Sunday, November 30, 2014

"You are going to hell!" (We are already there)


        Downtown on Friday, not to shop—we never set foot in a store—but to take a family visit to the David Bowie exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Quite enjoyable, and I marveled how Bowie, always a master at manipulating his image, managed to celebrate every aspect of his life, raise public awareness of his music, promote his new album, and no doubt pocket considerable cash in the bargain, all by cleaning out his closets. 
        The new album promotion aspect did give me pause. One display said it "provoked a phenomenal response"—I suppose you could argue general indifference and light snickering represented a new phenomenon in Bowie's long career, but it seemed more press agentry and less museum curation. That said, we all liked the show well enough.
        Afterward, we crossed Michigan Avenue to go to lunch. RL was full to the rafters, so we called an audible and headed to Flaco Taco across the street. 
        On the way back, we encountered this knot of religious fanatics.
       "You are a sinner!" one shouted at us as I hotfooted by.
       "Every chance I get," I muttered under my breath, as we crossed Michigan. 
       It says something—something good, I hope, though I'm not sure—about our tolerance, as a society, that zealots can drag their medieval belief systems out into public, use them to berate random passerby, inflict annoyance, or at least inconvenience, and then go home feeling smug, certain they've done the Lord's work.
      Though it hardly seems fair. It isn't as if the secular society shows up in their backyards, condemning their children, urging them to abandon their beliefs, to drink and fornicate and commit any of the wide range of activities that they consider sin, which is basically anything beyond praying and working and mowing the lawn, and not even that on Sundays.
       Then I realized—and I hate to bat for their team, but it's true—that that is exactly what happens. Free-to-be-you-and-me liberal consumer capitalism certainly radiates its values across the landscape, through a spectrum of finely crafted, technologically advanced forms of communications: movies, TV, video games, songs, and on and on. You can't avoid it.  
     in that light, can you really begrudge the losing side, the remnant who haven't yet been crushed under the steamroller of progress, to show up on a street corner with their low tech signs and megaphones, to hector passersby? Have the sympathy for them that they would never extend toward us. Sure they're impassioned and angry. Because it hurts to be wrong, and to believe something idiotic: I'm convinced that, somewhere, in their hearts, they must know this, which is what makes them so generally unpleasant, shrill and insistent. If they were actually nestled under God's wing, they'd be more content. Which is why they need to create converts, as a away to reassure themselves, to shore up their shaky position. They can't calm down, can't pause to think, because doing so, they'd realize how crazed it all is, their imaginary, vengeful God peeking down your pants to see if you make the cut into eternal bliss, sending you to hell for dancing. They've wasted their lives peering through their keyhole of a worldview and their only redemption now is to browbeat a few credulous stragglers into following them over the cliff and wasting their lives too. Blessed are we who realize it, and enjoy the divine gift of being able to hotfoot past. Bad enough to pass them in the street; imagine being them, and have pity, and forgive. 

14 comments:

  1. Seems as if there's always a group of lunatics or radicals who make the rest of any group look bad. Both major political parties might be a good example.

    I know you're not a religious man, Neil but can you hazard a guess as to why the Jewish faith never had buffoons on TV taking advantage of the gullible? The TV stations that run those shows are just as irresponsible. They wait till the checks clear, then run the programs.

    Doug D.

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    1. The short answer is that Jews have a tough enough time finding places where people will accept them, period, never mind if they began going out and trying to draw others into the fold. I once asked a rabbi that very question—why don't Jews proselytize?—and he had a good, if self-inflating, answer. He said: If you're walking through the forest, and you're alone, and you're lost, and don't know the way, you try to find someone passing by to go with you, in the hopes that you'll get there together. But if you know where you're going, and are confident of the path, you don't need to draw others into your journey. That does make sense to me. If you REALLY thought that the Lord God Almighty was smiling down upon you, sincerely, would your next step be to grab a bullhorn and start screaming at people that they're going to Hell? That isn't divine grace as I understand it.

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    2. Thank you!

      Doug D.

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  2. I always feel somewhat of a goof commenting on one of your asides rather than the main points of your posts! Press-agentry, sure, but if the album being mentioned was the new one of a year or so back, it DID meet with such a reception. I think, though, that was due to fans and critics alike assuming Bowie had retired and wondering about rumors of ill health. So an album dropped without fanfare after ten or more years of media silence was pretty astounding.

