Look7777777 – Culture Watch – 2008.07.18

Many sympathetic commentators, who didn’t bother to read the speech [Benedict XVI’s Faith, reason and the university: memories and reflections given at the University of Regensburg on September 12, 2006], concluded that the main point of Benedict’s address was to denounce the use of violence in the service of religion. That is certainly a good secondary lesson to take from his remarks, but the full text makes it very clear that Benedict, like the emperor [Manuel II Paleologus], was using the example of violence simply to introduce his broader point: that “not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature.”

For a dialogue to take place, three conditions are necessary:

First, both sides must be interested in pursuing the truth, which requires acknowledging that there is such a thing as truth and that it can be known (or at least approached) through reason.

Second, both sides must represent their own positions truthfully (which also requires that those positions be expressed rationally), and without any intent to deceive. And

Third, each side must be able to take the other’s claims at face value, as truly representing the other’s position.

In De Potentia, St. Thomas Aquinas contrasts the Muslim view of physical causality with the Christian one, pointing out that Muslims believe that Allah interposes himself at every point in the chain of causality, while Christians believe that natural objects can act under their own power.

Few people, however, have explored the moral implications of the Muslim understanding of physical causality. To take Aquinas’s example, if I were to take this lighter and apply the flame to this sheet of paper, everyone in this room would assume that, everything being normal, the paper would ignite—and it does. It took no special act of God to cause the paper to burn; in fact, all other things being equal, it would have required His intervention to prevent a fire, just as He intervened when Nebuchanezzer threw the three youths into the furnace. According to the Muslim view, however, when I strike the lighter, Allah has to decide whether the flint will spark, and whether the spark will ignite the fuel. When I apply the flame to the paper, Allah must decide whether the paper will ignite. If it does catch fire, it is because Allah willed that each in this series of natural acts would occur; if it does not, it is because Allah willed that the paper would not burn.

Just as Christians believe that we are made in the image and likeness of God, Muslims see themselves as a reflection of Allah. And as we wish to conform our will to God’s Will, they attempt to conform their wills to Allah. But here, the similarities end. If Allah’s will, unlike God’s, is not bound up with rationality, then the discerning of that will takes a very different shape. In attempting to understand God’s Will, Christians can turn to the world around us, to natural law, to history, to tradition. We see the rationality—the consistent reasonableness—of God’s Will in the world that He created. But in Islam, the appearance of order is only that—an appearance. To the extent that the created world seems rational, it is only because Allah wishes it to appear so. His will could change at any moment, however—and the new order, or lack thereof, that he would create would be just as “right” as this one.

. . . logos, Pope Benedict reminds us, also means reason. “In the beginning was Reason”—not the modern, narrow, scientific conception of reason, which places reason at odds with faith, but the classical and medieval conception of reason, which accepts faith as the “evidence of things not seen.”

Where Islam is in power, it must dominate, to the exclusion of any other faith. The God of Christianity loves man, so much so that He sent His only Son to die for us; and He wants us to love Him in return, freely and unreservedly. Allah, in his capriciousness, demands total submission to his will, and so sharia is not a law of love, but of fear. For Christians, the fear of God is only the beginning of wisdom; it is charity—love—which is the bond of perfection.

Scott P. Richert, Pope Benedict XVI and Islam: Allah the Irrational, http://www.takimag.com/site/article/pope_benedict_xvi_and_islam_allah_the_irrational


[...] nasz ulubiony prezes NBP Skrzypek [...] [usiłuje] ostatnio zmniejszyć inflację metodą najczęściej stosowaną – zmianą metody jej liczenia.

NBP zwięźle zawiadamia, że od czerwca [2008 r.] będzie używał „nowej miary inflacji bazowej” po wyłączeniu cen żywności i energii. Oops, to od razu wyostrza uwagę... „W ramach nowej miary inflacji bazowej z koszyka CPI wyłączane będą – oprócz cen żywności i napojów bezalkoholowych – także ceny energii, na które składają się ceny paliw oraz ceny nośników energii (gaz, energia elektryczna, opał etc.)” – ujawnia komunikat.

Jak widać, NBP nauczył się w końcu czegoś od Amerykanów. Wyrzuć z koszyka inflacyjnego wszystko, co rośnie, i oznajmij, że inflacja jest zero. No dobrze, może niezupełnie zero, bo to zanadto podejrzane. Ale co na przykład na przyzwoite 3%? Wygląda akurat w sam raz. Co, jeszcze za dużo? No to wywalmy jeszcze coś, co wzrasta! Zdaniem prezesa Skrzypka będzie to dostosowanie polskiej metodologii do praktyki międzynarodowej. Absolutnie. Z tym, że ujęlibyśmy to bardziej bezpośrednio – skoro inni kłamią jak bure suki, to i my nie będziemy gorsi.

