Class Warfare Blog

October 17, 2019

Oh, My Poor Language!

Filed under: language — Steve Ruis @ 9:33 am
Tags: ,

A recent headline in The Guardian stated “Arizona home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright before his death sells for $1.7m.”

Now I am somewhat of a fan of architecture and I know of Frank Lloyd Wright, but weren’t all of his houses designed before he died (his homes were the ones he lived in)? Surely, it would have been the looked for evidence of the supernatural were he to have designed one after he had died.

In the text of the article it became clear that this was “the last home” designed by Mr. Wright. Could not the headline writer have written “Frank Lloyd Wright’s last home sells for $1.7m?” Or if it was the last house he designed (surely not) it could have been “Last house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright sells for $1.7m?”

Seems the English language has fallen upon hard times.

August 22, 2019

What Motivates Trump’s Supporters?

Like many of you, I felt that the primary motivation of Trump voters was the economic stagnation of the middle class and middle America. The elites were getting richer, hand over fist, while we were getting squeezed by employers and creditors, and that left us with the only option of getting mad. That may not have been the primary motivation, however. This a “must read” article from The Guardian.

A New Poll Shows What Really Interests ‘Pro-Lifers’: Controlling Women by Jill Filipovic.

The subtitle is “According to their own survey responses, anti-abortion voters are hostile to gender equality in practically every aspect” (I assume they meant “every respect” at the end there.)

And, of course, at the source of all of this misogyny? Well, you figure it out.

September 1, 2018

Trying to Understand Superstition

The Guardian today carried a rather lovely piece by Philip Pullman, the “Dark Materials” author: Why We Believe in Magic, subtitled “The world of magic defies rational explanation, but beware dismissing it as nonsense. Like religious experience and poetry, it is a crucial aspect of being human.”

Beautifully written, as all of his books are, Mr. Pullman doesn’t quite get at an answer to his question but rather seeks someone to write a major book he calls The Varieties of Magical Experience to parallel William James’ book The Varieties of Religious Experience. He suggests that the search for the reality of both magic and religion is a fruitless search and we are better off looking into what we experience under those labels. He sums this up with the unforgettable quote “Trying to understand superstition rationally is like trying to pick up something made of wood by using a magnet.”

And … (You know there was more did you not?) … like the school child I once was, mentally I was eagerly holding up my hand thinking “Call on me teacher. I know the answer!” Obviously I do not know the answer to the question, but one came to mind quickly.

People believe in magic and religion because of the promise of power, mostly power over their own lives. Throughout human history we were tossed about by the vagaries of Nature: famines, wild animals, floods, lightning, diseases, insect infestations, etc. the only earthly approximations of a paradise were experienced by small tribes of hunter-gathers in tropically lush landscapes. Even then hurricanes, storms, lightning, diseases, etc. could ruin one’s day or many days.

“People believe in magic and religion because of the promise of power, mostly power over their own lives.”

And when Nature relents, our fellow human beings have immense powers of oppression. I think I have commented before that there is an estimate that in 1800 half of all humans existed as some form of slave.

Since we all feel that we are individual and banding together to resist oppression by anything is quite difficult, we all wish to have the individual power to resist or overcome the pummeling we take at the hand of Nature and other people. As a youth I can remember wishing I had the power to heal. (My name means “the crowned one” and, well, “the hands of a king are the hands of a healer.” You see I even figured out a mechanism for my magic ability.) I also remember encountering the Incredible Hulk in comic books and on TV and I relished the idea that when people put upon me nastily that I could turn into an invincible green monster and trash all of their asses.

It is not a mistake, in my thinking, that so many religions, even Christianity, hold out the promise of magic to their believers (“You will perform works and wonders in God’s name,” etc.). Jesus performs magic and empowers others to do so also. When a Christian dies, they are rewarded magically and their enemies are punished magically, and since none of us understand magic or how it works, we settle for the promise of that power.

Pullman is probably right, we do need a book like The Varieties of Magical Experience if, for no other reason, only to understand ourselves and how we treat one another better. As so many studies show, as our societies do a better job of taking care of one another, the “need” for a religious or magical experience diminishes. So, I do not need it as “a crucial aspect of being human” as it will go away when we learn how to live in a state of lovingkindness.



