What’s Going on Here?

Of all the bizarre handshakes these days two have struck me as particularly bizarre.

Here the President of Switzerland greets Iran’s President Ahmadinejad as he arrives to participate in the UN Conference on Racism in Geneva.

Swiiss and Iranina Presidents

Here President Obama shakes hands with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at the Summit of the Americas.

obama and chavez

In both cases the eagerness seems embarrassing. What’s going on?

52 Responses to What’s Going on Here?

  1. Barry Meislin says:

    Merely a case of:

    “What Roger Cohen can do, I can do better!
    I can do anything better’n Cohen.
    Yes I can, yes I can, yes I can!!”

    With feeling, now.

  2. Patrick Weyer says:

    Chavez may be an obnoxious caudillo, but he never called for the annihilation of a whole people. Switzerland definitely has a soft spot for Ahmadinejad. Just a year ago, its foreign minister met in Teheran, with Islamic veil and all, with Ahmadinejad. During the meeting, she proposed a meeting “about different perceptions of the Holocaust” to be held in Geneva (again). The project aborted because of public outrage in Switzerland, but that such a proposition could be made tells a lot about the Swiss government’s perception of Israel and the Jews.

  3. Gary Goldman says:

    Sincere approval, affection, and respect. – What the Swiss guy thinks doesn’t much matter, but Obama’s sentiments will influence his foreign policy.

  4. noah says:

    Add this to the disturbing handshakes of the year finalists.

    President OBama’s bow to an equal, another head of state. The Queen of England must be wondering why she didn’t get a bow.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WlqW6UCeaY

  5. E.G. says:

    -I love you.
    -Neither do I.

  6. simon says:

    UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay joined the condemnation saying she “utterly” deplored Mr Ahmadinejad’s speech, describing him as “somebody who traditionally makes obnoxious statements”.

    “I condemn the use of a UN forum for political grandstanding. I find this totally objectionable,” she added, reiterating that it clearly defied the UN’s position by equating Zionism with racism.

    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25363457-12377,00.html

    What else is the UN for if not political grandstanding?

  7. JD says:

    1. Iran is one of Switzerland’s best customers. The Mullahs and Combines have all sorts of billions stashed in Swiss Banks. Even more than the Arabs, probably, because the Iranians have various sanctions and threats that make banking in countries other than Switzerland extra risky.

    2. Can’t a guy just shake a hand? Shouldn’t smile so much, but he and his crew are of that American type that only if we “talk” to the other side, they will come around to embrace our prejudices.

  8. E.G. says:

    Interpreting a smile is a tricky business. I vaguely recall that the smile originates from the animal instinct to exhibit teeth as a declaration of preparedness to fight. What does the Cheshire cat’s grin mean?

  9. obsy says:

    UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon:

    “Despite decades of advocacy, despite the efforts of many groups and many nations, despite ample evidence of racism’s terrible toll — racism still persists. No society is immune — large or small, rich or poor. That is why the eyes of the world — especially the eyes of victims — are upon us today. And what are they to conclude? We dream of moving in a new direction, yet too many of us cling to the past. We speak of finding a new unity, as the times demand. Yet we remain weak and divided and stuck in old ways.”

    http://un.org/durbanreview2009/coverage/press/pr_20-04-09.shtml

    Now that really makes me angry!

    Is that again: Muslims as the Jews of today?

    Remember that Ban Ki Moon knew fully well to whom he was speaking and how they would interpret his words. And then read it again!

  10. oao says:

    JD is likely more accurate than EG here.

    howewer, what is displayed here for all to see, though very few are willing to accept it (hence the embarassment feelings and the efforts at explaining it) is the decay and collapse of western civilization.

    and given its own origins, i can’t say I am terribly sorry. that’s what it deserves, given its history.

    i am reading michel onfrey’s ATHEIST MANIFESTO and I strongly recommend it to those who still delude themselves that the judaeo-christian epistemology which governs us all — including the secular — is what we need to preserve and with what we need to fight jihad. it is also the reason we fail.

    our problems as the human race are much worse than just islam and our fate is quite predictable, as i do not subscribe to the optimism of onfrey.

  11. oao says:

    it’s michel onfray.

  12. oao says:

    I think the future remains undetermined, and in fact, we still have great power and resources if only we’d use them.

    we have increasingly less resources, given the collapse of education and the self-destruction consequences shared between the utterly corrupt financial elites/corps and the incompetent govt.

    i would agree that we could still defend ourselves IF we used the resources we still have, but this won’t happen for various reasons. and those resources are running out.

    could rome still use its resources against the barbarians? possibly, but it did not because it was already too decadent. its time was up. so is the west’s.

  13. Michelle Schatzman says:

    Michel Onfray’s atheist manifesto is an interesting display of ignorance – at least of judaism ; I do not know enough about christianity to state the same, but I did hear some people stating exactly the same criticism. I do not mind people atheism, as long as critisim is not directed against a religion which exists only in the minds of the critics and not in reality.

    Do not ask me for quotations : when Onfray’s book came out, I leafed through it in a book store, intending to buy it if it was good enough – I do buy books from authors with whom I disagree. But I saw so many enormous errors that I decided not to transform my money into trash.

    Besides that, I am full of doubt about “atheism” and “religion” as categories. I know some atheists who are all for rites (and in particular social rites) and are completely dominated by ideology, and a deeply irrational one. I know some religious people who are among the most rationalist people I ever met.

    The point is not belief or absence of belief in God. It is to determine what kind of intervention people believe that God will make in the human life.

    In my view, it is OK for people to talk to God. I start being wary when God talks back.

