About Me

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Did Socrates say "Know Thyself", or was he misunderstood, as all are. Show Thyself is all we can do. The knowing is unknowable.  

I am filled with joy.  It can't be helped.  

Became a Farmer, Builder, Musician, Tank Commander, Librarian, Lawyer and Minister. I have failed at many things. And now retired.  Filled, just filled, with Joy. 

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Compare the Branch Davidians and the Yearning for Zion Ranch in ElDorado Texas

In early April 2008, prosecutors for the State of Texas announced a raid on the Yearning for Zion Ranch. The State took "legal custody" of 401 children who had been raised in the 1,700 acre double-gated locked "19th century prairie" compound. By the second week a third person was arrested, Leroy Steed joining Levi Jeffs, and Warren Jeffs the founder, in jail.

It is interesting to recall the action taken by one of the finest Federal Attorneys General in the history of the United States, Janet Reno, in attempting to liberate a few dozen children in Waco, Texas, from a heavily-armed cult of Branch Davidians. The right-wing was screaming invectives at Ms Reno for each step taken in a slow transparent attempt to disarm the Davidian leaders. Now, after a wholesale raid and the taking of custody of 400 children from their community, not a peep of complaint from the right-wing.

The Federal Government, of course, is not involved. The Government has been deaf and witless in the face of the known and accumulating dangers with which civilization is faced. The Bush administration is not interested in the welfare of 400 children. Well, it is NOW time to scream. Who is taking care of these children? The children have been taken from the 19th century (weaving their own clothes), and from their homes.

It is not possible to forgive those who savaged the administration of Janet Reno, a prosecutor who at least addressed the dangers. Her critics are now hypocritically silent. They show no concern for an even worse and much much larger "cult" endangering the lives of even more children. Why is our Right Wing taken over by ideological hypocrites? Since extreme idiologues took over, we can no longer count on the wisdom of the Right Wing.

Finally, the news coming out seems to share the same tone and perspective which the FLDS Founders espouse: Males are important and females are reproductive drudges. Behind those "important" males are very significant females. We have not heard from any of them in any capacity. Apparently the State of Texas -- violating its tradition of having had five female governors and equal and independent citizens -- has been too much infected with the Bush legacy.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Looking for Hope on all the wrong faces

Once upon a time, an old warrior was wounded falling upon his own trope after a battle of no significance at a place I do not care to recall. All about him were heroes trying to get the credit for wringing the most blood out of the turnip of their own fear. But he tried to remain anonymous, falling back after the tide of the attack was receded, and as others delayed from the vanguard in its heat, suddenly advanced to plant their stanchions over the fallen. The old warrior knew there was no possible Hope -- not because the dead die in vain, but because the living only achieve metonymy. This is what you see in the eyes: The veteran of the battle never looks ahead. The opportunist of the battle, never looks behind.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

There was no Torah, no Gospel, no Q'uran, no Holy Writ

OK, the gloves have to come off.

The Believers get my unending deference and respect. I grew up with the finest people in the world living "Christian" lives of great kindness and principle; they were worthy of their Lord, Jesus Christ.

Furthermore, I will be an apologist for the Religious every time, having studied the Atheists who seized power -- Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Castro. These non-believers have killed more and ruined more lives single-handedly than any historical identifable group of Rabbis, Priests, Preachers, Mullahs or Monks did collectively.

Of course, there is that minor detail: There is no actual God.

There is no historical evidence of a "spiritual" existence. No "chosen people", no Thunder God transmitting Ten Commandments to any Moses, no Christ redeeming anyone, no Prophet predicting anything, no vibration, no transmutation of no soul, no re-birth in another Lama.

Why mention this now?

Because the Fundamentalists are telling us they want to kill everyone. It is simply WHAT they are all saying. The Christian Fundamentalists have been talking this way for many years: Armageddon, the Rapture, Apocalypse. Fortunately, after the Huns and Vikings and Janissaries calmed down, the over-reading and over-reaching of the Church Militant also took a rest. And the whole Renaissance and New World opportunity provided venues for Science and Artistic endeavors. Believers stopped killing eachother for their beliefs. It stopped being "OK" to make other people die for their beliefs. It became OK not to kill everyone.

