Political Evil

Why is it we Americans are unwilling to honestly speak about political evil? Even the word ‘evil’ comes across as hyperbole. But what we know about recent US history bears the truth of its relevance.

The US became the self-proclaimed leader of the free world following WWII. Since then, the US has attacked, invaded, bombed, overthrown governments, supported brutal militant groups, actively participated in assassinations of leaders, created societal breakdown, allied with oppressive authoritarian regimes, put into place puppet dictators in at least dozens of countries. And the US has caused and contributed to the deaths, harm, orphaning, dislocation, impoverishment, and desperation of at least hundreds of millions of people.

A few thousand people die in a single attack on US soil and Americans go batshit crazy. But we kill more than a million innocent people in a single country such as Iraq. It was an illegal and unconstitutional war of aggression that was based on lies and propaganda. Americans barely blink an eye.

We imprison non-combatants on no evidence and then torture them in secret prisons. Or else we send them to other countries to be tortured. Because of the bipartisan drone program, we are now in the business of assassinating people and killing more innocent people in the process.

These crimes against humanity and many more like them have been repeatedly supported by both main political parties for as long as they’ve been going on. Yet detain a few people at an airport and Americans act like the world is ending. What about all those people whose lives we destroyed. And I use ‘we’ intentionally. It is our government that does this with our tax money and we do nothing to stop it, often throwing our support behind it.

It’s not even just foreigners. Our government treats much of the American population just as badly. There are more blacks in prison now than there were blacks in slavery at its height. And blacks aren’t even the majority of the prison population. The US government imprisons more of its citizens than any oppressive government in history. When you look at who these prisoners are, they come from desperate poverty and unemployment, communities with toxic dumps and high rates of heavy metal toxicity, and endless police brutality by police forces that treat these communities like a military occupation.

Trump is nothing new. He is the id of our collective psyche, showing Americans what we are, what we’ve always been. He is acting out in public what Americans are used to keeping hidden from themselves. It’s one thing to do horrific things, but it should never be spoken of in respectable company. If Trump keeps this up, Americans might start to gain a conscience, but probably not.

When does a nation finally look in the mirror and realize that the evil they always feared is looking back at them? That is a hard truth to face. Fully take that word in, ‘evil’. It’s not just a word. It has real meaning. Never forget that you are complicit. We all are, we who live our lives in the belly of the beast. Keep this in mind. One day, the beast will turn against you. And then suddenly you’ll understand why all those hundreds of millions lives destroyed mattered after all.

Nietzsche & Rand, Sinners & Criminals

“The Christian resolve to find the world evil and ugly, has made the world evil and ugly.”

 ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

“There’s no way to rule innocent men.
The only power government has is the power to crack down on criminals.
Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them.
One declares so many things to be a crime
that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.”

 ~ Ayn Rand 1905-1982

Are Republicans Evil?

“When fascism comes to America, it will be draped in the flag and carrying a cross.”
 ~ Halford E. Luccock

There has recently been revealed scandal after scandal within the Republican party. The scandal involving the Bush administration and GITMO can only be interpreted as war crimes. If any politician ever was evil, it would either be Bush or one of his crony friends.

Now, there is yet another scandal involving Republicans. Is there no depth of depravity that rightwingers won’t descend to?

God: Suffering and Longing

Posted on Dec 30th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Explorer Marmalade
God’s Goodness is man’s suffering by which I’m not implying the good and bad as theological beliefs.  Its the ideal of Goodness (via our longing for it) that creates dissatisfaction of this world.  Even so, this tendency to idealize and to long is natural to the human psyche.  God or our experience of God isn’t in opposition to this earthly existence.

The reason that such immense ideals have an “otheworldly” feel to them is because God is the ultimate Other… which isn’t the same as saying God is separate.  This Other can also be experienced inwardly (if such a word applies), but this doesn’t change the esential Otherness.  God’s Goodness isn’t human goodness meaning it isn’t comprehensible in everyday terms nor can it be conformed to our purposes.  God undermines our entire sense of self and reality which isn’t a bad thing per se, but  its hard to interpret such an experience according to our normal beliefs and expectations of goodness. 

This world of suffering is Hell and our complicity with suffering is Evil.  I use these strong words because only they can convey the power of suffering when felt deeply.  But, by this, I don’t mean to assume any particular theological claims.  And, yet, I do mean to say that essentially both the Christians and Gnostics are right about God.  Thusly, without logical consistency and without psychological reconciliation, I accept my inability to separate my experience of suffering from my experience of that which is other than suffering… whatever one may wish to call it.

Or, anyways, this is what makes sense to me at the moment.  Unlike a pessimist of a materialist bent, I don’t deny any metaphysical possibility.  I have experienced something that felt like an Other.  Was it God?  Was it even good in the ultimate sense?  I don’t know.  It felt real… and, in this world of confusion, a glimpse of reality may be the closest one gets to the Good.

