Wednesday, March 1, 2006

In the beginning...

(A re-post from my rant on myspace)

Ok, so I'm reading (again) Neal Stephenson's essay "In The Beginning Was The Command Line". I am bringing this up because I have noticed that recently I have been judgemental about things. Lots of things. I don't do this to be a prick (although, I admit that I often am), I believe it has to do with what Stephenson says:

Orlando used to have a military installation called McCoy Air Force Base, with long runways from which B-52's could take off and reach Cuba, or just about anywhere else, with a load of nukes. But now McCoy has been scrapped and re-purposed. It has been absorbed into Orlando's civillian airport. The long runways are being used to land 747-loads of tourists from Brazil, Italy, Russia, and Japan, so that they can come to Disney World and steep in our media for a while.

To traditional cultures, especially word-based ones such as Islam, this in infinitely more threatening than the B-52's ever were. It is obvious, to everyone outside of the United States, that our arch-buzzwords-multiculturalism and diversity-are false fronts that are being used (in many cases unwittingly) to conceal a global trend to eradicate cultural differences. The basic tenet of multiculturalism (or "honoring diversity" or whatever you want to call it) is that people need to stop asserting (and, eventually, to stop believing) that this is right and that is wrong, this true and that false, one thing ugly and another thing beautiful, that God exists and has this or that set of qualities.

I couldn't agree more. And I refuse to bow to this pressure. It's wrong for women to be killed for insulting their husbands. It's dumb to worship a cow and refuse to eat it when people in your country are dying of starvation. Right and wrong exist. Now the real trick is to have all of these ideas and not be a prick, and still love people inspite of their (... of our) obvious shortcomings.

BTW, I'm Erick, I'm new here (kinda).

8 comments:

theoturin said...

E-man, I finally got to the reading end of my schedule. I will get back with you on all of this. Thanks. D.

Michael Turton said...

What a childish idea of multiculturalism -- diversity as seen through authoritarian eyes. It seems that believers in objective morals simply yearn to control the minds and bodies of others.

And the idea that multiculturalism exists to "eradicate cultural differences" is completely insane. Especially coming from the blog of someone whose purpose is to missionize others -- to eradicate important cultural differences and replace them with his own cultural traits.

Michael

the Cogitator said...

Ah Michael, so nice to have a fresh spurt of your atheistic snarkiness!

First, with your jab at "believers in objective morals" you seem to have given the secret away: atheists really don't believe in objective morality, because they really don't have a cogent basis to do so.

Second, it is not I who endorse murdering babies, which, if you haven't noticed, is a starkly radical way "to control the minds and bodies of others." Of course, in your thinking, no fetus, and probably very few infants qualify as "minded beings", so what's the harm right? You've still never answered what the difference is between an unconscious adult and a living fetus. Of course, it's not unclear why: for to do so would instantly reveal your defense of abortion is equally a defense of "might makes rights" and the legitimization of weeding out the weak. In even more pointed terms, what is the moral difference between your kids asleep tonight and them back in the womb years ago? They can be glad you don't admit to them you see cannot no any saving difference.

Third, I will say no more about your glib diagnosis of the problems of multiculturalism other than noting precisely by imposing heterogeneity on a culture/people that prefer their own homogeneity is precisely to eradicate the difference of that culture. (Incidentally, are you really so naïve to think your endorsement of secularism, Western economics/technology, subjective morality in opposition to traditional family structures, etc. are NOT a form of foreign influence? Get real; your very presence in Táiwan is a mute but unrelenting pressure towards westernization. Precisely by taking a westernized field of multicultural combat for granted, as the norm, you insinuate your "ways" into the ways of "the other.")

Fourth, please note I have two new co-bloggers. It was not I myself who posted this excerpt from Stephenson's excellent essay. Perhaps, also, if you bothered to read that essay you might save yourself, and my blog, such a mini-conniption.

Fifth, your accusation against Christian missions as colonial cultural acid is hollow, particularly for me as a Catholic. The very splendor of the Church is her divine ability and willingness to absorb as much from all peoples, made in God's image, as possible for a right worship of God. It is Islam, a monadic faith to the core, that insists on – and militantly enforces -- homogeneity; it is Christianity, a Trinitarian faith to the core, that thrives on and encourages ethnic plurality in doctrinal unity. It is Islam, as another example, that refuses to translate its Qur'an into vernacular; it is Christianity which has always done so. When's the last time you saw a strictly Jewish Christian church stifling its surrounding culture? By contrast, when's the last time you DIDN'T see a strictly Arabian mosque stifling its surrounding culture? The Church has come a long way, and it's preposterous to think it has done so by accident; in the same way, Islam has stayed the same, culturally at least, so long for reasons central to its own creed.

