Culture, politics, science, philosophy, Islam
On group-think and fundamentalisms of every kind
27.09.2021 (updated 06.10.2021). Here are some excerpts from various sections of Alister McGrath's book The Great Mystery – Science, God and the Human Quest for Meaning (except for the first one, the section headings below are those used by McGrath; footnotes and references are not included; emphasis added):
Some [people] are content to accept the prevailing wisdom of their peers. In an act of tribal loyalty, they align themselves with the ideas and values of a social group which is seen to be powerful or fashionable. Truth is here seen primarily as an act of intellectual and moral loyalty to a community into which we are born, or which we choose to enter. Truth is thus collusion with a group-think – about 'what it is good for us to believe', or what we are required to believe if we are to remain in good standing with those we regard as important and influential.
It's neat and simple, the ideal creed of people whose status depends on acceptance by a social 'in-group', or of politicians anxious to retain the support of voters or party selection committees. Yet it stifles independence of thought, in that this conflicts with loyalty to a social group. So we end up locked within some cultural 'in-group', and as a result are unwilling to take seriously the views of other communities. That's why fundamentalisms of every kind (whether religious, anti-religious, political or cultural) encourage social and intellectual isolation. It's so much easier to dismiss alternative perspectives if you believe that their advocates are evil, warped or deluded. That allows you to ridicule them without taking their ideas or their personal integrity seriously, and makes it easier to argue for their exclusion from the public domain.
As I have discovered from some rather depressingly sterile conversations, not everyone likes [Carl] Sagan's idea [that science 'counsels us to carry alternative hypotheses in our heads and see which ones best match the facts']. Dogmatic atheists and fundamentalist religious believers don't seem to like taking any intellectual possibilities other than their own seriously. People who are just intellectually lazy or who are aware of the vulnerability of their beliefs get round the problem by dismissing those with alternative viewpoints as deluded fools. To take the ideas of such people seriously, they argue, would simply contaminate their own intellectual and moral purity. We already know they must be wrong, so why waste time reading their ghastly books? They're little more than the infantile ramblings of stunted intellects.
The rest of us, of course, do not consider ourselves to be lesser human beings for failing to embrace these fundamentalist certainties, which generally turn out only to be 'certain' within their own ideological and cultural bubbles – bubbles that everyone knows will one day burst. Such fundamentalists already know that they are right, so they regard the exercise of even thinking about 'alternative hypotheses' as pointless and debasing. 'Don't insult me by asking me to consider such a ridiculous idea.'
Not surprisingly, both anti-religious and religious fundamentalists seem to have lists of 'safe' authors and books, and treat everyone else as heretical, deluded or just plain stupid. Bullying rhetoric implies that anyone taking these ideas seriously is a traitor, a liar or a simpleton. 'I wouldn't be caught dead reading such rubbish!' is presented as if it were a moral or intellectual virtue, when it is little more than a rhetorical fig leaf covering an embarrassing ignorance, culpable lack of curiosity, or a suppressed intuition that my own ideas might be wrong. Yet within these bizarre fundamentalist bubbles, this vice is seen as a virtue. This, of course, is exactly how cultural 'in-groups' work. Both the New Atheists and religious fundamentalists tend to demonise anyone they regard as a threat. They may each use their own vocabulary, but the same basic strategy underlies them both: portray your opponents as mindless, mad or evil.
Sagan was right: it may be intellectually uncomfortable, but we need to respect other perspectives, and avoid demonising those ideas, or those who hold them. It makes polemics difficult. But that's how universities work. That's how science works. And that's how religion should work as well.
Let's look at science, and see why this matters so much. The phrase 'scientific orthodoxy' sends chills down my spine. Why? Because it has come to mean the dominant scientific view of an age, which self-importantly believes it is correct, and seeks to exclude alternative perspectives – for example, through the high degree of control exercised by peer-review journals, which generally select articles favourable to the status quo. It is notoriously difficult to publish an article which questions a widely accepted theory, or presents data that is anomalous in terms of current understandings. Yet, science works so well precisely because it changes its mind in response to evidence and theoretical development, which means abandoning what one generation believed to be 'orthodoxy'.
There are just too many examples of this for comfort. The Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker pointed out how many scientists routinely betray the core values of science in order to align themselves with 'morally progressive' ideas. In doing this, they abandon any pretensions to objectivity and neutrality, and become 'moral exhibitionists', denouncing their fellow scientists who fail to conform to their social and moral values. Ideas are not evaluated in terms of their truth, but in terms of their consistency with the prevailing progressive ideas of racial and gender equality. Failure to conform to this orthodoxy means you aren't a member of the 'in-group'.
A good example of this cultural bias is found in the initial responses to Edward O. Wilson's classic Sociobiology (1975), which was widely interpreted on its publication by leading scientists and cultural commentators of the late 1970s as colluding with (if not actually openly advocating) racism, genocide and slavery. Pressure mounted for these views (and Wilson himself) to be excluded from university campuses. That political posturing now lies in the past, even if other views are now demonised in this way; nevertheless, it is a disturbing reminder of how a group-think can emerge, even within what many hope might be the most open-minded of disciplines: science.
In science, as in most other areas of life, certain 'alternative hypotheses' that ought to be kept open as genuine possibilities are rejected for social and political reasons, in that they do not conform to cultural norms – as if these were somehow arbiters of truth. It's all too easy to become a slave to intellectual fashion, letting transient cultural norms determine what's right through a process of alignment with individuals who are seen to embody cultural virtues of the moment.
In the final chapter, McGrath introduces the below sections as follows (page 196): "As I bring this work to a close, I see three points that have clearly emerged from the chastening of human rationality that we have considered in this work. None are religious in themselves, yet all are religiously significant. They all call out for further thought."
In a powerful visual image, Paul of Tarsus speaks of the limits of our vision of reality. We now only 'see in a mirror, dimly' (1 Corinthians 13:12). To be human is to see only part of a 'big picture' of reality, and to learn to live with a deep sense of frustration that we cannot see more, mingled with some slight satisfaction that we can see anything at all. The enemy here is not faith, but arrogance – the conceited belief that our limited view is right, and for that reason others are wrong.
Nobody knows for certain [what lies beyond death], although I know what I believe and hope – and why. But that doesn't mean that I regard others who disagree with me as deluded fools. I gladly leave that sort of rhetoric to cultural fundamentalists.
For perhaps the most important point to appreciate from such a line of thought is this. Given that life's great questions remain tantalisingly open, we need to be generous towards those whose answers do not coincide with our own.
Our sense of wonder at the solemn stillness of a starlit night, or the crystal purity of a northern landscape, elicits more than an experience of beauty; it discloses the limited capacity of our minds, and invites us to expand our mental vision to embrace the universe as it actually is, rather than to try and reduce it to what we find convenient or manageable.
This book has reflected on the great mystery of human identity, and especially our attempts to make sense of ourselves and our world as we journey on the Road. The proper human response to that mystery is a sense of humility in the presence of something greater than us; an intellectual generosity, not a narrow dogmatism, in trying to make sense of it; and perhaps above all, a feeling of awed wonder that we are temporarily placed within such a vast and beautiful universe, and are capable of reflecting on its deeper significance – as well as our own.
It is easy to be drawn to ideologues who try to short-circuit or bypass the problem of our 'all too limited human mind', offering us the cosy and smug certainties of in-groups or the strident slogans of fundamentalists. These imagined certainties demand a God's-eye view of reality, to which neither they nor we have access. Our place is on the Road, not on the Balcony – not a settled habitation of detached privilege, but a process of journeying in hope through an opaque and puzzling world.
McGrath, The Great Mystery – Science, God and the Human Quest for Meaning.
26.09.2021 (updated 27.09.2021). Modernity is an effort to suppress religious superstition and authority, right? Not really, says Michael Allen Gillespie in The Theological Origins of Modernity (pages xi - xii, emphasis added):
Indeed, since the time of the Enlightenment modernity has thought of itself as an effort to suppress religious superstition and authority, encapsulated in Voltaire's famous imperative: 'Ecrasez l'infame!'
In Europe this has meant a continual diminution of the importance of religion, confining it first 'within the bounds of reason alone,' as Kant put it, then attempting to put it out of its misery by declaring God was dead, and culminating in the exceptional decline in religious belief and practice in the latter half of the twentieth century.
Even in America, where religion continues to play a much more important role than in Europe, the attachment to religion is often perceived, especially by intellectuals and academics, as atavistic and unseemly, especially when it takes on a fundamentalist or evangelical tone. And even in America, the idea that religion should guide public life continues to meet widespread opposition.
This opposition to religion in the modern age, however, should not be taken as a proof that at its core modernity is antireligious. It is certainly true that modernity has consistently struggled against certain forms of religious doctrine and practice, including the cult of the saints, teleology, the natural law teachings of scholasticism, the geocentric vision of the natural world, and creationism, but I want to suggest that this does not mean that it was therefore a rejection of religion as such.
The argument presented in this book suggests that it is a mistake to imagine that modernity is in its origins and at its core atheistic, antireligious, or even agnostic.
Indeed, I will show in what follows that from the very beginning modernity sought not to eliminate religion but to support and develop a new view of religion and its place in human life, and that it did so not out of hostility to religion but in order to sustain certain religious beliefs.
As we shall see, modernity is better understood as an attempt to find a new metaphysical/theological answer to the question of the nature and relation of God, man, and the natural world that arose in the late medieval world as a result of a titanic struggle between contradictory elements within Christianity itself.
This quotation from Gillespie has been copied from Concept of Barakah in Qur'ān and Sunnah: Towards its Realization in Modern Discourse, by Serdar Demirel & Hikmatullah Babu Sahib.
The Uniqueness of Western Civilization
29.08.2021. Muslim intellectual Ikram Hawramani remarks that historian Ricardo Duchesne has «a very negative view of Muslims». This does not prevent Hawramani from writing a favorable review of a book written by Duchesne. Here are some excerpts from the article, entitled The Uniqueness of Western Civilization by Ricardo Duchesne (links and italics in original):
There are times when you read a book that completely change your understanding of the world, answering questions you have had for most of your life, and even better, answering questions you did not know you had. This is such a book. Duchesne unites economic analysis, anthropology, history and philosophy in order to make a compelling argument for why Western civilization is truly unique and unlike any other civilization.
The "Wickedness" of the West
According to the currently fashionable ideology at the sociology departments of Western universities, the West is uniquely evil. It doesn't matter that the Chinese colonized the lands of ethnic minorities and sometimes massacred them; it is the Western colonization of other lands that is unforgivable. It doesn't matter that the native Americans slaughtered and enslaved each other, or that the Aztecs practiced mass human sacrifice; it is the intrusion of the West into this utterly evil and inhuman social system that is unforgivable. It doesn't matter that Africans used to enslave each other by the millions; it is the fact of Westerners buying these slaves that is unforgivable. [...]
The action of the Europeans on the world scene over the past few centuries were clearly motivated by much greed for wealth and power. But a person who does not have an ax to grind against Westerners will see them and their actions as no worse than those of the rest of the peoples of the world. And not just that, but such a person will also appreciate the uniquely positive and humane contributions that the West has made to make the lot of non-Westerners better. It was the British who spent vast amounts of wealth, and large numbers of the lives of their own, to police the seas in the 19th century to put an end to the slave trade. Yes, the British engaged in it before, like almost all other peoples. But it was they, and not the Chinese, Indians, Muslims or Africans who developed an anti-slavery ideology that ensured that slavery would be abolished throughout the world. But to those who are moved by hate against the West, this is irrelevant. The West is evil, and the facts do not matter.
"Eurocentrics" like Duchesne have been characterized as believing that the West achieved its supremacy without any debts to other cultures. But Duchesne clearly opposes such a view:
By 1200, Europe had recovered much of the scientific and philosophical accomplishment produced within the rest of the world. Persian, Byzantine, Chinese, Indian, African, and Islamic cultures were essential ingredients in Europe's ascendancy. Affirming the uniqueness of Western civilization in no way implies the idea that Europe can be viewed as a self-contained civilization. A major secret of European creativeness was precisely its multicultural inheritance and its wider geographical linkages with the peoples of the world.