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Marmalade : Gaia Child

about 2 hours later

Marmalade said

There is only one essential statement in this whole blog:The Good of God is not the good of man. Its just my experience and that is all.

The only other choice is to go entirely with the Gnostics and call God Evil… which Icould agree with in the sense that they speak of the god of this world. The problem with the latter interpretation is such dualism doesn’t make sense of my experience, but maybe the Gnostics didn’t believe it as a fact… instead as something like a useful means.

What I do know is that this world is filled with immeasurable suffering. Yet, when I explore this suffering, I discover something other than any normal sense of this world.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 17 hours later

Nicole said

I think too often we ignore or gloss over this Otherness and its implications.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 20 hours later

Marmalade said

Part of me would say that I’m exaggerating too much, but there is a purpose for my doing so. Suffering, strangely enough, can be one of the easiest things to ignore or distract ourselves from. This is as true for me as for anyone else.

There is something freeing about simply stating that this world is hell. I spent years struggling against suffering, but I feel that struggle has become less. Whatam I freed from? I’m not entirely sure. An element of it has to do with imagination. For me, to imagine what might be is founded upon seeing things as they are. So, in allowing hell to be real, I can imagine heaven. Or something like that.

In case you were wondering, this blog actually wasn’t intended as a direct response to the guilt thread in the God pod. This is just an extension of my recent thinking. I wrote this down in my journalaround a week agoand finally got around to writing it up.

The direct inspiration of this post is the essential statement I mentioned. I’ve had that thought for a long time. The realization that the Good of God isn’t the good of man came to me during a time (which we’ve talked about before)when I had fully relented to my own experience of suffering and longing, but I also feared losing myself in this experience of Other. I didn’t feel capable (or willing) to stay with this experience. Nonetheless, the memory of it is very clear and an everpresent reality of sorts… even if I haven’t yet come to terms with it.

Good and Evil on TV

Good and Evil on TV

Posted on Sep 6th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Explorer Marmalade
From some recent shows, I’ve noticed two specific types of characters.   The shows I’m thinking of all are based in a small town where normal social order is lacking or shifting. 

One character plays the role of a patriarch of the town, but not necessarily in a formal position of authority.  Even though this character is amoral in his behavior, he isn’t evil.  He values loyalty, and he only hurts those who get in his way.  He isn’t primarily interested in power nor in grand visions.  He just wants to keep the status quo and enforce a loose order.  He is confident in his ability and inspires other people’s confidence in him.  He doesn’t always have a clear plan, but he is a man of action that gets things done.

The other character plays the role of an opposing authority figure and maybe in a less political position.  He isn’t interested in power or money.  He is trying to be a good person, but has personal issues.  He is somewhat a loner in that he feels that its up to him to figure things out, and there can be a conflict between his relationships and his sense of duty.

The two characters have to test eachother.  The latter character in particular doesn’t fully understand the former character.  They have different motivations, but their purposes aren’t always in conflict.  They’ both value the town and are protective of it.  When other people seek harm to the town citizens, these two characters slowly develop an uneasy truce.  An outside threat creates a common enemy.

Neither of these characters play the traditional roles of good and evil.  In coming to a truce with eachother, they come to a more complex and nuanced understanding of morality.  Both characters are capable of good and evil, but the moral lesson is more about relationships than about individual behavior.  What is important is the life of the community.

The shows I have in mind as examples are Deadwood, American Gothic, and Invasion.  In Deadwood, the two characters are Al Swearengen (played by Ian McShane) and Seth Bullock (played by Timothy Olyphant).  In American Gothic, the two characters are Sheriff Lucas Buck (played by Gary Cole)  and Dr. Matt Crower (played by Jake Weber).  In Invasion, the two characters are Sheriff Tom Underlay (played by William Fichtner) and Russell Varon (played by Eddie Cibrian).

Of course, between these two men is a woman.  In Deadwood, its Alma Garret Ellsworth (played by Molly Parker).  In American Gothic, its Gail Emory (played by Paige Turco).  In Invasion, its Dr. Mariel Underlay (played by Kari Matchett). 

This female character is in the middle of the conflict and she is trying to define her own identity.  Her allegiance is uncertain.  She has experienced emotional struggle which might have involved the death of someone close to her.  She both mediates and exacerbates the conflict between the two male characters.

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Marmalade : Gaia Child

36 minutes later

Marmalade said

I’m always amazed how a simple thought can take so much time to write up. 

I was watching the tv show Invasion.  I noticed the “evil” character was more amoral than immoral, and wasn’t just a stereotype that lacked depth or development.  It reminded me of other characters from other shows, and that made me think about the opposing character.  Considering those two male opponents then lead me to consider the related female character.

