Thoughts + Prayers = 0

Crosses Memorializing Victims of Vegas Shooting

Here we are with yet another mass shooting, and more thoughts and prayers—especially from people who do not intend to do anything about it. Sure, set down those Teddy Bears and lit candles and be photographed hugging other people. Let’s take a look at ourselves in the mirror. We are seen as being barbarous because of the things we allow to go on in our country. Selling automatic weapons to lunatics and children! And merely shaking our heads when those weapons are put to deadly use.

Sometimes, I think the thoughts and prayers of the families of shooting victims are not as strong as the thoughts and prayers of people who are members and fellow travelers of the NRA.

 

No Respecter of Values

… And That Is the Problem!

We as a country have always prided ourselves on our values. But to me, that is a major problem. It’s not only why we elected a narcissistic boob to be our President, but why a sickeningly large percentage of the voter base continue to support him. In an article for Think, Derek Newton writes:

But the back of the Trump base is not likely to break any time soon, because Trump’s supporters aren’t beholden to politics or logic. Instead, they are creatures of a group psychology dynamic more commonly seen in religious and fraternal organizations.

In the “communion mode” authority structure, described by Andrew Gray, people’s recognition of legitimate authority is “based on an appeal to common values and creeds.”

“In this mode,” added Gray, “the legitimacy for actions lies in consistency with the understandings, protocols, and guiding values of shared frames of reference.”

Is this why Evangelical Christians tend to be so forgiving of infamy? In the news today, a man in Spartansburg, PA who was convicted of a felony sex crime against a 4-year-old girl was elected to a second term as chief of the town’s volunteer fire department. And look at our president’s sexual transgressions. He was probably right when, during the campaign, he said he could kill someone in cold blood on the streets of Manhattan and get away with it. (There is a certain feral wiliness to the man.)

Do I have values? Yes—but all my values are subject to revision If my choice for political office starts putting Jews in concentration camps or claiming there is a doctors’ plot against him or shooting down Rohingya or their families, I would in fact revise them. Yes, I would shitcan my values in an instant if I thought they left room for any sort of infamy.

Newton continues:

Communion governance structures rely on regular in-person meetings, call and response rituals (witness the continued usefulness of “Lock her up!” chants at Trump rallies, despite Hillary Clinton’s 2016 loss) and faith in shared values and experiences. Groups built around communion authority are tightly connected and very strong in part because, research shows, they display “homophily and parochialism directed to those outside the group.” (That is a scholarly way of saying that those in communion groups tend to associate and bond with people that are similar to themselves and view those who are not with suspicion and hostility.)

Perhaps our president’s supporters should be sent to other countries to do some research on why their values need to be changed. Preferably during election time.

 

 

 

 

Untouchables

Sweeper Cleaning Sewer in New Delhi

This posting is not about Eliot Ness and his war leading an FBI contingent against Al Capone and his ilk. Rather, it is about millions of lower caste Indians who are labeled by the Hindu religion as unclean by the nature of the work they are assigned—generation after generation—keeping the streets, byways, and sewers clean of the excreta of their fellow Indians.

I am currently reading a novel written by Mulk Raj Anand called Untouchable (1935), which details a day in the life of one such Dalit family. The older son, Bakha, accidentally touches a Brahmin who almost causes a riot because he accidentally touched him as he passed by in the street. Any physical contact of a Dalit with a Brahmin requires that the latter take a purifying bath. Sweepers are required to announce their presence as they walk among men so that higher caste Hindus can avoid unwanted contact.

Dalit Sweeper

Anand’s novel launched his career as an Anglo-Indian writer. English novelist E. M. Forster, author of A Passage to India, has penned this tribute to him:

Some readers [of Untouchable], especially those who consider themselves all-white, will go purple in the face with rage before they have finished a dozen pages, and will exclaim that they cannot trust themselves to speak. I cannot trust myself either, though for a different reason: the book seems to me indescribably clean and I hesitate for words in which this can be conveyed. Avoiding rhetoric and circumlocution, it has gone straight to the heart of its subject and purified it. None of us are pure—we shouldn’t be alive if we were. But to the straightforward all things can become pure, and it is to the directness of his attack that Mr Anand’s success is probably due.

The plight of the Dalits will always astonish those who believe the words of our own Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

 

You’ll Wonder Where the Yellow Went…

Can a Nation Ban a Color? Catalan Demonstrators in Barcelona.

Decades ago, I remember a stirring film about the Regime of the Colonels in Greece. The film, called Z (1969) and directed by Costa Gavras, ended with the announcement that the rightist Colonels had banned the use of the letter “Z” because it was used to signify that Grigoris Lambrakis, who had been assassinated in 1963 for the protests he had organized, was still alive.

Now, in a stunning repetition, Spain has banned the use of the color yellow, because it was used by Catalans to symbolize their aspirations for independence. They couldn’t altogether ban the color, because it’s one of the colors of the Spanish flag. You can read all about it on the BBC News website.

