A strange, ironic, and tragic historical moment 2

In a remarkable decision taken at the end of August, Germany’s Interior Ministry declined to bar the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) – listed as a terrorist organization by the US, Canada, the European Union, and Australia – “from campaigning as a political party in the September general election to the Bundestag”. Yes, the PFLP – on a joint list with the Marxist-Leninist Party – plans to field candidates in this month’s elections in Germany and run for Parliament.

So Bruce Bawer writes at Gatestone.

What is the PFLP?

The Popular  Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), is a Marxist group. Its founder was George Habash, born in Lydda (in the British mandated territory of Palestine) in 1926 to  a Greek Orthodox family. His father was a successful corn merchant. Much of his childhood was spent in Jerusalem. He entered the American University of Beirut in 1944 and qualified as a doctor of medicine in 1951. While at the university he founded the Arab National Movement (ANM). Its guiding light was President Nasser of Egypt, who gave it financial support.

With a central doctrine of pan-Arabism, and, vital to that end, the elimination of Israel by violent means, the movement gathered strength and spread rapidly as an underground organization through the Middle East, on both sides of the Red Sea. It attracted intellectuals and members of the military in several Arab states. But stress shifted away from the Palestinian cause to internal political issues. Habash himself believed so unswervingly in the need for revenge (against the British and the Arab leaders who had been  responsible for the 1948 defeat of the Arab armies against the newly declared state of Israel, as well as against the Jews), in the annihilation of Israel and and in the Nasserite aim of Arab unity, that he sometimes quarreled with Nasser himself when the Egyptian leader adjusted his own policies. But Habash continued to function as one of Nasser’s agents of subversion. His leftist tendency became more extreme. He began to think of himself as a “Marxist-Leninist”, but scorned the ineffectual Communist parties of the Middle east, and favored China over the Soviet Union. He no longer saw the issue of Palestine as part of a merely Arab revolution, but both as necessary to world revolution. (By Marxist prophecy, world revolution is inevitable, yet has to be fought for.) The arch-enemy was “imperialism” of which “the Zionist entity” was only one aggressive spearhead. The defeat of the Arab armies by Israel yet again in the 1967 Six Day War persuaded Habash that the immediate and primary goal must be the “liberation of Palestine”. Although only a means to an end, it was the first step.

And so Habash, along with a number of others in the ANM founded the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine on December 7, 1967. It was composed of three small groups: The Heroes of the Return, the Youth Revenge (branches of the ANM), and an already active group called the Palestine Liberation Front, led by a Syrian army officer named Ahmad Jibril.

Jibril had no personal connection to Palestine, but had formed his PLF with some twenty other Syrian army officers. He had personal contacts with the KGB, and the Communist regimes of East Germany and Bulgaria. His terrorist organization had carried out more than ninety raids on Israel between 1965 and the Six Day War.

With the coming together of Jibril, the professional soldier backed by the Communist bloc and Syria, and Habash, the experienced underground leader  with wide influence throughout the Arab National Movement, the PFLP became a significant fedayeen organization. Habash retained Nasser’s patronage, and PFLP recruits were trained in Egypt.

But where there is ideology, there shall be schism.

The PFLP soon split. The break came where it might be expected in an organization which attempted to make Syrian interests adhere to Egyptian interests. Habash and Jibril had different loyalties  and they quarreled. Habash and his friends in the ANM criticized Syria for not permitting fedayeen to cross into Israel from Syrian oil. The Syrians arrested and imprisoned him early in 1968. Finding himself in sole command of the PFLP, Jibril tried to force the PFLP to break with the ANM. But the Heroes of the Return and the Youth of Revenge would not betray their origins. So in October 1968 Jibril expelled both factions from the PFLP.

Habash was snatched by some of his followers while he was being transferred from one prison to another, and smuggled out of Syria into Jordan. Once they had him back, the two small groups expelled by Jibril declared that they were the PFLP and it was Jibril’s group that was expelled. Jibril formed a new organization called the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC).

Another split away from Habash’s PFLP occurred when one of his comrades, a  Jordanian Bedouin Christian, Nayef Hawatmeh, who had joined the ANM while he was a student at the Arab University of Beirut. Sentenced to death for pro-Nasserite subversive activities in Jordan in 1957, he had escaped to Baghdad, where he led the Iraqi branch of the ANM. There he took part in an attempted coup d’etat in 1959, and was imprisoned until 1963 when the Ba’th Party overthrew the Qasim regime.  He changed his views from Nasserite to an extreme leftist revolutionary ideology. After working underground for  ANM in Yemen, he joined Habash in Jordan. But they too quarreled over ideological differences. With four comrades, Hawatmeh formed a group of his own called  the Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PDFLP).

In 1968 all three groups – along with several others – joined the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), which had been invented by Nasser and founded by the Arab League under his auspices in 1964.  From then on, although Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian nationalist leader of the terrorist organization Fatah, was elected chairman of it in 1969, the Marxist revolutionary groups dominated the PLO.

Habash’s second-in-command Wadi’ Haddad plotted a series of aircraft hijackings  on international flights between July 1968 and September 1970. On September 6, 1970, the PFLP hijacked four commercial planes. Two them, one American and one Swiss, were forced to land on a neglected airfield in Jordan, named Dawson’s Field.  There the crews and passengers were held hostage in the planes in the heat of the desert for four days and four nights. Another American airliner was flows to Cairo airport, where the crew and passengers were let out and the plane was blown up. The fourth was an Israeli airliner on its way to London. The Arab terrorist on board was an Israeli woman named Laila Khaled, helped by an American named Patrick Arguello. Their hijacking attempt failed. The Israeli guard on board killed Arguello and arrested Khaled.  Arguello had wounded one of the crew, and in an attempt to save the injured man, the captain flew the plane to London, England being nearer than Israel, where according to instructions he should have returned in such circumstances. The injured man died. And Laila Khaled was detained by the British police – but not for long.

On September 9, a British place on a home flight from Bahrain was hijacked and the pilot forced to fly to join the other two planes on Dawson’s Field. The PFLP demanded that three of their terrorists imprisoned in West Germany, three in Switzerland who had killed an Israeli pilot, and Laila Khaled should be released, or the planes would be blown up next morning with crews and passengers aboard them. The release of fedayeen from Israeli prisons was also demanded. The Israelis refused to bargain with the terrorists, but the British, West German, and Swiss governments complied –  thus providing complete proof that hijacking, terrorism and blackmail paid. It was a signal that started a decade of such crimes.

The crews and passengers were released (some retained by the PFLP and imprisoned in a refugee camp), and then the planes were blown up.

King Hussein’s patience was already overstrained with the presence of the fedayeen groups in his kingdom, their intention being to take over his country. The PFLP had twice attempted to assassinate him. For him the Dawson’s Field events were the last straw. Starting on September 17, his soldiers and airmen rained hell down on the organizations’ camps, bases and headquarters. Thousands of Palestinians were killed. Syria tried to intervene with a tank invasion, but was repelled. Ultimately all the Palestinian refugees who survived the onslaught were expelled from Jordan. They moved en masse to Lebanon. Arafat’s Fatah created a secret organization Black September – the group that murdered the Israeli athletes at the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972.

Bruce Bawer writes:

Described variously as a blend of “Palestinian nationalism with Marxist ideology” and as “a Palestinian nationalist organization with different ideological outlooks at different times (from Arab nationalist, to Maoist, to Leninist)”, [the PFLP] has called for Israel’s destruction and international communist revolution.

Considered more radical than Fatah, it has, ever since its founding, routinely targeted civilians without remorse. During its early days, it was on friendly terms with Germany’s Red Army Faction (the Baader-Meinhof Gang) and received funding from the USSR and China.

The leaders of the Baader-Meinhof terrorist gang sought training as urban guerrillas in a PFLP camp in Jordan in early 1970. But the scheme was not a success. The Germans and the Arabs could not get along with each other. Each side accused the other of being cold and arrogant. Andreas Baader refused to undergo the commando training offered, through mud and under barbed wire, because he said such skills were unnecessary to an urban guerrilla. None of the men in the German group were able to train with the Arabs because there was too much antagonism between them. But the women did learn something. They were taught to handle pistols, particularly Firebirds,  and Ulrike Meinhof declared that learning how to lift weights and fall out of a fast-moving car was much more fun than sitting at a typewriter. The Arab  terrorists, who were training  may women despite the Mohammedan attitude toward women generally, found the Western women too domineering and less able to stand up to the training exercises than their own, and they liked neither Ulrike Meinhof nor Gudrun Ensslin. Baader, Meinhof, and their fellow factioneers were eventually asked by their hosts to leave, and they returned to Germany.

