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Semiformalishmaybe

The only thing worse than real twits

RDR results are up. Looks like I ran a bit over an 8 minute mile. On a track. Oh well, whatever. On the way back to central SqHill that evening, I saw my would-be running nemesis running on Fnord, and given that I heard at the race that he's become a crazy runner since five years ago, maybe it's good that he wasn't there. I am pleasantly sore today.

Unfortunately or fortunately, the race allowed me to cough the sinusgoo out of my lungs, and I decided to plant my flag on them and keep them clear. This is resulted in lots of coughing, sneezing, and a feeling of terrible rawness in my throat and lungs, although it is probably better than the alternative of always feeling like there's a bit of water in there. Probably. If not, at least it keeps the cats entertained.

Spending the day in the Southside - Joseph-Beth's new location utterly sucks (it's maybe half the size it was before, and entire sections of books disappeared). The Beehive, as always, is nice. More sketching - trying to work on shadows.

A bit of political babbling:

Sarah Palin recently made news by defending Franklin Graham (son of well-known preacher Billy Graham) in his characterisation of Islam as a "very evil and wicked religion", more heavily criticising his disinvitation to speak at a National Day of Prayer event.

What does this mean? Let's look at it from two lenses, first politically and second philosophically.

Politically, it was a risky move, depending on how we look at how governance works in a country. If we believe in the theory that statesmen are chosen by the people for their own merits and are meant to exercise their own judgement (election as pre-judging what kind of person there is), then there's not necessarily a problem - in this model, the degree of vestedness people have in their government is mediated wholly through that electoral process, caveat emptor, and if they dislike it, they should try harder to elect someone they like next time. If we believe instead in politicians who have a continuing obligation to listen to the will of the people and act primarily as their voice ("hard" versions of this would have politicians be truly apolitical) and representative, it *is* a problem because by taking so strong a public stance against Islam, she risks radicalisation of all American Muslims against the government. For her party, she risks cementing the "no place else to go"-ness of American Muslims being Democrats (and by analogy, any other group she might manage to offend with similar statements. Are there any benefits? Possibly a few - she fires up her base, strengthens ties between Republican libertarians and religious conservatives in the party (sometimes causing great concern for people and institutions of one or the other factions), and she might gain some respect from people in the mainstream who are concerned at Islamification (either theoretically and baselessly, for most people, or for the rare conservative who is familiar with issues in France and Amsterdam). This isn't to say that she understands these matters - she's likely shooting from the hip.

Note that above I used the phrasing "public stance" - let's consider that as our introduction to larger issues. Ordinarily, as adults, we have a number of opinions that others don't agree with - we don't live in a monoculture, and various associations we have aim to move our worldview around on various topics. A mainstream Christian (conforming to the Nicene Creed) makes truth claims (metaphysical and other) that differ from those of Islam, Judaism, vague religiosity, and various secular perspectives. While there are circumstances where these naturally contentious topics are raised, ordinarily we don't play them up if we want to coexist with, tolerate, get along with, or have friends with people on other sides of these various divisions. We tolerate, as best we can, the notion that by our perspectives, we might imagine others going to some bad afterlife, failing to meet their obligations of humanity, and other topics, and learn to recognise when, with whom, and how far we can broach the topics comfortably (nevermind the more difficult situation of when a jerk broaches them at a bad time, with the wrong person, or in the wrong way and we happen to be around). By broaching, I generally refer to bringing them up as something relevant to our relations to someone - we might express ourselves publicly in one forum (even one where several other people might hear) without broaching it in the concept of our personal relations - so long as we don't use spit words excessively, that generally not very destructive (for example, if I had a christian friend, they might preach on TV that without Christ we can't live a truly moral life, and even if I see it that topic may remain unexplored between us - we could likely get along .. however, if they went on TV and insulted nonreligious people at great lengths, the topic would remain unexplored but I'd likely have a tough time relating to them - the difference between insult and truth claims in this case is essential but tricky to understand). Another analogy of what this broaching is would be if person A likes person B, and person A lets their friends know and person B hears. In that case, the attraction is known but not broached.

This is a more generic form of broaching (a group-group rather than group-person relation). It will have the consequences of that kind of broaching though, whereas were she to have kept this type of disapproval quieter, coexistence would've been simpler.