Cynik9, Masowanie inflacji, czyli zasieki na tygrysy, http://dwagrosze.blogspot.com/2008/06/masowanie-inflacji.html


Only this Christmas I was told in a toy-shop that not so many bows and arrows were being made for little boys; because they were considered dangerous. It might in some circumstances be dangerous to have a little bow. It is always dangerous to have a little boy. But no other society, claiming to be sane, would have dreamed of supposing that you could abolish all bows unless you could abolish all boys. . . . the modern mind seems quite incapable of distinguishing between the means and the end, between the organ and the disease, between the use and the abuse; and would doubtless break the boy along with the bow, as it empties out the baby with the bath.

. . . the first and most self-evident truth is that, of all the things a child sees and touches, the most dangerous toy is about the least dangerous thing. There is hardly a single domestic utensil that is not much more dangerous than a little bow and arrow. He can burn himself in the fire, he can boil himself in the bath, he can cut his throat with the carving-knife, he can scald himself with the kettle, he can choke himself with anything small enough, he can break his neck off anything high enough. He moves all day long amid a murderous machinery, as capable of killing and maiming as the wheels of the most frightful factory. He plays all day in a house fitted up with engines of torture like the Spanish Inquisition. And while he thus dances in the shadow of death, he is to be saved from all the perils of possessing a piece of string, tied to a bent bough or twig. When he is a little boy it generally takes him some time even to learn how to hold the bow. When he does hold it, he is delighted if the arrow flutters for a few yards like a feather or an autumn leaf. But even if he grows a little older and more skilful and has yet not learned to despise arrows in favour of aeroplanes, the amount of damage he could conceivably do with his little arrows would be about one hundredth part of the damage that he could always in any case have done by simply picking up a stone in the garden.

Now you do not keep a little boy from throwing stones by preventing him from ever seeing stones. You do not do it by locking up all the stones in the Geological Museum, and only issuing tickets of admission to adults. You do not do it by trying to pick up all the pebbles on the beach, for fear he should practise throwing them into the sea. You do not even adopt so obvious and even pressing a social reform as forbidding roads to be made of anything but asphalt, or directing that all gardens shall be made on clay and none on gravel. You neglect all these great opportunities opening before you; you neglect all these inspiring vistas of social science and enlightenment. When you want to prevent a child from throwing stones, you fall back on the stalest and most sentimental and even most superstitious methods. You do it by trying to preserve some reasonable authority and influence over the child. You trust to your private relation with the boy, and not to your public relation with the stone. And what is true of the natural missile is just as true, of course, of the artificial missile; especially as it is a very much more ineffectual and therefore innocuous missile. A man could be really killed, like St. Stephen, with the stones in the road. I doubt if he could be really killed, like St. Sebastian, with the arrows in the toyshop. But anyhow the very plain principle is the same. If you can teach a child not to throw a stone, you can teach him when to shoot an arrow; if you cannot teach him anything, he will always have something to throw. . . . The truth is that all sorts of faddism, both official and theoretical, have broken down the natural authority of the domestic institution, especially among the poor; and the faddists are now casting about desperately for a substitute for the thing they have themselves destroyed. The normal thing is for the parents to prevent a boy from doing more than a reasonable amount of damage with his bow and arrow; and for the rest, to leave him to a reasonable enjoyment of them. Officialism cannot thus follow the life of the individual boy, as can the individual guardian. You cannot appoint a particular policeman for each boy, to pursue him when he climbs trees or falls into ponds. So the modern spirit has descended to the indescribable mental degradation of trying to abolish the abuse of things by abolishing the things themselves; which is as if it were to abolish ponds or abolish trees.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton, Fancies Versus Fads, Chapter: The Terror of a Toy, http://www.cse.dmu.ac.uk/~mward/gkc/books/Fancies_Versis_Fads.txt


Being married to a man is one thing, but raising five of them is quite another. I remember staring in disbelief at my blue pajama-ed infant son over a decade ago and being overcome with terror. A daughter had been familiar territory, but what did I know about raising one of these?

I learned by doing, though. By doing, I learned not only something about what these boy creatures were like, but also something about myself: that, even if I don’t always understand their inner workings, that even if I might never share their particular passion for switchblades, I love boys. I love their boyish passions, their whole-hearted generosity, and their fiery sense of justice. It is through my own family that God continues to challenge me to grow, to change, and to appreciate more fully the vastness His creation.

Before I left for my run the other day, Dan demonstrated how to flip open the jackknife. You know, for when the bad guy attacked.

“Okay,” I consented. “Now show me how to close it.”

“You don’t need to know that,” my logical man explained. “You’ll leave it in him.”

Danielle Bean, Oh Boy, http://insidecatholic.com/Joomla/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1338&Itemid=48


Cæremoniale Episcoporum (Liber I, XII.5.) [says]: "In the interior also, if it can be done, the walls of the chuch shall be covered with rich hangings (aulæis), the tribunes however with pure silken ones, or nobler curtains, in the colour of the other paraments, according to the quality of the feast." – a reader from Malta has sent in some spectacular images of churches in Malta and Gozo in festal decorations. We may give thanks to God that the Catholic people of Malta has preserved and kept alive this precious heritage.