But Ulrike Meinhof was not done with Jordan. She planned to send her seven-year-old twin daughters, Bettina and Regine, to live in a refugee camp there and be trained along with Palestinian children to become “kamikaze” guerrilla fighters against Israel – possibly suicide bombers. (They were intercepted on their way and rescued by the writer Stefan Aust, who found them on an Italian beach, and returned them to Germany and the care of their father.)

The PFLP camp in Jordan to which the children were to have been consigned was bombed to rubble by King Hussein’s air force in one of his punitive raids.

Bruce Bawer continues:

In recent years the PFLP has been chummy with Iran. Half a century ago, the PFLP specialized in hijacking planes — it was the first Palestinian group to do so, and the first successfully to commandeer an El Al plane. That act, in 1968, is widely considered to mark the beginning of the modern era of international Islamic terrorism. …

Then came the hijackings to Dawson’s Field, after which –

 In 1972, a PFLP member took part in the Lod Airport Massacre, in which 28 people were murdered at what is now called Ben Gurion International Airport. In October 2001, it assassinated Israeli Tourism Minister Rehavam Ze’evi in retaliation for Israel’s killing of its top leader at the time, Abu Ali Mustafa (after whom the group’s militant wing is now named).

During the next few years, the PFLP focused on suicide bombings in Israel; more recently, it has kept busy firing rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip.

In November 2014, two PFLP associates murdered six people in a synagogue massacre in Jerusalem. On June 16 of this year, it collaborated with Hamas on a fatal attack in East Jerusalem; on July 14, it murdered two Israeli police officers in Jerusalem’s Old City and bragged that its “heroic operation” had successfully broken through “the security cordon imposed by the Israeli occupation forces on the city of Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa, breaking the arrogance of the Zionist security which sees in the city and in Al-Aqsa an impenetrable fortress”.

Perhaps the PFLP’s most famous operative is Carlos the Jackal, the legendary Venezuelan terrorist, currently serving a life sentence in France. Another high-profile member is Leila Khaled, who has been called “the first woman hijacker in history” and who has been allowed in recent years to enter many Western countries, including Germany, Sweden, Austria, and South Africa, to deliver speeches, meet with fellow communists, and confer with supporters of movements that try to destroy Israel economically.

If it seems exceedingly inappropriate for these countries’ governments to afford Khaled such treatment, consider that the UN, the EU, and a number of European countries, including Germany, France, Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, have funded non-governmental organizations with links to PFLP – among them Addameer, Al-Haq, the Alternative Information Center, the Health Work Committee, Stop the Wall, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees. At least one of the groups in question, according to NGO Monitor, was founded and is run by the PFLP; others have convicted terrorists on their payrolls and/or have abetted PFLP and its members in one way or another. There has, however, been remarkably little media attention paid to the fact that at least some of taxpayer money donated by these Western countries has found its way into the PFLP’s coffers, and more than $300 million annually to the salaries of terrorists.

But of all the actions taken by Western governments and international organizations that have benefited the PFLP, none has come as close to legitimizing it as Germany’s decision to let it field candidates in this month’s elections. “For observers of terrorism in Germany,” wrote Benjamin Weinthal in the Jerusalem Post, “it is unclear why the ministry is reluctant to outlaw the Palestinian organization.” After all, it is not as if the Federal Republic of Germany has no power to ban parties; it outlawed the Volkssozialistische Bewegung Deutschlands/Partei der Arbeit (People’s Socialist Movement of Germany) in 1982 and the Freiheitliche Deutsche Arbeiter Partei (Free German Workers Party) in 1995.

Nor are today’s German authorities shy about silencing individuals for holding views they consider inappropriate.

But they are all individuals who dare speak against Arab and Islamic terrorism:

Gatestone Institute’s Soeren Kern noted in 2012 that German authorities were “monitoring… websites that are critical of Muslim immigration” and were prepared to shut them down. In 2014, Bavarian officials sought to gag critics of a new mega-mosque; in January of last year, the Washington Post reported that Germany had “reached a deal with Facebook, Google and Twitter to get tougher on offensive [read: anti-Islamic] content.” German police even raided the home of a critic of Muslim refugees.

A German court had given five months’ probation to a woman for her online comments “about an alleged rape of a German woman by an asylum seeker”. In June 2016, German police raidedthe homes of thirty-six additional people guilty of “hate posting” online; in July, they raidedabout sixty more homes.

It is hard not to see this as a strange, ironic, and tragic historical moment.

In living memory, Germany was transformed from a fearsome totalitarian power, bent on conquest and genocide, into a cornerstone of liberal democracy. Now, even more than many of its similarly misguided European neighbors, it is plainly headed in a direction that should give pause to every lover of Western freedom: even as it is increasingly cracking down on criticism of Islam, it appears prepared to give a genuine Islamic terrorist group the opportunity to win seats in its national legislature.

 

Jillian Becker    September 9, 2017

 

Note: I have quoted the history of the PFLP, largely verbatim, from my book, The PLO: The Rise and Fall of the Palestine Liberation Organization ((St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1984). And the description of the sojourn of leading members of the Baader-Meinhof gang at a PFLP training camp in Jordan comes from my book: Hitler’s Children: the Story of the Baader-Meinhof Terrorist Gang (latest edition available as an ebook published by Endeavour Press in English and in German translation).

Civilization’s fulcrum moment 13

This is a fulcrum moment in the history of civilized man. (Yes, MAN – the correct generic term for the human race.) What is happening to the Western world now is equivalent to the fall of the Roman Empire.

If most of Europe becomes Islamized, as it is fast becoming by the will and action of the Left – and all the governments of Western Europe are on the Left even those that call themselves Conservative – then where and how, if at all, will our civilization survive?

If most of Europe becomes Islamized, what will remain of European civilization in its homelands?

Imagine a map of Europe showing the thousands of square miles of vineyards. Think of the grapes, and the harvests, and the process of wine-making – the generations of practice and discovery that have perfected it. Do you enjoy drinking wine? Well, there will be no more for you to enjoy. Not from Europe. It will go. All those vineyards will be laid to waste. Islam forbids the drinking of alcohol.

So also beer, ale, whisky … the industries and the pleasure will all be gone. Your cosy village pub? Gone. Your  cocktail hour? Gone. Allah does not permit them to exist.

Now think of the art galleries of Europe. The pictures, the sculpture. Islam forbids the making of images of human beings and animals. Nudes in particular are haram. What will be done with Leonardo, Michelangelo, Velazquez, Rembrandt, Bernini? Their works will be destroyed. The pictures will be burnt. The sculptures will be hammered into dust.

Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne

What will be done with the libraries? They contain millions of books that are blasphemous in the judgment of Islam. They will all be destroyed.

What will be done with the schools and universities? What will they be allowed to teach? What will scientists be allowed to do? We know the answers to those questions.

Do you love music? You will not hear the great works of the European composers performed any more. Not in Europe. The concert halls will probably be turned into mosques.

What will be the position of women in Islamic Europe? We all know the answer to that. If Western women were “liberated” in the twentieth century, come the late twenty-first century their brief age of liberty will be over.

What will happen to homosexuals under Islamic rule? Islamic law decrees that they must be put to death.

If you are a Christian or a Jew, and insist on remaining a Christian or a Jew rather than joining Islam, you may be allowed to live if you pay protection money to your Islamic overlords. But don’t count on it. Muslim powers have not shown themselves to be in a merciful mood lately. Christians are being slaughtered even in comparatively tolerant Islamic countries such as Egypt; and in what used to be Iraq and Syria they are being mass-murdered, tortured and enslaved by the caliphate of the Islamic State. And Jews? How likely are they to be allowed to exist under any circumstances? As for atheists – they will have to pretend to believe in Allah-and-his-Prophet, or die.

There will be no more fair trials. In Britain, the adversarial system with its safeguards for the innocent of guaranteed defense, cross-examination of witnesses, rules of evidence, juries, will be abolished. On the continent the inquisitorial system – examination by magistrates “to find the truth” – will also be abolished. Sharia law will replace the old systems and codes. An example of sharia justice? If a woman claims she has been raped and cannot prove it by producing four male witnesses who will swear to having seen penetration, she is held to be guilty of adultery; her punishment for adultery is death. The method of her execution? She is buried tightly up to her shoulders in a hole in a public place, and rocks are hurled at her head until she dies.

None of this is fantasy. Europe has in fact invited mass Muslim immigration. The Muslim fertility rate far exceeds that of the indigenous Europeans. Islam will predominate and rule.

It is probably too late to stop this happening. Just possibly a strong British government that grasps the horror of the impending doom, might – with Brexit accomplished and the nation being once again in a position to make its own policies – stop the Muslim influx, reduce the Muslim population, and preserve British culture, law, and freedom. Some Eastern European countries are refusing to let the Muslim “refugees” in, so there European traditions and culture might be preserved for a while.

