Thursday, August 31, 2006

Response to MD

Matthew has some pointed criticisms of me--check the comments of the last two posts, cross-posted at his site. Below is a response in the form of an open letter.


We've been down this road before and in the end I think it's pretty stupid and lifeless. Not this or that point, just the whole atmosphere of it.

Prior to any responses....what is the point? Really? As a human being, what is the point? I just don't get it.

For whatever it's worth I have read Paglia. Haven't read her new book, but others for sure. She's great. Still I don't know why the opposition. Why does it have to be Jimi Hendrix over Derrida? Why are we comparing transcendent state processes with structural interpretations? Why one over the other? Why the need for such division? I still think it is reading the post-structuralists only through the lens of French artistry--it certainly does not exist entirely separate from that, but I'm just don't see the evidence or it being dismissed as that and nothing else.

As far as poor form arguments, it seems to me that could just as well go in reverse to you. You show to me a definite lack of understanding on issues you pontificate about--have you ever read any of the Frankfurts...really? Discipline and Punishment? There's nothing worth learning in there? Huh?

I"m not writing in an art domain. I've pointed out that area is not my expertise, so I stay away from it. You might consider not using such definitively knowledgable language in areas which are outside your provence. I mentioned the video clip on the Parliament of World Religions precisely to remind the reader of the fact of the need for the Beautiful (of which I wasn't discussing). To remind people that this whole argument is only a very relative truth. Take it or leave it, but don't bury it for it being taken to be something it's not meant to be.

I'm using words in a specific philosophical sense. I've never declared philosophy to be the be all end all of existence. It just happens to be one of the things i'm interested in.

Pre-critical, in that context, does not mean ignorant or naive acceptance of tradition in toto. It doesn't even mean lack of brilliance. It means pre-perspectival if you like. And that is not the same as "the medium is the message." Because the concept of a medium and a message and the two being interchangable, those are all perspectives before the question of whether or not the statement is accurate, and if so to what degree.

I'm only suggesting a way of thinking/speaking that takes into account not just what we think, feel but actually how we arrived at that position. That has a sense of its place and consequently has a sense of humor and not fixed egoic posturing about it. To give us clues as to how others respond to our povs and what that says about our positions.

Leibniz said that all monads (holons) occupy a separate position in the universe and therefore see from a different perspective. He didn't take that vision all the way. He stopped short by introducing a pre-established harmony of all monads. But if we take away that pre-established harmony, what if, just what if, that were an accurate depiction?

What if "the world" was nothing other than all these monads and their mutually interacting points of view? And what if those positions were always in flux, vertically and horizontally in multiple vectors and semi-monads of collectives/groups arising in and through those points of view. And that if we weren't standing in/near a certain position, just as if we didn't stand up on a mountain in order to get the vista, we wouldn't know certain things? And what if those inner processes, those interpretations were not just interpretations, cultures, these fixed blocks. But rather the interior makeup of the process itself?

What if the same trajectory we see in the material world interiorly feels like consciousness, which is always towards something, agency/directionality?

What if there was not some pre-established truth? Some one system that we just launched onto all others? What if our truths only had meaning in relation to where we stood in the Kosmos?

I think there is actually something quite spiritual about taking other's worlds into account. Even one's that I disagree strongly with. To disengage consciously for a moment from our position and re-inhabit another one. I think that mental archaeology is actually quite important. Not the climax of all reality, just important. In fact I think it is actually quite radical. In the traditional meaning of the word--to the root.

Since I'm focused in these posts just on what I think are the roots issues, and since it is experimental and just a sorta mental download, there will be peripheral/secondary issues that can be criticized sure. I don't go back and review these--I just sit down, no notes, no preconceived thoughts, and just let it go.

You don't like it, you don't like it. I could care less.

It's not "location" as such that is interesting or even that intelligent, but actual taking of multiple perspectives in the mind simultaneously, in the heart.

