Archive for January, 2008



Ex-centricity

Johann Hari:

Al-Qa’ida is increasingly shaped like the internet, with no centre, just thousands of connecting cables at the perimeter, because it is increasingly a product of the internet.

Leaving aside the perplexing matter of how one might in fact determine the actual shape of the internet, how can something have a perimeter without a centre? Does his idea of a centre come from gravy rings and Polo mints?

The teachers are afraid of the pupils

I came across this story via A Tiny Revolution:

A 5-year-old boy was handcuffed and hauled off to a psych ward for misbehaving in kindergarten – but the tot’s parents say NYPD school safety agents are the ones who need their heads examined.

‘School safety agents’? Handcuffs? Psych ward? Christ on a hang-glider.

I am always reluctant to infer anything about a societal tendency from comments posted on a weblog or a newspaper article, but I couldn’t resist highlighting a few of those that appear on this one:

we as citzens act like it’s so terrible that the child was handcuffed, it has been proven he has a patterrn of misconduct

How can someone yet to learn how to tie shoelaces be said to have a pattern of misconduct?

Maybe if us parents better control our kids then outside authorities will not be forced to make a disicion on whether to handcuff this kids.

Poor authorities: always having to make the decisions for us!

Last week one 5 year old made a pistol gesture of shooting my wife in the head, she is actually afraid to go back and fears for our child.

Eh….

I was not there so I do not know if cuffing the kid was needed.

Yes, statistically speaking, of the millions of 5 year olds the world over, there are bound to be some to be bound. Some of them are 6 ft 5 and carry machetes.

The kid doesnt have like an angel face if you really look closely

They should develop a profiling system to detect little devils early. Nurses performing headlice checks could also look out for the number of the beast.

Stop the cuddling & limp-wrist-pansy ca-cah. WE were spanked since Biblical times;

I wish people would quit the whinnying about ethnic cleansing. WE have been doing it since we did it to the Canaanites.

Seems like the newspaper is attempting to bias the reading towards the childs side.

At last – a voice of sanity! We need to hear both sides of the story here. As a general observation, we never get to hear enough about the rapist’s side of the story either.

The VAST majority of scientists, top surgeons, world leaders throughout the world, etc were also spanked & they turned out OK.

General Suharto was spanked. And he lived to 86!

Everyone wants to defend the poor little 5 year old, but what solutions are you offering?

It’s all very well to say you’re against cannibalism. But if you’re not putting forward serious suggestions about what cannibals should eat instead, I’m afraid you’re part of the problem.

To put the police in a situation where they had to restrain a young boy is unacceptable.

The police are the ones I feel really sorry for.

If I ever cut up at home I would get my a$$ beat, which is why I would never act up in school because then a phone call home would get me a triple a$$-whippen. It’s a cruel part of childhood, but necessary.

The police should be going after the real criminals: the ones who never beat their chilluns’ asses.

Avowal Movements

To be clear: agreeing with the Pope and David Quinn in consecutive posts is not a sign that I am somehow on the turn. However, Mr Quinn has an article about Franciscan friars and religious orders in general, and I have some sympathy with his view that the good they do is overlooked. Yet:

These vows could not be more anti-modern. Vowing never to have sex strikes a lot of us as being a denial of life itself. But maybe that’s because we over-value sex.

But isn’t vowing never to have sex also over-valuing sex? Suppose I take a solemn vow to never eat a Dime bar (or Daim or whatever the hell it’s called these days) for as long as I live because it gets the way of my earthly duties. Others might see this as extreme, but if they do it isn’t because they over-value Dime bars. Yet I seem to think that my abstaining from eating Dime bars means that I can get on with doing my duties, such as halting the moral decline of the human race. And I seem to think that if I don’t abstain from eating them, my project is doomed. Am I not over-valuing Dime bars by denying my own capacity to get on with things? (Some liberal and conservative commentators may reply that there is no ‘moral equivalence’ between Dime bars and sex, to which I reply: it depends how good the Dime bar is, or how bad the sex)

It may not be that sex, or Dime bars, or any other object of desire is over-valued: it may be that vowing itself is overvalued. That’s why the idea of the sacred has to be brought into things: the conditions underpinning any written contract can change, rendering the contract null and void, but you can no more change the conditions of a sacred vow than you can eat your own head. It is a kind of extremism, externalising the responsibility for your conduct: you are no longer accountable to yourself, but to the vow you have made. In the case of Franciscan friars, this is probably benign enough for the rest of us, but the general principle that sacred vows are good can have all sorts of awful consequences. It means, for instance, that you might justify blowing up that apartment block full of civilians because your sworn oath to your homeland demands that you do it.

Pope: No Dope

Unfortunately, though, (communications media) risk being transformed into systems aimed at subjecting humanity to agendas dictated by the dominant interests of the day. This is what happens when communication is used for ideological purposes or for the aggressive advertising of consumer products. While claiming to represent reality, it can tend to legitimize or impose distorted models of personal, family or social life. Moreover, in order to attract listeners and increase the size of audiences, it does not hesitate at times to have recourse to vulgarity and violence, and to overstep the mark. The media can also present and support models of development which serve to increase rather than reduce the technological divide between rich and poor countries.

The Pope. I hope those nincompoops who produce right-wing Catholic crapsheet for cannibals Alive! take heed of his message. I receive that particular periodical through my letterbox each month, and I always mean to comment on it here, but never seem to get around to it. Not now, though. Only to comment that whereas I might interpret the above as meaning that media production under capitalism serves capitalist interest, the columnist for Alive! takes it as meaning that the Pope is denouncing the gay agenda promulgated by the likes of Pat Kenny who interviews homosexuals on the Late Late show. He may, of course, mean both things.