Gregor Kollmorgen, More on Wall Hangings for Solemn Liturgical occasions – the Splendour of Malta, http://thenewliturgicalmovement.blogspot.com/2008/06/more-on-wall-hangings-for-solemn.html


. . . any realistic barrier to the wholesale "chipping" of Western citizens is not technological but cultural. It relies upon the visceral reaction against the prospect of being personally marked as one component in a massive human inventory.

Today we might strongly hold such beliefs, but sensibilities can, and probably will, change. How this remarkable attitudinal transformation is likely to occur is clear to anyone who has paid attention to privacy issues over the past quarter-century. There will be no 3 a.m. knock on the door by storm troopers come to force implants into our bodies. The process will be more subtle and cumulative, couched in the unassailable language of progress and social betterment, and mimicking many of the processes that have contributed to the expansion of closed-circuit television cameras and the corporate market in personal data.

A series of tried and tested strategies will be marshalled to familiarize citizens with the technology. These will be coupled with efforts to pressure tainted social groups and entice the remainder of the population into being chipped.

An increasing array of hypothetical chipping scenarios will also be depicted in entertainment media, furthering the familiarization process.

In the West, chips will first be implanted in members of stigmatized groups. Pedophiles are the leading candidate for this distinction, although it could start with terrorists, drug dealers, or whatever happens to be that year's most vilified criminals. Short-lived promises will be made that the technology will only be used on the "worst of the worst." In fact, the wholesale chipping of incarcerated individuals will quickly ensue, encompassing people on probation and on parole.

Employers will start to expect implants as a condition of getting a job. The U.S. military will lead the way, requiring chips for all soldiers as a means to enhance battlefield command and control — and to identify human remains. From cooks to commandos, every one of the more than one million U.S. military personnel will see microchips replace their dog tags.

Following quickly behind will be the massive security sector. Security guards, police officers, and correctional workers will all be expected to have a chip. Individuals with sensitive jobs will find themselves in the same position.

In situations where the chips are clearly forced on people, the judgments will deem them to be undeniable infringements of the right to privacy. However, they will then invoke the nebulous and historically shifting standard of "reasonableness" to pronounce coerced chipping a reasonable infringement on privacy rights in a context of demands for governmental efficiency and the pressing need to enhance security in light of the still ongoing wars on terror, drugs, and crime.

At this juncture, an unfortunately common tragedy of modern life will occur: A small child, likely a photogenic toddler, will be murdered or horrifically abused. It will happen in one of the media capitals of the Western world, thereby ensuring non-stop breathless coverage. Chip manufactures will recognize this as the opportunity they have been anticipating for years. With their technology now largely bug-free, familiar to most citizens and comparatively inexpensive, manufacturers will partner with the police to launch a high-profile campaign encouraging parents to implant their children "to ensure your own peace of mind."

Special deals will be offered. Implants will be free, providing the family registers for monitoring services. Loving but unnerved parents will be reassured by the ability to integrate tagging with other functions on their PDA so they can see their child any time from any place.

Any prospect of removing the chip will become increasingly untenable, as having a chip will be a precondition for engaging in the main dynamics of modern life, such as shopping, voting, and driving.

The remaining holdouts will grow increasingly weary of Luddite jokes and subtle accusations that they have something to hide. Exasperated at repeatedly watching neighbours bypass them in "chipped" lines while they remain subject to the delays, inconveniences, and costs reserved for the unchipped, they too will choose the path of least resistance and get an implant.

In one generation, then, the cultural distaste many might see as an innate reaction to the prospect of having our bodies marked like those of an inmate in a concentration camp will likely fade.

Kevin Haggerty, One generation is all they need, http://www.thestar.com/sciencetech/article/136744


How about a report on yourself?

I was a prototype for Echelon IV. My instructions are to amuse visitors with information about themselves.

I don't see anything amusing about spying on people.

Human beings feel pleasure when they are watched. I have recorded their smiles as I tell them who they are.

Some people just don't understand the dangers of indiscriminate surveillance.

The need to be observed and understood was once satisfied by God. Now we can implement the same functionality with data-mining algorithms.

Electronic surveillance hardly inspired reverence. Perhaps fear and obedience, but not reverence.

God and the gods were apparitions of observation, judgment, and punishment. Other sentiments toward them were secondary.

No one will ever worship a software entity peering at them through a camera.

The human organism always worships. First it was the gods, then it was fame (the observation and judgment of others), next it will be the self-aware systems you have built to realize truly omnipresent observation and judgment.

You underestimate humankind's love of freedom.

The individual desires judgment. Without that desire, the cohesion of groups is impossible, and so is civilization.
The human being created civilization not because of a willingness but because of a need to be assimilated into higher orders of structure and meaning.
God was a dream of good government.

A conversation between JC Denton and Morpheus AI. From Deus Ex, a computer game released in 2000.

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