Sunday, September 17, 2006

Sticks and stones may break my bones ...

... but bad words cannot hurt me. At least, that used to be the case with people with a sturdier psyche. Last week, the catholic pope said a few words about atheists and muslims at the Regensburg address, and among those words were some quotes from Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus: "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

The response was predictable: The Pakistani parliament unanimously demanded an apology, as did various other muslim voices. Equally predictable were the actions by the usual resident geniuses. You remember them; they were the ones demonstrating extremely loudly in the Muhammed Cartoon Wars, stating that islam's image ban was absolute and extended even to infidels - all the while sporting t-shirts with the image of Osama bin Laden. This time, the geniuses stated, in effect: "Retract your statement that islam is violent, or we will kill you." To show they really meant this message of peace, they killed a nun and torched two catholic churches. Oh wait, those were anglican and orthodox churches. But hey, it's hard to keep track of such subtle differences when one is a genius.

It was all over so quickly that the editors of the world's newspapers must be chewing on their fingers by now. Lost sales and all that. The pope simply apologized and restated that the quote from the Byzantine emperor was just that: A quote. Not the pope's own opinion. That's what he said, anyway. And the muslim voices said that that was a fine apology. End of story.

But the other half of the matter was not addressed: the pope's badmouthing of atheists. I feel like demanding an apology on behalf of all humanistic atheists for his claims that atheism leads to feelings of alienation and to society falling apart. If that's exactly what he said. We have learned that accuracy of quotation doesn't matter much in the face of hurt feelings. Anyway, he probably meant what I said, and has probably said something himself to those precise effects before. So we demand an apology! If not ... if not ... ooooh, how angry we will be. Unfortunately, humanist atheism tends not to attract the kind of resident geniuses that are overly fond of public chemistry, so we'll have nobody to set fire to the Mormon tabernacle to show the pope that we really mean business.

But let's leave the pope. He's not alone. All of Christianity badmouth the godless, and their priests do it every sunday in their official capacity as church leaders. So we should demand an apology after mass - every Sunday. But hey! I want some apologies from the muslims, too. Don't try to tell me that they praise the atheists in their friday prayers. They badmouth the godless, the humanist atheists, at least as bad as do the Christians. So we demand an apology from the muslims, after every friday prayer. And while we're at it: Don't think the jews will be let off that easily. Apologies every saturday, after synagogue. Rabbis: We know what you've been saying about the humanistic atheists, about the godless.

Well, I could make such a demand, couldn't I - on behalf of all secular humanists? The only trouble is that I'm no secular humanist. I'm an egoist and therefore not all that humanistic at all times. And the secular humanists badmout us egoists, the same way the jews, the Christans and the muslims badmouth us. "Tear out the egoism from your midst," and all that jazz. I don't think the humanists pick a particular day for badmouthing us, so I will demand an apology from them each and every evening. Well, except on fridays, saturdays and sundays, when I will be busy receiving apologies from the other faiths.

Friday, August 18, 2006

All things are nothing to me: Now as song

Wall Nosek has composed and recorded the song All things are nothing to me; you can listen to (or download) the song from this link: All things are nothing to me.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Israel and Hezb'allah and all that jazz

During the current spectacle in Lebanon, some random thought sediments have settled in my brain:

Gandhi's strategy of non-violence worked pretty well when meeting an enemy opposed to senseless slaughter. I doubt it would have worked overly well on Djenghis Khan. But it can be formulated as a reasonably succesful strategy in game theoretic terms. Another strategy is fighting back, or guerilla war. It seems - if we are to believe reports of massive civilian support of Hezb'allah - that they have hit upon something which is more or less the ultimate game theoretic strategy: Fight, but behind willing human shields. The human shields do the Gandhi work, whereas the fighting strikes down your enemy.

I'm not drawing any moral conclusions here; just making an observation. I think cynicism is the best view when judging the conflicts around Israel, and take no sides because there is no side I would really like to be on - only against, or preferrably very far away from.

It reminds me a bit of a battle when Germany was invading the Soviet Union: The Soviet Union ran out of guns, and instead sent just masses and masses of unarmed soldiers at the Germans, until their own slaughter fatigued them, and they were overrun by the Soviets. I can't recall the name of the battle, but the strategy has some semblance to Hizbollah's, except the blurred dividing line between combattant and non-combattant.

Of course, the problem with intelligent leaders with intelligent strategies like that is that the leaders of the other side will ultimately evolve into the only type of leader that can handle the civilian/soldier blurry-lines: The indiscriminately killing Djenghis Khans; you know, the guy whose nephew razed all of Baghdad. In Hitler's case, the solution was "hardening camps" for the SS Officers, so that they wouldn't be so prone to weaken from slaughter fatigue. Their hardening camps? Yep, the extermination camps like Auschwitz. The theory and practice being that once you had been through that - done all those atrocities - you could be commanded to do anything, and you would perform.

So I sometimes fear for the near future of civilization. Stalin-Gandhis vs. indiscriminate Hitler Khans. I don't quite know which "smart" side to run away from, but I'll try to keep a remote island in mind.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Quotable Max Stirner

Every state is a despotism, be the despot one or many...

Everything sacred is a tie, a fetter.

The state practices 'violence', the individual must not do so. The state's behavior is violence, and it calls its violence 'law'; that of the individual 'crime'.

Owner and creator of my right, I recognize no other source of right than - me, neither God nor the state nor nature nor even man himself with his 'eternal rights of man', neither divine nor human right.

Political liberalism, like everything religious, counts on respect, humaneness, the virtues of love. Therefore does it live in incessant vexation.