There was some hope for the Netherlands had the voters, in their recent elections, empowered the party and the leader who would have saved them from Islamization. But they did not.

The last chance for Europe comes in a few days from now, on May 7, 2017, when two candidates for the presidency compete in a run-off election in France. If the voters choose Marine Le Pen, who does grasp the horror of the impending doom, France may be saved; and since she would probably take the country out of the European Union  and so break up that corrupt undemocratic pro-Islamic entity, Europe may be saved. Europe’s viticulture may continue. Citizens of Western countries may be able to drink French, German, Italian and Spanish wines. The art galleries may remain filled with pictures and sculpture. Music may be played in the concert halls. Scientists may be allowed to pursue science. Freedom, tolerance, justice, reason, may prevail at least to the extent that they have prevailed since the Enlightenment. The nation states of Europe may continue to exist and govern themselves.

But if a majority of the French vote for the only other candidate, Emmanuel Macron, who wants more Muslim immigration and the continuing existence of the European Union, the doom will be ensured.

 

Jillian Becker    April 24, 2017

Tell them 3

*

Why was Obama, the Islam-loving communist, twice voted into the presidency of the capitalist, Islam-attacked, United States?

Why do most Americans “think” that Obama is doing a good job – though they know the economy is bad, millions are unemployed, businesses are overburdened with regulations, travelers are manhandled and humiliated at airports, an American ambassador was killed abroad with impunity, the Taliban is back in business in Afghanistan, the Middle East is in flames since Obama assisted the displacement of allied rulers with Islamic fundamentalists … and so on and on?

Why do millions of Americans “think” that economic equality is morally desirable?

Why are tens of millions content to live on state support without attempting to improve their standard of living by their own efforts?

Why do millions of university students in America admire intellectuals who hate America, such as Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, and make an icon out of the sadistic mass-murderer Che Guevara?

Why? Because they’ve been told to. They’ve been told that good people do and “think” these things. They want to be good. They believe what they’ve been taught.

The same answer applies to: Why Muslim women believe they must put up with being sexually mutilated and enslaved to men. Why multitudes the world over believe that there was a nation called Palestinians who were driven off their land by aggressive usurping Jews. Why Christians believe that a man who once lived and died lives on as one part of a three-part god. Why Muslims and Christians imagine that when you are dead you are still alive in another place. Why Jews believe that their benign and omnipotent God has some unknowable but just purpose in having six million of them enslaved, starved, tortured and murdered by Nazis.

They believe these things because they were taught them. All this was drummed into them. They were raised to know that that is how it ought to be. 

Few if any ideas are easy to spread. To get an idea accepted by large numbers of people takes patience, persistence, conviction, tireless energy on the part of those who want to spread it. The idea need not make good sense, be reasonable, come with proofs that it will work as its advocates say it will. It doesn’t even have to appeal strongly to the emotions. It just needs to become what “everybody” accepts.

If you want your idea to prevail over others, this is what it takes. First the conviction that it is right and everyone should know it. Next, a decision to spread it. Then energy, persistence, patience – and eventually force.

What made Christianity catch on? It wasn’t the life-style – poor, austere, hard, humble. Even the promise of eternal life was not a reliable recommendation as anyone’s eternity could as easily be endless agony as endless bliss (it was and is a 50-50 tossup). The theology was so hard to make sense of that the Church itself to this day has not settled it. And the morality it demanded was against human nature. So what made it succeed? Energy, persistence, patience, indoctrination, force.

See how long it took. From the time St Paul invented “Jesus Christ” to the time the emperor of Rome (Constantine) accepted the new god and the doctrines that had accreted to him, thus making it fashionable to be Christian (just a few decades before force was applied and it became compulsory), nearly three hundred years had passed. Three hundred years of persistent, patient, energetic proselytizing. Even then, it was not securely implanted in the minds of the subjects. One Emperor – Julian – came along and actually tried to reverse the trend by suppressing Christianity and re-instating paganism. He didn’t have enough time. He died in battle, his successors went back to favoring Christianity, and the Emperor Theodosius decreed that Christianity was to be the religion of the state. With him the final phase of force arrived.

Marxist Communism took less time to get a real grip on the minds of multitudes. Means of communications had speeded up considerably between the 4th and the 19th centuries, but still it took half a century (if one arbitrarily dates it from the first publication of Marx’s Das Kapital in 1867 to the success of the Bolshevik revolution in 1917). And still the same method had to be employed: energetic, patient, persistent proselytizing. Much repetition was required. The fever of enthusiasm had to be caught by two generations of intellectuals before the infection became a pandemic. Then came force. 

The creed must become the norm. So pervasive must the doctrine be that anybody who does not subscribe to it wholeheartedly will appear egregious; an oddball, a rebel, a danger to everyone else and even to himself. The orthodoxy must be accepted without question as good, so anyone who opposes it is ipso facto a bad person.

By the late 20th century communications had become even faster, so the New Left, rising in 1968, could achieve the peaks of power in Europe in less than thirty years, and  in America in forty years. It started as a weak revolutionary movement which brought nothing good with it to Western Europe and America, but much that was bad: recreational drugs, AIDS, and terrorism as self-expression. New Leftists complained that they had too much freedom, too much choice, that tolerance of their politics was repressive. And this irrational case was widely accepted, even while, on the other side of the iron curtain, a young man burnt himself to death to protest against the lack of freedom, choice, and tolerance.

The New Left movement was ignorant, blind, puerile, unreasonable, sadistic – yet it became, it has become, the prevailing belief-system of the greater part of the Western world, and at present in almost all “free” countries the standard ideology (or religion) of the state, no matter what political party is in power. How?

The plan was made. The plan was put into execution. Gramsci supplied the phrase for the overall strategy: “The Long March through the Institutions”.   It wasn’t enough that the New Leftists should protest, should threaten and carry out violent attacks, should shout and write and display their slogans. They must take over the institutions of power, everyone of them: the smallest citizens’ groupings – such as library committees – were not too small. But none were too big. Town councils had to be infiltrated and eventually dominated; then newspapers, radio and TV channels; boards of education very importantly; the schools, the universities; the civil service; the law courts; a major political party; then the country’s legislative body, and eventually the pinnacles of power, prime ministerships, presidencies. Police forces and the military were formidable challenges. The tactic was first to discredit them and pressure them from outside by means of public opinion guided by the converted press; then to infiltrate them; finally bend them from within to conform to the doctrine and advance the cause.

Meanwhile books, films, articles, lessons, lectures, systems of reward, prizes must all promote the cause. It took decades, but it succeeded. Even in America now there have been at least two generations raised on New Left doctrine through schools, universities, books, films, the press, and TV.

How otherwise could the free Western world, whose policies and armies opposed the oppressing, enslaving Communist Eastern world, have been successfully converted to the very doctrine that oppressed, enslaved, tortured and mass murdered? It didn’t take reason. It didn’t take persuasion. The idea was no more innately and manifestly true and good than the idea of Christianity. But as in the case of spreading Christianity, it took conviction, decision, planning, energy, persistence, repetition, and finally force.

Only Leftist doctrine – government control of the economy, government provision of welfare, confiscatory and punitive taxation – is politically correct now in America. Collectivist thinking is the norm. Good people vote left. (When, in 2008, a Californian woman came upon a stall set up on a main street to canvass votes for the Republican presidential candidate John McCain, she called the police, and was astonished to learn that to solicit public support for the anti-collectivist Republican Party was not illegal.) Again, as with Christianity, the allegiance to the doctrine has little or nothing to do with its ideas. Most adherents could not explain what the ideas are. But they know that good people find them good, that good people vote for them. And that is all they need to know. Who doesn’t want to think of himself as a good person?

But the question of how did this become the case has not been fully answered. There is another aspect to the story. In order for one doctrine to succeed, it is necessary for other, counter doctrines to fail. If the ancient world had had enough confidence in paganism, enough enthusiasm for it, hadn’t taken it for granted, hadn’t become bored with it, hadn’t ignored the Christian missionaries with their crazy talk, could the weird, obscure, muddled, sorrowful, other-worldly new religion of Christianity have prevailed?

