Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A lesson in vocabulary and hate

   

     Who wants to learn new words today? I do! I do! Three vocabulary words then. So if everyone will find their seats, we'll begin.
     The first word is contrapasso, a literary Italian word, from the Latin for "suffer the opposite," used to describe the torments Dante cooks up for sinners in his "Inferno." The damned are not just assigned any random gruesome fate, but one based on their sins in life, a kind of poetic justice, their former joys transformed into eternal woes. Thus, the lustful are buffeted by storms, to show how they let their passions rule their intellect, and the violent are boiled in rivers of the blood they spilled.
     We don't need a fictional hell to see examples of contrapasso. It occurs in real life too. Addicts are punished by being compelled to consume greater and greater quantities of the substances they crave. Those consumed by hatreds become locked in the embrace of the thing they hate.
     For instance, the most sordid gay bathhouses exist between the ears of the fanatics who hate the people they imagine frequenting them. Emails minutely cataloging these sexual practices are sent, not by triumphant gays — I don't believe I've received one, ever — but by sputtering religious fanatics supposedly disgusted by the practices they're chronicling, as if straight sexual acts would look beautiful given similar trip under disgust's microscope. Their own self-assigned torment, to pass their lives gazing at what revolts them in cathexis — our second word, a psychology term, "the concentration of mental energy on one particular person, idea, or object (esp. to an unhealthy degree)."
     I hate stuff too. I just don't spend my life staring at it.
     Which brings up America's poster girl for freedom of speech, Pamela Geller, whose Prophet Muhammad caricature contest in Texas drew two would-be Islamic terrorists, who attempted to shoot it up Sunday and were themselves killed.
     Geller managed to contain her glee.
     "This incident shows how much needed our event really was," she told the New York Times. "Freedom of speech is under violent assault here in our nation. The question now before us is: Will we stand and defend it, or bow to violence, thuggery, and savagery?"
     And how do we defend free speech? Oh right, by insulting Islam. An oddly selective defense. If Geller's show was a general collection of sacrilegious art, I might be tempted to buy her ruse. But it isn't, it's a stiletto designed to stab at Muslims. To prove how free we are.
     Actually, Muhammad shows up in the "Inferno," receiving a particularly gruesome punishment, split from chin to anus, his entrails hanging out, as contrapasso for his splitting of his world by forming a new religion. Muslims do not, to my knowledge, attack those reading the 700-year-old work of literature because, unlike Geller's stunts, the "Inferno" isn't a hate carnival designed to stigmatize and marginalize a certain group (Well, it is, but that group is Florentines, and they've adjusted themselves to it by now).
     Extremists of varying stripes pretend to be in opposition, but actually they form a tacit confederacy, and here comes our third word — symbiosis. You might remember the word from high school biology; it means two different organisms interacting for mutual advantage. The classic case is sea anemone whose stalks are poisonous, but not to clownfish, who feed among them and provide benefits.
     Islamic terrorists commit their nihilistic violence, their crimes are seized upon by the Gellers of the world who say, "Look, this is what they all are." And the stock of hate, that both embrace, rises.
     It's easy to get worked up by specific horrors, hard to step back and look at the grand scheme. Muslims are terrorists in the same sense that Jews are rich bankers, or the Irish were loafing drunks and Italians, gangsters. It's just another slur, and the fact that real examples of the slur can be found in the living world doesn't change anything. I haven't done the math, but I guarantee you there are far, far more Jewish bankers, Irish drunks, or Italian mobsters than there are Islamic terrorists.
     The story never changes; every generation we get a new cast.
     Class dismissed.

81 comments:

  1. "I haven't done the math, but I guarantee you there are far, far more Jewish bankers, Irish drunks, or Italian mobsters than there are Islamic terrorists."

    On that one, I'll bet you're wrong!
    I saw BBC News yesterday & some Muslim woman was saying there are areas were you just can't go regarding free speech.
    She is totally wrong, but the BBC interviewer never called her out on it.
    Having grown up Jewish, bar mitzvah & all decades ago, I'm now a flat out atheist & I can see that the ultra-Orthodox Jews, both in this country & Israel are totally fucking nuts & just as insane as the Wahhabi Muslims, who want to inflict their brand of insanity & stupidity on the world!