Of course people have been using language forever and knew of culture. I'm saying that prior to the 20th century, PHILOSOPHICALLY, no one had ever articulated as a rational reconstruction the ways in which it works/influences/shapes our experiences.

I just think that without an admittedly somewhat boring mental formulation, we go about these things haphazardly. Some will happen on to some really genius insights, others not, others extremely creative, others not. But they just bash into one another. Everybody then retreats to solid egohood. Some greater than others, some right about certain things wrong on others. Whaetver.

But where fundamentally is the love-bliss in any of that? I see structures as opening our minds and hopefully our hearts to the realization of all of us together in this. Of dare I say actutally caring about one another and creation itself. In differing degrees, in different ways. Some earlier, some more responsible.

Of actually opening a window, however small, into a vital question: what we are doing here? Not the final answer to be sure.

I know this sounds like a strange argument--it certainly is not a philosophical proof--but the view of evolving worldviews actually makes me love more. Other systems/formulations do not. Concretely. Real human beings in real time, as I see and feel spontaneously a recognition of the very process they are within. To me that counts for something, quite a lot in fact. I can easily say if I had never read and re-read the so-called post-metaphysical writings and spent hours contemplating on what it might possibly mean, I would not be as awake as a human being. I would not care as much as I do for being in this world.

If that's an illusion, it's a great one and I'll live with those evil consequences.

That view, when coupled with others who see/feel similarly leads to a profound release of the egoic contraction and space of trust, a shared recognition of our common-ness. States can have that temporarily, great art gives it to us, but states still have to be part of this relative world. They still have to be incoprorated, incarnated in some fashion or other. And left to themselves they are fairly exclusionary, whcih is okay.

People are still doing great things in this world. Not everything has to pass some integral seal of approval. In fact nothing has to. Some of us might want to.

All this has been is an invitation to try something out and see if you learn something. You don't want to do that. Fine. I don't care. The universe doesn't begin, continue. and end on integral. I think it's important; I don't think it's more important than life.

For all the criticisms of yours, you don't show me that you've taken seriously of the only point I wanted to promote: the actual practice. I'm sure it sounds elitist or whatever, none of which matters to me, but if a person doesn't try the pratice I don't see how they are in any position to pass judgment on its core claims.

Are there actual stages of development of consciousness? That can be more or less reconstructed, however imprecisely, by the human mind. And if so, what would be the moral and institutional implications of such a vision? I don't know what they would be artistically, probably doens't even matter for the arts for all I know.

Is there a perspective of perspectives? Whatever perspectives eventually will disclosed to be.

Alvin Toffler has said that our institutions--educational (as you know), political, religious are "de-synchronized" from our technology/science.

This argument to try a philosophical practice, is what I find to be the best way to re-synchronize our minds, our attitudes, our actions to these other currents. Not all the other elements of life which humans have been doing for thousands of years and know well enough. Just for the specific issue of how think about our place in our world of such technological-scientific evolution.

I appreciate your piont of view, the attention and time you put into your words. If you want to go ahead and proclaim you know whatever about me, fine. If that makes you feel whatever, go for it.

But I gotta say, I'm done with this. God bless you, much love, think you're very talented and bright, but you are just never going to convince me with that form of thinking, that style of arguing.

So I've got a few more posts in this vein, school starts in a week. Want to get them out of my system, say what I have to say in one long-ish thread. Like I did with the Iran, foreign policy strain, so if nothing else I can be done with it.

Of course you're free to give your critiques, I'll read them take them into account, but I don't see any point in responding. It just seems so contrived and mechanical to me.




I wasn't locating Paglia. I was speaking more about, given the inevitable inertial movement downward, where such a idea would like "land" among later followers. I always listen to geniuses (and she is) of whatever "level". I meant how it will be interpreted and carried on and what I said concerning that I stick to.

Follow up on Structuralism

Wanted to go back for a moment to some of the post-structuralists.

A simple (though not simplistic) definition of structuralism is: structuralism=linguistic Kantianism.

