Chris Hedges newest, The World As It Is: Dispatches on the myth of human progress

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Gaian
Chris Hedges newest, The World As It Is: Dispatches on the myth of human progress

on the way

Gaian

His book is dedicated: "For my children, Thomas, Noelle, Konrad, and Marina, whose joy and laughter save me from despair and for whom I must always hope"

I'm going to get right into this book and see what he recommends...more than a palliative for fixing what's wrong with our social and economic systems, I'm sure. But folks will recall from his exchange with Kevin O'Leary, that he corrected that sad chap's take on his politics. Hedges is not a "left-wing nutbar" but a conservative of some kind, who thought that Canadian banks had been run well - by comparison with their U.S.investment counterparts - and his remarks about Occupy Wall Street did not apply north of the border.

But there must be some strain of criticism for the Canadian variety of capitalism, its environmental record, its increasng coziness with Washington, the workngs of its markets.

I believe Hedges will call for reform, not revolution, and I'm wondering if his knowledge of the market system will be concerned, like Roger L. Martin with Fixing the Game: Bubbles, crashes, and what capitalism can learn from the NFL.

It would seem from feedback by protesters that OWS is about giving people a chance to make a life. Offer the children a future.
Let's see.

knownothing knownothing's picture
Slumberjack

knownothing wrote:
Hedges is totally left wing

And a theologian to boot.

Gaian

"Rebellion will save our souls." :)

Slumberjack

I largely agree with what Hedges writes, until and up to the point in my estimation at least, he tarnishes a rather prolific output of otherwise lucid essays with occasional and necessarily opaque references to spiritual transcendence, along with accounts of its ability to deliver us from the times we find ourselves in; which I understand as summoning people to crawl out from under one paradigm of oppression by submitting ourselves to another.

Gaian

We have to become "self-sufficient" as he puts it. But he also understands the dangers of climate change.

His latest work is composed of dozens of essays, and in a piece dated May 31, 2010, This Country Needs a Few Good Communists, I find a proposal for better analysis of what we face: "We must find our way back to the old radicals, to the discredited Marxists, socialists, and anarchists, including Dwight Macdonald and Dorothy Day. Language is our first step toward salvation. We cannot fight what we cannot describe."

Absolutely. Beginning with the need to understand where Hedges would go from here - beyond a very accurate description of the ills of U.S. political economy and the corrupted power-brokers, religious and secular.

Aristotleded24

knownothing wrote:
Hedges is totally left wing

Above all, Hedges strikes me as a cultural critic.

Unionist

[whoops]

Unionist

[serves me right for playing with my kid's iMachine...]

Unionist

Minus the embarrassing religious nonsense, Hedges is inspiring. 

ETA: My apologies for the triple post. It may have been the divine wrath of Hedges' God.

 

N.R.KISSED

Unionist wrote:

Minus the embarrassing religious nonsense, Hedges is inspiring. 

ETA: My apologies for the triple post. It may have been the divine wrath of Hedges' God.

 

 

I didn't realise pointing out that Hitchens, Harris and Dawkins were clueless islamophobes and cheer leaders of empire.

I've actually read a fair amount of Hedges and he doesn't really speak that much of what he believes in terms of religion. He does speak of things that he doesn't believe and one of them is a "personlized" god who takes interests in our daily activities. Maybe you have evidence of his religious beliefs that you claim are nonsense or you are doing a new atheist and subscribing beliefs not because it is what they believe but rather they are easy to ridicule.

Unionist

N.R.KISSED wrote:

I didn't realise pointing out that Hitchens, Harris and Dawkins were clueless islamophobes and cheer leaders of empire.

I have condemned Hitchens and Harris for being cheerleaders of empire and Islamophobes for a long time here. You may not have noticed my views, but now you know.

Quote:
I've actually read a fair amount of Hedges and he doesn't really speak that much of what he believes in terms of religion. He does speak of things that he doesn't believe and one of them is a "personlized" god who takes interests in our daily activities. Maybe you have evidence of his religious beliefs that you claim are nonsense or you are doing a new atheist and subscribing beliefs not because it is what they believe but rather they are easy to ridicule.

I have no issues with what Hedges or anyone else "believes". I have serious issues with anyone who (in my view) diminishes the heinous role played by religion, especially in modern times, in sowing division and xenophobia and ignorance and hatred amongst human beings. I consider Hedges a powerful ally as a journalist and publicist and activist in anti-imperialist causes. I'm left singularly unimpressed by his meanderings about philosophy and science and matters of the spirit - much of which I have found nonsensical.

But I don't care what he has to say on those issues. That's why I praise and admire Hedges (just look at his demolition of Kevin O'Leary). No one is good at everything. So what's the big deal?

 

Gaian

N.R.KISSED wrote:

Unionist wrote:

Minus the embarrassing religious nonsense, Hedges is inspiring. 

ETA: My apologies for the triple post. It may have been the divine wrath of Hedges' God.

 

 

I didn't realise pointing out that Hitchens, Harris and Dawkins were clueless islamophobes and cheer leaders of empire.

I've actually read a fair amount of Hedges and he doesn't really speak that much of what he believes in terms of religion. He does speak of things that he doesn't believe and one of them is a "personlized" god who takes interests in our daily activities. Maybe you have evidence of his religious beliefs that you claim are nonsense or you are doing a new atheist and subscribing beliefs not because it is what they believe but rather they are easy to ridicule.