And the success of Leftism now – would it have happened if the conservative Right had been paying attention? Remember that old saying that “the price of liberty is eternal vigilance”? Well, the Right was not being vigilant. It didn’t bother to argue against political correctness. It disregarded the cynical shenanigans going on in the United Nations as if it were nothing but a zoo housing many clamorous beasts who were safely confined and could in no way threaten American life, liberty or happiness. If it was made to feel now and then the bullying, deceitful, sly, sometimes violent tactics of the Left, it shrugged them off. Conservatives went on being civil and preferring honesty when the world’s mood had changed to favoring lies and abuse. They put their confidence in the fact that America had been founded as the political embodiment of the idea of personal freedom; had demonstrated to the world – forever, they believed – that freedom brought prosperity and might and stunning innovation. They assumed that the rightness of individual liberty, the capitalist system, and government by the people had been established forever. So strong and free a country could afford to be tolerant. Let some wild, immature, misguided persons preach despotism (Communism, Socialism, Progressivism, Greenism, whatever), the system was strong enough to be hospitable to alien ideas, and to allow dissent or even rebellion. Tested, it would prove itself inviolable. It could not only withstand opposition, it could absorb it and dissolve it. No special effort was required. American history was on the side of those who would defend freedom and the constitution. The separation of powers would protect them. The free press would dilute propaganda. Open enquiry in the academies would ensure that all points of view were argued and the most rational, the most humane, would persuade serious scholars. But they were wrong.

In their complacency, conservatives did not even notice the Long March. They could not mark its stations of success. Even now there are deluded Republicans who have not absorbed the fact that most Americans like collectivism; that they don’t object to electoral fraud; that they accept a failing economy; that many would rather live on government handouts than become rich; that being rich has become a morally bad thing; that it’s okay for foreign powers to develop weapons that can kill vast numbers of Americans; that the press does not report what is happening in the world but only what it wants to happen; that courts of law are willing to prefer foreign law to the Constitution; that it doesn’t matter if American representatives abroad are attacked and murdered; that freedom has become a term worthy only of contempt; that American history is a trail of shame; that a cruel religion is being allowed to seep through the body politic, and is protected and advanced by the government itself.

But now millions of conservatives are waking up and are asking, how did this happen? It happened because people patiently, energetically, persistently planned it and made it happen.

What can we do about it, they ask themselves and each other.

What they have to do about it is change the minds of the people. First they must be sure that they want the free republic the founders established; that they want to maintain free markets; that they don’t want a welfare state; that they do want to preserve national defenses; that they want indoctrination in the schools to stop; that they want to forbid the application of foreign law; that they do not want to go on funding an institution – the UN – that consistently works against their interests. Then they must decide that their political philosophy is right, uniquely right, and must be implemented at any and all costs. Then they must start teaching it. With energy, persistence, patience and fiery enthusiasm. It will take time. But that is the only way. Teach, preach, argue, use every method that works. Give up the idea that it’s better to be gentlemanly than to sink to using the methods of the opposition; that if you do as they do you will have betrayed the very values that you are fighting for. They have made the fight low and dirty. Get down in the dirt and fight it.

How badly does the conservative right want to win power in America? How important is it to them that they should?

If it is important, tell the voters, tell the children that the free market is the only means of creating general prosperity, and why. Tell them that central planning of an economy cannot work, and why. Tell them why competition is good for everyone, producers and consumers alike.

Tell them what profit is and why it is essential for ensuring abundance.

Tell them that only where people are free can there be discovery and innovation, improvement in everyone’s daily life, better technology, the advance of civilization. Explain why. Show them the proofs of history.

Tell them the truth about life in the Third World. Not politically correct sentimental drivel, but the actual awful facts about life in most other countries.

Tell them why impartial judgment is the only means to justice; why all sane adult citizens must be treated equally by the law; why people must be judged by their actions, not their intentions or feelings.

Tell them why government should be kept small and its powers limited. Tell them what the essential tasks of government are: protection of the nation, of the individual, of liberty, of the rule of law itself. And why governments should not be allowed more power and money than it needs to fulfill its few essential functions.

Shout down the shouters. Tell Muslims what is wrong with their creed and why American secularism is better. Don’t allow them to build a protective wall around themselves to shut out criticism of their absurd and savage beliefs.

Tolerate only the tolerant and tolerable.

It will take time. Start now. Stop short of force. But tell them.

John Galt versus Pajama Boy 24

There are different Americas. The great America – the America viewed through European eyes with a mixture of snobbish patronizing indulgence and sheer envy is …

It is what Trump is. He could be said to personify it. His characteristics are those of great America: big, extroverted, ambitious, successful, rich, energetic, restless, generous, proud, adaptable, happy – all admirable qualities. Also … candid to the point of seeming naive, and – okay – boastful, not highly articulate in that he spins no fine phrases, and (many snort) “vulgar”. His candor is not naive; it would lay him open to being taken advantage of had he not been well schooled in the hard-bargaining world of American and international business. His boasting is fully justified: he is a winner. He says what needs to be said, as his tens of thousands of fans appreciate. As for vulgarity – it does no harm. Great America and its personification, Donald Trump, combine energy, high achievement, vision, and generosity that enormously benefit thousands, even millions of others. If the opulence Trump lives in proudly, his delight in showing off his achievements, his loud trumpeting of triumph with every success, is vulgar, then vulgarity is a “yuge” virtue. The fictitious characters whom he most resembles are Ayn Rand’s heroes in Atlas Shrugged. The John Galts and Dagny Taggarts who invent and build and drive and ever improve the engines of civilization.

Another America – more an anti-America – is personified by … Oh any of those sour pious busybodies who think they know best how everyone else should live their lives and want to force them to do as they say. Think current Democratic administration. Or Bernie Sanders. Intellectuals whose opinions were early in their lives pickled in Leftist theory. They are morally vain, needing to feel they are good rather than actually make good. Beings whom Trump would describe as “low energy people”. They make much of “compassion”, not noticing how much condescension there is in their compassion, and how much contempt in their condescension. Their college-age children need safe spaces, “trigger-warnings”, protection from challenging opinions. What words and phrases describe them best? Physically enervated, psychologically etiolated, smug, puritanical, introverted, dogmatic, envious, snobbish, acrimonious, precious, dishonest, hypocritical …Their model fictitious characters are Pajama Boy and Julia, for whom government needs to be an all-sustaining provider and a protecting nanny to the people.

If great America could come to power next year to guide the destiny of the country and shine a beacon light to the world, after 7+ years of stagnation under the debilitating and impoverishing ideologues of the Left, our civilization – now in decline – might be saved.

Or is that America lost and gone? Is Trump a relic of an unrecoverable past?

Margaret Thatcher interrupted the decline of Britain, the decades long rule of the Left. She tried to turn her country into a share-holding, property-owning nation. A free enterprise nation, where capitalism opened the way for everyone to become prosperous. She did what she could, but could not complete the transformation. The Left returned, though it might also call itself “Conservative”.

So even if Trump does become president, and those engines start up again, how far can he take America into a prosperous future? Generations of Americans have now been indoctrinated in schools and colleges to be socialists. Will the country have one last burst of glory, and then sink into welfare mediocracy? Is that the best that can be hoped for?

 

Jillian Becker   April 15, 2016

Religion: a killing disease 1

This is a revised version of an essay by Jillian Becker first posted on February 6, 2011, under the title A cure for religion:

*

Is religion one of the most frequent causes of death after heart disease, cancer, and road accidents?

To take just one religion, the most lethal at present: Islam kills uncountable numbers of people every day. (See here and here.)

Surely this is a disease that is curable?

We have heard of Muslims who went to a university in the West and there encountered Enlightenment literature. They were stunned by what they read. They became secularist, possibly atheist. The rumor may be untrue, yet it seems highly possible. Even probable.

If  the West only took the trouble to teach its values to the peoples who live in darkness – those billions of Others – it might in time achieve what wars have failed to: the subduing of the barbaric hordes, the ending of their persistent onslaught.

During the Cold War, America spoke to the Communist bloc through Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe. The effort was made to tell the enslaved peoples that what their masters would have them believe was not true. Those broadcasts helped to bring the Wall down. Why is no such effort being made to give new ideas to the Muslims? Vast numbers of them are taught nothing but the Koran – or rather, have it beaten into them. For many of them it is in a language (Arabic ) that they don’t understand. And even if they know the language, much of what they learn to recite by heart is incomprehensible. Those suras that are intelligible are full of evil counsel and absurdity: “kill the infidel…”,  and a lot of solemn drivel about Djinns. Why doesn’t the secular West give them something better to think about?

Teach them to question ideas rather than dumbly accept them.

Teach them that freedom makes for a happier life, tolerance for a longer one.

It might be argued that many Muslims who live in the West are aware of Western values and ideas and still reject them in favor of Islamic dogma. True. And we may assume that there will always be some who cannot be cured of religion. But the probability is that there are many who can be, if only they were better informed.

Yes, we are urging “proselytizing” and “conversion” on a massive scale: not from one religion to another, but from religion to reason. (To oppose one religion by another – to think of Christianity, for instance, as a cure for Islam – is to misdiagnose the disease.)

It must be worth trying. A start could be made with young Muslims who are already in the West with a positive program of teaching the utility of doubt and moral necessity of critical examination.