Humans as Passive Animals
One of Duchesne's major efforts is to refute the popular academic conception of humans as passive actors in world history, controlled by circumstances and environments that made them what they are. Duchesne argues that Westerners were active agents who sought wealth and prestige, not passive agents who couldn't help doing what they did due to economic circumstances.
The view of humans as passive animals stuck in their circumstances is often associated with Marx, although I believe that we can detect the same strains of thought in many other highly influential 19th and 20th century intellectual movements, almost all of them led by Jewish thinkers.
- Marx: Humans are passive animals controlled by economic class conflict.
- Freud: Humans are passive animals controlled by sexuality-based conflict within families.
- The Frankfurt School (Horkheimer, Adorno and Marcuse): Humans are passive animals controlled by social pathologies peculiar to the Western-Christian mentality.
- Betty Friedan aka Bettye Naomi Goldstein: Humans are passive animals controlled by sex-based class conflict (Marxism translated into feminism).
- Louis Brandeis and Ronald Dworkin: Humans are passive animals who do not know what is good for them; the elite must gain control of the legal system to force upon them what is good for them.
- Leo Strauss and his neo-conservative students: Humans (meaning ordinary Christians) are passive animals to be controlled by an atheistic philosophical elite behind the scenes.
- Jacques Derrida: Humans are passive animals controlled by dominant discourses that maintain power structures.
- Immanuel Wallerstein and Andre Gunder Frank: Humans are passive animals controlled by dominant "world systems".
- Jared Diamond: Humans are passive animals controlled by environmental forces.
The only major non-Jewish intellectual who espoused similar ideas is Michel Foucault. It appears that there is something about Jewish culture that makes these intellectuals prefer removing human agency from their explanations of human behavior.
It should go without saying that this view of humans as passive animals controlled by circumstances is wholly foreign to Western civilization, which has always celebrated human agency. The thinking of these intellectuals can therefore be characterized as an importation of a foreign, Jewish view of humans into Western discourse, and the results are as anyone would expect.
All of the above radical movements (the most important today being the mix of cultural Marxism and postmodernism that rules in academia) are pests on intellectual development and scholarship and will ultimately be squashed by the constant, restless, innocent search for truth that continues to characterize many Westerners, and today, non-Westerners. I have high hopes in the increase of Muslim participation in intellectual fields. Muslims who follow Islamic morality will reject the relativization of truth and the reduction of humans to mere animals and will continue the Western tradition of respecting the inviolable dignity of humans.
The Westernization of Islamic Studies
A very interesting aspect of the spread of Western aristocratic egalitarianism is the way Muslim intellectuals and scholars today have started to challenge the scholarly tradition of Oriental despotism that characterized Islamic studies in the past. What we have today are thousands of intellectuals and scholars throughout the world who are bravely challenging long-held beliefs in their individualist search for truth. They have, for example, defended women's right to divorce and the right of Muslims to leave Islam without being molested, not by discarding Islamic teachings out of a desire to live up to Western standards, but by recognizing that Islam actually supports these views.
In the case of Christianity, the individualist search for truth meant that it suffered persistent attacks on its foundations as philologists in the 19th and 20th centuries subjected its texts and beliefs to rigorous scholarly study and debate. The view of many Westerners unfamiliar with Islam is that Islam too will have its foundations weakened as its study becomes more scientific. But the reality as I see it is quite the opposite. If Islam is really "true", then it will survive the process intact.
And that is what I see all around me. Having benefited from the latest Western studies of Islam, my view of Islam's validity has only strengthened. Those who look forward to the secularization of the world may take comfort in the history of the weakening of Christianity, believing that Islam will go through a similar process. But my view is that those hopes will never materialize. Western students of Islamic studies such as Jonathan Brown and Umar Wymann-Landgraf, who have subjected the Islamic scriptures (in their case the Hadith literature) to rigorous Western-style analysis have actually ended up converting to Islam.
We are also seeing a possible trend of anti-Islam activists converting. Joram van Klaveren, a close ally of the anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders, in the middle of writing an anti-Islam book, ended up converting. What other religion in the world has such a power? Another far-right convert is Arthur Wagner. Yet another is Arnoud van Doorn.
Why are these lovers and defenders of Western civilization converting to Islam if Islam is inherently opposed to Western values?
It is my view that these activists, feeling embattled by the constant attacks on Western values, and recognizing that Christianity offers no hope, realized [that] Islam is actually the best hope for the survival of their civilization.
Read the entire article by Hawramani at his website.
HonestThinking comments: I take issue with Hawramani's conclusion that Christianity «offers no hope». While Christendom in general seems to be in dire straits, I am not yet convinced the situation is so bad that all hope is gone.
Returns with a vengeance
27.08.2021. Writes philosopher Neven Sesardic in his blog entry An amazingly short history of philosophy (6.12.2020):
- In the beginning everyone searching for knowledge was doing philosophy. There was nothing else.
- Then, gradually, one scientific discipline after another started separating themselves from philosophy.
- Eventually, philosophy was "expelled" from so many domains that its main theoretical subject matter reduced to three areas: (a) history of philosophy, (b) various conceptual questions, and (c) metaphysics (which scientists were not interested in appropriating because it was resistant to the scientific method and was also widely regarded as being just a bunch of nonsense).
- Today, frustrated with the too-narrow research area that was left to them, philosophers are rebelling and getting back to discussing questions that were once rightfully theirs. Unapologetically, and even brazenly, they are injecting themselves into debates about various topics in physics, mathematics, biology, chemistry, linguistics, psychology, anthropology, law, political science — you name it.
It's as if the Roman Empire came back and re-established its (partial) control over the territories that were under its rule many centuries ago.
Philosophy returns with a vengeance!
Copied from Neven Sesardic.
Challenges and possibilities
25.08.2021. Excerpts from the Renovatio essay On Migrating to Lands of Melancholy by Abdal Hakim Murad (aka Professor Timothy Winter; italics in original):
Pebbles which the waves suck back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.
Ever since its 1867 publication, which provoked the dismayed disapproval of what was then a still firmly Christian England, Matthew Arnold's poem "Dover Beach" has been known as one of the most iconic and wistful anthems of the modern loss of faith. As the lines gently move the reader on, a note of weltschmerz appears and grows, as the poet sorrowfully compares the ebbing Channel tide to the decline of the once rich and meaningful Christian worldview, which, to the poet, seemed to be increasingly undermined by science and the critical study of scripture.
The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl'd;
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar.
Since Arnold's time, a century and a half of extreme events and cultural upheavals have left us so far on the other side of modernity that the girdle has fallen away and the once-loud roar itself seems hardly audible to most, submerged as we are in an age of postmodern non-referentiality in which all claims to truth are savored only as ironies, while humanity seems no longer conscious of the evident fact that it was designed, or has evolved, to swim in a spiritual sea.
Dover's shingled beach is still there, of course, but it has become, in our traumatized and unsteady twenty-first century, the site of a different and unexpected wave, this time of a distressed refugee humanity. By the middle of 2020, more than two hundred migrants every night were making the hazardous and illegal Channel crossing to where "the cliffs of England stand." Today's Dover Beach is littered each morning with abandoned life vests and sometimes with the bodies of the drowned, as Border Agency staff lead the surviving castaways up the slope toward the town's police station.
Europe no longer has a God, and hence it hears everything as the roar of broken fragments whirled around in meaningless though strangely evocative cycles of advance and regression.
It is an irony and a calamity of our times that ninety percent of those who complete this odyssey and stagger up the beach are Muslims. The great symbol of a departing Christianity seems to have become an emblem of an arriving but destitute Islam. Let us, in this essay, ponder this strange circumstance by tracing the imaginary but emblematic case of one such voyager: let him be a Syrian, drenched and fatigued yet wary and alert, praying that God should help him during the Home Office inquisition that is sure to come. Let us call him Ishmael.
Ishmael must also learn his own story and grasp its recent decay. The man in the life jacket who stands on Dover Beach has been scarred by more than the minefields of Greece and the razor wire of Hungary: his city of origin may be smashed, and his memory of how Ishmael was always schooled to be in its indigenously self-governed past may be faint, warped, or even nonexistent; he has been alienated from his classical Muslim identity and selfhood. For several generations, the heritage, the turāth, has been banalized and homogenized by regime curricula and nationalized religious hierarchies led by muftis of the Vicar of Bray type, while the shallow nationalist discourses of the Third World nation-states have ensured that a messianic modernism and a naive cult of Progress have dented the natural self-confidence of the believer, who ought to look back with both pride and hope on the story of Muslim civilization. In some places, this alienation has been deepened further by the reactive fundamentalism of the new extremists, who have devastated entire provinces and even countries: much of the Middle East, in the aftermath of the Iraqi and Syrian fundamentalist zombie apocalypse, is now trembling and shaking spiritually, much as Europe did after Auschwitz. Many refugees and asylum seekers arrive in a profoundly traumatized state, and this adds to the danger of their amnesia about the broad, merciful, mystical, and diversity-loving Islam that prevailed before the modern period. Ishmael is not himself.
A stronger historical awareness of how Muslim discourse was, say, in the time of the seventeenth-century genial genius of Damascus ¢Abd al-Ghanī al-Nābulusī will be essential not only in restoring Ishmael to spiritual health but in convincing the milder Islamophobes that the shriveled fundamentalist caricature is not what Islam needs to be or has normally been. Our Europe is tragically post-Christian, but arriving Muslims are, in varying degrees, post-Islamic as well, their religion warped by the long trauma of contemptuous foreign rule followed by the hypocritical ideologies of the regimes until it became, in many cases, little more than a flat ideology of alienation and resentment, an existentialism sustained by the aura of a jargon of authenticity. The theology of European Islam ambitiously proposed by Charles-André Gilis identifies Ishmael as a divinely gifted witness and liberator who will save Europe from the dark night of its soul;19 but which Ishmael? We may ask: Will the real Ishmael stand up?
Unlike the atheistic melancholy depicted for us by Lars Von Trier, the melancholy of the self-jailing Muselmänner as stigmatized and defeatist subaltern subjects is not incurable. Therapists working with insecure Jewish women who had been intimidated by prejudice report that a renewed public display of Jewish identity had a therapeutic benefit in reducing self-hate. Increased hijab wearing would form part of an equivalent Muslim strategy to seek healing in confidence and not in the humbled internalizing of state and liberal negativity. A greater assertiveness in Muslim authorship and leadership would also do much to reinvigorate Ishmael's vibrancy and restore his natural and life-giving optimism.
Finally, the rejuvenation of Islamic assertion in the unhappy liberal Babylon must require the intention of healing. Those who "migrate for dunyā," for worldly gain, as the hadith puts it, are likely to be miserably assimilated and crushed; while those whose intention is noble, who are willing to see and understand and heal, can serve a redemptive purpose. In the old Muslim stories Potiphar's wife Zuleikha seeks to tempt Joseph, but through his self-mastery he finally converts and marries her, and their fruitful union revives all of Egypt, and this he has only been able to achieve by finding the strength to forgive her sexual harassment and continuing to value the wounded humanity that always lay beneath. Hating the seducer—whether it be an alien world or the world in its worldliness—is a frequent theme of modern Islamism, but it is foreign to Ishmael's best inheritance.
So Dover Beach has become a liminal site of the new and fecund wave of Abrahamic arrival, which Muslims must hope presages a divinely purposed resurrection of Europe as a land restored not only to demographic health but to God and to optimism. Amid the ruins of the secular, and in hopeful fellowship with serious believers of other religions, Ishmael may serve as this catalyst, just as the first Ishmael and his mother once brought the holy well unexpectedly to life in the arid valley of Mecca; but this must be preceded by a noble struggle against the ego and its fears and frailties. "Do people think that they will be left alone to say, 'We believe,' and that they will not be tested? We tested those who came before them; and God will certainly know those who were sincere, and those who were speaking falsely" (29:2–3).
