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Nederlog

May 9, 2016

Crisis: The Cross, On Chomsky, Bill Maher
Sections                                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1. Bearing the Cross
2. Noam Chomsky, The Challenges of 2016
3. Real Time With Bill Maher Opening Monologue May 6,
     2016 (HBO)
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Monday, May 9, 2016.

This is a crisis blog. There are 3 items with 3 dotted links: Item 1 is about an article by Chris Hedges about Daniel Berrigan S.J., who recently died, and is in part about Christianity (in which I don't believe); item 2 is about Part 1 of an article by Noam Chomsky, taken from his latest book; and item 3 is the opening monologue from Bill Maher of May 6, among other things because he mentions stupidity.

In fact, there weren't many items in what I consider and call the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch). I don't know why there isn't much today, but I did check all the normal sites (well over 30) that I do check every day.

If you check the crisis index, you may find (it isn't administered yet: wait till the end of May has passed) that I wrote since September 1, 2008 more than 1200 files on the crisis (and quite a few are quite interesting, or so I think).

These are a lot of files and a lot of text, which indeed I am not sorry for, since I am and have been talking about everyone's interests and chances, and I think I did that reasonably well.

Today, the present file is a bit more contemplative, and also there may be a second file, that is not about the crisis, but I do not yet know whether I have time for it, for I need to do several other things today.

1. Bearing the Cross

The first item is by Chris Hedges (<-Wikipedia) on Truthdig:
This starts as follows (and the title is justified):
I arrived early Friday morning, after walking through the rain, at the St. Francis Xavier Church in Greenwich Village for the funeral of the Rev. Daniel Berrigan. I stood, the church nearly empty, at the front of the sanctuary with my hand on the top of Dan’s rosewood casket. It was adorned with a single red carnation and a small plaque that read: “Rev. Daniel J. Berrigan. Born May 9, 1921. Entered S.J. August 14, 1939. Ordained June 21, 1952. Died April 30, 2016.”
I added the link, and here will add another, namely to his brother Philip Berrigan, who also was a Catholic priest, who stepped out of that role and
married in his fifties, but who was a great protester against war, and who spent more than ten years in prison because of his persistent protests against war.

Here is some more, also with links added by me:

Dan, like his brother, Philip Berrigan, and his close friends Dorothy Day from the Catholic Worker Movement and Trappist monk Thomas Merton, led a life defined by the Christian call to bear the cross. This is the central call of the Christian life. It is one few Christians achieve. The bearing of the cross, in Christian theology, is counterintuitive. It says that the “the last shall be first, and the first last.” It demands nonviolence. It holds fast to justice. It stands with the oppressed, those who Dan’s friend, the Jesuit priest Ignacio Ellacuria, who was murdered by the death squads in El Salvador, called “the crucified people of history.” It binds adherents to moral law. It calls on them to defy through acts of civil disobedience and noncompliance with state laws, when these laws, as they often do, conflict with God’s law.
Of these four - the brothers Berrigan, Day and Merton - I know most about Thomas Merton, simply because I have read several of his books, while I did not read books by any of the others. The books of Merton did not convince me - not at all - of the truth of his religion or of any religion, but I grant all four were considerable Catholic (<- Wikipedia) activists, who also, while they remained Catholics, had a considerably more radical vision of what it meant to be a Catholic than did the great majority of priests and lay people in their own  church, and who based their protests and - to some extent - their personalities on their own radical interpretations of their faith.

Indeed, while I also grant each of these four persons were probably good (in my sense), I must admit that I find their positions somewhat paradoxical, indeed not because of their protests, but because of their religion: I am not a Catholic (like the Berrigans), not a Christian (like Chris Hedges), and indeed not religious at all, for I was raised by atheists and always remained an atheist.

Also, because I am a philosopher (who did also read a considerable amount of
religion, some of whose writers - Augustine, Aquinas, Ockham, Scotus, for example - I found intellectually quite impressive) I am considerably better grounded intellectually than most, while it also is true that I am not much into tearing down religions, and not because I don't think they are all false (in all human probability they are [1]), but because I wasn't raised in any, and never needed to protest any.

And unlike Chris Hedges, I also do not feel it necessary to insist as he did - "I don't believe in atheists" (as an Episcopalian, presently also a minister) - that "I don't believe in religionists", for there clearly are and indeed so far as we know
always have been, at least during the last 2500 years or so, both religious believers, who somehow convinced themselves (at least) that they will live on after they died (and very probably much more, although here there is much variety, for there seem to be at least 3000 different religions), and non- religious people, who could not convince themselves they still would be there after they had died.

