Archive for the 'allahu akbar' Category

Bikini Kirill: Pussy Riot and Civil Disobedience

Why are you arresting me, I’m practising civil disobedience?!

During this age of latte liberals we’ve forgotten the actual purpose of civil disobedience.  It’s not because you have anything particularly interesting to say.  Anyone can say “fuck the system.”  True courage lies in being willing to give up your own freedom for something you believe in.  In fact I’d go so far as to say civil disobedience is pointless if you don’t get arrested or otherwise persecuted.  No one would read How I Didn’t Get Sent to the Gulag by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn or Andrei Sakharov’s I’m Still a Well Respected Physicist Working for a System I Abhor.  And so now that three members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot have been sentenced to two years in prison what are we to make of it all?

I’ll admit, it took me a little while to warm up to Pussy Riot.  First, their name is absolutely ridiculous (though I must say it’s amusing to hear so many straight-laced newsreaders being forced to pronounce it, like a modern day “Deep Throat”).  Second, I’ve never really “gotten” the whole riot grrrl movement.  There seems to be more emphasis on anger than song structure (although I do quite enjoy latter day Sleater-Kinney).  In general I just don’t like angry people.  It’s possible to combat injustice while keeping a cool head.

But Pussy Riot is a bit different.  They aren’t really a proper band per se.  They haven’t released any albums and their public performances are not so much concerts as they are political theatre.  And that’s what their performance in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour was: theatre.  It was horribly offensive and incredibly attention-grabbing.  It got the job done… sort of.  The thing is now everybody seems to be focused solely on Pussy Riot rather then the message they were trying to convey.  And their current message is protesting the close relationship between the Kremlin and the Russian Orthodox Church, the latter of which is currently being led by a less-than-saintly man named Kirill.

Oh, Patriarch Kirill.  He is a man that values mammon over God, he has KGB skeletons in his closet, he’s BFF with Putin and a supporter of Lukashenko.  He sees himself as the leader of all Eastern Orthodox Christians and has schemed with Turkey to limit the power of the communion’s real primus inter pares, Patriarch Bartholomew.  He’s also a magician, known for his famous disappearing watch trick.  Swell guy, really.  And the Russian Orthodox Church has always had a far too close relationship with the government.  The only time it wasn’t close was during the Soviet era when it was more or less illegal.  Even then during World War II the church had close ties with Stalin who used it as a tool to drum up nationalism.  So asking for a little separation isn’t unreasonable.

It would appear the band members are not Christians, which is unfortunate.  I mean, I don’t care what they personally believe it but it would lend more legitimacy.  It’s like when veterans criticize war, you always take it more seriously.  But it seems they have plenty of Orthodox followers, including one of their lawyers, and they are certainly no strangers to the Bible.  Their closing statements at the trial are riddled with biblical quotations and other religious allusions.  My favourite was Nadezhda Tolokonnikova’s reference of yurodstvo, which is the concept of performing foolish and outrageous actions for the love of Christ.  Seriously, the statements, although long, are well worth the read.

So does that mean I think they should be released?  Not necessarily.  What they did was still offensive (although they have apologized for that part) and even here in the free world they would have at least received a fine.  But more importantly is the issue of media coverage.  I think they should stay in prison because that way at least the issue has a chance to stay in the headlines for a bit longer.  If they are released it will all be forgotten.  Make no mistake, it will be forgotten eventually, regardless.  After all, when was the last time you heard anything about Mikhail Khordokovsky?  He’s still in jail and the government that put him there is still in power.  So I’m not really concerned that Maria Alyokhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova are in prison.  I’m more concerned that Vladimir Putin isn’t.

The Economist: The Pussy Riot verdict: An amazing piece of political theatre
The Economist: Turkey and Russia: Old rivals, new partners
BBC News: Russian Orthodox Church defiant over Pussy Riot trial
The New York Times: In Russia, a Watch Vanishes Up Kirill’s Sleeve
n+1: Pussy Riot Closing Statements
YouTube: Pussy Riot-Punk Prayer.mp4

Throw the Irish to the dogs

I strongly disagree with the EU bailing out Ireland in this time of crisis.  It is because I am reminded of another crisis in European history, a much, much more serious one in which Ireland turned its back on its continental brethren.

