as the war against America intensifies:
Here’s why Rosenberg hates “neocons” so much. He fully embraces the progressive dogma that every single death in Iraq is a murder and that “neocons” are responsible for it. In Rosenberg’s eyes, anyone who so much as wrote in favor of the Iraq War is morally equal to any terrorist who may only be responsible for a handful of murders:
Something vile and horrific happened in a courtroom in Ohio last week, and as I’ve reflected upon the event, I’ve been disturbed by the thought that we have become a nation of compliant sheep that no longer produces citizens capable of standing up to injustice.
At a sentencing hearing for school shooter T.J. Lane, who gunned down six high school students, killing three and paralyzing one from the chest down, Judge David Fuhry gave Lane three life sentences in prison, to be served consecutively.
In what should have been a day of closure and justice for the families of the victims and the community of Chardon that suffered so much in the wake of the school shooting last year, a courtroom full of people stood by and allowed T.J. Lane to victimize the families in a base, contemptible way that likely added exponentially to the heavy burden the families already bear.
The courtroom for Lane’s sentencing hearing on Tuesday was packed with families of the victims, students, teachers, and members of the media. As the hearing began, Lane slipped off the button-down shirt he was wearing, revealing a t-shirt onto which he had written “KILLER” with a marker. A collective gasp filled the courtroom. As the families of the victims gave their statements, Lane smiled and leered at the families, almost seeming to enjoy the moment.
After the sentence was read, Lane had the opportunity to make a statement. At that point, he said something so horrific that I’m not even going to write it here, simply to spare you if you haven’t already heard it. (You can read it and watch the video here.) Trust me, you will have to bleach your soul once you hear it. It should be added to The Book of Things That Shall Never Be Repeated. Then Lane flipped the families the middle finger as a parting shot and said, “F*** all of you!” As a mother, I had a visceral — almost physical — reaction. I almost vomited, thinking about the pain his contemptible words caused the families and how they’ll never be able to scrub them from their minds.
People called talk-radio programs that day to vent their anger. Along with vicious prison-retribution wishes, caller after caller said they would have been arrested had they been in the courtroom. They wouldn’t have stood by while Lane visually and verbally tortured the parents.
WTAM host Bob Frantz said: “I would have been shot dead today. I would have leapt tables to get to that kid.”
Everyone stood by and let it happen.
A nurse who transferred a prank phone call from two Australian radio presenters about the Duchess of Cambridge has died in a suspected suicide – two days after being duped.
The body of Jacintha Saldanha, who was working on the switchboard, was found at an address yards away from King Edward VII Hospital, where she worked, just before 9.30am today.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge issued a statement saying they are ‘deeply saddened’ by the tragedy and said they had not made a complaint, adding: ‘Their thoughts and prayers are with Jacintha Saldanha’s family, friends and colleagues at this very sad time.’
‘On the contrary we offered our full and heartfelt support to the nurses involved and hospital staff at all times.’
image courtesy shutterstock / Steve Ikeguchi
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You don’t just wake up miserable one day and stay that way. To the contrary, producing a nice, consistent level of misery takes a lot of work. Do you ever hear anyone say, “Wow, that guy does whatever it takes to be miserable!” Of course not. Everyone is too busy patting the happy people on the back. “Wow, I wish I could be as happy as she is!” “They’re just such a happy couple!” “Wow, what a happy child!” How about a little appreciation for all the work people put into being utterly miserable? After all, as you’re about to see, depression takes effort!
1) Don’t pursue your ideal self.
Abraham Maslow once said, “If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.” So, take his advice to heart. Make comfort your highest priority. Surf the web as much as possible at work and do the same things, day after day, year after year without making any effort to improve. Veg out in front of the TV every night and channel surf. Don’t read, don’t take classes, do the same old, same old. Get yourself into a nice deep rut and then, as an extra added bonus, blame your spouse or kids for “holding you back” and keeping you from achieving the dreams you haven’t made any effort to pursue for years. That’s just the sort of stagnant life that will help keep you down in the dumps.
Political theology, as defined by Wikipedia:
Political theology or public theology is a branch of both political philosophy and practical theology that investigates the ways in which theological concepts or ways of thinking underlie political, social, economic and cultural discourses.
Writing amidst the turbulence of the German Weimar Republic, Carl Schmitt argued in Political Theology that the central concepts of modern politics were secularized versions of older theological concepts.
Center-Left polemicist John Avlon at The Daily Beast claims that “Over the past four years, no less than 89 obsessively anti-Obama books have been published.” This isn’t true — and Avlon knows it — as a casual stroll through “Interactive Hate: The Great Obama-Loathing Canon” reveals. Many of the titles he calls “books,” those who made them understood as short pamphlets. I recognize several that I helped edit and produce for a conservative 501(c)3. Others come from obscure, self-published authors with no influence.
Avlon’s big number of anti-Obama “books” hides the reality: plenty of titles with scary Obama pictures on the cover filled the market since 2008 but few offered little more than a polished collection of what you could find for free doing anti-Obama google searches. To understand the president one must look beyond the new release shelf.