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    1. Agreed, Clark st-this group is much more dangerous, controlling and troublesome then our rose colored glasses in some cases blog host thinks

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    2. So Clark St., without the benefit of the compilation of any study, survey, questionnaire, etc., you will GUARANTEE your assertion. Cool.

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  2. Extra credit time! One more vocabulary word for the day. A simple word really. No effort required, no action necessary. TOLERANCE. Live and let live. Try it sometime.

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    1. Don't hold your breath on waiting for SOME Muslim groups to be tolerant.

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  3. Clark St. -- How does the paragraph that comes after "I bet you're wrong"in any way support your premise? Being a religious zealot and feeling deeply offended over stuff doesn't make you a terrorist.

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    1. This bunch wants to control what people write or draw or their life is in danger. Get real!!!!

      Don't tell me, I get it, you have Muslim neighbors and have to say this or you'll be in danger.

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    2. You know, Dante's lowest level of hell was reserved for Sodomites and usurists. Ahh yes, lex talionis.

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  4. The point is this isn't an Islamic nation so if we want to draw caricatures in the U.S., we should be able to. Not that I like the right wing lady nut but saying in general. In Saudi Arabia it's illegal to have a bible. Would an Amer. go into Muslim nations he lives in and shoot if someone had put up bad artwork of Jesus? We need to deport more here and keep out those from certain areas. Its not profiling, it's called fact.

    Neil, you should care a bit more about Israel. Instead you go to bat for even terrorists Muslims living here and shooting. I have to say one thing you certainly aren't biased in the Jewish favor. But you go to the other extreme.

    And Clark St., no orthodox Jew is as dangerous as certain Muslims can be. Let me know when one of them shoots up an art display, or blows people up. Get real folks, not just pc. And no, I'm neither a Repub. or overly religious.

    By the way, I don't need word lessons in Italian. I know it but I can teach you some more if interested.

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    1. You're wrong.
      Remember the one who murdered Rabin in Israel?
      Or the one that shot up a bunch of Arabs in the West Bank?
      All ultra-orthodox of all religions are nuts. Period!

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    2. But in general who has done more damage to western areas in last 15 yrs or so? Some nuts more dangerous then others.

      And don't forget Isis uses it's own people as human shields, or kids. And how about those Huttu's in Africa, boco haram stealing girl, muslim types? Or what Muslims do to women in certain parts of mid east, worse than any ortho jew would.

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    3. In Israel you can visit a memorial to Baruch Goldstein, who murdered 29 Palestinians and wounded 125 more and see inscribed on his tomb, "To the holy Baruch Goldstein, who gave his life for the Jewish people, the Torah and the nation of Israel." It is also said that the Settlers have a song about him they sing to torment their Palestinian neighbors.

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    4. Yes, but I mean in US, UK, etc Extreme Jews not so bad at those airports or tall bldgs. or artfairs, are they?

      I wish we knew what Ezekiel thought of this.

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    5. And Palestinians toss rockets into Israel, then play martyr.

      I know Israel doesn't care of the US but lesser of 2 evils.

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    6. I wish that Rabbi that posted yesterday could share some of his thoughts on this.

      As to Ms. Italian American, can I call you Ms. Spaghetti eater?

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  5. This is different then just the latest unwanted group. The other ones didn't come here stating they wanted to destroy the west or commit jihad. Don't be so naïve, NS, while you are wrapped up in your pc covers.

    That Ezekiel that was writing yesterday must really be shaking his head at you.

    And yes, I like homos, especially compared to terrorists.

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  6. Not that I'm either of course, but as Sein. would say, not that there's anything wrong with that.

    Maybe if some Muslim , heaven forbid, picked on your family for being Jewish, you'd open your eyes.

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  7. Wow, there's a lot of Jews on this blog, most of them non religious.

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    1. And the anons above are just parroting the line the column addresses. Since when did Saudi Arabia become our moral pole star, that we should ape them? And why do these two jokers in Texas, or anyone committing a violence act, represent the whole? That's the symbiosis I spoke of. Of course you don't get it, but perhaps it might give you pause, and you'd at least perceive there's something you're missing here.

