Here we go again…(did I mention this blog was a lone cry in the wilderness? ;))

A reply I wrote to A Norwegian, Øystein Runde, who wrote this article for the CBC: “Trying to understand tragedy in Oslo.”

I’m including this because, to my surprise, Mr. Runde has quite thoughtfully replied to my critique.   For those of you who want to follow his commentary on the Breivik incident, you can visit his website: http://www.oysteinrunde.no/.

I’m including our exchange here (I’m assuming Mr. Runde won’t mind), because the somewhat confrontational (if ironic) tone of my website aside, this exchange is precisely what one sees too little of on the Internet, and what I am aiming toward with my critiques:

——————

Unfortunately, as long as people such as yourself insist on this obsolete good-evil binarist distinction we will not arrive at a better understanding of what Breivik did.  You share a lot of views with Erik Abild, to whom I have already replied here.

You seem to have a lot of Idealist assumptions about what human nature is, thereby forgetting the “nature” in human nature.  Nature doesn’t give a damn about our moral order; those of us who think “God” created nature also know, deep down, that the devout are murdered, swept away in natural disasters, etc.  You can chalk it up to “the lord works in mysterious ways,” but that doesn’t explain the fact that nature is indeterminate, forever eluding our understanding.

What does this have to do with Breivik?  You commit a fatal mistake in labelling him as “evil.”  Good and evil do not exist in Nature; who are you to say what is “human” and what is “inhuman?”  Perhaps you should remember that there are almost 7 BILLION of us on this planet; do you really think we can be one politically-correct “human” family when so many of us overpopulate this planet and compete for limited resources?  I will say to you what I said to Abild: if the day ever comes when food and water become scarce you are going to see exactly what it means to be “human” in an indifferent natural world.  Rage, vengeance, and the drive to preserve one’s own group (be it family, ethnic or religious group) are part of what it is to be a human being in an indifferent world, just like faith and forgiveness.  Repressing that (and you DO repress it) won’t help anything.

All of this is, as I said, to criticize your binarist “either/or” thinking.  A country is either “soft” or “hard”?  Someone is either “good” or “evil”?  “Human” or “inhuman”?  The distinctions you make are exactly – exactly like those you purport to criticize.  Read some history – humanity does not equal the sweetness and light you paint it as here.  Your “healthy realism” is seriously ailing.  Your self-admittedly “blind” adherence to justice does just that – blinds you to a more comprehensive and intelligent view of humans, who are animals (whatever else we are).

Thus, Breivik is just as “human” as you or I.  For every Breivik who murders innocent people there are thousands who share his views but don’t act on them.  And there are yet MORE of us (myself included) who agree with multiculturalism and immigration in principle but are harshly critical of their politically-correct implementations.  We could have used this tragedy (and it is a tragedy) to productively ask some difficult but necessary questions about immigration and the concept of “multiculturalism.”  How should we negotiate admitting people who adhere to exclusionist religions (the 3 monotheims of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are the best examples) who disallow women from pursuing, say, love interests with “outsiders” (Judaism and Islam are notorious for this)?  Who think the rest of the world is going to burn in hell for not sharing their beliefs?  Of course, not every Jew, Christian or Muslim believes this – but do radical Islamists (Zionists, Christian fundamentalists) who preach hatred AND promote such actions have a place in a democracy (and, lest you think I’m anti-Muslim, I will state that in a different historical moment I could be talking about Christians or Jews or [insert religion] here as well).  I am not talking about freedom of speech here; I am rather talking about the transition from thought to action that is openly endorsed by certain members of religious systems.

But did we bother asking?  No.  We simply recapitulated all of the same battle lines and for-against discourse that contributed to our present situation to begin with.

It doesn’t surprise me at all that your views get web space on the Canadian Broadcasting System – which is a veritable bastion of politically-correct denial on the subject of (Canadian) multiculturalism.  But sir, you and the CBC may keep your obsolete, Enlightenment-era “sanctity of human life” – you have the right to believe what you want, but it is completely unrealistic to think that all 7 BILLION “miracles of life” are going to be treated the same on a planet with limited resources.  It simply cannot be done.

 

  1. traumaturgist says:

    Here is Mr. Runde’s reply:

    To “Traumaturgist”:

    Thanks for calling me “sir,” traumaturgist! I liked that.

    Okay, maybe I gave the word “human” some extra nice characteristics just to win a rethorical battle and force readers to abandon death penalty, which I think is a stupid form of punishment. But when we’re being linguists here: If shooting children doesn’t allow you to use the word “evil”, what does?