To be fair, I'm curious what missiology or history of missions you have read. Of course, fairness on your part doesn’t require too much book-larnin; just open your eyes, MT, and look: the Orthodox and Catholic Churches are the most multicultural entities on the planet. Far more so, in fact, than any Anglo-European atheistic cliques you might be drawn to.

D.J. Skull-Fog said...

Boo-yeah

All Riled Up said...

Oh, five finger punch. Go easy, E.

Michael Turton said...

First, with your jab at "believers in objective morals" you seem to have given the secret away: atheists really don't believe in objective morality, because they really don't have a cogent basis to do so.

Incorrect. Some atheists do believe in objective morals (Randites, for example; Michael Martin the philosopher has a book on the topic). I have no idea how they ground them; nor do I worry about grounds -- grounds in ethics are the equivalent of thumbsucking in small children.

The function of objective morals is simply to provide a platform that legitimates the system's desire for power over its believers. This is true of Communism, Christianity, Islam, Fascism, and all the other -isms that argue for Absolutes in ethics. Behind every claim to having Abolute sanction of (God/the State/the objective laws of history) is a sword itching to come out. That's why the history of the Party and the Church is the history of killing.

Relativists like myself consider morals to be created in conversations between humans. That's why we tend to be peaceful types committed to bettering the world around us. Objectivists like Christians or Communists deploy moral claims as an attempt to short-circuit the negotiations necessary to live with others, and also to hide the fact that you are relativists like the rest of us.

Second, it is not I who endorse murdering babies, which, if you haven't noticed, is a starkly radical way "to control the minds and bodies of others." Of course, in your thinking, no fetus, and probably very few infants qualify as "minded beings", so what's the harm right? You've still never answered what the difference is between an unconscious adult and a living fetus. Of course, it's not unclear why: for to do so would instantly reveal your defense of abortion is equally a defense of "might makes rights" and the legitimization of weeding out the weak. In even more pointed terms, what is the moral difference between your kids asleep tonight and them back in the womb years ago? They can be glad you don't admit to them you see cannot no any saving difference.

Everyone out here knows that the Catholic defense of "life" is hypocrisy of the highest order, coming from an organization that has the death penalty (checked Canon Law lately?). The line between a fetus and a baby is always going to be arbitrary and I have no real discomfort with that precisely because I recognize that there is an element of arbitrariness in ethical thinking, because it is part of the package of evolved cognitive systems we have for dealing with social interactions and its boundaries are not sharply drawn and categories ad hoc. They evolved over a long period, and are now being applied to situations they were never designed for, with the advent of modern technology.

It is because I recognize that the Catholic hatred of sexuality, especially female sexuality, is what drives its anti-abortion campaign, that I don't have any respect for your position. It is also because I know of Church cooperation with Franco, Mussolini, Peron, and others (how about Saint Stepanic, eh?), as well as Church approval and support of the west's colonial project, that I have no respect for your position. So please do not talk to me about some commitment to "life" that your Church has. It doesn't.

The moral difference between the kids in my wife's womb and asleep in the next room, is the moral difference between control over the minds and bodies of women, and giving them their freedom. It is also the difference between a planet that is slowly committing suicide over the idiotic opposition of the Church to birth control and abortion, and also, the difference between high death rates among young women and high abortion rates -- for places where abortion is illegal not only usually have high abortion rates, but far higher death rates for women as well. In Latin America abortion is almost universally illegal, and it has the highest abortion rates in the world; in places where abortion is legal, abortion rates are lower. Want to save lives? Stop opposing abortion! You're killing both babies and women. Stop it!

It is precisely because I love life that I support abortion. The death eaters are in the Christian churches, opposing condoms and birth control in Africa (of all places!!) thus guaranteeing higher death rates among young children already born and in the population at large, thanks to lowered economic growth rates and per capital income rises, greater demands on resources, and so on. Only a madman or a murderer would advocate against abortion and birth control in Africa.

Third, I will say no more about your glib diagnosis of the problems of multiculturalism other than noting precisely by imposing heterogeneity on a culture/people that prefer their own homogeneity is precisely to eradicate the difference of that culture.

Who said anything about "imposing" heterogeneity?

(Incidentally, are you really so naïve to think your endorsement of secularism, Western economics/technology, subjective morality in opposition to traditional family structures, etc. are NOT a form of foreign influence? Get real; your very presence in Táiwan is a mute but unrelenting pressure towards westernization.