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    2. Wrong. They are devout followers of Holocaustianity.

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  8. Good grief, fellow commenters!

    How many of you actually know any Muslims? Half my condo's units are owned by Pakistani and Indian neighbors--Muslims all. My kids go to school with many Bosnian refugees--white people in Western dress who are nonetheless Muslim.

    It's just like any other religion. There are Hasidic and Reformed; there are Westboro/Quiverfull/Dominionists and Episcopalians. There are fundamentalist authoritarians who think they know the One True Way and there are, luckily, many more people who believe in being kind and treating others as they want to be treated.

    Pam Gellar advocates killing Muslims--all of them. She tried and succeeded in inciting violence, which she will now use to further her grifting and fearmongering. She needs ISIS and ISIS needs her. That's how they grow their fear and use fear to manipulate others.

    A pox on both their houses.

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    1. Yes, never said I agree with her.

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  9. Of course the Bosnian ones or Indonesian ones aren't as dangerous and yes, we know some neighbors of such and Pak. ones. However, how many Musl. looked like the nice mid class ones living next door and weren't-check out some recent suburban stories. Don't be condescending Clark, yes we know of various sects.

    NS, however, most of the time, who is the terrorist? It isn't just generalizing. Are they Norwegians?
    Birds of a feather? Well this dego just invaded the nest, lol.

    Yes, I'll take pause, some are okay, most cant be trusted.

    And you can always send an aide to take pics of far suburbs (if you are busy) or take one off the net, if want to do a contest for those folks.

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    1. So, Mr. Italian-American Anonymous, when Mussolini was "palling around" with Hitler, as Ms. Palin might say, and Italy was a card-carrying member of the Axis powers, were ALL Italians evil? Were the Italians who'd emigrated to the U.S. suspicious and not-to-be-trusted? Should they all have been deported? Even the ones who served with distinction in the U. S. Armed Forces, as many Muslims do today?

      You ask "most of the time, who is the terrorist?" Most of the time, who was a Nazi in WWII? Should all German-Americans have been distrusted, because they were of the same stock as the Nazis and because a few Germans here in the U. S. may have sympathized with the Nazis? Perhaps you believe that rounding up the Japanese and putting them in internment camps was a good first step, but should have been extended to Italians and Germans?

      "...some are okay, most cant be trusted..." Writing that 4 sentences after "It isn't just generalizing." is pretty freaking awesome, I gotta say!

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    2. Italians didn't come to AMerica to blow us or bldgs. up. And ital. amer were mostly anti muss.

      Just like wrong if GErmans here picked on as Krauts in WWI or II, they never said as ISIS has, we will come right there to own nation to blow us up. Japs got the closest.

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    3. Jakash, don't forget the doc in TX who was a muslim psych and was going to blow things up, yes some Islamists in our military can't be trusted. Many have to or want to if able or have $ to support terr groups back home. This is worse than the black hand mob. You are comparing apples and oranges and this is more serious. Sure there were Nazi spies here but they didn't bring down things right in our own nation.

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    4. Don't presume, Jakash. That's Ms. Ital-Amer. anon.

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    5. Apologies, Ms. Anon. I can't keep you all straight. Do you sometimes post as Lady Anonymous, or is that a different person?

      "And ital. amer were mostly anti muss." Certainly, without doubt. And most Muslims in America do not support terrorists. "this is more serious" More serious than World War II?

      Granted, it IS serious. I'm pretty sure that holding a cartoon contest isn't gonna go very far at all toward dealing with the actual problems, however.

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    6. I'm not lady anonymous.

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  10. And don't stereotype, I don't drive a cement truck. I have a Master's Degree.

    this isn't the "Christ in Concrete" short story (talk about bad working conditions)

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  11. It's precisely because Geller is so offensive that she, and the creator of "Piss Christ" and flag-burners and Larry Flint, is a poster child for free speech. The "equal opportunity offenders" (like Charlie Hebdo) are easier to defend.

