Listen, My Children...

Every Little Helps

Friday, April 30, 2004

A Round of Court Martials, Barkeep


What the Professor said.

It's Coming


Whenever BeNeLux citizens voice their worries that the "My Son the Fanatic"-type young Muslim residents' pushes for Sharia law in their countries scares them, they're laughed out of the park and accused of being fearmongerers. (Aside: what else can you monger? war, fear, hate... what else?) Well, it's happening, but it skipped the Netherlands and went straight to Canada.

Party!


There's a party going on over at Owen's place, and it's spilling out into the streets! Just got a sloppily-written angry email complaining about what I assume are some other poster's (or Owen's) words and criticizing my "attempt at journalism." Hey, you know what? It's a blog. I'm not trying to be a journalist! And I like poking people!

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Mistreat prisoners? No thanks


Simply put, we really should not be doing this.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Victory Coalition!


Have now officially sided with the Victory Coalition. Hey, they've got better graphics!

"Hari Kerry"


The Moderate Voice, a blog I haven't seen before but which looks quite entertaining, has the best post I've seen yet on Kerry's attempt to make all of Charlie Gibson's journalistic dreams come true by having his own post-Chappaquiddick moment.

Ghettoization


Well, this is new: "Race watchdogs have been called in to investigate a state-of-the-art London housing block that is being reserved for Asians only."

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Cultural Imperialism


The Professor presents the question of why we don't get worked up about run-of-the-mill culturally-approved barbarity against women, when we stage rallies about other terrible things, and answers: "Because elites around the world see American culture as a more immediate threat to their power than Islamic fundamentalism."

I don't think that's quite it. I think a large part of it -- at least within the academic (and, by extension, journalistic) sphere -- is due to the trendy notion of cultural and conceptual imperialism. In other words, who are we to say it's wrong when a father in England kills his daughter for being seen with a boy? His culture (Pakistani) supports it, and, if we say it's wrong, we're saying his culture is wrong and ours is better. Only orientalists and imperialists will say that their enlightened western culture is better than an eastern culture! (Everyone knows, of course, that enlightened eastern cultures are much better.) One of my professors, an immigrant from India, states as a matter of course that wife-beating's fine when you're in India, although it's not liked so much here. Nobody else seems to mind this!

This view, that honour-killings, wife-beating, female infanticide, court-ordered rape, and so forth, are all acceptable if they're in a culture that finds those things acceptable, is shockingly widespread among certain western groups. I first came across it in an exercise on tolerance at Harvard (as part of an "awareness week" meeting, not a mandatory diversity-training session), where students were asked to stand on different sides of the room depending on their answer (from an ethical standpoint, not a legal one). "2 consenting unrelated same-sex adults want to be in a sexual relationship; is that ok?" Pretty much everyone goes to the yes side. "A 65-year-old and a 16-year-old want to get married; is that ok?" Somewhat fewer. "A man and two women say they want to be in a sexual relationship; is that ok?" A Mormon friend heads over to join the yes-crowd. "A woman wants to go back to her abusive lover; is that ok?" Since we're at a seminar on the evils of domestic violence, especially within same-sex relationships, almost everyone goes over to no. "A man is beating his wife in accordance with a cultural/religious system they both belong to; is that ok?" And I (along with, as far as I could tell, the moderator reading the questions) was shocked to see a number of classmates stride confidently over to yes!

So, Prof. Reynolds, I'd say that it's not a relatively greater fear of America that colors these beliefs; rather, it's a fear of being labelled "intolerant," should they point out that the culturally-approved nature of a practice does not automatically make it acceptable!

UPDATE: I see via The Independent that Trevor Phillips of England is talking about the same thing:
He also criticised social workers who failed to intervene in the case of Victoria Climbie, an eight-year-old girl from the Ivory Coast who died in 2000 after months of abuse and neglect by her great aunt and her great aunt's boyfriend. The inquiry into Victoria's death heard that social workers believed the girl's fear of her great aunt was part of her African culture, which emphasised respect for elders.

"There is no aspect of African culture that demands that we turn a blind eye to the degradation and murder of a human being," Mr Phillips said.
For all Mr. Phillips' apparent tendency to cause more racial problems than he solves, I'd say he's got it just about right this time.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Outsourcing to India


Now, this is a new idea: outsource Catholic mass!

What, Again?


CNN's headline reads, Violence hits key India polling. As I said last week, they really should just make that a permanent headline.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Ahh, Feminism


Gotta love feminists, especially the ones who go into psychology and sex. It's apparently inherently sexist that women's genitals aren't as visible as men's. That people are shaped like phallic symbols. That men tend to be taller than women. And it's apparently subversive that women can be aroused without anyone else knowing about it, whereas men's arousal is visible. Because, you see, these are all political statements, not accidents of nature (or products of design). Only a man, who sees things in "facts" (you'd be surprised how often these women put "fact" and "truth" and "science" in scare quotes), would argue that it's a product of biology rather than of phallocentric patriarchalism.

I am having fun with the class I'm reading all this for, though. Not holding my tongue this time!

I think I made you up inside my head


Results...: Plath
Eh, you got Plath. Sucks for you.


Who is Your Alter Poet?
brought to you by Quizilla

It's a few years since I've been fascinated by her (now she seems too self-absorbed), but I've probably still got a few Plath poems memorized, at least partially, including the title villanelle.