I am one who says that there is no credible evidence that one does live after one has died (which seems the essence of being religious) and no credible evidence of how one does live after one has died (which is the content of some
of very many different religious faiths, all of which contradict each other in some points, and often in many points).

Also, I agree that my position does not offer any probability of any awards nor any punishments after one has died, which will possibly make it a bit less pleasant (lacking the faith one will be rewarded with 72 houris or with eternal
life in heaven), but also might make it a bit more pleasant (lacking the faith in hell and eternal punishments).

I could say a lot more, but this Nederlog is not meant to be long, so I carry on with the next quotation, which is about some of the - radical but peaceful - protests the Berrigan brothers organized:

Dan—whose 50 books of poetry, essays and Scripture commentaries, as well as his play, “The Trial of the Catonsville Nine,” are as important a contribution as his activism—was the bête noire of senior church officials, including the archbishop of New York, Cardinal Francis Spellman. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who loathed the peace activists, fabricated a case accusing the Berrigan brothers of conspiring to blow up tunnels under federal buildings in Washington, D.C., and kidnap Richard Nixon’s national security adviser, Henry Kissinger.
Of course, Hoover was peddling baloney and indeed it seems - from the Wikipedia files - that the Berrigans were, as Catholics, quite radical though
also quite peaceful.

Then there is this, which also is the last quotation I will give from this article, which quotes Daniel Berrigan on his religious faith:

Dan provided, for me, the most cogent definition of religious faith.

“The good is to be done because it is good, not because it goes somewhere,” he told me. “I believe if it is done in that spirit it will go somewhere, but I don’t know where. I don’t think the Bible grants us to know where goodness goes, what direction, what force. I have never been seriously interested in the outcome. I was interested in trying to do it humanely and carefully and nonviolently and let it go.”

Hm, hm. Daniel Berrigan was a Jesuit, and therefore probably quite clever (for people are selected on intellectual ability if they want to be a Jesuit) and certainly he must have been better read in Catholic theology than I am, but
this - in spite of what Chris Hedges says - does not seem religious to me and
also does not seem to be Catholic.

Let me start with why it doesn't seem to be Catholic - and see the last Wikipedia link for some items of faith that do define Roman Catholics as different from Protestant Christians: As far as I know genuine Catholics have
a genuine faith in specific religious claims that together are only held by Catholics, and that comprises a lot more (in any case, though the cases may differ considerably) than not knowing "where goodness goes".

Then again, I am also quite willing to agree or to concede that it is these days
quite difficult to agree on what it is "to be a good Catholic", and that the brothers Berrigan both lived and died as Catholics, indeed - is my guess - with
some more faith in some specifically Catholic theology than is given here by - the
Protestant - Chris Hedges.

I end with "the good" also because while I agree with it, and agree that there are long theological debates about what the good is and how one should further it, I also insist that doing what is good because it is good (rather than because it also serves further purposes or ends that one subscribes to [2]) is quite common for some atheists, even if their good differs from the good of the Christians.

But OK... the Berrigans did a lot for peace, and were quite courageous, and therefore I like them, even if their religious faith is not at all mine or indeed like mine: I don't have any religion, and never had one.

2. Noam Chomsky, The Challenges of 2016

The second item is
by Noam Chomsky on TomDispatch:
This is in fact Part 1 in a two-part series (the other part will be published the next day, which is today) on Noam Chomsky's - who is meanwhile 87 - latest book "Who Rules The World?".

I start this review with a quote from Tom Engelhardt's introduction, that was formulated in 1966, that does conform to my own values always, indeed to the extent that I do not consider people with an academic education and a (somewhat) bright mind honest, reliable, or indeed intellectuals, if they differ from the following:
“It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and to expose lies.  This, at least, may seem enough of a truism to pass without comment.  Not so, however.  For the modern intellectual, it is not at all obvious.” [Chomsky, 1966]
And fully 50 years later, "the modern intellectual" has turned out to be, for the most part and in considerable majority, simple traitors of this ideal of being a good intellectual, for once having an academic position they often endlessly insist that there is no truth, and there are no values, except in our minds, and these are wholly subjective and completely personal. [3]

I think all of them are liars, but I have to grant that in order to show their enormous goodness and integrity to me, the Dutch academic intellectuals have merely kicked me four times from the university, and have at long last, when I still studied (still ill, and again, after the third time) denied me any chance and any right to take my M.A. in philosophy:

They kicked me out of the University of Amsterdam in 1988, hysterically screaming at me that I - the proletarian son and grandson of two communists who had been heroic in the Dutch resistance - was "a dirty fascist", and denied me the right to take the M.A. examination, even though I was ill and had been ill since 1979. Also, no one else was ever kicked from any Dutch university since 1945 for having ideas and values of his own.