    I don’t want to repress any of the negative sides of immigration et cetera. I welcome a healthy debate. But there are lots of places that allow that. It’s not my fault that people then use this space to write “kill all muslims”. Sorry if “politically correct” means “repressing” to you. In this context, it was a response to my right-wing friends, who behaved almost triumphant after the bomb. “Look! Look at what the immigrants did! Let’s not mollycoddle them anymore!”

    Your views on immigration, islam and big, monotheist religions in your link, are balanced and written without fear and hate as far as I can see. I wish the standard of the discussion was at your level. Why http://www.cbc.ca censors your comments, as you say, is beyond me. I’m sorry to hear that. Please comment here as much as you want, as you seem to be polite and rational-looking. Some aspects of your analysis are flawed, however, as you are still in that place where you think Breivik was actually just “communicating his frustration”. I went to that place too, check out my second post after the shooting, “the right to hate and be racist”. Put it a bit sharply, but it shows I went through many of the same thought-lines as you. And then I went to the next step, and fell down upon that Breiviks wish to kill came BEFORE his “reasons” to kill. This is hard to know, of course. But anyway, I never TRULY intended this post to understand a madman. I intended it to define what our values were, in a time of emotional turmoil.

    I reacted strongly when I saw “kill all muslims!” written on my friend’s facebook wall right after the bomb. It was scary, and it was stupid.

    It is fear-based talking, fear-based thinking. Fear makes us stupid. You don’t like stupid, I don’t like stupid. Exactly how does one avoid fear-based arguments that stop a lot of the listeners from thinking? I can say “all irish are rapists” and you can say “no, no, not all irish are rapists”, and the only thing left in the minds of our readers is a strong link between irish and rape. I have successfully made a mindvirus, using a glitch in our way of storing memories (we don’t process a “not”). So, can we agree that such special ways of using language can be very problematic and unhelpful? Can we call that “hatespeech”? Avoiding unhealthy simplifications implies some level of censorship. Difficult topic, I’d love to hear how much hatespeech you would like to allow. I also like that you want me to avoid simplifying stuff in my way either. Thanks. I hope you will see that my perspectives are more than this one post.

    I don’t like “politically correct” if it means “fear from dissent” or “never talking about problems”. Ok? I’m NOT really “politically correct”. I doubt, and I think. Loudly. I protested against “politically correct” being used by right-wingers to label ME. I protested against being labeled “soft” by my right-winger friends because I was against death penalty. I didn’t create those labels. And I thought about USA, who have had a tendency to “go hard” in times of crisis. Is that always the right reaction, do you think? I wanted to explore a possible alternative. If you think “go hard” is always the best, feel free to share.

    More: You’re against my idea of “sanctity of human life”? Is that your point? Your contribution to the world? What do you expect will get better if you win, and get rid of that stupid thought?

    I know my idea “sanctity of human life” is really weird and out of touch with what happens in the world. But it still is an idea that inspires good stuff to happen.

    Ideals are lies, yes. Until enough people start believing in them. Then they shape reality.

    Øystein Runde

  2. traumaturgist says:

    Mr. Runde:

    First off, thank you for replying to my thoughts – I mean it! You have no idea how frustrating it is when you have things to say that you think are meaningful and productive just to have them ignored (like at the CBC). Secondly, I want to apologize if I sounded harsh toward you personally – again, when one gets a bit jaded about trying to introduce nuance into a public political discourse (is it ever possible?) one sometimes forgets a bit of proper netiquette I guess. I also think that in my passion and drive to get my thoughts down I wasn’t being systematic enough in my presentation of ideas (which I think you address), so hopefully I can use this as an opportunity to clarify some of my hasty ideas. As a Canadian doctoral student in literature and philosophy I’m used to arguing and citing text, so please bear with me! (Sorry in advance, too, if I get off-topic, but

    Given the context you provide I can more clearly understand your idea of “politically correct,” and, at the risk of stating the obvious, I completely agree – closing a country’s doors permanently or spewing “kill all Muslims” (or Jews, etc) isn’t going to solve anything. But perhaps my response to you is flawed insofar as it doesn’t consider Breivik specifically so much as use him as an example for broader philosophical ideas (as I think you yourself do when you write about defining values in a time of “emotional turmoil.” In terms of what you call “the right to hate and be racist,” well, unfortunately one cannot avoid this in a democracy – as my graduate Social/Political Thought professor once said: “Democracy in its present form includes the right to be an idiot.”