Quote of the Day


At that time of the wheellock's development, the only practical alternative was a matchlock, which required a continuously burning wick to ignite the powder charge. It's easy to see that trying to carry a matchlock gun concealed would either extinguish the wick or set the person's clothes on fire -- neither eventuality being ideal from a self-defense standpoint.
-- Paul Hager

Dress to Distress


Arabic Zionist Apparel -- I love bugging people.

(Via Emperor Misha I.)

Inadequacy


Every time I hear something like this:
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Two U.S. sailors died Saturday after a small boat they boarded off Basra, Iraq, exploded, a U.S. Navy spokeswoman said.
I feel like I'm not doing enough. Although I have enough money to live on quite well myself, I don't have any to spare to give. If I could find a military post that would take me with non-functioning knees and rods in my back, I'd sign up in a second, but that's not happening. I hope quite soon to start working at a homeless shelter/church/community center/thrift store place my church runs, but I sometimes feel that that's not enough. These people are giving their all, and they're signing up for more, knowing exactly what they're going into. I'm comfortable and lazy and not doing enough.

If anyone knows a place in Austin that needs donations of time -- all I can give -- let me know (although it's really unrealistic, as I'll be in India in a month, but it's nice to know for this fall). Oh, for WWI, when my knitting abilities would be useful! I'd love to be able to knit socks all day long and feel like I was doing some good. Not real nostalgia, though -- they've got it better now. It's just that I no longer have useful and helpful abilities.

I've got friends with boyfriends and husbands in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a high school friend who's probably headed that way soon. My old ladies at church have grandsons there. The ones who went with the goal of "killing ragheads" are burnt out and coming home; the ones (like my high school friend) who would rather not be there but feel they are doing their duty and helping people are the ones who are signing on to give themselves, to whatever extent required, for a people who are generally extremely grateful. That their gratitute is overshadowed by animals who would like nothing more than to see these helpers made into bloody pulp, well, that can't be blamed on the good people there. We've just got to remember that the animals killing the soldiers could care less about their own people (they obviously think nothing of taking out a few dozen civilians if a coalition soldier or two can be maimed in the process), and the ones who truly care are the ones giving up health, home, wealth, and even life to serve people they've got no obligation to save that given them by their faith, their country, and their morals.

Freepersite


Good stuff here: Eala's (Free Republic) Traditional Anglican Directory. For all those disgusted by the state of ECUSA, it's sometimes nice to remember that's not the entire Anglican Communion.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Friday Five


A day late, and the Trivial Pursuits edition:
1. What time do you wake up on weekday mornings?
When my cat, Fog, jumps up on the bed and starts kneading and purring. She's the pleasantest alarm clock imaginable. Generally around 8ish.

2. Do you sleep in on the weekends? How late?
Rarely past 9. Usually up by 8ish then too. They say it's healthier.

3. Aside from waking up, what is the first thing you do in the morning?
Open the window for the cat, turn on NBC (PBS on Saturdays), start coffee.

4. How long does it take to get ready for your day?
I'm stereotypical girl, in that it takes about an hour and a half. The actions aren't stereotypical, though -- coffee and news on TV and web.

5. When possible, what is your favorite place to go for breakfast?
Cafe Artiste, in Houston, on W. Main in Montrose. Houstonians, go there!

Proud to be an American


Today I am simply grateful for living here. In much of the world, you have to live in the constant expectation that you could be dead of violence or disease before the week is out. I learned this in Nepal, when I ate something ill-advised and was seriously ill -- had I been there eleven years earlier, before they allowed in foreign medicines, I'd quite possibly have died. A few months after I left, the whole royal family had been assassinated under suspicious circumstances, and civilians are constantly under threat of death at the hands of communists (who have given up on the idea of natural revolution). As for Africa, a roommate has been attacked with a machete, and I'm somewhat worried about Bob's father, working with an oil company in Nigeria. South Asia's got mob violence, the Middle East is constantly war-torn, Russia's got the Mafia, and South America's not all that safe either -- a friend who was with the Spanish Embassy in Peru tells me of frequent kidnapping attempts, hostage situations, and otherwise terrifying violence.

But what of the civilized/developed/western world? ("Western," of course, in the modern sense, which includes North America, Europe (with scattered exceptions), Australia, and occasionally Japan and South Africa.) You can eat food without too many problems, cell phone service and internet access are givens, and you're not exceptionally likely to be killed by walking around the wrong ethnic/religious/political group or by having the court pass a death sentence on you for hinting that you might possibly have leanings that stray slightly from state-sanctioned doctrine.

That's just not good enough, though. England is sinking further and further into counterproductive nanny-state authoritarianism. Germany has some of the least religious freedom in Europe; when I was living there, I was warned that I would face deportation if I kept going to a Pentecostal church and "deprogramming" if I went to any but state-controlled Lutheran and Catholic churches. I've seen job applications where you have to say that you've never read Dianetics (never mind whether or not you believed it) and have never belonged to a "Free" (not state-controlled) church. Religious freedom, especially in terms of personal freedoms (of speech, food, and dress), is on a swift decline all over Europe, most specifically for conservative/orthodox/practicing Christians, Muslims, and Jews. This side of the pond, the "pleasantly authoritarian country" of Canada has no concept of free speech, and their economic policies are, well, let's just say they're a main reason people think of the US as the country with great inventions and innovations and luxuries to hope for, not Canada. Australia's finished banning guns and has moved on to swords (kitchen knives are next, then belts, then hands). And we all know about Japan.