And since then the University of Amsterdam refuses to answer any mail or any post.

I will return to this, but continue here with a quote from Chomsky:

When we ask “Who rules the world?” we commonly adopt the standard convention that the actors in world affairs are states, primarily the great powers, and we consider their decisions and the relations among them. That is not wrong. But we would do well to keep in mind that this level of abstraction can also be highly misleading.

States of course have complex internal structures, and the choices and decisions of the political leadership are heavily influenced by internal concentrations of power, while the general population is often marginalized. That is true even for the more democratic societies, and obviously for others. We cannot gain a realistic understanding of who rules the world while ignoring the “masters of mankind,” as Adam Smith called them: in his day, the merchants and manufacturers of England; in ours, multinational conglomerates, huge financial institutions, retail empires, and the like. Still following Smith, it is also wise to attend to the “vile maxim” to which the “masters of mankind” are dedicated: “All for ourselves and nothing for other people” -- a doctrine known otherwise as bitter and incessant class war, often one-sided, much to the detriment of the people of the home country and the world.

I agree, especially with the dominant value of the rich and the very rich:

“All for ourselves and nothing for other people”

Also, I don't agree with "class war", but the point is in the end logical:
men and groups can fight; classes - as I understand them - cannot: Too abstract.

Here is the last quotation I will give:

When we consider the role of the masters of mankind, we turn to such state policy priorities of the moment as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, one of the investor-rights agreements mislabeled “free-trade agreements” in propaganda and commentary. They are negotiated in secret, apart from the hundreds of corporate lawyers and lobbyists writing the crucial details. The intention is to have them adopted in good Stalinist style with “fast track” procedures designed to block discussion and allow only the choice of yes or no (hence yes). The designers regularly do quite well, not surprisingly. People are incidental, with the consequences one might anticipate.

Yes, indeed: It is in fact total or near-total deception of the ordinary people by both most of the professional politicians (of virtually any color or belief) and by the lawyers and spokesmen of the rich and the very rich.

The rest is recommended but more specific.

3. Real Time With Bill Maher Opening Monologue May 6, 2016 (HBO)

The third item is
a video by Bill Maher:

This takes 6 m 17 s. It is here - among other reasons - because it contains this bit:

They said it wouldn't happen. They said it couldn't happen. It happened. Donald Trump is going to be the Republican nominee for president. You know, I have taken a lot of crap over the years for saying this is a stupid country. I should have trade marked it.
Besides, as the quoted bit also said, this is very briefly after Trump got to be - it seems now, though one cannot yet be quite certain - the presidential candidate for the Republicans.

Finally, the reason why the stupidity quote is here: Because I have been saying
the same as Bill Maher does, and have been saying so for 50 years now, and quite possibly am the only Dutchman who dares to say so, and am certainly the
only one (1) who said so since 1966, and (2) who appealed to this as a rather
important factually correct principle about the mass of mankind: They are not
intelligent; they are not informed; and this may turn out to be very dangerous, especially in democracies, where "the people" are free to choose who is best to lead them.

They may be mistaken, and the consequences may be quite horrible, for very many. As the democratic choice of Adolf Hitler showed.
P.S. I will not produce another Nederlog today, because it is too late. More tomorrow.
--------------------------
Notes
[1] In fact, one of my - many - differences with Catholics and other religions is that human probability generally is the best we can do and is also all we have:

We don't know, with absolute certainty, that the assumptions we do make (whatever they are, whatever the evidence) are true. We usually do not know more than that - to the extent that our own knowledge reaches - the assumptions are more probable than not, and sometimes (but not often outside real science i.e. physics, chemistry or biology) considerably to very more probable than not.

But that is it, and there is no faith to shore up our uncertainties (which, if scientific, nevertheless often are the best men can do).

[2] The conflict here (in theological terms) comes to this: Does God love something because it is good, or Is something good because God loves it? There is a considerable difference (consider: God punishes men for an infinity of time for lacking the precise faith in Him).

There is a lot of literature about this, but I reject all gods, and believe one thinks things are good because of properties they have (or one thinks they have) that we value, rather than that things are good because we value them.

But this merely indicated the conflict, and does not resolve it.

[3] Of course, why they want to be intellectuals or academics or learned people is a complete riddle if one believes them: What is there to say - intellectually speaking - for anyone who is really convinced that there is no truth and all values are purely personal and subjective?!

The answer is that such intellectuals are the complete opposites of honest men and women: They achieved what they wanted, a well-paying career with high status and a high income, and since this was their real end, they chatter on endlessly, but indeed have little or nothing of any value to tell to anyone who is truly intelligent - which, unfortunately, few are, also if degreed.

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