Anyway, Ratzinger generally has interesting things to say, which is an improvement on the last chap.

Today, communication seems increasingly to claim not simply to represent reality, but to determine it, owing to the power and the force of suggestion that it possesses. It is clear, for example, that in certain situations the media are used not for the proper purpose of disseminating information, but to “create” events.

I can agree with that.

Diddly Squat

On Sunday The Observer published a hatchet job by Nick Cohen on Ken Livingstone. The usual sort of thing you see from disenchanted leftists of a certain inclination, with tales of dark deeds from vile sects, but there was one line in particular that jarred with me: this description of Gerry Healy of the Workers’ Revolutionary party.

The cult’s main purpose, however, was to worship the personality of its great leader, Gerry Healy, a squat, bombastic Irishman and a rapist as near as damn it.

Cohen is offering a moral judgement here, based on the history of a person who existed in fact, not a novelistic invention. For him to give the details on Healy’s height, disposition and nationality alongside the accusation that the man was a rapist (which may well be true, I have no idea) is to relate the former categories and the latter.

So then – this was no ordinary rapist: he was a short-arse. Not only was he a short-arse, he was an Irish short-arse. And not only was he an Irish short-arse, he was an Irish short-arse loudmouth . And if there’s one thing worse than a rapist, it’s an Irish short-arse loudmouth rapist. We are invited to understand, by implication, that there are other categories of rapist preferable. An Irish loudmouth short-arse rapist may be worse than, say, a soft-spoken strapping English rapist.

That is a generous interpretation of his description, even if it says something about Cohen’s attitude towards short people and Irishmen. A less generous interpretation would be that Cohen sees a causative relationship between Healy’s squatness, his bombast and his Irishness, and the ‘fact’ (like I said, I have no idea) the man was a rapist. This would mean he thinks Bono to be a more likely rapist than Hugh Laurie. Which would an outrageously racist thing to say, quite frankly.

Suckin’ Wiesel

Tom Kelly took to quoting Elie Wiesel in his eulogy for the SDLP:

Elie Wiesel, the author and survivor of Auschwitz and Buchenwald speaking at the millennium lecture series in 1999 asked the two questions about the legacy of the 20th century and how it would be judged. He said it will be judged severely in “both moral and metaphysical terms”. He said the failures were self-evident: “two world wars, countless civil wars, the senseless assassinations of Gandhi, Kennedy, King, Sadat, Rabin, bloodbaths in Cambodia, Nigeria, India, Kosovo and Ireland”. Yes, he included us as part of what he called the “failures that cast a dark shadow over humanity in the 20th century”. In his words: “so much violence, so much indifference”.

Indifference to Wiesel is a “strange and unnatural state in which the lines blur between light and darkness, dusk and dawn, crime and punishment, cruelty and compassion, good and evil”.

Barfff!! The mention of Ireland in the speech, whilst certainly the sort of thing that makes your average SDLP member’s heart swell with pride since it appears to put Ireland on the world stage yet again, was no doubt an ingratiating hat-tip to his host, Bill Clinton, who had recently had something to do with the Belfast Agreement.

Wiesel is no stranger to bouts of indifference himself, as Christopher Hitchens once pointed out, in an article where he described him as a a ‘poseur and windbag who receives (and takes as his due) such grotesque deference on moral questions.’

In 1982, after Gen. Ariel Sharon had treated the inhabitants of the Sabra and Shatila camps as target practice for his paid proxies, Wiesel favored us with another of his exercises in neutrality. Asked by the New York Times to comment on the pogrom, he was one of the few American Jews approached on the matter to express zero remorse. “I don’t think we should even comment,” he said, proceeding to comment bleatingly that he felt “sadness– with Israel, and not against Israel.” For the victims, not even a perfunctory word.

and furthermore:

the bulk of US overseas military aid is about to be lavished on a man (Ariel Sharon) who stood with hands on hip, in belt and boots and steel helmet and binoculars, and saw a mound of human corpses rise, and who thought it good. For this outcome, the soil has been manured by the beautiful thoughts of Elie Wiesel.

That was back in the day when Hitchens wasn’t an apologist for imperialist wars of aggression. Perhaps his tune on Wiesel had changed by the time both men had declared their support for the Iraq war.

Didst Thou Eye Up My Pint

Citations from these took the place of conventional greetings. Precocious students would call to each other across a crowded Grafton Street: “Thou hast committed fornication”; and a loud reply was supposed to come: “But that was in another country, and besides, the wench is dead.” Not that we had read The Jew of Malta, the source of that exchange — we had read Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus, but not The Jew — but we knew that bit of dialogue because T.S. Eliot had used it as an epigraph to his Portrait of a Lady. Adepts of insult would regularly intone to a friend: “Thou hast nor youth nor age, but as it were an after dinner sleep, dreaming of both” — again one of Eliot’s epigraphs, this one from his poem “Gerontion.” But I soon exempted myself from such theatricalities, especially when I started finding my social life among the young musicians.

You wouldn’t hear that sort of thing across a crowded Grafton Street these days, since the intervening years have brought deleterious effects of televisual communication on people’s eloquence and the domination of that thoroughfare by men covered in metallic paint and throngs entranced by the strains of some tube playing the Hamlet advert with a saw. The closest you might hear is ‘you charity collectors are total fuckers’.


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