Wishful Feeling: Christianity and Emancipation

Many Christians maintain that their religion “set them free”, or liberated them. Whatever do they mean? I received a Catholic “education” and my descriptives would be far and away from glowing terms employed by the born again. In theory and practice that religion’s representatives meant to stupify the mind.

In keeping with Catholic tradition, separation by gender was implemented as far as was legally acceptable. Girls were expected and then praised to high Heaven for their deference and natural grace. (Tomboyishness – as in: personality – was actively persecuted.) As a reward, they were alloted extra “play time” and allowed to leave for home earlier. Boys were damned with the assumed tautology that we were too “boisterous” (yes, the staff were really that dense), and instructed that sports and a little mathematics were to be the extent of our purview.

John Erskine told students they had a moral, and attainable, obligation to be intelligent. Nothing so affirming here. We were informed regularly which of us was useless, which of us stupid and irreparably so, who was smart – not in the Erskine sense, but that pointed, accusatory way, as in, “oh, Mr Clark, I had no idea you were an expert in ark construction”. We soon learned that harsh words (usually with reference to Hell) and consequences were reserved for any who questioned The Doctrine.

On one occasion, I was told by a bucktoothed shag-weasel named Mrs Smith – her poor, browbeaten and well-meaning husband worked for the same institution – that no one in our class would amount to anything much: no successful businessperson or university scholar would escape the ragged crowd. We were working class and had to accept our lot. This sort of thing will, even at a young age, trigger an overwhelming sense of dejection. Children, we somehow forget, or pretend to not know, have a remarkable capacity for foreboding. It complemented what we were taught as a matter of course; we recited weekly:

The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
God made them high and lowly,
And o
rdered their estate

This among a tsunami of verses in All Things Bright and Beautiful, an awful hymn that still retains the ability to sneak attack my consciousness. England has a long history of Christian moralists, working in service to power, excusing hideous societal failings by claiming that eternal bliss awaited their victims in death. That hypocrite Wilberforce arrogantly claimed to be doing God’s work, all the while stamping on the worker and hacking away at the Liberty Tree. Besides chattel slavery*, every terrible excess of the British capitalist class was justified: workhouses, the banning of workplace organisation, and government massacres, including Peterloo. Because, oddly, class distinctions were Heavenly ordained, and by extension contained, even if the racial weren’t.

While he went on to preach about the perfectibility of the British State, with its damnable constitution — has anyone seen it? — and its heroic resistance to reform, starved bodies were being discovered in the Home Counties, half-digested daffodils in their stomachs. Hazlitt, perceptive and brilliant, put it tersely, “[he, Wilberforce,] who preaches vital Christianity to untutored savages, and tolerates its worst abuses in civilised states.”

Image result for workhouse

 

William Cobbett satirised this type of Christian. The type who thinks suffering a holy virtue, and considers envy the very worst a pauper can experience.

Come, little children list to me
Whilst I describe your duty
And kindly lead your eyes to see
Of lowliness the beauty

‘Tis true your busy backs are bare
Your lips too dry for spittle
Your eyes as dead as whitings are
Your bellies growl for Vict’al

But, dearest children, oh! Believe
Believe not treach’rous senses!
‘Tis they your infant hearts deceive
And lead into offences

When frost assails your joints by day
And lice by night torment you
‘Tis to remind you oft to pray
And of your sins repent ye

Let dungeons, gags and hangman’s noose
Make you content and humble
Your Heavenly crown you’ll surely lose
Of here on earth you grumble.

Liberation Theology

But, as I’ve alluded to, this isn’t Christianity in toto, and I mustn’t allow the personal make me think so. Cobbett himself was a dedicated believer (he could never reconcile that his hero Thomas Paine was a deist), and despised those clergy that he felt were twisting the Good Word. And hasn’t it been the case that, just as there have been men citing the Old Testament when committing their terrible deeds, they have had their opposite, quoting from the Gospels? There are Bible verses that glory in the freeing of slaves, and there are those that revel in the taking of them – and indeed both sides of the 18th and 19th century debates on the question of owning of Africans made good use of them. There are other verses that teach followers to resist change and new ideas, and others still that seem to instruct believers that they should defiantly question, and if found lacking, overthrow the status quo.