    It is quite possible, that, now, in the USA, religion coincides rather well with irrationalism. On the other hand, why not remember the role of catholicism in Poland as a center of resistance to the communist ideology? Why not remember the role of protestants in the collapse of the East German institutions and the fall of the wall in 89? Why not observe that atheism was the motto of the communist regimes?

    I guess it would be better for the debate to distinguish between religion and irrationalism. They are different.

  14. oao says:

    Michel Onfray’s atheist manifesto is an interesting display of ignorance – at least of judaism ;

    this comment does not merit a response. i will leave to others to judge who is ignorant. looks like you don’t like what he is saying in a rather selective way.

    about the only thing he’s mistaken about is that he does not seem to give weight to the fact that at the time when the religions were invented humankind was utterly ignorant and that’s all it knew, which means nothing.

    but to the application of the 3 religions TODAY in the form in which they are applied then there is no shred of a doubt that he is absolutely right, and that includes orthodox judaism.

    it’s only because many people are no longer ignorant as they were in the 1st centuries that they don’t care to subscribe to the religious strictures that the world is in somewhat better shape. had it not been the case we would all live like in saudia/iran, the middle ages and meah-shearim.

    I guess it would be better for the debate to distinguish between religion and irrationalism. They are different.

    the fundament of each of the 3 mono religions is supernatural and the myth irrational. they incorporated various aspects that helped with control and survival, but for those the foundation is unnecessary.

    Besides that, I am full of doubt about “atheism” and “religion” as categories. I know some atheists who are all for rites (and in particular social rites) and are completely dominated by ideology, and a deeply irrational one. I know some religious people who are among the most rationalist people I ever met.

    which is why onfray definition of atheism is such that it does not include those.

    the religious rationalists are so only within the scope of the religion, which is itself irrational.

  15. Michelle Schatzman says:

    Hey oao, I love you ! you are so predictible… if I give you examples where religion (even very irrational religion as is polish catholicism) did good, you just ignore it. You also assimilate orthodox judaism and Mea Shearim, which is kind of funny. I thought that you had lived in israel and knew better… seems that you are confirming my rule : if you are a real ideologist, you will deny that you have anything to do with ideology and you’ll be convinced that you are in the right and everybody else is in the wrong.

    I should also have pointed out that all ethics, all systems of values are irrational, because they are free. Knowledge of science, of psychology, of human societies does not imply a choice of values. If there is free choice, there is necessarily irrationality – otherwise, how would the choice be free? Am I free to ignore the law of gravity ? If I do, I fall. Am I free to ignore the laws of Maxwell and put my head into the next power transformator after having forced my way into it? If I do that, there is a very good chance that I will die.

    Scientific knowledge, or knowledge of individual and collective human behavior can be used for good or for bad – good and bad depending on the definition that we give them.

    Your catastrophic point of view, that occidental civilization is going to collapse, implies that there is nothing that we can do. So, according to your point of view, why do anything? Why care to post on a blog such as the Augean Stables? Why don’t you retire from society and devote the rest of your life to having a good time, whatever the definition of “a good time” is. Why don’t you buy an island somewhere and live according to your pleasure, if you are so despaired by the present world?

    Personnally, I believe that despair is forbidden, and this is a value I choose to uphold. I believe that in a harsh world, one should always try to establish some oasis of democracy and intellectual rigor. I did meet quite a few sharks and thugs in academia and lots of mediocre characters, but academia is just a small world inside a big world, and the same conclusion applies : where there are no men, try to be one (even if female, of course).

    You might be mistaken when reading that I love you, and find it contemptuous. It is not. If you write here, it is probably because on one hand, you still find a mission to predict that western civilization is going to meet its end. On the other hand, you like a good fight. This is quite respectable… and maybe you can take a few blows, in the hope that you can deliver more. Your declarations state hopelessness and your behavior states that you still have hope. Can you realize that this is an interesting and nice contradiction?

    Despair is very useful if it can move people to fighting the causes of despair (or simply take revenge, which is good enough in many cases) and yet, fighting is already a hopeful statement, if not for oneself, at least with respect to later generations.

  16. Cynic says:

    the religious rationalists are so only within the scope of the religion, which is itself irrational.

    I know an Haredi/Ultra-Orthodox person who has his Ph.D in Electrical Engineering who has the exact opposite view to yours – the secular crowd is irrational etc., and when one stops to think about what is going on in Hollywood and places, it is far from rational :-)
    How rational is this?:
    Thought police muscle up in Britain

    I have to smile remembering discussions we have had where his could be a mirror image to your feelings.
    No he doesn’t believe in magic but pursues the ritual because he finds comfort in it.

    Michelle,
    Despair is very useful if it can move people to fighting the causes of despair (or simply take revenge, which is good enough in many cases) and yet, fighting is already a hopeful statement, if not for oneself, at least with respect to later generations.

    On TV the other night a new Hebrew book was discussed with regard to the Holocaust within the psychological realm (one has to see it in the context of utter despair and not from that of the paper thin facade of a stand-up comedian).
    It is a collection of “jokes and humour” from the ghettos and the camps.

  17. Michelle Schatzman says:

    Thank you Cynic for the example of the haredi Ph.D.: given haredi values, the secular society is irrational. Conversely, given secular values, the haredi society is irrational.

    If we agree that rationality can be judged with regard to the set of values we adhere to, we may advance in the ongoing discussion on RL’s blog.

    Regarding despair and humor, I understand very well what you are referring to when mentioning jokes and humor from the ghettos and camps. I do not have that experience, but in a much lower key mode, when my big bad cancer was diagnosed a little less than five years ago, and after about three weeks in despair and denial, I started researching cancer jokes, and I got a fine collection, though almost nothing in french. These jokes can be gross and even horrible.