    I think this speaks to your idea of a “mindvirus” though (e.g. your examples of the Irish). I think that a functioning democracy (at least “democracy” as we understand it) cannot avoid, and in fact paradoxically it must accomodate such virii (I’d quote Derrida here but I don’t want to bore you 🙂 ). But I also think that we should consider the very nature of language as it functions in culture, and to this end I disagree with your statement that we cannot process a “not.” Personally, I don’t think that mindvirii automatically and inevitably instil their core ideas in peoples’ minds – after all, we all interpret things through our own values system and prejudices, and indeed this is necessary to make us unique individuals. One can say “all Irish are rapists,” and I can disagree – but if I think, then, that this person is an idiot, then I don’t think I will adopt this idea. Put differently: I will associate “all Irish are rapists” with this idiot, and not necessarily with the Irish. For me, this is the very paradoxical thing about language – you can’t take it “literally”! Words point not to concrete things in the world, but to our conceptions of them – and those can certainly change over time. In short, I’d say that “hatespeech” CAN be unhelpful and unproductive, and insofar as words perform our reality they are “actions,” but one must also consider the the extent to which it crosses over into meditated action (for example: if I think “all Irish are rapists” am I going to sit in my armchair and stew about it whenever I see the Irish on TV, or am I going to get friends together, wait outside an Irish bar to follow them into an alley and beat them up?)

    re: the death penalty: maybe my life experiences have just made me cynical, but I disagree with you here. I definitely do not endorse it the way certain states in the USA do, but I do think that there are certain cases where people are beyond rehabilitation and incarcerating them for the rest of their lives is a waste of time and resources. But that’s a whole other discussion!

    As I mentioned above, I can appreciate the more nuanced idea of “politically correct” you articulate here. But re: the “sanctity of human life.” Maybe here is where we simply disagree? I don’t know, but let me try to clarify what I mean here:

    As I assume everyone would, I’d love to live in a world with infinite resources where no one was wanting for anything. As I assume everyone knows, that simply isn’t the case. I guess here is where I get the most “philosophical” in terms of considering of humanity’s relation to the world/Nature (and I AM influenced in part by nineteenth-century German natural philosophy on this). By “sanctity of human life” I understand a generally anthropocentric view of the world as something to be subordinated to our needs and desires, and this paradigm finds its strongest expression in capitalism as it has evolved from the Industrial Revolution (in Christianity, this has also been linked by Max Weber, I think, with the Protestant ethic and the Book of Genesis giving us carte-blanche to “subdue” the world – Genesis 1.28). This paradigm places our needs above the needs of other animals and above the natural world; “We want a more comfortable life, so we will have it first and foremost above all other considerations.” As a result nature is seen as both an infinite resource and an infinite garbage dump (although I think this view is gradually changing with increased environmental awareness – whether this change has come too late is another issue).

    The idea that human life is somehow special or sacred above all other organisms on the planet is an obvious corollary to this, and I very strongly object to this idea. I’m not saying anything new when I argue that we are custodians of this planet, and that this position brings with it certain obligations the neglect of which we are beginning to feel (neither pollution nor radiation respects national boundaries). Human beings may be special insofar as they have “consciousness” or a “religious sense” or “language” (all of which are debatable), but given our history and what we’ve used these faculties for, do we really deserve such an exalted place? I believe one can answer “no” without disputing our unique faculties.

    But on top of this I will return to the idea of overpopulation: it’s very difficult, in my mind, to see human beings as “sacred miracles” or whatnot when there are 7 billion of us on the planet; and to try and consider each and every one of these individuals as sacred and deserving of as many freedoms as possible is an idealism that places a tremendous burden on the natural world. I do not think we have the right to rut as much as we want and take Nature for granted as something that will unequivocally lay out food, resources, etc. at our leisure. So when I say I’m against “sanctity of life” I’m not saying human beings are garbage – but I am saying that we need to “know our place” as animals (whatever else we are) sharing this planet with other animals (and vegetables, minerals, etc). I think this would include culling the world population through non-violent means.

    Finally (sorry for going on and on!): In terms of immigration and multiculturalism, what all this means to me is that certain countries (North American and Scandinavian countries for example) have more natural resources than others in an indeterminate natural world – some are born in relative comfort and some are born in Somalia, and that’s the way it is. As a result, of course people are going to want to come to our countries. But this also means we need a well-considered limit to immigration that balances the need for new blood with a realistic attitude toward both our natural resources and what our social systems are realistically capable of handling. We can’t accept everyone, and I am wary of the notion of “sanctity” insofar as it breeds a “political correctness” (there’s that term again!) that neurotically insists we accept all of the poor, oppressed multitudes. Our nature as human animals out not to be repressed when it comes to multiculturalism: put differently, I think we should understand our propensity to take care of our own and protect what is “ours,” sanctity of life notwithstanding. This doesn’t mean “fuck all the immigrants and let them die!” – it means “we need to think more rigorously about who we accept and why.” I continue to believe that Breivik’s actions were a missed encounter with these difficult questions. Ok, I’ll stop now! 🙂