Image result for liberation theology

 

Does this mean that there’s enough in the Judeo-Christian canon to make any condensing of it arbitrary? While the US-backed juntas of Central and South America paraded Family, Order and the Cross, independent priests and nuns were forming the vanguard of liberation theology. This movement which, until School of the Americas trained thugs put bullets into its leading figures, led with Jesus and made common cause with the socialists. The lies about unending joy following death were put to the wayside. They demanded salvation, in the form of land reform, democracy, adequate healthcare, and the pursuit of happiness, in the material here and now.

But the poor person does not existing as an inescapable fact of destiny. His or her existence is not politically neutral, and it is not ethically innocent. The poor are a by-product of the system in which we live and for which we are responsible. They are marginalized by our social and cultural world. They are the oppressed, exploited proletariat, robbed of the fruit of their labor and despoiled of their humanity. Hence the poverty of the poor is not a call to generous relief action, but a demand that we go and build a different social order.

So said Gustavo Gutierrez.

Well meaning as they no doubt were, there was – and will always be – a trap door awaiting all those wishing to employ Christianity for progressive means. It’s got a vindictive and selfish god, scriptural defenses of murder and plunder, it’s got heroes like Lot, and a historical connection to Rome that opens up an entirely new (and terrifying) avenue of dismay. It, in other words, it has baggage.

Cut out the bullshit and get right to the liberation. Real emancipation requires a radical change in the material realm, and to Hell with the spiritual (whatever that is anyway). If something requires an illusion – or is it delusion? – to sustain itself, surely there’s something amiss, the impartial must admit. Can’t people take the socialist pill without the sweet – and deadly – sugar coating of Christianity?

Reason, Slave

The great Richard Carlile, jailed for six years for fighting for an English free press, made the mistake of thinking that all that was required to revolutionise the masses was the propagation of radical literature. Once people read that there was an alternative to superstition and submission, then surely they would reach for the last priest’s entrails and strangle the world’s last king with them. The reasons why this wasn’t so are numerous, although principally it’s thus, people aren’t rational. To expect Man to be led by Reason alone, as he did, is like expecting a flower to be sustained entirely by starlight. It can’t, and we can’t – or at least, we had better not: John Stuart Mill was brought up to experience the world solely in terms of the rationalist utilitarian calculus, and by the age of twenty he found life weary and stale and was ready to die. His relief came chiefly from the poetry of the Romantics.

(And it was to the poetry of William Blake that Clement Attlee’s reforming Labour government turned to in 1951. Even this had its Biblical allusions:

I will not cease from mental strife,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.)

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That’s not to say that Christianity must therefore be the vessel containing the germ of change. Only that appeals to reason alone will not suffice. Marx himself recognised this when, just before he wrote his famous line about the “opium of the people” (one of the best known quotes on the internet and one of the least understood), he described religion as, “the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions”. This leaves non-religious narratives at a disadvantage, because they haven’t the same recognition – in part because religious regimes have actively cracked down on them – and neither can they promise so much.

A Political Alternative

Yet attempts at an unifying, non-religious and emotive narrative have been made. These efforts (mostly communes), it could be said, have seen success by satisfying itches in those zones of the cortex usually reserved for the religious. Sin becomes alienation and oppression, the saviour figure of Moses, Jesus or Muhammad is replaced by the Collective or class, the moment of salvation and/or rebirth is The Revolution. Fyodor Dostoyevsky in The Brothers Karamazov, suggests that were his lead character – a devout and pious man of the cloth – to answer “do you believe in God?” with the negative, he would be a fervent socialist. He sees the overlap as significant, drawing particular attention to utopianism.