Read the entire essay in Renovatio (the journal of Zaytuna College).
Brave New World
07.08.2021. Aldous Huxley (1894 - 1963), interviewed by Mike Wallace in 1958, shares his visions and fears for this brave new world. Youtube (28 minutes).
Accusing rape victims of racism
21.06.2021. A lawyer today accused Oxfam of suggesting reporting rape is 'contemptible' after a training document said 'privileged white women' were supporting the 'root causes of sexual violence' for wanting offenders jailed because it disproportionately affects minorities. Thus begins The Daily Mail its article 'The message seems to be [that] a woman who reports rape is a contemptible white feminist': Outrage at Oxfam staff training document blaming 'privileged white women' over root causes of sexual violence (link in original):
The charity, which has been hit by a slew of sex scandals including claims that employees used teenage prostitutes in Haiti, compiled the PowerPoint presentation through its LGBT network after the group complained to bosses that the debate about women's rights was part of a 'patriarchal and white supremacist narrative'.
Accompanied by a cartoon of a crying white woman, the PowerPoint claims that mainstream feminism supports 'the root causes of sexual violence' by painting white women as 'victims' and that this in turn justifies excessive punishment for 'black and other marginalised people'.
Naomi Cunningham, a discrimination and employment law barrister, said the training - which uses extracts from a book written by Sussex University gender studies professor Alison Phipps - had shocking implications.
'The message seems to be that a woman who reports a rape or sexual assault to the police and presses charges is a contemptible ''white feminist'',' she told The Telegraph.
She added: 'I think any woman could make an arguable case that this has created or contributed to ''an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment'', which is how the Equality Act defines harassment.'
Continue reading in The Daily Mail.
Did people or nature open Pandora's box at Wuhan?
26.05.2021 (updated 13.06.2020). The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted lives the world over for more than a year. Its death toll will soon reach three million people. Yet the origin of pandemic remains uncertain: the political agendas of governments and scientists have generated thick clouds of obfuscation, which the mainstream press seems helpless to dispel. In what follows I will sort through the available scientific facts, which hold many clues as to what happened, and provide readers with the evidence to make their own judgments. I will then try to assess the complex issue of blame, which starts with, but extends far beyond, the government of China. By the end of this article, you may have learned a lot about the molecular biology of viruses. I will try to keep this process as painless as possible. But the science cannot be avoided because for now, and probably for a long time hence, it offers the only sure thread through the maze. Thus begins author and journalist Nicholas Wade (a science writer who has worked on the staff of Nature, Science and, for many years, on the New York Times) his long article Origin of Covid — Following the Clues. He concludes as follows (link and italics in original):
If the case that SARS2 originated in a lab is so substantial, why isn't this more widely known? As may now be obvious, there are many people who have reason not to talk about it. The list is led, of course, by the Chinese authorities. But virologists in the United States and Europe have no great interest in igniting a public debate about the gain-of-function experiments that their community has been pursuing for years.
Nor have other scientists stepped forward to raise the issue. Government research funds are distributed on the advice of committees of scientific experts drawn from universities. Anyone who rocks the boat by raising awkward political issues runs the risk that their grant will not be renewed and their research career will be ended. Maybe good behavior is rewarded with the many perks that slosh around the distribution system. And if you thought that Dr. Andersen and Dr. Daszak might have blotted their reputation for scientific objectivity after their partisan attacks on the lab escape scenario, look at the 2nd and 3rd names on this list of recipients of an $82 million grant announced by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in August 2020.
The US government shares a strange common interest with the Chinese authorities: neither is keen on drawing attention to the fact that Dr. Shi's coronavirus work was funded by the US National Institutes of Health. One can imagine the behind-the-scenes conversation in which the Chinese government says "If this research was so dangerous, why did you fund it, and on our territory too?" To which the US side might reply, "Looks like it was you who let it escape. But do we really need to have this discussion in public?"
Dr. Fauci is a longtime public servant who served with integrity under President Trump and has resumed leadership in the Biden Administration in handling the Covid epidemic. Congress, no doubt understandably, may have little appetite for hauling him over the coals for the apparent lapse of judgment in funding gain-of-function research in Wuhan.
To these serried walls of silence must be added that of the mainstream media. To my knowledge, no major newspaper or television network has yet provided readers with an in-depth news story of the lab escape scenario, such as the one you have just read, although some have run brief editorials or opinion pieces. One might think that any plausible origin of a virus that has killed three million people would merit a serious investigation. Or that the wisdom of continuing gain-of-function research, regardless of the virus's origin, would be worth some probing. Or that the funding of gain-of-function research by the NIH and NIAID during a moratorium on such funding would bear investigation. What accounts for the media's apparent lack of curiosity?
The virologists' omertà is one reason. Science reporters, unlike political reporters, have little innate skepticism of their sources' motives; most see their role largely as purveying the wisdom of scientists to the unwashed masses. So when their sources won't help, these journalists are at a loss.
Another reason, perhaps, is the migration of much of the media toward the left of the political spectrum. Because President Trump said the virus had escaped from a Wuhan lab, editors gave the idea little credence. They joined the virologists in regarding lab escape as a dismissible conspiracy theory. During the Trump Administration, they had no trouble in rejecting the position of the intelligence services that lab escape could not be ruled out. But when Avril Haines, President Biden's director of National Intelligence, said the same thing, she too was largely ignored. This is not to argue that editors should have endorsed the lab escape scenario, merely that they should have explored the possibility fully and fairly.
People round the world who have been pretty much confined to their homes for the last year might like a better answer than their media are giving them. Perhaps one will emerge in time. After all, the more months pass without the natural emergence theory gaining a shred of supporting evidence, the less plausible it may seem. Perhaps the international community of virologists will come to be seen as a false and self-interested guide. The common sense perception that a pandemic breaking out in Wuhan might have something to do with a Wuhan lab cooking up novel viruses of maximal danger in unsafe conditions could eventually displace the ideological insistence that whatever Trump said can't be true.
And then let the reckoning begin.
Read the entire article at Wade's web-site on medium.com.
Nicholas Wade has also published (a slightly modified version of) this article in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
- Should we discount the laboratory origin of COVID-19?.
There is a near-consensus view that severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), the causative agent of COVID-19, has a natural zoonotic origin; however, several characteristics of SARS-CoV-2 taken together are not easily explained by a natural zoonotic origin hypothesis. These include a low rate of evolution in the early phase of transmission; the lack of evidence for recombination events; a high pre-existing binding to human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2); a novel furin cleavage site (FCS) insert; a flat ganglioside-binding domain (GBD) of the spike protein which conflicts with host evasion survival patterns exhibited by other coronaviruses; and high human and mouse peptide mimicry. Initial assumptions against a laboratory origin by contrast have remained unsubstantiated. Furthermore, over a year after the initial outbreak in Wuhan, there is still no clear evidence of zoonotic transfer from a bat or intermediate species. Given the immense social and economic impact of this pandemic, identifying the true origin of SARS-CoV-2 is fundamental to preventing future outbreaks. The search for SARS-CoV-2′s origin should include an open and unbiased inquiry into a possible laboratory origin.
Here we address the main arguments in support of a natural origin of SARS-CoV-2 and outline the various points which support the alternative, that a laboratory origin is still a valid possibility that should not be discounted. To help prevent future viral pandemics, it is of pivotal importance to identify the source of the virus, and this is only possible with an unbiased analysis of all data available. We couple this work with calls from recent opinion pieces and comparative studies questioning a zoonotic origin (...) via a review of the latest literature and propose an alternative to the natural zoonosis hypothesis.
Segreto, R., Deigin, Y., McCairn, K. et al. Should we discount the laboratory origin of COVID-19?. Environ Chem Lett (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10311-021-01211-0
- Liberal media's dramatic flip-flop!. A year after left-wing news TRASHED theory that COVID originated from a Wuhan lab when Trump supported the suggestion - outlets now throw their SUPPORT behind the idea (scroll down a few pages). By Harriet Alexander.
- Could an accident have caused COVID-19? Why the Wuhan lab-leak theory shouldn't be dismissed. I have reported on safety lapses at elite U.S. labs. There is no reason to believe they aren't happening at labs in other countries as well. By Alison Young.
- The Lab-Leak Hypothesis. For decades, scientists have been hot-wiring viruses in hopes of preventing a pandemic, not causing one. But what if …? What happened was fairly simple, I've come to believe. It was an accident. A virus spent some time in a laboratory, and eventually it got out. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, began its existence inside a bat, then it learned how to infect people in a claustrophobic mine shaft, and then it was made more infectious in one or more laboratories, perhaps as part of a scientist's well-intentioned but risky effort to create a broad-spectrum vaccine. SARS-2 was not designed as a biological weapon. But it was, I think, designed. Many thoughtful people dismiss this notion, and they may be right. By Nicholson Baker.
- Timeline: How the Wuhan lab-leak theory suddenly became credible. The source of the coronavirus that has left more than 3 million people dead around the world remains a mystery. But in recent months the idea that it emerged from the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) — once dismissed as a ridiculous conspiracy theory — has gained new credence. How and why did this happen? For one, efforts to discover a natural source of the virus have failed. Second, early efforts to spotlight a lab leak often got mixed up with speculation that the virus was deliberately created as a bioweapon. That made it easier for many scientists to dismiss the lab scenario as tin-hat nonsense. But a lack of transparency by China and renewed attention to the activities of the Wuhan lab have led some scientists to say they were too quick to discount a possible link at first. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) from the start pointed to the lab's location in Wuhan, pressing China for answers, so the history books will reward him if he turns out to be right. The Trump administration also sought to highlight the lab scenario but generally could only point to vague intelligence. The Trump administration's messaging was often accompanied by anti-Chinese rhetoric that made it easier for skeptics to ignore its claims. As a reader service, here is a timeline of key events, including important articles, that have led to this reassessment. In some instances, important information was available from the start but was generally ignored. But in other cases, some experts fought against the conventional wisdom and began to build a credible case, rooted in science, that started to change people's minds. This has led to renewed calls for a real investigation into the lab's activities before the coronavirus emerged. By Glenn Kessler, The Fact Checker, The Washington Post.
- Investigate the origins of COVID-19. Jesse D. Bloom et al. Science 14 May 2021: Vol. 372, Issue 6543, pp. 694.
Growing Censorship of Christian Viewpoints
18.04.2021. Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez warned Thursday that as U.S. politics and culture become more "aggressively secular," America risks losing its soul. "Sadly, some of our leaders seem to want to close our society off from Christian ideas and values," Archbishop Gomez said in an online keynote address to Catholic advocates gathered at the Minnesota state capitol. Thus begins Thomas D. Williams (Ph.D., professor of ethics, degrees in economics, philosophy and theology) his article Los Angeles Archbishop Decries 'Growing Censorship of Christian Viewpoints'. He continues:
"I am troubled by the growing censorship of Christian viewpoints on the internet and social media and the marginalization of believers in other areas of our public discourse," the archbishop said. "These trends and directions in our society amount to a rejection of America's founding principles, and the consequences are not healthy for our society."
"America's founders were wise; they understood the realities of human weakness and sin," he continued. "The democracy they built depends on the virtue and morality of citizens."
"The founders presumed that our public morality would be grounded in individual religious beliefs and practice," he said. "And they knew that without solid religious and moral foundations, America's commitments to human equality and freedom could not be sustained."
The archbishop's words addressed a growing effort to silence Christians by labeling them as "white supremacists," "Christian nationalists," "theocrats," and "religious extremists" — simply for embracing a biblical worldview.
They also followed on a worrisome trend in Big Tech and elsewhere to stifle the Christian viewpoint on marriage, the right to life, religious freedom, and gender.
