Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Amnesty International and Afghanistan

I had to laugh this morning when I was reading Amnesty's latest magazine. For a start, I had a look at the back cover where a photo of some Amnesty members was shown. I've always enjoyed trying to read faces to discern attitudes and many of these faces were absolutely transparent. The bien-pensant, pacifist, liberal-lefty, we-can-get-on-with-everyone, all-you-need-is-love, naivety was plastered all over them. What a collection of gullible, useful idiots they looked.

I read an article inside about the plight of Afghan women pending the withdrawal of coalition troops. The article spoke of the many advances for women in Afghanistan since the Taliban were ousted from large areas of the country from 2001 onwards. It spoke of the brutality of the Taliban and how they violated human rights for everyone but especially women. Now, as the Obama-led coalition seeks a speedy exit and is holding negotiations with the Taliban, fears about the consequences for many Afghans are rising.

All understandable enough, and I'm right behind anyone who wants to uphold universal human rights but this is really where the cultural relativists of the Left have got their (or rather the poor Afghans') comeuppance. Having pooh-poohed the efforts of coalition forces to bring order and justice to Afghanistan ever since they started and having done all in their power to bring the troops home (under whatever pretext), they are now crying for the Afghans because the enemy that they don't want to fight, and whom they have busily tried to define as a non-enemy in their usual sneering manner, is positioning itself for a return to power. Dress it up how you like, we will put the Taliban back in power when we leave.

What the likes of Amnesty need to understand is that universal human rights cannot be upheld universally all the time. If a group of people is violating the human rights of another group and they can only be stopped by force, you have to violate their human rights to stop them: you have to kill them.

But those people on the back cover of Amnesty's magazine just won't accept this unpleasant reality.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Citizen's Journal 070911

"Let there be no compulsion in religion." Surely, the religion consists of nothing but compulsion: believers are compelled to conform to thousands of rules and non-believers are compelled to become believers. Where exactly is the lack of compulsion?

The Malisites locally are increasingly numerous and increasingly asserting themselves. More of the women cover their faces and more of the men grow their ugly beards. A walk through the town is an act of stoicism. I feel a strange sort of exile; I don't seem to belong here anymore; my world is being being removed around me. The familiarity of homeliness is disappearing; I can't relate to most of those people I encounter on the street.  Fortunately my fellow passengers on the train are still english in some meaningful sense; we are like the workers coming into the city to do the jobs that pay the taxes that keep the society from going completely broke in too short a time. We are though a dwindling proportion of the population. What will society look like when Malisites are 60,70, or 80 percent?

There are small things that seem to point to a more widespread malaise: on the train there are many passengers (generally pretty young) with their feet on the seats. The "train managers" often don't challenge them; nor do the passengers - we feel it's almost a certainty that we'll be sworn at or even assaulted so why bother taking the flak? Those with their feet on the seats are undoubtedly pretty foul-mouthed.

I cancelled an appointment at the vet. He was very appreciative that I had phoned to inform them. This made me think of the number of appointments that are made and not kept; and not only not kept but not properly cancelled. Another symptom of a society where all manner of standards are being eroded. Just like the feet on the seats, many of us are too exhausted to make a stand.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Citizen's Notebook: 290711 - The Origins of Religion

To understand the origins of religion I think we have to place ourselves at the dawn of human consciousness; in that transition from animal mentality to human mentality. It would have been during this period that pre-rational associations between events and their circumstances would have formed. The early humans would have been motivated to try and make favourable events more likely and unfavourable events less likely. For example, a place where the death of a child occurred would become associated with the feelings aroused by the calamity; it would evoke memories and their associated feelings; it would take on an atmosphere or spirit. Such a "spirit" or atmosphere might become personified as a genus loci or demi-god; a fairy perhaps.

Once the sense of a spirit had taken hold, the door is open for all the behaviours that we associate with belief in a spirit to take hold as well: the desire to remain in a positive relationship with the spirit; the desire to maintain the right attitude toward the spirit; the repetition of behaviour to propitiate the spirit and encourage favourable outcomes. This surely is the origin of the religious urge, the religious sense?

Let's look a little more closely at the repetitious behaviour that the religious sense induces. Offerings may be made to the spirit in order to try and gain favour, to persuade the spirit to protect the supplicant from harm. If the person has a run of good luck following these rituals, good outcomes are associated with the performance of the rituals. The spirit is seen to be pleased by them. Behavioural psychology has shown that this will encourage the repetition of the rituals. Also, when the rituals are partially rewarded with good outcomes it has a greater effect of reinforcing the ritualistic behaviour than if the reward appears to occur consistently. Moreover, the effect is even greater when the partial reinforcement occurs randomly.

What we see here is a scenario in which events, both personal behavioural events and external events, come to be interpreted as having some relationship to each other, as being in a relation of mutual influence. It doesn't matter if the events have no causal connection, they are perceived as having one.  This is the foundation of ritual and superstition. Superstition is the belief that certain behaviour will bring good or bad luck (like walking under ladders). If one succumbs to superstitious belief it can be very difficult to shake off. The risk of not performing the required behaviour or acting in a "forbidden" manner can arouse a lot of anxiety which will triumph over the attempt to escape.

Once the sense of a spiritual presence has been established in the minds of a people the foundation is laid for all the manifestations of religious experience from the most basic superstitious forms to the most complex theologies. People interpret experiences as being guided by "the spirit"; events are treated as messages, as rewards, as punishments. Those deemed to be disrespectful of the spirit may have their misfortunes interpreted as retribution from the spirit; benign experiences will be seen as rewards for adopting the correct attitude or carrying out the correct behaviour. All this experience and thinking combines to reinforce yet more the believer's belief. But it's all entirely circular.

Belief is also reinforced by the special activities associated with the spirit. Mass communal events strengthen the sense of uplifting unity among believers; music played especially for worshipping the spirit adds to the psychological thrill; those appointed to speak on behalf of the spirit are imbued with huge authority and charisma. The spell, the magic increases in complexity and enchantment until a huge edifice of spiritual authority is erected and stands as a physical manifestation of the spirit. All this has been built on those primordial associations of events, affects, and repeated behaviours handed down through the ages as something real, vital for survival, and as a guarantor of good prospects after death.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Citizen's Notebook: 270711

One of the big questions that is surfacing more recently concerns the reformability of Malsism. Is Malsism locked in an unchangeable state or can it be remodelled so that it conforms more with modern ideas of human rights? Those who think it can, point to various mutations of Malsism and variations in messages set out in the Malisite trilogy. They argue that Madd made statements about peace as well as war; they claim that for its time Malsism was progressive; that it had a unifying effect on many diverse people. I don't think they're right. The whole edifice of Malsism is based on the example and teachings of Madd. Madd laid down very clearly that he was the model to emulate, not partially but in its entirety. To question any of Madd's teachings or example is to question them in their totality. It's all or nothing. The later teachings of Madd are the more violent, the earlier teachings less so. There is a rule built into the system which deals with this contradiction: later teachings cancel earlier ones, if they contradict. In view of this, I just don't see how Malsism is reformable.