The Catalans Want to Be Independent of Spain

It’s interesting to me that Europe continues to fragment into ever smaller pieces. After the fall of the Soviet Union and the “segmentation” of the former Yugoslavia, we have a host of new countries: Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Slovakia. As the countries become smaller, they become ever more appetizing targets to be reabsorbed by some larger nearby power. This is what seems to be happening to Belarus and Crimea (formerly part of Ukraine).

I am part Slovak: My father was born near Prešov. For its long history, Slovakia was never independent; but it became so under the presidency of Václav Havel after the Slovaks and the Czechs came to blows over the governing of Czechoslovakia. Now there’s the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic.

How much farther will nationalism go? The states of the Confederacy are threatening to secede again from the Union. Canada continues to have problems governing Québec and other French-speaking areas. On a more local level, several rightist-leaning counties in California want to secede from the state and form their own state, to be called Jefferson. Oh, yeah, like we need more conservative senators in Congress!

 

 

Of Billionaires and Fashion Models

Orazio Gentileschi (Italian, 1563 – 1639)
Danaë and the Shower of Gold, 1621 to 1623, Oil on canvas
161.5 × 227.1 cm (63 9/16 × 89 7/16 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

You may have heard about how Zeus would fall in love with mortal women and transform himself into various disguises to have his way with them. In all, there were approximately twenty, ranging from Alcmene to Thyia. The one I found most interesting was Danaë, daughter and onlyc hild of the King of Argos, Acrisius. The story is as follows, according to Wikipedia:

Disappointed by his lack of male heirs, King Acrisius asked the oracle of Delphi if this would change. The oracle announced to him that he would never have a son, but his daughter would, and that he would be killed by his daughter’s son. At the time, Danae was childless and, meaning to keep her so, King Acrisius shut her up in a bronze chamber to be constructed under the court of his palace (other versions say she was imprisoned in a tall brass tower with a single richly adorned chamber, but with no doors or windows, just a sky-light as the source of light and air). She was buried in this tomb, never to see the light again. However, Zeus, the king of the gods, desired her, and came to her in the form of golden rain which streamed in through the roof of the subterranean chamber and down into her womb. Soon after, their child Perseus was born.

But then, isn’t that the way that all ugly billionaires woo fashion models (including our current President)?

The painting by Orazio Gentileschi is a recent acquisition of the Getty Center which I saw a couple of weeks ago. I like the way that the gold is shown as a shower of gold coins, which appears to be quite acceptable to the young lady.

Living with Azuma Hikari

Azumi Hikari Is Gatebox’s Initial Release of a Personal Miniature Robot

It was my friend Bill Korn who told me about Gatebox. In today’s Japan, there are fewer marriages, fewer births, and a larger population of the aged as time goes on. You can read about it in an Economist article entitled “I Don’t: Most Japanese Want to Be Married but Are Fining It Hard.” To help young Japanese salarymen hold themselves together while waiting for what may or may not occur, Gatebox has released a personal robot for $3,000 about as big as a coffeemaker.

You can see the introductory character, Azumi Hikari, at work in this two-minute video:

What disturbs me is that Miss Azumi is a manga character with a child’s body, such that it reminds me of pedophilia more than anything else. When its owner walks in the door, she does a little dance of joy like a child. She even calls him on his cell phone and tries to wheedle him into coming home from work early. I don’t know whether I want to be the master of a child slave who is a projected figure several inches high in a glass tube.

Of course, sex is completely out of the question, unless you want to turn yourself into some sort of manga projection. I’m sure Gatebox will have to field a few thousand queries about that.

You can read a review of the product in this PC Magazine review entitled “Gatebox Virtual Home Robot Wants You to Be Her Master.

 

 

From Out of Nowhere: Bam! Nibiru!

It’s All Over This Saturday

For feeble-minded Christians, especially those who believe in all the cockamamie conspiracies that are “revealed” by self-proclaimed prophets, Earth can possibly be destroyed this coming Saturday by a roving hidden planet that no one has seen yet. That planet has variously been called Nibiru and Planet X (among other things). That’s the prediction of David Meade, a self-published author whose subject matter is astrology and the Bible. How can such a planet, supposedly larger than the Earth, be at one and the same time invisible and moving very, very fast?

This whole Nibiru/Planet X catastrophe has been predicted several times before. Even Meade originally set the date in October, but revised his prediction because of the recent eclipse. I would have thought he would base his prediction on that well-known Beast of the Apocalypse, Donald J. Trumpf—but no.

Sometimes I think these Christian conspiracy theorists have altogether too much time on their hands.

My suggestion is that, on Sunday, September 24, the survivors of the Nibiru disaster gather together to mock David Meade and his kind. You can do so by contacting him at DavidMeade7777@gmail.com—if, that is, he doesn’t close that e-mail account beforehand.