Tuesday, July 31, 2007

At the Intersection of Nietzsche, Scheler and Girard

"(...)Girard begins from an observation no impartial reader of the Hebrew Bible or the Koran can fail to make, which is that religion may offer peace, but has its roots in violence. The God presented in these writings is often angry, given to fits of destruction and seldom deserving of the epithets bestowed upon him in the Koran—al-rahmân al-rahîm, "the compassionate, the merciful." (...) Thinkers like Dawkins and Hitchens conclude that religion is the cause of this violence (...), and that the crimes committed in the name of religion can be seen as the definitive disproof of it. Not so, argues Girard. Religion is not the cause of violence but the solution to it. The violence comes from another source, and there is no society without it since it comes from the very attempt of human beings to live together. The same can be said of the religious obsession with sexuality: religion is not its cause, but an attempt to resolve it.

Girard's theory is best understood as a kind of inversion of an idea of Nietzsche's.

In his later writings, Nietzsche expounded a kind of creation myth, by way of accounting for the structure of modern society. On the Genealogy of Morals (1887) envisages a primeval human society, reduced to near universal slavery by the "beasts of prey"—the strong, self-affirming, healthy egoists who impose their desires on others by the force of their nature.

The master race maintains its position by punishing all deviation on the part of the slaves—just as we punish a disobedient horse. The slave, too timid and demoralised to rebel, receives this punishment as a retribution. Because he cannot exact revenge, the slave expends his resentment on himself, coming to think of his condition as in some way deserved. Thus is born the sense of guilt and the idea of sin.

The resentment of the slave explains, for Nietzsche, the entire theological and moral vision of Christianity. Christianity owes its power to the resentment upon which it feeds: resentment which, because it cannot express itself in violence, remains turned against itself.

Thus arises the ethic of compassion, the mortification of the flesh and the life-denying routines of the "slave morality." Christianity is a form of self-directed violence, which conceals a deep resentment against every form of human mastery.

That "genealogy" of Christian morals was effectively exploded by Max Scheler in his book Ressentiment (1912). Scheler argues that the Christian ethic of agape and forgiveness is not an expression of resentment but rather the only way to overcome it. (...)"

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Linkestan 2007 07 29

YouTube - Barbra Streisand - Woman in Love :
a romantic classic

YouTube - Engelbert Humperdinck - Release Me :
another romantic classic

The Noel Shempsky Marathon :
mrsseverussnape writes :

"About nine months ago, I fell in love with a man here in Boulder. It gloriously didn't work out. As the relationship was fizzling out, I was sitting at home one Friday night watching Frasier, trying to come up with a flaw in this man to help me move on.

Suddenly, my favorite character on the show, Noel Shempsky came on the screen dressed in the exact same outfit that this man usually wears.

Now, for those of you who aren't Frasier fanatics, Noel Shempsky works at the radio station with Frasier and is a delightfully quirky nerd who is obsessed with Roz and Star Trek. He also has a restraining order from William Shatner and lives with his mom.

I realized that this man for whom I had been pining was pretty much Noel's twin, with hair and a British accent. This realization went quite far in helping me get over him.

However, one night, I had a particularly rough week and was thinking about this man again so my friend Lindsay, came over and we decided to have a “Noel Marathon” to remind me what I was really pining for.

During the third Noel episode, I blurted out, “I don't know, I kind of feel bad for Noel. He just needs someone to love him.” Lindsay rolled her eyes and said, “Well, that plan failed.”

So instead of helping me get over someone, I ended up falling in love with Noel. It has now become quite a running joke amongst my friends about how I will end up with someone exactly like Noel. Which I guess is true."

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Is Fatalism Always a Bad Thing ?

Last Saturday, we were all watching a programme on the the Turkish Fox channel entitled 'Babami Ariyorum' ['I am searching for my father'].

It's a reality show whose premise is about a young lady of about 21 years of age who is about to be reunited with the father who deserted her and her mother when she was only a few months old.

But wait a minute.

It's not that simple and straightforward, you know, otherwise where would the fun be ?

She is actually facing eight men, count'em : eight, seven of whom are actors who are only pretending to be her father. If any one of these seven manages to fool the lady into thinking they are her real father, they win 20,000YTL.

Obviously, each of the seven has been briefed by the girl's mother who is in on the game. And so each of the seven get their turn at spinning some believable stories for the girl's consumption.

All of the talking that ensues is certainly of great sociological worth uncovering premises of the Turkish mind and Turkish society in the areas of relationships and ethics.

At one point, the moderator of the programme turns to the girl and asks her if she hates her father for deserting her.

Her answer which brings us to the title of this post is :"How could I hate him ? It was fated that he should desert us."

Her fatalism, which came across as quite genuine and sincere, has protected her, has it not, from the great evils of bitterness and unforgiveness?

It seems that fatalism can address, in practical and even ethical ways, the questions of what to do in the face of the hard realities of life.