The USA has her problems, main among them being laziness-induced ignorance and gluttony/hedonism, but it would be so much worse anywhere else!

I had more to write, on mutual cultural incomprehensibility, but I must now go look at V-Ger! (I love America. We can make ridiculous sci-fi movies! Oh, wait, we're not the only ones who do that. But nobody else made Star Trek!)

The Prince & Me


Well, almost!

Movable Type


Aargh. Nobody feels like installing MT for me out of the goodness of his heart, I presume? No? Oh, well; I'll keep working. It's kind of fun, anyhow, although I'm not getting anywhere.

Oxford Rituals


Oxford's proposing a ban on some end-of-term celebrations. Where's the penetrating discussion?

Don't turn Japanese!


R. Alex Whitlock finds the Japanese reaction to their returned hostages fundamentally disturbing. He's not the only one.

Friday, April 23, 2004

DU


I feel sick. I'm going to bed.

Holy Archangels


I drove by here today, on my way back from visiting the Kid Sister in San Antonio, home of Mark Harden (whose website she used in a class presentation this morning). Looked it up online. Some places just make me very happy.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Quote of the Day


'There was a judge in Bengal [during India's freedom movement], who was greatly loved by all the people of his district. He was their ma-bap [parent-figure], and they all came to him with their troubles. He loved India, he was devoted to India and like so many other men he worked long hours for India, and yet he met his end at the hands of two girls in saris. They came along to his bungalow and told his servant that they wanted to see the judge-sahib, as they had a petition to present to him. The judge came out on to the verandah and directly he got close to the girls with his hand out to receive the petition one of the girls pulled a pistol from her sari and killed him.' Like many of her compatriots, Marjorie Cashmore found such actions incomprehensible and sought an explanation from an Indian friend in the Congress party: '"Here you have devoted servants of India, giving their lives, sacrificing everything in order to serve your people. You have others who come out from England and don't understand India. They've only come out for a few years and they abuse the Indian. I can understand you wanting that type of person out of the country, but this person is serving you, doing more than anybody else for your people and yet you kill him." And he laughed and said, "Don't you understand? The judge and those like him are hindrances to our getting Home Rule. The other man we needn't bother about because he gives us a cause for kicking out the British."'

--Plain Tales from the Raj, edited by Charles Allen.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Indian Elections


CNN's running an article with the headline, Violence mars India vote. Why not just run that whenever there's an election? Keep it in the wings alongside "Voting Irregularities Reported in Florida" and "Riots following World Cup match."

In any case, the only good news in that story is that Sonia Gandhi is gaining in polls. I know little of her political ability, but she's been so mired in it all her life that she can't be entirely inept. (I'd say she's likely to be less corrupt, but, hey, she's Italian-born! In truth, though, she hasn't had the corruption scandals of nearly every one of her opponents.) What's more, anything at all would be better than a government that calls for a ban on individuals deciding to convert to non-Hindu religions (but runs drives promoting conversion to Hinduism) and that asks for a western scholar to be extradited to stand trial (and probably be lynched) in the most mob-prone part of the country, among innumerable other problems. (I list only those two as they are the two most likely to affect me and friends directly.)

UPDATE: Gotta love a country that factors in time used for dealing with corruption and vote-rigging in their schedule of elections!

Monday, April 19, 2004

The Problem of Pain


The blog of the moment has some good stuff up on why there is suffering.

Maturity and Blogs


Botman is getting some complaints over his tone. While I agree with the complaints, I think it's silly to tell him to get his own blog -- isn't TP now his blog as well? But, on the subject at hand, I see a huge difference between his style and Milton's. Milton's posts, while coming from roughly the same political perspective, have a mature tone and don't sound like they find Maureen Dowd an exemplar of literary style. I read them all and, while I may disagree, I believe I have learned from them and think they are adding various nuances to my own views. Same goes for David Adesnik when talking about domestic politics. Botman and all the others who think things like "BuSHitler" are clever titles serve only to alienate the other side. Then again, the same goes for those who like to talk about "HilLIARy Clinton" and "Joe LIEberman." Immaturity isn't restricted to the left.

What's more, Botman (and Owen, in that post) might care less about winning over the other side. Maureen Dowd (and her counterparts on the right, none of whom I can think of offhand) doesn't seem to aim to convince conservatives to go liberal or to point out things nobody's talking about or to make incisive arguments; she wants to write snarky semi-humorous pieces that preach to the choir, and she does quite well for herself that way. Botman's (and others') posts are on a blog, as opposed to being syndicated, for a reason: as far as I can tell, he writes what he wants and what he enjoys writing, not what he thinks the editors will like or will sell well. So, more power to him! But, if anyone influences me towards his point of view, rather than turning me away from it, it will be Milton.

Anthrax Attacks!


We're not the only ones with anthrax problems.

Quality Reporting


Gotta love The Mirror. In a story about a weird mugging story involving Kevin Spacey, they see fit to insist three times (twice in almost the same words) that Spacey denies being homosexual, with no discussion whatsoever about why that would be related to the story!

My favorite trip to the English Debating Society was when the proposition was that it would be better to read The Sun than no paper at all. The opposing side had a grand example: a detailed report about a talk given by some politician the previous day. Problem is, that talk was cancelled, apparently after they'd rolled the presses.