November 9, 2017

We Are Waking …

Check this out “Why have we built a paradise for offshore billionaires?” by Thomas Frank of The Guardian. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Mr. Frank says, for example, “In reality, though, it was never about us and our economy at all. Today it is obvious that all of this had only one rationale: to raise up a class of supermen above us. It had nothing to do with jobs or growth. Or freedom either. The only person’s freedom to be enhanced by these tax havens was the billionaire’s freedom. It was all to make his life even better, not ours.

He is not quite there, though, as you can see from this “I don’t want to go too far here. I know that what the billionaires and the celebrities have done is perfectly legal. They merely took advantage of the system. It’s the system itself, and the way it was deliberately constructed to achieve these awful ends, that should be the target of our fury.

Mr. Frank, with all respect, it is not some disembodied “system” we need to contend with. You must realize that the elites created the system. We do not need to take the system down. we need to take the elites down.

At least the mainstream media are starting to see reality.

October 27, 2017

Catholics at War … Get the Popcorn

You won’t like me when I’m angry.”

In a long read article in The Guardian (The War Against Pope Francis) we are treated to the kinds of behaviors clerics deplore … in “the flock,” but by the shepherds themselves, hmm, apparently not so much.

For example, consider the following paragraph in that piece: “This summer, one prominent English priest said to me: ‘We can’t wait for him to die. It’s unprintable what we say in private. Whenever two priests meet, they talk about how awful Bergoglio is … he’s like Caligula: if he had a horse, he’d make him cardinal.” Of course, after 10 minutes of fluent complaint, he added: ‘You mustn’t print any of this, or I’ll be sacked.’” (Note: Bergoglio is the pope’s given name and using it is a sign the speaker doesn’t consider him a “real pope;” if he did he would refer to him as Pope Francis, or any of the other bullshit titles he possesses.)

Gosh, “we can’t wait for him to die,” is that statement describing an attitude, like a child who “can’t wait for Christmas morning” or a statement of intent? If it is a statement of intent, one hopes it suggests some sort of legal proceeding rather than the time tested methods used to remove a troublesome prelate: poison or a pillow in the night

Here’s another “In 2015, American journalist Ross Douthat, a convert to Catholicism, wrote a piece for the Atlantic magazine headlined Will Pope Francis Break the Church?; a Spectator blogpost by the English traditionalist Damian Thompson threatened that ‘Pope Francis is now at war with the Vatican. If he wins, the church could fall apart.’ The pope’s views on divorce and homosexuality, according to an Archbishop from Kazakhstan, had allowed ‘the smoke of Satan’ to enter the church.

Ah, the threat of the smoke of Satan which, if one has asthma, might actually kill.

So, what’s the buzz, tell us what’s happening? The article expands …

The crunch point has come in a fight over his views on divorce. Breaking with centuries, if not millennia, of Catholic theory, Pope Francis has tried to encourage Catholic priests to give communion to some divorced and remarried couples, or to families where unmarried parents are cohabiting. His enemies are trying to force him to abandon and renounce this effort.

The question is particularly poisonous because it is almost entirely theoretical. In practice, in most of the world, divorced and remarried couples are routinely offered communion. Pope Francis is not proposing a revolution, but the bureaucratic recognition of a system that already exists, and might even be essential to the survival of the church. If the rules were literally applied, no one whose marriage had failed could ever have sex again. This is not a practical way to ensure there are future generations of Catholics.

Ah, Jesus (Remember him?) was willing to forgive whores and brutal tax collectors (armed thugs who collected taxes anyway they wanted to) but the modern Catholics can’t abide a divorce, even when studies show people get remarried at a huge rate, so divorce doesn’t undermine the institution of marriage; it undermines the ability of the church to control behavior. (The older church was more pragmatic; it would have sold indulgences (if an annulment wouldn’t do): good for one divorce, but I digress.) I guess this is one of those issues in which Catholics have rules on the books, and then ignore them. Let’s see, there are the 92% of American Catholic women who use artificial birth control, which is strictly verboten, and now we find out that “In practice, in most of the world, divorced and remarried couples are routinely offered communion,” also strictly verboten. And the ass-covering Vatican officials are willing to not only tolerate a schism over this, but to create one. Who was it who said “with friends like these you don’t need enemies?”

To top things off for now, the article stated: “Last month, 62 disaffected Catholics, including one retired bishop and a former head of the Vatican bank, published an open letter that accused Francis of seven specific counts of heretical teaching.