    All of this said, I respect and appreciate your response to me. What we have here, in my mind, is genuinely productive discourse – and that happens all too rarely face to face, let alone on the Internet. I believe that if one is serious about promoting rational, productive debate it’s not limited to just the universities – you must pursue it wherever you see the opportunity (although I don’t wander around like Socrates). So although we will probably agree to disagree on certain issues, I think your openness to debate is commenadable and I will continue it as long as you wish to reply. I’m also taking the liberty of preserving the discussion on my blog, and will link to your website and replies because I think our exchange is valuable.

  3. Hi! Feel free to copy as long as there’s a link to me somewhere. Don’t excuse yourself if you write long – but do write short if you can do that with enough clarity.

    Let’s not “agree to disagree”. If we did, our dialogue would bear no real fruits. I’ll try to be ruder to you now, so you don’t go all cute and mellow. Look at this:

    You know too little about death penalty, and I’ll prove it to you in a second. Then you will have to consider if you basically just defended it because you FEEL death penalty is right. What’s it called, when you make up reasons for something when you’ve already decided your stance? Ad hoc? Yep. And presto, your self-image as an intellectual will wither, and you’ll have to base your self-image on your boyish good looks again. Unless you allow your mind to prove that it truly can change …

    I’m really able to feel like a nazi if I immerse myself in nazi literature. I can be a racist, a hardcore maoist, or whatever. This could mean that I have no core, but somehow I always end up in some core values anyway, values that I objectively consider lies and illusions, but valuable lies that can change the world. I know life has no meaning. I know the human rights are not universal or magically right. They are something to choose. As I already see them as lies and myself as a hypocrite, I’ve attacked myself harder than you did. Also, I can draw, I live in Norway, so I don’t have to live off my writing and have few economic reasons to stick to a specific set of beliefs. I don’t have to be provocative to clamor for attention to get new jobs, and yet, I don’t have to be politically correct to keep my job.

    1. You feel death penalty “a waste of time and resources”. Yes, some people are beyond repair. It’s not for their sake I’m against it. It’s about the signal we send out – that killing is okay. And it’s about what killing a human does to us as a state. It makes for a climate of more brutal thinking, more brutal solutions. And “time”? What does that even mean … a blogger who worries about wasting time? Also, “resources” indicates that you’ve missed a fun fact: Even Fox News admits that death penalty costs more than life imprisonment. (Amnesty international too) http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/03/27/just-cost-death-penalty-killer-state-budgets/
    Okay, still feels worth it to defend the systematic killing of fatherless black guys with an IQ of 78? (Just referring to the statistic average of death penalty inmates – from memory. Feel free to correct me.)

    2. You may very well disagree with my statement “the brain cannot process a “not””, but it’s not an opinion, it’s not a philosophical suggestion. (I think I got it from Richard Bandler) Try NOT to imagine a dog. Try NOT to think about that itch you know you have, somewhere on your body. Are you scratching yourself now? But you CAN say “I know racist speech creates racism, but I want it around anyway.” But write that in my blog. I prefer stuff to happen in my own blog, of course, so we’ll just be courteous to eachother and copy when needed. I’m really fascinated about the limits to freedom of speech, as I’ve always loved freedom of speech. So it feels really edgy for me to imagine that it may possibly have its limits – and if this can at all be justified. But having your comments printed and validated in newspapers and on cbc.ca is NOT a human right – it’s not being killed for writing stuff that is a human right.

    3. “Culling the world population through non-violent means” … for a doctorate in literature, you do say some very unclear things. Exactly WHAT is the canadian definition of the word “culling”? If you want to say “use condoms more”, say that … if “culling by non-violent means” means “developing a new and better AIDS virus” say that.

    4. I’m glad you had a civilized conversation with me! I’m sad you didn’t have that much before. I must reveal that I have lots of civilized conversations with people. Why is this?

  4. traumaturgist says:

    haha….a mixture of “rude” and “civilized”…I can go for that!

    As someone who never had boyish good looks, I will step up to the plate with regards to the death penalty and your critique of me. You make a good point with your thought-provoking question, which I think everyone should ask themselves: does one think/reason or feel something is right? To which I (perhaps predictably) respond: how do we tell the difference? Is our rationale guided by a “core” emotional response? I don’t know – but that question raises question about your idea of “ad hoc.” I used to be anti death-penalty, but have now shifted my perspective somewhat (but I have no strong emotional reactions to the issue at this point).