I believe Hedges' father was a Presbyterian minister. Grew up in a household believing, much like Tommy Douglas, that the task of the Christian was to go out there and do good, follow the message in the Sermon on the Mount.

Hedges loathes the new evangelical whose Christianity is all about paving the way for personal salvation, headed by those who expect to peer down on the slaughter of those "Left Behind."(By the way, if you want to better understand the mind-set and intellectual level of the rapture set, have a gander at the Left Behind series at your local library).

In her documentary Dickens in America, Miriam Margolyes tells a New York, Lincoln Centre audience that religion in Britain is largely a peronal thing. "Unlike you Americans," she said. "Religion has you people by the balls."

N.R.KISSED

Unionist wrote:

N.R.KISSED wrote:

I didn't realise pointing out that Hitchens, Harris and Dawkins were clueless islamophobes and cheer leaders of empire.

I have condemned Hitchens and Harris for being cheerleaders of empire and Islamophobes for a long time here. You may not have noticed my views, but now you know.

Quote:
I've actually read a fair amount of Hedges and he doesn't really speak that much of what he believes in terms of religion. He does speak of things that he doesn't believe and one of them is a "personlized" god who takes interests in our daily activities. Maybe you have evidence of his religious beliefs that you claim are nonsense or you are doing a new atheist and subscribing beliefs not because it is what they believe but rather they are easy to ridicule.

I have no issues with what Hedges or anyone else "believes". I have serious issues with anyone who (in my view) diminishes the heinous role played by religion, especially in modern times, in sowing division and xenophobia and ignorance and hatred amongst human beings. I consider Hedges a powerful ally as a journalist and publicist and activist in anti-imperialist causes. I'm left singularly unimpressed by his meanderings about philosophy and science and matters of the spirit - much of which I have found nonsensical.

But I don't care what he has to say on those issues. That's why I praise and admire Hedges (just look at his demolition of Kevin O'Leary). No one is good at everything. So what's the big deal?

 

As I'm sure you're aware Hedges has written a book called "American Fascists" about the rise of the christian right. He also acknowledges the atrocities that have been carried out and committed by organized religion. He llived for many years in the middle east he is certainly aware and critical of islamic fundamentalists. What he doesn't do is treat religion as an amorphous thing or believers as some unified group. He also spent time in El Salvador and he does not compare the catholic oligarchy there to the liberation theologist priests who were tortured and murdered fighting for social justice. In death of the liberal class he also takes on the lliberal church for its failure to confront neo-libearl capitalism. So I'm not sure how any of that constitutes diminishing the role religion in atrocities on the contrary I think he clearly identifies where is it culpable and where it is not.

Unionist

N.R.KISSED wrote:
So I'm not sure how any of that constitutes diminishing the role religion in atrocities on the contrary I think he clearly identifies where is it culpable and where it is not.

Well first of all, I never said Hedges diminished the negative role of religion, did I? I'm talking about the difference between people holding nonsensical religious beliefs and those who diminish the heinous role of religion. The latter are my adversaries - not the former.

And I certainly never mentioned "atrocities". I spoke of the heinous role of religion in sowing division, xenophobia, etc. In that respect, consider those religious communities (for example) which pressure their children to marry, reside, dress, date, go to school, go to war, etc., "within the faith". That is the kind of xenophobia which progressive people, whether they are personally atheist or religious or whatever, must combat. It's a touchstone for whether someone stands on the side of humanity or against it, in my personal view.

So to repeat (why am I repeating myself?) - Hedges is my ally - some of his views are (in my view) nonsensical - but I don't mind. Please don't tell me, however, that I have to refrain from calling nonsense when I see it.

 

6079_Smith_W

Slumberjack wrote:

I largely agree with what Hedges writes, until and up to the point in my estimation at least, he tarnishes a rather prolific output of otherwise lucid essays with occasional and necessarily opaque references to spiritual transcendence, along with accounts of its ability to deliver us from the times we find ourselves in; which I understand as summoning people to crawl out from under one paradigm of oppression by submitting ourselves to another.

Well he is entirely correct in that. Some people do improve their lives and dedicate themselves to making the world a better place because of religious philosophy and religious communities. 

Who is more deluded? those religious people, or people who don't recognize that fact because they focus on the single point of the existence of a god rather than looking at spiritual belief as a whole experience. 

If you are atheist, fine. I actually lean strongly toward that belief too. But I at least understand that many people who believe are not stupid, deluded, embarrassing or oppressed. If you don't see that, fine, but if you don't understand it perhaps it is best to just leave it alone rather than be needlessly insulting toward them, and pompous about your own world view.

Because I assure you, the statement above does not reflect an understanding of the whole picture.

 

 

Slumberjack

6079_Smith_W wrote:
  Well he is entirely correct in that. Some people do improve their lives and dedicate themselves to making the world a better place because of religious philosophy and religious communities.  Who is more deluded? those religious people, or people who don't recognize that fact because they focus on the single point of the existence of a god rather than looking at spiritual belief as a whole experience. 

The potential constructive effects upon the lives of the faithful does not figure among the most important considerations, certainly not over and above the question of whether or not these things are true. If a person in this day and age can be brought in to a set of patently false notions that have gone begging for a single shred of scientifically verifiable evidence for the last four millennia at least, and in taking into account all of the historical and present day destructive manifestations, prudence alone compels the rest of us to inquire as to just what else the respective flocks are willing to absorb. Understanding the whole picture should imply that there's too much at stake to just leave it to chance that they'll mind their own business, because of the abysmal track record in that regard. The mere fact that we can question and vigorously interrogate every other assumption under and beyond the sun, including those to do with scientific discovery, political beliefs, sports affiliations, musical, literature and art interests, etc, but are expected to approach the topic of spirituality with a level of deference and a respect for which it frankly hasn't earned, should inform and heighten our suspicions right from the get go.  This vetting process is true of anything Hedges or anyone else may presume and write about.