I decided to blog about it.  Of course, its hard for me to write just a quick thought about my observation.  And, after adding in hyperlinks, an amazingly amount of time had passed.  🙂

Anyways, my basic motivation was my interest in the amoral patriarchal character.  In tv shows, this character is often the most interesting.

I just had another thought.  This pattern even fits other types of movies, including movies without small town settings.  X-Men has a similar dynamic between Professor Xavier and Magneto, and Dr. Jean Grey plays the mediating female role.  Its not an unusual pattern, but its interesting to me because it has a more complex message of morality.  This pattern, however, seems to have become more popular.  Complex moral messages in general have become more popular such as with the more gritty realistic comic book movies.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 4 hours later

Nicole said

i’m not familiar enough with most of the references here, but these do seem very familiar themes, very American ones too. Very much about individualism above all, with nods to community but I don’t really get the feeling that it’s about community, it seems to be about these individuals “finding themselves”. I found the X-Men movies troubling on a number of fronts.

I’m not sure it’s so much a more complex morality, certainly more shades of grey, but it seems to me more a delighting in muddying or ambiguities rather than truly searching for morality and meaning. Like aspects of traditional existential that glory in stark aloneness… Sartre and “hell is other people”…

Hmm… not sure what it is that bothers me so much about all this, my friend. Have to think about it some more. It actually surprises me today.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 9 hours later

Marmalade said

Its fine that you feel bothered by it.  I just find it interesting as it seems to represent a shifting view of good and evil in our society.  I would imagine that the basic pattern is archetypal and has precedent in mythology, but I’m here concerned with a specific cultural manifestation of it.  I would agree that they’re very American themes which includes a heavy focus on individualism.  You are right that its not exatly about community, but there is a strong sense of place and town identity.  The town itself is a character in these stories. 

The X-Men movies entirely lack this latter aspect.  I could understand why you’d find those movies troubling.  They are very violent.  I’m sure you’d also find Deadwood in particular quite troubling for it is very violent, but I’m sure its for the most part historically accurate in its portrayal.  American Gothic has the most clear portrayal of good and evil, and the amoral character in that show is the most strongly evil in the traditional sense.  Invasion is the least violent of all of these, and in some ways has the most interesting ideas.

I’m not arguing for the moral merit of these shows.  I just found the pattern interesting.  I don’t know if any complex morality is being communicated, but there is a morally complex message.  It could be seen as shades of grey, but I think that is just a part of it.  I’m a person who is attracted to moral ambiguities because they clarify my sense of what it means to be human.  I understand the desire for moral distinctions and I’m not arguing against that.  Part of what I like is that the characters in these shows are striving to make these moral distinctions.  In all these shows, there are characters trying to do the right thing.  For instance, Deadwood is very violent and yet there are a number of characters that attempt to challenge the wrongs they see.

Another thing is that these shows are actually have merit as quality storytelling.  I like these shows because I like good stories that make me think. 

Don’t worry about it, NIcole.  That it bothers you doesn’t bother me.  I had nothing I was trying to accomplish with this blog other than communicating a mior observation of my own.  Feel free to speak your own mind about morality on tv.  I’m sure I wouldn’t disagree with much of anything you might say.  What are some other quality tv shows that portray what you feel is a complex understanding of morality?

There is, as you say, the traditional American theme of individualism, but these shows don’t leave it at that.  Relationship is important also, especially in the Invasion series.  Invasion has more emphasis on family than the other shows I’ve mentioned.

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 12 hours later

Marmalade said

I was thinking about what attracts me to these stories.  There is something compelling to me about a situation where the normal social order is lacking.  In Deadwood, its a frontier town that is having an influx of wealth.  In American Gothic, its an isolated small Southern town that has had a traumatic past.  In Invasion, its a town surrounded by swampland after a hurricane.  All these towns are in transition, but there is still some basic order that is being maintained.

In such a situation, moral questions become more poignant.  People can’t just follow the status quo, but have to make moral decisions for themselves.  Also, the consequences are quickly apparent and will have long-term effects.  During conflicts, the best and the worse is brought out in people.

At the same time, the partial disorder isn’t utter chaos.  Its not a crisis where all of society is under threat and its not a warzone.  People in these shows still have everyday relationships of family, romance, and friendship.  Its these everyday relationships that become of central significance.

about 13 hours later

Asteri said

I recognized the Invasion’s one… but finally the “good” and “bad” go together hand in hand… and I would not consider them patterns because in this TV series, do not know about the other one, the Good is the human kind and the Bad is the alien kind… I watched all 6 DVD’s recently and am sure there will be more… would not consider  the alien species bad either, just looking for survival… but you never know what the director had in mind, right…

Generally speaking, there will always be white and black colors, as contrast, in life or movies… contrast, contradiction provokes and takes out the best in us, developing toward what’s called evolution… is like the Yin and Yang… we are not complete without the other side of ours…