    I’m not sure I follow the train of thought in your introductory paragraph, but I’m not sure about your linking core belief systems to economic reasons; and the question of whether or not people have “core” identities (let alone whether this changes because of a set of ideological beliefs, which I disagree with) is a big one. I’m not saying I disbelieve it, but I think it’s complicated.

    1. More specifically re: the death penalty: I appreciate your calling me out re: the entire process of the death penalty, which hadn’t occured to me (i.e. the entire trial). I was thinking more about the actual execution (which is very ideologically charged in its representation and how we execute people). But even so, perhaps the legal system could be streamlined so that in cases of indubitable evidence of particularly heinous crimes one could (and should) move immediately to sentencing. This is not to throw due process out the door; but there are times when there is simply no reasonable doubt.

    I honestly can’t comment much on this re: the details (which you seem to know more about than I), except by clarifying my comments: by “time” I meant someone sitting for 50 years in prison consuming “resources” that could conceivably go to other inmates whose chances of rehabilitation are greater – has nothing to do with me as a blogger! But I do take issue with your logical leap to the idea that “killing is okay.” Yes, that would be a significant message, but that message exists in a whole spectrum of possibilities. Yes, in this case killing is okay. Does that mean we kill people we don’t like on the street, or people whose skin colour, gender, religion, class etc. we don’t happen to like? Of course not. I don’t think it leads to an indescriminate endorsement of killing. Context!

    2. I’m going to call you out on your evidence here! Here you are using simple concepts such as “dog,” “itch” when before we were talking about a much more complicated idea that involves not two, but three terms: the anti-Irish rapist, myself, and the linguistic statement “all Irish are rapists.” They aren’t the same thing. In fact, I don’t think that freedom of speech should have ideological limits, because I do not think that racist speech “creates” racism (although it might amplify racist tendencies that were already there); this seems to assume that we are blank slates on which cultural discourse writes our beliefs, which assumes that we have no “core” of identity, when in fact I think there is a much more complicated interrelationship between these ideas. I’ve heard lots of racist stuff in person and online; it obviously hasn’t made me racist.

    3. Ahh, you got me again. I assumed I knew the word “cull” but when I looked it up it didn’t have quite the right definition (proof that not even English students know everything about their language!). But yes, it would involve birth control as well as, say, a more globally positive stance toward homosexuality (being gay is the most humane way of controlling the population I can think of). Now, I’m not saying I have the faintest idea as to how this would be enacted globally; nevertheless, I think I’m stating the obvious when I say that we will fail at population control insofar as 1) there is no global awareness of the problem, and 2) we continue to measure (over)population in terms of capitalist values of economic strength, resource consumption, etc.

    4. I don’t know…maybe it’s a cultural thing? In my experience, the vast majority of blogs are just platforms for people to voice their opinions and ignore/delete posts that argue with them. I see very, very little genuine exchange of ideas and way, way too much lolspeak on blogs! Of course, it could be because I’m confrontational and cranky, but sometimes people need to be slapped upside the head (god knows it’s happened to me enough). Whether people are open to it is another matter. As for the CBC, they are the exemplars of what I argue is Canada’s somewhat neurotic relationship with its idea of “multiculturalism” and a stubborn insistence on a fantasy of Canada as “the nice country.”

  5. 1. Convince me why death penalty is great. Sorry, you can’t get away by saying you don’t feel strongly about it. It is killing.

    2. Anecdotal evidence: “You have heard racist statements and it hasn’t made you racist.” You are already educated in techniques of thinking critically. Look at all the kids being poisoned by the insane stupidity of David Icke or Michael Tsarion or whatever these soul-rapists call themselves. (Religion is just as bad … sigh … like conspiracy theories, religion provides meaning in chaos) Anyway, it would be even worse if they were filled with racist thinking. It must be met, early, and defeated by logic. I think the tendency towards categories, racism, is hard-wired into the brain, and if you happen to not have a colorful social circle early on, or have it, and get unlucky with your experiences, then it’s easy to go racist.

    As for which statements should be limited, I’m talking about real hatespeech. Not your stuff. You being censored in Canada sounds very unfair. But are you really censored? Always? Everywhere?

