Post-capitalism, and how to get it

Kim Stanley Robinson, one of SFs greatest ever world-builders and a passionate Green futurist, has a plan… and he calls it, becoming a post-capitalist society. Here’s a taste:

Am I saying that capitalism is going to have to change or else we will have an environmental catastrophe? Yes, I am. It should not be shocking to suggest that capitalism has to change. Capitalism evolved out of feudalism. Although the basis of power has changed from land to money and the system has become more mobile, the distribution of power and wealth has not changed that much. It’s still a hierarchical power structure, it was not designed with ecological sustainability in mind, and it won’t achieve that as it is currently constituted.

The main reason I believe capitalism is not up to the challenge is that it improperly and systemically undervalues the future. I’ll give two illustrations of this. First, our commodities and our carbon burning are almost universally underpriced, so we charge less for them than they cost. When this is done deliberately to kill off an economic competitor, it’s called predatory dumping; you could say that the victims of our predation are the generations to come, which are at a decided disadvantage in any competition with the present.

Second, the promise of capitalism was always that of class mobility—the idea that a working-class family could bootstrap their children into the middle class. With the right policies, over time, the whole world could do the same. There’s a problem with this, though. For everyone on Earth to live at Western levels of consumption, we would need two or three Earths. Looking at it this way, capitalism has become a kind of multigenerational Ponzi scheme, in which future generations are left holding the empty bag.

You could say we are that moment now. Half of the world’s people live on less than $2 a day, and yet the depletion of resources and environmental degradation mean they can never hope to rise to the level of affluent Westerners, who consume about 30 times as much in resources as they do. So this is now a false promise. The poorest three billion on Earth are being cheated if we pretend that the promise is still possible. The global population therefore exists in a kind of pyramid structure, with a horizontal line marking an adequate standard of living that is set about halfway down the pyramid.

The goal of world civilization should be the creation of something more like an oval on its side, resting on the line of adequacy. This may seem to be veering the discussion away from questions of climate to questions of social justice, but it is not; the two are intimately related. It turns out that the top and bottom ends of our global social pyramid are the two sectors that are by far the most carbon intensive and environmentally destructive, the poorest by way of deforestation and topsoil loss, the richest by way of hyperconsumption. The oval resting sideways on the line of adequacy is the best social shape for the climate.

This doubling of benefits when justice and sustainability are both considered is not unique. Another example: world population growth, which stands at about 75 million people a year, needs to slow down. What stabilizes population growth best? The full exercise of women’s rights. There is a direct correlation between population stabilization in nations and the degree to which women enjoy full human rights. So here is another area in which justice becomes a kind of climate change technology. Whenever we discuss climate change, these social and economic paradigm shifts must be part of the discussion.

Given this analysis, what are my suggestions?

  • Believe in science.
  • Believe in government, remembering always that it is of the people, by the people, and for the people, and crucial in the current situation.
  • Support a really strong follow-up to the Kyoto Protocol.
  • Institute carbon cap-and-trade systems.
  • Impose a carbon tax designed to charge for the real costs of burning carbon.
  • Follow the full “Green New Deal” program now coming together in discussions by the Obama administration.
  • Structure global economic policy to reward rapid transitions from carbon-burning to carbon-neutral technologies.
  • Support the full slate of human rights everywhere, even in countries that claim such justice is not part of their tradition.
  • Support global universal education as part of human-rights advocacy.
  • Dispense with all magical, talismanic phrases such as “free markets” and promote a larger systems analysis that is more empirical, without fundamentalist biases.
  • Encourage all business schools to include foundational classes in ecology, environmental economics, biology, and history.
  • Start programs at these same schools in postcapitalist studies.

Slumbering Albion – Philip Pullman, liberty and censorship

Philip Pullman has written a splendid and passionate rant, called “Malevolent Voices that Despise Our Freedoms”, about the way Britain is sliding into a state of passivity against governmental control.

“To mark the Convention on Modern Liberty, the children’s author has written this article for the Times Online”, the header reads. But not long after the piece was posted, it was removed from the Times Online site with no explanation.

Whatever the reason for the removal, such disappearances are treated as damage by the internet and routed around… the piece has been reposted in several places (I found it on Issac Bonewits’ blog). Take a moment to read it, please.

A sample:

We are so fast asleep that we don’t know who we are any more. Are we English? Scottish? Welsh? British? More than one of them? One but not another? Are we a Christian nation – after all we have an Established Church – or are we something post-Christian? Are we a secular state? Are we a multifaith state? Are we anything we can all agree on and feel proud of?