Unionist

Everything Slumberjack wrote:

6079_Smith_W

 

In the first place, regarding Hedges' point. What he says IS true. Many people's lives are improved by spiritual belief, and some significant political and progressive movements have a basis in spiritual belief. 

So I should hope that part at least is not up for debate. 

I am more concerned about the personal attacks, and the fact that when it comes to belief, people seem free to look down their noses at others' values and call them an embarassment, and something that detracts from their reputation.

First of all, I should point out that spiritual belief is not strictly a choice. It is part of one's being in the same way that culture and heritage are. It is certainly that when we look at it in terms of rights.

Secondly, although we  shouldn't usually have to look at the record of the victim in a case of discrimination, I think I'll do it anyway, and point out that Hedges has himself spoken out against the oppression of religion, and has probably done more in that department than all of us put together. So in what way exactly is he deluded?

Yet still it is somehow acceptable to say his reputation is tarnished because of his personal values, and associate him with the actions and values of people with entirely different belief systems, based on a flawed and narrow undertanding of what spiritual belief is.

And if you reduce spiritual belief to the few aspects of it which fall under scientifically proof, your understanding is so narrow as to be almost nonexistent. It's not that I don't think values should never be looked at; It's more that I wonder at the hubris of some opponents of religion who think they can just pick out aspects of another person's being. Do you not understand that those moral values are part of the foundation of that person's life and work just as you have your own values?

Would you make the same judgment about King? Malcolm X? Tubman? Gandhi? Bonhoeffer?  Riel? Douglas? Crazy Horse? the Dalai Lama? 

Yes, I'm sure they could have all done a much better job of it if they had our rational perspective and lost all that foolish god stuff. 

Nice enough folks, but I'm not sure I'd want them embarassing me in front of my friends.

 

 

 

Unionist

6079_Smith_W wrote:

 

In the first place, regarding Hedges' point. What he says IS true. Many people's lives are improved by spiritual belief, and some significant political and progressive movements have a basis in spiritual belief.

So I should hope that part at least is not up for debate.

I totally deny that proposition - 100% - just as I deny that some terrorist acts have their basis in Islam. Your proposition, besides being historically false, is the other side of that same coin. Political movements have their basis in real life, not some chimera cooked up in people's heads. Religious belief (which you call "spiritual belief" because you correctly presume that "religion" is too discredited to be used in polite discourse) has been invoked as an ideological adjunct, and a mobilizing force, for movements born in people's concrete needs. In today's world, this particular adjunct is almost universally used to divide, deceive, and demobilize.

Quote:
I am more concerned about the personal attacks, and the fact that when it comes to belief, people seem free to look down their noses at others' values and call them an embarassment, and something that detracts from their reputation.

I feel free to look down upon Stephen Harper's values. I feel free to scorn creationism and homophobia and anti-choice "values". Would you deprive me of that freedom?? As for "personal attacks", that's your own invention.

Quote:
First of all, I should point out that spiritual belief is not strictly a choice.

"I had to do it - God made me do it!" Yeah, right. You know what? Being a slave isn't strictly a choice either. Nor is being downtrodden and abused. The issue is what you do to rid yourself of those shackles. People are free to believe in whatever they like. I respect their right to those beliefs. But don't demand respect for those beliefs.

Quote:
Secondly, although we  shouldn't usually have to look at the record of the victim in a case of discrimination, I think I'll do it anyway, and point out that Hedges has himself spoken out against the oppression of religion, and has probably done more in that department than all of us put together. So in what way exactly is he deluded?

Read his meanderings about issues which he knows little or nothing about, and get back to me: [url=http://www.commondreams.org/view/2010/05/10-4]After Religion Fizzles, We're Stuck with Nietzsche[/url].

By the way, Hedges, who is (as I said) a powerful and eloquent anti-imperialist, does not balk at speaking of "religion". I admire his forthrightness. You should consider doing likewise. "Spiritual beliefs" have sweet f*-all to do with religion. It is primarily religious monopolists who seek to reduce matters of the spirit to one of their creepy categories.

Quote:
And if you reduce spiritual belief to the few aspects of it which fall under scientifically proof, your understanding is so narrow as to be almost nonexistent.

The straw-man factory must be working overtime shifts these days.

Quote:
Would you make the same judgment about King? Malcolm X? Tubman? Gandhi? Bonhoeffer?  Riel? Douglas? Crazy Horse? the Dalai Lama?

To the extent that any of them publicly promotes their religion, especially to the exclusion of others, I would certainly make the same judgment of all of them. To the extent that they participate in and lead the fight for freedom and peace and justice, why would I begrudge them their individual beliefs?

Quote:
Yes, I'm sure they could have all done a much better job of it if they had our rational perspective and lost all that foolish god stuff.

Did someone suggest that Hedges could do a "much better job" if he dropped his religious foolishness? No, you concocted that, to bolster your sinking ship of a thesis.

You see, a person like Hedges, if someone told him "your views on religion are foolish, and here's why", would either engage that discussion or say that he'd rather not discuss it. He would never say: "How dare you attack my values, the core of my being, my heritage and culture?" Such ripostes are for intellectual cowards. Hedges is anything but that.