Now, Fundamentalism has once again emerged, dripping with blood. Islam is being used by those who claim to be its adherents as a means of stealing from the weak or uninformed.

Curiously, there is not a single publicly recognized Religion thriving today which was founded by a person who ever required his or her apostles to kill Non-Believers. For starters, Moses (an Egyptian married to an Arab woman) did require Joshua to kill Philistines (other Semites), but not because they were Non-believers. And the abundant and relatively recent archeology of Egypt and Judea clearly shows no evidence of erstwhile slaves rising out of Egypt and slaughtering Canaanites. Most of the origin legends developed by the world's tribes just never happened.

Jesus Christ taught and embodied kindness, the exact opposite of slaughter and militance. There is no physical or documentary evidence such a man or god-man existed. His cult first began teaching universal love approximately 100 to 200 years after all of his "disciples" were dead. No "original" Gospels or Letters of St Paul have ever been found. Note: "The God Who Wasn't There", puts the facts about the figure of Christ into perspective: http://www.thegodmovie.com/trailer.php.

There is no physical evidence that a man named "Buddha" ever existed. There is no School where he taught, no house in which he lived, no text he ever wrote.

Mohamed is one of the few "historical" figures now associated with a Religion. However, like Socrates, Jesus, and Buddha, he wrote nothing and was probably illiterate. The earliest copies of the Koran are clearly Arabic translations of Syriac/Chaldean Christian teaching texts. Mohamed never mentioned starting a Religion.

Another great and genuine historical religious figure is the Founder of the Church of Latter Day Saints, Joseph Smith. While Smith clearly existed, and is clearly the source of the Book of Mormon, for its part, the Book is not a "history". It is not what it claims to be -- dictated by an angel, translated by two rocks, composing a history of the lost tribes of Israel. There is no historical evidence of the "tribes" described in the Book.

Again, we are fortunate to live in a period of time when the Believers have generally calmed down. Yet, the exceptions are significant. There are trends. A cadre of pirates took over America and pillaged its treasure and sent 4000 of its finest warriors to their deaths, IN THE NAME OF RELIGION. The cost of THREE TRILLION is not insignificant. The election of Bush-Cheney was not a harmless swing to the "right". It was a wholesale rout of the treasury and resources which would otherwise have been available to enable free citizens to defend themselves and insure the survival of civilization, a matter now in doubt.

The other great danger is Islam. The last great expansion of Islam was the largely peaceful sweep through Indonesia all the way to the Philipines. Learning nothing from this historical success, the present expansionists of this most graceful of Religions, ardently demand bloodshed. Unarmed men, women, and children are the almost exclusive targets of this form of Fundamentalism. Ironically, most of the people being killed by Islam's Martyrs are other Islamic "believers".

Islam today is not "expanding" at all. The "ideas" of the Koran are not taught in schools, since as a text it is completely confusing -- the most learned scholars disagree about what it means. No one can "convert" to Islam since it is impossible to agree on its principles. No one can claim to understand the Koran in any language. It was first written in Syriac, a language now extinct. Scholars do not actually agree on WHAT the Koran should be -- various texts having been compiled from the teaching workbooks of Chaldean Christians and from collected battle lore inscribed on pieces of bark about 200 years after Mohammed, and ALL of his wives and apostles, were dead.

It is of course true that Arabs are reproducing. Inhabitants of desert regions are raising large families as a result of wholesale adoption of "Western" medicine coupled with prosperity accrued from oil extraction. Since their desert homelands cannot support large populations, these desert people are leaving their homelands.

Islamic religious practices are appearing in the West because Arabs, desert peoples, and Turks are appearing in Europe; they simply bring their Beliefs with them. These great people are the migrators of the 21st century -- enabled by oil wealth and an infant survival rate not previously enjoyed by their Bedouin grandparents.