…The new laws whisper:

You don’t know who you are

You’re mistaken about yourself

We know better than you do what you consist of, what labels apply to you, which facts about you are important and which are worthless

We do not believe you can be trusted to know these things, so we shall know them for you

And if we take against you, we shall remove from your possession the only proof we shall allow to be recognised

The sleeping nation dreams it has the freedom to speak its mind. It fantasises about making tyrants cringe with the bluff bold vigour of its ancient right to express its opinions in the street. This is what the new laws say about that:

Expressing an opinion is a dangerous activity

Whatever your opinions are, we don’t want to hear them

So if you threaten us or our friends with your opinions we shall treat you like the rabble you are

And we do not want to hear you arguing about it

So hold your tongue and forget about protesting

What we want from you is acquiescence

To quote XKCD…

Fuck. That. Shit.

HaHaHa… a little irony for UK’s snooping Home Secretary

There’s something about getting a political gig that, er, alters the moral flexibility of the recipient. The position of Home Secretary to Her Majesty’s Government seems to have an especially swift half-life for becoming a totalitarian dickhead.

Frankly, the (never) Right (also never) Honourable Jackie Smith hit the ground running. Massives of extra expensive and near-useless security theatre CCTVs, planned biometric ID cards, raising the level of general fear of everyone who isn’t quite like us – whether they be olive-skinned with beards or birkas, East European workers, and those of us who enjoy consensual sex and pictures thereof…

…and she gets PWNED by local people applying exactly her principles and mechanisms to find out she’s pulling expenses fraud to get her new house built.

Win.

As Caroline Cadwallr of the Guardian put it so well:

Hardly anyone actually shoots themselves in the foot or literally gets egg on their face, so it was a real pleasure last week, in so many ways, to witness Jacqui Smith being hoist with her own petard.

A petard was, in the original French, an explosion of intestinal gas which, in turn, gave its name to a small bomb, such as the one that erupted across the papers last week, when the neighbours of her sister’s house in Peckham, south London, came forward and told the press that she was only there a couple of days a week.

Because, in the small matter of whether she was right to pocket £116,000 of additional expenses by claiming that the back bedroom she rents off sister is her “main home”, as opposed to the house she owns in her constituency in Redditch where her husband and children happen to live, this turns out to be critical testimony.

Standards Commissioner John Lyon twice turned down requests to investigate the matter. It was only when some neighbours, Dominic and Jessica Taplin, wrote to him and repeated the claims they made to a newspaper, that she is there rather less than the four nights a week that she claims, that he agreed to open an inquiry.

It’s this that’s the real beauty of the story. Residents on the online East Dulwich forum (East Dulwich being what you call Peckham if you happen to live there) declared themselves outraged at the behaviour of the neighbours, with words like “snitch”, “curtain-twitchers”, “grassers” and “narks” being bandied about (apparently “Dominic and Jessica Taplin represent all that’s worst about the new smug arriviste elements of East Dulwich”). This is the world that Jacqui Smith has created. The only shame is that they didn’t capture her on CCTV.

If you want to rat out your neighbours, allow the home secretary to enumerate the ways. Do you know someone who claims more from the state than they’re entitled to? Who is “picking the pockets of law-abiding taxpayers”? Not politicians over-egging their allowances, obviously, but “benefit thieves”. If so, call 0800 854 440 now. “We’re closing in with hidden cameras. We’re closing in with every means at our disposal.”

Do they own more than one mobile phone? Then call 0800 789 321. “Terrorists need communication. They often collect and use many pay-as-you-go mobile phones, as well as swapping Sim cards and handsets.”

No mobile phones? What about if they’re “hanging around”? Or, as the Home Office-funded radio advertisement puts it: “How can you tell if they’re a normal everyday person or a terrorist? The answer is that you don’t have to. If you call the confidential Anti-Terrorist Hotline on 0800 789 321, the specialist officers you speak to will analyse the information. They’ll decide if and how to follow it up. You don’t have to be sure. If you suspect it, report it.”

It’s such a lovely turn of phrase, that. If you suspect it, report it. Don’t wait for evidence. Or question your own prejudices. If someone’s not a “normal everyday person” exactly like you, then they could well be a member of al-Qaida. What flawless logic that is. We’re already described as “a surveillance state” by Privacy International, one in five of all CCTV cameras ever made are currently in Britain, and Smith is drawing up plans to intercept every phone call we make and every email we send. The Taplins weren’t snitches – they were perfect citizens in her New Model Army.