 

6079_Smith_W

A few points I'll reiterate Unionist.

For many religious people spiritual belief is not strictly a choice. It is part of who they are. Whether you recognize it or not, it is so.

Secondly, I don't avoid the word religion to hide from anything, but because we are talking about a range of beliefs that doesn't fit into any one formal dogma.

And if you think I am making a straw man argument about reducing belief to creationism and theism, then please tell me how 1 Corinthians 13 is baseless nonsense. Like much of actual religious belief, it has nothing whatsoever to do with anything that can be proven or disproven scientifically.

And I am sorry, but a claim that his beliefs tarnish his other work is a discriminatory value judgment.

And I read the piece. Thanks. Let me give it a second read after supper and get back to you, but while I don't quite share his perspective, and I am sure a Nietsche scholar (which I am not) could pick it full of holes, most of it rings true for me.

I don't think a religious vacuum is possible, actually. Our current situation is changing, of course, but it will be replaced with something. The most ironic thing I see about some so-called rationalists' viewpoint is the failure to recognize that most people don't act or perceive the world primarily through rational thinking, but through our feelings, impressions, and irrational hunches.

 

6079_Smith_W

So I read it over again. 

Again, I can't claim to be versed in Nietsche, if that is your beef.

I might have thrown in a caveat or two to soothe the feelings of sensitive atheists who might think he was implying that there can be no morality without religion. 

But I don't take his argument that way, and the way I read it, as a look at our society as a whole, I agree with much of it.

I don't think the major religions are going anywhere anytime soon. The question is how will they change and what will happen to the progressive elements within them?

 

 

 

 

Aristotleded24

6079_Smith_W wrote:
I don't think the major religions are going anywhere anytime soon.

Even if religion goes away completely in the Western world (which I don't think it will), remember that the majority of the worlds Christians and Muslims live in the Third World, whose numbers are not only growing overall but where religious belief shows no sign of going into decline.

Gaian

6079:"Would you make the same judgment about King? Malcolm X? Tubman? Gandhi? Bonhoeffer? Riel? Douglas? Crazy Horse? the Dalai Lama?

Yes, I'm sure they could have all done a much better job of it if they had our rational perspective and lost all that foolish god stuff.

Nice enough folks, but I'm not sure I'd want them embarassing me in front of my friends."

If that is not tongue-in-cheek I'm afraid you've been infected with a post-modernist disregard for history by a relativism that has no concern for relativism! :)

I fought political battles for the betterment of the human condition side by side with an Anglican priest who was never going to make Bishop. That priest was active at the same time that a Catholic priest,Eugene Cullinane, a member of the Basilian Fathers who had become active in the CCF in Saskatchewan about the Tommy came to power, found himself rusticated to a rural retreat in the Southern Ontario bush. He had studied sociology under critical thinkers , including Goetz Briefs, a refugee from Hitler Germany. "Cullinane decided to write his doctoral dissertaion on the CCF in Canada (Gregory Baum, Catholics and Canadian Socialism: :Political Thought in the Thirties and Forties). We can see why he wound up orgnizing potato and maple sytup co-operatives in Combermere in the 1960s.

If your statement about some religious greats was indeed about the possibility of religious renewal on the side of social progress - with the kind of nostalgia that Hedges holds - I take back the post-modernist slur. :)

6079_Smith_W

Yes Gaian, I was being facetious. I hope the rest of my post makes clear my actual feelings on the issue.

Gaian

Just as I hope you understand that I came onside with a bit of history to support yourstory. Mind you, most of history was made horrific by religion, and they're at it again like their founding pilgrims south of the border. As Miriam Margolyes told them to their New York faces (probably the only place she safely could) "Religion has you people by the balls." This, Hedges understands.

6079_Smith_W

Gaian wrote:

Mind you, most of history was made horrific by religion, and they're at it again like their founding pilgrims south of the border.

Yup. I'd put that in the present tense too. It never really stopped.

Gaian

6079_Smith_W wrote:

Gaian wrote:

Mind you, most of history was made horrific by religion, and they're at it again like their founding pilgrims south of the border.

Yup. I'd put that in the present tense too. It never really stopped.

THE point that Hedges tries to make is that, while IT never really stopped, the zealousnss and mindlessness of the Pilgrims certainly gave way to much quieter devotion and a charitable church movement until the rise of the born-again literalists, fundamentalists and evangelican movements, who found growing favour after the civil rights successes.

That resurgence should be explained, and Hedges tries.

6079_Smith_W

Intolerant and tolerant strains of religion have always existed; It is not a case of one morphing into the other at all. 

As for intolerance, I think it has come to the political forefront in recent decades. This is mainly because political organizers - particularly within the Republican Party, and reaching critical mass within the Reagan administration - decided to harness religious fervor to help their own campaigns, with the goal of a religious takeover of government.

But I think those elements have always been there, and have always been expressed. The only thing that has ever kept them in check is other people (many of them religious) standing up to intolerance and oppression. 

The Puritans only stopped hanging Quakers when they were ordered to do so by the king.

But all it took was putting church authority over an institution and calling it a school for some people to start doing whatever they wanted, including committing murder. And that happened through the 19th and 20th centuries right up to the time when the moral majority started.

Give free rein to those who are intolerant (and think they answer to no-one, and that their values are backed up by god) and they will do whatever they can get away with.

