Friday 19th of August 2022

civilisation can only become fuzzier...

1984
In this time of fugit irreparabile tempus, Clausmoosh is a time of reflection. Clausmoosh is of course the atheistic non-religious reflective holiday — a time to enjoy a few beers in isolation, especially if you live on the Sydney north shore or in Germania.

During this awful year, 2020, a few too many of our mates have departed life. They are nowhere else but in our memories and on our fading photos though with digital photography, the fading only happens if we loose our own marbles. “I can’t remember who that is, can you?”

Few departed from Covid-19. None. Mostly heart attacks, cancers and strokes. A few accidents came along the way. This is very sad. Too many… So many…. So should we believe in an afterlife where we’ll all be merry with vino together again? Why not?

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” 
― Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion

These descriptive epithets could put a dampener on the believing process… Why would you want to go and live in this malevolent “there”… But apart from the emotional allusions, nature itself is not far from behaving as badly as god… Nature gives life and takes it away, sometimes (often) as if a capriciously malevolent bully. Covid-19 being one of these moments when nature is challenging our smugness… God was invented along the lines of natural behaviour with added moral caveats to protect us from the big bad wolf within.

Stephen Fry in his Foreword to The Four Horsemen (published 2019) — Dawkins, Dennett and Harris plus Hitchens in “spirit” (he died in 2011, how time flies) — discusses god with his “interlocutor" who mentions that "Love and Beauty cannot be explained by sciences" thus… But Stephen Fry is too polite to tell his interlocutor that “Yes Sciences can explain Love and Beauty”… and does it matter anyway? Fry just moves on explaining that such discussions are futile and sophomoric… Let the professionals discuss it.

Here comes the donkey to the horsemen — Gus Leonisky. Plodding along like a mule with a one-track mind. The main point in being an atheist is that one is used to being isolated. We grind tempus on our little stone while the others go to church together — like white sheep praying they won’t turn black. 

Covid-19 has thrown a few believers in disarray. (https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/24/opinion/zoom-church-christmas-covid-loss.html) Having to do mass on Zoom is not the same as singing together hymns of silly delusions in a cathedral (https://www.theamericanconservative.com/prufrock/french-cathedrals/). As well, some Christians have had to unite… One “white” and a “black” Christian churches have combined (https://www.christianpost.com/news/how-a-white-church-and-a-black-church-felt-led-to-merge.html) because it’s silly to pray god in different places due to the colour of skin. 

As mentioned before, we, atheists, do not have a church to go to. Atheism is not a religion. In his review of The Four Horsemen, Steven Poole is slightly off-handed and seems to be polishing his own boots:

Whatever happened to “New Atheism”? It was born in the febrile aftermath of 9/11, when belief in a deity – or, let’s be honest, specifically in Allah – seemed to some people a newly urgent danger to western civilisation. Sam Harris began writing The End of Faith (2004) immediately after the World Trade Center attacks, and it became a bestseller. There followed the philosopher Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell, Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion, and Christopher Hitchens’s God Is Not Great. The men toured vigorously, but they all met together only once, and this book is the transcript of what ensued, with new brief introductions by the surviving members, Hitchens having died in 2011. Contrary to the book’s subtitle, the “atheist revolution” was not sparked by this cocktail-fuelled pre-dinner round of chat and backslapping, which took place in 2007. By then the participants could already salute one another for the impressive sales of their books, boast about how willing they were to cause “offence”, and reminisce about how brilliant they were when they befuddled this or that bishop with some debating point.

This is where the preeningly fearless insistence on entertaining uncomfortable questions can so easily lead. Harris ended up in the company of the “alt-right” and the so-called “intellectual dark web”, populated by people who portray themselves as valiant enough to say what you’re not allowed to say any more, and are constantly invited on rightwing talk shows to say it. For some, New Atheism was never about God at all, but just a topical subgenre of the rightwing backlash against the supposedly suffocating atmosphere of “political correctness”. In its messianic conviction that it alone serves the cause of truth, this too is a faith as noxious as any other.