And what was Ms. Smith up to while these shenannegans were occurring? Losing her temper publicly at noted drug expert (and my-Beloved-the-ex-neurochemist-shaman’s ex-boss) Professor David Nutt to order him to beg the forgiveness of the families of those who died from adverse effects of MDMA, which he had correctly pointed out is actually safer statistically than horse riding.

Of course it’s all about Nutt having the indecency to use an upper-class sport for comparison… nothing gets deeper in the craw of the ruling class than to point out their hobbies are actually less safe and often dumber than those of the hoi-polloi!

Well, slight exaggeration there. But don’t doubt that her deeply narrow mind will accept no disobediance, especialy over teh evuls of hot sex and drugs that can actually help people heal from thr traumas of both normal life and the deeper scars of abuse and post-traumatic damage. Just the sort of damage our modern life and modern wars produce.

People like that, when not able to recover through their own means, those Vachss calls The Children of the Secret especially, often fall into violent crime, usually as much as victims as perps. Relaxing the therapeutic use of MDMA and restrictions on BDSM play would both add to the possibility of some of these people finding their own recovery. You’d think the attendant lowering of violent crime likely to result would be of importance to the Home Sec. Shame she’s too busy making dodgy expenses claims to care, innit?

Making a mockery

“Censorship, like charity, should begin at home. Unlike charity, it should stay there.” – Dorothy Parker

So the new song by Amanda Palmer has been refused air play by every TV and radio network in the UK.
It’s been described as “making light of rape, religion and abortion”. Here it is.

[youtube=http://youtube.com/watch?v=1vVnhBqKXSQ]

Understandably, Ms. Palmer had a few things to say about this
She says, in part;
i’d be HAPPY to know that the song out there is going to offend some people….not because i have any interest in making people upset, but because i think it’s better
to talk about these things, argue about them, be upset about them, push them out into the open air, stir the pot around. better that, always, than to sweep them under the rug.

These days that’s a pretty controversial position to take. There’s a real trend towards people declaring their being offended by another’s point of view and using this as justification for censorship.

It makes me wonder, as so many things do, just where the line is drawn – and who decides that. Where is the distinction – if there is one – between humour and cruelty, being genuinely hurt by something said or written and just being annoyed. Why someone can be truly hurt by something they perceive as an insult to their beliefs, and how they react to this. And the difference, if there is one, between doing this and deliberate racism, sexism, homophobic speech and so on.

Are there things which should never be looked at lightly, humorously?
How about Nazis?

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=poM5e3fXW4g]

Does ‘getting offended’ have a basis in one’s culture, one’s class, one’s political and religious views? Unquestionably.
Consider, for example, the Gay Daleks:

[youtube=http://youtube.com/watch?v=AWiq-0rf_bA]

That’s full of quite offensive stereotyping. I am sure some queer folk were offended. But most of the gay and bi people I know find it pant-wettingly funny. Or get creeped out by the “WHITE!! WEE-WEE!!” bit – but still laugh.

How about race? White men in blackface is considered offensive now, certainly. But is Papa Lazarou ? Is it acceptable to have blackface if the thing being mocked isn’t black people but white people in blackface? Or do I only think that because I find The League of Gentlemen funny? Or because I’m white? Is Papa Lazarou more or less acceptable than Spike Lee’s ‘Bamboozled‘? And if so, is it because Spike Lee is black? Or that the actors in blackface are also?

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OdtfH2D8j9g]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EMZ6zp-3oGY]
How about murder? Drug addiction? Paedophilia? Chris Morris had plenty to say about all these, most of it hilarious (and some of it playing non-white people).

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_aU3TeDMnE]

…these killings are obviously ironic“.

Is finding something funny an excuse for insulting someone? Is doing so ironically a justification? How about if a group of predominantly white, middle class people dress in Klu Klux Klan robes to protest a perceived injustice? Does their outrage trump the outrage they use as a symbol?