    But joking and looking at death in the face, and trying to find ridicule in the actors of the dance of death is a first step in regaining dignity and control over one’s own life. If, from the minor experience of a deadly individual disease, I extrapolate to the atrocity of the collective death of a people, I can hear the same tune. In fact, saying “I despair” is already a step toward fighting. I guess that the so-called “muslims” in concentration camps even lacked the energy to say “I despair”.

    I was yesterday in Israel at the time of the siren on yom hashoa. Standing with a friend in her nice apartment, in a nice part of Haifa. And I thought of the contrast between the flowers, the greenery, the view on the mediterranean and the ocean of tears and pain only 65 years ago.

    Had the yishuv despaired, all this would exist. After independance in 1948, refugees would disembark from the immigration ship and men would immediately be drafted, receive a short military instruction and go into fight.

    Even Jews who hid without entering armed resistance and succeeded to save their own lives deserve our gratitude : I am alive because my parents did exactly that.

    I do not care whether people are atheists or believe in this or that. I care about shared values. Refusing despair. Defining attainable objectives. Rallying minds and hearts to these objectives.

    Here, we should try to outline the values we agree upon, without getting stuck into egg-chicken discussions.

  18. Cynic says:

    Michelle,

    Davka, as they say, I just came across this following article on the “outing” of Spengler which in line with the comments is well worth reading:
    And Spengler is …

    I needed to tell the Europeans that their post-national, secular dystopia was a death-trap whence no-one would get out alive.
    I needed to tell the Muslims that nothing would alleviate the unbearable sense of humiliation and loss that globalization inflicted on a civilization that once had pretensions to world dominance. I needed to tell Asians that materialism leads only to despair. And I needed to tell the Americans that their smugness would be their undoing.

    An interesting and timely read from Spengler.

  19. oao says:

    Hey oao, I love you ! you are so predictible… if I give you examples where religion (even very irrational religion as is polish catholicism) did good, you just ignore it. You also assimilate orthodox judaism and Mea Shearim, which is kind of funny. I thought that you had lived in israel and knew better… seems that you are confirming my rule : if you are a real ideologist, you will deny that you have anything to do with ideology and you’ll be convinced that you are in the right and everybody else is in the wrong.

    Bullshit.

    So you select the “good” the religion has done and declare that because of that alone religion is moral, even a source of morals. and that FEAR of god and the “next world” is what moral behavior is rooted in. some morals.

    the fallacy in that is obvious: in order to select the good from the bad in religion you must have independent criteria by which you judge what is good and what is not good and those criteria are OUTSIDE religion.

    take the fear of death out of human mind and see if religion survives at levels approaching anywhere the current ones. do you think is there any correlation between human knowledge and weakening of religion over the millenia?

    There is no ideology involved here, except that of natural factual truth. It does not matter how much mumbo-jumbo you pile up via god, angels and rituals, that remains the basic core of survival and success of humankind and it’s only because religion incorporated some of that it did good.

    as to what i am doing here, your thinking is limited.
    there are 2 types of behavior: instrumental and expressive. the former is to achieve goals via means. the latter is a goal in itself: to express oneself, to socialize, to exercise one’s mind. what I do here is more of the latter.

    you’re right on one subject: i do like an argument. but a GOOD one. based on facts, reason, not mumbo jumbo.

  20. oao says:

    An interesting and timely read from Spengler.

    I’ve been reading Spengler over the years and some of his stuff is brilliant. But he got into a blind spot with religion and each time he got into the subject his stuff lost its qualities.

    One of the top weaknesses of human nature is to accept adverse reality. It can drive even the strongest of intellects into crap and it apparently got to Spengler too. Too bad.

  21. oao says:

    cynic,

    the secular crowd is irrational etc., and when one stops to think about what is going on in Hollywood and places, it is far from rational :-)
    How rational is this?: Thought police muscle up in Britain

    pls pay attention to logic.

    i never said that seculars have a monopoly on reason. i only said that religion is outside reason. it’s not equivalent. secularity is a necessary but insufficient condition for rationality. from my arguments here it’s not difficult to figure out what else is necessary.

    I have to smile remembering discussions we have had where his could be a mirror image to your feelings.
    No he doesn’t believe in magic but pursues the ritual because he finds comfort in it.

    but that’s the problem: he wants to avoid facing adverse reality by comforting himself with crap. that’s not a recipe for survival. and i am not even getting into what some of those rituals destroy in one’s life, which is the only short one we have here. you’re again picking and choosing what to you seems some “good”, non-destructive part of religion.

    On TV the other night a new Hebrew book was discussed with regard to the Holocaust within the psychological realm (one has to see it in the context of utter despair and not from that of the paper thin facade of a stand-up comedian).
    It is a collection of “jokes and humour” from the ghettos and the camps.

    all 3 sides of the holocaust — the nazis, the jews and the world/west — had considerable religion in them much more than we have today in the west. and yet the holocaust occurred. not only that, but it was the religious component that behaved most disgracefully and facilitated if it was not conducive to it.

    that in itself defies the defense of religion.

  22. Cynic says:

    oao,

    I don’t seem to be getting across and that is that rationality is in the eye of the beholder.
    There is no way that, generally speaking, the rationality of the West can be compared to that of a culture based on a psychopath’s imaginings.

    To go to the extreme; the rationality of a lion’s life includes killing the offspring of another lion so that it can get to mate with the lioness and put his progeny on the road to survival.
    Now that is not a rationale which Alibama can sit down and deal with unless of course he is another Hitler.
    From the macro of the West we now come down to the micro of the individual be he sane or be he nuts to be determined by someone’s definition of rationality.
    We generally project our version because of our Judeo – Christian roots but there is no way we can come to terms of those stating that the centre of gravity of the Earth is in Mecca.

  23. Michelle Schatzman says:

    oao, I still love your predictibility, and I thought that you were going to dismiss my post by saying something gross. And you did! But you too should pay attention to logic.

