Saturday, December 12, 2015

Feelings... Nothing More Than Feelings

It used to be that if you asked people to list places they'd like to travel, it was all but certain that a huge percentage of people would include Paris on the list.  Well, France in general has a reputation for being one of the great bastions of culture, philosophy, art, literature, and heck, gastronomy for that matter.  In days past, it was the hub for the likes of Sartre, Dali, Camus, Hemingway, Picasso, Beauvoir, and god knows who else.  Maybe that's why it was targeted last week -- cultural beacons that aren't advancing some morally bankrupt vision of backwards disgrace unto humanity are the single greatest enemy of religion.  For any religious fundamentalist, moral, intellectual, and social regression of mankind into a condition of universal detriment is the greatest possible good.

Aamir Khan recently met with backlash, as usual, for the crime of opening his mouth and saying things people didn't want to hear.  He brought up a sense that there was an atmosphere of growing intolerance in India...  Sure enough, he brought up a wide array of details and elaborated on the matter, but do you think a single person heard that?  Everywhere it was about taking it personally as if Aamir was somehow making a blanket statement.  How dare you spout an unpleasant truth, Aamir?  The boycotts and such, just as he saw from the furor over PK and/or the threats around Satyamev Jayate before only betray an abject lack of self-awareness when people shout -- "We're so not intolerant that we won't tolerate you saying anything bad about us!"  It was especially hilarious to see some other defenses like those who argued "If we're so intolerant, what about ISIS?"  That is a pouting child defending his transgressions by saying "That other kid down the street is worse, so that makes me awesome by default."

Then of course, you've got the Republican talking heads who, as a rule, spread lies in the course of their discourse about Planned Parenthood and promote more guns as the answer to gun problems, and are suddenly shocked that a Planned Parenthood gets attacked.  Naturally, they want to say "I didn't do anything"...  Never mind the outright falsehoods we spouted...  Never mind the propaganda of antipathy towards Planned Parenthood...  Never mind the bending over backwards for gun lobbyists...  People are responsible for how they're influenced by our rhetoric!  It's so unfair to blame the political demagogues who didn't do anything other than double down on fallacious bullshit!
You can't necessarily blame people from not wanting to feel like a part of the problem.  For instance, the response from the denizens of the Islamic faith who do not demand kowtowing to Islamofascism, is to distance themselves from ISIS and their ilk.  "They don't understand the true nature of Islam."  Well, just as no true Scotsman would add ice to their scotch, ISIS is clearly not made up of true Muslims.  No...  what they don't understand or subscribe to is your brand of Islam.  One thing that went around after Paris was the trending of #NotInMyName by the generically moderate Muslims out there.  That is a particularly revealing hashtag because of that word "MY"...  it kind of reveals that the point they're making is that "I" feel differently than all the "problem" people.  Well, isn't that just dandy...

Now, I'll be fair here.  There is a lot of tendency to point fingers at every Muslim for the disgraceful behavior of the radical Islamists.  This is indeed not appropriate, and letting people know that they are in the wrong to do so is perfectly fair.  At the same time, it's more about helping those who had nothing to do with anything than it is about the people who are affected by disastrous expressions of the same faith.  Sadly, it can't ever be all that effective.  People naturally focus on negative memories, and as such are more likely to remember the few Muslims who perpetrated 9/11 than they are to remember a thousand Muslims who rescue kittens (yes, this is so even with the power of the Internet to encourage the consumption of cute cat videos).

Let me also be clear about one more thing -- I'm not trying to say that it is wrong for the "good + fine + decent majority" of whatever group to defend themselves from the blame (even if actually valid as it is in the case of Republicans).  The problem lies when that is where they stop.  Because there is too much that does fall on them, and really, it's an accusation that falls on the moderate corner of pretty much any leaning you can imagine.  The sleight of mouth that tries to shift the attention away from you never goes to the point of saying where the attention should go let alone what to do about it.

Now the usual statement that comes out of the mouths of actual Islamic terrorists as to why they engage in attacks is that Westerners are encroaching on and causing disturbances in "Muslim lands."  To a certain extent, this is true, though if I were to put a finer point on it, that is a criticism best leveled against the United States (at least, at this time).  In a lot of ways, though, among the few cases I brought up in this post, I think the "peaceful majority" of Muslims who would like to distance themselves from groups like these have the strongest argument.  However, the only reason they do is simply because it's technically true that the majority aren't violent.  In Aamir Khan's case, pretty much every argument made is a distortion of his actual statements, or just plain denial of facts.  And for the right-wing "Christianity-is-everything" talking heads...  well, they're just plain wrong about everything to the same extent they usually are.

Then again, why should there even be such a thing as "Muslim lands"?  As another example, why is it that Right-Wing Republicans are so intent on legislating the United States into being a "Christian nation"?  Why are those who take umbrage at tiny portions of Aamir Khan's exhortations so affixed on insults unto "My country"?  I think that last one kind of gives it away, doesn't it?  It's all about the self-importance of not having "my" feelings hurt; rewriting history the way "I" would like it to be;  Yeah, I get it...  you want everything to fit inside the bubble of your personal preferences.  And because it doesn't in reality, we should all ignore reality so that your feelings can trump them.