Does it matter if the person making the mockery is a victim of what they mock or not? Amanda Palmer doesn’t think so:

i could try to win points by talking about how i’ve been date raped (i have been, when i was 20) or how I have every right to joke about this if i want to because i’ve had an abortion myself (i have, when i was 17), but i actually DON’T believe those experiences should lend me any credibility, any more so than i believe the director of “life is beautiful” had to have been an auschwitz victim in order to direct that film.
i should be allowed to write about, sing about, joke about anything that moves me.
so should you. so should everyone.

an artist’s (and a human being’s) freedom to do that, without fear of retribution, is the cornerstone of what keeps the world moving forward, not backwards, not standing still.

Is the important difference whether you are trying to give offence or take it?

Is it just about bad taste? Who decides what bad taste is – and is that enough reason not to say something? Isn’t most comedy about bad taste, crossing lines of taboo?

Definitions of acceptable subject matter change. Like most Brits of a certain age, I can remember when the racist, sexist, homophobic comedy stylings of Bernard Manning and Jim Davidson, TV shows like Love Thy Neighbour and The Black and White Minstrel Show, were acceptable prime time entertainment. Fun for all the family.

We’re getting perilously close to that horrible phrase “Political Correctness” here. (Take a look at this post – and the comments – for a very good perspective on the term.) I don’t think it’s a good thing to force people into linguistic strait-jackets wantonly. But neither do I think that casual or deliberate insult is a good or acceptable thing – and sometimes there’s damn good reason for objecting to the things someone says.

But also there is the inevitable point that as soon as something is declared taboo… artists and writers will be irresistably drawn to that idea.

In an ideal world, the good and worthwhile ideas would just outcompete the bad and damaging ones. Unfortunately, ideas don’t seem to work that way. Often a bad idea – such as that women, non-white people and those not considered sexually ‘normal’ deserve to be treated as inferior – becomes hardened, enculturated. Fighting this matters – mockery and irony are vital tools in doing so. But any tool can become a trap.

I’m rambling here because I really don’t have an answer. I think that using humour and irony to mock is a necessary thing – but one best used by the less powerful against the status quo. When used by the powerful against the relatively powerless it’s just cruelty – and, as far as I can see, not funny (witness the po-faced results when right-wing satire is attempted). Mockery also works when the participants are roughly on an equal level (as in playing the dozens). But as to who deserves to be mocked and by whom… that’s tricky.

I’m fine with mocking those I dislike – I think that’s true of most of us. Those are, for me, mostly the powerful forces of politics, wealth and religous orthodoxy. I don’t usually find racial or sexual mockery either funny or acceptable. (Except, as noted above, Papa Lazarou and Gay Daleks.) I do find some mockery of people who are like me (mystical types, geeks) funny when it’s accurate, when it’s a well-aimed jibe at the cliches. But not just mocking because, for example, I’m fat and wear glasses.

I’d rather see humour that subverts stereotypes instead of reinforcing them, because the former is a tool of change and the latter is a tool of control. When used to deflate pompousness, arrogance and self-righteous behaviour, it works. When it’s just an expression of “you’re different from me, so I hate you” or just crass sneering at the Other, it doesn’t.

That modern tendency to treat someone with a different perspective than yours as giving you insult is overshadowing so much, perhaps the very things that need to be mocked or resisted. Especially when those complaining about the mockery are in the majority, or wield far more power than those doing the mocking. There is something ludicrous about white middle class Christians picketing a musical they don’t like, or Muslims in a Muslim-majority country holding mass-burnings of a cartoon. It seems to me a sign of very weak faith – if their beliefs are so flimsy that a joke or a book or a story can stir such rage, it does not speak well of them.

I’ve said it before – some things deserve scorn. Some things are best dealt with by laughing at them, because that’s the only thing that works. Nothing scares a monolithic power structure more than someone pointing and laughing at it. But at the same time, a bully teasing someone they overpower is only funny to the bully and their pals.

These days, there are certain groups who wield enormous power over what we are allowed to say and do, which ideas are acceptable and which are taboo. But no matter what they say or do, whether they scream “that’s blasphemy!” or “that’s hate speech!” or “I’ll sue you! I’ll sue you in England!!” or threaten new laws or restrictions or even murder, there will always be those who will (in the other meaning of the phrase) take the piss. Because it’s necessary. Because sometimes it’s the only weapon we have.

Because sometimes, you gotta laugh, ain’t you?

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
“When you cannot joke about the darkness of life, that’s when the darkness takes over” – Amanda Palmer

(Thanks to my esteemed colleagues Daniel Peacock and Jon Swabey for their perspectives.)

Tomorrow – two sides

So it seems to be Pimp Bruce Sterling Week here… but seriously, if you’re not reading Sterling you’ve a major gap in your worldview.