    So you select the “good” the religion has done and declare that because of that alone religion is moral, even a source of morals. and that FEAR of god and the “next world” is what moral behavior is rooted in. some morals.

    I never said anything like that – read me, it is not there. What you are giving here is your definition of religion, but it simply does not cover lots of cases. Many people who are truly religious are not afraid of God in the sense you are alluding to and do not care about the next world at all. They just think that the reward of the commandment is the commandment itself, and that the punishment of the transgression is the transgression itself. Does the name Maimonides ring some bell?

    I certainly did not declare that religion is moral. Did you read that in my post, or did you imagine it? What I declared is that religion is not antithetic to the fight for respectable aims. In more logical terms, I would state that “religion” does not necessarily imply “stupid or loathesome or irrational”. Nor does it exclude “stupid or loathesome or irrational”. Religion itself is not rational, because it is founded on a choice of values. Your atheism is no more rational, because it is also a choice of values. I know that you hate me for writing this, but it is the law of honest discussions.

    My claim is that there is absolutely no natural factual truth, which would lead you to make either choice. What is the factual truth that prevents you from stealing if you can get away with it ? What is the factual truth, which proves that men are equal as subjects of law?

    Should I emphasize that I do not picture God as some kind of benevolent and/or repressive grandfather living in some etherean regions, and that I do not care about angels, demons, miracles and all the paraphernalia of supernatural?

    the fallacy in that is obvious: in order to select the good from the bad in religion you must have independent criteria by which you judge what is good and what is not good and those criteria are OUTSIDE religion.

    On this we agree : I made a case for free choice and free thought. It is plain that one who chooses to be religious chooses that out of his own free will.

    take the fear of death out of human mind and see if religion survives at levels approaching anywhere the current ones. do you think is there any correlation between human knowledge and weakening of religion over the millenia?

    How would you take the fear of death out of the human mind? By making life more hateful than death? I hope not. This argument is pretty bad, especially on this blog. Do not we know that one of the techniques of islamic terrorism is to promise paradise and 72 virgins to the charming kids who blow themselves up with the intention of killing as many enemies as possible? Do we not know that the early christians would prefer martyr to apostasy, because they did not fear death?

    Since you live in the US, you can contemplate the rather sad show of self-serving religion, with lots and lots of supernatural and lots of healing, collective (pseudo-)trance, ads and lots of silliness.

    Religion can become very powerful when it removes the fear of death in individuals. Was it Cicero who said that “who has no fear for his life is master of thine”? This religious power can be for good as well as for evil.

    as to what i am doing here, your thinking is limited.

    Whose thinking is not limited, I wonder…


    there are 2 types of behavior: instrumental and expressive.

    only two? My, should I suggest that your thinking, too, is limited, if I dare?

    the former is to achieve goals via means. the latter is a goal in itself: to express oneself, to socialize, to exercise one’s mind. what I do here is more of the latter.

    OK, I take your point. Nevertheless, I wonder why you devote energy to exposing your despair to this particular audience. Since you are trying to exercise your mind, I am trying to point out to you that you can exercise it even more, in trying to analyze your despair.

    Since I share your motivation to “socialize, express oneself and exercise one’s mind”, I exercise my mind in trying to let you exercise yours on something that I consider as a blind spot in your thinking: you have decided some time ago that religion is trash, and I have decided quite some time ago that religion can be good or bad, and that it neither leads necessarily to good nor to evil. I think that acts should be judged on their concrete reality and not on the ideology or religion, which may have motivated them.

  24. Stan says:

    Lets forget for a moment about shaking hands with Chavez and Ahmadinejad and remember where the true support of Iran and Venezuela lies.
    When we fill our tanks with gas, or use products that were shipped to us via fossil fuels, the dictators smile.
    A hand shake is nothing compared to lining their pockets with money. Conservatives have traditionally fought the environmental movement. Its time to celebrate Earth Day. It is time to get on board and do something in a personal real way to fight terrorism. Become an environmentalist, become the enemy of Ahmadinejad, and defeat him.

    Stan

  25. oao says:

    only two? My, should I suggest that your thinking, too, is limited, if I dare?

    i advise you read what i say carefully, not superficially in your strive to dismiss.

    on the dimension on which this categorization is employed there are only two. they are broad, mutually exclusive categories which include all sorts of types of behavior.

    OK, I take your point. Nevertheless, I wonder why you devote energy to exposing your despair to this particular audience. Since you are trying to exercise your mind, I am trying to point out to you that you can exercise it even more, in trying to analyze your despair.

    i am looking at reality and assess it as best i can. it is obvious to me that the west is gone, or on the way out. this to me is incontrovertible. individuals don’t have solutions to systemic problems which require collective solutions to which there are inherent inhibiting mechanisms (as game theory teaches us). so even if i were despairing, it is irrelevant to what the reality is.

    stating and accepting reality is not despairing. i suspect you don’t want to accept that reality because you’re afraid YOU will despair. a sort of projection, maybe.

    in fact my attitude is if the west can’t or won’t survive, then it shall die. sad indeed, but it’s not the first time and it won’t be the last.

    and I have decided quite some time ago that religion can be good or bad, and that it neither leads necessarily to good nor to evil.

    not so fast!!!

    it does not matter what we decided but WHY we decided and ON WHAT GROUNDS.

    but even if i let that pass, think of what you’re saying: how do you judge if religion is GOOD/BAD? you need criteria, right? can these criteria be part of religion itself? and if not, how can religion be the source of morals? and how can morals be rooted in lies, history of atrocities and fear?

  26. oao says:

    and, of course, if it’s not the source of morals — as it’s being justified — than what is good about it, even ignoring the fact that it’s based on lies and an atrocious past and even present?