To accuse a sitting pope of heresy is the nuclear option in Catholic arguments. Doctrine holds that the pope cannot be wrong when he speaks on the central questions of the faith; so if he is wrong, he can’t be pope. On the other hand, if this pope is right, all his predecessors must have been wrong.

Oooh, I wonder if this is one of Satan’s dilemmas, or just an ordinary one.

This has the possibility of being the greatest spectator event of the century. No matter how it plays out Amazon or Netflix will make a bingable miniseries. (Too bad Sydney Greenstreet is dead, he would have been a great Pope Francis.) And, one also hopes, enough Catholics are so disgusted by the antics of the Vatican that they will look elsewhere for their … spiritual guidance. (I’m sorry, I can’t quite use the term spiritual guidance without seeing in my cartoon mind a sign that reads “This Way to the Haunted Mansion” or a Victorian book entitled “A Guide to Spirits, Ghosts, Spectres, and Other Ectoplasmic Manifestations.” If people using this term are referring more to something akin to “lifting one’s spirits” or as in high school “building team spirit,” one needs a cheerleader, not a dour Catholic, celibate, uneducated “advisor,” especially as a marriage counselor.)

September 5, 2017

Finally an Explanation for the Christian Persecution Complex

White Christians are probably the largest subgroup of its type (racial religious?) in the U.S. and yet, they seem to have established a mentality that they are also the most persecuted subgroup in the whole country. This is, of course, laughable in that an argument can be made that they are also the largest group of persecutors. But why is does this attitude of persecution exist in the first place and why are people buying into it at all, as some appear to be?

An article in the The Guardian shed some light on this. Josiah Hesse, the author, describes himself as “a recovering Christaholic, 12 years sober from God” in his piece entitled “Donald Trump Is No Saint, but I Know Why Evangelicals Love Him.” I have no interest in writing about Donald Trump, so that is not my focus, but in writing why he thinks evangelicals support Mr. Trump, a number of very interesting points were made by Mr. Hesse. To wit:

“When I was a young evangelical Christian, I was eager to be oppressed for my faith. The Bible and my pastors had warned me to avoid “worldly” people – celebrities, intellectuals, scientists, the media and liberals. Those were the ones forbidding us from praying in school while indoctrinating us with communism and evolution.

“Jesus once said: “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven.” So I went out of my way to piss people off – telling the Goth kids they were prisoners of Satan’s lies, handing anti-abortion literature to the “loose” girls, and forcing science class to run late while I debated evolution with the teacher. My entire identity became wrapped up in being disliked by a specific group of people.

“… the point of my witnessing to the lost souls of my public high school wasn’t to convert them to Christianity, it was to see how persecuted I could be.

“Which is a remarkably addictive sensation, one that became a competitive game for me and my fellow young believers. My youth-group friends and I would share stories of being punched, spit on, or called “the biggest loser in school” the way other kids would brag about sports or sexual conquests. Just as Morrissey fans discovered loneliness to be a fashionable accessory, we wanted to emulate the sociopathy of our messiah, who said in the book of John: “If the world hates you, know that it hated Me before it hated you.

“Justified or not, white evangelical Christians increasingly believe they are the most persecuted demographic in the US today. But I don’t believe that evangelicals are interested in rectifying their status as a hated demographic, and would never protest for better treatment (or consciously demonize any racial minority the way the white supremacists do). For them, being despised by the world is a badge of honor that will ensure them a heavenly reward.”

So, of all of the utterances from the New testament Evangelical leaders could have focused on, they chose persecution (not faith, hope, charity, love, or a myriad of other foci available). Clearly the persecution complex suffered by evangelicals is synthetic, created as another tool of control by various church leaders.

If you want to control a group’s behavior, an effective way to do that is to give them an identity, and then give them a source of pride about that identity. Think High School (We are the Gamecocks, the mighty, mighty Gamecocks, everywhere we go, people want to know who we are!”). Mr. Trump often uses “best” or “most humongous” or whatever to pump up that source of pride, but if you over use that, you end up sounding like, well, Donald Trump, a blowhard who is blowing smoke up your ass. But if you build a persecution complex, you can charge up a huge battery with power. Hitler did it in Germany: the Germans were being persecuted, he screamed. When he built up a big enough charge, he unleashed it upon Germany’s enemies, as defined by Herr Hitler, of course. He could have instead called upon Germans to repent and eschew their sinful ways of war making (and losing) but that message seems to have lost its edge.