In the same way, if he had decided that God and immortality did not exist, he would at once have become an atheist and a socialist. For socialism is not merely the labor question, it is before all things the atheistic question, the question of the form taken by atheism to-day, the question of the tower of Babel built without God, not to mount to heaven from earth but to set up heaven on earth.

But we have to be careful here. Socialist and Christian groups share similarities exactly because they are groups, and all groups have their common objectives, vices and taboos. And it’s no surprise that a dedicated God botherer might make a committed politico – indeed, American politics is awash with those who manage to make an identity of both. More importantly, the socialist project is no illusion. It promises, rather than “spiritual improvement”, implementable solutions rooted in the world we can fairly assume exists. And in its quasi- forms it’s given us such boons as the welfare state, nationalised heathcare, subsidised arts, industries held in common, and trade unions.

What a socialist future can’t guarantee is vicarious redemption, or, for that matter, quick fixes. It won’t free you from the troublesome tendrils of reality. It’s unlikely to answer all of your prayers (yet what does?), and it certainly won’t grant you a personal Jesus.

What it may do is erode the binds of economic exploitation, eliminating what Oscar Wilde called the sordid nessessity of living for others. Allowing individuals to fully realise their innate talents, and the dreams that the pressures of work and capital, at present, suppress. It won’t be perfect, but it promises people a new, higher and more meaningful form of consolation: self-expression. (And if you insist on having concepts like “soul”, you might dedicate your freshly unmanacled mind and body to discovering or defining it. Perhaps without resorting to folk stories and clergymen.)

However, whatever the future brings – socialism or no – it’s unlikely to be “heaven on earth”. For this reason and others, Christianity will endure as source of false hope and sham freedom. Irrevocable as it and all religion may be though, can we at least begin to make them a little less necessary?

 

_______________________

*Slavery existed in the colonies, and continued under a different name following “Wilberforce’s” abolition.

Same for sex. On women agitating for the abolition of slavery, “[F]or ladies to meet, to publish, to go from house to house stirring up petitions – these appear to me proceedings unsuited to the female character as delineated in Scripture“.

 

Paddy

Post-modern university. Is the art of conversation and scientific discourse in jeopardy?

Let me admit that I am a bit late in my response to the Bret Weinstein incident, which prompted this post. Some of us have full time jobs and little time to spend on reading poetry and doing fuck all, Paddy. Anyway. I don’t want to spend too much time describing the situation. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, google it, there are plenty of news reports and youtube videos about it. In short, it is a story of a mass outcry over a faintest pretext blown out of proportion. Of students of a higher education institution shutting down any attempts at a reasonable discussion. Of professors and faculty members being shouted or chanted at, cornered by mobs and facing ridiculous accusations. All of  it over, as I said before, the stupidest reason ever. All of it could have been averted if one side took of their social justice warrior ear muffs and listened for a second or two.

You might have guessed whose side I’m on. I support and agree with Bret Weinstein. But that’s not what this post is about. There is a force growing in the universities. A force, which the incidents at the Evergreen State College, Silliman College at Yale last year or University of Missouri in 2015 are symptoms of. That force is called Post-modernism.

As the name suggests, post-modernism is a school of thought concerning itself mostly with the post modern, born in 1960’s France. Postmodernists reject the existence of objective reality. They reject the Enlightenment and the scientific methods, logic and reason stemming from that era of human development. They are seen as Eurocentric, and in many cases tools of oppression and dominance created by the white man. There is more to it, and I recommend you read upon it. I don’t want to spend too much time on explaining that philosophy. I would however like point out one part of the postmodernist thought, that relates to issue discussed here. That is its approach to education.

Postmodernism rejects the perception that the main goal of education is to train students’ cognitive ability for
reason to produce a fully independent functioning citizen, but rather a citizen with a full social identity.