  27. oao says:

    A hand shake is nothing compared to lining their pockets with money.

    true. but symbolic actions are not meaningless and without importance either.

    as to environmentalism, good idea. whether it an be effective within the survival timeframe and given the decadence of the west i seriously doubt it.

    i mean, the segment of the elite which is pushing this most intensively are utter frauds.

  28. oao says:

    btw:

    There is no way that, generally speaking, the rationality of the West can be compared to that of a culture based on a psychopath’s imaginings.

    if i get you right, both are culturally different “types” of rationality? and that religion is, therefore too?

    if so, it’s time to leave this exchange.

  29. E.G. says:

    Michelle, oao, Cynic,

    Just to let you know I savoured your exchange.

    I’m not sure what you (perhaps each of you) refer to as rationality. If I use game-theoretic vocabulary, none of us mortals is. In the same vocabulary, religion is a set of beliefs that, when endorsed, are acted upon. As such, I distinguish between acts done in the name of religion or to promote it, from the (individual or even communal) use of religious principles or values to improve the quality of life, enhance survival or resilience capacity etc.

    Michelle, I too was disconcerted by oao’s paradoxical behaviour: less by the “game is about to end” than by the “there’s nothing we can do about it” repeated statements + continuous flow of proofs. The discrepancy between the helplessness and the energy devoted to declaring and anchoring it in facts is impressive. Furthermore, since I believe in human resourcefulness*, the divergence between us on this issue is constant. From time to time I find it’s worth mentioning that we agreed to disagree (and avoid useless animosity), and that my friend (see: socialize) still hasn’t convinced me.

    *Humour, black included (is it still P.C. to call it that way?), is of course one such resource.

  30. Michelle Schatzman says:

    E.G., of course, I can agree to disagree with oao!

    oao, let me quote both of us as follows:

    “- (oao) the fallacy in that is obvious: in order to select the good from the bad in religion you must have independent criteria by which you judge what is good and what is not good and those criteria are OUTSIDE religion.

    - (Michelle) On this we agree : I made a case for free choice and free thought. It is plain that one who chooses to be religious chooses that out of his own free will. ”

    Let me add that this choice can be analyzed on a psychological basis, and that you will find this or that causality, but then, we fall back rather fast to a chicken and egg debate. My argument is rather of a philosophical nature: the reasons for choosing to be religious are irrelevant. One can as well choose to be an atheist, and I know that personnally, having been an atheist for the half of my conscious life.

    There is of course a large history of religion related atrocities, and I know it well. However, there is also a large history of atheism related atrocities.

    There is a large history of religion related socially good things, such as the establishment of the rule of law, which in antiquity has always been attributed to a religious figure or a more or less mythical sage, inspired by God or the gods.

    I leave you, oao, to show us that there is a large history of atheism related socially good things. Why should I do your job :-) ?

  31. oao says:

    The discrepancy between the helplessness and the energy devoted to declaring and anchoring it in facts is impressive.

    i’m sorry, but i thought i was pretty clear. pls reread my answers to michelle, it’s all there.

    it takes not much energy to participate here, if it did i would reduce participation considerably. I read lots anyway and copying and pasting links is not a big deal. i am also wary of very long posts and try to keep things short and avoid treaties and lectures. after hundreds of articles and 3 books these exchanges are really nothing.

    Furthermore, since I believe in human resourcefulness*, the divergence between us on this issue is constant. From time to time I find it’s worth mentioning that we agreed to disagree (and avoid useless animosity), and that my friend (see: socialize) still hasn’t convinced me.

    i note that i see no counter to my evidence and arguments about collapse with same, but rather resorts to “belief in human resourcefulness”, “religion”, etc. uhuh.

    as to what rationality is, it would require long text. one thing it isn’t is religion.

  32. oao says:

    cynic,

    rereading your comments on rationality i may have misread it. i am not clear on what your point was, as i agree that those two are not comparable, why did you feel compelled to point that out to me, to what were you reacting?

  33. oao says:

    Defining attainable objectives.

    what are those from the perspective of an individual when it comes to western collapse?

    i could spend some time specifying the difference between the yishuv in and around 1948 and that collapse, but i won’t because most of them should be clear.

    should i be wrong and the west will rise up and return to what it was (because it no longer is that), i will be glad to enjoy it. but even if i am right there is little i can do about it.

    don’t confuse what you wish with what is.

  34. oao says:

    It is plain that one who chooses to be religious chooses that out of his own free will. ”

    uh, yeah, but…

    an overwhelming majority of the religious are born into it and indoctrinated with it to various degrees from childhood, when they are ill equipped to make their own free choices.

    another portion does it as a result of indoctrination in the absence of proper mental tools to make the choice (e.g. recruitment of young jihadis). yet another gets it due to traumatic experience, when they are vulnerable (I have a friend who did). neither of these are free choices.

    now, there may be a relatively very small number who has the intellectual capacity and choose religion. but even if i accept those cases as free, competent choices (a) free is not the same as rational (b) they are the exception, not the rule.

    There is a large history of religion related socially good things, such as the establishment of the rule of law, which in antiquity has always been attributed to a religious figure or a more or less mythical sage, inspired by God or the gods.

    i repeat the question that you did not answer before: was religion per se — the myth, the supernatural, the rituals — necessary for those developments? was god? had that been the case we would not have today laws in secular society, they would have still been tied to religion. but we dropped the latter and the laws survived in a form much more beneficial than in the religious state.

    i suspect that when those beneficial developments occurred, they were not due to religion per se. rather, what happened was that knowledge improved (not courtesy of religion, thank you!) and that produced certain social survival mechanisms.

  35. oao says:

    initially religion was itself a social survival mechanism, but that was in the absence of knowledge.