Kant in his Critique of Pure Reason put an end to pre-critical rationalism, whether of the Cartesian realist kind and the Lockean empiricist model. Both of which saw the mind as uncritically (purely) just observing data--whether outside in the external world or inside.

Kant turned the mind back on itself and "dug up" (to use Freud's metaphor) the very underlying structures of the mind---what Kant called the categories--and how those structures shape the reality we perceive. Or better the structures/phenomena always go together; they are mutually influencing.

The key practice is to bracket the question of whether the inner processes of the mind point to the thing as it is in itself (noumena), and rather simply chart the progression of structures/phenomena over time. [That was the added insight of a Hegel over Kant].

Structuralism took the same basic move but started not with the human mental architecture but with language. Which through all modern philosophy had been treated pre-critically. Language was just assumed to describe things as they actually are, just as previously philosophy had assumed the mind saw things as they truly are.

To see language as itself a category that shapes the mind. Linguistic Kantianism.

And not just language of course, but also material technological and economic processes (Marx), the unconscious (Freud), society (Frankfurt School), legal/medical/penal systems (Foucault).

But language being probably the first and most important. When those movements went too far, by referring all causality solely to such outside structures and how they had overtaken the inner agency of the ego, they proclaimed the "death of man" (end of humanism). We need not to take the insights to that extreme, to see their importance.

Post-structuralism, a la Hegel to Kant, saw initial structuralism as pre-genetic, with no sense of historical development. So chart the (linguistic) structures/phenomena over time, bracketing this whole set of questions around whether they describe the thing as it really is.

The most (in)famous name associated with this movement is of course Derrida. Derrida's original work was On Grammatology. He discusssed the Western philosophical heritage as one plagued by "logocentrism".

By logocentrism he did not mean--as many later misinterpreters would have it--that Western thought is too hung up on "reason" (Logos as Reason, Capital R). Logocentrism is rather the uncritical assumption of the spoken word (dia-logos: think Plato) over the written word. Over grammar (grammatology). Grammar is a structure.

That initial insight became the basis for his later larger critique of Western philosophical heritage and its emphasis on "presence" (spoken word, inner thought) over "absence" (written wrod/grammar/structure).

But to get to that point, look at his methodology. Deconstruction Derrida states involves two steps.

Step 1: Read the entire Western canon, just as it is. You will notice a basic trend towards Dialogue over Grammar, Presence over Absence, Masculine over Feminine, Reason over Insanity, etc. etc.

Step 2: Re-read the corpus this time seeing how the "underside", the neglected element, is that which makes the supposed superior element possible. If there was no woman, there would be no man. No earth, then no heaven. No grammar, then no spoken word.

That moves "deconstructs" the uncritical assumption of these traditional hierarchies.

Now when Derrida was brought over to the US, he met the analytic-literary traditions of North America. The analytical philosophical school just ignored him of course. The literary establishment (esp. Yale) saw his work as literary-art criticism.

Whereas Derrida always has been and will be a Continental Thinker. In the line of Kant, Heidegger, Marx, etc. To me, since I read him from within the Continental frame, he is a philosopher, social theorist, a political thinker first and foremost.

It is true that he had a middle period where he wrote literary works, e.g. Glas. But they are still literary examples (performative experiments) of his own philosophical-linguistic injunction set. So weird stuff happens in Glas, people live in the sewers, launch fecal matter, there's people with appendages. But all of that is just symbolic metaphor for the necessity (and ignorance/deletion) of absence, detritus, excrement. Of the forgotten and neglected.

But Derrida's later writings, which I am more attuned to, are all political in nature. Deeply influenced by Marx.

As an example in his dialogue with Habermas on 9/11, he talks about how all the cameras in the world were pointed on the Towers falling and yet no one saw the event (because there is always absence, mistranslation, never the thing in itself). We assumed the dominant narrative of this as a Post Cold War phenomena and forget as a result, that bin Laden and the jihadist ideology grew in the fields of Afghanistan fighting the Soviets.