Here in Seed Magazine, he offers two contrasting views of the modern calamity – one written as himself, the other by his fictional Italian twin Bruno Argento.

The Chairman:

As 2009 opens, our financial institutions are deep in massive, irrational panic. That’s bad, but it gets worse: Many other respected institutions have rational underpinnings at least as frail as derivatives or bundled real-estate loans. Like finance, these institutions are social constructions. They are games of confidence, underpinned by people’s solemn willingness to believe, to conform, to contribute. So why not panic over them, too?

Il Capo:

I will venture to predict something that seems to me obvious: Eight years late, the 20th century has finally departed us this year. It will never return.

The “true” 20th century — the Communist century — began in 1914 and ended in 1989. We are now in the true 21st century.

After 1989 we enjoyed a strange interregnum where “history ended.” Everyone ran up a credit-card bill at the global supermarket. The adventure ended badly, in crisis. Still, let us be of good heart. In cold fact, a financial crisis is one of the kindest and mildest sorts of crisis a civilization can have. Compared to typical Italian catastrophes like wars, epidemics, earthquakes, volcanoes, endemic political collapse — a financial crisis is a problem for schoolchildren.

As ever, I suspect the truth falls somewhere between these – but for all our sakes, hopefully more on Bruno’s side of things.

International Fetish Day – gap – National Ban Fetish Day

The lovely Violet Blue (Not Safe For Work unless you work somewhere real interesting) reminds us Friday was International Fetish Day. A celebration of the deviancies big and small (but all consensual) that make sex interesting for so many of us.

The Consenting Adults Action Network reminds us that a mere six days after this comes the legal removal of another group of consensual fetishes rights, here in the UK:

Join us to mark the death of another freedom.

At 2-5pm

On Sunday 25th January 2009

Parliament Square

Westminster, London.

Beware the kinky porn ban!

On the eve of the kinky porn ban commencing, CAAN are back in London for another awareness raising action about laws which criminalise adults because of their sexuality. A law we don’t think the Government is publicising widely enough, which all adults who possess or access pornography need to know about.

This law is based on lack of evidence and lies!

Provisions 63-68 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 come into effect on 26th January 2009. Despite lack of evidence, the government claims criminalising of the possession of what it calls ‘extreme pornography’ will reduce sex crime. In fact, what evidence exists provides grounds for thinking this measure will have exactly the opposite effect to that intended – making sex crime MORE prevalent.

This law creates harmless criminals!

This law now gives the police the power to invade anyone’s home and interfere with their privacy. Convictions for possessing extreme porn will carry up to 3 years jail sentence and inclusion on the Sex Offender Register. Just for possessing an image.

This law gives murderers and abusers excuses!

Abuse is illegal, holding images of crimes is illegal and material which promotes abuse is illegal, and quite rightly so – so where’s the need for a new law? This law is aimed at consensually made adult fantasy images and based on the bad excuses of a murderer. “The pictures made me do it”.

This is puerile kneejerk legislation I’ve talked about in the past with great disgust. I can’t better what I said then,

Now people who have committed no crime other than making images of legal consensual sexual activities are criminals, facing up to three years prison.

Doesn’t matter if you like porn or not, especially if your tastes don’t run to BDSM or kink. The point is that in a few days, pictures of legal sex acts suddenly become illegal enough to earn you three years in prison.

Can anyone actually think of a government in our times who changed their minds about a ‘moral’ action like this? That ever apologised for harming people unnecessarily? Or took away such rights and then stopped, never breaching that line between private and public again?

No, me neither.

So enjoy your pleasures while you still can. ‘cos the odds are, your idea of fun will be going soon, too.

The fat of the land

It’s not that I mind the UK government spending millions of tax payers money to campaign against obesity, so much as I mind them using an ad campaign which shows our ancestors killing a dinosaur.

[youtube=http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=AH8zClozUV8]

Considering the drive for legitimacy by Young-Earth Creationists/Intelligent Design adherants and such, I can’t help but think they should’ve watched some Bill Hicks before commissioning the ad.

[youtube=http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=mrZcztxRquo]

I do mind that the drive is partly sponsored by Kellogs and Unilever, whose products have pushed sugary and/or fatty foods onto the British public for generations. And that the whole campaign is another attempt to foist the responsibility for dealing with a complex social and medical problem onto the public, akin to those ads which tell us to save the environment by turning off lightbulbs while the government supports major industrial polluters such as EON.