No more giving in to Muslim demands for the separation of the sexes, for special facilities in schools and work-places, for courts to take account of their “cultural traditions” such as honor killings and wife-beatings and the sly deceptions involved in “sharia compliant finance”.

We have arrived at our ways for sound reasons, so let’s stick to them. Away with “multicultural” sentimentality and hypocrisy!

We’d like to teach the world to think. We’d like the Western powers to have a shared policy of continually lecturing the billions who live in darkness.

Okay, hectoring them.

Let’s seize them by the ears and say, “Now listen here … !”

But who will do this? Those who are in a position to do it, political leaders, educators, the media, prefer to denigrate Western values. They despise the world-shaping, civilization-advancing achievements of their own culture. Many of them not only scorn their inheritance, but hate it.

They hate and mock the “dead white men” of the great “patriarchy” who bequeathed it to us. 

 

Jillian Becker   February 15, 2016

Posted under Articles, Atheism, Christianity, Islam, Muslims, Religion general by Jillian Becker on Monday, February 15, 2016

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Against God and Socialism (repeat) 14

This is a repeat of an essay by Jillian Becker, first posted on April 29, 2011.

The rise of enthusiasm for Socialism in America, demonstrated by the great numbers of enthusiasts flocking to hear Bernie Sanders, the Democratic candidate for the presidency, preaching it, prompts us to post the essay again.

*

It is human nature to be selfish. If we weren’t selfish we wouldn’t survive. If we didn’t eat when we were hungry, warm ourselves when we were cold, seek cures for our illnesses, defend ourselves (and our children and our life-sustaining property), we’d die out pretty damn quick. Or rather, we would never have come into existence as a species at all.

We are most of us capable of sympathy with others, and we often willingly give away a thing we own to another person. Some are altruistic. A few will even give up their lives to save the lives of others. Nevertheless, we are all naturally and necessarily selfish.

Christianity and Communism require human nature to change. As it can’t, Christianity’s commandments to love our enemies and forgive those who do us harm turn many a person of good will and high aspiration into a hypocrite if not a corpse. Communist theorists have never settled the question of whether human nature must change so that the Revolution can take place, or whether the Revolution must take place in order for human nature to change. Of course it will never change, but there’s no stopping the collectivist dolts arguing about it.

Capitalism works well because it is in tune with our nature. Adam Smith called it “the natural order of liberty”. Everyone selfishly desires to provide for his needs. To pay for what he wants from others – services and goods – he has to provide something that others will pay him for. Millions do it, and the result is prosperity. Capitalism is an abstract machine most beautiful to behold in the wonder of its workings. When individuals have the incentive to achieve, acquire, and enjoy something for themselves, they’ll go to great lengths to afford it. They’ll compete with each other to provide what others want, toil to make it the better product, and set the price of it lower. The best is made available at the least cost. Everyone is both a taker and a giver, and everyone benefits. True, not everyone’s effort always succeeds, but nothing stops anyone from trying again.

Of course capitalism isn’t a remedy for every ill and discontent. But a capitalist society offers the best chance to an individual to make the best of his condition – being alive – which presents him with a tough challenge – to stay alive for a few score years, and make those years as good as his energy, cunning, and adaptability to conditions outside of his control (plus his statistically likely share of luck), can help them to be.

In a capitalist society no one has a fixed place, whether below, in the middle, or on top. A person can rise, sink, or stay. A truly capitalist society is necessarily a free society in which no one is prevented, by some ruler or ruling clique, from bettering his lot, striving, succeeding, or failing.

Capitalism is the enemy of that God of whom all the children in the British Empire used to sing at morning prayers in school assemblies before the Second World War:

All things bright and beautiful,

All creatures great and small;

All things wise and wonderful,

The Lord God made them all.

Each little flower that opens,

Each little bird that sings,

He made their glowing colors,

He made their tiny wings.

The rich man in his castle,

The poor man at his gate,

He made them high and lowly,

He ordered their estate.

The children were being taught to be content with everything as it was, trusting that God the ruler up there, all wise, permanent and unchallengeable had ordained how everyone had his fixed place and should stay in it, and because He had ordained it, it must be perfect. The recognition that such a God was an indefensible authoritarian, a whim-driven cosmic dictator, an unjust and arrogant tyrant, came – perhaps unconsciously – to the choosers of Anglican hymns only after a few of the earth’s dictators had been trounced in a prolonged and terrible blood-letting.

But then Socialists took over from God. They decided what was best for humanity. They established the Welfare State. No rich men in castles, no poor men at gates. The State would provide every citizen with depressing accommodation, dull food, health care if he were judged worthy of being kept alive, indoctrination in schools. Though the Socialist State is a slave society, the citizens are not called slaves but Social Security Recipients, National Health Patients, Students, Workers. The belief of their rulers is that they’ll be content because the State provides them with “everything”; they’ll be grateful for the food however poor, the unit in the tower block however depressing, the bed in the hospital however filthy, the indoctrination however boring. The great thing about it, to the collectivist mind, is they won’t have to strive to keep alive. And no one will have cause to pity or envy anyone else, since no one will have less or worse, or more or better – except of course the rulers up there, all wise, permanent and unchallengeable who ordain that everyone else has his fixed place. They reserve plenty, choice, comfort, luxury, information, and power to themselves.

The recognition that such a State is counter to the human instinct for freedom – call it “selfishness “ if you will – should have come to every sane adult the world over when the Soviet Empire crashed. The idea of Socialism should have died then. But if it did, it was only for a short time. Like the Christian God, it rose again, and lives now in the White House, an administration indefensibly authoritarian, whim-driven, unjust, and arrogant.

Selfish human nature with its instinct for liberty, its impelling desire to possess what is good for it materially and mentally, is the force that can and must defeat it.

Christian agnosticism 0

Today in our Pages section (see the top of our margin), we post a review by Jillian Becker of How Jesus Became God by Bart D. Ehrman.

Here is part of it.

*

Bart D. Ehrman’s book How Jesus Became God is a formidable challenge to Christian belief. It stands to his credit that he pursued his researches to the point where he changed from a believing Christian into an “agnostic”. (I put the word in quotation marks because I think the word as applied to religious belief is a cop-out, an intellectual bromide. If you do not believe there is a god, whether your unbelief is weak or strong, you are an atheist.)

An enormous amount of what he says fits with what is known and makes good sense. But in one vital area he goes wrong. He goes wrong because his perspective is Christian – even though he no longer thought of himself as a Christian when he came to write the book. He was not able to free himself sufficiently from the Christian viewpoint because he could not totally shrug off his Christian indoctrination.

Where is it that he goes wrong? ? He traces the vital beginning of the process of Jesus becoming God to the first, Jewish, followers of Jesus. That is the core of his thesis. And, interesting as his book is, generally well-researched as it is, it fails to make its case; because the author has not understood who the earliest followers of Jesus were and what they believed about him.

There is convincing evidence that the man whose Greek biographers called by the name Jesus (and we must call him that for want of knowing what his birth name was) did exist in the province of Judea between the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius, and that he was a rabbi with a burning (fanatical, even insanely fanatical) desire to bring about a new Kingdom of God, like the one he and his nation believed had been the free and glorious kingdom of David and Solomon. He prophesied that the “Son of Man” – or the Messiah, the Annointed One – would come and effect this wonder, and he even came to believe that he was that “Son of Man”, that Messiah, himself.

Now let’s look at more of the probable story from a non-Christian (and unbelieving) standpoint.

Jesus’s gesture of attacking some Roman soldiers, along with a couple of his followers armed with two swords – one of them used to slice off a Roman’s ear – did not bring the result he expected. He had convinced himself such a move on his part would be the signal to God to start the series of earth-transforming miracles that would destroy the Roman Empire and bring back the freedom and glory of the Jewish people. The Romans arrested him, brought him to a cursory trial, and condemned him to death by crucifixion – the punishment prescribed for insurrection by Roman law. The punishment was duly carried out. (As Ehrman says, the body was probably flung on the ground somewhere to be devoured by birds and worms and scavenging beasts.)

His little circle of close followers, shocked, terrified, and grieving, fled from Jerusalem to save their own lives, but returned after a while and were to be found among the numerous sects and factions of perfectly orthodox Jews who lived there and carried out their obligations under the law in and to the Temple. They could not bear to give up their idea that Jesus was the Messiah. And as he had not succeeded in doing what a Messiah had to do, they trusted that he would soon return and complete his task. They even sent out missionaries to preach to dispersed communities of Jews and their hangers-on of “God fearers” that Jesus was the risen Messiah and he would return in glory to save the Jewish nation.