Ah, England.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Fair Harvard


It's always a pleasure to go to Harvard's paper and see not only well-written articles (something lacking in the Daily Texan, which is so short on local talent that it regularly runs op-eds from other student papers), but ones that are entirely sensible.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

A History of Violence


At UT's Yom Ha Shoah (sp?) things, there was a discussion in which two points were made (non-congruously). First, it was mentioned, not as part of any argument, that the Jewish people have been harrassed, persecuted, and killed throughout history, no matter where they are or who their neighbors. Later, the common argument was dropped into the conversation that Islam has "bloody borders," that there are conflicts around nearly all the edges of the Islamic world and have been for centuries.

Now, Jewish people have tended (and quite justly) to feel themselves set-upon, but those attacking them have also tended to argue that they were asking for it or deserved it for any number of reasons. Somewhat similarly, Islamic people have tended to claim that they were attacked unjustly (by the same evil kind of people attacking their Jewish neighbors) and retaliated in self-defense.

I haven't thought this through heavily, but the only difference in the two arguments seems to be that there hasn't been much violent Jewish retaliation in modern times (although the Canaanites et al would probably have a different perspective). We get, in each case, a religious/cultural group of people that has been involved in conflict forever. Is there any reason to see the two differently? To see Jews as unjustly persecuted (even in ancient times) and Muslims as either bloodthirsty sui generis or just with a coincidental string of violent neighbors (even in historical Jihads, being held back at the gates of Europe and all that)?

I would really love others' opinions on this.

Well, why not?


As instructed,
1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.


"It is, then, made with the flat of the tongue against the forward part of the palatal arch -- that is to say, it is the usual and normal sh-sound."
(Whitney's Sanskrit Grammar -- I had a hard time finding page 23, as he's numbered by bullet-point correlated with the dictionary and Lanman's Sanskrit Reader rather than page. What does that say about me? I have several hundred books here, on all subjects, and just bought a new P. J. O'Rourke, but the first to hand is a Sanskrit grammar.)

Lesson of the Day


You know, when following links to news stories, I really should look at the source before I get all confused...

Friday, April 16, 2004

Voltaire


Incidentally, those interested in reading the complete works of Voltaire in French online can now do so.

the friday five


1. What do you do for a living?
For a living, I'm a student, as I get paid for it. My job, however, is a volunteer position in preservation at the special collections library.

2. What do you like most about your job?
I love working with the old books and artifacts; I get such a thrill out of holding James Joyce's manuscripts or books that Dorothy Sayers and then Ellery Queen had in their library for inspiration. I also love making things and completing them; Sanskrit has very little scope for concrete finished projects.

3. What do you like least about your job?
The automatic assumption by my coworkers that everyone around them is Democrat or futher left, and that no educated person could possibly lean right. Then again, that's most universities for you.

4. When you have a bad day at work it's usually because _____...
I haven't had one yet! The closest to one was when I came in and there was nothing to do, but I just went home, so that's not bad.

5. What other career(s) are you interested in?
Government, teaching, rare-books librarian, orphanage-runner, etc...

Unilateral?


I suppose there's one good thing to come out of this: you're not hearing complaints about the US's unilateral war anymore...

Thursday, April 15, 2004

The Body 2008?


This would be amusing. (Via Drudge.)

The Ticket


You know, I really really want a Kerry-Kerrey ticket. That would just be fun!

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

InSane Antonio


He's back, with good stuff!

Bush


I missed most of the talk; I recorded the first 45 minutes (with the tv off), but then Bob was over and I didn't want to discuss politics with him, so we watched Fargo. (Meh.)

The one part I did see, though, didn't look good: reporter asking a long and involved question one part of which was, "why are you and Cheney showing up at the commission together?" Bush understood it like I understood it, to be a question about the many things following the word "together," with that part as a preamble. The fellow then complained that his question wasn't about the rest of the things he'd asked at all, but instead about why they were going together when they'd been asked to be separate. Bush then said something entirely unrelated and moved on. (I know nothing of that issue, so I know neither the truth of the allegation of non-compliance nor the reasons behind it if true.)

Via the Professor I see that Bush did indeed answer many questions clearly and well. It seems to have been just coincidence that the only one I saw was one that was exceedingly poorly dodged (poorly asked too, but nobody's listening to phrasing of questions). Dodging questions doesn't look good. Perhaps people will overlook it in light of the many others that were answered directly; perhaps not.

Friends in High Places


I know this person! The daughter was a friend of mine! While she was by no means the first person of Indian descent I knew (I've since gone back and remembered many elementary school classmates who, by their names, were obviously Indian; I just didn't recognize it at the time), she was the first person whose Indianness stuck out. That was partly because of cultural aspects -- she fed me samosas when I went to her house and she told me about why, with a family as well-known as hers, it would be easier to have an arranged marriage than to risk having her dating life spread all over the papers -- but also because she was by several orders of magnitude the richest person I'd ever met. Her bodyguards weren't as insistent as those of my sister's friends, the princesses from somewhere in the region, but she still had them as well as a chauffeur, guards at her house, an elevator, an indoor pool, and an indoor golf course (you turned it on, hit the golf ball at the screen with the picture displayed on it, and it would tell you how hard you hit it, how fast, what way, and then move to tell you where you're hitting from now). Even so, their new house is a move up. But I thought for several years that, since they were Indian and extraordinarily rich, and my sister's princesses were kind of Indian (thinking of their names, they were perhaps something Arabic), and the sultan of Brunei is called a "sultan," and that's Indian, then one of the defining characteristics of being Indian is being filthy rich!

What's more, on further investigation, I see my friend is engaged, and after going to the school I didn't go to, SOAS. Well, perhaps I'll see her again some day.