That is a quote from Chi Hong Nguyen, The Changing Postmodern University, 2010.  She writes further:

It also opposes any oppression
that offers benefits and priorities to “whites, males, and the rich at the expense of everyone else” (ibid., p. 17)
because such a mode of education just serves the rights and interests of those in power.  Therefore, education
must be recast wholly with a newer focus on marginalised groups and the voices of those who have traditionally
remained silent, and it should critically remind students of the historical sins and crimes of the colonial ones in
authority.

On the surface none of those concepts is dangerous. But if you dig a little deeper and consider what behaviour might be stemming from them, they become quite problematic. I’m not going to sing the hymn in praise of “cognitive ability for reason” and all it’s done for mankind. I’m pretty sure that’s self evident. So I’ll move on to the second part.

I’d be in favour of refocusing education on the marginalised people. If it means giving everyone equal rights, opportunities and treatment. Making sure that kids and adults from the historically disadvantaged and more vulnerable populations have the same chance to succeed as everyone else. Sometimes that means giving them a little extra help. Nothing wrong with that. But it seems that this idea is working towards creating a system of accountability. Wherein the white men of the present is doomed to pay for the “sins and crimes” of his ancestors. Some of whom had nothing to do with the colonial system, plantations, slavery etc. The payees of these reparations would be people who themselves have not experienced any of it. During his appearance on the Joe Rogan Experience #970 podcast Bret Weinstein mentions the notion put forward by some supporters of such ideas, that white people should vacate employment opportunities. All to make them more available to people of colour. Not all people of colour mind you. Asian men are apparently part of the problem. They too should make more space for black people. A sign of it can be seen in the idea of racial employment quotas (don’t know how else to call them). There is an idea that a certain number or percentage of an institution’s workers must be of ethnic minority. Now, I’m the sort of person who believes that people should be hired on basis of merit alone, not their race, gender or else.

I’ll move on to other possible explanations. Firstly, audit culture (something I ought to write more about). In simple terms it means bringing things like audits, performance indicators and quality control methods from the financial/business sector into the higher education institutions. Thus running them like business rather than academic organisations. In principle it aims to improve the quality of education provided by universities, and making faculty members more accountable to the stakeholders. Meaning the students and other investors. Hard to argue against better quality and accountability. But what it actually means is changing universities from places of learning and academic endeavour into factories. Yes, factories. Places where teachers are morphed into docile and productive little worker bees, who produce the next generation of docile and productive worker bees. What is really hidden underneath the aforementioned slogans is profit. The only thing that matters. Tutors and classes they run are rated on the basis of student satisfaction and outside indicators assigned by, well outside controllers. Therefore, any university officials are more likely to side with the students and sometimes throw their workers under the bus. Because doing otherwise could upset the stakeholders and switch off the investment tap. (Note: there’s more to it than I’m making it sound, but there’s not much more space left in this post)

Now if you allow me to sound like an old grumpy man. I blame social media. The ‘activists’ (I use that term lightly here) have been quite keen to record and post videos of their… social justice crusades. Sure, some of it might be to highlight the problem. Share their struggle with the world and bring attention to the problems they try to solve. I however see a different motivation there. What they are essentially doing is seek validation and approval. Their desire for attention drives them to gang up on their victims, shout and chant at them. All to show everyone how smart and brave they are. All so they can be showered with applause from their peers and likes and shares from the audience. One of the videos from the Evergreen State College shows students cornering Bret Weinstein. Afterwards they talk how they didn’t corner him and were very open to discussion, despite telling him to shut the fuck up moments earlier. Repeatedly one of them shouts something or does something that is followed by an ovation form other mob members. It appears to me that through those conversations the students have created a safe space. Where they are surrounded only by those who agree with them. Everyone who doesn’t, questions or challenges their ideas and arguments is viewed as the ultimate evil in need of utter destruction. It’s worth mentioning that most if not all the videos have been uploaded by the ‘activists’. Once they didn’t receive the desired response but the opposite of it, the petitioned for them to be removed from  the internet.