Now we come to the tricky bit. Did they then believe that Jesus had come back to life after his execution? Yes. So to them he was still alive? Yes. Did they believe that he had suspired not just in spirit, but in his body? Seems very likely that they did. And this would not have been strange among the Jews of the time. Every sect and party, every faction and movement, religious and political,  except one – the Sadducees, the party of the royal priests – believed in the bodily resurrection of the dead. The general resurrection (the dogma ran) would occur at the end of days. But Jesus’s resurrection, his disciples believed, would be sooner than that – very soon. And they might well have pictured him returning in clouds of glory, descending from the sky and instantly causing the political liberation and resultant spiritual renewal of Israel.

Did they then believe that he was, or became after his death, or perhaps had always been God, or a god, or “the [unique] Son of God” – no. If they had believed any of that they would no longer have been Jews. But doesn’t the idea of his return in clouds of glory and descending from the sky imply divinity? Yes. And Ehrman argues well that there was precedent in the Jewish religious annals for an orthodox belief that (a) there were beings other than God himself in the divine sphere who were thus themselves divine – angels, seraphim, cherubim; and (b) that men had been raised to the sphere of divinity and – it could be argued – shared in the aura of the divine. It is even true that the Hebrew word for God – Elohim – is a plural. And that Psalm 82 speaks of creatures on earth being “gods”. He cites the (apocryphal) books of Enoch and The Wisdom of Solomon for the strongest evidence to support his contention that, while Jehovah was believed by the Jews to be the chief God, there were many lesser gods in Jewish scriptures.

Fine. But now we come back to what the followers of Jesus believed. First of all, who were they? At one point Ehrman calls them “illiterate peasants”. Well there he is probably wrong. For one thing, Jewish boys (most if not absolutely all) were taught to read so that they could read aloud a portion of the law when they turned thirteen. Secondly, there is nothing to say that either Jesus or his followers were uneducated men or even poor men. (The Christian tradition that Jesus was a carpenter and the apparent son of a carpenter has no basis in any discoverable historical fact. The family could have been well-to-do. There were means to support him as a rabbi – a voluntary teacher of the law – in his last year or two.) The disciple Matthew (not to be confused with the name attached to one of the gospels) was certainly literate, being a tax collector.

If Ehrman is right that they were mostly illiterate peasants, then the chance that they would have known anything of the apocryphal books of Enoch are remote, and virtually nil that they could have known of The Wisdom of Solomon – written in Greek – or the works of their contemporary Philo of Alexandria in Egypt.

And even if they were literate, as they almost certainly were, they were not scholars or theologians. There is no way they would have been able to argue for the existence of lesser gods, even if they knew Psalm 82 off by heart. They would have been taught that “God is One” – the central tenet of Judaism. So Ehrman’s sophisticated arguments from esoteric and academic sources for the possibility that they could believe Jesus was or became a god, are inapplicable to them. …

Posted under Articles, Atheism, Christianity, History, Judaism by Jillian Becker on Sunday, January 17, 2016

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To be or not to be 14

A professor of philosophy named David Benatar published, some eight or nine years ago, a book titled: Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming Into Existence. 

He makes the case that to live is to suffer and so it is best not to live. Just coming into existence is “a serious harm”. People should not have children. All babies should be killed in the womb. Humanity should become extinct.

He argues that the pain living beings endure is always much greater than the pleasure they enjoy. So they should not live. To avoid pain is a good thing; to miss pleasure is merely not a bad thing. The harm must always outweigh the joy.

It would not matter – he contends – if the human race ceased to exist: human existence has no value. 

His argument is derived from the experience of each sentient being; that he [she, it] feels pain. Feels pain more acutely and more often than pleasure.

It is on subjective experience that Benatar builds his case.

But subjective experience and the judgment of it is confined to each subject, each individual. Pleasure and pain are entirely subjective. I can feel only my own pain and pleasure. Only I can know if it is worth it to me to endure the pain. Only I can determine what is pleasurable to me, and how intense the pleasure is, and how much it is worth to me.

Benatar even goes so far as to claim that all people overestimate the pleasure they have, or can possibly have.

How can he know? He can’t. He cannot know the subjective experience of any other single person, let alone of all people.

On the face of it, the claim that all people suffer more than they enjoy or hope to enjoy, is nonsensical. If it were true, suicide would be the rule. The population of the world would have been very small, probably entirely youthful, and would long ago have dwindled away. But it didn’t.  And that’s probably why he had to deduce that people don’t realize how much they suffer – the chumps!

All that is hardly worth debating. Though the Oxford University Press takes his contention seriously enough to put it in print. (And there must be at least some people who are willing to fork out a whopping $21 for the kindle edition!)

Why take notice of it now?

Because, when he comes to his declaration that human life has no value, one hears the voice of the Zeitgeist. A cold hand clutches one’s heart, and one must protest.

Value to whom? As measured by what? Relative to what?

How can the value of human life be objectively assessed? Value is a human idea. Take away all human beings, take away the human mind, and there are no ideas, no values. No goodness. No truth. No beauty. No joy. No jokes.

No world. No universe. As the only begetter of ideas, the human consciousness is the creator of “the universe”.

Mathematics, physics, computers, the Ninth Symphony, Hamlet and The Tempest, the palace of Versailles, the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome, Americans walking on the moon … all are valued as long and only as long as human beings exist. Then, eventually (and it could be billions of years from now), our revels will be ended. “The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,/ The solemn temples, the great globe itself,/ Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve/And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,/Leave not a rack behind.” And after that, nothing will matter. There will be no one for anything to matter to.

The statement “human life has no value” is meaningless.

Yet it is stated. Not just by one (deeply unhappy?) philosopher. Who lives, incidentally, in the loveliest part of the world, the magnificent Cape of South Africa, with its clement climate and breathtaking natural beauty of mountains, valleys, oceans, beaches, vineyards, forests, and more wild flowers than anywhere else on earth. But what is beauty and plenty and a professor’s generous salary when metaphysical angst, toothache, and the prospect of death ineluctably confront a man?

As I said, it is the Zeitgeist speaking. It is common now among the intellectual elite of the Western world, habituated to a sociological way of thinking – which is to say, seeing human beings as a swarm, like insects – to affirm that this species is a bad thing. They say we are bad for the planet. They say we should be fewer in number. Humanity should give up its cities, its industries, its farming, its civilization, its arts, its investigation of nature. We should live as our most primitive ancestors did. (Only with cell phones.)

The most radical of such thinkers – among them some who live in the greatest luxury like Professor Benatar – say the entire human species must go. Whether slowly over a few generations by not breeding, or quickly within a few years by abortion, murder and suicide, go it must.

How are they different from those cranks who used to patrol the main streets of cities with billboards proclaiming, “The End is Nigh“?

They are different in this: while the old cranks considered it a frightening prophecy, the Benatars of our time think it is a good plan.

Do we not see that it is good?

Well no, Professor. I do not.

 

Jillian Becker    January 10, 2016

Posted under Articles, Philosophy by Jillian Becker on Sunday, January 10, 2016

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The darkness of this world (18) 1

Today we have posted the last essay, number 18, in the series by Jillian Becker titled The Darkness of This World. 

Find it in full under Pages in our margin.

Here is part of it:

18

Conclusion

America the Last Best Hope?

A multitude of enlightened Europeans cultivated reason, and built a culture that was innovative, prosperous, powerful, and humane. Other Europeans wanted to destroy all that, and succeeded. Rebels from and against the prosperous educated classes – philosophers and poets, artists and politicians – taught generations to intoxicate themselves with fantasies of destruction, spoliation, and atrocity that could, and at times did, inspire real events of vast horror, suffering, and death. From each of them Europe seemed to recover for a while. But at the time of this writing, the rebels have triumphed. The dark vision prevails. Europe is rotten. Multitudes of Europeans, seeing nothing in their culture worth preserving and no point in its survival, reluctant even to beget children, are yielding to immigrating hordes of aliens from the Third World who lust for conquest and are governed by laws devised in the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula in the Dark Ages.

So must the greatness of Europe be altogether lost? Surely not! Surely in the states of America, united on Enlightenment principles of liberty, reason, tolerance, and participatory government, European civilization will be preserved and enhanced? There where every citizen is free to pursue his own happiness, to hold property securely, to have his say in a government of limited powers, the United States will continue to prosper and advance? America, it is said, is a forward-looking “can do” society – innovative, prosperous, powerful and humane. “The last best hope of earth.” [As President Lincoln said of his country in a message to Congress on 1 December, 1862.]

And for a while yet it may continue to be so. But the seed of the evil flowers of the culture – Marxism, political sadism, and most potently poisonous of all, the political philosophies of the New Left – have found as fertile soil in America as in Europe.