    3. Hahaha! Forcing all cultures to embrace homosexuality is a great plan! I’m sure a lot of religions dug gayness, it’s just that the religions that embraced “get lots of children” won. Heyyyy, that sounds like … oooh! Islam, you say? And old christianity. And so, allowing child-producing religions into areas where non-child-producing, educated worldviews abound, means that the child-producing religions parasite upon the resources that the child-conscious people have saved up. This is the big one, isn’t it? And that is the elephant in the room that you think the left isn’t looking at, because they’re living in nice areas of town? It’s probably true. And to find ways to talk about this is important. But it needs to be done by the conscious building authority in other fields, and studying real numbers. These views are too often connected with people who are frustrated for other reasons, people who just need a group to hate. It’s easy psychology. I don’t really really feel like Islam is a threat now, whatever I do. If reasonable people I generally agreed with said so, maybe, but in Norway so far, it’s mostly done by politicians who lie to the media when one of their underlings have filmed underage teens in the bathroom. I’m lazy. I trust that the government here has an idea of what they do. Maybe Canada is blinder, I don’t know. But Islam is just as bad as old christianity, and needs to stop censoring comics artists! What a shame for Islam!

    To liberate the debate from “against Islam” “for Islam”, maybe “child-getters” and “non-child-getters” should be the two cultures clashing? China seems to have had a huge success with this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One-child_policy

    4. Canada “the nice country” – oh golly, it sounds like you’ve got a Norway up there. Come by me if you’re in Oslo. We’re relentlessly smug, too. Prime minister Brundtland once said “it’s Norwegian to be good”. We’ll see how that sounds when we start turning tar sand into the most polluting oil in the world.

  6. traumaturgist says:

    1. Well, first let me be clear: I’ve never said the death penalty is “great.” However, even though I don’t have strong feelings about it I will defend it as and unfortunate necessity under certain circumstances. My views about humans not being “special” (“humanimals”?) probably suggest this. Killing? If it comes down to one human life constituting a palpable and irrevocable threat to several people, then I think the only rational thing to do is judge by quantity. Put differently: “if killing this one person reasonably stands to save the lives of several, then so be it.” This doesn’t mean we have to spend money on making it a scientized spectacle (special chemicals in an auditorium that are meant to represent the “clean” nature of the act, etc).

    2. I must admit – I don’t really know anything about Icke or Tsarion, but my first impression of their websites is that they’re just more off-the-shelf claptrap about elevated consciousness with a large dose of conspiracy theory thrown in (I love Bill Hicks so I balk at Icke’s self-styled affinity with him…sigh). As someone who believes in this thing called the “unconscious” I can already suspect where I would strongly disagree.

    But that aside, I disagree with your equation of their theoretical systems with “religion” in general. There’s an important distinction to be made here: religions, political ideologies, etc. are indeed meant to provide order in chaos, but let’s remember that religions, unlike systems like Icke’s and Tsarion’s, have the benefit of heretics and commentators who have stirred up conflicting opinions that evolve different strains of thought, regardless of how priests, imams, or rabbis (once again, to use the monotheisms as the best examples) may wish to suppress them. Do we have such criticisms of these guys? If so, is it as robust as, say, the divergent opinions in Christianity?

    re: hatespeech: I have an admittedly controversial opinion on this – I think all such speech should be allowed but (and this applies for all public discourse), they should also be responsible for the things they say. Here is my rationale behind this: for the sake of example, a racist guy thinks all black people should be separated from white people, hanged, or what have you. If he wants to publish or disseminate his views, well, let’s say we let him: he has to find a publisher, who is just as free to deny publication to these views as the racist is to express them: if he does find a publisher, then distributors, stores, etc. have just as much of a right to refuse to carry this material as the racist has to express it. What if they staple it to signposts? The city will take the pamphlets down. They go on TV to express their views? They’ll be publicly ridiculed and stigmatized as the racists they are. In a certain sense, the structure of (capitalist) society takes care of itself where this is concerned – just because someone has views doesn’t mean anyone else has to endorse them – and I think a more intelligent view of exactly what freedom of speech is would help greatly. I very strongly agree with Noam Chomsky here (I paraphrase): “If you’re for freedom of speech you’re for precisely forms of speech that you don’t like – or else you aren’t in favour of freedom of speech. Hitler, Stalin, and Goebbels were all in favour of freedom of speech for forms of speech they liked.”

    And say it does get out there – we need to ask ourselves some questions. Is this going to lead to an epidemic of racism (which I think is very doubtful)? If other racists speak their views, is it because they were “convinced” or because there was already racism there? If they’re free to express their views, we are equally free to criticize them (and thus relieve them of any pretenses to martyrdom – perhaps like Breivik) and to point up the obvious failure of their thinking. How many people will endorse or support them if they’re all in the public light?

    And to be fair, I don’t know if I’m “censored” so much as ignored or thought of as a political crank or blowhard – I wrote the CBC and asked them why they consistently refuse to publish my comments on the multicultiralism issue, and received no response (which is what I expected).

