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Nederlog

Monday, December 25, 2017.

Crisis: A Review of Chris Hedges' "What Christmas Means" + A Few Other Things
 
Sections                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1. Summary
2.
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from December 25, 2017.
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Monday
, December 25, 2017.

1. Summary

This is a
crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last four years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment and since two years (!!!!) I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and will continue.

Section 2. Crisis Files

Today is Monday, December 25, 2017, which means that it is Christmas Day.

Personally, I don't do Christmas, and not because I much dislike it (I don't) but mainly because of the twin facts that I have been an atheist all my life and because I have no family in Holland. (Incidentally, being an atheist from birth also means that I have no strong feelings against any particular religion.)

And in fact, this Christmas is rather like that of 2016, when I did look at the 35 sites I look at every morning, but could not find anything I wanted to review. There are two interesting files there, or so I think, and here are two links to them, namely here and here, which are - strongly - recommended, also because I think the past year has shown quite a few that I was right, a year ago.

Then again, I did find one file today, and that is by someone who has emerged as the best current American journalist I know, namely Chris Hedges. I will review it, although Chris Hedges (also) is a Christian minister, while I am completely faithless and see what I'll make of it. Indeed, it is called "What Christmas Means".

Otherwise, today there will be a repeat of my 2015 version of my 2012 analysis "
Crisis: Robert Reich, Socialism, 11 hypotheses about the causes of the crisis" with two additions, that will come later today, in a separate file, and tomorrow there will be a repeat of Crisis: It's the deregulation, stupid! (first published on January 13, 2013) and a repeat of Crisis: On Ideologies that I originally published on December 27, 2014.

I do (re-)publish them these two days because I think they are good, and indeed better than anything I have read by journalists.

A. Selections from December 25, 2017
1. What Christmas Means 
As I said in the beginning of Section 2, I could not find five selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The reason is that it is Christmas today (and yesterday it was Sunday).

So today I am limited to writing a review from the one site I found that is both new and that I want to review, not because of its theme, but because of its writer.

Here is the review.
The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. What Christmas Means

This is an article by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

In the early 1980s I was in a refugee camp for Guatemalans who had fled the war into Honduras. It was a cold, dreary winter afternoon. The peasant farmers and their families, living in filth and mud, were decorating their tents with strips of colored paper. That night, they said, they would celebrate the flight of Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus to Egypt to escape the slaughter of the children of Bethlehem ordered by Herod. The celebration is known as the Day of the Holy Innocents.

“Why is this such an important day?” I asked.

“It was on this day that Christ became a refugee,” a farmer answered.

I knew Matthew’s biblical passage about the flight to Egypt by heart. I had heard my father, a Presbyterian minister, read it in services every Christmas in the farm town in upstate New York where I grew up. But it took an illiterate farmer, who had fled in fear with his wife and children from the murderous rampages of the Guatemalan army and the death squads, who no doubt counted friends, even relatives, among the dead, a man who had lost everything he owned, to explain it to me.

Among the reasons I like Chris Hedges are that he writes well, he is quite intelligent, and he also is quite brave (neither of which holds as well for most other journalists - and I am not sorry, for I do think there are considerable intellectual and ethical differences between different persons). More specifically that I like his values and his sincerity, and I agree with many but not all of his ideas.

It is especially his sincerity I appreciate, simply because I know that is quite rare:

I know that my father had it, but he was a communist for 45 years, who spent more than 3 years and 9 months in German concentration camps as a "political terrorist"; I believe that his father (my grandfather) had it, because he was likewise a communist, who was murdered in a concentration camp, where he also was forced to stay as a "political terrorist".

In fact I am the only Dutchman, together with my brother, who doesn't live in Holland, who has as thorough an anti-fascist background as I have - at least, to the best of my fairly extensive knowledge - for I do not know of any Dutch person whose father and grandfather were arrested in June of 1941 for resisting the Nazis (and whose mother likewise was in the communist resistance, though she had the great luck of never having been arrested).

I also believe that I have this sincerity, because I have been opposing the destruction of the Dutch universities since 1977 and the introduction of illegal drugs dealers in my house, who were put there as the personal friends of Mayor Van Thijn in 1987, since when Van Thijn has introduced the illegal business of turning over more than 600 billion dollars in soft and hard drugs over the last 30 years from inside Holland, as if that enormous furthering of illegal drugsdealing was the first and most important duty of a Dutch mayor and a Dutch politician.