He also noted that Marx (as absence) was the future of political thought. In a way with the neoconservative embrace of democratic Marxism as the prime mover of American foreign policy, he was in fact on target.

But in America he was never read that way. He was read for literary-cultural criticism.

And worse his actual injunction was never followed.

Recall that Derrida's injunction is to first read the entire corpus as is. That those who claimed to follow in his path in the US Humanities did not do this, is proved by the swing in the other direction to a return to the Canon (e.g. Paglia).

Derrida's deconstructive results were taught without the first step in the injunction, often without even the second. They were just launched on students to either be believed or not, as some kind of fundamentalism. If those who claimed to follow the program, had actually followed the program, then you wouldn't have had this mess.

The mess is of course the signifier of deconstruction, which is only truly located (signified) after a modernist (post-modernist) reading of the canon, is translated downwards into a pre-canon nihilism and narcissistic display of arro gant ignorance (so called Boomeritis). As seen in defective feminism, pc movement, Bush is the Real Terrorist propaganda,

But to then say we should just return to the Humanities/Canon as such and through the whole pm/deconst. model overboard is the same mistake in reverse. It can in a good way re-connect to the Canon, some semblance of sanity, but it will still fundamentally be pre-critical. It will just inevitably fall back into many of the negative assumptions that forced the pm reaction in the first place.

Even when Deconstruction is done properly, by the actual injunction, the actual perspective taken, it is still deeply incomplete. All it properly does is crucify the naive assumptions of the Western mind. It does not ressurect.

I see Derrida in that sense, like Marcusse, who properly deconstructed both soviet and fascist totalitarianisms and democractic bourgeoise oppression, but had nothing else to put in its place--hence the New Left's idealization of the primal, egocentric bs.

To read Derrida and not fall prety to that sin, is to sit in the Empty Tomb, prior to the Resurrection (partial, of your mind). Just sit in the death. He did saw that the neglected, the dead and forogotten, our ancestors, were the true progenitors.

Only Habermas arose from the ashes of a Marcusse, Derrida, and Foucault. Only he saw a way forward. [Gebser correctly identified the evolution of these worldviews, but did not have a mechanism whereby they so developed, and therefore no real injunction to help aid them along].

That way is communicative reason. Habermas retains reason--which is the true insight of modernity over myth, dogmatism, and pm irrationality--but through communication--the true postmodern insight, that the ego arises in a whirl of influences and we need each other to navigate these waters.

Derrida and postmodernity read through this lens, is then seen as a mental cleanse (or enema if you like, to be Derridian). It is a great gift to have the mind wiped clean of its naive assumptions about so much. About a static world, a static inner world. But only if it unburdens us to move forward.

So as to the canon question, I argue it should be read in a Habermas style. From his perspective, which then is large enough to envelop the critical insights of the others and the canon qua canon, without falling into those camp's archetypal errors. And yes I think one can call that second-tier, yellow, as long as one remembers that only if you take the perspective, do the practice, and feel into the space, and that "yellow" is just a marker (probably not a very good one frankly) of that worldspace. Of an actual point of view. Those markers are like a YahooMap! They get to you in the right general vicinity but they never 100% of themselves get you to the correct address. It requires some more creativity and direction asking, intuition to actually locate it.

Given that this Habermas formula won't happen, and we are left with the choice of the lesser of two evils, then yes I would say do the traditional canon thing.

Communicative Reason opens up the We, the real future. Heidegger had moments of almost intuiting the mysticism of being-in-the-world together and evolving. Almost it seems to me. Maybe glimpses, but he never really followed them up. Habermas is more the intellectual, the describer and aritculator of the phenomenon, but himeslf not a shamanic-like figure performing this communal contemplation. Our selves in union. Neither the onslaught of the collective, nor the isolation of the monad.

Transparency as Habermas always stresses is the core of communication.

Our lives as a practice of transparency in relation. Not simply resting in some spiritual state, but the yoga of transparency. On all levels, in all dimensions of our being. The making transparent all the perspectives, the locations of all perspectives in the Kosmos, and the means whereby those perspectives are disclosed.