    3. I think homosexuality is in a very strange place in certain religions…stranger since it’s relatively common in the animal kingdom. I’ve travelled a fair bit in Muslim countries (North Africa, the Middle East) and what we call homosexuality is an undeniable fact in that culture. They will do their best not to call it that (for example, if you’re “pitching” and not “catching” you’re not gay), but it makes sense considering a lot of young men can’t get a girlfriend (let alone get married) since they don’t have enough money, and as a result might not be suitable for anyone to give their daughters away to. And when the urge hits, who better to experiment with than your friends? I don’t think this is confined to Islam either. But what you call the “get lots of children” aspect of religions is also due to their origins in arid, hostile environments where one needed to push children in order for families and bloodlines to survive in an age where the maximum lifespan was far lower than it is today). You don’t even have to talk religions here – several argue that class is the salient issue and that more educated classes routinely have fewer children than uneducated classes. How true that is in the end I’m not sure. And re: China, all I know is that when I was there I heard some people argue that it did nothing to stem the environmental issues, but who knows? And yes, don’t get me started on Islamic censorship of Danish cartoonists! Indeed, shame on Islam for that!

    4. Canada has indeed been likened to the Scandinavian countries in terms of openness, tolerance, safety nets, etc. But since I no longer trust mainstream Canadian discourse on multiculturalism and immigration (for all the reasons we’ve talked about!), I’m sure we have as many smug people as you do…we even have the same tar sands issues (but at least you don’t have the USA eyeing your resources, your immigration borders and all such stuff!).

  7. 1. You still approach the death penalty question from a cost/benefit perspective. That argument has already been revoked by my clever link to Fox News. And when death penalty IS expensive, then you blame its high expenses on the “scientized spectacle”. This is also very wrong, I’m very sorry to say that. I’m willing to go out on a limb here. I’m willing to bet you don’t have those numbers from anywhere, you just made them up … true?

    I’ll just cut and paste from deathpenalty.org, to show why it IS expensive:

    The death penalty is much more expensive than life without parole because the Constitution requires a long and complex judicial process for capital cases. This process is needed in order to ensure that innocent men and woman are not executed for crimes they did not commit, and even with these protections the risk of executing an innocent person can not be completely eliminated.

    If the death penalty was replaced with a sentence of Life Without the Possibility of Parole*, which costs millions less and also ensures that the public is protected while eliminating the risk of an irreversible mistake, the money saved could be spent on programs that actually improve the communities in which we live. The millions of dollars in savings could be spent on: education, roads, police officers and public safety programs, after-school programs, drug and alcohol treatment, child abuse prevention programs, mental health services, and services for crime victims and their families.

    *More than 3500 men and woman have received this sentence in California since 1978 and NOT ONE has been released, except those few individuals who were able to prove their innocence.

    California could save $1 billion over five years by replacing the death penalty with permanent imprisonment.

    California taxpayers pay $90,000 more per death row prisoner each year than on prisoners in regular confinement.

    … so, yeah. It’s not the scientized spectacle. It’s The Constitution. Pesky little thing. Boring stuff. Paperwork. Bah. But I think constitutions are cool. Because they’re the first line of defence against dictatorships.

    2. I think we sidetracked – it’s hard to know how dangerous David Icke’s stuff would be if it had 1 000 000 000 followers, like Christ or Allah, so it’s impossible to compare. So forget the nuance between lizardmen and christ: I wanted to point out that sick ideas can grow deep roots in people’s minds. All kinds.

    And yes, an epidemic of racism is just what I fear. So maybe that’s MY disease – a fear of “the racist” as opposed to “the jew”. What needs to be done now, is show very simple proofs that there is no islamic conspiracy to take over and ruin the world. Good, simple statistics to show the conspiracy nuts.

    The fear of islam is really a new, crazy disease that has taken the place of racism, homophobia, imperialism, fear of the yellow peril, of the russian bear, the jew, etc etc. Do you agree? Here’s an essay about how sick ideas can make huge damage:

    http://ireadoddbooks.com/2083-by-andrew-berwick-aka-anders-behring-breivik/

    I think we’re done with topic 3 and 4. You’re not done with 1! If it pays off, death penalty is ok, is that the best you can cough up? Changing your opinion is an impressive and rarely seen feat, however … if you do a lot of research and decide …

    On topic 4, a fun story: Norway’s Statoil really screwed up in Alberta recently. Statoil sells itself as “ethical oil” – we’re so nice, we should do the tar sands, we’ll do them RIGHT. And then we lost a trial, turned out we’d broken 14 laws or something. Riiiiiiiiight.