Marmalade : Gaia Child

about 13 hours later

Marmalade said

Hello Lili!
I’d separate Invasion from those other shows.  I recently watched it and it was the reason I was thinking about all of this.  I appreciated that this show didn’t simply make the aliens evil monsters.  Its one of the most unique alien stories I’ve come across.

about 13 hours later

Asteri said

Hi Ben 🙂 Did you watch Taken? I would recommend that one too… I am not the advocate of Alien species, but just because they are different does not make them evil :))) The evil monsters form TV shows are just human nightmares, not the reality… Well, in my real life I just see the good side in people… LOL

Marmalade : Gaia Child

about 21 hours later

Marmalade said

Its because of alien lovers like you that they’re taking over the world.  See if you’re looking on the good side keeps them from turning you into a pod person, that is assuming you aren’t already one… hmmm….  🙂

Yes, I’ve watched Taken.  That is a really good show.

1 day later

Asteri said

hmmmm… shall I answer that? LOL

Nicole : wakingdreamer

1 day later

Nicole said

LOL, Asteri and Ben!

Oh, I know that you won’t be bothered by the fact I’m bothered. We are long past those kinds of worries, you and I. I was just struck as I responded by how much it bothered me. I think it has to do with the moral relativism of postpostmodern society in general and North American society in particular, that this kind of show is prevalent.

I wouldn’t be able to provide you with other shows unless you want my detailed analyses of Voyager or Enterprise. You see, I haven’t watched TV for well over 20 years now, except for recordings on DVDs and the occasional show at a friend’s house. So I’m not au courant.

But the shades of grey and ambiguities are really apparent in Voyager and Enterprise, especially some episodes. The Star Trek universe started out as very traditionalist with Roddenberry but mutated after his death into a more and more accurate reflection of the American society’s ideals that engendered it. It remained tremendously idealistic at its core of course, which makes it very different from the shows you discuss, but very often in episodes these kind of “frontier” worlds’ dilemmas are described, and the faithful Starfleet crew has to find a way to deal with them in terms of their moral imperative – The Prime Directive.

Enterprise is interesting in that regard as it’s pre-Prime Directive, so the crew tends to interfere more – for example on the world where a group of humans had been abducted from Earth and enslaved by the aliens, but rebelled and now were oppressing the aliens, the crew intervened and set in motion events that would lead to the emancipation of those aliens. Very touching episode.

So, I think in all this rambling I am starting to figure out what is bothering me about all this. It is the individualism. I see it as a disconnect from the true self and encouraging of rampant egoism, which is counterproductive IMO to full self-development and the good of the community.

You know I’m not a conservatrve by any means, and I’m not looking for black-and-white, which to me is just as false in another way.

Marmalade : Gaia Child

1 day later

Marmalade said

The individualism thingie is a weird artifact of modern culture.  I know Americans are obsessed with it more than some people (such as Asians), but it seems every society that becomes industrialized also becomes more individualistic.  We Americans just are conveneient symbols of individualism with our Hollywood movies of Bruce Willis. 

It could be insightful to look at which American movies and shows are popular in other countrres that are very different from America.  I know that the differences even between English-speaking countries can be significant.  Even though I occasionally watch foreign films, I’m terribly ignorant of the kind of entertainment that is made elsewhere in the world.  I’m mostly only aware of what the British produce, and the British are more similar to Americans for obvious reasons.  I wonder what the relationship is between individualism and Protestantism.

Voyager and Enterprise you say?  Those are some of my favorite shows.  I grew up watching Star Trek with my dad.  He is a strong conservative, but somehow managed to stomach the liberal idealism in that show.  In Next Generation, they added the Ferenghi to balance out the rampant Socialist idealism of the Federation.  I guess Socialism could be considered the opposite of individualism.

Another good space show is Serenity.  It was created by Joss Whedon (of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame) partly in response to the Star Trek world.  This show has the equivalient of the Federation (called the Alliance) which defeated the rebels.  This government is idealistic like the Federation, but it has a darkside for it has to keep a tight control as its government rules over a wide area of space. 

Some of the characters in Serenity are former rebels that have become smugglers.  The lead character (Mal the captain) has lost some of his own idealism and has been forced in to a more practical lifestyle in order to retain his own independence.  It could be interpreted as individualism, but I don’t think that Mal would see it that way even if he might pretend to just be an individualist at times.  He barely makes ends meet and he demands and inspires loyalty to the ship in order to keep things running.

Most of this show is about the planets on the outer edge of the Alliance’s power.  In Star Trek, the crew visits the “frontier” worlds.  In Serenity, the crew lives in the “frontier”.  So, Serenity shows the Alliance from the view of outsiders.