Lastly. I have to admit that they might have a point. From a certain point of view. All these protests, mobs and chants might be a reaction to grievances coming from legitimate sources. We can agree that there is still systemic racism, especially in America, where most of the incidents have occurred. With all those police shootings in recent years. Still unresolved problems with water in Flint, Michigan, which mostly affects black communities. And the continuous bias of the law enforcement and judicial officials. Higher search, arrest and conviction rates of the non-whites. The students are aware of all this and are rightfully outraged. The problem is that their outrage is misdirected at a wrong target. Universities cannot defend themselves against accusations of racism and bias as well as police and politicians. That links us back to the whole audit culture rating and quality control methods. In going for the softer target, young people have found an outlet for their frustration and desire for change. But again, they don’t actually go against the source of that frustration.

Whatever the reasons behind all the actions of the social justice warriors, their methods cannot be condoned. If this trend continuous we might face a real threat to scientific discourse. We might lose the art of debating and discussing ideas, of putting ideas to the test. The students involved in all those incidents were too eager to jump on a band wagon and go on a social justice crusade. Universities should be the place were young minds are equipped with the best weapons against prejudice and hate, reason and science. After all it is science that now proves that there is no difference in intelligence between races or genders. Post-modernist universities are shaping up to be places were social justice overshadows everything else. Where people jump at an opportunity to impose their own views and will on others under the guise of political correctness. Where a portion of the population is more than happy to shout their views into the faces (literally) of their perceived oppressors. If only they just as eager to listen to the other side. To engage in a proper discussion. I’m sure the problems would’ve been resolved without making national news.

P.S. Isn’t it a bit ironic that the social justice warriors were fighting to make their universities into ‘safe’ spaces. At the same time making others feel threatened and unsafe.

POLE

 

 

Brexiteers: No, Your Opinions Aren’t Just as Valid

  1. Economy = downgraded to that of a “developing” country.
  2. Society = ridden by fear and abuse.
  3. Our politics = seized by cynicism, opportunism and mutually assured destruction.
Et tu, Watson? The Blairite Revenge

This, all of it, our country chose.

We, those on the Remain side of the argument, seriously misjudged our neighbours and compatriots: many of them really are that stupid. And, no – they cannot be given the benefit of the doubt. Figures from the left, right and centre warned them, the economic institutions and trade unions warned them, the professors and cultural figures warned them, NATO, USA (Trump excluded), Norway’s PM warned them. Warned them what our country would become.

Gone are the As: Sterling plunges

And, nay again, they themselves cannot suddenly pretend that their political analysis is just as deep and deserving of respect as the above.

(In fact, the only figures of note which supported Brexit appeared to be Putin – a long and bitter hater of the EU – and ISIS. The latter has since praised Britain’s move.)

As much as I cannot abide the cult which has slivered up upon and about the grave of that vicious fat dog, Churchill’s words are playing on repeat in my inner ear,

The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter

This may help you make sense of Michael Gove’s insight:

…People in this country have had enough of experts

You really have met a cultural incline when expert has become a dirty word, sewn into our porch alongside those other faux-pas (excuse my French) “‘ealth and safety” and “political correctness”.

Of course I’m being unfair: 52% is barely a majority of the voting population, and fairly meaningless of the whole. But it is demonstrative of that cultural strain, long nurtured by demagogues and flustered Cameroons, in this United Kingdom: anti-Brussels, anti-immigrant, anti-Other – becoming something more than a nuance. A new and dangerous voting block that Westminster has no idea of how to counter-act (and may soon not wish to).

A good number of those who put a cross next to Leave seem to have sincerely thought their choice meant, “send the Poles, Pakis and… uh, Polynesians home” (whatever that means). Taking “their” country back so they can set it back on course to backwaterdom, which Britain momentarily detoured from post-WWII. There in the swamp that results they can fester and congeal, filling the pungent air with their pungent thoughts.