The loss of religious faith both in its private and public dimensions does not bode well for the future of Western society, the archbishop warned.
Continue reading at Breitbart.
HonestThinking comments: In my home country Norway we see the same signs, and there are clear indications that liberals are now going after Muslims as well.
Dogmatism and totalitarian tendencies
17.04.2021. 'Some Christians believe homosexuality is a sin — get over it.' I feel like this needs to be made into a poster. Or put on the side of a bus, perhaps. Because, amazingly, there are people out there who seem not to realise that traditionally minded Christians think it is wrong for a man to lie with a man as he would with a woman. Consider the mad controversy over Keir Starmer's visit to Jesus House in London on Good Friday. Jesus House, in Brent, is part of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, a Pentecostal 'megachurch' founded in Nigeria in the 1950s. It has a large following among traditionalist African Christians in particular. And — brace yourselves — it isn't the world's biggest fan of gay sex or gay marriage. Shocking, I know. Thus begins Brendan O'Neill his article Keir Starmer's bizarre Black Lives Matter re-education. He continues (italics and link in original):
When Labour lefties and gay-rights activists saw that Starmer had dared to mingle with these Christians who believe the message of the Bible — 'You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination', Leviticus 18 — they whipped up a storm. His visit was 'unacceptable', declared the Labour Campaign for LGBT+ Rights. One leftie said Starmer's shoulder-rubbing with Jesus House proves he has 'zero integrity'.
And lo, Starmer apologised. For visiting a Christian church. On Good Friday. When will he apologise for not having a spine? Bowing and scraping before his critics, Starmer said 'I apologise for the hurt my visit caused'. It was a 'mistake', he repented.
He also took down the video of the visit, which had only shown him meeting black Christians and praising them for the work they have done in their local community, which includes helping to roll out the Covid vaccine and running the local food bank. But these good, charitable works count for nothing, it seems, because 'these people' have the wrong views on homosexuality.
The Christians at Jesus House are guilty of nothing more than holding traditional Christian beliefs. Just look at the coverage of this daft controversy. 'Keir Starmer criticised over visit to church where pastor opposed same-sex marriage', says the Guardian's headline. In other words, 'Starmer criticised for visiting a Christian church that adheres to Christian doctrine'.
This is crazy. Over Easter I also visited a church that opposes same-sex marriage. The Catholic Church. Just a couple of weeks ago the Vatican reiterated that the Catholic Church cannot bless same-sex unions, because God 'does not and cannot bless sin'. So Starmer should never visit a Catholic institution, either?
In apologising for visiting Christians who hold Biblical beliefs about homosexuality Starmer has insulted vast numbers of people. It is he who has behaved in an intolerant way, because he has essentially said that he will not associate with any religious group that doesn't agree with his views on same-sex issues. To turn your back on good people because they disagree with you on sexual or social matters is a species of dogmatism, too.
Also, does this mean Starmer will stop visiting mosques? Many imams are against same-sex marriage. 'And as for the two of you men who are guilty of lewdness, punish them both', says the Koran. Starmer will have a hell of a lot of explaining to do if he ever again visits a mosque or Islamic institution that believes homosexuality is sinful, which of course he will.
It was wrong for Starmer to apologise for visiting Jesus House. In a pluralistic society like ours, politicians will frequently meet and mingle with people and groups whose views they don't fully approve of. The alternative is to draw up blacklists of individuals and institutions who are apparently so evil that they must be dodged at all costs. It might be traditionalist black Christians today, but who will it be tomorrow?
Read the entire article in The Spectator.
Dogmatism and totalitarian tendencies
17.04.2021. So now we know what happens if you criticise Black Lives Matter. You'll be packed off for re-education. You will be sent to have your mind cleansed of foul, dissenting thoughts. You will be reminded of the First Commandment of the strange year of 2020: Thou Shalt Not Question BLM. That's the lesson of Keir Starmer's bizarre confession this morning that he will submit himself for unconscious bias training after he dared, ever so mildly, to criticise a few aspects of the BLM worldview. Thus begins Brendan O'Neill his article Keir Starmer's bizarre Black Lives Matter re-education (from 2020, but still very relevant). He continues:
Last week Starmer referred to the BLM protests of the past few weeks as a 'moment'. That was crime No. 1. In reducing this movement to a moment, Starmer, according to the warriors against anti-BLM blasphemy, was being dismissive of the incredibly important events that have taken place since the brutal killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Worse, Starmer said the idea of defunding the police, which has become a rallying cry of BLM supporters, is 'nonsense'. This outraged some, which is bizarre: did they think a former Director of Public Prosecutions and generally middle-of-the-road politician was going to line up behind an anti-police worldview?
This is bizarre on so many levels. Firstly, why can't we criticise BLM? It's a political movement. It's an ideological grouping. Its policy agenda includes not only challenging police brutality (great) but also dismantling the nuclear family and overthrowing capitalism. Guess what — loads of people disagree with those stances! And yet if a public figure raises a peep of concern about BLM, he'll be mauled.
The second mad thing about Starmer's self-re-education is the use of the phrase 'unconscious bias'. If we are calling criticism of BLM a case of 'unconscious bias', then we are seriously running the risk of pathologising perfectly legitimate political viewpoints.
There are many people, white and black, who are made uncomfortable by some of BLM's demands and by the behaviour of some BLM activists. Are they all unconsciously biased? There is something borderline totalitarian in this urge to depict dissenting or difficult views as a kind of mental malaise, an unconscious failing, a sickness of the mind that requires, in Starmer's case, training and erasure.
Not only does this slyly delegitimise certain views — it also risks diluting the seriousness of racism where it does exist.
Read the entire article in The Spectator.
A natural endowment of the human species
13.04.2021. Unlike many of my contemporaries in the intellectual world, I see religion as a natural endowment of the human species—a way of understanding the world and our own place in it that brings the stability and solace that we need. Without religion, we risk being lost in the pursuit of pleasure and advantage, tempted away from all durable commitments and without the virtue on which societies ultimately depend, which is the virtue of sacrifice. Ever since Durkheim's great study of the "elementary forms of the religious life," it has been apparent that religion bestows on us, in addition to a comprehensive way of understanding the world and the God who created it, the comforts of belonging. And this kind of belonging is not simply a matter of signing up to a group, or paying your subscription to receive certain benefits, but an existential commitment, a giving of yourself, of a kind that is beautifully summarized in the Arabic word islām. Thus writes philosopher Roger Scruton (1944 - 2020) in his essay Sacred Truths in a Profane World. He later concludes as follows:
In this way we have entered a condition in which the secular culture, far from being the inclusive thing that the Founding Fathers intended, has become the property of an increasingly censorious liberal elite, intent on closing the old paths to meaning and stability. Any reaction against the liberal stranglehold is likely to be dismissed as "populism," while the universities and media seem to find nothing amiss with punishing those who deviate from the liberal agenda.
How should we respond to this? As in all times of conflict and besiegement, the first need is for alliances, not only between people of faith but also between them and those who have lost their faith but not their values. Zaytuna College has set a welcome example with its excellent publication, Renovatio, in which the three revelations—the Judaic, the Christian, and the Islamic—are brought together in ways that show their intrinsic harmony, despite all the real differences. The purpose, as I understand it, is not to judge religion by secular values—to say, it is OK to believe so long as you do not disturb the secular status quo—but to embed the idea of citizenship in our religious traditions, to show that the values on which our lives as good citizens depend are themselves rooted in something deeper than our choice to accept them. Of course, nobody today can ignore the fact that it is possible to commit crimes in the name of faith, and to murder, rape, and pillage while believing that God Himself commands these things. But that form of behavior is rooted in despair—it too is a form of disenchantment, an attempt to void the world of its significance and to set beside the absolutes of religion a merely empty everyday world. If the secular world is reduced to a mere mechanism, in which sacred moments and loving obligations have no place, then we may easily begin to think that it invites destruction and that God will command this destruction as the last way to recruit His friends. In the face of this, we must show that the way of faith does not mean turning away from the secular reality. The true face of religion belongs to the re-enchantment of our injured civilization; faith is a way of filling all the spiritual spaces in our damaged world with the vision of a loving God, the God described in the Qur'an as al-Raĥmān al-Raĥīm. Our world is damaged—no one can deny it. But, in the eyes of the One who looks down on it, it is also holy, and will always remain so.
Read the entire essay in Renovatio (the journal of Zaytuna College).
Tearing the USA (and the rest of the West) apart
15.03.2021. Affluent parents, terrified of running afoul of the new orthodoxy in their children's private schools, organize in secret. Thus writes Bari Weiss in her feature article The Miseducation of America's Elites, first published in a shorter version in City Journal.
A troublesome topic
14.03.2021. Had science, history and the myth of racial purity been so clearly presented to Dylann Roof, the Charleston shootings might never have happened. Thus begins Kathryn Paige Harden her review article in The Spectator A book that could save lives: Adam Rutherford's How to Argue with a Racist reviewed.
Manjit Kumar has written a review article of the same book in The Guardian: How to Argue with a Racist by Adam Rutherford review – we're all related.
Catalan translator dropped because of 'profile'
12.03.2021. A translator from Spain says his version of a poem read at US President Joe Biden's inauguration was rejected because he had the wrong "profile". Víctor Obiols was commissioned to work on the Catalan translation of Amanda Gorman's The Hill We Climb last month. But after he completed the project, the publishers said they wanted a translator who was "a woman, young, activist and preferably black". Thus opens BBC its article Amanda Gorman's Catalan translator dropped because of 'profile'.
Headed for even bigger problems?
25.01.2021. Any friend of America must wish Joe Biden well in his efforts to unite his country. But an honest friend must also admit that he starts his presidency in a truly feeble position.
Never mind that the US economy has in the past year been wrecked by the Covid pandemic, that unemployment has soared and that homelessness on a developing world scale is now visible in many American cities. There is also a simple question of competence.
On the day of the inauguration, former president Barack Obama tweeted a photo of himself and his former vice-president with the message: 'Congratulations to my friend, President Joe Biden! This is your time.'
His time? Frankly nobody in America – Republican or Democrat – thinks it ideal that Biden is starting the toughest job of all at the age of 78. During my recent tours of the US, I spoke to many Democrats who admitted to deep misgivings – in private. They knew about Biden's forgetfulness, his wandering trains of thought and his ever-more obvious mental frailty. Many doubted he would make it through a full term in office.
But they were willing to overlook all this, so desperate were they to get Donald Trump out. That has now been achieved. The world now has to face up to the reality of the Biden presidency. And it isn't looking good.
Thus begins Douglas Murray his Daily Mail article The Left can't stop fawning over Joe Biden and Kamala Harris but I fear this won't end well for America... or Britain.
Can no longer conceal its power
18.01.2021. To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle,' George Orwell famously observed. He was talking not about everyday life but about politics, where it is 'quite easy for the part to be greater than the whole or for two objects to be in the same place simultaneously'. The examples he gave in his 1946 essay included the paradox that 'for years before the war, nearly all enlightened people were in favour of standing up to Germany: the majority of them were also against having enough armaments to make such a stand effective'. Thus begins Niall Ferguson (the Milbank Family Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University) his article in The Spectator: The tech supremacy: Silicon Valley can no longer conceal its power.
The Beautiful Message of The Qur'an
30.10.2020 (updated 01.11.2020). We are living in dangerous times. The West has by and large turned its back on God, and is gradually crumbling under a combination of decadence and wishful thinking (in several areas).
It's about time we start thinking honestly about God and existential questions in general, as well as Christianity and Islam in particular. Godlessness leads to foolishness (at least at the societal level), and the West is - unfortunately - a prime example of this.
Too many people have only the faintest ideas of what kind of a message is really found in the Qur'an. This applies to islamophobes and Islamic fundamentalists alike, as well as to many of those who belong somewhere between the just mentioned extremes.