From a moral pespective, its an interesting show.  Like the previous shows I mentioned, all the characters are in a transitional situation… more similar to Voyager in certain aspects.  One thing about transitional scenarios is that they allow much room for character development.  As the show goes on, the Captain’s true idealistic and impractical side starts showing through.  He regains a larger sense of purpose beyond just keeping his ship running and staying outside of the control of Alliance authorities.  Another character shows clear development.  Jayne was a mercenary who becomes a member of the crew.  He initially represents unadulterated selfishness and rugged individualism.  He joins the crew simply to earn money, but the Captain intends to win his loyalty which he slowly accomplishes.

I like both Star Trek and Serenity, but they seem to show two different sides to idealism and power.  In both, the various captains are forced to consider how to live up to their idealism while maintaining their responsibility to their respective crews.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

2 days later

Nicole said

The individualism thingie is a weird artifact of modern culture.  I know Americans are obsessed with it more than some people (such as Asians), but it seems every society that becomes industrialized also becomes more individualistic.  We Americans just are conveneient symbols of individualism with our Hollywood movies of Bruce Willis. 

Not sure, Ben. The world is also become more and more defined by American culture, so it’s hard to say if  where the causality lies.

It could be insightful to look at which American movies and shows are popular in other countrres that are very different from America.  I know that the differences even between English-speaking countries can be significant.
 

Very much so. For example, though I found the UK heavily Americanised, it still retains a lot of culture and entertainment of its own, and it was fascinating… if I had had time to watch TV I could tell you more. 🙂 And here in Canada, we remain distinct 🙂 especially here in Quebec… lol

Even though I occasionally watch foreign films, I’m terribly ignorant of the kind of entertainment that is made elsewhere in the world.  I’m mostly only aware of what the British produce, and the British are more similar to Americans for obvious reasons. 

Not more similar than Canadians surely?

I wonder what the relationship is between individualism and Protestantism.

Well, you have your protestant work ethic which we don’t suffer from much here in Quebec, merci beaucoup mon ami lol, lots of joie de vivre and wine and weekends away and long holidays… One could argue Protestantism is more individualistic, emphasis on “personal salvation”, but … not sure.

Voyager and Enterprise you say?  Those are some of my favorite shows.  I grew up watching Star Trek with my dad.  He is a strong conservative, but somehow managed to stomach the liberal idealism in that show.  In Next Generation, they added the Ferenghi to balance out the rampant Socialist idealism of the Federation.  I guess Socialism could be considered the opposite of individualism.

Not really. Here in Canada (and in the UK and a number of European) we are quite socialist in our democracy, and are still very individualistic. We see socialism as the best means of nurturing individuals 🙂

I certainly wouldn’t call the Ferengis socialist idealists, or community minded. They are the most selfish individualists of any in the Star Trek universe.

The Vulcans would be the socialist idealists.

Another good space show is Serenity.  It was created by Joss Whedon (of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame) partly in response to the Star Trek world.  This show has the equivalient of the Federation (called the Alliance) which defeated the rebels.  This government is idealistic like the Federation, but it has a darkside for it has to keep a tight control as its government rules over a wide area of space. 


Some of the characters in Serenity are former rebels that have become smugglers.  The lead character (Mal the captain) has lost some of his own idealism and has been forced in to a more practical lifestyle in order to retain his own independence.  It could be interpreted as individualism, but I don’t think that Mal would see it that way even if he might pretend to just be an individualist at times.  He barely makes ends meet and he demands and inspires loyalty to the ship in order to keep things running.

Another familiar American theme – the rugged self-sufficient individualist 🙂

Most of this show is about the planets on the outer edge of the Alliance’s power.  In Star Trek, the crew visits the “frontier” worlds.  In Serenity, the crew lives in the “frontier”.  So, Serenity shows the Alliance from the view of outsiders.

Interesting! You see a bit of this in Voyager and Enterprise, or Deep Space Nine, too, where the Bajorans are very hostile toward and suspicious of the Federation.

From a moral pespective, its an interesting show.  Like the previous shows I mentioned, all the characters are in a transitional situation… more similar to Voyager in certain aspects.  One thing about transitional scenarios is that they allow much room for character development.  As the show goes on, the Captain’s true idealistic and impractical side starts showing through.  He regains a larger sense of purpose beyond just keeping his ship running and staying outside of the control of Alliance authorities.  Another character shows clear development.  Jayne was a mercenary who becomes a member of the crew.  He initially represents unadulterated selfishness and rugged individualism.  He joins the crew simply to earn money, but the Captain intends to win his loyalty which he slowly accomplishes.

I like both Star Trek and Serenity, but they seem to show two different sides to idealism and power.  In both, the various captains are forced to consider how to live up to their idealism while maintaining their responsibility to their respective crews.

Yes… thanks!

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

2 days later

Marmalade said

Not really. Here in Canada (and in the UK and a number of European) we are quite socialist in our democracy, and are still very individualistic. We see socialism as the best means of nurturing individuals 🙂

Life in general is usually a mix.  No government or person is entirely one thing or another.  Individual and community aren’t opposed of course.  I was just thinking in terms of extremes.  Ideas are often shown in extreme form in shows.