 

Gaian

Hedges grew up with a Presbyterian preacher father, and tries to keep his description of the INSTITUTIIONAL changes over his lifetime from becoming this generalized: "Intolerant and tolerant strains of religion have always existed." Those kinds of truisms tell us little about the changes he has lived and now feels threatened by, as a U.S.citizen.

"Give free rein to those who are intolerant (and think they answer to no-one, and that their values are backed up by god) and they will do whatever they can get away with"...

In fact, that kind of truism tells us nothing, except that, yep, it doesn't look good with that kind of "Christianity" in ascendance. Give me Tommy Douglas's kind of Christianity - and he was a Baptist minister, seen in his input during the Canadian flag debate, as described by Vincent Lam: "In 1964 a bitter debate on a new national flag dragged on for five weeks, until Douglas chastised the House for wasting time when they should be acting on more pressing issues.

"He annswered the suggestion that the St.George's Cross shold be retained on the flag in honour of Canada's Christian heritage by declaring, 'St. George's Cross was first used in the Crusade when the kings, barons and knights of Christendom perpetrated murder, raping and plunder in the name of Christianity...Let us remember first of all that Christianity is not the only faith in Canada. There are people of Jewish faith, the Mohammedan faith and the Buddhist faith."

The closet concern of Conservatives for a return to a "heritage Canada" (white and Christian) is selling newspapers for the National Post at the moment.

6079_Smith_W

Yes Gaian. I agree with that.

That's why I make the distinction between tolerance and intolerance, and why (unlike some)  I don't think the two poles have a direct relationship when it comes to religion.

But my point is that I don't think the forces of intolerance have reformed one bit. It has only been political will, education of the general public, and war and revolution which have forced them to pull back.

And I don't think Hedges was stabbing in the dark trying to explain some mystery. The rise of the religious right is pretty clear, and well-documented.

We have only to look at the sea change between the catholic laity and funadamentalist protestants on the issue of abortion choice to see that tolerance or intolerance are not rooted in any one church.

But back to my point -  the intolerant have not changed one bit, and never will. Just look at Brad Trost's ravings as evidence that they are willing to sacrifice everything, including the law and human life to push their agenda. 

Give them an inch, and they will take whatever they can - same as it ever was.

 

 

Northern Shoveler Northern Shoveler's picture

My favourite politician over the last decade is a man of faith.  He walked the walk and one of his heroes was J.S. 

I also think religion is on balance a negative force in the world.  It divides people while "spirituality" to me is the manifestation of our hard wired human empathy. Community is the result of empathy.  Keeping religion out of politics and public institutions is a good thing for democracy.

Maysie Maysie's picture

I don't know why I'm wading in here now, into an old and round-and-round argument with no end.

*deep beath*

I'm with Gaian and 6079 Smith on this one. Yeah, I almost fell over too when i realized that.

There probably couldn't be a bigger atheist than me, raised with no religion, and my only religious influences were the secular Christian stuff I learned in the Ontario public school system in the 70s and 80s.

Religion is more than belief. For many folks, especially folks of colour in the diaspora, it's about community, connection, support. Religion for some, as Smith has stated, is intertwined with their actions in social justice. 

Yeah, of course the power-hungry fucks in any religion use religious doctrine as a justification to be violent oppressive assholes that are somehow vindicated by god. So? Power-hungry assholes use any excuse to justify their despicable actions.

Religion and religious engagement is beyond the personal belief system of folks. For some, it's the community context that helps and supports them in myraid ways. And yes, some of these very same people run, far and fast, to get away from religious trapping as soon as they're able to, and refuse to raise their children in such an atmosphere.

Lots of religions are anti-women, anti-gay, anti-marrying-or-dating-outside-the-faith. Again, so? I'm sure as hell not defending any of that.

But what I think the good-hearted atheists here (all white men) are forgetting is that when one doesn't fit, or matter, to the greater white European culture that is Canada, community can fill that gap, and sometimes community and organized religion work together in positive ways for people. No, such people aren't deluded or stupid or mindless sheep (or whatever way in which you guys imagine their lives to be) and I don't think you guys realize how utterly disrespectful you sound when you imply this. Or maybe you do realize but don't care. Maybe you don't care how exclusive you sound, and how exclusive babble starts to be when there is no room for anyone (we're not talking about Hedges anymore) who may be just as huge social, political, labour activists as you guys, but also happen to have a faith or belief in a religion that falls into the irrational and unprovable arena.

Well, I believe in a world with less injustice and less oppression and there sure as hell isn't any empirical proof of that coming to being. There's in fact tons of history to indicate that it's never going to happen. But I don't stop my actions or my beliefs in the possibility of change because of that. 

 

6079_Smith_W

@ Maysie

Well said, and not just because you happen to agree with me on part of this

(though I should probably reiterate that although I am a supporter of progressive religious thought, and do not think the bible should be consigned to the recycling or used for rolling papers I am very close to being an atheist).

 

Unionist

Hi Maysie,

When your argument veers into "you're all white males" and "you're driving good folks away from babble", I have an awfully hard time figuring out what you're trying to say. But I'll give it a whirl.

I have no problem with what individuals believe (as I said above). But it is precisely what you seem to find positive - the "community" of religion - which I described above as the adjunct of xenophobia and racism and bans on intermarriage and ghettoization and demonization of the "other" and homophobia and sexism and war. It's evil in the service of evil. And "beliefs" have nothing to do with it.