The mainly bourgeois “anti-bourgeois” terrorist groups that rose with the “sixty-eight” protest movement in America, did evil just as intentionally as their European counterparts. And went in for the same posturing and frivolity. The US was at war in Vietnam, and the anti-draft demonstrations on university campuses gave a serious aspect to the American rebellion, but the war and the draft were pretexts rather reasons for it, as two leaders of the young radicals, Peter Collier and David Horowitz, confessed years later in their book – the best I have found on the subject – Destructive Generation: “The war in Vietnam was a gift of chance that allowed radical leaders to convince others of a need for a social apocalypse and of the necessity for their destructive strategies.”

These authors, long since cured of the romantic radicalism of their youth, look back   and “wince” at the “homemade hankerings for Armageddon”. The Sixties, they write, was a time of “monumental idealism”, when “dewy-eyed young people in the throes of a moral passion … sought only to remake the world”. They would do this by destroying “the evil empire of ‘Amerika’” and freeing “the captive peoples of the world”. It was a time, they say, “when innocence quickly became cynical “ and “when a gang of ghetto thugs like the Black Panthers might be anointed as political visionaries”.

The Black Panthers and many of the “dewy-eyed” rebels intended to do what they fully recognized as evil in pursuit of their ideals. For instance, a man known as J. J. – a member of the white middle-class group that became the terrorist organization called Weatherman and later Weather Underground – was notable for “his [drug augmented] high energy, his nonstop, almost demonic chatter, his ability to carry listeners with him by the sheer force of his words rather than their depth”. And J. J.’s idea “was not to create a perfect state operating by the clockwork principles of Marxist law but to promote a chaos that would cripple America and ultimately cast it into a receivership that would be administered by the morally superior Third World. Unafraid to pursue his theme to its logical end, J. J. would add that people shouldn’t expect the revolution to achieve a Kingdom of Freedom ; more likely, it would produce a Dark Ages.” J. J. “[laid] out the ‘White Devil’ theory of world history. ‘We’re against everything that’s “good and decent” in honky America. … We will loot and burn and destroy. We are the incubation of your mother’s nightmares!’”

As in West Germany, France and Italy, the terrorist bombers of America demanded their rights under the law that they broke, mocked, and abominated. “Despite their incessant complaints of police brutality, Sixties radicals lived for the most part in a no-fault system, demanding their constitutional rights at the same time as they were abusing and denouncing the Constitution. They knew they had the option, which many of them ultimately used, of diving back into the System [and their comfy bourgeois lives] when they tired of being extrinsic. (For this reason New Leftism, although discredited in politics, continues to thrive in the ‘academic work’ of former radicals who returned for postgraduate degrees to the universities they had earlier tried to destroy.) It was an example of the cynicism that marked the decade – counting on the fact that America was exactly the sort of flexible and forgiving society they were condemning it for failing to be.”

The evil was done not only to shock their bourgeois parents, as their drugs, promiscuous sex, and bombs were meant to do and did, but for a very much higher good, of course. The very much higher good: “social justice”; “ending oppression” in the forms of “ racism”, “sexism”, “homophobia”, “classism”, “imperialism”, “colonialism”; all of which required the destruction of “the capitalist system”.

Most of them did not, however, describe themselves as Communists. Without reading the works of Marx, or of Marxists, Trotskyites, or New Left political philosophers, they all – in harmony with their European counterparts – looked forward to a political apocalypse; a revolution that they considered themselves to be hastening, that would change everything and replace the earthly Hell of oppression and social injustice with a Heaven of … something yet to be defined.

Collier and Horowitz write of   “the decade’s transcendental conviction that there was something apocalyptic lurking behind the veil of the ordinary, and that just a little more pressure was needed to pierce the last remaining membrane – of civility, bourgeois consciousness, corporate liberalism, sexual uptightness, or whatever else prevented us all from breaking through to the other side”. And: “Again it was that hunger to reach the apocalypse just beyond, the essential act that would make them real revolutionaries.” And “the Weatherpeople, like all parvenus, spent considerable time working on a genealogy that would connect them with noble [sic] forbears: Russian narodniki and European anarchists, Cuban fidelistas and Vietnamese guerrillas.”

A work of fiction that impressively conveys the real evil of the 60s rebels is American Pastoral by Philip Roth. A percipient discussion of it and the issues it raised was published in Commentary magazine by Carol Iannone. I summarize the plot and quote her most illuminating comments relevant to my theme:

An only child – cheerful, affectionate, charming as a little girl – of a business man who in his youth had been an athlete and a Marine, and his beauty queen wife, grows up to be “overtaken by the 60s”, sets a bomb in a post office and kills a local doctor. She goes underground and kills three more people in another bombing.

“In his manly way” (Carol Iannone writes) the father “ tries to see where his own responsibility lies for what has happened to his much loved daughter … only to be forced again and again to confront the blazing chaotic irrationality of it all. What he cannot understand … is her hatred of America. ‘How could she “hate” this country when she had no conception of this country? How could a child of his be so blind as to revile the “rotten system” that had given her own family every opportunity to succeed? To revile her “capitalist” parents as though their wealth were the product of anything other than the unstinting industry of three generations …’”

“The 60s, in brief, are not just about the bomber young and their war with ‘Amerika’; in the 60s, ‘the indigenous American berserk’, have entered the living room, the dining room, the kitchen, touching everything and everyone with their ‘mockery of human integrity, every ethical obligation destroyed’.”

It entered the academies, and through them the mind of the nation, until the counter-culture has become The Culture. Collier and Horowitz write: “[N]owhere is the entrenchment of the Sixties mentality more complete or more destructive than in the university. That the Left should now dominate the academy involves a savage irony, of course. It was only after failing in their intent to burn down the university in the Sixties that radicals decided to get on the tenure track in the Seventies. Unimpeded in their long march through these institutions by fair-minded centrists of the sort they themselves now refuse to hire, these Leftists have brought a postmodern Dark Age to higher education – “deconstructing” objective truths to pave the way for chic academic nihilism: creating a curriculum of contempt for American history and culture; and transforming many classrooms into chambers of inquisition and indoctrination.”

The demonic achievements of the rebels were crowned by the election, in 2008, to the presidency of the United States of one of their own: Barack Hussein Obama, the son of a 60s counter-culturist mother and an African father who was both a Communist and a Muslim; and was associated eventually in the son’s mind with “colonial and imperial oppression” of his ancestral land, Kenya, when it was under British rule.

President Obama acceded to the White House with all his ideological baggage intact: the credo of the New Left plus admiration of Islam. And this at a time when Islam was becoming the main enemy of the Western world, practicing terrorism on a large scale, waging open warfare in the Middle East, and launching a migrant invasion of Europe that European governments allowed, encouraged, and all too willingly submitted to. Obama’s policies facilitated the European calamity, and he took steps to help Islamic Iran, which constantly reiterates its intention to destroy America and conquer the non-Muslim world, to become a nuclear power. He has lowered America in the eyes of the world. He and his minions treat the Constitution with contempt.

In the universities the counter-culture has become the orthodoxy. A majority of instructors indoctrinate students rather than educate them, teaching them what to think rather than how to think. Some Leftist representatives in Congress have passed a resolution to curb free speech. And the spirit of free enterprise, which made America rich and mighty, has been all but crushed by tyrannical regulation. Wealth has been taken from those who have earned it and given to those who have not. In short, the New Left has triumphed – though without attaining its heaven on earth.

Can the harm it has done be undone? At present the dark stream of unreason flows strongly. The resistance to it should be the vigorous self-interest inherent in human nature, the desire in most of us to succeed; and the lure of science, technology, all they give us for the betterment of our lives. Only as long as free personal endeavor and innovation continue to characterize America, will there be hope – if not the last, certainly the best – for our splendid civilization to survive in this, our only world.

The darkness of this world (17) 6

Today we have posted in our Pages section essay number 17, The Orgiasts (Two), in the series by Jillian Becker titled The Darkness of This World (Part 3).

Here it is in full.

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The Orgiasts (Two)

Hermann Nitsch (1938 – ): Hell’s bells and buckets of blood

Hermann Nitsch, one of the founders of the Action Art movement in Austria, publicly performed rituals with animal carcasses and their viscera, and naked human bodies deluged with blood, to the accompaniment of cacophonous music.

He also performed his rituals at private “festivals “ in the courtyard of his home, a baroque castle standing secluded near the Austrian-Czech border. His wife, a Jungian psychoanalyst, had bought it to provide the perfect venue for Hermann’s “Orgy Mystery Theater”. There, Nitsch intended his performances to rouse audiences to such excitement that an orgy would spontaneously erupt.