I certainly wouldn’t call the Ferengis socialist idealists, or community minded. They are the most selfish individualists of any in the Star Trek universe.

I wasn’t calling the Ferengis socialist idealists either.  I was saying the exact opposite.  I was meaning that they balance the socialist idealism of the show in general.  In Next Generation, they never show how people make a living.  The show presents poor communities on some planets, but somehow everyone in the Federation is born wealthy enough that they need no money.  However, the Federation doesn’t offer everything that people want and in that case people have to turn to the black market (ie capitalism) of the Ferengi.

In case you were wondering, I wasn’t arguing against socialism and for capitalism.  I don’t believe that any system is perfect.  Its probably best when such political systems balance eachother out.  In terms of Star Trek, I was partly just writing of my dad’s view.  My dad certainly isn’t in favor of socialism.  He has some LIbertarian leanings, but he isn’t a Libertarian because he has even stronger leanings towards the belief that the individual has a moral responsibility to society which oddly could be seen as a type of individualism because its still a focus on the individual being the basis of society.

Another familiar American theme – the rugged self-sufficient individualist 🙂

Mal does have this as a persona, but I don’t think its his basic personality.  The rugged individualism became emphasized in his life because the cause he was fighting for was lost.  Instead, I’d say he is more of a natural-born leader type.  He has a strong sense of moral responsibility to his friends and crew, and he doesn’t seem prone to work alone. 

However, the scenario of the story is not one of community although there is a family component.  There is a doctor character who freed his sister form a government facility.  This doctor represented someone who had been dedicated to the idealistic society and to helping people, but put his love of family as a higher responsibility.  Also, Mal’s right hand man (woman actually) from his war days has complete loyalty to Mal, but is married to the pilot.  Mal treats his crew something like a family.

New Age: Part 3

New Age: Part 3

Posted on Jul 24th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Child Marmalade

Unity and New Thought denies evil any reality because God is all and all is in God.  There is no Satan and what appears as darkness is nothing more than a lack of light.  Just a false belief and a misperception.  As for sin (original or otherwise), evil, satan, and hell… its all the same in New Thought theology.  Good vs evil isn’t a dichontomy that is used in New Thought.  For instance, A Course In Miracles uses the terms of love and fear: “The opposite of love is fear, but what is all-encompassing can have no opposite.”  There really isn’t any more that can be said of it from a New Thought perspective. 
 
I was raised with no concept of evil and so I never thought about it growing up.  Even though I now understand it in the abstract, it doesn’t have much meaning to me.  As my grandmother (who was a Unity minister, a Science of Mind practitioner, and a student of the ACIM) used to say, “Everyone is doing the best that they can for where they’re at.”
 
In New Thought, God has no gender because God isn’t an anthropomorphic deity.  Rather, God is a spiritual principle something akin to monism or panentheism.  New Thought is the natural result of the evolution of the Judeo-Christian tradition taken to its extreme.  The Catholic God is more abstract than the Jewish God.  The Protestant God is more abstract than the Catholic God.  The New Thought God is more abstract than the Protestant God.  As rationality increased with socio-histoical development, God became ever more rationalized.
 
Unity uses the term “God” to refer to the divine, but the use of the term “Goddess” in reference to the divine is extremely common in New Age.  Even in Unity, nobody would care if you felt like referring to the divine as Goddess. 
 
Goddess combines the whole feel of embodied spirituality that is in line with the New Age’s desire to bridge spirituality and science.  The Gaia hypothesis is a case in point.  It was originated by a scientist, but was quickly spiritualized and has become one of the main tenets of New Age.  Nature and environmentalism are very important in the New Age. 
 
Plus, Goddess fits in with the whole female empowerment.  New Age groups have a high percentage of female membership and women often have leadership positions.  If I remember correctly, all of the ministers of Unity churches that I’ve belonged to have been women.  A major influence of the Goddess strain within New Age goes back to Gimbutas’ theory of ancient peaceful matriarchies.  Also, the rise of virgin mary worship has contributed to this.  New Age is the common person’s spirituality and virgin mary worship has a similar position within Catholicism.  There are many theories why the feminine principle is becoming more central.  I simply see it as the return of the repressed.
 
So, what is a Unity service like?  There is nothing particularly special about a Unity service.  Its very simple and bare bones.  Unity isn’t big into symbolism and ritual.
 
There is singing non-traditonal songs such as “Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.”  Come to think of it, God was referred to as Father in this song.  I just looked it up and I see that some versions have of course changed “Father” to “Creator”.  During the singing of this song, I remember that everyone held hands in a circle that connected the whole congregation together and everyone would sway back and forth.
 