In the Sudan, and in other large regions of Africa from the Horn to the Gold Coast, the expanding Arabs are slaughtering other tribes who occupy land they want. The fact that the murdered villagers also practice Islam does not give pause to the invaders. Thus, it is not Islam which is expanding, it is the over-populated Arabs who have chosen to leave their homelands to take over the homes of other tribes.

It is time to stop giving religious fanatics a free pass. Stop calling killers "religious". They cannot, cannot, can not, be "martyrs" in any sense.

And stop honoring those who enable murderers and thieves to claim a Religion.

No one is "religious" who fails to separate themselves from thieves and murderers. There is no hijab, no religious artifact, with any sanctity which survives the stain of blood. There is no "modesty" among those who kill others for their property.

No one can kill another human being in the Name of Islam. Call it what it really is: Murder, Theft. There are people who want to plunder what little other people have, and they do it in the name of the Holy. Such pillage is of course, utter blasphemy: It is proof of the non-existence of Allah, that a Mullah would be permitted to exhort one of Allah's creations to murder any other of Allah's creations.

Who kills what Allah has enlivened?
Who usurps what Allah gave to another?

These are not questions. What appear to be two simple questions, are indictments against murderers and thieves. They are explosives. These words are the road-side bombs that accompany every murdering mullah and martyr to the Heaven that is Not There, and the Hell that is.

Death in the Family, and the living Word undone

In the troubling history of our troubled peoples, many of the dead would return to speak to the living. We were not wanting for mediums and priests to describe the presciptions of the dead for our comforts and fears.

For whatever reason, with the advent of science the heretofore voluble dead fell silent; none speak. The faith-based mediums replaced by befuddling media. As if by strange coincidence, as the means of recording and verifying became available, all messages and voices across the barrier of death became unavailable.

Death now seals the lips of the dead. One suspects that this has always been the case. Yet there is the ancient residue left by tradition. And we long to hear what the dead have to say, perhaps with far more patience than we have for the words of the living.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Historiography - the balancing between academic work and popular audience

The Purpose of the Past; Reflections on the Uses of History, (2008)
by Gordon S. Wood

At last, a recognized authority calls for hostilities to cease between the pompous academics (deliberately writing for other professors bulked up with quantitative social science data and theory) and the trendy popularizers. For our generation, Wood is the prize-winning dean of American historiography. The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787 (1969) won the Bancroft Prize. The Radicalism of the American Revolution (1991) won the Pulitzer.

Collection of long-form praise and criticism of works by American historians published by Wood in NY Review of Books and New Republic, to each of which Wood has added an afterword, analyzing the significance of the subjects in hindsight, and reviewing his own reviews.

Wood seems to admire: Charles Royster, “The Fabulous History of the Dismal Swamp Company”; David Hackett Fischer, “Albion’s Seed”. He champions historians who have not earned advanced degrees but who communicate the story, such as David McCullough, Stacy Schiff, and Barbara W. Tuchman.

Wood is critical of those whose modern political views infect their work: Simon Schama, John Patrick Diggins, Richard K. Matthews. He is not as dismissive as other academics are of the “popularizers” such as Ron Chernow, Walter Isaacson and again, David McCullough.

Wood decries the academic “hyper-specialization” which turns off the public and deprives them of what would be a “sense of where we have come from and how we have become what we are”. The social science trend, for example, his brought historians closer to the sciences, but while enrollment in higher education was booming from 1970 through the 1980's, history majors declined by almost two-thirds.

As academic historians embraced theories of “deconstruction”, “textuality”, and “essentialism”, and incorporated compilations of quantitative data and technological tools of analysis, they communicated only to other tenured faculty. The university presses became obsessed with Derrida techniques and the structuralism of Michel Foucault. The academics lost the Story.

Ironically perhaps in light of the title and subtitle, Wood is critical of the attempt, especially by popularizers (Tuchman, McCullough), to make history “useful”. The Story is not for spinning. He seems to be an umpire of political shifts, calling ideologues out, but doing all he can to bring more people to the game.