  36. Eliyahu says:

    oao, you seem to be a throwback to those 19th & 20th century atheists who put their FAITH in Science. That is, they had a faith just as a religious person has a faith. Their faith was science, but what science is at any moment in time, that is, what scientists think they know or believe they know at any particular moment, is subject to change. You do agree, don’t you? But then you can believe in the unchanging scientific method. But maybe the method is not up to dealing with all the questions, for one reason or another, depending on the case in question. Then what?

    We know how irrational and dishonest many people claiming to be secular or non-believers or scientific can be. There is a “peace now” militant here in Jerusalem who is also a competent chemist at the Eyn Karem Hadassah Hospital, which is a very respected research hospital. Once, in an argument with me at a demo, he claimed to be a nuclear physicist. It was a lie as I suspected at the time and later found confirmed. Why would he even lie about something like that? Isn’t it prestigious enough to be a research chemist? The argument started by his saying that no respectable scientists could be “right-wingers” [in the Israeli context, "right" & "left" have nothing to do with socioeconomic arrangements but with one's attitude toward peace with the PLO]. He was in fact a leader and spokesman of “peace now” in Jerusalem. Now, in response to his claim of “no respectable scientists” I mentioned Yuval Ne’eman, a founder of the Tehiya Party, a secularist, an opponent of Oslo and a renowned nuclear physicist, a highly prestigious specialty, it seems. So in order to achieve and/or maintain the upper hand over me in the argument about “peace now’s” notions, he lied about himself. That is a dishonest secularist.

    Then we have the Marxist and Marxist-Leninist fantasizers. They used to claim that communism was inevitable. Just let capitalist econ development go on and there will be a fall in the rate of profit and all will come tumbling down. Real communism will emerge out of the ruins. Anybody who denied that vision was a “reactionary.” But lo and behold, Marx has been dead for more than 100 years and still no communism. If anything, we are moving farther away from it than before. But the true Believers still believe. Although now, they think that they have found a substitute proletariat in the Muslims, especially the jihadis. Maybe King Abdullah will raise the red flag in Mecca and A-jad will raise it in Teheran. Maybe, even if osama bin laden is already dead, as many suspect, he can have a Second Coming as a Communist messiah or more precisely, as a mahdi. The Internationale will ring out over the hills of Waziristan, north and south, and Farshtunkistan, east and west, and Pushtunistan, and the Pakistani green flag will turn red. And the progressive, revolutionary Pakis can sacrifice virgins to the god of Progress, instead of –or in addition to– for the sake of Family Honor. And the noble, progressive revolutionary Resistance Kampf will have triumphed. Jihad will metamorphize into Resistance by the enchantments of the materialist dialectic. Mein Kampf will have become Ihre Kampf und Unser Kampf. Paradise, al-Firdaws, al-Janna, will overflow with the Progressive martyrs of the Enlightened Revolutionary Jihad. The Feminist Legions will work overtime to supply Progressive Houris for the Progressive Martyrs. It’s only what they deserve. Yes, oao, it’s coming. Just listen to the slogans chanted in the joint demos of “Left” and Hamas and Hizbullah. The new, revised, Progressive terminology is already in place. Old wine in new bottles, we march into the Future, the Blood Red Dawn of Progressive Islam.

    So, oao, the secularists have Faith and a Vision. They Believe. They are often dishonest in promoting their Vision. So, oao, how do the secularists differ from the religious????

  37. Eliyahu says:

    by the way, Carlos the Jackal, raised as a Commie red diaper baby, the son of a very rich Communist Venezuelan father, both a landowner & lawyer, as well as a Commie, converted to Islam. This was after years of Commie indoctrination in Cuba and Moscow. He explained to his friend, the Swiss Nazi Francois Genoud, that the “Islamic revolutionist” was now in the vanguard of revolution. Note that Carlos the Jackal, now in a French jail, stands at a nodal point where Commies, Muslim jihadis, Arab nationalists, and Nazis meet. Check out his relationship to Genoud who once worked for the Int’l Committee of the Red Cross.

    Moreover, the ostensibly liberal govt of Britain, the United Kingdom, is working hard to promote the IslamoJihadist Hamas as a legitimate negotiating partner for the new, enlightened Europe, with the help of EU funds. See link:

    http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1239710762149&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

    Yes, the slogans and arguments for making HamasoNazis socially acceptable, even fashionable in the New Liberal Transnational West have already been worked out. Just as the UK in the 1930s led the struggle for peace with Germany by giving self-determination to deprived ethnic Germans in the Sudetenland, so today the UK is in the revolutionary vanguard paving the way for acceptance of Hamas and Hizbullah. Is this just the Left Side of the coin of empire?

  38. Cynic says:

    oao,
    why did you feel compelled to point that out to me, to what were you reacting?

    I was not chiding you. I was purely surmising that I did not make it clear enough about what I was trying to get across. What I hope is clear now is that I think that Rationality is relative.

    I hit on a phrase in a comment and my mind reacts to it and I respond – maybe I’m nuts.

    A positive aspect of religion as opposed to secularism which verges on anarchy is that society as a whole has learned to live as humanely as possible in the West due to a religious definition of rational – 10 commandments.
    Where I refer to Hollywood, for example, I am maybe being rather obtuse in my analogies but I’m seeing Britney Spears, that role model for so many youngsters, getting out of Paris Hilton’s car and sending a message which given the media exposure seems to be reducing the rationality of a society built up over centuries of trying times to just that of dogs in the street. Seems the Beatles were ahead of their time Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?
    And when that happens how can one expect any rational thoughts on the Powers that Be from
    the upcoming generation?

    There are religions and there are religions. Our “heritage” seems to be about the best of the crop and its general rationality has provided us with a relatively peaceful and pleasant society permitting freedom of thought and expression to a degree where we are in danger of destroying ourselves by insisting on our own definitions of rationality.