I witnessed a performance in an art gallery (where I was introduced to Nitsch as “the international press”, having credentials from a British newspaper), and was invited to the castle a few days later.[1]

In preparation for his Action, the flayed and eviscerated carcasses of sheep, goats, oxen and pigs were hung by the stumps of their hind legs from rails and hooks, each against a backdrop of a stretched white sheet, their heads dangling, open-jawed, a few feet from the ground. (In a theater or gallery there would be up to three; but at the castle, ten or more.) Their viscera were heaped near their heads on a plastic sheet covering the ground.

The action began with Nitsch’s assistants bearing in a naked, blindfolded youth (in public these participants were more often boys, but sometimes girls took part too), lying supine on a white stretcher or a wooden cross, and setting him down with his face directly beneath the gaping mouth of a skinned beast beside the viscera.

Recorded music – mostly organ and brass – started plangent and reverberating but not loud. Then Nitsch entered, and strode purposefully towards the carcass in black rubber boots: a thick-set man of medium height with tonsured black hair, dressed all in black but for yellow rubber gloves. At the same time his assistants brought plastic buckets, blue, yellow, black and red, and set them down near the naked body. Nitsch took up a bucket and ladled red wine into the open rear of the dead beast so that it trickled down through its mouth on to the face below. The trickle was followed by a splash, and another, and another, until Nitsch flung the ladle aside and – the music growing louder – sent all that was left gushing through the carcass. He seized another bucket, and poured all it contained through the carcass on to the body. The next bucket that he emptied in the same way was full of blood. Bucket after bucket was brought and emptied, faster and faster. A bucket of wine alternated with a bucket of blood. The downpour became a deluge, now the shining wine, now the viscous blood. The music grew very loud. Whistles and rattles, pipes and drums were distributed to members of the audience so they could swell the noise. Many of the watchers began to stamp, clap, shout as the spirit moved them. Nitsch heaved up the buckets in a kind of frenzy, and flung their contents randomly at the carcass, the backdrop sheet, and the boy below. Bits of raw flesh were now in the blood. The music rose to a deafening pitch, and could be felt rumbling underfoot. The naked body was so drenched that not an inch of white flesh showed through the red. A slippery pool formed on the ground, with the bits of flesh floating in the mess, and as Nitsch continued to swing the buckets, gouts and gobs spattered the spectators. Some of them slithered in the pool of blood and wine. At last Nitsch gathered the slimy viscera in his arms, and reaching up, struggled to stuff them into the stiff cadaver, poking, punching, wrestling with them as they bulged out of his grasp. Some long pieces of intestines tore away and fell over his face while he struggled on blindly. He slipped and fell, letting go the guts to flop where they may. The recorded music stopped abruptly. The whistles and rattles, pipes and drums, clapping and stamping subsided. When Nitsch rose and gestured to his assistants, the blood-dyed, gore-smeared body was taken up and borne away. In the sudden silence, the spectators contemplated for a moment the bloodstained white sheet and the dripping carcass, and then another naked white blindfolded youth was carried in and set down beneath the next beast, the music started again, and the ritual was repeated.

Originally Nitsch slaughtered the animals himself as part of his Action, but the Authorities had objected that his method was cruel. They permitted him to carry on with his performances, but only if he bought dead beasts from licensed wholesale butchers. At the castle, the rites would go on for hours, sometimes through the greater part of a day or night. The spectator-participants would be intoxicated with drugs and wine – some of it from the castle’s own vineyard. (Nitsch told me that he himself preferred wine to the drugs his acolytes brought to the castle – the cannabis, marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and hallucinogens – because he found that drugs “discouraged eroticism”.) They would be further entranced by the corybantic music. Their nostrils would be filled with the raw fetor of blood and guts, augmented by both incense and its counter-smell of animal excreta sprayed from cans. They were expected to be participants in the rite “like any congregation at a religious ceremony”, Nitsch explained to me. “But participating more intimately than co-worshipers. More even than communicants. Like the members of ecstatic cults, they should achieve a kind of trance – which is a proof of therapeutic response.” The ceremonies would be brought to a climax with “copulation, all kinds of sex, including sado-masochistic interactions”. (But, he assured me, my presence at the castle as “the international press” precluded an orgy.)

His performances, he said, were “catharsis-therapy, comparable to psychoanalysis”. He gave me a book, a very thick volume, in which he describes dozens of his actual and imaginary Actions. An example: “Hundreds of Popes, crucified, having a poem read to them while the Emperor Nero, 40 castrated boys, and 3,200 pigs help make up the orchestration.”

And this also is in the book: “Classical psychoanalysis is replaced by sensations which disinhibit and intoxicate: actions with raw meat, damp body-heated guts, bloody excreta, blood warm from slaughter, tepid water, the pleasure of splashing, squirting, pouring, sullying is heightened to intense joy by tearing raw flesh, stamping into guts. The shredded abreactions-god drops into the association-field. The dramatic burrows its way into the excitement of cruelty. Chaos, orgiastic drunkenness, breaks upon us. The intensity of the experience allows a mysticism of aggression and cruelty to develop.”

“The ultimate purpose of the artist,” Nitsch said, “is self-liberation. He needs to break through to the essential, strongly felt experience of existence. Calls to bliss are mixed with the pain of overcoming. That is why it is a form of therapy.”

In many chambers of his castle, crosses were displayed, upside-down or draped in used menstrual bandages. There were monstrances and censers. Blood-stained priestly vestments were hung in rows along a wall. In a long shed, rows of meathooks dangled from overhead rails. And there was a once-consecrated chapel, painted white and gold, with wooden pews carved and polished, and an altar. On the ceiling were frescoes of chubby cherubs with rosy flesh among diaphanous white veils and whipped-cream clouds, holding Christian symbols. Blasphemous rites, Nitsch said, were celebrated there.

Yet Nitsch vigorously denied that Catholicism had anything worth mentioning to do with his work for self-liberation. “My art is Dionysian”, he said.[2] “There is both creation and destruction in our existence. All flows together in the River of Life. So in one festival I must represent all aspects of existence. My work contains cruelty but the opposite of cruelty too. People come here to eat, drink, wander in my garden, my orchard, my vineyards, and enjoy it all. That is important. But the shock of the performances is important. Cathartic, like the old Greek tragedies.”

Nitsch himself seemed a generous and even gentle person, not cruel. He denied that to stage performances with carcasses, guts, and blood-drenched people, was to feed an appetite for the sight of suffering. “On the contrary,” he said, “it channels such desires into art actions which might otherwise require sadistic expression in real life. Here the Opfers [the ‘victims” or “sacrificies” – the German word has both meanings) are all volunteers and none of them is ever hurt.” Not even psychologically? None had said so. “They understood that this too was part of the Heraclitean river of Life[3] containing all things good and evil.”

NOTES

1. I was commissioned by the Sunday Times Magazine to write about a festival of Performance Art held in Vienna from the 21st to the 30th April, 1978. A Magnum photographer was sent with me. My story was duly printed, with photographs. The cover of the magazine displayed one of the pictures of a Nitsch ritual. Two days before it was to be distributed with the newspaper, the editor became anxious about the pictures. He submitted the whole issue to the editor-in-chief, who apparently said: “You cannot put a picture of all that blood on the Sunday morning breakfast tables of the nation.” So the whole thing was spiked.

2. Nitsch’s performances were indeed modeled on the rituals of the cult of Dionysos, the Greek god of wine. In those rituals, bulls and goats were sacrificed, both beasts being held sacred to him. Celebrants became intensely inebriated and danced wildly to the loud music of pipes, drums and cymbals, until the “god entered into them”, a mystic condition for which the Greek word was Enthusiasm. With the god inside them they were freed from all restrictions of law and reason and, transcending even the supposed limits set by nature, would tear an animal or human being apart with their bare hands and feast on the raw flesh. Bands of drunken men and woman (but in The Bacchae by Euripides, only bands of women called the Maenads), ran and danced, naked or partially clad in the skins of fawns, and smeared with the blood of the animal or human prey, night-long, in wild places, leaping over earth and grass and stone, and indulging every erotic desire. The name for this sacrament was an “orgion” – an orgy. An appendix to these essays will describe the cult, and its reformed version in the cult of Orpheus; and how the Orphic Mysteries contributed to the dogma and rites of both Christianity and Christian Gnosticism.

3. The (3rd century?) Greek biographer, Diogenes Laërtius, in his Lives of Eminent Philosophers, summarizes the philosophy of Heraclitus (535-475 BCE) thus: “All things come into being by conflict of opposites, and the sum of things flows like a stream.” And: “Of the opposites, that which tends to birth or creation is called war and strife, and that which tends to destruction by fire is called concord and peace.” An echo of these ideas is sounded in the “dialectical idealism” of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831), one of the most culpable philosophers in the flowing stream of European – especially German – thought, right up to the thinkers of the New Left.

Posted under Art, Articles, Christianity, Gnosticism, Mysticism by Jillian Becker on Sunday, October 11, 2015

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