Maybe as I enter something like mid-life ,fatalism can be a comfort when considering what is or what might have been as I don't believe each individual can be held entirely responsible for all the outcomes of his life.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Analysis of the Results of the Turkish General Elections

Logically speaking there were only three possible outcomes :

1) AKP gets an increased majority in the parliament, obtains the 367 MPs needed to install its own choice as president. If that happens look for a coup by the military.

2) AKP maintains its current single party majority -- the status quo.
AKP is not happy but the Army is not unhappy -- i.e. status quo.
Look for more of the same general level of stability.

3) AKP loses its current single party majority and has to form a coalition goverment. Erdogan has said he would resign from polticis if this were to happen. Look for turmoil and unrest with some jostling and attempted power grabs by Kurds. A state of turmoil is not too untypical of Turkish politics and could get out of hand in a couple of years bringing another coup to restore balance.

The most stable outcome therefore is no.2.

So what did happen ?

Well the AKP increased it percentage of the popular vote yet the number of its MPs has gone down to 342. The chief reason for this outcome is that the MHP which had failed by a narrow margin in 2002 to surpass the 10% threshold required for parliamentary presence did so this time around. It's presence in Parliament has, therefore, gone from nil to 70 MPs. More on this later.

Meanwhile, there has been a crop of 25+2 independent candidates in parliament. This is largely because of the rule that independent candidates are not subject to the 10% threshold : you win, you get in.

The 25 independents are not really independent but represent a block of Kurdish politicians from the southeast region of Turkey. They have had to run as independents because the state apparatus is not allowing Kurds to organise formally into parties. The other 2 independents are independents in the truer meaning of the word. They represent various political ideologies not covered by the spectrum of official parties.

So much for the immediate outcome. What might be the more long term legacy of this new parliament ?

First, there is the issue of who will be the next President of Turkey which is the reason why these elections were forced upon the ruling AKP in the first place.

Prior to the 22nd July and going into the elections, AKP's stated policy has been to change the law to allow for election of the President by popular vote rather than by the Parliament which is how it is currently done. Now with this result, the question in my mind is whether AKP will push for this change in the law or attempt to install its' own candidate directly via the parliamentary process.

It needs 367 votes which it does not currently have but might be able to acquire by winning over some Independents and some of the new MHP parliamentarians. My brother Alp, who follows these things more closely than I do, thinks there might even be some significant transfers of candidates between the parties once the new parliament is in session.

The wild card for the future will, I think, be the impact on the country that the presence of this new block of MHP parliamentarians will have. I don't hide my view that I think they can but have a negative influence as they are an ultra-nationalist and fascistic party. Enough said.

Another wild card for the future is the Army. I think the immediate danger of a coup d'etat has been averted. However, the manner in which the next President is elected as well as the the type of person who eventually takes office will play a big role on what actions, if any, the Turkish army might take in domestic politics.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Verse of the Day

12 Words from a wise man's mouth are gracious, but a fool is consumed by his own lips.
13-14 At the beginning his words are folly; at the end they are wicked madness-and the fool multiplies words. No one knows what is coming— who can tell him what will happen after him?
15 A fool's work wearies him; he does not know the way to town.

Ecclesiastes 10:12-15 (New International Version)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

2 Peter 1:5-8

[5] For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, ...

Among the basics of what faith is and is about, we read in Hebrews 11:6 that

"...without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would come to Him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him".

It is faith in God and in a message for the Apostle Paul begins his magisterial letter to the Romans with the following declaration :

"I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes to the Jew first and also to the Greek". (Romans 1:16).

It should be clear, therefore, that the one who possesses faith also possesses by it such a rich inheritance. Such a faith deserves to be accompanied or supplemented by "GOODNESS". Another translation uses the expression "MORAL EXCELLENCE" which I tend to prefer here.

...and goodness with knowledge, ...

Sometimes our ability to act in morally excellent ways is limited by ignorance. What sort or sorts of ignorance ?

It could be ignorance of God, ignorance of God's revelation the Bible, and last but not least ignorance of one's own self. Knowledge empowers and it empowers to right living.

[6] and knowledge with self-control, ...

Knowledge of self, of others of God and God's will in the varied circumstances of life is also an enabler in the area of self-control.

Therefore, as knowledge increases it should accrue to greater self- control.

...and self-control with endurance, ...

Other translations say "perserverance". Although it means the same thing, I prefer it because it generally has theological connotations, as in "the perseverance of the saints".

... and endurance with godliness, ...

People generally "endure" or "persevere" something because they may have an end in view such as a reward or to prove something to themselves and to others. The Scripture here implies that the goal of perseverance is to attain a state where godliness can be and is exercised.

[7] and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love.

Muslims for instance have a form of godliness which they call takvah which really amounts to nothing more that legalistic observances. This is the highest goal of every Muslim.

What is wrong with this picture ?

Only that if we stopped there, even with a proper Christian understanding of godliness, then we have stopped short of affirming the value of our other fellow men and women as eternal beings created in the image of God.

Muslims, of course, do not believe that man is created in the image of God which is why they don't really affirm love as a value to be prized or nurtured.

But, Jesus said : "A new commandment I give you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another". (John 13:34-35)

[8] For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.