Archive for August 8th, 2008

Not For The High Jump

In the Farmleigh gallery at the moment there’s an exhibition of Korean art that I plan on visiting at some stage, titled To Have or To Be, based on the book by Erich Fromm that explained how humans must struggle between two separate modes of existence – that of ‘having’ and ‘being’. I read it a few years back, and was impressed by it. Seeing the wall-to-wall coverage of the Olympics this last couple of days, I recalled that he made mention of the Olympics in it, so I hoked out the book:

It is not necessary to prove that the history of Europe is a history of conquest, exploitation, force, subjugation. Hardly any period is not characterized by these factors, no race or class exempted, often including genocide, as with the American Indians, and even such religious enterprises as the Crusades are no exception. Was this behavior only outwardly economically or politicially motivated, and were the the slave traders, the rulers of India, the killers of Indians, the British who forced the Chinese to open their land to the import of opium, the instigators of two World Wars and those who prepare the next war, were all these Christians in their hearts? Or were perhaps only the leaders rapacious pagans while the great mass of the population remained Christians? If this were so, we might feel more cheerful. Unfortunately it is not so. To be sure, the leaders were often more rapacious than their followers because they had more to gain, but they could not have realized their plans were it not that the wish to conquer and to be victorious was and still is part of the social character.

One has only to recall the wild, crazy enthusiasm with which people participated in the various wars of the past two centuries- the readiness of millions to risk national suicide in order to protect the image of “the strongest power”, or of “honor,” or of profits. And for another example, consider the frenzied nationalism of people watching the contemporary Olympic Games, which allegedly serve the cause of peace. Indeed, the popularity of the Olympic Games is in itself a symbolic expression of Western paganism. They celebrate the pagan hero: the winner, the strongest, the most self-assertive, while overlooking the dirty mixture of business and publicity that characterizes the contemporary imitation of the Greek Olympic Games.



My Father’s Father’s Father’s Car Was A Jaguar Who Danced With The Prince Of Wales

Ya, so I was going to write something yesterday about the rank stupidity of these news pieces about how Barack Obama’s ancestor was a wigmaker or whatever, and I was going to say that for a republic, the US sure takes a mighty interest in the blood lineage of its statesmen. And then I was going to add, but hang on: aren’t these news stories just PR-generated fluff on behalf of companies looking to attract people with with more money than sense? And then I thought, nyeh, I won’t bother. Then I come across this, in The Daily Mail. Apparently Victoria Beckham’s great-great-great grandfather was a close friend of Karl Marx. ‘Out of Your Mind’ can now be added to a very long list of heinous things for which Marx is partly responsible, including the Khmer Rouge and the Stalinist terror.

No Riff Raft

Sam Carter lost consciousness after contracting severe anaemia but was brought back to life when “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” was blared into his ears.

This is weird, because this morning I woke up hearing the riff to the very same song. And then I lay awake and started thinking about guitar riffs and how -sigh- you never hear new songs with decent ones. Like Satisfaction, or -the next one that came to mind- Rebel Rebel.

Take the new Hold Steady album, which apparently has anoraks everywhere empurpled with enthusiasm (I personally think it sounds like Rocket From The Crypt after a big feed of spuds): lots of hard and angry rocking, but not a single riff on it that captures the imagination or the memory.

Any decent riffs, anyone?

Anxiety of Affluence

There is a fairly good comment piece on affluence in the Irish Times today, fairly good in the sense that it doesn’t try and get its point across through references to yummy mummies buying their organic swordfish and sweet potato baby foods at Lidl these days, though I don’t agree with much of it.

It’s by Michael Casey, who is former chief economist of the Central Bank and a member of the board of the International Monetary Fund, and therefore something approaching an evil capitalist supernumerary who may or may not occasionally take the form of a giant lizard. Not that these details should detain us too much.

I myself was not on top of Croagh Patrick on the day Michael Casey says an assertion was made that affluence in Ireland has led to materialism and has damaged our value system, but I presume he is referring to the homily by Archbishop Michael Neary, in which no such assertion was made.

What he did talk about -I checked the homily on, which was mainly about vocations- was how consumer values could seduce, and reduce everything to wealth and security. He said ‘In the midst of our recent wealth and prosperity, we failed to find the inner joy, peace and faith that we might have expected’. This was evidently true for those who had traipsed up Croagh Patrick -including some nutters barefoot- to hear him preach instead of, say, going ape with a credit card in Dundrum. But that was all he said. If he thought that affluence in se was harmful, he didn’t say so.

So when Casey says:

The assertion that affluence leads to a poorer value system is precisely that – an assertion.

One is inclined to reply, yes, but the assertion that the assertion that affluence leads to a poorer value system is precisely that – an assertion- is precisely that – an assertion, and one aimed at a straw man.

There are other questions raised by the piece, however, which I might take a look at in another post if I get the time.

Procreative Accounting

Having failed miserably in previous attempts at doing a post on religion every first Friday, I launch my latest effort today, in the hope of another eight in a row and eternal salvation.

David Quinn is going hardcore -conservative hardcore- on us today:

Since its beginning, the Church has taught that only men can be ordained because Christ was a man and because his Apostles were men. But liberals dismiss this argument on various grounds, the chief one being that it creates inequality within the Church. With regard to human sexuality, the Church has always taught that sex has a meaning and a purpose beyond the act itself and that it finds its true meaning only if it takes place within a permanent loving relationship and if the relationship is open to the procreation of children.

This makes it intrinsically heterosexual. Ordaining sexually active homosexuals would radically change the Church’s teaching on sex.

Ordaining sexually active heterosexuals would also radically change the Church’s teaching on sex, of course, but more interesting is the fact that the ‘it’ in the second paragraph refers to human sexuality in the first. So: human sexuality is intrinsically heterosexual. What this means from this perspective, inter alia, is that any hot and steamy encounter between Adam and Steve is based on the fact that Adam really desires Steve to be Eve, and Steve also really desires Adam to be Eve. But the phantasmic support, to use a Žižekian term, of this encounter would be the figure of two women having sex, which is not -despite the protests of some straight men clutching their copies of Club International- intrinsically heterosexual.

Another thing: if the true meaning of sex is only found when a relationship is open to the procreation of children (sic), this means that sex between heterosexual couples, who for whatever reason -age, illness, firing blanks- are unable to conceive, lacks true meaning. Unless, that is, they are open to the procreation of children even when it is physically impossible. So for two 80 year olds are to have a meaningful sexual relationship, they must be open to the possibility of a little nipper coming along 9 months later. How this works in practice, I have no idea. A prayer to Saint Elizabeth beforehand perhaps?

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August 2008
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