You bet. The problem with that would be....? Unlike you I'm not operating in the service of a centrally-controlled anti-democracy institution and am not seeking to create a world where I can actualize some institution's desperate need for power and control over others. The difference between the worlds we envision is that in my world there is space for everyone to choose what they want -- in the world of your church, everyone is a Catholic. Yours is a nightmare vision of Hell in which the world has all the life squeezed out of it.

Precisely by taking a westernized field of multicultural combat for granted, as the norm, you insinuate your "ways" into the ways of "the other.")

Nonsense. You can't blackbox social identities like that. "The Other" is typically an authoritarian and a believer in patriarchy, who is threatened by other ways and other cultures precisely because they unhinge the power he craves -- and thus creates an idealized culture whose purpose is to blot out differences, imposed without the consent or understanding of its victims. You're simply reifying The Other as a monolithic bloc, when the whole idea of multiculturalism recognizes that The Other is not a monolith but an ideological construction made to mask a collection of diverse and independent humans like ourselves, and doing so out of the need for power and control. That is why Stephenson's essay appeals to you, for it contains the unconscious realization that The Other is an Authority much like your own, threatened by freedom.

Fourth, please note I have two new co-bloggers. It was not I myself who posted this excerpt from Stephenson's excellent essay. Perhaps, also, if you bothered to read that essay you might save yourself, and my blog, such a mini-conniption.

Wonderful! Although Stephenson's essay appears to be garbage that succeeds by appealing to the prejudices of its audience.

Fifth, your accusation against Christian missions as colonial cultural acid is hollow, particularly for me as a Catholic. The very splendor of the Church is her divine ability and willingness to absorb as much from all peoples, made in God's image, as possible for a right worship of God.

Self-serving tripe. Where are the gods of the Americas and Africa? Destroyed by Muslims and Christians. Great, so you let them eat tacos in Mexico and curry in Sri Lanka. How generous of you! Fortunately the people of India and China had powerful civilizations of their own that were able to resist the destruction, so they got to keep their gods and governments. I don't think there is any need to cover the whole sad colonial project of Christianity, and its utter failure to exhibit any tolerance for native religion, government, etc.

To be fair, I'm curious what missiology or history of missions you have read.

Shitloads, for I taught African history in Kenya and of course have lots on Taiwan, From Far Formosa, etc. I've also met tons of missionaries in situ overseas. And many of my atheist friends have been missionaries and preachers.

Of course, fairness on your part doesn’t require too much book-larnin; just open your eyes, MT, and look: the Orthodox and Catholic Churches are the most multicultural entities on the planet.

Really? You mean in the Catholic Church I can worship Zeus or N'gai if I want to? I can have two wives and a concubine? I can marry a man? I can have an abortion? My daughter can be a priest? I can opt out of its nihilistic anti-human ethics? Nope. In the world you want to build, when the Church actualizes itself over the whole planet, it will snuff out any freedoms that we might otherwise enjoy. It tolerates them only because it lacks the temporal power to do otherwise.

I'll bet you oppose the KMT, Eliot. So why do you serve the exact same institution in another guise? You want to affirm Life? Stop affirming Authority.

Michael

D.J. Skull-Fog said...

In between your overly worded response I would say, that in terms of what Stephenson is saying, you are missing his forrest for elliot's trees. Stephenson would probably congratulate you on sticking to the culture you have choosen (that seems to be aetheistic relativism). You seem to believe that you are right and we are wrong, fine. You've picked your values and you stand by them, I think Stephenson would be happy with that.

BTW, if you have even a passing interest in the future past and present state of operating systems, or so called "hacker culture" (speaking of culture), I reccomend you read the essay, before you blast it.

the Cogitator said...

As you once said to me, "Great rant!" To business.

The function of objective morals is simply to provide a platform that legitimates the system's desire for power over its believers. … Relativists like myself consider morals to be created in conversations between humans.

The conversation you envision presumably depends on there being "reasonable" people sharing their views uncoercively. But the very "reasonableness" of any persons depends on there being a Reason to which, or rather by which, we all mutually appeal. Objective morals amount to behaving according to objective truth(s) as recognized by objective reason. The universal validity of reason, based on the common human ability to recognize objective truth, is the very basis for egalitarian democracy. As soon as the game is reduced to mere "reasoning" beings, as in your view, it all falls to who is cleverest. Those who fail to "understand" the arguments or claims of your hypothetical rational discourse, eo ipso preempt themselves from the table.

