kurt's nightmare

Generally, I post once a week. Topics are randomly selected and depend mostly upon whether it's baseball season or not. Other topics will include sex, politics, old girlfriends, music, and whatever else pops into my little brain. If you'd like to read, or ignore, my blog about China: http://meidabizi.blogspot.com/

Location: Dayton, OH, Heard & McDonald Islands

I'm an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Dayton. I represent no one but myself, and barely do that. I'm here mostly by accident.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

How Does One Respond to being Offended?

An odd sensation, feeling as if I am failing if I don't do a weekly entry, in spite of the fact that very few, if anyone, actually reads this thing. But I persist. From Onanism to Solipsism?

Well, at least it's not a list.

I try to convince my students reading Plato's "Apology" that it probably isn't fair to find Socrates guilty, and execute him, because he is annoying. Even if he is Annoying. Let's consider the people, and kinds of people, who annoy us (me) (I include myself as a given): lawyers, politicians, religious figures, teachers, entertainers, and people who make too much money; Gallagher, Tom Cruise, Pat Robertson, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Bill O'Reilly, Elton John, Lee Greenwood, and thousands more (and, no, I don't know why they are all men.)
I strongly urge that none of these people, or groups, be killed.

There are, of course, people who have been killed because there were those who found them so intolerable, or such a threat, that they had to be eliminated; Socrates, of course, and Jesus; but also Giordano Bruno, and Yitzhak Rabin, and Martin Luther King jr., and Gandhi, and Anwar Sadat, and a whole host of others whose offense was so great that their voices needed to be silenced. Rather they go rather than we hear something we don't wish to hear.

My financial accounting teacher makes us listen to Elton John and Billy Joel while doing work in class; I resist calling for the death of any of the three. (My teacher actually seems like a very nice guy, in spite of his bizarre affection for accounting and his execrable taste in music. I don't know, and don't really care, if Elton or Billy are "nice guys" or not.)

Perhaps we should adopt as a rule "thou shalt not kill." Novel, I know, but even this rule has come under attack, for those who wish to maintain the death penalty like to point out that the Hebrew of this commandment is better translated "thou shalt not murder."

One of the things I respect about the Roman Catholic church is its occasional nod to a "consistent life ethic." I like consistency (well, I do and I don't), and while this raises some rather substantial issues about the fetus, abortion, and the rights of women (all of which I shall ignore), I think the idea is, in general, sound: don't kill. If you don't like someone's view, find another approach than killing that person. If a person commits a heinous crime, punish that person, but don't kill him or her.

This, of course, paints me as some kind of squishy bleeding-heart pacifist. Clearly enough, however, there are cases in which this kind of response simply is naïve--when dealing with mass murderers and genocide, or the imminent threat to one's own life, natural law and most other traditions argue that pacificism isn't an appropriate response, and can indeed be immoral.

This is why I don't do ethics.

The response to the current worry over the Danish cartoons, reprinted by those crazy Norwegians, enraging all pious Muslims to the point that people need to be killed, embassies burned, and entire countries boycotted, seems to me to be relatively easy at one level--namely, that such violence is wrong, and accomplishes nothing. I remember the Iranian clerical fatwa pronounced against Salman Rushdie (this was before he was on "Seinfeld"); death to one who dares write about the Prophet in a way that someone rejects. (I did what I could, by immediately running out and buying The Satanic Verses.)

At the same time, portraying the Prophet is a grave offense, allegedly, qualitatively different in theological terms from anti-Semitic cartoons about Israeli politics.

I say "allegedly" because such portraits have been widely available since, well, about the 13th century:

Go here to see pictures that can get you killed.

My guess on all of this is that many Muslims in the Middle East are pissed off: about the occupation of Palestine, the interminable and repeated violations of Palestinian rights for decades without any indication of change, about the fact that Hamas is described as a terrorist organization while a country can invade and bomb (at times indiscriminately) and occupy another and assert that it has some moral right (if not obligation) to do so (and, on occasion, the maximum leader of the invading country invokes a religious imprimatur to do so), that they live in countries where there is no tradition of democracy but rather one of imposed and sexist hierarchy, and that most of them see relatively few benefits from the astounding wealth their countries have produced (often for foreigners).

I'd be pissed off, too, and multiply it about 10-fold if I were a woman.

I'm starting to think that a question I saw a blogger ask might be the right one: do we want to stay and fight for what is right in the 21st-century, or do we want to go back to the 16th-century, with those whose interpretation of Shar'ia is that of the Taliban?

I also think that there is a tendency on the left (such as it is) to give Muslims more of a break; but how patronizing is it to suggest that because Bush is a war criminal and Israel commits human rights violations, that we don't hold Muslims to the same kind of standard we use to excoriate and condemn Bush, Netanyahu, et al.?