So, as Christianity loses its grip on the behavior of Americans, it has turned to fomenting a persecution complex, with no evidence of persecution in sight, to get its people to circle the wagons, listen to no one but Christian leaders, and fight to the death for … yeah, for what? That is the big question. The problem I see is if you charge a battery it will discharge whether you want it to or not. The real question is “Why are Evangelical Christian leaders charging the persecution battery?”



July 5, 2017

Christian Think Tank Opposes Scripture?

The Guardian (U.K.) had a piece on an alarming (to them?) new trend in Christian goings on (‘Spiritual abuse’: Christian think tank warns of sharp rise in UK exorcisms). In that article they stated:

“Exorcisms are a booming industry in the UK, partly driven by immigrant communities and Pentecostal churches, according to a report from a Christian think tank, Theos.

“However, the vast majority of people being exorcised have mental health problems that require psychiatric assistance, says the report, published on Wednesday by Theos.

The report calls for an analysis of “the burgeoning exorcism scene in the UK in the light of concerns over how it is being used and its possible negative consequences”.

“It says the “astonishing increase in demand” has arisen “in defiance of any actual rules or procedures put in place by any church”. In 2012, the Church of England reissued guidelines on “good practice in the deliverance ministry”.

“The Theos report – Christianity and mental health: theology, activities, potential(PDF) – does not reject the possibility of demonic possession. It says: “Certainly there is a biblical warrant for the dangers of demonic forces, and Jesus’ great commission to the disciples includes the explicit command to ‘cast out demons’. However, there is also need for serious caution.”

“One danger was “Christian over-spiritualising” – a “tendency to ascribe anything and everything to spiritual causes when other medical ones may exist”. Another was a possible overlap between “demonic possession” and mental health issues.

“One chaplain who described themselves as a “Bible-believing evangelical” told Ben Ryan, the report’s author, that “in all their experience with a mental health trust they had ‘never seen anything I would say that looked like demonic possession, but I’ve seen plenty of people who have been told that’s what they’re experiencing by other Christians’.”

“The report says: “One of the frustrations of medical professionals with Christians comes from accounts and anecdotes of people with medical health issues going off their medication because they’ve been told that prayer is enough, and relapsing as a result.

“This is a classic example of well-meaning initiative with the potential for serious harm. It runs the risk of becoming a sort of spiritual abuse – which can be understood as psychological abuse inflicted upon the victim by members of their own religious group.”

As much as the article’s author’s words speak for themselves, we have an interesting clash here. “Real Christians,” who understand the Bible and act accordingly, should acknowledge only two sources of disease: sin and demon possession. There are no other sources of disease mentioned in the New Testament. Consequently, Real Christians shouldn’t be going to medical doctors and psychologists to treat their physical and mental diseases, they should be going to church to get proper treatment. But the author of the article claims that “the Church” hasn’t established proper protocols for demon outings and whatnot, so what’s a fellow to do?

As a side note I think we should just stop acknowledging all these different varieties of Christians: Catholics, Protestants, Evangelicals, Pentacostals, whatever, I say they are all Christians and should be painted with the same brush. By dividing themselves up based upon miniscule differences, each of these “denominations” claims innocence whenever Christians get caught acting badly. “That’s not us, that’s them other people. They aren’t ‘True Christians,’ like us.” Bollocks. I say a Christian is a Christian and when one errs, they all need to be called to account.

Now about these Christians claiming people should be going to medical doctors and psychologists … really! What is to be done with them? And to be alarmed by proper Christian behavior, what is up with that?


April 7, 2016

American News Sucks

My Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, who in my opinion is to be much admired, wrote an op-ed piece regarding tax avoidance schemes by the wealthy (If You’re Rich, You Can Avoid Paying Tax; That’s Got to Change, The Guardian Online, April 7, 2016). I got to read this because it was published in The Guardian. In case you are not aware, The Guardian is based in the U.K.

Time and time again, I have to get local and U.S. centric news from outside of our borders. Why is that? There is something very, very wrong with U.S. news organizations. Important news dissemination is taking a back seat to eye candy, so far back that one cannot find important stuff.

This obviously is in the best interests of the corporations and plutocrats who currently own our government. What we don’t know can’t hurt them.

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