    By the way, I wonder if many of the "anonymous" posts are because choosing the Google option generally results in the comment being eaten? Does anybody have that problem besides me?

    Bill

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  3. When I saw the leading photo and before I read the column I thought that Mr. Steinberg was going to talk about a Ferguson Protest. One or two years ago I would have believed it would be about an Occupy Protest.

    Mr. Steinberg addresses the problem of a LUNATIC FRINGE giving the remainder of a legitimate movement or a legitimate cause a bad name.

    I was surprised by the number of white faces protesting the Ferguson Matter both in Ferguson and across the nation. It appears that these are the same folk that cause violent disruptions at world trade and NATO summits and that constituted the Occupy Movement. They also overlap with the non-Muslim anti-Israeli folk.

    Local black Ferguson leaders said that the violence in Ferguson was caused by outsiders.

    I was also struck by the mainstream media and liberal/progressive pundits being unable to do any intellectual heavy lifting to separate out the legitimate issues and the legitimate folk from the race hucksters and victimhood charlatans.

    There are legitimate issues:

    • Should the police wear body-cameras?
    • Should a lot less traffic tickets be given out rather than use that as a money maker. Excessive traffic stops create nothing but ill-will for police throughout the nation.
    • Why do illegal immigrants view the United States as the land of opportunity while residents in poor black neighborhoods have an almost opposite view? Do illegals take jobs away from American citizens?

    Both Mr. Steinberg and I disagree with the popular view that there is a moral equivalency between Israel that is defending itself and the Palestinian leadership which is the aggressor. Many in the liberal/progressive punditry class and the main stream media are either to lazy or too cowardly to unpack the issues and to discover and discuss the facts.

    We live in a free society. Thus we have to tolerate those that march, scream, and shout – though perhaps not shouting with amplification.

    But if protestors throw stuff at police – they go to jail. If they block passage to pedestrians they go to jail.

    The remedy for speech is more speech. People of goodwill and intelligence have to oppose the hucksters, charlatans, and pandering pundits when these latter people use religion, race, or current events as the vehicle for their hucksterism.

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    1. I haven't said word one about Ferguson, for the simple reason I consider it a dog's breakfast--a mess of issues and attitudes all smashed together and not necessarily signifying anything. As with the Occupy movement, this seems to be a spontaneous protest calling for complex social changes that aren't to be facilitated by protest. The Economist has a piece in the new issue that says the biggest hurdle facing African-Americans is entrenched economic disadvantage, not one-on-one bigotry. That strikes me as valid. But how do you fix that?

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    2. you fix it by having some people willing to work, go to school and tend to their kids, take away the non stop handouts

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  4. This post was composed before Mr. Steinberg's 12:47 PM comment. I will address that comment later.

    I am somewhat concerned that I may be perceived as hijacking this thread. I think not.

    I agree with Mr. Steinberg’s analysis of the mindset of the religious fanatics he features. But this analysis has relevance when examining political fanatics who seek an earthly Utopia.

    Under an older and European terminology I am a “Classical Liberal.” J. S. Mill and F.A. Hayek fit that label rather than the label of “Classical Conservative.” But that would be confusing to American audiences not well versed in the history of political philosophy. Thus I adopt the rough label of moderate conservative/libertarian.

    I am pro-life, pro- gay rights, and pro-same sex marriage. I hold a so-called “weak” view of natural law. In other fora I debate Roman Catholics who hold a “strong” view of natural law and want to impose it on all of society.

    Thus I share some of the distrust that Mr. Steinberg has towards organized religion. We differ because while I think organized religion does some bad and some evil – it does far more good.

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  5. Mr. Steinberg posts in part---

    “The Economist has a piece in the new issue that says the biggest hurdle facing African-Americans is entrenched economic disadvantage, not one-on-one bigotry. That strikes me as valid. But how do you fix that?””

    My copy of The Economist has not yet arrived.

    I have several ideas. First and foremost study Hispanic immigrants who are economically succeeding despite tremendous disadvantages – first and foremost being language and an illegal status.

    In the old days these immigrants (legal and illegal) held the most menial and backbreaking of jobs – busboys and lawncare workers. Now in the restaurants we visit they are cooks, elite cooks, waiters, elite waiters, and owners. I now see they are the owners of lawn care companies.