Unity people are a smily and friendly group for the most part, but I have been to a Unity church nearby where the people weren’t as open as the Unity churches I grew up in.  One thing I remember is that people liked to hug and there was a specific point in the service that was for this purpose.  However, someone told me that Unity churches were much more huggy in the past than they are now.   I don’t know what would cause such a change.
 
Of course, there is a sermon.  But its quite different from most Christian sermons.  God is talked about in a less direct way.  There is much more neutral language.  Bible stories aren’t usually told.  Nonetheless, the whole service has a general Christian feel to it.

This blog is posted in the God Pod.

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about 4 hours later

Enlightened.thinker said

I love that Bible stories aren’t taught because ones interpretation of the story is sometimes askew in traditional churches and subjective!

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 16 hours later

Marmalade said

I think the reason for this is that Unity strongly emphasizes developing your own personal relationship to Jesus/God.  A text tends to act as an external authority, but Unity teaches that the authority of God exists within our experience (and within the larger world).  A related thing might be how Unity bookstores stopped carrying the ACIM text because it was becoming too popular amongst Unity membership.  I’ve heard it explained that they didn’t want the ACIM text to become the Bible of Unity.  However, maybe they don’t want any text to become the Bible of Unity… not even the Bible itself.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 18 hours later

Nicole said

fascinating…

sandy : Activist and Ambassador

21 days later

sandy said

sending you lots of hugs!~

Marmalade : Gaia Child

22 days later

Marmalade said

Thanks for the hugs!  Hugs to you as well!

Normality and Rationality

I was thinking about two issues of how people respond to that which is conventionally thought of being outside of the “normal”.

   —

The first issue I’ve thought about many times before as it comes up in the literature of UFOs and the paranormal.  I was skimming through some books by the likes of John Keel, Patrick Harpur and Keith Thompson.  These books confirmed the data I’d seen for myself in public polls.  Simply put, the vast majority of people believe in or have experienced something that seemed to defy a rationalistic, materialistic worldview.  Most people have had at least one strange experience in their life.  Many people have had multiple strange experiences in their life.  However, skeptics and debunkers (whether atheists, scientists, media reporters, or government officials) treat the paranormal as if it were abnormal.  Furthermore, it is treated as if belief or simply acceptance of it might be dangerous for society.

I was thinking about an interview between Dawkins and Radin.  Dawkins told Radin that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”.  Radin pointed out that it depends on what one considers extraordinary.  Dawkins was trying to dismiss from the start experiences that were common to most people.  There is a further problem with Dawkin’s statement.  Parapsychology gets very little funding and so is unable to do the largescale research that is necessary to produce “extraordinary” evidence, but its mainstream scientists such as Dawkins who argue that parapsychology doesn’t deserve funding because it doesn’t produce “extraordinary” evidence.  So, Dawkins’ statement is disingenuous because he really doesn’t want parapsychology to produce extraordinary evidence.  Still, a surprising amount of parapychology research has been done considering the factors of ridicule and limited funding.  Radin even offered to discuss the actual evidence and Dawkins refused.  So, Dawkins represents the rational scientist who precludes certain evidence by coming to a conclusion before even looking at the evidence (if they ever look at the evidence).

It reminds me of CSICOP, the skeptical organization by various mainstream scientists (incuding Dawkins).  The problem with CSICOP is that it isn’t headed by scientists and the scientists who support it have no professional experience with parapsychology research.  CSICOP has no peer-reviewed journal and doesn’t support research even in disproving the paranormal.  Hansen says that CSICOP did do some research early on, but it ended up proving what they were trying to disprove and so they never did research again.  Worse still, they use their influence (via mainstream scientists) to keep parapsychologists from getting funding.

Another example would be the military.  The Air Force had some programs to collect data on UFOs, but the public side of these programs was to debunk.  The main issue wasn’t necessarily to discover whether such things existed or not.  The Air Force had plenty of data to know that there indeed were unidentified objects “flying” in unexplainable ways.  Their own pilots were constantly reporting these things.  The reason debunking was necessary is because of a need to control.  If UFOs were either enemy experimental craft, aliens, or strange paranormal phenomena, the Air Force doesn’t like anything to exist in their airspace that they don’t control.  And if they can’t control the objects, they must control the information about them.  They must put up an image of always being in absolute control. 