    We should not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

  39. Cynic says:

    Michelle,
    How would you take the fear of death out of the human mind?

    Maybe subconscious would be better than mind?
    We do have a survival instinct, don’t we? :-)

    E.G.
    I believe that the word religious derives from some obscure language meaning “daily practice” or something. Correct me if I’m wrong.
    I did cause some consternation once when walking with an associate. We passed the entrance to an organisation which he saw for the first time and asked me what it did.
    I explained that it was a “Club” run by the church to deal with wayward kids with all sorts of problems, drugs etc., and raided religiously by the police!
    I really did not intend that pun but suffered his grimace resolutely.
    Why do we humans generalize and not see the practice of religion as the individual

  40. Michelle Schatzman says:

    i repeat the question that you did not answer before: was religion per se — the myth, the supernatural, the rituals — necessary for those developments? was god?

    I am sorry, oao, but I do not know how to answer this question. I love uchronias as a literary genre, but the historical answer seems to be that all civilizations passed through an age, where law was established upon some kind of religious foundation. I really do not know whether this was a necessary step or not, and I have no argument, which could help me here.

    had that been the case we would not have today laws in secular society, they would have still been tied to religion. but we dropped the latter and the laws survived in a form much more beneficial than in the religious state.

    On this point, I disagree with you. Let me explain why. Religion is not only organized religion, with hierarchs and clerics. Religion can also be agreement by a group of people to apply certain principles and hold certain values. If you read the declaration of the United States, it is quite explicit, in that it makes references to some self-evident laws. Saying that these laws are self-evident is another way of saying that they hold a transcendent status.

    The founding fathers of the USA were more or less religious people. They agreed on some common principles, which could as well be termed “civic religion”. The rule of law depends on this civic religion and its acceptance.

    I certainly share your criticism of the evolution of western societies, and I believe that this evolution is the result of the abandonment of most principles of the civic religion shared by western countries.

    i suspect that when those beneficial developments occurred, they were not due to religion per se. rather, what happened was that knowledge improved (not courtesy of religion, thank you!) and that produced certain social survival mechanisms.

    Knowledge certainly improved courtesy of religion. The reformation was immensely instrumental in helping the advance of knowledge, because it established the possibility of developing independent thought and made easier to build philosophical or scientific systems which would not be submitted to Church or State.

    If you reduce religion to obscurantist organizations, you do not have to prove anything, because you select the bad guys… and, by the way, indoctrination is one of the most inefficient ways of making people religious. I have two children, the girl is religious, the boy is not. One of the main reasons is that I committed the error of putting the poor child a total of two years in jewish schools, and indoctrination succeeded quite efficiently to make him hate religion. I can beat my breast and say “Chatati”, but the ones who did the indoctrination (or tried) are the ones who should examine their souls.

    I believe, in a very fundamental way, that imposed religion is worthless.

  41. Cynic says:

    Why did my finger hit the submit button too early?

    Why do we humans generalize and not see the practice of religion as the individual‘s choice of expression?
    The behaviour of some pedophile, psychopath or demagogue will always be around to pollute the minds in society.

  42. Cynic says:

    I love uchronias as a literary genre, but the historical answer seems to be that all civilizations passed through an age, where law was established upon some kind of religious foundation. I really do not know whether this was a necessary step or not

    We can take Islam as an example where the sword was/is used to implement order!

    Iniatially, thousands of years ago violence was the norm, but then free thinking individuals started on a different path. Most probably superstition was dominant.

    I have foundinteresting a work by Norman Gottwald – The Tribes of Yahweh
    A Sociology of the Religion of Liberated Israel — 1250-1050 B.C.E.

  43. Michelle Schatzman says:

    Cynic,

    I believe that the word religious derives from some obscure language meaning “daily practice” or something. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    The word comes from latin “religio” with genitive religionis.

    Two possible etymologies : from legare = bind or from legere = read, select ; a derivative of legere is elegere, which has given elect.

    Experts seem to disagree.

  44. oao says:

    I really do not know whether this was a necessary step or not, and I have no argument, which could help me here.

    yes, but can’t you think of whether the religion’s myth was logically necessary to the introduction of law? do you find anything in it without which laws could not occur?

    Religion can also be agreement by a group of people to apply certain principles and hold certain values.

    you mean, like jonestown?

    seriously, though, that’s not what is usually meant when the term religion is used. but even if i accept, without the specifics of the principles and values involved, and how they were arrived at, I can’t say anything about its good or bad. and it may certainly be irrational or nonrational.

    this evolution is the result of the abandonment of most principles of the civic religion shared by western countries.

    i dk what civic religion means. my peeve is with the organied religions based on supernatural irrational myths. what you are referring is a completely different animal.

    The reformation was immensely instrumental in helping the advance of knowledge

    that was a relaxation of religion, a liberalization. but had that been the end, it wouldn’t have been sufficient. it took further relaxation of grip on life to get real progress.

    If you reduce religion to obscurantist organizations, you do not have to prove anything, because you select the bad guys…

    if you broaden it to any group with principles, it’s no longer religion as the term is normally employed.

    I believe, in a very fundamental way, that imposed religion is worthless.

    that’s trivially obvious and we agree. however, what is normally referred to as religion — mainly the 3 monotheistic ones — used to be all imposed by various mechanisms. in the west that imposition was in main eliminated; did not happen in islam — that’s why we progressed and they did not.

  45. oao says:

    Why do we humans generalize and not see the practice of religion as the individual’s choice of expression?

    because that’s not what reality is, certainly not historically, but not even presently. see my description of how one usually gets into religion and consider the enforcement mechanisms — albeit relaxed, but not entirely eliminated — to prevent getting out of it.

    and even if it’s free choice, it does not mean it’s rational.