Two relevant other cases:

  • The British National Party recently issued its 2010 manifesto summarised here and in its full 94-page form here. In some ways, the BNP is very similar to the US Republican party (in the UK they're generally considered far-right kooks), but in others, by rejecting the strongly multiculturalist consensus they're trying to do something interesting. We might decompose the goals of the BNP into a number of interests - the suspicion of deep multiculturalism isn't something I have a problem, although most of the rest I find highly disturbing.
  • South Park recently was in the news for kinda-sorta depicting Mohammad for their 200th show, provoking death threats from some groups. Like abortion sometimes is, the American reaction to this is not aligned consistently along party lines (the 2x2 truth table of lib-cons approve-disapprove is full). Among the cons-approve, I imagine there are two camps - those who either are jingoist for Conservative America and delight in mockery of Islam (who manage to overlook or are unaware of the mockery of Jesus on the show), and those who have a culturally libertene bent and consider mockery of any/all religion kosher. Is South Park a wonderful cultural work like Salman Rushdie's novels? No - it's an occasionally funny comic that's survived long past its due because low-cynicism is hip. Does it actually stand for anything (in the way the Jyllands cartoon controversy was symbolic)? Nope. Nontheless, it is within the pale and it serves our purposes - apart from some reasonably few limitations (immediate danger, incitement, some forms of racism and sexism), we are committed to allowing criticism and even mockery in society - we require these tools to achieve our ends and to allow the proper criticisms aimed at us to keep any organisations we might form working correctly.
Maybe we need to consider first a difference between knowledge imbued in relationships and self-expression, and consider both bleedover between those positions and what someone might intend to use them for. I may not be entirely happy that there's a single religious person in office, but so long as I don't think they're going to use their position for religious ends and so long as they don't say things that amount to disenfranchising me, I'd be ok with them and judge them more by their job performance and the value-laden benefit to society. Even if they think I'm going to be punished by their deity after I die.

One more thing - I really doubt the value of having a National Day of Prayer, as well as the direction of these ecumenical efforts led by the state. Apart from sometimes leading people to say things that are untrue (all religions really are the same and anyone who differs is heretical), they exclude the possibility of doing something more interesting - directly talking about what actually is in common and trying to work some notion of that into a type of civics. It's too easy for people to become seduced by the "can't we all just get along" and abandon the frankness needed for honesty, given the current momentum.

Also, this article on the removal of Paul Kurtz from the Center for inquiry board is pretty interesting. I'm leaning towards supporting Kurtz, both because I think he's right that it's more important to provide the next step for those who have stepped into the broad waters of Atheism, and because there are already groups that just focus on getting people into the water. I don't accept secular humanism as being the right life-philosophy (it seems to be a codification of bland American "liberalism"), but I think the focus on providing one is very important. Blasphemy day isn't something to be deeply ashamed of - it might occasionally draw some attention, but it should be at most the opening to a combo - draw attention, get the word out that people looking for secular philosophies don't have to be alone, and then be ready to talk about the societies and philosophies one actually can provide. Without that second part, there's little point.

Where Nietzsche was strongest (and where he's most misunderstood) is that in his critiques of the corpse of Christian thought, he portrayed nihilism as being a phase we would pass through on our way to reinventing ourselves. Until we hold that funeral, we're not free to move beyond shallow forms of liberalism into something deeply better (like with Kurtz, I disagree with Nietzsche on the next directions, but applaud the perspective and effort). That nihilism cannot be a final destination unless we crave self-destruction - the cynicism of Shiva must be paired with the creativity of Brahma (or Atropos with Clotho, if you prefer Greek symbolism).

Just discovered that Chumbawamba's 「Un」 and Firewater's 「Golden Hour」 are two CDs that mix very well.

Also, Parthenogenesis is fascinating. Sadly, the Parthenon is not named after it. I am kind of tempted to try to extend that into Parthenom de Plum, but I'm pretty sure people would groan if they read that. This reminds me that I still have not gotten around to seeing the Parthenon in Nashville. Sigh. OTOH, it might be interesting to plan a trip of seeing the Nashville Parthenon and then the ruins of the real Parthenon as part of a single trip.

Seems that I'm seeing a lot of phishmails purporting to be from twitter recently - similarly, I'm glad to have left Facebook - it seems to have become utterly terrible about communicating its privacy and sharing policies recently, from what I read.

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