George P. Hansen, in his book The Trickster and the Paranormal, goes into great detail about this need for authority figures to control and how the paranormal seems inherently contrary to such control.  Hansen goes into immense detail about the problems parapychology researchers have had trying to study something that can’t be confined to the boundaries of research.  Another interesting point he brings up is the issue of personality types.  According to Ernest Hartmann, thin boundary types are more likely to experience the paranormal and more likely to be open and accepting about such experiences, and thick boundary types are the complete opposite.  Most people are somewhere in the middle as I was pointing out how most people have had paranormal experiences at some point in their life.  An extremely thick boundaried person is a minority, but very interesting is the fact that they’re more likely to be hired for positions of authority in hierarchical organizations (government, military, education, corporations, etc.).  So, authority figures don’t end up representing the actual experience of most people.  Someone like Dawkins is being honest in that he has never experienced the paranormal (or at least has always managed to explain it away), and so it makes no sense to his worldview.  The other problem with thick boundaried people is that they have a harder time imagining the experience of someone than someone different than them.  So, not only do most authority figures not represent the experience of most people neither do they understand.

However, why do most people remain silent about their experiences?  There is the possibility that most people take other people’s silence as demonstrating that their experience is uncommon.  Everyone is afraid of being the first one to bring the subject up because that would mean risking ridicule.  However, I believe it was Patrick Harpur who offered another possibility.  Paranormal experiences aren’t even easy to explain to ourselves.  Like spiritual experiences in general, the paranormal commands a sense of awe and even reverence.  People feel something important happened that shouldn’t be taken lightly.  So, maybe people don’t talk about them because trying to explain them would seem pointless and unecessary.  But many people when asked without fear of ricicule are willing to admit to their experiences, and that is why we know from polls that such experiences are so common.

   —

The second issue is about how people talk about things that are outside the “norm”.  This is mostly an issue of Western civilization, but increasingly it probably applies to other cultures as well.  When talking about the non-rational people feel a need to make sense of it rationally.  I’ve thought about this less than the first issue and so I have less to say about it.  I became aware of it listening to an interview on NPR.  The person being interviewed was an expert on behavior that is so far outside the norm as to be called “evil”.  He was discussing it in rational terms of psychology and historical events, but its a subject that touches upon the metaphysical and the just plain inexplicable. 

It’s hard for most people to wrap their minds around what makes other “normal” people do horrible things such as Nazi medical doctors.  And it’s even hard to come to terms with mass murderers who are usually motivated by mental illnesses few of us ever have to experience.  At least, a Nazi doctor was following orders.  Simple self-preservation can explain following orders no matter how grotesque.  But this expert pointed out that the people who did the actual killing of Jews were often given the choice of whether to participate or not. 

I was watching a documentary recently about the part of WWII involving Russia and Germany.  These were two totalitarian superpowers who were willing to go to any length for victory.  All morality and social order was gone.  The actions taken on enemy soldiers and just innocent civilians was at least as horrifying as any of the Nazi death camps.  It was all out thuggery and brutality.  It didn’t surprise me that the people involved were so-called “normal” people.  During what is called the partisan war, there was a lot of torture and random killings and most of it was not done because of any orders given.  They were typically just local people doing horrible things to other local people, often to those they were friends and neighbors with before the war.  One guy who terrorized a particular town used to be the teacher for that town and before the war he showed no signs of being vicious.  That is disturbing but other wars have shown that repeatedly that your neighbors may one day turn on you and do horrible things beyond imagination.  This potential is within every person.  Even psychological research shows how easily people turn to brutality.  What is called “civilization” is a thin veneer. 

What is surprising is that the people interviewed who were involved in the atrocities from WWII were mostly unrepentant and said they’d do it all over again.  These people were now old, possibly grandparents and great grandparents now.  But given another opportunity they’d gladly torture their neighbors all over again.  “War is war” seemed to be the rationalization.  Nothing else mattered but kill or be killed.  These were just “normal” people.  It’s hard for Americans in particular to understand this attitude.  Unlike Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany, America idealizes morality and civil rights even though we don’t always live up to those ideals.  Of course our soldiers have done horrible things as well, but we tend to look down on this type of behavior.  The US soldiers involved in the recent torture incidents are mostly repentant when interviewed.  They act as confused by their own behavior as the rest of us.  They explain it as following orders.  We all can understand that and we sadly nod our heads.  But guerilla warfare is a different entity, something more close to the behavior of serial killers.  Americans haven’t personally experience guerilla warfare since the Civil War.  The atrocities of war are what happen elsewhere… well, until 9/11 that is.

Anways, the callers from the NPR interview were mostly Americans I suppose.  And so maybe my observation applies more to Americans.  The majority of callers seemed only indirectly interested in the “evil” behavior itself.  Instead, they took issue with how “evil” was defined.  Everyone had their own definition.  It seemed extremely important that we get our definitions precisely correct and that everyone should come to a rational agreement about how we discusst it.  The process of discussing was almost more important than the subject.  Maybe it’s because these behaviors are so challenging to our normal understanding.  It’s almost as if the right definition could be found then it wold all somehow make sense, somehow seem less threatening.  We moderns define ideas and terms in the way that Christian theologians in the past categorized sins and demons.  If things are in their proper place, at least there is a sense of there being an order to the world.  It doesn’t stop the “evil”, but it turns it into an object that can be safely studied.