Here are the 15 books I’ve found most useful in grasping the intentionally confusing worldview of our commander-in-chief: 4 recent books focused on Obama by conservative critics, 6 historical books on movements and ideologies, and 5 titles by the president, his supporters, mentors, and influences.
To grasp Barack Obama we need to understand the books he read when he first began his community organizing journey three decades ago. We have to put ourselves in the head of the young, college-age Barry to understand how ideological seeds grew into the disastrous public policy of his administration. To know where to begin we start with the two books by Barack Obama’s best, most underrated analyst, Stanley Kurtz.
Since its publication in October of 2010, Radical-in-Chief has served as my primary map for navigating the stormy media waters of the Obama presidency. I reviewed it here for the publication I edited at the time, instructed all my writers to read it, and applied a blunt headline to summarize its importance: “Case Closed: Barack Obama is a Socialist Working to Destroy America.”
My progressive friends laugh their heads off when I argue this with a straight face. They see Obama as a corporate sell-out still carrying on most of Bush’s war policy. Obama’s just a wimpy, moderate liberal and party hack beholden to Wall Street. To which I respond,
That’s what Obama wants you to think. In his memoir he admits attending Socialist Scholars conferences in New York City in the early 1980s. Stanley Kurtz has verified which ones he attended, who spoke there, and what ideas were argued. It’s there that Obama learned about what community organizing really is all about. And when you read these people’s books — like Saul Alinsky — they admit it quite openly that they are just pretending to be centrist pragmatists in order to dupe do-gooder liberals like I was and you still are so they can gradually implement a European social welfare state. There’s a reason why over 90% of Europeans would vote Obama. He’s one of them.
That’s when my friends usually change the subject.
How do we know for certain that Obama’s ideology is still the same as in the early 1980s when he began his career as a stealth socialist community organizer? It’s not just because his administration draws from the ranks of community organizers and employs the movement’s tactics on the national level. It’s because Obama still works with the same people who are still pursuing the same goals. All that’s changed is now Obama’s the “good cop,” a friendly politician, instead of the hardball activist “bad cop.”
In Spreading the Wealth: How Obama is Robbing the Suburbs to Pay for the Cities, Kurtz shows Obama’s second term plans. He reveals that the exact same community organizing mentors who trained Obama now work for him. Their goal? To quietly, as no one pays attention at the national level, use regulatory boards to implement “Regionalism.” The objective: create regions based around metropolitan areas that can swallow up and redistribute tax money from the richer suburbs to the poor inner cities. They would also seize control of schools, lower educational standards, and implement regulations to stop the growth of suburbia. Kurtz describes it as replicating the collapsing system of the European Union here in the United States. This is the “fundamental transformation.” And Kurtz unearthed documents within the archives of these stealth socialist community organizing groups irrefutably identifying Obama as a partner in the effort.
Barack Obama may have begun as a minor figure within the world of community organizing but by the mid ’90s he was a major player, responsible for directing millions through his position on the boards of numerous charitable foundations. The paper trail Kurtz assembles between his two books of Obama’s deep associations with this ideological movement to transform America lies too deep for any of the president’s defenders to explain. So they can only follow the president’s lead, a favored tactic of Alinsky, and obfuscate.
Just like the youtube deception with Benghazi, and just as we see in the next two books, focusing on the methods of ACORN and Eric Holder’s Department of Justice…
Related from Ron Radosh: The Book to Defeat Obama: Stanley Kurtz’s Spreading the Wealth
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Some of you may remember that earlier this year, Republicans shut me out of a hearing on contraception. In fact, on that panel, they didn’t hear from a single woman, even though they were debating an issue that affects nearly every woman. Because it happened in Congress, people noticed. But it happens all the time. Many women are shut out and silenced. So while I’m honored to be standing at this podium, it easily could have been any one of you. I’m here because I spoke out, and this November, each of us must do the same.
During this campaign, we’ve heard about the two profoundly different futures that could await women—and how one of those futures looks like an offensive, obsolete relic of our past. Warnings of that future are not distractions. They’re not imagined. That future could be real.
With expanding reproductive choices, we can expect to see more women choose to reproduce without men entirely. Fortunately, the data for children raised by only females is encouraging. As the Princeton sociologist Sara S. McLanahan has shown, poverty is what hurts children, not the number or gender of parents.
That’s good, since women are both necessary and sufficient for reproduction, and men are neither. From the production of the first cell (egg) to the development of the fetus and the birth and breast-feeding of the child, fathers can be absent. They can be at work, at home, in prison or at war, living or dead. …
Meanwhile women live longer, are healthier and are far less likely to commit a violent offense. If men were cars, who would buy the model that doesn’t last as long, is given to lethal incidents and ends up impounded more often?
Is this a serious article? What kind of misandrist pens this type of sexism? Common to the NYTs, sure, but his dismissal of men and suck-up-ness (no, it’s not a word, I made it up) to women and his audience is pretty clear. What is his malignant purpose?
Image courtesy shutterstock / Dietmar Hoepfl
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