On July 17, 1941, continuing from a conversation started the previous day, TD James Dillon (possibly the greatest Irishman of the 20th century) gave an impassioned speech to the Dáil Committee on Finance.  Appealing to the deeply Christian nature of the Irish nation he, among other things said the following:

I say to-day that the German Nazi Axis seeks to enforce on every small nation in Europe the same beastly tyranny that we successfully fought 700 years to prevent the British Empire imposing on this country. I say—and I say it on the authority of Our Holy Father the Pope—that Germany in every small country which she has conquered has sought, not only to establish political domination, but to impose on the conquered peoples an atheist church which derides Christianity and which forbids the people of those States to serve God according to their consciences. I say—and here again I claim the authority of the Holy Father for the statement—that the Nazi domination, in every small State in Europe where it has been established, imposes upon the Christian peoples of those countries the obligation to choose between the Reich and Christ, and that statement is quoted further from the Pastoral Letter from the German Bishops to their own people.
Naval and air bases are required in this country by the United States of America and Great Britain.

The immediate response from deputy Andrew Fogarty summed up the views of every other Irish politician on the threat posed by Nazi Germany: I say the Deputy should be removed out of the House. I will put him out—quick, the corner-boy. If he does not shut his —mouth we will shut it for him.

In reality, I do believe aid should be given to the Irish but I think it should be accompanied with a formal condemnation of their actions, past and present, of moral relativism.  Neutrality is a war crime unto itself.

“Woman Is the Nigger of the World”

This one is long and disjointed but it’s important.

Woman Is the Nigger of the World” – John Lennon wrote that song in the early ’70s and I only just recalled it when I was part way through this post. Sadly, although there have been many advances, the phrase still rings true today.

There’s also something else I read from this phrase though I’m unsure if Lennon meant it to be seen this way.  We are obsessed with the idea of racism as the king of all evils.  During the apartheid era, due to its treatment of black people as second?class citizens, South Africa was ostracized by the international community, and rightly so.  But yet today, there are dozens of countries in Africa and Asia that treat women as second?class citizens and not only do they escape ostracism but many are recipients of Western aid.

The common justification for all this is “tradition”, which is b?b?b?bullshit.  Tradition is the reason people play the violin on top of buildings, it doesn’t justify the deprivation of basic human rights.

Last year I visited a local mosque, the Waterloo Masjid.  The imam seemed nice enough but there were a few things that really bothered me.  First, there were separate entrances for men and women.  That by itself, would irritate me but I could live with it.  What was completely unacceptable was that there were segregated worship spaces.  Only men were allowed in the main sanctuary and women had the “choice” of praying in an enclosed balcony above or in a separate room where the prayer leader was visible via closed?circuit television.  Now I’ve heard various reasons for why this is done, most of them from non?Muslim sources but really, I don’t care.  What if at my church (which, incidentally has a female pastor) it was decided that all the Asian people would be banished to a little room by themselves.  That would easily make the front page of the local newspaper; the outrage would be legendary.  Sex segregation is common in mosques worldwide.  Ironically one place where men and women worship together: Mecca.

Not to single out the Muslims, many churches, the Roman Catholics in particular, bar women from their most influential positions (e.g. priesthood).  Justification for this stems from an obsession with 1 Timothy 2:12 and a few other select verses, ignoring all evidence to the contrary. It should be noted that none of these passages are present in the four gospels but rather come from the letters of the Apostle Paul who has a reputation for inventing shit that Jesus himself never said.

I realize race and sex are not the same thing.  There are some forms of sex segregation that have proven quite useful, for example, sports and washrooms.  These relate to the biological differences between men and women and not some imaginary social constructs.  As far as washrooms go, I haven’t been in a women’s washroom for quite some time but from what I can recall as toddler, they truly were separate but equal.  I think more should be done to promote women’s sports although it has to be noted that Canada and the U.S. are way ahead of the rest of the world in this regard. Physically speaking, women have a tendency to be smaller and less strong but if need be they should be judged on those individual properties not on the fact that they are female.  If a job involves heavy lifting you would want to hire a strong person, male or female.  You wouldn’t hire a fat guy if the job involves tight spaces.

I could end this thing right here and I probably should but I’m not going to.

Now let me qualify all this.  I regard myself to be a first?wave feminist, albeit with some modern adaptations.  While women in the Western world still have some obstacles to overcome, I believe they are relatively minor in the grand scheme of things.  When faced with bride kidnapping, legal spousal rape and female genital mutilation, income inequality somehow doesn’t seem quite as important.  Well I’d prefer not to take such a materialistic world view, the social capital of Western women is often overlooked.  Money, while important, is far from the being only asset needed to get ahead in life.  I have some specific theories but no real hard evidence so I’ll leave them alone for the time being.  But take my family for example: While my father has always earned more than my mother, she has always wielded considerable, arguably more, power over the day?to?day workings of the household.  And I know the modern woman often wants to distance herself from being seen as a homemaker but domestic power should not be overlooked.

But women in much of the third world don’t have these powers.  For example, the withholding of sexual relations, a tactic that dates back at least to ancient Greece, is fairly useless in a society where rape is an accepted practice.  Third?wave feminism was supposed to have broadened its focus to beyond the developed world but it really hasn’t gone far enough.  Action must be taken.  Societies not up to snuff must be penalized.