    Neil's right about Muslims not supporting terrorism (here's some data to back it up: http://www.pewglobal.org/2014/07/01/concerns-about-islamic-extremism-on-the-rise-in-middle-east/) and blaming them for the actions of a tiny minority, but as I wrote before, on this subject he cherry picks. Compare the contempt he showed to the beliefs of evangelical Christians on homoesuxuality last week to the experience of gays in Muslim nations and the popular support that underlies this treatment (according to Pew, in only 3 Muslim majority nations (out of 36) do more than TEN PERCENT of the populace believe homosexuality is acceptable!!!

    Or take conversion. According to Pew, in Jordan - about as moderate a Muslim nation as you will find - 86% believe a Muslim who leaves the faith should be put to death. I repeat: put to death. Similar numbers for other Middle Eastern nations and Pakistan, 51% Nigeria (and much lower numbers in Europe).

    I wish I could name the person, but a Muslim writer recently said that the real conspiracy of Gellar and the Extremists is that it has created either/or arguing. One side can't find anything but problems with Islam and the other can't acknowledge any problems exist.

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    1. 3 cheers for Anon not Anon! My hero...You can say it better than I can.

      Lady Anon

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    2. As Neil said above, this mentality that right-wing Christians in America shouldn't be criticized for their attitude toward gays because some Muslims are worse is a baffling one.

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    3. Thanks Lady A - I'll try not to let it go to my head!

      B.Scribe - where do I say that right-wing Christians in America shouldn't be criticized? That kind of argument is like a racist traffic cop who claims his/her critics must not care about drunk driving.

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    4. You were complaining about "the contempt" Neil showed. Please don't give me this disingenuous piffle about "I didn't say don't criticize them."

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    5. "...it has created either/or arguing. One side can't find anything but problems with Islam and the other can't acknowledge any problems exist." I think this gets to the heart of the matter, but this "either/or arguing" certainly predates Ms. Geller's efforts. A nice example is voting over 50 times to repeal Obamacare, rather than attempting to focus on some of its actual shortcomings and fix them.

      I figured Neil's post today was not gonna go unremarked upon. Ahem.

      "The 'equal opportunity offenders' (like Charlie Hebdo) are easier to defend." Well, even they have run into opposition, as the recent PEN literary award brouhaha has demonstrated. Which leads me to ask, Neil, which side of that argument do you come out on, if you care to reply?

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    6. I can't believe that goofus Donald Trump, who usually is ultra conserve actually said Geller was taunting them. Heard this on news radio.

      He must have some new Muslim investors.

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    7. He's a world-class blockhead, no doubt. But, whatever else one thinks about this matter, Geller WAS taunting them.

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    8. Realizing the belated response may deprive Bitter Scribe a chance to respond, but I didn't criticize Neil's contempt, I criticized his lack of contempt.

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  12. So, the fruitcake Pamela Geller, managed to contain her glee? That is remarkable. The ironic blunder of terrorist believing they can outgun attendees of an Art Fair in TEXAS, has some people amused. Pride of place, if terrorist tried the same stunt, Oh I don't know say on, O Block, with the same result. My glee, and that of many Chicagoans, would last a very long time.

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  13. The NRA will eat this incident up and make a point out of it, unfort.

    Bernie, don't you see some of these Muslims as shooting themselves in the foot? Hard to have much empathy for them.

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  14. Bernie, it wasn't the "attendees" who shot the gunmen. It was a police officer.

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    1. Sorry, your right, a little exaggeration on my part. Anticipating a high risk situation, the police officers were present as paid security by the event organizers.

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  15. Neil, being that you are usually a logical person, how you can compare this to "Irish drunk "immigrant or similar circumstances is beyond me.

    Now if you were in northern Ireland and the IRA was blowing up buildings, that's a diff matter. But even they mostly kept to the UK area.

    I was listening to news radio today in the car and ISIS was bragging that they have fighters ready to go here in nearly every state. You were saying????? that goes for you others too that are blinded by SOME muslims-or too busy being pc and trying to convince others and perhaps yourselves

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    1. As bad as the right wingnuts are, they still haven't threatened to blow up anyone or blown anyone up, same to bldgs. lately. Yes, I know there's a few odd ones like in OK but I mean as a matter of course.

      Musl. committing most of these acts isn't just a coincidental happenstance.

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    2. It does seem as Mr. S seems to prefer Muslim terrorists to evangelicals, though the former is more physically dangerous.