    I say “we” because we norwegians SHOULD be in control of Statoil. But we aren’t, they’re our lindorm – it’s a surprisingly relevant viking saga: the Lindorm snake watches our treasure, and while our treasure grows magically every day, our snake grows also … until it surrounds our house.

  8. Ken Silva says:

    “Surrounded By Idiots…it just might be about you.”

  9. traumaturgist says:

    1. I think your summation of me is unjust and I’m somewhat confused – which numbers are we talking about here? I’m trying to argue on principle and in terms of general dynamics because I don’t have any numbers (and I try my best not to be too argumentative about things I don’t know about…i.e. the numbers). This is one of the reasons why I try to argue the way I do instead of quoting websites – I could find a website that would refute any and all numbers/website you give me, but that doesn’t guarantee the integrity of any point of view. For this reason you’ll also pardon me for taking your link to Fox News with a great deal of skepticism (Fox has a long history of, shall we say, impressionistic truth?). You chide me for not doing “real research,” but where is yours? Two links to deathpenalty.org (which is blatantly biased against the DP) and Fox News, which is….Fox News?

    At any rate, my focus was more on the amount of human lives that (statistically) stand to be spared from putting certain people to death. At the risk of sounding like I’m trying to detour the argument here (which I’m not), I will be provocative and also suggest that one cannot simply approach it from a financial cost/benefit perspective.

    But reading your reply, perhaps part of the argument hinges on the idea of “Death Row,” which I’ve always found somewhat perplexing. I admit I know very little about how this specifically works, but if someone is sentenced to death AND if the evidence is secure beyond a reasonable doubt, why the long wait? Why not simply dispense with them after a mandated length of time? Every judicial process has to stop somewhere. And I know where you’re going to go with this – right back to the Constitution and the idea that millions are spent to make sure that “due process” is followed. And I do agree with you on this – to an extent, and to a lesser extent than do you I suppose. Maybe this is our sticking point, whether or not it leads back to philosophical issues.

    All of this is to say that based on the evidence of specific cases the administration of the death penalty could be significantly streamlined financially. And I DO think the scientized spectacle has something to do with this, even if it isn’t the focal point of the financial debate; if we’re going to kill someone, shoot them – don’t spend money on chemicals that don’t always work (which I would say constitutes cruel and unusual punishment) and on spectacles which are performed precisely because they are ideological representations of anti-crime ideology. It seems to me that debates on whether or not to televise them feed into this ideological notion.

    I agree that, given the current status of the Constitution (I will take your word on that here, although a properly academic debate would involve citing the Constitution and examining federal vs. state jurisdiction on its implementation) it sounds as if the death penalty is needlessly expensive. My argument, in a nutshell, is that this could (and should) be revised. And should I leave aside your binarist constitution-dictatorship construction?

    2. I agree with you on a lot of points here; taking a look at the excerpts of Breivik’s manifesto I think it would be very hard to argue that it’s much more than conspiracy theory – but it does have the sort of pseudocritical sensibility that is (as I think you point out) more than likely to suck in people who don’t know any better. And I agree with you re: the fear of Islam BUT, as I think I’ve mentioned, it is also very, very easy to take the opposite stance and reduce serious, thoughtful criticisms of Islam to mere pathology (“Islamophobia”), which, I’m sorry to say, an awful low of politically-correct self-styled liberals do (and I balk when I use the word “liberal” because it’s too close to political liberalism, and I hate using terms like that which draw binary distinctions). This gets back to my previous points. Am I concerned about Islam? Yes, in certain respects; but when I say that I am also fully aware that were we in a different historical period that concern could also be about Jews. If I’m not mistaken, Israel was once officially classified as a terrorist state by the US (damn Internet…I try to get authoritative confirmation on this and all I get are conspiracy/rant blogs!); irrespective of this, an argument certainly can (and has) been made that Israel conforms to the criteria of “terrorist state” in recent and present years (see Noam Chomsky at http://www.chomsky.info/articles/199309–.htm – I cite this because it is a published article, so one can follow the paper trail should one wish to research further).

    4: All I can say is that I question the validity of the “ethical oil” concept…especially when, conspiracy theories aside, we certainly have the technology to create automobiles that do not rely on gas (obviously). Now we need to change our culture’s insistence on the phallic automobile equation – the equation of having a fast gas-consuming car with the passage from adolescence to manhood. I don’t know how it is in Norway, but we have that in spades in North America. I don’t know if you know about Tim Horton’s (one of the biggest coffee chains in Canada), but there has been research on how to synthesize fuel from all the wasted coffee cups that are thrown away on a daily basis…yet I haven’t heard anything about that in a while. Ditto with urine-powered technology!