Read more:https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/jan/31/four-horsemen-review-what-happened-to-new-atheism-dawkins-hitchens

—————————

Yep, Steven Poole could be a self-serving shallow prick here. He knows that words are weapons — he wrote a whole book on the subject. In this review it seems Poole has misunderstood the value of The Horsemen, possibly as if religious beliefs never ever existed and never ruled the roost, which he has never encountered in his gaming life, where the baddies and the goodies are often well-defined fictitious characters. I could be wrong though — and Poole might be the saviour of atheism by dismissing it in the manner he ignores religions. 

I don’t think Poole was the right person to review The Four Horsemen, but actually he was the right choice for the Guardian to protect its ambiguous readership. 

So how can we be rabid and nice atheists at the same time?… 

Is nice an expression of weakness? Do we pay too much attention to “civilisation” as a whole rather than a collection of bits? Whether we understand the bits or not, will this hamper the discovery of the next bits? Has philosophy still got a commercial value in our modern times of technology? Is this where Steven Poole is standing tall for mostly ignoring philosophy and concentrating on the bits: the words, the games and his shower?
Or is he opening doors that have been opened for yonks in Rethink: the Surprising History of Ideas which was released in 2016. Among other subjects, Poole "takes up the life-cycle of bad ideas and argues that retooling past ideas often leads to significant progress and innovation." Yep, bad or good ideas can be recycled into something better. Gus (Cartooning since 1951) has been doing this improvement since the late 1940s… But I have news for you: some ideas are real stinkers and though they are retooled they still stink. I have had my fair share of bad ideas and it took me whiles to repurpose these into something that would not sink — yes I mean sink. Religions stink, even if sprayed with Love and Beauty fragrance. The idea for the future is to eliminate the concept of god entirely. And that’s what The Four Horsemen is about.

Meanwhile, a philosopher like Daniel Dennett fudges the marmalade:

Q: Are we already in a situation where the technology is too complicated even for the people who created it to understand it?

A: That’s a worry and possibility. I don’t think that point has been reached, but that point could be reached. What’s interesting is that philosophers for hundreds of years have talked about the limits of comprehension as if it was sort of like the sound barrier. There was this wall we just couldn’t get beyond and that was part of the tragic human condition. Now, we’re discovering a version of it, which, if it’s true is sort of true in a boring way. It’s not that there are any great mysteries, it’s just that the only way we can make progress is by division of labour and specialisation. For example, the papers coming out of Cern with 500 authors, no one of whom understands the whole paper or the whole science behind it. This is just going to become more and more the meme. More and more, the unit of comprehension is going to be group comprehension, where you simply have to rely on a team of others because you can’t understand it all yourself. There was a time, oh, I would say as recently as, certainly as the 18th century, when really smart people could aspire to having a fairly good understanding of just about everything.

Q: What are the implications of that?

A: Well that’s the fragility, the hyper-fragility of civilisation right there. We could all be bounced back into the 19th century.

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/feb/12/daniel-dennett-politics-bacteria-bach-back-dawkins-trump-interview


Well, hell no, says Gus. And what was wrong with the 19th century, I may ask? And is the possibility of not understanding everything a problem? We’ve been there since day one, building civilisation on delusions and falsehoods, and humanity progressed nonetheless. So, what’s the f&%k if we don’t understand all of technological marvels coming our way? We had not understood anything scientifically new since Plato till the 18th century… We had covered our ignorance with religious beliefs!… May be we should ignore these beliefs and atheism in the same breath. Just use the new technology and PLAY… Poole may have hit something — a next quantum fun game button — here, by accident rather than by design…


GL
Civilised atheist...

of bugs and love...

bugs

 

Note: the picture of the humping bugs is slightly out of focus… They were trying to escape the camera while being at it… and they are small: about 4 mm each...

 

See also:

http://www.yourdemocracy.net.au/drupal/node/31094

overdue debate and reflection on taboo topics...

 

From Rabbi Barry Silver

 

In Christian Scripture, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse usher in the “rapture,” when traditional Christians believe this world will come to an end, Jesus will return in glory, believers will live happily ever after, and free thinkers will be sent by a loving God to eternal torment. The fact that they look forward to violence and suffering with glee, speaks volumes.