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  16. We aren't having to take off our shoes at airports because goofy people like Geller or Huckabee might be coming through.

    By the way , Geller is a conservative Jewish lady. Very pro Israel, but I'll take her mode of thought anyday over ISIS and company.

    So I guess now radical Muslims control the arts or writing, in France , US, UK, etc? But that's okay, as long as we protect the rights of those Muslims.

    An Indian Professor once told me, sure he's biased but has a point, that the Musl. in India, the ones who didn't run to Pak or Bangladesh, had 0 loyalty to the nation of INdia, even when their rights in the modern day had been given to them.
    ahh, the mixed up thinking of the extreme far left thinker

    Some of these Muslim types are crazy, dangerous, murderous fanatics. Much more so than Pat Robertson or some nut from TX who likes the NRA can be. OPEN YOUR EYES!

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  17. Moderation is the key folks, steer clear of the extreme right or left.

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  18. What does all this have to do with those nasty pics above? That's not Dante's stuff.

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    1. It looks like more pieces from the Field Museum's Haitian voodoo exhibit.

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  19. What troubles me most is when religious fanaticism is combined with a complete disregard for human life; becoming martyrs for a cause; expecting to be rewarded in heaven for killing self-professed imbeciles. There's a sense of helplessness when reason cannot prevail.

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  20. Anon-not-Anon wrote: "It's precisely because Geller is so offensive that she, and the creator of 'Piss Christ' and flag-burners and Larry Flint, is a poster child for free speech. The 'equal opportunity offenders' (like Charlie Hebdo) are easier to defend."

    I don't believe that Neil questioned her "right" to conduct this contest, not that you said he did. He simply suggested that the idea that free speech was her actual motivation was a "ruse". Which it clearly was. Charlie Hebdo was in the satire business. Their primary focus evidently is politics, with religion being featured much less often, and Christianity more of a target than Islam, even among religions. They continued to offend Muslims, in largely the same manner that they offended others, but the point of their publication was not specifically to focus on them.

    Ms. Geller, by all indications, has no independent interest in satire or cartoons. She has an interest in stirring things up and offending Muslims. Using this contest to taunt them, the cartoons as a "stiletto designed to stab at Muslims", as Neil puts it. Free speech is a smoke-screen for her, while it's central to the enterprise for true satirists.

    11:51 Anonymous: "It does seem as Mr. S seems to prefer Muslim terrorists to evangelicals..." One could hardly express more succinctly the conflation of "Muslims" with "Muslim terrorists". Mr. S. writes a hell of a lot. If you can find even one instance of him expressing ANY support for Muslim terrorists, please let us know. Not that he "prefers" Muslims to evangelicals, regardless. Muslims are the minority (in the U.S.) being targeted by Ms. Geller's tactics, so Neil takes issue with that. Same-sex couples are the minority being denied rights by evangelicals (and others) when it comes to marriage. The purpose of his arguments there is not denigrating evangelicals, per se, but to support of the rights of same-sex couples. Or so it seems to me.

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    1. Right on, Jakash (or should I say "write on" :)

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    2. Jackash, Even in WW2, we didn't have the terr. probs in the continental U.S. then we do now.

      As for England, the bombs came from a plane, the Germs weren't there blowing people up . Of course this is diff. in Fr. and nor. Italy, but I'm speaking of U.S. (outside Hawaii)

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    3. A very thoughtful comment Jakash. A lot of people talking past each other here, and I would have despaired of trying to sort it out, but you have done pretty well. About the Geller woman, I would, as Neil suggested he would, be inclined to defend her free speech claims if she had mounted an exhibit of sacrilegious art, but she is clearly bent only on provoking Muslims, with predictable consequences that involve actions and reactions leading to loss of innocent lives. A heavy responsibility.

      There's much to dislike about Islam, and it currently harbors more dangerous extremists than other faiths. But having known people who died in the Murrah Federal Building in 1995 I wouldn't be quick to dismiss the dangers posed by fanatics of other stripes. In a largely forgotten holocaust that entailed people thinking they were being instructed by their respective gods to behave abominably, some two million Moslems and Hindus died in approximately equal proportions during the partition of British India. The point is that our Founding Fathers gave us constitutional protections against abuses arising from intolerance, and we should not let hate mongers degrade them because of how people in other parts of the world treat each other. We can defend ourselves without tearing our society apart.