Seven Stanzas at Easter


Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells' dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.
It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His Flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that — pierced — died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck's quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

--Telephone Poles and Other Poems © 1961 by John Updike.

Changes


I've spent much of today trying to get movable type up and running at an undisclosed location. It's harder than it looks! As soon as I succeed, and it's pretty, we'll be moving!

In somewhat similar news, Bob and I had dinner with his roommate, whose brother's psychotic girlfriend has a weblog on which she writes nasty things about the brother's family, which the whole family reads regularly. Makes me quite glad I've never written anything negative about Bob's family, except for the wish that they'd be more accepting of me!

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Quote of the Day


"The actual transfer from Crown to Company was by letters patent of 1668 which, presumably for reasons of bureaucratic convenience, described Bombay as being 'in the Manor of East Greenwich in the County of Kent'; the rent of £10 was to be paid 'in gold, on the 30th day of September, yearly, for ever'."
--From Taj to Raj, J. Keay

Hinduism Old and New


(This was originally part of the post below, as an aside about the violent Hindus, but it was long and didn't fit.)

Any of you who have taken world religion classes, and many of you who have Hindu friends, may be under the impression that Hinduism is, to its core, extremely tolerant and innately pluralistic and nonviolent. As Bob tells me frequently, all beliefs are acceptable to Hinduism, all people who have a knowledge of the divine in any form are Hindus, and it's just got a very tenuous connection to Indian culture to make it unique. These people who call for the murder of anyone who questions their version of Hinduism (including other varieties of Hindus), who go on rampages and kill thousands of Muslims, who demand that schools include astrology in their required science classes, are just aberrations and are perverting the eternally placid Hinduism.

However, the more I read, the more I realize that this is a belief that has really only been around in full force for eighty years or so, since the time of Gandhi, although the roots of nonviolence and its accompanying vegetarianism are in Buddhism and Jainism. Throughout the Vedas and the epics and other religious texts -- and many Hindu communities in South Asia -- there is very little hint of vegetarianism; it can really only be traced to a reaction against Buddhism and Jainism's massive spread. They've got animal sacrifices all across India to this day, but mostly in low-caste communities or in Bengal. From that time, as well, there are constant injunctions against joining those heretical religions (and other named and unnamed heresies that have since died out). Pluralism wasn't held in high regard. Of course, as with all religious and cultural systems, practices, epithets for the divine, and assorted beliefs changed over time, but it appears to have been an internal process influenced by the surroundings rather than a conscious adoption of the practices of the foreign neighbors.

For the next several centuries, the definitely non-pacifist warrior holds the place of honour in Hindu stories; when Arjuna has qualms about going into battle against friends and family, the avatar of Vishnu, Krishna, reminds him that his duty is to fight and kill, that fate has it all covered anyhow, and that pacifism for someone born a warrior will bring about his spiritual doom. True, Gandhi does interpret that speech (the Bhagavad-Gita) as one against war, but that's hardly a common interpretation.

Throughout the millennia, kings have been praised in stone and in song for their dharmic strength (their good Hindu-ness, before the word "Hindu" was coined), strength and divine honor that is shown by the ease with which they conquer all their enemies in battle. The one king who stands out, Ashoka, only became pacifist after becoming a Buddhist (and after he really had no land left to conquer, but that's another story). Throughout the twelfth through seventeenth centuries, the period I'm studying closest at the moment, the poets praise their kings for slaughtering the infidels (generally Muslim, by this time, but called "Turks") who do not have the proper respect for Brahmins. At least at the high-caste level, the level of the kings, the soldiers, and the priests, Hinduism was not conceived of as either non-violent or tolerant. I include only the high-caste level because "Hinduism" has generally been defined, in the modern period (that is, since the various religious beliefs of South Asia have been unified under the name of "Hinduism"), both by insiders and outsiders, as that system of beliefs common to the higher-caste members of society, with the folk-religions and tribal animism generally ignored until very recently; indeed, those who call themselves the more orthodox and who call on scriptures for support often claim that only the top three castes can consider themselves Hindu and can have access to the temples and the scriptures, while all others can simply hope to be born a Hindu in the next life. The low-caste and out-caste religious practices bear very little resemblance to what is taught in world religions classes as "Hinduism," but they are the communities who are truly and nearly invariably pluralist; there has been much delightful work done recently on these generally neglected communities and the way in which they have dissolved Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and high-caste Hinduism into their own belief systems and practices. [UPDATE: It's been frequently claimed, by western post-colonial theorists as well as by many South Asians of both militant and pacifist persuasions, that the move to non-violence came after the British Raj emasculated the Indian people. I know nothing of that cause-and-effect, but the timing's right.]

None of this is to say that not being non-violent is bad, or that not being vegetarian is bad, or not being pluralist is bad -- or, conversely, that being non-violent, vegetarian, and pluralist is bad. It's just to say that what modern westerners and many modern Indian Hindus think of when they think of "Hinduism" is not identical with most of the history of that religion. Bob and his very orthodox south Indian Brahmin family also agree with this thesis, that there has been a change on all those fronts, and they think that the change is good. It's not just Hinduism: for a small example, first century Christians looked down on braided hair as a sinful vanity; modern western Christians tend to see it as a modest and plain hairstyle, as women's hairstyles go. Things change, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse; the fault here, in my eyes, is the refusal to believe that there has ever been change and the death-threats against anyone who suggests there was.