Then again, illegal drugsdealing in and around Holland has made extremely much money and it does seem as if nearly anyone who is seriously concerned with politics in Holland, and who succeeded in playing a somewhat important role, seems to have been far more interested in making money for themselves than in keeping their word to their voters or in behaving morally.

Here is more by Chris Hedges:

The story of Christmas—like the story of the crucifixion, in which Jesus is abandoned by his disciples, attacked by the mob, condemned to death by the state, placed on death row and executed—is not written for the oppressors. It is written for the oppressed.
In fact, I do not think so: I think Hedges might be correct if he speaks of the first fifty or a hundred years of what became the Christian faith (I don't know), but I think  both that Christiantity does address everybody and it also is quite mistaken, as indeed I think all religions are.

Here is more:
Jesus was not a Roman citizen. He lived under Roman occupation. The Romans were white. Jesus was a person of color. And the Romans, who peddled their own version of white supremacy, nailed people of color to crosses almost as often as we finish them off with lethal injections, gun them down in the streets or lock them up in cages. The Romans killed Jesus as an insurrectionist, a revolutionary. They feared the radicalism of the Christian Gospel. And they were right to fear it. The Roman state saw Jesus the way the American state saw Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. Then, like now, prophets were killed.
Well... I believe in truth, and I have no knowledge that Jesus ever lived or was a person of color. And while I agree that I am not very well informed about Jesus, I think also think that what I am saying is simply true (on the best of the existing evidence).

Then again, I mostly agree with Hedges about the Romans, and I should add that the Romans were - in terms of my values - quite primitive for hundreds of years, for they had circuses for hundreds of years in which all manner of horrors were committed on prisoners and slaves for the enjoyment of the common people.

Then there is this, that seems more or less correct to me:
The radicalism of the Christian Gospel would be muted, distorted and denied by the institutional church once it came to power in the third century. It would be perverted by court theologians, church leaders and, in the 20th century, fascists. It would be mangled by the heretics in the Christian right to sanctify the worst aspects of American imperialism and capitalism. The Bible unequivocally condemns the powerful. It is not a self-help manual to become rich. It does not bless America or any other nation. It was written for the powerless, for those the theologian James Cone calls the crucified of the earth. It was written to give a voice to, and affirm the dignity of, those being crushed by malignant power and empire.
I also might have qualified the above quotation, but I do agree that Hedges wrote a relatively short article, in which he simply cannot qualify as he pleases, while indeed there is a lot to tell about 2000 years of Christianity of many different and opposing kinds.

Then there is this, which seems not consistent to me:
Christmas is not about the virgin birth. It is not about angels. It is not even about a historical Jesus. There is no evidence that Jesus existed. To debate these topics is to engage in a theological Trivial Pursuit. The Christmas story is about learning how to be human, about kneeling before a newborn infant who is helpless, vulnerable, despised and poor. It is about inverting the world’s values. It is about understanding that the religious life—and this life can be lived with or without a religious creed—calls on us to protect and nurture the least among us, those demonized and rejected.
It is inconsistent for two main reasons:

First, while I completely agree that "[t]here is no evidence that Jesus existed" it was claimed a bit earlier by Hedges that "
Jesus (...) lived under Roman occupation". I agree the last is the widely accepted story, but since I agree that "[t]here is no evidence that Jesus existed", it cannot be true other than hypothetically, by supposition (and without any decent evidence).

Second, of course
Christmas is also about the virgin birth. It is also about angels. It is also about a historical Jesus. I do not agree with any of this, and neither does Hedges, or so it seems, but then very many Christians (especially Catholics) will insist that their religion is - also - about these things, for without these things it would not be Christianity but some other kind of religion.

I could say a lot more, but will not, and this is the end of the article:
America is in terminal decline. It is enveloped by radical evil. Its corporate systems of power and empire exploit and kill with impunity. Its perverted values champion cruelty, mendacity and greed. It bows before the idols of money and power. It is severed from the human. It, like Herod and the Roman Empire, damns the infant Jesus. There is nothing easy about faith. It demands we smash the idols that enslave us. It demands we die to the world. It demands self-sacrifice. It demands resistance. It calls us to see ourselves in the wretched of the earth. It separates us from all that is familiar. It knows that once we feel the suffering of others, we will act.
Well... I agree with the first seven statements (except that I would put "real" before "human").

As to the rest: I more or less agree - but I also insist that, for example, my communist father and my communist grandfather did sacrifice themselves, did go into the real resistance; and did "
feel the suffering of others", and I also insist that they were, as such, in a quite small minority in Holland, while both were wholly non-religious. 

------------------------------
Note

[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that xs4all.nl is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.


And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).


The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).
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