One horsemen in the Book of Revelations wields a bow and another, a sword, representing conquest by violence; the cross shaped bow and arrow could easily represent Christianity, and the sword symbolizes Islam. The third horse represents famine and the last horse is plague; the natural results of climate change, environmental destruction and overpopulation. These mythological horses run wild in the modern world, and pathological religion exacerbates them all.

 

Challenging this cult of death and religion itself, the “Four Horsemen of Atheism,” Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens, (alav ha-shalom), have galloped into super star status with best-selling books, riveting debates and sold-out lectures. While our society tends to praise blind faith, these four horsemen say “neigh” to belief without evidence. Naturally, most clergy seek to “unhorse” these iconoclastic equestrians, but I greatly admire their chutzpah, brilliance, humor, and tikkun olam.

Rather than condemn, I commend their impassioned eloquence, which has “spurred” long overdue debate and reflection on previously taboo topics. But unlike the Four Horsemen of Atheism who seek to end religion, I propose a horse of a different color, i.e. Silver, the Lone Ranger’s faithful, intelligent horse, and advocate an intelligent approach to the Jewish faith, consistent with science. Just as we don’t adopt anarchy because some governments are bad, we should not throw out the baby with the holy water by abandoning religion.

In a rare moment, Christopher Hitchens said something nice about Judaism, observing that unlike Christianity and Islam which require absolute obedience to authority, Judaism has a rebellious streak, even against God. Yisroel (Israel) means “one who struggles with God” and Jacob a/k/a Israel, emerged victorious in his struggle. The intolerant, angry God of Jewish Scripture has evolved over the millennia. The groundbreaking revelations of Darwin accelerated this process and today, God may be viewed not as a thing or an entity, but rather as a creative process that changes what is, into what could be, present in all, uniting all and greater than all. Einstein taught that there is no supernatural, but the natural is super, and advocated that religion’s tribal perspective give way to a cosmic perspective, with unity our goal, as reflected in the Shema. He described himself as a “deeply religious non-believer” and considered those who cannot experience the numinous and the miraculous in everyday life as spiritually dead, like a snuffed out candle.

Unbridled religious fanaticism threatens civilization as we know it, beginning with violence against Jews, and “allows otherwise normal people to reap the fruits of madness and call them holy.” (Harris) A Trojan horse in the religious community, consisting of those who reject belief in a personal God and share Einstein’s type of spirituality, could replace the misuse of religion that builds walls of hate with bridges of love. A cosmic religious approach could bring unaffiliated “cultural” Jews back to the fold and reinvigorate our people’s historic mission to illuminate a world of darkness with the combined light of science and Jewish ideals.

When humans emerged from the forest onto the Savannah, and had to compete with bigger and more ferocious mammals, we seemed like a dark horse in the struggle to survive, but thanks to our intelligence, we beat the odds. Today, once again, we must rely upon reason to survive, especially in the realm of religion, where a rational approach makes the difference between life and death, the blessing or the curse.

As Jews revolutionized religion in the past with concepts of monotheism, justice, compassion and love, we must once again seize the reins of spiritual progress. Hillel said, “He who refuses to learn, deserves extinction.” The Jewish ability to adapt helps explain the “Survival of the Yiddish” after our more powerful enemies have long since disappeared. The Jewish people’s faith in progress, reason, and justice, infused with our indomitable spirit and love of life, are essential to prevent humanity from going the way of the dinosaur and living to see the dawn of a new day.

Rabbi Barry Silver serves Congregation L’Dor Va-Dor in Boynton Beach and can be reached at (561) 302-1818 or barryboca@aol.com.

 

Read more:

https://www.sun-sentinel.com/florida-jewish-journal/opinion/fl-jj-opinion-silver-rabbi-responds-four-horsemen-atheism-20190605-20190528-aq5om3yemrea3cm6zriykpkyve-story.html

 

 

I was going to headline this comment with "adaptation of the dinosaurs"... But then, one of the other mobs came down like a ton of bricks, made before dinosaurs ever evolved...

 

 

Pakistan threatens Google, Wikipedia over 'sacrilegious content'


Pakistan authorities have sent notices to Google and Wikipedia over content like caricatures of Prophet Mohammed and an "unauthentic" version of the Quran.