Everyone out here knows that the Catholic defense of "life" is hypocrisy of the highest order, coming from an organization that has the death penalty (checked Canon Law lately?). …

This is embarrassing, Michael. I am aware of the Church's position on capital punishment. But if you don't understand the Church's moral reasoning enough to see the difference between opposing abortion and allowing capital punishment, well, how can we communicate? You're not even being fair with such a swipe. Persons killed by capital punishment have committed crimes as free and grown individuals; infants have been created by the sexual union of a man and a woman. You effectively equate being conceived with being on death row. Disgusting as it is inane. (And in cases when persons are unjustly murdered by capital punishment, this is a moral offense totally distinct from the rights of the state, so don't waste your time on any moratorium red herrings.)

It is because I recognize that the Catholic hatred of sexuality, especially female sexuality, is what drives its anti-abortion campaign, that I don't have any respect for your position.

Branding the Church with a hatred for female sexuality is quite comical since it is the Church alone today that defends the integrity – privacy, fertility and fecundity – of that magnificent sexuality. By endorsing fornication, you reduce female sexuality to a pleasure commodity on the flesh market. By endorsing contraception, you reduce female sexuality to a sealed pleasure canal, not to be confused with anything capable of supporting human life. By endorsing abortion, you reduce female sexuality to a mere holding tank for biological materials. By contrast, the Church says 1) a woman's virginity is not to tossed away like a toy, 2) a woman's (and human) sexuality is inherently powerful, life-giving and thus life-affirming, and 3) a woman's maternity is NEVER to be invaded, since she, and she alone among all creatures, bears within herself the image of God in infant form. Defending abortion in the name of a woman's "personal freedom" is tantamount to encouraging the queen to plunder and ruin the royal treasury just because she is royalty. There are some goods that, once we embrace them we cannot and must not destroy. There are some evils that once we embrace, we cannot, but must, destroy. A fetus is the former; abortive reductionism is the latter, your moral penchant.

The line between a fetus and a baby is always going to be arbitrary and I have no real discomfort with that precisely because I recognize that there is an element of arbitrariness in ethical thinking….

And I see, as always, your infanticidal agenda rests exactly on what you call arbitrariness. At nine months, what is the fetus? At seven months? At five months? At three months? At a month? At a week? Because you can NEVER and WILL NEVER assign "human dignity" to one period on this regression while denying to any phase prior, you are simply defending the murder of what is, at every phase, only a human being. Your kids are human now that they've been born, but any unborn child is not yet human? Strange logic. This means men and women conceive nonhuman growths, but women magically bear fully formed humans.

Further, is human dignity can begin at some "vague" point in the womb, you are obligated to admit it can end at some point later, say old age or mental decline. Your infanticide is all of a piece with your euthanasia is all of a piece with your "bright" eugenics is all of a piece with homicidal biological elitism. Again, as disgusting as it is inane.

The moral difference between the kids in my wife's womb and asleep in the next room, is the moral difference between control over the minds and bodies of women, and giving them their freedom.

Ah, but is female freedom, let alone any freedom, an objectively moral good? As you would have it, no. As such, please drop your pseudo-altruistic whining, calm yourself and just behold the subjective splendor of a meaningless, Darwinian world unfolding before your eyes. Since my ideology is but one of the many competing ideologies allegedly allowed at your "buffet society", on what grounds do you oppose me?

Is it objectively wrong to torture babies for fun? Would it be wrong if I ran into you and carved you eyes out with for fun? You'll think I'm being playfully obscene, but the logic of your own position demands such a reply, Michael. Quit cavorting in subjective suburban fantasies and face the fact that your denial of objective good AND EVIL is itself an evil pursuit.

It is also the difference between a planet that is slowly committing suicide over the idiotic opposition of the Church to birth control and abortion, and also, the difference between high death rates among young women and high abortion rates -- for places where abortion is illegal not only usually have high abortion rates, but far higher death rates for women as well. In Latin America abortion is almost universally illegal, and it has the highest abortion rates in the world; in places where abortion is legal, abortion rates are lower. Want to save lives? Stop opposing abortion! You're killing both babies and women. Stop it!

Because you deny objective morals, you fail to grasp a key point: opposition to abortion is based on positive goods, namely, the inviolable dignity of each human being and the right to life of each human being. It is not based on doing "the best of two evils". Trying to help pregnant women BY MURDERING their fetuses is simply a moral wrong and cannot be tolerated by the Church. For the Church, it is simply not permissible to do evil that good may obtain.