Please refer to the compendium The Beautiful Message of The Qur'an (containing some 500 thematically ordered verses taken from Muhammad Asad's magnificent English translation), to see why I believe the above statement is warranted.
A Letter on Justice and Open Debate
05.08.2020. On 7 July Harper's Magazine published A Letter on Justice and Open Debate from more than 150 academics and intellectuals. It begins as follows:
Our cultural institutions are facing a moment of trial. Powerful protests for racial and social justice are leading to overdue demands for police reform, along with wider calls for greater equality and inclusion across our society, not least in higher education, journalism, philanthropy, and the arts. But this needed reckoning has also intensified a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity. As we applaud the first development, we also raise our voices against the second. The forces of illiberalism are gaining strength throughout the world and have a powerful ally in Donald Trump, who represents a real threat to democracy. But resistance must not be allowed to harden into its own brand of dogma or coercion—which right-wing demagogues are already exploiting. The democratic inclusion we want can be achieved only if we speak out against the intolerant climate that has set in on all sides.
Read the entire letter in Harper's Magazine.
Deceiving the masses
26.04.2020. Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad sharing his thoughts on the topic of Age Of Mass Deception (newly released five-minute video from an event in 2016).
A moral fault - according to Dietrich Bonhoeffer
23.04.2020. A family member of mine recently sent me the following text (which seems to have originated here):
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), a German pastor who was surrounded by the atrocious evil of Nazi Germany and who was murdered at their hands, regarded stupidity as more dangerous than outright evil, since stupidity is a type of irrationality, a chosen ignorance of what is real and true. Against such willed ignorance we are often defenseless, since any reasoning that appeals to transcendental moral truth finds no traction, carries no weight, and has no effect. The devil, then, seeks first of all to stupefy people, that is, to drug them or flatter and persuade them to think that there is no need to engage in serious thinking or to humbly question their assumptions... As William James observed: "A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices." The antidote to unthinkingly accepting the biases and inculcated prejudices of the world is to humble ourselves by learning to sincerely respect the Reality of God: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; but fools despise wisdom and correction" (Prov. 1:7).
For Bonhoeffer, stupidity is a moral fault, not an intellectual deficiency; it is the result of a willful ignorance and cynical laziness. He wrote: "If we want to know how to get the better of stupidity, we must seek to understand its nature... that it is in essence not an intellectual defect but a human one. There are human beings who are of remarkably agile intellect yet stupid, and others who are intellectually quite dull yet anything but stupid. We discover this to our surprise in particular situations. The impression one gains is not so much that stupidity is a congenital defect but that, under certain circumstances, people are made stupid or that they allow this to happen to them. We note further that people who have isolated themselves from others or who live in solitude manifest this defect less frequently than individuals or groups of people inclined or condemned to sociability. And so it would seem that stupidity is perhaps less a psychological than a sociological problem" (Bonhoeffer: Letters from Prison).
The Journal of Zaytuna College
24.03.2020. It is an unusual name for a publication, but we chose the Latinate term renovatio, from which we derive our English word "renovation," as an aspirational title for the ambitious project we have in mind. The prefix re means "again," and the base word is derived from the Latin novus, "new": "to make new again, to restore to good condition as if new again, to repair, to reinvigorate, to refresh, revive." Thus begins Hamza Yusuf, Editor-in-Chief of Renovatio and President of Zaytuna College, his article Letter from the Editor Why "Renovatio?". A bit later he continues (italics in original, boldface emphasis added by me):
It is our contention, that, in essence, the foundations of the Abode of Islam are sound, but the house that harbors this civilization has fallen into deep dereliction. It is in need of renovation, not reformation. To try the analogy further, the foundation is solid, but the walls are crumbling, the amenities are in disrepair, the plumbing no longer works, the water has been shut off, and many of the inhabitants are truly suffering. How then do we begin?
In the case of Islamic civilization, its crisis has been addressed largely in superficial political or socio-economic terms that have always been unsuccessful because they fail to see the metaphysical crisis at the root. Thus, to change our condition, we must first identify today's metaphysical crisis and, more importantly, the metaphysical foundations that were in place when the Muslims were vibrant and thriving. Then we can begin to renovate and restore them.
We thought it appropriate to launch Renovatio with a focus on the crucial role of metaphysics in understanding the world, its source, and our place in it. The term tajdīd in the Islamic tradition (see the Arabic calligram in our logo), means "to make new again," of which our Prophet ﷺ said, "In every generation, there will be those who renew the faith." May we all aspire to be among them, and may we do our part in deepening our faith, refurbishing its rich tradition of understanding revelation through reason, and restoring its rightful place as a source of solace for all people.
The essence of Islam is a triad of faith, action, and being: imān, islām, and iĥsān. Each relates to the qualities of truth, goodness, and beauty, which are at the core of every great civilization in human history. Imān (faith) is a commitment to the truth once realized through the intellect, which is the prerequisite of faith; islām (submission to the will of God) is to act according to that faith with good deeds; and, finally iĥsān (beauty) is to be in a state of witnessing beauty and majesty that will be reflected in our words and deeds during our time on earth.
Many of us who straddle two great civilizations, the Judeo–Christian and Muslim, see a deep crisis in our own Western culture. It is perhaps most obvious in the calamitous environmental situation, but the troubles are in plain sight: our obsessive and deleterious patterns of consumption; our vacuous and violent entertainment industry; our relentless technophilic addictions; our opioid epidemic; our class, race, and gender problems; and countless other ills. These too have metaphysical roots worth examining. Neither of our two civilizations can afford to ignore the crisis of the other, as both have profound impacts on one another. The interdependent nature of our globalized world means we no longer have the luxury of a nostalgic isolationism.
Islam, in its profound legal, spiritual, and cultural glory, faded as it might appear today, has much to offer the Western world as it confronts its own troubles. For many, Islam appears old and decrepit, evidenced by the dire straits of most Muslim societies that have fallen far from its dynamic and living traditions that they once embodied. But for those steeped in its intellectual and spiritual heritage, Islam is viable and relevant, and contains time-tested guidance and wisdom that can help us navigate contemporary challenges, including those dealing with tensions between science and faith, as well as ethics, justice, and pluralism. Just as Muslim civilization once helped nurture a backward and desperate European civilization out of its malaise, now both civilizations need each other's help to make well the world again.
We hope, in our own modest attempt with this publication, to be part of the desperately needed "renovation" of our own personal faith, of the tragically derelict Abode that today houses almost a fourth of humanity, and of this marvelous globe that we all share and inhabit as God's creatures. And though it may look like it is dying, "it's hardly been born;" for now, it is the best and only one we have.
Read the entire article at the Zaytuna website.
See also: What Conservatism Really Means - Roger Scruton in Conversation with Hamza Yusuf (53 minute video).
Academic fascism on the rise
23.02.2020. Western universities have become places of personal fear and intellectual terror. Formerly sanctuaries for open inquiry, instead fierce ideological minorities have been setting red lines of orthodoxy in the face of a silent or, worse, compliant academy. Education -- from ex ducere, to lead out -- has been increasingly eroded by ideological fundamentalism and an attempt to determine not only what actions are acceptable, but even words and thoughts. Thus begins Giulio Meotti his article Europe's New Academic Fascism. Later he continues:
Freedom of expression is increasingly at risk in France by effectively creating new crimes of opinion. If your personal opinion coincides with the official one, you have nothing to fear. If your ideas conflict with the official ones, you risk becoming ostracized and your mere existence in the public sphere scandalous.
"The new academic fascism," is how Natacha Polony, a television host and editor of the French weekly Marianne, has described it. If you dissent, educators, political leaders, the media and the mob will try to destroy you, just as they destroyed Giordano Bruno in 1600 for saying that the universe could have many stars.
"Small radical groups create a climate of terror to impose opinions and silence their opponents," Polony wrote. "They enjoy infinite mercy from some political and media circles insofar as they claim to embody the Good. Who would dare to challenge them?"
An appeal by some French intellectuals, including many Muslim thinkers such as Boualem Sansal and Zineb el Rhazoui, criticized this "intellectual terrorism." It recalls, they wrote, "what Stalinism did to the most enlightened European intellectuals.
"Our cultural, academic and scientific institutions are now targeted by attacks that, under the guise of denouncing 'colonial' discrimination, seek to undermine the principles of freedom of expression and of universality inherited from the Enlightenment".
Defending the freedom to think and the possibility of an open conversation -- both currently mutilated in Europe -- is the foundation of Europe's civic life. Without free expression, there can be no circulation of ideas, no increase in knowledge, and therefore no progress. The basic principles of liberal society are undermined.
The United States, upon declaring their freedom from a repressive England in 1776, understood well the primacy of freedom of speech. George Washington told his army officers in 1783: "the freedom of Speech may be taken away — and, dumb & silent we may be led, like sheep, to the Slaughter."
On US campuses it has become commonplace to cancel or protest invited speakers whom a handful of activists consider intolerable. The administrators are evidently too frightened of their own students to ask for the students' suspension, let alone their being expelled or requesting police support. This same type of censorship, regrettably, can now be seen throughout Europe. Minority groups claim "safe spaces", but the ones who really need safe spaces are those who disagree with the reigning orthodoxy.
The European university -- which should be the home of open pluralism, debate, research and thought -- has instead become the paradise of intellectual sectarianism and terror. This new radicalism will reinforce not only political correctness, but also submission to coercion, "like sheep to the slaughter", in the West.
Read the entire article at Gatestone Institute.
Some of his enemies now rejoice over his problems
19.02.2020. Ironically, the anti-Petersonians now seem far more fanatical than Peterson's most faithful fans. This became clear in recent days, when some of Peterson's critics — including, amazingly, a professor at the University of Ottawa — went online to express satisfaction that Peterson is being treated for dependence on benzodiazepine, an anti-anxiety medication. Thus writes Jonathan Kay in his article On Jordan Peterson and his critics.
Bernie Sanders field organizer praising Soviet-style gulags
15.01.2020. A Project Veritas video released Tuesday showed a man identified as a campaign organizer for Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernard Sanders saying "cities burn" if President Trump wins reelection and predicting violence against police at the 2020 Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee. Asked what would happen if Mr. Trump is reelected, the man described as Sanders campaign field organizer Kyle Jurek said, "F–ing cities burn," adding, "I mean, we don't have a lot of time left, we have to save f–ing human civilization." In the undercover video, the first in the Project Veritas #Expose2020 series, he also expressed support for ideological reeducation Trump voters; compared such Americans to Nazis; praised Soviet-style gulags; and predicted police would be "beaten" in riots at the party convention. Continue reading in The Washington Times; Project Veritas: Sanders staffer says 'cities burn' if Trump reelected, predicts violence at DNC.
See the video: Project Veritas Action. Kyle Jurek, Field Organizer, Sanders Campain (YouTube).
The Pope and The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar sign common declaration
20.10.2019 (updated 21.10.2019). In February 2019 His Holiness Pope Francis and The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmad Al-Tayyeb signed a common document on Human Fraternity. Its introduction is as follows:
Faith leads a believer to see in the other a brother or sister to be supported and loved. Through faith in God, who has created the universe, creatures and all human beings (equal on account of his mercy), believers are called to express this human fraternity by safeguarding creation and the entire universe and supporting all persons, especially the poorest and those most in need.
This transcendental value served as the starting point for several meetings characterized by a friendly and fraternal atmosphere where we shared the joys, sorrows and problems of our contemporary world. We did this by considering scientific and technical progress, therapeutic achievements, the digital era, the mass media and communications. We reflected also on the level of poverty, conflict and suffering of so many brothers and sisters in different parts of the world as a consequence of the arms race, social injustice, corruption, inequality, moral decline, terrorism, discrimination, extremism and many other causes.