 

6079_Smith_W

@ Unionist

Again, it depends on which religious or spiritual community you are talking about, because in the first place they are not all the same, and secondly, in any given community not all adherents think exactly alike, believe exactly the same thing, nor are they there for the same reasons.

One simple example is the many pacifist sects, some of whose members endured exile, imprisonment and death because they did not want to take part in war. 

I see your point, and I also think you and I agree on almost all of this. 

But on all the issues you mention and a good many more there have been people who have taken part in the struggle who are religious, and some whose committment is grounded in  their religious faith. 

So how is it in order for us to single out that one attribute in our allies as something which can be ridiculed, or which somehow tarnishes their other work?

You want to have a debate with someone about the existence of a god, or certain beliefs of certain faiths? Fine; feel free to ask someone what he or she actually believes and have at it. I don't want to get in the way of that. But I think some of the attitudes  and casting guilt by association I have read go beyond that.

You are in favour of the separation of church and state? Good; me too. You might want to know that one of our allies in this was Roger WIlliams. He didn't invent the concept, but he did invent the phrase, and he was one of the first people to fight for it in colonial America:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Williams_(theologian)

The Quaker peacher Mary Dyer took the fight against theocracy a bit further by returning to the colony from which she was banished until she was executed. She had great dedication; too bad it was just for a bunch of superstitious claptrap.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Dyer 

 

 

 

 

Unionist

6079_Smith_W wrote:

@ Unionist

Again, it depends on which religious or spiritual community you are talking about, because in the first place they are not all the same, and secondly, in any given community not all adherents think exactly alike, believe exactly the same thing, nor are they there for the same reasons.

So if I said that 97% of adherents are there because their parents were there, would you be shocked? Or do you think that religion is an individual deliberate choice for most? Did a lot of your childhood friends decide to opt for other religions than the ones they were raised in?

And perhaps you could provide me with a short list of religious communities that are utterly and truly indifferent on the issue of whether or not their kids marry within the faith, live in proximity to other members of the faith, go to particular schools based (or not) on faith, etc.? If your list omits most branches of Roman Catholicism and Judaism and Islam and Sikhism and Hinduism and Anglicanism and Orthodox Christianity (not meaning to be exhaustive), doesn't that say a little something about the vile xenophobia which "religious community" engenders?

This is not a matter of belief. Not many people will tell you, "God doesn't want my child to marry outside the faith". It goes about dressed up as "community, culture, tradition", and other such harbingers of hatred and war.

 

Slumberjack

Maysie wrote:
Religion is more than belief.

It certainly is. In nearly all of its representations, including the mildest variants, the fact that it often serves as the most fertile ground anywhere for social conservative ideology hasn't been entirely lost on the Harperites, who appear to have gone out of their way to court the religious 'ethnic' vote just when counting on the dwindling base of traditional religious supporters these days isn't enough anymore to realize the overall agenda.

Quote:
For many folks, especially folks of colour in the diaspora, it's about community, connection, support. Religion for some, as Smith has stated, is intertwined with their actions in social justice.

It's also culturally intertwined as well, practically seamless in fact, just like the many variations of the three largest Abrahamic religions. I fail to see consistency being applied when we say religion as a political vehicle [which it surely is and always has been] in the traditional context that we're most familiar is open for critique on the one hand, but that because religion is so ingrained within certain communities to the extent that the level of personal and communal belief is so vital and necessary, that we must refrain from criticizing similar disgusting elements, that which reason has been applied against for centuries and severely persecuted as a result.  The argument that exceptional circumstances surround one person's quaint observances and not another's has a patronizing flavour to it as well. Is it logical to say that some people are just so disposed to their particular voodoo more than anyone else, that they should be left alone with it, despite the predatory instincts of politicians and religious leaders to obscure the line between the personal and the political?

Quote:
But what I think the good-hearted atheists here (all white men) are forgetting is that when one doesn't fit, or matter, to the greater white European culture that is Canada, community can fill that gap, and sometimes community and organized religion work together in positive ways for people. No, such people aren't deluded or stupid or mindless sheep (or whatever way in which you guys imagine their lives to be) and I don't think you guys realize how utterly disrespectful you sound when you imply this. Or maybe you do realize but don't care. Maybe you don't care how exclusive you sound, and how exclusive babble starts to be when there is no room for anyone (we're not talking about Hedges anymore) who may be just as huge social, political, labour activists as you guys, but also happen to have a faith or belief in a religion that falls into the irrational and unprovable arena.

Yes, I'm afraid we are talking about mass delusion, there is no other way to put it, and frankly some of us at least are being all inclusive when considering it. It deserves no more respect than someone who has built their entire existence, or have had such a meme implanted to the extent that their work life, home life, and leisure hours are caught up with believing that the Leafs for example will one day win the Stanley Cup, or that some human beings will be raptured away to heaven in order to rule over everyone left behind, or that the perfectly good body parts of male and female children be lopped off for their own good, or that there's only one way toward salvation, everyone else be damned, or that certain people are going to hell because of who they fall in love with, or that we need to understand the honour killing of teenaged girls in certain parts of the world, or here in fact, or that for the sake of people's feelings, we must learn to live with the rampant levels homophobia and gender oppression emanating from practically all of these religions.

Quote:
Well, I believe in a world with less injustice and less oppression and there sure as hell isn't any empirical proof of that coming to being. There's in fact tons of history to indicate that it's never going to happen. But I don't stop my actions or my beliefs in the possibility of change because of that.