  46. E.G. says:

    oao,

    i note that i see no counter to my evidence and arguments about collapse with same, but rather resorts to “belief in human resourcefulness”, “religion”, etc. uhuh.

    a. Our divergence is not about what you call collapse. It’s about what to do about it. I share your exasperation and the sense of helplessness. But I refuse to give up. Maybe I suffer from the gambler’s fallacy (but I don’t pretend to be rational) but you can’t claim there’ll be no more games when this one ends, nor reliably predict what their outcomes will be.

    b. Resourcefulness does characterise a few Mammal species, including Homo sapiens, in different degrees both inter and intra species. I don’t think this needs further elaboration here. Nor that you’d disagree. It seems I place greater importance on it than you.

    c. I didn’t refer to religion per se but to recourse, inter alia, to religion-based principles (values or rites). IOW, it’s the function rather than the essence.

  47. oao says:

    It’s about what to do about it. I share your exasperation and the sense of helplessness.

    exasperation yes, but not really helplessness. that’s because it was part of my specialiation to know that systemic problems cannot be resolved at the individual, but at the collective action level. and there are inherent obstacles in that. at several points I recommended a little booklet by Mancur Olson, THE LOGIC OF COLLECTIVE ACTION. it is a formal development of what rostrom referred to as prisoner dilemma.

    But I refuse to give up. Maybe I suffer from the gambler’s fallacy (but I don’t pretend to be rational) but you can’t claim there’ll be no more games when this one ends, nor reliably predict what their outcomes will be.

    that comes close to ray’s emotional theory and since it involves survival, it’s probably closer to the mark.

    but that’s been exactly my point: that when reality is very adverse it is psychologically difficult for people to accept it, they want to believe it can be changed. but whether it will be changed is a tossup: it may or may not. if it does not on time…

    now, i don’t see ANY development which suggests it will change for the better, but for the worst. until i see such, i cannot, if i want to be honest with myself and others, must expect it will not.

    but i will beawfully glad if it surprises me.

  48. obsy says:

    stan: “Become an environmentalist, become the enemy of Ahmadinejad, and defeat him.”

    That is an totally unnecessary move. You can reduce your demand for oil without becoming an environmentalist.

    Also, your sentence implies:

    1. that we currently are not enemies of A. and still have to become his enemies.

    2. that environmentalists are enemies of A. Often this is true. But you hide the fact that not Ahmadinejad is the problem. He is only a part of the problem. To be specific: an exchangeable part of the problem. Palestinians get enough money from the west. Practically all environmentalist (in Europe) are part of the problem and are very aggressive against Israel. If you want me to join them, I have to ask you which side you are on?

    You won’t defeat Ahmadinejad by boycotting oil. You won’t even stop the Iranian bomb. If I were an Iranian leader, stopping the nuclear program would be the last thing I would do. No boycott, no sanctions and no talk will stop it!

    I’m in favor of reducing the use of oil. But even if all people would do it, it would not stop the problems.

  49. oao says:

    But even if all people would do it, it would not stop the problems.

    it would in fact increase it. because the west and its advantage over the islamists is their dependence on energy which, at this time, means oil. so any reduction in oil right now would eliminate much of the advantage.

    it is part of the collapse of the west that it failed to produce a long term program for alternative energy. the arabs and iranians have been able to lower the price each time it became high enough to prod the west into such programs and, the west played their game and made them rich. now the west is bankrupt.

    short of war with iran the only route to victory over it is to strangle them economically. but anybody with half a brain can see that this won’t happen.

  50. Stan says:

    Obsy,
    I am an environmentalist and I in no way support the the Loonies in the Green party and their ilk in Europe. But you are wrong on two counts. First, if we are personally supplying Iran with money when we fill out tanks, we are not Ahmadinejad’s enemy. Second, If we move to green energy and stop using Iranian oil we can make a big impact in the defeat of Ahmadinejad. His power will be gone.
    Striking a blow against Iran will also go a long way to ending the Palestinian conflict. It is Iran that supports Hizbulah and Hamas, and has an alliance (an unnatural one) with Syria that props up Assad in his stance against Israel.

    In the bigger picture, we as individuals can sit on our assess, and talk about what our leadership should not be doing; All the while driving our big cars and sending our money to Iran. Or, we can actually be a part of this war against extremist Islam. It is not only Iran that is dependent on our oil consumption.

    If you cringe at calling yourself an environmentalist, I can respect that, as we see many moonbats with that title. Whatever you want to call yourself is fine. The important thing is that we stop sending money to the people who want us dead.

    Stan

  51. [...] What’s Going on Here? / Ahmadinejad’s Folly: Steinberg and Bayefsky on the First Day of [...]

  52. oao says:

    Second, If we move to green energy and stop using Iranian oil we can make a big impact in the defeat of Ahmadinejad. His power will be gone.

    oil went from $140 to under $40 and i have not seen any diminished a’jad.

    i dk how much iranian oil we use, but cutting oil rapidly to the level it will have an impact on a’jad will cause huge economic and political disruption in the west to the point where the collapse will be complete.

    the kind of reduction you’re talking about should have been started decades ago and done gradually. to that effect high taxes should have been imposed on gas, such that there were incentives to develop substitutes. it was not done because of lack of vision, political courage and a population not educated to and open to the long run.

    In the bigger picture, we as individuals can sit on our assess, and talk about what our leadership should not be doing; All the while driving our big cars and sending our money to Iran. Or, we can actually be a part of this war against extremist Islam. It is not only Iran that is dependent on our oil consumption.

    there is a good reason for that: i suggest you check out game theory which explains why. have you heard of prisoner’s dilemma?

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