    Thus we have to ask whether the economic disadvantages faced by poor African-Americans are truly entrenched.

    Here are some fixes:

    1) Encourage small businesses – from 1 to 20 workers – by removing legal and regulatory barriers to entry. ObamaCare and unreasonable licensure requirements are not the only barriers and impediments. Rather the list is myriad and sundry.

    2) Empower school choice by providing parents educational vouchers. Traditional Catholic parochial schools provide a good example that private enterprises could follow.

    3) Abolish the minimum wage while at the same time doing everything possible to encourage the expansion of businesses and the opening of new businesses in Chicago. Chicago and Illinois have a pro-union anti-business reputation.

    4) We have to absolutely stop illegal migration into the United States. Once this is demonstrated for a period of years – we can grant illegal immigrants a path to citizenship. That piecemeal approach would be agreeable to most Republicans who desire the votes of Mexican –American citizens.

    5) Work on all measures to make the United States colorblind. The United States is essentially colorblind to legal Hispanics, Asians, and American Indians who have traditional conservative values. Conscious discrimination in employment should be severely prosecuted by local and Federal authorities while at the same time we should do away with quotas and affirmative action. The latter merely make people more race conscious-- not less.

    6) Again severely prosecute actual police misconduct but at the same time the victimhood ideology proffered by some liberal/progressive pundits to the poor should be eschewed. The latter merely demoralizes.

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  6. There's one crucial difference between African Americans living in urban poverty and Hispanics. A strong family unit that sticks together, which leads to responsibility, cooperation and a strong work ethic. Poor Hispanics without this platform aren't doing much better than their African American counterparts. The fracturing of the family unit among urban African Americans is an important factor in their status.

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  7. WendyC:

    You have indeed highlighted the most crucial difference.

    But there are other crucial differences. One is that most Hispanics have not bought into the “liberal/progressive” mantra of victimhood.

    In the past -- Republicans – including Justice Scalia –looked absolutely absurd opposing the decriminalization of homosexuality and opposing same-sex marriage. They looked absurd because there are no good arguments to support their positions.

    Likewise Ferguson is an absurd vehicle to use to raise some legitimate concerns about policing practices. The liberal/progressive pundits are not merely shooting themselves in the feet – they are figuratively chopping off their feet, shins, and legs. They are looking foolish. (I sample much of their yammering on the RealClearPolitics site.)

    I thought the best race speech ever given by President Obama was when he crap-canned Rev. Wright for the asinine comments of the Reverend.

    I readily agree that we have hucksters and charlatans on both sides of the political isle. I have never defended Sarah Palin (other than say she is better looking than Tina Fey) and I am skeptical of the much smarter but similarly rabble-rousing Senator Cruz.

    The civil authorities -- including the police and teachers -- must be respected. The victimhood
    mantra undermines this respect. Of course some of those in authority do wrong and have betrayed the public trust. For that they should be brought to justice. But it is absurd to tarnish all in authority for the wrong-doing of a few.

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  8. What Mr. Steinberg doesn't mention is that much of that "entrenched disadvantage" to African-Americans comes from illegal immigration. But as he's already dismissed economists like Paul Krugman, Nouriel Roubini and George Borjas, I imagine he'd dismiss others too (Borjas has also done a study on the impact of illegal immigration on African-American unemployment). And as Carol Swain of Vanderbilt has written about, racism is intertwined with this: illegal immigration lets the Zoe Bairds of the world stop hiring African-American nannies and hire Eastern European or Central American ones.

    "How do you fix that"? Well, let's look at the only time African-Americans closed the economic gap - though very slightly - in my and Mr. Steinberg's lifetime: the 1990s, where both high and low skill jobs were in demand.

    So recreate that situation. How about turning welfare into, at least in part, workfare - something Jesse Jackson once suggested? And make truly sealing the border (a fence and e-verify with teeth) a condition for immigration reform to prevent further glutting the low skill labor market. It's not like the nation couldn't use a big construction stimulus project about now. Oh, I forgot, suggesting that makes one an "idiot."

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  9. (PS - I should have added that a "workfare" program would offer newly created government jobs - it wouldn't require recipients to find work at non-existant jobs.)

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  10. Well I guess he's just not as genius as you, A/n/A.

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