Byron, Blake, Paine… are these the heroes of the Britain Firsters?

And it’s this demographic which knows the least about the history and culture of Britain. When they talk of defending its culture they are almost certainly referring to football hooliganism, shit larger and trash TV – and not the domains of Tolkien, verses of Auden, those skyscapes of Turner. Nor do they acknowledge the Levelers, Chartists and the heroes of the Enlightenment, without which their suffrage would be denied.

(I mean really, just take a look at Britain First’s take on the Peasant’s Revolt here)

Ezra Pound may have been writing of his country of birth, but there is something in Hugh Selwyn Mauberley which does apply here and now, in this Blighted realm where the 52ers reign:

No, hardly, but, seeing he had been born
In a half savage country, out of date;
Bent resolutely on wringing lilies from the acorn;
Capaneus; trout for factitious bait
 

Paddy

Coleridge on Depression

Korea Remembers

Is it worth mentioning that for the North Koreans, the US’s “forgotten war” is still very much remembered? Names like LeMay and Otto P. Weyland very much etched into the collective consciousness? The worst excesses of the Vietnam War were practised on that poor, beleaguered people, leaving 18 of their 20 cities completely levelled and a million of their compatriots dead.

And how, when it is recalled, is the conflict referred to?

Then there’s there’s this extract, from a much more sombre Lt Col Anthony Herbert – a genuine American hero:

 

 

I met Murder on the way…

I met Murder on the way—
He had a mask like Castlereagh—
Very smooth he looked, yet grim ;
Seven blood-hounds followed him :
All were fat ; and well they might
Be in admirable plight,
For one by one, and two by two,
He tossed them human hearts to chew
Which from his wide cloak he drew.
Next came Fraud, and he had on,
Like Lord Eldon, an ermined gown ;
His big tears, for he wept well,
Turned to mill-stones as they fell.
And the little children, who
Round his feet played to and fro,
Thinking every tear a gem,
Had their brains knocked out by them.
Clothed with the Bible, as with light,
And the shadows of the night,
Like Sidmouth, next, Hypocrisy
On a crocodile rode by.
And many more Destructions played
In this ghastly masquerade,
All disguised, even to the eyes,
Like Bishops, lawyers, peers, and spies.
Last came Anarchy : he rode
On a white horse, splashed with blood ;
He was pale even to the lips,
Like Death in the Apocalypse.
And he wore a kingly crown ;
And in his grasp a sceptre shone ;
On his brow this mark I saw—
‘I AM GOD, AND KING, AND LAW!’

Hazlitt on the House of Commons

“Talk of mobs! Is there any body of people that has this character in a more consummate degree than the House of Commons? Is there any set of men that determines more by acclamation, and less by deliberation and individual conviction? — that is moved more en masse, in its aggregate capacity, as brute force and physical number? — that judges with more Midas ears, blind and sordid, without discrimination of right and wrong? The greatest test of courage I can conceive, is to speak truth in the House of Commons…”

On the Difference Between Writing and Speaking

Christopher Hitchens on our Banana Monarchy

Banana Monarchy detail

‘Ukania’, as my old comrade Tom Nairn dubs it, has a monarchy that is now neither dignified nor efficient, a Church which cannot fill its pews or find a reputable or willing crowned head, and a ‘kingdom’ structure that reflects none of the centripetal aspirations on the peripheries – especially the Scottish and Irish ones.

How will a Brexiteered Ukania cope?

Paradise Lost: Satan Calls Meeting

A Note on the Recent “Royal” Coverage

William and Harry’s far back ancestors were the punks and warlords who lorded over the vicinty’s only watering hole, aided by a few plunderers elevated above the herd. (Father Time has saw to them getting uniforms and legitimacy.) The mainstream media’s equally ancient forebears were the weakling creeps that, from fear and syncofancy, sat astride amongst the trophies, telling the chief how astounding were his bloody exploits, and how fragrant were his farts.