From our fraternal and open discussions, and from the meeting that expressed profound hope in a bright future for all human beings, the idea of this Document on Human Fraternity was conceived. It is a text that has been given honest and serious thought so as to be a joint declaration of good and heartfelt aspirations. It is a document that invites all persons who have faith in God and faith in human fraternity to unite and work together so that it may serve as a guide for future generations to advance a culture of mutual respect in the awareness of the great divine grace that makes all human beings brothers and sisters.
Read the entire document at the Vatican's website: APOSTOLIC JOURNEY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS TO THE UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (3-5 FEBRUARY 2019) A DOCUMENT ON HUMAN FRATERNITY FOR WORLD PEACE AND LIVING TOGETHER.
See Wikipedia for further references and discussion.
See also: Pope and grand imam sign historic pledge of fraternity in UAE. In first papal visit to Arabian peninsula, Francis calls for end to wars in Middle East.
Racism against whites
11.08.2019. The more radical wing of South Africa's ruling party has long pressured its leaders to redistribute wealth from the white minority to the black majority in any way they can. They've begun that process, violently. White farmers in South Africa face an existential threat, yet the governments of most Western democracies, including the U.S., remain largely silent. This appalling situation must change. Thus begins Helen Raleigh her article It's Wrong To Ignore Racist Violence Against White South Africans (The Federalist, 27.03.2018).
Rescinds Jordan Peterson invitation
01.06.2019. Offer of visiting fellowship to controversial professor resulted in backlash from faculty and students. Cambridge University has rescinded its offer of a visiting fellowship to Jordan Peterson, the self-styled "professor against political correctness", after a backlash from faculty and students. [...] "[Cambridge] is an inclusive environment and we expect all our staff and visitors to uphold our principles. There is no place here for anyone who cannot," a spokesperson for the university said. Read more in The Guardian's article Cambridge University rescinds Jordan Peterson invitation.
An apology for thinking
16.04.2019 (updated 27.04.2019). I recently gave an interview to the New Statesman, on the assumption that, as the magazine's former wine critic I would be treated with respect, and that the journalist, George Eaton, was sincere in wanting to talk to me about my intellectual life. Not for the first time I am forced to acknowledge what a mistake it is to address young leftists as though they were responsible human beings. Here is my brief response to an unscrupulous collection of out of context remarks, some of them merely words designed to accuse me of thought-crimes, and to persuade the government that I am not fit to be chairman of the commission recently entrusted to me. Thus begins Roger Scruton his opinion article An apology for thinking. He concludes as follows:
We in Britain are entering a dangerous social condition in which the direct expression of opinions that conflict – or merely seem to conflict – with a narrow set of orthodoxies is instantly punished by a band of self-appointed vigilantes. We are being cowed into abject conformity around a dubious set of official doctrines and told to adopt a world view that we cannot examine for fear of being publicly humiliated by the censors. This world view might lead to a new and liberated social order; or it might lead to the social and spiritual destruction of our country. How shall we know, if we are too afraid to discuss it?
Read the entire article in The Spectator.
Full of fundamentalists and fanatics
06.04.2019. Internal discussion threads exclusively obtained by Breitbart News shows Google employees in meltdown over the tech giant's decision to include the president of the conservative Heritage Foundation, Kay Coles James, on an artificial intelligence advisory council. Leaked Messages Show Google Employees Freaking Out Over Heritage Foundation Link.
In a State of Unreported Collapse
22.03.2019. The media portrayal of Denmark as a country hostile and inhumane to migrants is misleading, if not completely false. One reason for the inaccurate picture is that it is painted by journalists' political bias. Another is that trustworthy official Danish statistics on the country's immigration problem are both difficult to find and even harder to interpret. A further problem is a lack of reliable research, at best; and purposely distorted data, at worst. The following breakdown illustrates that rather than being more relatively free of the consequences of mass migration than other European countries in general, and Scandinavian countries in particular, Denmark is in a state of societal collapse. In spite of Copenhagen's many laws that govern migration and affect immigrants, the Danish people have been experiencing a major cultural and political shift in their life as they have traditionally known it. Thus writes professor of law at Aarhus University, Denmark, Ole Hasselbalch, in his article Denmark in a State of Unreported Collapse.
16.02.2019. While journalists are getting pink slips across the country, the Washington Post decided to dump a boatload of cash for a Super Bowl image ad that tried to portray the news media as national heroes. Here's a better, and much cheaper, idea to restore the industry's shattered reputation: Be less blatantly partisan. Thus reads the introduction to the recent IBD editorial The Press Needs More Than A Super Bowl Ad To Fix Its Plunging Credibility:
In the 60-second ad, Tom Hanks intones about the importance of journalists against the backdrop of historic events. Thankfully, during these times, the ad says, "There's someone to gather the facts. To bring you the story. No matter the cost. Because knowing empowers us. Knowing helps us decide. Knowing keeps us free."
The problem with journalists today, however, is that they aren't interested in gathering facts or empowering the public with knowledge. Instead, they are interested mainly in pushing their agenda — a basic failing of the profession brought into high relief over the past two years.
Is anyone in the mainstream press paying attention? Apparently not, since they seem to think that the only problem they have is too few image ads.
So, here's a question for the folks at the Washington Post:
How does "knowing help us decide" when the press clearly isn't helping the public "know," but is instead trying to force decisions by spinning stories, massaging facts and pushing an agenda?
The Post would have done journalists — to say nothing of the public at large — a real service if, instead of blowing millions of dollars on a Super Bowl ad, they had put that money into dealing with media bias. They could start by teaching journalists not to be propagandists for the far left wing of Democratic Party.
Read the entire editorial at Investor's Business Daily.
Even fair-minded criticism is branded as racism and islamophobia
16.02.2019. Speaking and writing about Islam today requires discretion, sensitivity, and a good grasp of facts. Doing this is harder in most European countries than it is in the United States, where the First Amendment insists on powerful free speech rights. The need for sensitivity stems from the almost universal condemnation of "Islamophobia", a mainly good-hearted response to democratic worries that innocent Muslims may be targeted with violence or hate speech, even as many (but far from all) seek to integrate themselves and their families into Western society. Thus begins Dr. Denis MacEoin his article Religion vs. Free Speech:
Raw Islamophobia, like raw prejudice by and against any group, is of course racist, unacceptable and most often expressed by hate groups on the far right of politics. At the same time, it is not surprising that many people will build their attitudes towards Muslims on a perception prompted by Islamist terror attacks, radical Muslim antagonism to Western societies, or uneasiness about Muslims who choose to dress in ways that do not conform to Western norms. The confusion caused also creates problems for many people who have reasonable concerns about Islam as a religion and a political ideology.
The problem is that even fair-minded and non-racist authors, websites, members of the media and others end up being tarred with the same brush and condemned as malicious racists themselves. This creates a distorted perception of what has been termed "two Islamophobias," one hateful, the other respectable. The latter, of course, is not Islamophobia at all, any more than presenting a rational critique of any other religion, political thought, or ideology is racist, hate-driven or undemocratic.
We must indeed paint a positive picture of what so many Muslims contribute to their host societies. We should, for example, celebrate the way in which Muslim-Americans in Philadelphia launched an appeal that raised over $100,000 to help repair two Jewish cemeteries that had been vandalized. Or the Muslim veteran in Arkansas who volunteered to stand guard with others at any Jewish site that was threatened with attack.
We must, however, never fear speaking out against Muslim extremists who express hatred for Jews and who quote verses from the Qur'an or incidents from Islamic history in support of their bias. We must do so in measured words, citing real cases of radical Muslim anti-Semitism or anti-Western sermons or calls for violence based on interpretations of shari'a law or Islamic scripture.
Ironically, if we speak out too forcefully, the result can be counterproductive, making it unlikely that the people we would like to convince in politics, the churches, the media, or the mainstream will agree with our views. The extremist nature of some anti-Muslim agitators in the UK, for example, has had the effect of making it hard for many people to take in what they say.
What happens, then, is the exact opposite of what real Islamophobes claim they want, instead causing serious concerns about Islam to be dismissed. It is probably more constructive for everyone who speaks and writes about Islam and Muslims to do so in a measured and well-informed way.
Trevor Phillips, "a son of immigrants", the founding chair of Britain's Equality and Human Rights Commission, and a man profoundly disillusioned by the failure of so many ethnic and religious groups to integrate into British society, wrote an essay, Race and Faith: The Deafening Silence, in which he denounces official failure to face up to the divisions that have opened up in the UK following widening levels of immigration and "superdiversity". Phillips, long the country's best-known defender of multiculturalism, says the collapse of positive diversity had been because of two things: silence about divisions and loud denials that any problems existed at all. Serious critics of Islam need to join their voices to Phillips's, and others who tackle problems openly. To do that, we have to stand -- as he has done -- against all forms of extremism, both religious and secular.
Read the entire article (with lots of links to further reading) at Gatestone Institute.
Dr. Denis MacEoin lectured in Arabic and Islamic Studies at the UK's Newcastle University. He is the author of approximately 40 books and reports. He serves as a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Gatestone Institute.
First-ever guidelines for practice with men and boys
13.01.2019. For the first time ever, the American Psychological Association (APA) is releasing guidelines to help psychologists work with men and boys. At first blush, this may seem unnecessary. For decades, psychology focused on men (particularly white men), to the exclusion of all others. And men still dominate professionally and politically: As of 2018, 95.2 percent of chief operating officers at Fortune 500 companies were men. According to a 2017 analysis by Fortune, in 16 of the top companies, 80 percent of all high-ranking executives were male. Meanwhile, the 115th Congress, which began in 2017, was 81 percent male. But something is amiss for men as well. Men commit 90 percent of homicides in the United States and represent 77 percent of homicide victims. They're the demographic group most at risk of being victimized by violent crime. They are 3.5 times more likely than women to die by suicide, and their life expectancy is 4.9 years shorter than women's. Boys are far more likely to be diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder than girls, and they face harsher punishments in school—especially boys of color. APA's new Guidelines for Psychological Practice With Boys and Men strive to recognize and address these problems in boys and men while remaining sensitive to the field's androcentric past. Thirteen years in the making, they draw on more than 40 years of research showing that traditional masculinity is psychologically harmful and that socializing boys to suppress their emotions causes damage that echoes both inwardly and outwardly. APA issues first-ever guidelines for practice with men and boys.
Some reactions to the new APA Guidelines:
- The American Psychological Association goes to war against boys and men. The American Psychological Association (APA) has, for the first time in its history, come out with Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men. One does not have to have read the entire 30,000 word document to appreciate its thrust: "traditional masculinity" is bad for society as well as to boys and men themselves. Stoicism, competitiveness and risk-taking, the qualities we consider desirable when they result in firefighting, search-and-rescue operations, self-sacrifice for women and children (see under Titanic) and combat in the defence of the nation, are, the APA believes, "psychologically harmful." By Barbara Kay, The Post Millenial.
- The American Psychological Association just made it harder to maintain strong marriages. I'm finishing up a manuscript for a new book that helps women find Mr. Right and keep him by embracing sexual inequality, aka the innate differences between women and men. So-called gender equality presumes the sexes are interchangeable, and they are not. Masculinity and femininity represent the yin and yang of any romantic relationship and are crucial for lasting love. When they cease to exist, children suffer and families disintegrate. So you can imagine my shock and disdain for the American Psychological Association's new guidelines that claim traditional masculinity is "harmful." We've known about the war on men for years, but to have the the largest scientific and professional organization of psychologists in the country formally reject the inherent nature of men is both profound and appalling. The APA guidelines understandably triggered a huge backlash. They emphasize such absurd ideas as "gender role strain," defined as "a psychological situation in which gender role demands have negative consequences on the individual or others," and "gender role conflict," defined as "problems resulting from adherence to rigid, sexist, or restrictive gender roles, learned during socialization, that result in personal restriction, devaluation, or violation of others or self." By Suzanne Venker, The Washington Examiner.