 

Read more:

 

https://www.dw.com/en/pakistan-threatens-google-wikipedia-over-sacrilegious-content/a-56061236

 

Read from top. 

not everyone will be invited to go to the moon...

The word “civilization” relates to the Latin word “civitas” or “city.” This is why the most basic definition of the word “civilization” is “a society made up of cities.” But early in the development of the term, anthropologists and others used “civilization” and “civilized society” to differentiate between societies they found culturally superior (which they were often a part of), and those they found culturally inferior (which they referred to as “savage” or “barbaric” cultures). The term “civilization” was often applied in an ethnocentric way, with “civilizations” being considered morally good and culturally advanced, and other societies being morally wrong and “backward.” This complicated history is what makes defining a civilization troublesome for scholars, and why today’s modern definition is still in flux.

Still, most anthropologists agree on some criteria to define a society as a civilization. First, civilizations have some kind of urban settlements and are not nomadic. With support from the other people living in the settlementlabor is divided up into specific jobs (called the division of labor), so not everyone has to focus on growing their own food. From this specialization comes class structure and government, both aspects of a civilization


Read more:
https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/civilizations/

———————————

Can a civilisation exist while becoming deconstructed and fragmented?

Does a civilisation demand a people who in general think the same or similar? So what is the future of civilisations in the technological age where we have so many options from living like a techno nerd at our parents’ home or be a responsible hippy? Do the restrictions of religious belief tend to influence the mouldy cheese? Is morality a secular ethic or a religious edict? Can humanity be generous without being stupid? Is greed a necessary evil? Do we have to join Facebook to exist?

Can we maintain a coherent civilisation with people using the technological marvels without belonging to a group or being part only of a small neighbourhood forum? Has civilisation got to be coherent?
Welcome to the future in bits

but first remember the past barneys, say:
Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott ... met in a “town hall” style leaders’ debate at the Broncos Leagues Club in Brisbane.

Abbott and Rudd took questions from an audience of 100 undecided voters on issues from public service cuts, industrial relations, the environment and asylum seekers.

In his closing statements, Rudd pointed to Queensland state premier Campbell Newman breaking his promise not to cut public service jobs, as a harbinger of what would face Australia if an Abbott government were elected.

Abbott asked the audience - and watching voters - if they felt Australia could afford another three years of ALP government, claiming to have been a “competent and trustworthy” senior minister in a “competent and trustworthy” Howard government.

Read more:
https://theconversation.com/rudd-vs-abbott-peoples-forum-experts-respond-17327

A “competent and trustworthy” senior minister in a “competent and trustworthy” Howard government? Abbott was in charge of destroying medicare and had done this nearly successfully… He had raised the age care pension by the price of one nappy over three years… Magic!

Abbott won the elections with the help of the Murdoch media and proved to be the best liar and the worse Prime Minister ever in Australia. Everything Abbott said and did was BULLSHIT... Thinking about him still brings tears of pain to decent people’s eyes. Previously, the Murdoch media had engineered a hatred for Julia Gillard and praised Rudd — until Rudd took over from Gillard in yet another coup — then the Murdoch media walloped all over Rudd and made the public swallow Abbott as if he was Jesus Christ — the saviour of Australia.

But this group of undecided voters seemed not to understand the moral values of civilisation... Overall, a society’s direction is often decided by individuals who think of “what’s in it for me?” (GREED) rather than those with ideologies of fairness, equality and justice. Is civilisation about the hip-pocket?… Sure. 

A few governments started to consult "the people”… Some more, some less…:

The police killing of George Floyd in the US in May, following too many other similar deaths and injustices, sparked protests and renewed a discussion around civil rights and police reform. The devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on lives and livelihoods have disproportionately affected people of color around the world, shining a spotlight on structural economic and social inequalities.

Civil society leaders have stepped up to address these gaps. Yet they continue to face hurdles from philanthropic donors and a funding system that too often creates a power imbalance rather than resolving one. Few frontline workers dare to speak openly about the funding challenges they experience so as not to offend donors, further exacerbating these issues.


https://www.forbes.com/sites/worldeconomicforum/2020/12/21/philanthropy-must-face-a-reckoning-on-race-in-2021/

-----------------------

… For this and many other science policy questions, he argues, minipublics are an excellent way to integrate public values with advice from scientists and ethicists. “Scientists don't have a monopoly on public values,” he says.