Whatever post-metaphysical spirituality may or may not be, it is, at is core, I believe, this and this alone: the yoga of transparency.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Consciousness: Ultimate Mystery and semi-understandable form

To frame some of these thoughts--check out Robert Wright's page on the MeaningofLife.

He interveiws a great number of thinkers---scientists, theologians among them--on questions of basic existence. Look for the link to the Parliament of World Religions on the question of God. There are some real characters, and some real holy ones that shine through (great Je wish rabbi at the end and a beautiful Sikh woman from Britain).

One topic that always comes up of course is consciousness. The sense of having sense. The sense of being aware, however you want to define that. Knowing that we know.

No matter what one's views on the matter, it is really worth watching people holding very different, even opposing views, speak from within a conscious mind.

Though we don't really acknowledge this very much, our modern Western world is essentially predicated on the notion that consciousness, interiority is a lie. We are comfortable, to a degree with notions like culture, emotion, attitudes. But we never see those as consciousness.

Wright interviews Daniel Dennett among others. It is amazing thing to watch someone with such a committed (faith?) view of the non-existence of his own mind speaking. He says that consciousness is simply the concatenation of molecules. He doesn't even go so far as say Wright would, and say consciousness is an epiphenomenon. It is a sorta accident or blip or planned but delayed, result of material evolution.

But underneath all our talk about social forces, history, economics, on and on, basic questions remain. Is consciousness "real", however we define real? Is it at least equally real to the world of matter? Or does it having a parallel real structure? Or just none at all.

And if there is a resonance between consciousness and materiality and we understand materiality to evolve, does consciousness therefore also evolve?

Can we reconstruct the ways, the forms in which consciousness settles like sediment, without ever necessarily knowing what consicusness is? What is IS in other words?

When we are disucssing integral thought those are the questions that need to be asked. The vast majority of human beings will not and do not hold to such tenets. And a disagreement with those fundamental principles isn't correlated, I find, with intelligence per se. There are many brilliant people who don't think there is consciousness. Nor holiness--as to the question of evolution--as evidence by the video. There still to me seems to be an impercetible quality to getting "it", not just mentally--which others do--but deep in our hearts. It changes something within us--at least it has to me.

Integral follows in the tradition of Teilhard who spoke of a Law of Complexity and Consciousness. Teilhard gave what he called a "phenomenology"--defined as in Hegel's work--a simple description/observation of events as they arise, in time, through history.

And what he discovered was that there was a trajectory in the evolution of creation and this evolutoin always showed a twin relationship: the greater the material complexity of matter, the greater its degree of interiority.

This is framed as the Left and Right quadrants in Wilber's scheme. Which itself again is only a it-descriptor. Rather than worry about the map, just feel into the space prior to its rationalized pictorialization. Just feel/see the universe evolving within and without. Wilber's genius, among others, was to add the notion that this interiority is always enmeshed in language, human culture just as our biology is always connected to environment, ecosystems. And to see what Teilhard called the noosphere--consciousness reaching a pattern of self-reflective thought in conjunction with the material human organism--as composed of stages itself.

But I can't stress this point enough. Just notice the path Teilhard trod to get to that insight. Just actually do what he says, phenomenologically brakcet all other questions for a moment, and just see if his explanation makes any sense.

See if you don't follow the history of the universe from the beginning that you don't see a drive towards greater integration, differentation, and complexification/simplification from the get go. And if you just for a moment allow any sense of feeling/sentience to anything in this universe, don't you see more and more of it the further along you get?

If for example you're only willing to grant sentience to say higher order animals. Dogs/cats clearly do, chimps would seem to have even more though.

If you do not accept this point, and I have yet to see an argument (and I've read plenty) that shows that this method does not arrive at a coherent description of the facts, then there is no integral.