- The unending war against masculinity and men. For the first time in its history, the American Psychological Association (APA) has issued guidelines for mental health professionals working with men and boys. That may not sound like a momentous event, but the APA is a powerful body in the US. It has 117,500 members, including the vast majority of practising psychologists, and an annual budget of $115 million. Its guidance documents carry the imprimatur of scientific authority and are hugely influential when it comes to policies and behaviour in public institutions. This edict will be referred to by university administrators when policing sexual interactions on campus, by the courts when deciding who to award custody to in divorce hearings and by HR departments when assessing complaints about male employees. It's not an exaggeration to say this new guidance will affect the lives of millions of men and boys for years to come. By Toby Young, The Spectator.
- Farewell, Masculinity: We'll Miss You When You're Gone. This week, the American Psychological Association delivered some sad news for fans of "traditional masculinity." According to the organization's new "Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men," the "harmful" ideology of masculinity — marked by "stoicism, competitiveness, dominance, and aggression" together with "anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence" — has got to go. [...] Here is a sentence that actually exists on the APA's website, paired with a summary of the new guidelines: "Indeed, when researchers strip away stereotypes and expectation, there isn't much difference in the basic behaviors of men and women." There is no direct or encompassing citation for this impressively sweeping statement, probably because it is a) untrue, b) unscientific, and c) likely to make God laugh. How is it that we can live in a civilization so advanced that we can propel a rocket 33 million miles through the cold abyss of space to successfully land on a hostile and largely unexplored planet, but still manage to publish insouciant nonsense sentences like this? Never say life isn't mysterious, friends. It is mind-boggling. By Heather Wilhelm, National Review.
- Grown Men Are the Solution, Not the Problem. With young men in crisis, the American Psychological Association wrongly declares war on 'traditional masculinity'. By David French, National Review.
- The APA Can't Spin Its Way Out of Its Attack on 'Traditional Masculinity'. Our culture has grown more disdainful of common, inherent male characteristics. By David French, National Review.
Free speech scandal gets even worse
13.01.2019. It has been revealed that Lindsay Shepherd, the former graduate student at the centre of the Wilfrid Laurier University free speech scandal, is now being sued by the very same professors who fabricated false claims of transphobia against her and subjected her to an extra-legal interrogation. According to a tweet by Shepherd, Nathan Rambukkana and Herbert Pimlott are suing her as part of a third-party claim in response to Dr. Jordan Peterson's lawsuit against Laurier University and individuals involved. Back in 2017, Shepherd was a teaching assistant working under Professor Rambukkana when she showed a widely disseminated television clip from The Agenda with Steve Paikin that featured Peterson discussing the contentious issues of gendered pronouns and compelled speech. Rambukkana, Pimlott, and Adria Joel, a gender activist and university bureaucrat, then concocted a plan to interrogate Shepherd and find a way to punish her for the high crime of discussing "problematic" ideas in a university classroom. Professors who falsely accused and harassed Lindsay Shepherd are now suing her.
Discusses 2020, Trump and Jordan Peterson
05.12.2018. Camille Paglia is one of the most interesting and explosive thinkers of our time. She transgresses academic boundaries and blows up media forms. She's brilliant on politics, art, literature, philosophy, and the culture wars. She's also very keen on the email Q and A format for interviews. So, after reading her new collection of essays, Provocations, Spectator USA sent her some questions. Thus begins the article Camille Paglia: 'Hillary wants Trump to win again'. Some excerpts:
Does the 'deep state' exist? If so, what is it?
The deep state is no myth but a sodden, intertwined mass of bloated, self-replicating bureaucracy that constitutes the real power in Washington and that stubbornly outlasts every administration. As government programs have incrementally multiplied, so has their regulatory apparatus, with its intrusive byzantine minutiae. Recently tagged as a source of anti-Trump conspiracy among embedded Democrats, the deep state is probably equally populated by Republicans and apolitical functionaries of Bartleby the Scrivener blandness. Its spreading sclerotic mass is wasteful, redundant, and ultimately tyrannical.
I have been trying for decades to get my fellow Democrats to realize how unchecked bureaucracy, in government or academe, is inherently authoritarian and illiberal. A persistent characteristic of civilizations in decline throughout history has been their self-strangling by slow, swollen, and stupid bureaucracies. The current atrocity of crippling student debt in the US is a direct product of an unholy alliance between college administrations and federal bureaucrats — a scandal that ballooned over two decades with barely a word of protest from our putative academic leftists, lost in their post-structuralist fantasies. Political correctness was not created by administrators, but it is ever-expanding campus bureaucracies that have constructed and currently enforce the oppressively rule-ridden regime of college life.
In the modern world, so wondrously but perilously interconnected, a principle of periodic reduction of bureaucracy should be built into every social organism. Freedom cannot survive otherwise.
What is true multiculturalism?
As I repeatedly argue in Provocations, comparative religion is the true multiculturalism and should be installed as the core curriculum in every undergraduate program. From my perspective as an atheist as well as a career college teacher, secular humanism has been a disastrous failure. Too many young people raised in affluent liberal homes are arriving at elite colleges and universities with skittish, unformed personalities and shockingly narrow views of human existence, confined to inflammatory and divisive identity politics.
There's a lot of buzz about the 'intellectual dark web'. One of its leading figures is Jordan Peterson, who is in some ways like you — he provokes, he works in an array of disciplines, he encourages individual responsibility. I saw your podcast with him. What did you make of him? Why is he so popular?
Peterson's immense international popularity demonstrates the hunger for meaning among young people today. Defrauded of a genuine humanistic education, they are recognizing the spiritual impoverishment of their crudely politicized culture, choked with jargon, propaganda, and lies.
I met Peterson and his wife Tammy a year ago when they flew to Philadelphia with a Toronto camera crew for our private dialogue at the University of the Arts. (The YouTube video has had to date over a million and a half views.) Peterson was incontrovertibly one of the most brilliant minds I have ever encountered, starting with the British philosopher Stuart Hampshire, whom I heard speak impromptu for a dazzling hour after a lecture in college. In turning psychosocial discourse back toward the syncretistic, multicultural Jung, Peterson is recovering and restoring a peak period in North American thought, when Canada was renowned for pioneering, speculative thinkers like the media analyst Marshall McLuhan and the myth critic Northrop Frye. I have yet to see a single profile of Peterson, even from sympathetic journalists, that accurately portrays the vast scope, tenor, and importance of his work.
Is humanity losing its sense of humor?
We're back to the hypocrisy sweepstakes, where gestures of virtue are as formalized as kabuki. Humor has been assassinated. An off word at work or school will get you booted to the gallows. This is the graveyard of liberalism, whose once noble ideals have turned spectral and vampiric.
Read the entire interview in Spectator USA.
The American democracy is eroded by political fundamentalism
19.11.2018. After last week's mailings of crude bombs to several prominent liberals, Democratic and Republican leaders rose to denounce the acts and declare this is "not who we are as Americans." We aren't all bombers, true. But we are in a dangerous, explosive place in America. Thus begins editor Nolan Finley of The Detroit News his opinion piece Be honest, we hate each other:
We hate each other. It's no longer a matter of incivility; it's open hostility, visceral loathing. Extreme intolerance of anyone who challenges our perception of the truth. And there is no moral high ground.
Too many Democrats are drenched in self-righteousness, convinced of their superiority over the deplorable masses. They can't grasp that intelligent people can look at the same set of facts, apply to them their own values and experiences, and come up with different opinions.
The possibility they might be wrong, or there is any validity in contrary views, or those who disagree with them aren't evil or ignorant or cowed by their husbands, is unfathomable. They are too smug to harbor self-doubt.
Their resistance has morphed from opposing policies and appointees to undermining the presidency to, now, the formation of mobs. And they justify it, as Hillary Clinton articulated last week, because conservatives have a different vision for the country than they do.
Public shaming of their opponents is easier than engaging them in persuasive debate. Better to harass them in public, threaten their families, troll them on the Internet and violate their right to privacy than to prevail on the strength of earnestly expressed ideas.
Disagree with what someone is saying? Shout them down. Chase them from the podium. Go after their jobs.
The catch phrase answer to all of our problems is, "We need to have a national conversation."
But we are as far from a constructive dialog as a nation can be. Conversing requires listening. And we don't want to hear what the other side has to say.
Winning is all that matters, and we're so convinced we hold the keys to wisdom that we think it's OK to do so by any means necessary.
For every action there's an equal and opposite reaction.
The left bullies, the right bullies back. They shout, we shout. And when it spins out of control, a left-wing wacko shoots up a Republican baseball practice and a right-wing nut mails out bombs to Democrats.
Yes, this is who we are. And it's who we'll be long after Donald Trump is gone. He hasn't changed America; America's character has changed.
Read the entire opinion piece in The Detroit News. Hat tip Sylo Taraku.
Not always on the right side of truth
08.11.2018. One of Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh's accusers admitted this week that she made up her lurid tale of a backseat car rape, saying it "was a tactic" to try to derail the judge's confirmation to the Supreme Court. Another Kavanaugh accuser admits to fabricating rape story.
Will not help us build a good society
04.11.2018. A leftwing student union president has sparked outrage by vowing to deface a mural commemorating the fallen World War One heroes as they are "white men". Thus reports the Sun in Outrage as University of Southampton Student Union leader vows to paint over mural commemorating WW1 war dead as they are 'white men' ahead of Remembrance Day (my emphasis):
Emily Dawes, president of Southampton University Student Union, threatened to paint over the uni's Rothenstein Mural, which depicts students who died during the Great War collecting degrees that they didn't get to finish.
She tweeted: "Mark my words – we're taking down the mural of white men in the Senate room, even if I have to paint over it myself."
Many were outraged at Dawes' pledge, which came on the centenary of the end of WW1 and the day before the Royal British Legion launched its Remembrance Day Poppy Appeal today.
One fumed: "The white men who died so you can spout such hateful nonsense?
"A state created by hard working brave people: most of whom were the white men you profess to despise."
Another said: "Is this the mural to those heroic students from the university that had to forego their studies in order to fight for the freedom of Europe in WW1, and never got to graduate? I'm trying to think of a reason why anyone would actively want to deface a war memorial..."
Dawes finally issued a grovelling apology one day after her original tweet and two hours after The Sun Online published its story.
She said: "Firstly, and most importantly, I would like to apologise for the offence and upset I have caused with what I have said. I never meant the disrespect to anyone past, present and future.
"I had no intention of the tweet being taken literally, and upon reflection realised how inappropriate it was.
Read the entire article in the Sun.
Brandon Straka explains why he left the «left»
23.07.2018. Brandon Straka: «I am kicking off the #WalkAway campaign by releasing my video about why I am walking away from liberalism and the Democratic Party.» See his video at YouTube (six minutes).
- #WalkAway™ Campaign. The #WalkAway Campaign, founded by former liberal Brandon Straka, is a true grassroots movement. It is a Facebook video campaign movement, dedicated to sharing the stories of people who can no longer accept the current ideology of liberalism and what the Democratic Party has become. Some of us left long ago, while many have recently been "red-pilled". Some have wanted to leave for some time but have feared the consequences they might suffer from friends or family if they were to walk away.
- Interview with Judge Jeanine.
- Scott Adams truth bombs the #WalkAway Movement.
- #WalkAway's Threat to Democrats' Base. A movement launched just weeks ago is crippling the Left.
HonestThinking comments: Straka has a powerful message that is worth listening to. Something is indeed seriously wrong with the left, not only in the USA, but also in the rest of the West.
Straka has published a transcript of his message:
Once upon a time I was a liberal. Well, to be honest, less than a year ago I was still a liberal. I became a liberal because I felt I'd found a tribe whose values aligned with my own. I staunchly reject racism of any kind. I reject the marginalization of any human being based off of their gender or sexual orientation. I reject tyrannical groupthink. I reject a system which allows an ambitious, misinformed, and dogmatic mob to suppress free speech, create false narratives, and then apathetically steamroll over the truth. I reject the acceptance of junk science and superstition to advance ideological agendas. I reject hate.