Yes, I believe you would prefer a world with less oppression, which is why people need to stop these sorts of beliefs from being transformed into actions against everyone, and to my mind there shouldn't be just one set way of going about it.  We need the philosophers and the lampooners, all reasoned disciplines aboard on this one, the more the merrier.  I can't speak for Unionist or anyone else, but this seems to be the crux of the argument here.

6079_Smith_W

Clearly you know a bunch of different people than I do, Unionist, which is just fine, and in fact speaks to my point that maybe we should judge someone on his or her own actions rather than our assumptions based on the beliefs and reputation of others.

No, I don't think religion is a deliberate choice for most - I agree with you. In that, it is really not that different from politics or culture. But I don't hold you responsible for what Stephen Harper says, and more importantly, there is a significant group within many religions (and yes, spiritual communities) who are conscious of what they are doing.

But even for those who are not, I don't see how that personal belief is anyone else's concern. There are only two families in my son's class that I know which are of mixed faith, but I realize that in some communities that is an exception. That doesn't make them fools, brainwashed, or make their words not worthy of consideration. In fact it doesn't really tell you what those people believe or who they are other than that they adhere to that precept of their belief/culture (because it is not strictly religious).

Also, I don't know if you have ever attended or read coverage of a church synod or policy conference, but you might find it interesting that not everyone thinks the same, particularly on issues like gender and orientation. And not everyone approaches the problems, or the divisions with the same level of tolerance.

But really, my point is more to do with our attitudes and fair comment rather than the choices of others. As I have said already, I can't imagine too many other personal attributes that would be considered fair to use against someone. Not to equate belief with substance abuse (because they are NOT the same) but if I were to say about someone "great ideas; too bad they are marred because he's an addict," I would be rightly called for discrimination. 

Yet for some reason it is fair game to make assumptions and cast guilt by association on someone simply because he or she speaks in favour of churches.

Again - I'm not omitting anything. I'm talking about judging one person based on assumptions and the actions of others.

Well...   I agree that progressive spiritual communities are a good thing. They are an inevitable thing, actually because progressive people are going to form them whether anyone approves or not. And if someone is coming from that foundation, I think it is good that that spiritual belief should inform one's activism.

 I think it is good to recognize that those groups exist to help people improve themselves internally and help others externally, rather than just falsely assuming that oppressive lying churches are the only thing that there is.

And besides, you had better hope there are some progressive people in those churches, because they sure aren't going to change on the efforts of outsiders alone.

 

Northern Shoveler Northern Shoveler's picture

Unionist wrote:

This is not a matter of belief. Not many people will tell you, "God doesn't want my child to marry outside the faith". It goes about dressed up as "community, culture, tradition", and other such harbingers of hatred and war.

My Catholic grandparents said that straight out to my mother and her siblings.  My Mother accepted "mixed" marriages but was very clear as we were growing up that a nice Catholic would be the right choice for me and my 5 siblings.  

I didn't baptize my children in any religion.  If they want religion they can go out and find it themselves.  People of religion. like all people, come in all types.  In the catholic world I was born into it includes Bishop Romero,  Rigoberta Menchi, Father Marshall and Bishop Fabbro.

Maysie I am not sure who you were referring to with your post above.  I am a white man and I don't believe that on balance that religion is in any way a positive force in the world  but my personal feelings about religion includes the fact that the convicted pedophile Marshall and the current Bishop of London are the face of religion to me. So I hate the institutions of religion and thus religion itself to a large degree because in insular communities when you get assaulted by someone like Marshall no one believes you.  He was a great pillar of the Catholic community.  

The Catholic Order he made his "vows" to promoted him while he was abusing me and others and that was after they had already transferred him from another city because of complaints.  Fabbro went to school with me at the same time as I was being abused and he ultimately signed off on the settlement we came to. They stonewalled me in the courts for 6 years and almost bankrupted me paying for expert reports despite production of documents that showed they had sent Marshall for treatment years before I had filed suit.  

So Maysie I say that fuck religion and its institutions is a very big part of my world view and it has nothing to do with my white man's privilege and everything to do with my being abused.

That is my personal story but if you want to see some more of religions' cultural influence then look at the Xian track record with residential schools. Didn't matter which church ran those hell holes they all were geared to the same purpose of cultural genocide in the name of faith, progress and enlightenment. 

However on the other hand I have spent the last 15 years working closely with Bill Siksay and he epitomized for me the other side of some religious people.  I was proud to support a deeply religious man because of his true spirituality that made him stand up for his beliefs in the face of both right wing attacks and not so subtle coercion from his own party.  Spirituality is a personal attribute that is most often a positive part of a persons character.  To me religion is not spirituality.

contrarianna

A good deal of Hedges' ideas are derivative of (atheist) philosopher John Gray.

To Hedges credit, he does reference him frequently. The subtitle of Hedges book "... the myth of human progress" is a constant theme with Gray--especially in Gray's “Black Mass: Apocalyptic Religion and the Death of Utopia,” a book which Hedges reviewed favorably, but not especially well, back in 2007.

http://www.truthdig.com/arts_culture/item/20070916_book_review_hedges_bl...

Fidel

Gaian wrote:
But folks will recall from his exchange with Kevin O'Leary, that he corrected that sad chap's take on his politics. Hedges is not a "left-wing nutbar" but a conservative of some kind, who thought that Canadian banks had been run well - by comparison with their U.S.investment counterparts - and his remarks about Occupy Wall Street did not apply north of the border.