      Although many people here seem to be reacting to things Neil didn't say in it, I thought his column today a finely wrought piece of writing,of the sort some of us read him for. Journalistic writing doesn't usually promote the learning of new words, but his sesquipedalian exegeses of some demonstrably useful examples of verbal exotica will give us all some nice conversation stoppers at the next cocktail party..

      Anyway, it was real good.

      Tom Evans

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    4. Mr. Evans, your closing reminds me of the immortal words of Homer Simpson, when speaking to an editor from the Reader's Digest: "Oh I love your magazine. My favorite section is "How to increase your word power." That thing is really, really, really... good."

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  21. You may have a point, Jakash, about the ruse.

    On to other matters, the other day in the ST, there was some talk about early vs. latter day immigrants. Here is the difference-the early ones came with jobs waiting and in abundance, they didn't get(as it said) college aide and govt benefits.

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  22. Contra, in pure Italian not Latin, means against, not suffering --

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    1. I believe the "contra" in this case corresponds to "opposite" rather than "suffer."

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    2. Coey, maybe you are the smug one.

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  23. Note how synagogues or Jewish stores get attacked in France, etc, but not by some Nazi's but certain Islamic elements there? Some are told don't dare go to, cops neither, to certain musl. neighborhoods. Today it's the art fairl, tomorrow it's women shot for wearing a bikini, or churches and synagogues hit for being infidels in the U.S. Remember we are told we can't enter their mosques yet some of the leaders of terr. groups and their arsenal is in some of them.

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  24. On a different note, a lady today in the ST spoke about getting some free coats, had 4 kids. Hello? Do what mid class does and check number of kids you have, contraception, before the fact. The poor can even get it free. I don't feel bad for those who keep having babies irresponsibly and think tax payers should take care of it or govt. And stop having babies with diff. guys. Insist on condoms or use other forms.

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    1. Do you believe those under a certain income level shouldn't have children at all?

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    2. Hello? This woman was employed until last year, when she was laid off, and her partner is employed. There is no indication that her children have different fathers. This coat program is not government-funded. Why the judgment?

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    3. There are some not so poor who will go take advantage of that. Even if she was employed at some spotty job, not wise to have that many kids. Didn't say don't have any. Some situations need to be judged. One has right to give opinion.

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    4. oh some of you need to stop being bleeding heart libs

      some of these ultra liberal policies haven't worked in the big city, have they?

      here's a funny joke, don't take it too seriously

      in Baltimore there were 2 items left in a looted drugstore



      one was suntan lotion, the other a father's day card

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    5. The situations to judge are those where one has actual knowledge of the facts, not unkind speculations. Anyone laid off had a spotty job?

      There's judging a situation, and then there's smug judgment.

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    6. Point is she prob wasn't in a great job to begin with or prob poor to start with. Diff. if mid class had 3 or 4 kids then laid off.

      May I ask Coey, are you female?

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    7. I don't mind answering, but why do you ask?

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    8. just trying to get an idea, who is who here and how many of each

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    9. Maybe if she made $15/hour at her 'spotty' job, she could afford coats!

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    10. Not sure how it illuminates the discussion, but yes, I am a woman. What are your findings so far?

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    11. mostly males

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    12. No, because there are college grads in offices making 15 or less, why should hs dropouts make that or more?

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    13. and that's okay if one gender out numbers the other here

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  25. Never said that.

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  26. What lovely tree blossoms in this new pic.

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  27. "Islamic terrorists commit their nihilistic violence, their crimes are seized upon by the Gellers of the world who say, "Look, this is what they all are." And the stock of hate, that both embrace, rises."

    Well said. But it at least deserves a mention that there's a serious asymmetry of effect here. One side deliberately provokes with word and pictures, the other responds with bullets. So maybe it's a symbiotic relationship like rhinos and the oxpecker birds that groom them -- I know which side of that symbiotic partnership I'd rather piss off (hint: the birds.)

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  28. That Baltimore prosecutor is politically motivated. Just listen to her speech when she mentioned charges.

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  29. Some of you sound like Rush Limbaugh fans.

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