These are the reasons I became a liberal.
And these are the same reasons why I am now walking away.
For years now, I have watched as the left has devolved into intolerant, inflexible, illogical, hateful, misguided, ill-informed, Un-American, hypocritical, menacing, callous, ignorant, narrow-minded, and at times blatantly fascistic behavior and rhetoric. Liberalism has been co-opted and absorbed by the very characteristics it claims to fight against.
I have watched for years as people on the left have become anesthetized to their own prejudices and bigotry and the prejudices and bigotry of those around them who echo their values.
I have watched as formerly sensible people, who claim to reject racism, have come to embrace the principles of hating and universally blaming all of societies problems on all people who have white skin.
I have witnessed the irony of advocacy for gender equality morphing into blatant hatred and intolerance of men and masculinity.
I have seen the once-earnest fight for equality for the LGBT community mutate into an illogical demonization of heteronormativity, and the push to attack and vilify our conventional concepts of gender. These same self-proclaimed victims of intolerance now turning on the gay community that they attached themselves to to further their agenda- now calling gay people "privileged" and themselves "victims" of injustice.
I have watched as the left has willingly allowed themselves to become hypnotized by false narratives and conclusions, perpetuated by social justice warriors who intentionally misrepresent and misconstrue facts, evidence, and events to confirm their own biases that everybody who does not comply with their prejudicial conclusions and follow their orders is a racist, a bigot, a nazi, a white supremacist, homophobic, islamophobic, xenophobic, misogynistic- an "alt-right extremist".
And I have watched as they used these heartless and carelessly assigned labels to intimidate, threaten, bully, silence, attack, unemploy, black list, and destroy anybody who dares to fight back.
They'll come for me... and then they'll come for you.
And worst of all, The Democratic Party and the liberal media has embraced, affirmed, aided and abetted this cult ideology. In an effort to gain voters and maintain power the Democratic Party that I once loved has joined forces with the extremist left. The Democratic Party and the liberal media now believe their own ill-gotten conclusions and have ominously decided that they and only they know the remedy for society ills.
The left has decided that the solution to problems with race relations in America... is MORE racism.
The left believes that attacking, insulting, and dehumanizing one group of people elevates another.
The left has decided that it's point of view is the only acceptable one; and that suppressing, censoring, and banning open dialogue and debate is virtuous and progressive.
The Democratic Party has adopted a deleterious belief system, happily and without skepticism, separating people into groups based of off identity and organizing them into camps of victims and oppressors. If you are a person of color, an LGBT person, a woman, or an American immigrant, the Democratic Party wants you to know that you are a victim, and destined to stay that way.
They will insist that you are a victim doomed to exist within a system that is rigged against you.
That you are a victim of systemic oppression.
That you are a victim of your circumstances, and that no amount of hard work or motivational action will ever allow you to overcome your victimhood or the privilege of those around you. This is perhaps the Democratic Party's greatest and most insidious lie.
But if you are a minority in America today the liberal media and left wing politicians don't s want you to ever discover this lie. So they bombard us with stories designed to reinforce the narrative that you are in danger, that you can not succeed. They manipulate your fears and concerns by telling you that you are disadvantaged, disempowered, and disposable… to everyone except them.
They will tell you that you need them. They will tell you that you are only safe under their supervision. They will promise to liberate you from all that chains you. And then… they will do absolutely nothing for you.
Once upon a time I was a liberal. But liberalism has changed, and I will no longer be a part of an ideology or a political party that represents everything that contradicts my values of unity, equal opportunity, personal empowerment, compassion… and love. So I am walking away. And I encourage all of you to do the same.
From The Unsilent Majority.
Understanding what is going on here
02.04.2018. The following are excerpts of a speech, "Is Our Membership in the EU a Real Blessing?", delivered by former president and former prime minister of the Czech Republic, Václav Klaus, at the Corvinus University of Budapest on February 22, 2018:
I came to Budapest to participate in the launching of the book about the recent mass migration to Europe. Its formal launching took place yesterday in the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
Our ambition in writing the book was to contribute to the refutation of the false and misleading interpretations of the current European migration crisis. They have been promoted and propagated by the European political and intellectual elites with their progressivist, multicultural, politically correct views and attitudes. Their thinking is based on the untenable assumption that the mass migration is a positive social phenomenon. We strongly disagree. It is not a positive phenomenon, it destabilizes Europe, it endangers the peaceful and quiet developments in individual European countries.
History teaches us that any mass migration creates considerable cultural, social and political conflicts, shocks and tensions. Its costs have always been much higher than its benefits. We see it in Europe these days. The costs connected with it are high and visible and – to be frank – we have not been able to find any benefits from of it. It is evident that Europe does not need any mass migration.
We are aware of the specifics regarding the current mass migration, of the Hungarian stance, which is the result of the courageous -- and in Europe singular and isolated -- position of Prime Minister Orbán. We can assure you that his views are greatly supported in the Czech Republic. I am glad to say that my own views are very similar to Prime Minister Orbán's views.
There are plenty of arguments suggesting that the contemporary migration crisis is connected with the post-democratic character of the EU: it is a by-product of the already long-existing European crisis; systemic errors and misconceptions of European policies; built-in defects of EU institutional arrangements, and the ideological confusions and prejudices of European multicultural political elites.
My criticism is based on the fact that we are – due to our EU membership – once again masterminded from abroad and that our sovereignty is again considerably constrained.
The substance of my polemics with the EU arrangements is based both on the criticism of the negative effects of the ambitions to centralize economically and excessively unify the European continent. It is also based on those who underestimate the negative consequences of undemocratically suppressing nation-states in favor of a pan-European governance.
In the communist era, our dream was to be free citizens, not just inhabitants of our non-free states. Regarding mass migration, the issue of citizenship has become crucial again. Citizenship reflects that one belongs to a particular political community. I strongly disagreed with a well-known and often quoted statement by President Obama, when he famously announced that he is "a citizen of the world". The European political elites similarly keep saying that they are citizens of Europe. Yet, it is impossible to be a citizen of Europe. Europe is not a political community. One can only be an inhabitant of Europe.
I want to live in a Europe with less of the EU and with more of the nation-states. The currently prevailing EU ideology (I call it Europeism) systematically undermines the traditional, historically proven building blocks of the European society: the nation state, the family, the man.
I am very much in favor of the increased openness of the European society. It was attained in the first phase of the European integration process (in the era of the EEC and the EC). I am, however, very critical of the increased bureaucratic centralization, of the permanently growing regulations that suppress human activity, and of the frustrating de-democratization that is connected with the second phase of the European integration process (with the era of the EU), with the European unification. To sum it up, our membership in such an entity is a very mixed blessing. We should have the courage to say it loudly.
Read more at Gatestone Institute.
Grooming gangs were allowed to abuse 700 girls
08.03.2018 (updated 09.03.2018). Grooming gangs that preyed on 700 vulnerable girls and women in and around Newcastle developed an "arrogant persistence" because the authorities locked up the victims rather than the offenders, a Serious Case Review has found. Thus writes crime correspondent Martin Evans in Newcastle grooming gangs were allowed to abuse 700 girls because police blamed the victims, review finds (links in original):
Operation Sanctuary, which was launched in 2014, resulted in 112 offenders being jailed for a total of almost 500 years for abuse carried out against more than 270 victims.
But a shocking report has revealed that the actual number of those targeted was at least 700, as gangs of men from a range of backgrounds plied victims with drugs before raping and forcing them into prostitution.
According to the review, the abusers were mainly "not white but came from a diverse range of backgrounds including Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Indian, Iranian, Iraqi, Kurdish, Turkish, Albanian and Eastern European".
In some cases the victims of the gangs were placed in secure accommodation because of what was seen as their poor behaviour, while the offenders were seen to be innocent and went unpunished.
Continue reading in The Telegraph.
- Fear of being called racist stops people reporting child sexual exploitation concerns, Labour frontbencher claims. A fear of being called racist is stopping authorities from dealing with child abuse and sexual exploitation, a Labour frontbencher has claimed. Sarah Champion, the shadow women and equalities minister, said that "people are more afraid to be called a racist than they are afraid to be wrong about calling out child abuse". Her comments came after 18 people were convicted of or admitted offences in a series of trials related to child sexual exploitation in Newcastle.
Even Merkel now admits the country has no-go-zones
04.03.2018. Chancellor Angela Merkel has claimed there are 'no-go areas' in Germany, leaving ministers speechless. Officials have previously dismissed the notion there are places in the country that police and other outsiders can't visit. But Merkel said she favours a zero-tolerance policy on crime that includes preventing no-go areas, which she called 'areas where nobody dares to go' in an interview with n-tv on Monday. Continue reading in The Daily Mail.
«The time for reconciliation is over»
04.03.2018. South Africa's parliament has voted in favour of a motion that will begin the process of amending the country's Constitution to allow for the confiscation of white-owned land without compensation. Thus begins 'The time for reconciliation is over': South Africa votes to confiscate white-owned land without compensation at news.com.au (links in original, emphasis added):
The motion was brought by Julius Malema, leader of the radical Marxist opposition party the Economic Freedom Fighters, and passed overwhelmingly by 241 votes to 83 against. The only parties who did not support the motion were the Democratic Alliance, Freedom Front Plus, Cope and the African Christian Democratic Party.
It was amended but supported by the ruling African National Congress and new president Cyril Ramaphosa, who made land expropriation a key pillar of his policy platform after taking over from ousted PM Jacob Zuma earlier this month.
"The time for reconciliation is over. Now is the time for justice," Mr Malema was quoted by News24 as telling parliament. "We must ensure that we restore the dignity of our people without compensating the criminals who stole our land."
Mr Malema has been leading calls for land confiscation, forcing the ANC to follow suit out of fear of losing the support of poorer black voters. In 2016, he told supporters he was "not calling for the slaughter of white people‚ at least for now".
Civil rights groups have accused the EFF and ANC of inciting an ongoing spate of attacks on white farmers characterised by extreme brutality, rape and torture — last year, more than 70 people were killed in more than 340 such attacks.
Read the entire article at news.com.au.
See in particular: 'Bury them alive!': White South Africans fear for their future as horrific farm attacks escalate. Nearly every day, horrific acts of rape, torture and murder are carried out on a community under siege.
At the forefront of political correctness
20.02.2018. "Don't feel guilty about our colonial history", Oxford Professor Nigel Biggar titled a column in The Times. He asked his colleagues and students to have "pride" in many aspects of their imperialist past: [...] Dozens of Oxford academics immediately united to condemn the "simple-minded" defense of British colonialism by the professor. Student associations also branded Biggar a "racist" and a "bigot", and asked the university to suspend him. Trevor Phillips, former chair of the UK Equalities and Human Rights Commission, said that Biggar's critics are using "an attack line of which Joseph Stalin would have been proud". Its goal, in fact, seems the moral destruction of the intellectual adversary. Thus begins Giulio Meotti his article Oxford University: Delirious Capital of Political Correctness (see original for links to Meotti's many sources; italics in original):
Biggar's case illustrates the atmosphere in Oxford, the West's capital of political correctness. Oxford's students and professors are the leaders of a movement which, under the guise of "anti-racism", is closing the Western mind and killing the Western culture with dogmatism, tribalism, anti-intellectualism and groupthink. All this indoctrinating has led only to a militant loathing of the Western past and a public revulsion for humanistic Western values, culture and the ability at least to try to correct our wrongs -- as only the West does. Students and professors are now unable to explain why a culture that treats women and men equally or that protects freedom of thought is superior to a culture that subjugates women and oppresses individual choice.
Oxford now preaches the cult of "diversity". But the true diversity for which a university should fight -- the diversity of opinion and thought -- is continually eroded and often completely destroyed. Roger Scruton, in an article for The Times, defined what is happening at Oxford as an "indoctrination without doctrine" and has charged Western universities with reviving the notion of "heresy".
Read the entire article at Gatestone Institute.
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