Our big six banksters were bailed out lots in the late 1980s and 90s. After years of deregulation in banking they lost money gambling on oil and gas stocks, foreign real estate fiascos, Canary Wharf etc. Canadian banks were bailed out big time with the Great Canadian bank heist of 1991 when money creation was fully privatised and when banks were allowed to finance government debt with no money down of their own.

At one point Canada's chartered banks wanted to merge in order to gamble bigger and better alongside their Wall Street counterparts. The NDP and various grassroots organizations opposed the move. 

And Harper introduced US-style competition for mortgages in the mid to late 2000s. It flopped. 

Canada's big monopolistic banks should be in great shape after taxpayers were forced to insulate them their own bad market plays several times since the 1980s. And they've been using tens of billions of dollars of the savings of Canadians to finance foreign takeovers of crown corporations and valuable public assets across Canada. Mel Hurtig's research in Ottawa reveals that about two-thirds of all foreign and mainly U.S. takeovers of Canadian corporations and public assets from 1985 to 2002 were financed by Canadian banks.

Unionist

NS, thanks for sharing. I can't imagine what you went through. And thanks especially for this:

Northern Shoveler wrote:
Spirituality is a personal attribute that is most often a positive part of a persons character.  To me religion is not spirituality.

 

knownothing knownothing's picture
Northern Shoveler Northern Shoveler's picture

Hedges wrote:

The only effective tool for change will come through movements such as those that stand in direct opposition to state power and seek through the sheer force of numbers and civil disobedience to discredit and weaken the corporate state. The corporate state cannot be the repository of our hopes and dreams. And the liberal establishment has, by making concession after concession, merged itself into the corporate apparatus and has nothing left to say to us. It is part of the elaborate and hollow political theater that has replaced genuine political participation. The dismantling of our radical social and political movements in the early and even middle part of the 20th century in the name of anti-communism left the liberal class, as well as the wider society, without a repository of new ideas. The utopian fantasies of globalism and naive acceptance that the dictates of the marketplace should be permitted to determine human behavior became not just the creed of the corporatists but finally the creed of liberal apologists such as Thomas Friedman and most professors in university economic departments. And the strength of the new movements is that they have exposed this lie. 

Good piece. 

Slumberjack

I'd refer to it as a pulse as opposed to a strength, a pulse from a lifeless body where none previously existed...but it seems they've only exposed the lie mainly to the already converted.  It's also necessary when reading US based commentary to engage in a little translation in order to fully capture the meaning as it pertains to our situation in Canada.  'Liberal establishment' here runs a little deeper than the one democratic party on the flip side of the same coin as they have there.

6079_Smith_W

Nice...

There's a little something in there to piss off everyone who thinks he or she owns the movement.

6079_Smith_W
Gaian

Amaxing how this has become a thread about religion when Hedges only uses it as a means to analyse his society.

There's another aopproach to understanding America:
Joe Bageant

www.coldtype.net/joe.html

Missing or Bad links? Letters ...

Joe Bageant

www.coldtype.net/joe.html

Missing or Bad links? Letters ...

Slumberjack

Gaian wrote:
Amaxing how this has become a thread about religion when Hedges only uses it as a means to analyse his society. 

Hedges makes occasional reference to some notion of a transcendental and spiritual impetus that will eventually drive us forward, which until now has proven itself to be so elusive as to not only be unable or unwilling to fully reveal itself, but that it embodies such a consistency as to make itself unrecognizable to our own devices as well to this point. And if that weren't enough, we sometimes encounter vague undercurrents suggestive of a spiritualized end state once everything has been accomplished.

Thus it should be considered a useful exercise at the very least to examine his writing in terms of articles such as 'Calling All Rebels,' along with his other offerings where in the opinion of many readers it seems, this one included, he correctly identifies the irreconcilability of our long term prospects as a species with Capitalism.

I have to admit to certain levels of both confusion and curiosity when he presents on the one hand a series of arguments to describe a world order that continues to exist well past its expiry date, by way of ever increasing levels of destruction that is eating itself and us alive as part of its normal and unalterable function, while on the other side of the equation he describes a mass of subjects languishing in wait for some cataclysmic event, or a series of cataclysmic events in combination; such as universally intolerable levels of desolation, poverty, and environmental destruction, where everything that ever hoped to resist would be propelled toward some spectacular and magnificent epiphany, and where all of these horrible things will be swept away.

When we measure our questions in response to what Hedges has to say (beyond the question of what sort of revolt he has in mind for everyone else while limiting his own actions to peaceful civil disobedience and the occasional misdemeanor arrest) they should be consistent with trying to determine if there exists a fatal error in his calculations. If we consider that there is not an 'us' and a 'them' or an 'it' to contend with as he sometimes suggests, but that we are 'it,' and that 'it' constitutes the sum of what has been invested by humanity to this point, [and it is here that he seems to compete with himself...is it them or us...what is being discussed?] then we have to ask not only the question of what name do we give to this epiphany which promises to deliver us despite our fear and our casualty levels, from the current condition of being willing accomplices in this destiny and instead to the barricades, palaces and eventual victory; but more importantly the question of what name and character it will assume once we're successful. In what form will his ephemeral descriptions of spirituality consist in? Or do we just throw ourselves into something where attempting to understand what it is to begin with or what it could become with our assistance once again, is an unnecessary and inconvenient distraction from what really matters, which amounts to pure reaction in other words.

When we properly situate ourselves in order to begin asking the necessary questions of any given proposition, in this particular instance we're likely to encounter not only atheists patiently waiting their turn in line.

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