All of integral, as a relative philosophical system, hangs on this point. It takes an intellectual "leap", if you like, to actually clear the mind enough to just listen to the argument, to let it sink in, and see if it deeply makes sense. But only if you have followed the procedure. And if it fails, then show another procedure that organizes the data more clearly. I don't want slogans or universal abstract statements of opinion proferred as obvious fact.

At least live with the hoensty and the consequences of your intellectual decisions.

As only an example, from Frank Visser's blog (Frank recall is in the perennial tradition):

Wilber then compares the perennial view with current, integral insight. In the perennial view, he says, mind, soul and spirit are seen as "higher" then the body. The feelings of a dog, for example, are seen as "higher" then the complex, human brain. This view he calles "totally screwed up". In earlier writings, he called this perennial view "goofy", and used the example of the feelings of a worm -- but you get the idea.

As is well known by now, in the integral view mind, soul and spirit are not seen as meta-physical, but intra-physical, as Wilber tirelessly repeats in his recent writings. Looks all very modern and up to date -- until you think it through.

Looks to me Wilber is comparing conscious apples and complex pears.First, the human brain is more complex then the brain of a dog. And the feelings of a human being is deeper, more conscious, then the feelings of a dog. Comparing the feelings of a dog to the complex human brain is comparing apples and pears.

First off, I think Frank has it backwards. It is the perennial tradition that is comparing conscious apples to complex pears. Or if you like both integral and perennialism--qua relative interpretive structures--are making claims vis a vis the pears and apples. The question then is: which comparison is better?

Frank continues:

But even then, the feelings of a dog, or a worm for that matter, are infinitely more mysterious then the most complex physical mechanism, human or artificial -- because there's an awareness involved no physical mechanism has ever displayed. So there seems to be depth involved.

The perennial view is that the conscious apples are always, as Frank says "more mysterious'" than the pears. But is mysterious the important element here? Leaving aside the flat assertion (minus support) that the feelings of dogs/worms are more mysterious---ever seen a photograph of the human brain and cells firing and had a feeling of awe and wonder?--my question is still what does that matter?

The issue as such is not really the dog's feelings versus the complexity of a biological organism, the issue is why do they always emerge in history, in time-space, in relation? Forget what they "are" in the abstract, if that could ever be defined (and of course with consciousness it can't, consciousness is the definer).

Maybe the mystery is why the two (matter and consciousness) are always so joined. Why they follow this "Law". The worm's physical organism is not as complex as the dog's and the worm's feelings are not as deep as the dog's. That's the issue. Integral works best in my mind when used in this phenomenological (broadly meant) sense.

Frank concludes his post:

Calling this [consciousness, left-hand] intra-physical instead of meta-physical, doesn't explain anything. It's a clever change of metaphor for something we don't really understand. "Intra-physical" is not a concept science can handle, it is deeply metaphysical.

True, modernity knows more on the role the brain processes involved in consciousness then premoderns did. But modernity is clueless as to the essential nature of interiority (beyond mere descriptions). So why set up perennialism and modernity against each other?

It is true that calling consciousness intra-physical doesn't explain what consciousness is. It only explains that consciousness (as revealed by the methodology explicated) co-arises with a corresponding degree of material complexity. It is not an argument about what consciousness is, nor what matter/energy is for that matter. Nor why they always co-arise--other than a fairly limited reference to Eros.

It is a system meant to push away from such dead-ends. To open up psychic space to participate in the Kosmos. Not these fixed notions like culture, these blocky references to truth, but actual contemplative engagement, exploration, and curiosity in this world.

Intra-physical is only a meta-physical notion when judged outside the context of the practice that undergirds it. Why do we need to know what consciousness is, before we can immerse ourselves in it? We don't understand "it" because it is mysteriously empty of content as such. And this "truth" is only disclosed in meditation. [For the "truth" of this see the Parliament of World Religions video--how many define God as oneness, the only one, the Ultimate].

Integral as a relative philsophical system isn't interested in defining consciousness per se--it points to meditative practice for that--it argues that by practicing a genealogy, which is to say a 3rd person observational view with some 1st person sympathetic resonance, we see evolution moving through form interior and exterior.