The Most Tolerant of Religions


Via David Adesnik, I see that several Hindus are angry at academic writings about Hinduism. (Incidentally, in that article, I see that the rumor I'd heard several months ago about Wendy Doniger and an egg is true, although it doesn't seem to have been reported anywhere else but here and insane-crazy-kill-people Hindu websites.)

As Doniger says, "no one who is not a Hindu has the right to speak about Hinduism at all." Not an opinion reserved for the saffron-wearing sword-wielding Hindutvavadis, either: I've heard it in general as well as specifically in my direction from American-born and quite westernized classmates at Harvard, and professors have assured me that it is frequently asserted in shouting matches at American Academy of Religion meetings. As Adesnik points out, though, Hindus are only getting what Christians and Jews (and people involved in politics) have had for ages; academia is going to teach what it thinks is right, which may have very little relation to the involved parties' experience of that subject. Additionally, we'd be at rather a shortage of professors, among other issues, if only orthodox Christians were allowed to speak about Christianity!

The fury and wrath is not directed purely at outsiders, however; nor does it come from all Hindus. I was party to a delightful argument in Calcutta among Hindus of different flavors ("denominations" is misleading, as is "sects," so I'm following a friend's lead in using "flavors" to refer to the different kinds of Hinduism, some of which have not a single belief in common with others -- but my schpiel about the common presentation of "Hinduism" as a unified religion is for another day). This was four years ago, so a version-in-brief follows:

They were talking about the Shiva Lingam, a generally aniconic representation of Shiva in the form of a squat pillar, rounded off at the top, with a base that can collect milk and other offerings. "Lingam," while it has many meanings, is often the word chosen when male genitals are being referred to; "yoni," a common name for the base, is frequently the word for female genitals. One of the arguers, a man from a Bombay Vaishnavite (Vishnu-focused) background who was accompanying my group, made the indisputable point that unsympathetic westerners have frequently pointed disapprovingly at these sculptures as proof of the moral depravity of sex-crazed Hindus. He went on to say that the westerners misinterpreted the lingam as a phallic symbol and thereby had a perverted vision of the purity that is Hinduism. His acquaintance, a Shaivite (Shiva-based) from Bengal, laughed and called him a prude, pointing out that it's common knowledge -- as far as the Vedas and other scriptures go -- that one of the main loci of power is in the semen, that an ascetic like Shiva who abstains from sex has a huge amount of tapas (spiritual heat) built up in his semen from that restrain, and that the lingam is obviously a phallic symbol, as that's the best way to represent Shiva's power! It's not Hindus' fault that westerners have sexual hang-ups. A culture that will produce the temple of Khajuraho and the Kamasutra, while it may honor sexual restraint, certainly doesn't conceive of sex as dirty! Even Krishna, an incarnation of Vishnu, is sung of lovingly as seducing all the women, married and unmarried, of a village, and having celestial sex with them in the nine positions! I recall the Vaishnavite demurring that all of the talk about sex, no matter how explicit, should really be taken as an allegory -- like the people who try to make the Song of Solomon out to be not about sex at all. The argument ended up with the Bombay man telling the Bengali that he shouldn't say such things over on the west coast, or the guardians-of-hinduism the RSS would have his head!

I've talked at length about my morbid fascination with Hindutva (and their webboards are already all over this WaPo story), as well as my academic goal to one day get on their Hit List, so I won't repeat that here. True, I do agree with their dislike of many people (bin Laden, the head of the Indian underworld, certain writers, etc. -- although I wouldn't exactly put them all on a "hit list"), but just because liberal feminists agree with conservative Muslims that beauty contests are bad doesn't mean there's anything else in common between the two groups!

UPDATE: I suppose I should also make it clear that I can't stand most trendy academic writing on Hinduism -- by which I mean the kind of writing mentioned in the WaPo article, the kind of writing Wendy Doniger often does, and the kind of thing we're doing right now in my lit-crit class, which mainly involves first bowing down to Freud as a demiurge and then unquestioningly applying his ludicrous theories (by now abandoned in all psychology departments yet still flourishing in religion and literature departments) to Indian literature. It's the Kamasutra? it's about sex (although possibly not). It's a play about a girl frolicking with animals and picking flowers? it's about sex. It's a poem praising the ineffable deity? it's about sex. It's an epic about warriors? it's about sex. You get the picture. However, they do that to everything (just look at Harvard's popular course on fairy tales!), and every religion's and culture's dearly-held texts, not just Hinduism and India. And they frustrate me in all fields; however, I'm not going to throw eggs at them or call for their execution.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Religious Soldiers


Hugh Hewitt mentions a Kerrey (I assume he meant that, not Kerry, as he wrote) comment about the religious diversity the US is bringing to Iraq. Of course, Kerrey sees that as a bad thing; not all diversity is good, as we have all learned.

But Kerrey leaves out one major increase in Iraqi religious diversity: with the coming of the US army, the population of Jewish people in Iraq has increased by 1000%.

Perhaps these are not a bad thing; what is the main argument for diversity, including forcible diversity? That racism, bigotry, and hatred is caused by not knowing and not understanding the other side. While I have my own issues with that response -- I never made fun of Canadians before I went there and found out how endearingly silly they are! -- I think there's something to be said for it in this case. There are so many stories from seventy years ago (and today) about people whose only knowledge of "a Jew" comes from rumor and stereotype, because they have never met a single one. There's that old cartoon from the third Reich, of a town wiring Hitler that they won't be able to enforce his restrictions on Jews unless he sends them a pair, so that they can identify them and figure out what is meant by "Jews." If people find out, especially after the fact, that quite a few (well, 1 per cent) of the soldiers rebuilding their hospitals, their schools, their water supplies, and getting rid of tyrannical overlords are Jewish, that might throw a monkey wrench in the anti-semitism with which they were brought up.