It is precisely because I love life that I support abortion. The death eaters are in the Christian churches, opposing condoms and birth control in Africa (of all places!!) thus guaranteeing higher death rates among young children already born and in the population at large, thanks to lowered economic growth rates and per capital income rises, greater demands on resources, and so on. Only a madman or a murderer would advocate against abortion and birth control in Africa.

Three words, Michael: Uganda versus South Africa. Take a look at their contraceptive policies vis a vis their AIDS trends, and then get back to me.

Treating people like morally irresponsible bone-in-the-nose morons – "Here, little darkie, use this simple rubber sleeve, go have all the sex you want; since you can't control yourself, you obviously can't get a leg up without us" – leads to people acting like morally irresponsible morons.

You bet. The problem with that would be....?

I'm astounded how naïve you sound about modern western history. Do you really think the west is so pristine? Do you really think there is no connection between the ascendancy of secularism and the 20th century being the bloodiest century ever? I can't believe you are really so arrogant and chauvinist about western culture, so I assume I am misunderstanding you.

Unlike you I'm not operating in the service of a centrally-controlled anti-democracy institution and am not seeking to create a world where I can actualize some institution's desperate need for power and control over others.

(Talking about reifying the Other!) No, you're just operating according to your libido and a lifeful of anti-religious chips on the shoulder. For some reason you seem to think you can extricate yourself from this "power-ideology' game, but you can't. Your yourself are an "institution" seeking to mold the world according to your own subjective tastes. Your grasp and use of Nietzschean and critical theory is anything but skin deep. As far as I am concerned, ACCORDING TO YOUR OWN LOGIC, you are an evil to be removed, and you have no basis for denying me that right, let alone for protesting if I ever actually did so.

The difference between the worlds we envision is that in my world there is space for everyone to choose what they want -- in the world of your church, everyone is a Catholic. Yours is a nightmare vision of Hell in which the world has all the life squeezed out of it.

How adorable. Hear my suburbs roar! Your Sartrean angst is so inspiring! You really are too funny. I hope I can be as "radical" and "bold" as you are when I get older. Presumably, Michael, it would be hell for you when pedophiles, serial killers, embezzlers, etc. are nowhere to be seen. How sad that it is heaven for you to legitimize not the defense against, and redemption of, truly wicked people, all in the name of there being "space for everyone." Everyone is a very strong word.

You're simply reifying The Other as a monolithic bloc, when the whole idea of multiculturalism recognizes that The Other is not a monolith but an ideological construction made to mask a collection of diverse and independent humans like ourselves…

No actually, I'm making the point, again, that your subjective liberalism ("space for everyone") is an insulting illusion, since it ONLY extends to those ALSO in accord with your view of liberty. For you, the Other is hordes of authoritarian Catholics. The only limit on your oh-so-hip, limitless multiculturalism is the expulsion of those not so willing to fall in line. "All are welcome in my paradise," you chirp, "well, except for those who deny all are welcome in paradise." Huh? You are victim to the tiring (in both senses of the word) Boomer logic of moral latitude… as your final words make so clear…

Really? You mean in the Catholic Church I can worship Zeus or N'gai if I want to? I can have two wives and a concubine? I can marry a man? I can have an abortion? My daughter can be a priest? I can opt out of its nihilistic anti-human ethics? Nope. In the world you want to build, when the Church actualizes itself over the whole planet, it will snuff out any freedoms that we might otherwise enjoy. It tolerates them only because it lacks the temporal power to do otherwise.

We have come full circle. DJ Skullfog posted about Stephenson's insight into the culture-effacing power of multiculturalism. You chimed in. I tried to show you your inconsistency. You got worked up about women's lib and man's libido. I've tried to show you your fallacies again, and this quote is just the proof I need.

You deny multiculturalism destroys cultures. But then you close your defense of multiculturalism with a destruction of Catholic culture. My point about Christian multiculturalism is that the Church can and does absorb all the world's goods IN ORDER TO arrange them for the glory of God in Christ. The Church has no right to alter her own divinely endowed character, or her divinely endowed revelation, for the sake of being multicultural. So, no, the Church cannot condone any of the things you close by asking about.

But the key is that precisely by insinuating the Church should accept all those things IN ORDER TO be multicultural, you demand the destruction of authentic Catholic culture and identity.

You want to affirm Life? Stop affirming Authority.

Be sure to tell your kids and students hat first thin tomorrow. "I am, technically, an authority figure for you, so that ipso facto discredits me. From now on, I want you to live your life as YOUR life. Ignore all authority." You don't live in the world you say I should support, you don't live by your own suburban-anarchist principles, Michael, so how can I take you seriously?

Same proviso as in the other comment. I'm sick and tired and I must rest.