It also saddens me that the ad was made by Wallis and Grommet maestros Aardman Animation, who should know better.

What would you do with six trillion dollars?

Charlie Stross asks the best question I’ve seen in a long while:

The direct cost to the US government of the war and occupation of Iraq — counting only funds appropriated by Congress — so far runs to roughly $523Bn.

However, that’s the direct cost — money directly spent on the project. There are indirect costs, too: Joseph Stiglitz estimates the true cost of the war to be $3Tn to the United States, and $3Tn to the rest of the global economy. These are indirect costs, and factor in the long-term additional expenses that the war has accrued — everything from caring for brain-damaged soldiers for the next 50 years through to loss of economic productivity attributable to instabilities in the supply of oil from Iraq.

We can tap-dance around the indirect costs, but the direct costs (that headline figure of $523Bn) are inarguable.

So. What fun boondoggles could we have bought with either $523Bn (at the low end) or $6Tn (at the high end)?

Charlie does the math and works out that the money pissed away on The War For Oil could have paid for over 500 colonists to set up on Mars, or enough nuclear power stations to provide a quarter of the worlds electricity needs. Then asks for other suggestions.

Well… what would you do

EDIT 30 May: It’s notable just how quickly the thread replies were jumped on by wingnut neocon apologists trying to say that when Iraq 2 is ‘a success’ there’ll be loads of profit and benefit. Yeah, sure, if you’re a major shareholder in Halliburton or Blackwater…

Past rants – On taking the veil

This is me wading in on the controversy about Muslem women wearing the hijab. From 8 October 2006.

On taking the veil

I’ve been mulling over this since Jack Straw’s recent pronouncement on the subject of veiled Moslem women There have been some good comments on the subject already – my good mate Cavalorn puts Straw’s words into perspective quite nicely.

Firstly – Straw is a complete wanker. Let’s get that out of the way and move on.

Secondly – the only practical reason to ask such women not to veil their mouths is if one is deaf and cannot understand them without lip-reading.

Third – if removing barriers to communication based on facial expression is so important, why doesn’t Straw ask for sunglasses, Botox and beards to be dispensed with also?

Lastly…

Well, the short version is, “your rights end at my nose”. But as I’ve been thinking about this, my view gets a little… ranty.

Bear in mind this is just my opinion…
…I find overt displays of Christian symbols not only offensive, but nauseating. I feel that xtianity is a faith comprised of roughly equal parts hypocrisy, arrogance, blind acceptance of outdated dogma and whining passive-aggression. Speaking as someone who has never taken the easy path to spiritual belief – constantly seeking and asking questions of the Universe, altering my beliefs on the basis of life experience and trying to never assume that I have arrived at The Truth – xtianity is nothing but a form of moral and spiritual laziness, of unquestioning acceptance of contradictory and repressive ‘truth’… and it sickens me to the core. I truly think the whole belief system is dangerous and demeaning both to those who espouse it and especially those who disagree with it on any level.

And I can’t escape from these symbols. The hideous concrete cathedral down the road peals its bells whenever it wants. Xtianfuckwits wave their faith like a greasy flag on every online forum I belong to, from PDA users to Lost watchers.
I would *love* to pronounce that these wanton displays are offensive to me, or as Straw put it, “make me uncomfortable”. It would give me endless pleasure to rip crucifixes from their throats, graffiti their posters, hack their websites, render unwatchable their cable networks…
…but I don’t. Because that would be intrusive, unnecessarily aggressive and grossly wrong. It would be an act of intolerance, based purely on my emotional reaction to something I do not agree with. There are many people for whom xtianity is a worthwhile and nourishing belief – and some of them are friends of mine.

I find any belief system where you can’t question the dogma, choose to leave, or are severely punished for breach of clothing or other regulations, distasteful. But I am very aware that many find my beliefs equally odious.

Thus it is with women of Islam choosing to display their tokens of faith. You may not like it, you may even be offended by it – but you have no bloody right to order them to remove it.

I know some will say that “the veil is a symbol of women’s status as second-class members of Islam, of their spiritual bondage to a repressive patriarchal system” – and I agree they have a point. I am no fan of the extremists of that faith either. Having spent some years studying Sufi mysticism, I know that there are many paths to Islam (which means, let us not forget, ‘submission’) which do not repress women. Mohammed himself said, “woman is the twin-half of man” – not the lesser partner, but equal.