On the other hand, might it not make some difference if those Iraqis who hate the anti-Muslim, Crusader US were to come into more contact with Muslims in the US army there?

Mom and Pop Stores


The Bull Moose Republicans have a discussion going about Wal-Mart. Bill Fusz makes the claim, "The general store is dead, but niche stores can survive and thrive, offering service and goods that Walmart does not, or more personalized attention."

My family shops at a corner grocery store in the middle of Houston. Randalls and Kroger are both nearby (and are gone to if something very fancy or specific is needed), yet this general store still does well. It has changed hands once, but only when the original owners retired; it is currently owned by the owner of a little deli down the street, whose main changes to the store were to put in a deli section and to update the cash registers, which had been the old manual kind.

What makes this store so successful? Everything they have is sold elsewhere, at the same price or perhaps cheaper. They're within walking distance of my house, but other people drive there. The answer? They provide something Randalls and Kroger can't afford to: they sell on credit. I've been going there alone probably since I was six (it's a remarkably safe neighborhood), tugging my baby sister in the little red wagon where I'll put the milk and bread my mother's sent me to get. The people who work there will help me get the milk down and will take it out to the wagon for me, and I'll just sign my name and write my mother's name (now you have to add your phone number). No money required; no proof of ID; no bills come in the mail, either. Every six weeks or so, my mother walks down and settles her tab. Bikers, carrying no money, can decide to stop for a sandwich and drink. It's great!

So, to compete with the mass retailers, you don't even have to be a niche store. You can be a general store, selling groceries and magazines and underwear and crockery, and as long as you provide better services than the rest, you're in business.

Race Relations


I keep wondering what would happen if student groups would meet, raise their fists (or outstretched hands?) in the air, and chant "white power"?

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Public Service Announcement


If you can at all help it, DO NOT fly with Air India. Even if the flights are "operated by Air France." I've just spent an hour on the phone with Travelocity, after Air India decided to do a "status change" on my flight, tell me I was no longer booked, and tell me that the only other flights cost 60% more than what I'd paid (and I'd paid; the charge had gone through). So, since I do need to get out of India, and I couldn't un-pay for the flight in to India, I coughed up the rest. But I'll never fly Air India (or, probably, Air France) again, if I can help it.

As a result, I'm spending the night in the Paris airport. Anyone know how comfortable their chairs are?

"we will burn them alive and feed them to the fighters"


Not just subhuman savages, now the "legitimate voice" consists of cannibals as well.

Good Job!


SCOTUS is looking for a new librarian, a job-search email tells me. Wouldn't that be fun! Well, I'll go get my Master's of Library Science and then see if they're still hiring!

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Would you like some death with that, Mrs. Gandhi?


While it was clearly defensive, and while I completely believe them that they "specifically did not target the mosque", I don't think any of that will end up mattering. It's being reported everywhere in brief as "the US bombed a mosque and killed women and children at prayer." The truth won't always out. And you'd think they'd learn as Indira Gandhi did: no matter how justified, no matter how little people care about their own holy sites (if they're storing weapons in there and shooting from there and meeting there to plan out their next rampages, they care nothing for them as holy sites), it does no good to attack those places. There will always be masses of blind and hopeful people who can't fathom that anyone would use a holy place for unholy activities, and those blind and hopeful people will see you as the enemy of their God and will have your head.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Massachusetts Politics


Gotta love Mitt Romney. Gorgeous, Republican (for a Commonwealth resident), and a little bit evil, where Democrats are concerned.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Junk Science?


This guy cracks me up!

Googlebomb


As instructed, this is a Jew.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

A Humble Question


What with all sorts of people insisting they will refuse to support the war unless the UN takes over, I have one question: given that the UN fled Baghdad at the first sign of opposition, what makes those people think that the UN would be willing to take over?

So Cool


The enigmatic Aakash Raut has some very cool news. He also has some very cool permalinks. I want mine to work like that! (I want mine to work at all...)

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Christ-killers?


Patrick Belton points to a PEW study showing that a growing percentage of Americans answer affirmatively to the question, "Were the Jews responsible for Christ's death?"

He appears to be of the opinion that this is identical to thinking, "Jews killed Christ," and makes all such responders into anti-semites. I beg to differ.

It is impossible to read the Bible and not see that it says that Jews (not all Jews throughout all time or all Jews at that time, but Jews nonetheless) were the ones demanding arrest and trial and demanding a death sentence from the Romans. So, yes, in a very practical sense, the Jews were responsible for Christ's death. It is equally impossible to read it and not see that Jesus was executed under Roman law in a Roman manner. So, in a very practical sense, the Romans killed Christ.