RANDOMLY ASSIGNING CITIZENS to positions of political power has a history stretching back to ancient Greece, where the Athenians used the practice to select magistrates and members of their representative Council of Five Hundred. But the architects of electoral systems in postrevolution France and the United States preferred a republican system of professional politicians—an “elected aristocracy”—over outright rule by the masses, Van Reybrouck says. “They were as much afraid of democracy then as we would be of anarchy today.”

Now, however, electoral democracies are floundering in the face of partisanship and populism. In November 2018, Van Reybrouck attended a lunch during a French state visit to Belgium and was pulled into a conversation with Macron. At the time, France was on fire: Thousands of protesters furious at the prospect of a fuel tax hike were expressing their rage in the streets. “What did they want me to do?” Van Reybrouck recalls Macron asking in frustration. “They want me to save the environment and at the same time to keep petrol prices low.”

Bringing citizens into the discussion would help, Van Reybrouck says he told the French president. Not everyone in France has access to public transit, and those already struggling with the costs of a car would now be further disadvantaged. When Van Reybrouck started to talk about minipublics, he says, “[Macron] puts down his fork and takes a ballpoint and starts taking notes.”

The next month, Macron's administration walked back the tax hike and announced a series of public town hall meetings for citizens to air grievances. In April 2019, Macron announced the Citizens' Convention on Climate. Among the assembly's many eventual proposals were a fuel tax for recreational aviation, an insurance tax based on vehicle emissions, and a tax on vehicle weight—but no fuel tax for drivers.

Read more:
Power to the people
Cathleen O'Grady

Science  30 Oct 2020:
Vol. 370, Issue 6516, pp. 518-521

--------------------

So, can a camel design a giraffe? Relatively and ultimately the question that we will distill is “what’s in it for me?” This is natural. BUT do we need to place a cap on the possible excesses? What are excesses? Do the media make swallow the excesses of the self-indulgent successful intellectual cesspool of our narcissistic culture? Do we still believe in fairies, princes and princesses?

Did our invention of mirrors make us become narcissistic?

Some decisions have to be made on a global scale while many others are a personal choice. We can choose to trust our scientists and play within the boundaries of the schoolyard or go rampaging with a tank to demolish someone else’s dreams. We may get shot.

Yet in general our actions are not dangerous and tend to favour the trends of what we can afford. We also know that in a “civilisation” there are many trains of thoughts and ideals. What has marked progress in the last 200 years has been this diversity within civilisation while discovering and using the real workings of matter and energy. And the beauty of the destructuralisation of ideas is that we can still share the spoils of most technology — and have fun.

So at what point do we decide “we are Europeans” “we are POMS” “we are Americans” “Russians? Where do we place the borders of “what’s in it for me?” at this level without generating a full scale conflict that will destroy the concept of being civilised?

Culture and language has a lot to do is letting us run or be in prison.

We know we have to share to a point. We also need to be able to understand the notion of DANGER. Together we can define the scientific understanding of dangers such as poisons, explosions, diseases and global warming. In the past we relied on beliefs in sins and wrath without understanding. With technological and scientific knowledge, we do not have to rely on the merchants of faiths for achieving our best potential.

It is a pity that Islam has not evolved away from punishments, threats and massive control. It shows an immature position and an unwillingness to evolve with the technological progress, though many extremists Muslims will use the technology with targeted barbaric results while the former enlightened makers of bombs and guns, the western Christians allied with the Jews, now kill without thinking too much about the denigration of their own civilised value. We, in our little bourgeois fiefdoms, do not feel the crunch because we have white brushes to paint morality to acts that are humanly unethical. 

So how can we improve our civilisation by cultural demolition and blame of others for the crap we do?

Should we individually pay attention to the crap our civilisation does to other civilisation, even if we are not conscripted?

We shall see more of the same: some insanity peppered with good intentions in the middle of technological refinements. A revolution? You must be kidding, aren’t you? This would destroy everything including our hip-pocket… No, in short we have to adapt to the disintegration of civilisation into many bits that can sustain each and everyone of us. 
Not everyone will be invited to go to the moon. I am fine with this...