This is not to say we don't have a few problems in our country, where a number of leaders seem to find guidance in their own (idiosyncratic) religious traditions: where some are happy to condemn homosexuals to hell (in their selective interpretation of Leviticus) or at least to the status of second-class citizens, where women really shouldn't be regarded as human beings with the same rights and responsibilities as men, where there is relatively little condemnation of the machinery of death yielded by the Bush administration, and where much more effort is made in preventing the termination of a pregnancy (even within 48 hours) than there is spent on worrying about the post-partum children who live in poverty and fear, besieged from a variety of directions due to no fault of their own.

Finally, my friends on the right like to say that they wish they would hear more condemnation of rioting Muslims than they do (similarly, they wish they would have heard more condemnation of the Taliban's destruction of the Buddhist statues from Muslims).

My question is whether we don't hear such information because Muslim clerics and others don't offer such responses, or that we don't hear such information because it isn't carried in the US media, many of us don't read Arabic, and so mostly what we get from the Middle East is the same filtered nonsense that many people in the Middle East rely on?

Mostly, I'm tempted to think that this whole ruckus is one more example of why I tend to side with Enlightenment values, such as freedom of thought and expression--and also freedom of religion (as long as you keep it to yourself, for God's sake)--and worry about those who reject such values as "modernist." Such critics put together in an interesting group the 19th-century Catholic church, Horkheimer and Adorno, and all those trendy types who regard such "freedoms" as phallogocentric bourgeois ideés fixes on the part of those who don't "get" Nietzsche and Heidegger.

In short, what if organized religion isn't the solution, but the problem?

I'm done. Lists are more coherent.


Blogger Bazarov said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm disturbed by the pass you gave women in your last entry, and would therefore like to add a few women to your list of people who annoy us: (1) Our human rights' stompin' Secretaty of State (2) Female football commentators (3) the God-awful meteorologist on Channel 2 (4) Anne Coulter, of course (5) Any educated or powerful woman who calls herself Republican (Why do women have to be women's worst enemies?) (6) Brittney Spears (for driving a car with her baby on her lap) (7) Stay-home mothers who judge working mothers as inferior and heartless. (8) Barbie, for her impossible figure and for telling our daughters, "Math is hard!".

11:54 AM  
Blogger kmosser said...

I can't disagree. And what would I do for amusement without Ann Coulter?

Sean Hannity doesn't cut it, although I think I'm taking up his story next week here. Stay tuned.

5:46 PM  
Blogger Bazarov said...

I had posted a long drawn out comment but it was far too offensive i think. It's gone now. But what are we to do with all the children in adult disguises?

1:40 PM  
Anonymous Frodo said...

Who cares Dick Cheney just shot a guy and all my daughter said was, "Who gave that guy a gun anyway?"
Dick must of thought he looked like Patrick Fitzgerald, you know after a few hard drinks they all look like special prosecuters to me. Funny thing is nobody wanted to report it they thought Dick might take a shot at them.

Back to last weeks jihad of the week.

Way back in my college days I meet a fellow computer geek and we worked many a computer project. He was a scholar and a gentleman educated in France because he was from Syria. The topic of the Palestinians came up once and he gave me the 20 minute tour from Syrian eyes, He explained to me that the Arabs never cared about Palestine and or the Palestinians that many an Arab country kicked them out of their own Arab country and abused, misused, screwed and generally treated them like the lowest of the low. Nobody cared about them, well he said no Arab cared about them. But then when Israel became a Jewish state all of a sudden!!! It was the most important piece of worthless desert dirt on the planet. So it was just a convienent way to express the underlying hatred of Jews not the love of Palestinians. Because if that were the case they could have given the Palestinians any hunk of Sand on any Arab country a long time ago. If all they (Brother Arabs) wanted was a place to live, There is no oil under Israel so who should care about that. If they really cared about their Arab brothers well being then they should take them into their own country and carve a "New Palestine" in the corner of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria. (Isn't that what the crazy Europeans did in the U.S.?, New York, New Orleans, New Brunswick and my favorite New Iberia) But they don't care about the palistinians they care about the hatred. And that confused me even more. Funny thing is I don't know anymore about Arab's mistreating Arabs than I do about Shia's mistreating Sunni's

but I can tell you American Christian Zealots hate American christians who aren't zealots.
And that's as far as I can take it.

This hate things got me seeing double
I keep forgetting who I'm suppose to hate.
Our glorious leader said we are fighting a holy crusade against non-christians.
But I forgot am I the enemy or victim of our society?

11:27 AM  
Blogger kmosser said...

I'm of two minds on the Cheney thing, in that hearing about a Texas lawyer being shot . . . well, you can understand my ambivalence.

5:25 PM  
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