If they have chosen to take that belief – be that belief xtian, muslem or whatever – to that level, it’s their choice. It would be crass to force them out of their belief on the basis of personal distaste – and anyway, it doesn’t work. People inside a repressive belief system have to find their own way out. You can’t “rescue” them until they are ready. And you certainly can’t assume a lack of consent without very good evidence.

It’s interesting to compare this to BDSM – where the submissive chooses their lifestyle, defines their relationship with the one they submit to and expects to be treated within certain defined parameters which they accept and consent to. The key word here is ‘consent’. A lot of people find such dom/sub relationships highly offensive – many of them are xtians. But to me, a nun is exactly the same relationship, without the fun bit. If a woman consents to wearing a veil, it is her choice – and I am unsure that feminists would be on strong moral ground to argue otherwise. If the woman does not consent willingly – does so out of fear of reprisal, being outcast or even physically harmed – that is another matter entirely. I would hope that there would be ways for such to be able to leave that state… I know that it is hard to deny the ties of religion and family that bind them. But exactly the same is true of those bound to xtianity, or scientology or any other restrictive belief.

The only sensible path I can see is tolerance and honest communication. And if some of that communication has to take place through a veil – whether it be of cloth or of hardened mental attitudes – then so be it. It’s better than just resorting to hatred and war.

Past rants – Christianity is stupid

…and sometimes I just get downright pissed off.

Please – if you are (as Stephen King put it in the Dark Tower series) ‘for the Jesus-man’, read the whole piece before throwing stones.

(From 6 November 2006)

Christianity is stupid

(part of the xtianfuckwitwatch service)

I have finally fucking well had enough. It’s time to say it how it is.

Ever since the ‘election’ (which I do not for a second believe was free or fair, but that’s moot), there have been continuing reports that the Democrats want to try and appeal to ‘faith groups’ to try and win the next one. Specifically, to become more acceptable to the particular breed of Protestant Christian fundamentalism that seems to be taking over their country – just so they can be elected next time. And that this Christian hegemony are taking this ‘victory’ as a mandate to push their life-hating, woman-and-gay-phobic, world-crushing agenda.

They – and you – need to remember something important.

Christianity is Stupid.

(OK, here’s the disclaimer. Individual Christians can be perfectly intelligent and good people. But this can happen with anyone, from any faith or none at all. I never met a person who was a good person solely because of their faith. Usually, it was in spite of it.
Christians can be clever. But Christianity, like any hidebound monolithic faith, is Stupid.)

Christianity is, at root, saying that the Bible is the only source of truth possible. The only source of moral, philosophical or political validity.

Let me rephrase: A multiply (and badly) translated outdated desert survival manual for a nomadic people, full of contradictions and myth-masquerading-as-fact, metaphor-accepted-as-history and sheer hypocrisy… is The Truth and The Only Truth.
And that only those who agree with this claim have any moral code worth accepting.

Fuck off. Just fuck off and die.

There is no clear moral code in the Bible. It all depends on what you choose to emphasise. You can say the Bible teaches us to love our neighbours, to forgive sins, to try and be as a little child in order to achieve spiritual grace.
Or you could just as easily say the Bible tells its followers that throwing the priestesses of any other faith from a high building for their remains to be eaten by wild dogs, allowing your daughters to be raped by friend and foe alike, incest, child sacrifice and murdering people with tattoos who eat shellfish are acceptable moral acts.
You can take from it that Jesus loved the poor, the meek, the downtrodden, even women in the sex trade – or that the whole Sermon on the Mount thing was all about making money (as the Prosperity Theology branch claim…).
And before you mention it… it’s clear that the Ten Commandments mean fuck all to the Bush-supporting Christians. Especially those little bits about murder and theft.

(Obligatory Bill Hicks Quote; “They say the Bible is the exact word of God.. then they change the Bible. Pretty presumptuous, don’t you think? ‘I think what God meant to say was…’ “)

And then, most laughably, they call the newer multi-model modes of belief ‘pick and mix religion’ ! When practically all their rituals, saints and demons are stolen from every religion they exterminated or country they conquered – all in the name of their Prince of Peace…

It’s times like this that I understand why the theory of evolution scares them so much.
It’s not so much that the theory challenges their version of history, or their precious Book. I think it’s far more the idea of evolution as a metaphor, the concept that societies and individuals can move away from past moribund structures and adapt to new conditions, that they must change, that really puts the fear in them. Because their ideas, their ‘faith’, are all inert. Only capable of retrograde movement if any. Dead words mouthed by dead souls.