If you are going to go into this theologically, then the Romans will be absolved of guilt as Romans, although not as humans. The Romans have no theological part to play as Romans. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, however, Israel keeps falling away, getting blasted by God through some agent or other (such as the Romans), and then coming back. Those Jews who rejected Jesus (whether or not they were involved in the trial etc.) had screwed up for the last time, so they were to be blasted again. This is where many people have gotten it wrong, thinking that they were to be blasted by God through some agent or other, and the people joyfully signed up to be that agent and go attack Jews. That's not what's meant, though. This punishment was to be much worse:
He went on to tell the people this parable: "A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out.
"Then the owner of the vineyard said, 'What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.'
"But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. 'This is the heir,' they said. 'Let's kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.' So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
"What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others." -- (Luke 20:9-16a)
What was this punishment that was much worse than God's repeated turning over of Israel to marauding hordes? Well, now there was to be a new covenant; the old covenant between God and Israel had been broken, and Israel was cast down to the same level as everyone else. "There is neither Jew nor Greek." They would be spiritually dead (much of the talk of "killing" and "death" in the New Testament refers to spiritual death and death of the independent self, not to actual poke-you-with-a-sword death) and, like everyone else, they would have to be born again from the dead if they would want in on the new covenant. How awful that would be, to be fired from your job as God's chosen people because of your refusal to listen to God's servants (the prophets) and then God's son, and then to have your job given to outsiders and to those among you who accept the new deal!

Under the New Covenant, things that went before are reinterpreted; since the Jews are no longer anybody special, they should no longer be treated differently theologically. Therefore, it is not just the Jews who are responsible at both a practical and a spiritual level for Christ's death due to their disobedience, but it is all men who are responsible, as all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. If the tenants in the vineyard had listened to the first servant and never strayed, if Israel had listened to the first prophet and never forgotten, if all of us had lived our whole lives without sin, then there would have been no need for God to send his son, a son he knew would be killed. Theologically speaking, all of us are responsible for Christ's death, and God killed Christ -- for our benefit.

Those in the PEW survey who answered negatively on that question and are orthodox Christians, then, speak in accordance with the Bible's teachings. Those who answered affirmatively fall into two camps: the people who took the question in a very practical sense, as described above, and understood the question to be synonymous with, "Were the people who were pushing for an arrest and execution of Christ Jews?" and the people who either know very little of the Bible or are otherwise not Christians at all, people who are truly anti-semites and have an in for Jews. That the vast majority of the increase in affirmative answers comes from the group who formerly were undecided (statistically, that is) rather than the group who formerly said "no" leads me to believe that they are mostly people will little to no knowledge of Christian theology, people who got all their information on the subject from the recent discussions and slew of movies and TV specials rather than from actual study.

Bob, a Hindu who has read a bit of the Bible but has no Christian theology himself, took the question very practically, saying, in effect, "of course Jews were responsible for Jesus' death. Is that even up for discussion?" However, he'd think you're a loony if you think that makes him anti-semitic. As that same report said, "Despite the increasing belief among some groups that the Jews were responsible for Christ's death, other surveys have shown that only a tiny minority believes that Jews today should bear responsibility for what happened to Christ 2000 years ago." To Bob, to me, and to most others, that view appears as ridiculous as attacking modern Romans or Egyptians (or paying slavery reparations, but that's another situation). Today's Jews bear the effects, but only insofar as they are made to be on the same starting point as all other non-chosen people. If they want the salvation promised in the Bible, they'll have to go about it the same way as anyone else, and their heritage no longer counts for anything. Legacy admits are abolished.

This is not to say that anti-semitism doesn't exist in the enlightened west or isn't a terrible thing. It is simply to say that 1) the survey doesn't say quite what Patrick Belton says it said, nor was the question what he says it was, and 2) as the survey stands, there are some entirely benign ways to answer that question affirmatively. (Had they asked, "Did the Jews kill Christ?" it would still be possible, using the same argument, to answer affirmatively, but it would be more of a stretch and would really entail forgetting about the Romans.)

(Incidentally, had I been in that survey, I'd have asked for clarification -- "What do you mean by 'responsible'?" -- and, when they told me they weren't allowed to augment the questions in any way, I'd have said "no," assuming they were talking about ultimate rather than immediate responsibility and all rather than specific Jews.)

Troubles


Is it just me, or is RAWbservations down?

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Hoaxes


I used to stop by The Museum of Hoaxes regularly, but it seemed to have gone defunct a while back. I checked it again today, and it's been reworked and updated and look excellent. Congratulations!

AND: they report this as an April Fool's. I'm not sure. I mean, I don't think it's real, but it was mentioned in my brother's science magazine ("Teen Science" or "Popular Science" or some such) as a theoretical project that random people are pushing for, and he's been talking about it for weeks. I've been trying to convince him it's practically impossible, but either it's an extraordinarily long April Fool's joke or some people -- including the editors of science magazines -- really do believe it's a theoretical possibility.

Network News


I have major issues with Austin's ABC affiliate. On the subhuman savages, they said, "one year ago, US troops were rolling toward Baghdad. We were told they would be welcomed. Today we saw it was the opposite." That's right -- a group of subhuman savages speaks the opinion of the whole country.

The NBC affiliate, and Tom Brokaw, have been doing very little editorializing, what there is being of the "this is terrible, how could they do that?" variety. They have also shown clips of various Iraqis decrying it. When they report on crimes by one ethnic/religious group against another in this country, they are generally excellent about pointing out the many members of each group who'd rather just get along; they do not change their policy for Iraq. And Dan Rather, for the first time, seemed very comforting and calming. Haven't caught Peter Jennings, but I doubt I'll be watching Austin's ABC station anytime soon.

April Fools


This is hilarious! (Several people seem infuriated by it, though; not noticing the "aprilfools" in the address lines from time to time, I suppose.) Google's not bad either.