Again, I probably should have left those last two paragraphs out but that’s just not who I am.

Hitler is a myth

Adolf Hitler is so obviously a mythical figure I don’t know why people still believe in him. Let’s see, he was born in a different country then the one he would first rule. Sound familiar? I thought so. That’s because Hitler is merely a 20th century recasting of Napoléon Bonaparte, probably the result of a massive Soviet propaganda effort. The resemblances are blatant:

Napoléon: Born in the Corsican Republic, but he would first rule over France. Baptized Roman Catholic.
Hitler: Born in Austria, but he would first rule over Germany. Baptized Roman Catholic.

Napoléon: Changed his surname from “di Buonaparte” to “Bonaparte.”
Hitler: Changed his surname from “Hiedler” to “Hitler.”

Napoléon: Started as First Consul of France before crowning himself Emperor.
Hitler: Started as Chancellor of Germany before appointing himself Führer.

Napoléon: Came to power not long after France’s monarchy had been transformed into a republic. Later changed country name from “French REPUBLIC” to “French EMPIRE.”
Hitler: Came to power not long after Germany’s monarchy had been transformed into a republic. Later changed country name from “Weimar REPUBLIC” to “Deutsches Reich” meaning “German EMPIRE.”

Napoléon: Best known for trying to conquer Europe.
Hitler: Best known for trying to conquer Europe.

Napoléon: Turning point in his career was failed invasion of Russia known as the “Patriotic War.” Italy was an ally in this invasion.
Hitler: Turning point in his career was failed invasion of Russia known as the “Great Patriotic War.” (This is obviously the work of lazy Soviet propaganda, they didn’t ever bother to change the name!) Italy was an ally in this invasion.

Napoléon: Died due to arsenic poisoning.
Hitler: Died due to cyanide poisoning.

Note to future, most likely confused self: This a satire of the Jesus myth hypothesis, specifically the claim that the gospels are merely retellings of older stories about pagan life-death-rebirth deities. Some of the facts are intentionally false or misleading. P.S. Happy Easter

In the beginning…

(Cross posted at LiveJournal and Facebook)

This is my first entry. In the future, when I become the next Kissinger-Sadat-Cromwell-Wilson-Sun-Romero*, we will all be able to look back here and say, “this is where it all began.” Forgive the hubris but I have high hopes for myself.

Eventually I’ll get married. To someone very interesting, perhaps an Irish Catholic socialist with matrilinial Jewish heritage, red hair and an alto voice who is a scholar on liberation theology. We’ll get along despite our differences.† We’ll settle down somewhere, and after gaining my citizenship I’ll take the position as Ambassador to the United Nations (unless of course I decide to be a missionary in Taiwan). We’ll live in a house built from imported Lebanese Cedar, the same wood the Phoenicians used to build their great navies and King Solomon used for the construction of the temple in Jerusalem. I’d like to summer on Bouvet Island if Norway agrees to cede it to me. As I said, high hopes.

This picture appeared in The Globe & Mail about a month ago (AFP/Getty Images). It apparently depicts “opposition gunmen” whatever that means. Lebanon is not unlike Northern Ireland where you have militias on both sides fighting each other. So I guess that makes pretty much everyone a terrorist.

Now what I want to know is why these boys are so well dressed. Their hair is done up all nice and the guy on the right has a very well-sculpted beard. The guy beside him in the maroon has a semi-greaser look going on but that’s neither hear nor there. Did a group of friends meet together and say, “Yo man, let’s gel our hair and then go get our terrorist on.” Or were they just in the middle of a day out on the town when the fighting broke out? If that’s the case did they have to run home to get their AK-47s or do they always carry assault rifles around with them?

And what’s with the bandanna over the face? Is he pulling off a bank heist in the wild west? It’s got a bunch of colours on it and at least two American flags and I’m thinking that’s not standard hijab wear. He’s holding some sort of stick. It looks like it has electric tape on it. Maybe it’s a hockey stick? Was he in the middle of hockey practice? Sorry folks, that is unlikely because Lebanese hockey is dead and there was only one player to begin with.

And that’s all I’m going to say. I’m off to the land of the vikings.

* When I first wrote this almost a year ago I was a political realist so I’m not quite sure how Wilson made it onto the list. Over the past months however, I’ve transitioned into a strongly idealist position thus making the inclusion of Kissinger an anomaly. I’ve kept the wording unchanged for historical purposes.

I think it would work surprisingly well considering that I’m a Fine Gael supporter which would effectively make our marriage a miniature version of a Fine Gael-Labour coalition.