Their whole life view is so totally removed from anything in the actions of their supposed prophet, or life in the modern world, it would be laughable if it wasn’t for the current re-enactment of the Crusades.

It’s literally like watching Future Shock enacted in front of your eyes. The main reaction to fear of the future, of a complex changing society, is to retreat into simple, narrow, fundamentalist beliefs and try to deny all other realities. The United States has, in the term coined in Judge Dredd, ‘Gone Futzy’.

So, to recap:

Believing the Bible is anything but a set of myths and outdated behavioural codes is stupid.

Treating those who act in such a stupid way as possessors of moral superiority – stupider still.

Accepting the moral authority of someone giving that belief as justification for their actions, especially actions which involve mass murder, the deaths of countless children, lying on an epic scale, corruption and the blending of church, state and money (the last of which I seem to recall was the only thing that ever got Jesus angry…) – complete fucking idiocy.

Thinking you are always right if you believe the above and everyone else who disagrees with you in the slightest way is wrong and evil – clinical brain death.

Despite the above… I do have some sympathy for those Christians in the US who are anti-Bush, not afraid of the modern world or complex thought and do not use their belief as an excuse to persecute those who differ in faith. Theirs is a tough path right now. But they won’t find their answers in that book of theirs – or in any single book, belief or perspective.
The only answers for times like these are found within, and from talking to people of good conscience and moral honour, whatever they believe God to be. From learning, adapting, evolving.

Even the Bush regime itself has bluntly said they are ‘creating their own realities’ these days.
They should not, can not, be the only ones.

And most of those realities, the healthy ones that will endure and thrive, shall come from living minds, not dead books.

Though it’s not very ‘wound-healing’ or ‘bridge-building’, I think the best thing that can be done in America right now is to emphasise everything non-Christian (or at least their idea of Christian) that you can.
(Not ‘Satanism’ – that’s just Christianity’s Loyal Opposition.)

For example…
Ever wondered why Christianity is so down on gay sex, masturbation, contraception, abortion and such?
It’s ‘cos in a nomadic desert community, the gene pool is really, really shallow. You can’t waste food and resources on any members (pun intended) who have non-reproductive sex. The reason for the rules was forgotten by the priests ages ago – only the phobia remains.
Plus, of course, non-reproductive sex (especially the Great Unmentionable Taboo of sex with a menstruating woman) are powerful acts in sex magic…
So use that magic! Raise that orgone! Live and love freely, banish the fear with your desire – and be as out about it as you can. Show them they don’t live in the world they think they do. Protest your right to consensual love and sex as a religious freedom – because it is.
(Sod the Left Wing – long live the Left Hand Path!)

Challenge them every step of the way.

If they insist on the Ten Commandments being in your courthouse, demand Buddha’s Nine Truths be there too. Or quotes from Harry Potter, Dune, Star Wars! Any book or story you find any kind of truth in can be spiritually valid – especially considering their example…

If the local church gets funding from the government for ‘faith-based’ social initiatives, found a church yourself and go after the same cash! Use their self-proclaimed rights against them.
Never ever let their words, their memes, stay unchallenged.

This is cultural Germ Warfare. Mind viruses battling. Unless you can get the immune system of your culture active, America will die of something worse than any physical disease.
It’ll die because it has poisoned its own soul.

And if you still believe in your soul you are a Christian – then listen to what Jesus said, act as Jesus did – not how his posthumous corrupt priests want you to act. It’s the priests, not Jesus, who want you to be unquestioning obedient sheep for them.

It’s Christianity, not the following of the way of Jesus, that is Stupid.

“It is easy to be a criminal. In this world, it is very hard work to be human.
They are drunk, and they do no work, and they are all criminals.
If you try and wake them or sober them, they will be terrified and try to kill you.
Be as gentle as doves and as subtle as serpents.

“These words shall not be understood until the male becomes female, and the female becomes male.

“If you fast, you will create great evils. If you pray, you will be cursed. If you obey the law, you will lose your souls.
But act from the light within and you will do well. Heal the sick, console the dying, make jokes in the face of the wise and teach only one thing: the Kingdom of Heaven is here and now. Smash, smash the old laws and wake from the lie that all men believe.”

Jesus, Nag-Hammadi Scrolls.