Sorry, but that's not okay.  Sometimes, reality does not agree with you, and you have to bend over to it, or admit that you don't belong there.  Bill O'Reilly likes to say that the blame for atrocities like the Planned Parenthood shooting falls entirely on those who commit it, and not people who publicly promote such attitudes on the air.  It's probably true that Bill himself would never do such a thing, but to say that ignores the fact that other people who would actually exist, and actually listen to him and other bullshit artists of similarly degenerate caliber.  Pretending that you aren't culpable just because it's not you doing the killing is like saying that holding someone's head underwater doesn't mean you drowned them because it's up to them whether they inhale the water or not.  I really have the same to say to the non-violent Muslim majority out there.  Sure, you're better than the likes of ISIS, but that's not the same thing as saying that the collection of ideas professed within Islam are inherently immune to inciting or even creating more terror organizations who purport to act in its name.

I've brought up the issue of how "jihad" is ambiguous before, and that's part of the problem, especially when you consider that religions can be unequivocal about some other things (like homosexuality).  Everybody will have differing opinions about how to interpret the vague expressions in scripture, but one thing they all will say is that "my interpretation is the correct one."  That means that just as terrorists don't speak for you, you likewise do not speak for them.  The problem is that there is all this powerful language that can ultimately be made to mean anything.  And what it means is really up to how you personally feel about things.  This is ultimately what makes terrorists; it's what makes racism; it's what makes bigotry; it's what makes intolerance.  It's people who have the idea that their personal feelings, beliefs, preferences, etc. about everything should be imposed upon reality itself...  sometimes even with lethal force.

In that sense, the "not-so-bad" people who spend all their time reminding you that they're "not so bad" are actually just the same.  They're just "not so bad" in how they go about it.  Rather than go on social media saying "let's boycott everything connected to Aamir Khan for saying that we're intolerant!", they go on social media saying "Hey!  Look at me!  I tolerate everything!"  The goal either way is to color the way other people think rather than to actually deal with the dark reality on reality's terms.  While I'm on the subject of social media, I also have to mention those unconnected to dark turns of events who go out there and try to express their feelings with meaningless gestures like posting a "Pray for Planned Parenthood" or splatting a French flag on their profile picture.  I get it.  I've done it, too, with the VFX protest at the Oscars and having the green profile pic, but realized the folly afterwards.  It's nothing more than a pathetic play at social media brownie points that ultimately serves no purpose.

Yeah, it's nice, and it does you credit, but it's really useless.  Feelings can never actually trump fact, no matter how much you'd like it to.  If it only stopped at being a waste of time, I'd have a little less problem with it, but what usually happens is that the waste of time is the only thing that happens.  Nobody goes beyond that point, especially not those who have the power to do something useful.  But whether you have such ability or not, there's the other problem.  What happens is you give purchase to all the asshattery out there.  You delude people into thinking things aren't so bad because at least you exist.  If only your existence eliminated the terrible elements.  If only your existence wasn't built around ignoring everything deplorable that creates the worst of your compatriots.  Before you make a big deal about how you are not like the "bad eggs", how about you examine what is common?

When you feel like everything is okay about Islam because you are one of the good Muslims, it does nothing more than promote complacency so that a San Bernardino can happen before the blood in Paris has time to dry.  When you express your feelings about Planned Parenthood and abortion that are based in the delusional falsehoods that form your bullshit, you effectively advance the same message as the "soldiers of the cross" who bomb abortion clinics and shoot up Planned Parenthood centers.  The one and only difference between you and them is that you didn't act on your horrible feelings...  and it shocks you that someone would act on it?  When you say that there is no air of intolerance in your nation because you apparently aren't so awful, all you do is promote the idea that we should all ignore everybody who is not you.  And more often than not, people who feel the most strongly that this sort of accusation is so unfairly misappropriated and would shout from the rooftops against it are the ones who provide the strongest evidence of its truth.

In the end, you really only "feel" these things.  It's all wishful thinking.  Even when the feelings expressed are otherwise positive, it amounts to...  what, exactly?  We are generally accustomed to the idea of expressing certain "vibes" within a circle of friends and family that has some emotional impact, and that's fine.  That works and is meaningful because, a) it's a relatively small social circle, and, b) it's a circle made up of people who are emotionally bonded on a fairly significant level.  Presuming that scales up ad infinitum is idiotic at best, and egomaniacal at worst.  To be honest, though, I believe that ego has more to do with it than stupidity.  The reason I say that is simply by asking questions such as...  What is actually improved because you said "I'm not intolerant"?  Who is better off because you said "I'm not a terrorist"?  Did we end up with fewer school shootings because "I've never killed anybody"?  Are right wing politicians suddenly so much better because even someone as repugnant as Rush Limbaugh isn't on board with Donald Trump's proposed banning of all Muslims?

Well, at least you get to feel better about yourself by declaring to the world that you're not a lowlife asshole.  Good for you!  Except it's not about you.  Get over it.