Read from top.


GL.
Moonface

the yoga country and the authoritarian civilisation...

Agriculture in India is at a crossroads. Indeed, given that over 60 per cent of the country’s 1.3-billion-plus population still make a living from agriculture (directly or indirectly), what is at stake is the future of India. Unscrupulous interests are intent on destroying India’s indigenous agri-food sector and recasting it in their own image. Farmers are rising up in protest.

To appreciate what is happening to agriculture and farmers in India, we must first understand how the development paradigm has been subverted. Development used to be about breaking with colonial exploitation and radically redefining power structures. Today, neoliberal dogma masquerades as economic theory and the subsequent deregulation of international capital ensures giant transnational conglomerates are able to ride roughshod over national sovereignty.

The deregulation of international capital flows has turned the planet into a free-for-all bonanza for the world’s richest capitalists. Under the post-World-War Two Bretton Woods monetary regime, governments could to a large extent run their own macroeconomic policy without having to constantly seek market confidence or worry about capital flight. However, the deregulation of global capital movement has increased levels of dependency of nation states on capital markets and the elite interests who control them.

GLOBALISATION

The dominant narrative calls this ‘globalisation’, a euphemism for a predatory neoliberal capitalism based on endless profit growth, crises of overproduction, overaccumulation and market saturation and a need to constantly seek out and exploit new, untapped (foreign) markets to maintain profitability.


Read more:https://off-guardian.org/2020/12/23/imperial-intent-destroying-indias-farm-sector/


This is the sad drama presently being slowly introduced in India by Prime Minister Modi, under the pretence of modernisation. India is the country of diversity, of various classes, even of various cultures — a country of countries as Christopher Clarke calls it. It’s a country of dirt and palaces. It is the place of Yoga, the link between the mind, the body and the senses. Does India need big industrial farming? NO. Industrial farming reduces employment and introduces poisons. But this kind of industrial farming provides a lot of cash for just a few people once it has taken root: the poison makers, the patented seed makers and the stock market gamblers. What England did not manage to do back then, before 1947, “globalisation” is succeeding, about to destroy an efficient chaotic system that works, into a streamlined catastrophe. Just for bucks.

Is this the end of civilisation for India? As a showpiece of incoherent chaos that works in which poor people live well, often better than our own poor who are out of their frigin’ minds, the spiritual rhythms and the rituals give a sense of living rather than that of sins, damnation and destitution.

It’s time for the United Nations to tell Modi to advise the Western industrial monoculturalist to go away. 

Meanwhile the champions of mono-cultural diversity are the Chinese. Their civilisation has suffered from being under the thumb of the Westerners for too long. China is awakening and cannot take its orders from the West anymore. In a strange way, there is diversity in the autocratic system of Chinese government, because there are many provinces with different values, under the same roof of “liberal communism". China also has a major quest for technological advancement and scientific knowledge. Because of the large population, China can afford to be its own creator of goods and invests in its own market. Whether we in the West like it or not, the management of the Chinese economy is far better and more complex that managing a country of dirt-sellers — mostly coal and iron oxide — to which we sometimes even stink at it, by being too cocky. 

The Chinese civilisation is autocratic, with a fatherly/Big Brother care for its citizen. On the whole it works, while we fiddle with our own wonky democracies — and interfere with the others. 

GL.


Read from top.

See also: https://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/articles/entry/this-winter-our-hearts-are-burning-embers
... these laws as essentially handing over their right and stake in agriculture to the country’s most powerful corporations, leaving them at the mercy of these big businesses. “If this is not treachery, then what is?” asks one voice in the dark.

“We farmers have had experience of these corporates before – and we don’t trust them. They have betrayed us earlier, and we are not fools. We know our rights,” said one of the many voices as I walked through the camps set up in Singhu that late evening. 

Aren’t they worried about the stalemate here, when the government is rejecting any possible repeal of the laws? Will they hold out?

 

“We are strong,” says another cultivator from Punjab. “We are making our own food and distributing it to others as well. We are kisans (farmers), we know how to stay strong.”