That is the self-reflective mind, given the right vantage point/perspective, can reconstruct (can "see" interiorly) general forms/levels that consciousness has passed through in history. Emphasis on in history. On earth. Together, in communion, in form.

What methodology does perennialism give for itself? It gives traditional meditation, which as I'm pointing out can not locate, can not see (is not in the right position, does not have the tools) to make a judgment on genealogy. Even one of spirit--in form, both interior and exterior.

Even though interpretation of interior realities is profoundly more difficult than scientific exterior experimentation, can we still reconstruct the interiors with any degree of accuracy. And not just as states of consciousness, but as structures actually develop in time, in history, in individuals and groups at certain points of their lives?

I'm not talking about gurus, foonotes and bad page numbers cited, bat wings, marketing, personality flaws, experimental discover your altitude/shadow blogs, ab/use of systems, generalizing orientations, writing style.

I'm talking about a specific intellectual methodology that claims to gives a perspective able to comprehend a deeper purpose/alignment/synthesis to creation. And this view reveals interiors to be real (real enough) and to see them as not simply interpretations (though they are that too) but interpretations embodied in an evolving universe, showing their own version of the same patterns at play in material evolution: greater differentation and integration.

I'm not advocating pro or con that position minus the actual climbing of the stairs to reach that platform.

As a relative view does it not work? Can it be proved that perspective is not real? That the practice invovled does not in fact put one in a position to see this argument?

Not even that another practice may not come along some day (or already has) and gain even more perspective on the issue. Just that this one is totally and utterly invalid. It never actually happened. I never actually understood this truth. I never really saw it open up in my mind's eye. It is simply forever and in all ways wrong. It should be completely dismissed?

And show me the actual practice that will disclose to me how incorrect all of this has always and will always be.

Til then, I simply point out the practice and cry out for this perspective to be felt into. Then judge, not before.

Personal Info.

I realized after last night's post I referenced events in my personal life without any explication.

I've moved back to Vancouver, BC. Not because I'm some liberal refugee from Bush-ist America, but a simpler explanation--a girl. I'm starting school in a week. I will be doing a MDiv (Masters of Divinity---easily the most arrogant degree ever stated....I'll be a Master of the Divine after reading some theolog text books, yikes)at The Vancouver School of Theology. It's a single building (beautiful building see it on the website) on the campus of the University of British Columbia.

It's a joint school--Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists. Along with a Presbysterian, Baptist-evangelical, and Roman Catholic schools also campus nearby.

I think I've referenced this before, but just to make clear. I was raised Roman Catholic and spent four years in the Jesuit order studying to be a priest (21-25). I left the order and then left the Roman church altogether. I "converted" to the Anglican Church. (Episcopal in the US).

Not only will I be in school, but I am starting up a rather entailed discernment process with the Anglican diocese here to see if the Anglican church will sponsor me for ordination.

I'm looking for connection through the Diocese of New Westminster. Which incidentally is at the center of the current furor in the Anglican Communion.

Since it's not really clear yet to what degree a blog can be used in terms of career selection-e.g. professors who have blogs up for tenure--I'm not really in a position to go into detail on the subject. I'll just say that I didn't come here to make a statement, as it were. I'm here because of my "special lady". But neither am I unaware of what is transpiring and fleeing either. I hope that is sufficiently (un)clear to make the point politically.

If anyone is interested I recommend Stephen Bates' book: A Church at War. Bates is the religious reporter for the Guardian. The book is more focused, therefore, on the English Church's response to the issue. Bates is a journalist. It's not a theological piece on sexuality, Bible, etc. It is an investigate coverage of the players, organizations, and politics behind the scenes. Not salicious by any means. Bates clearly has preference for the liberal establishment, though his wife is a staunch evangelical conservative. So he's pretty balanced in his presentation of the events.

[Or check at Eddie Izzard on Anglicans and laugh your a-- off].

In the Anglican Communion, The ArchBishop of Cantebury (traditional see of Christianity in the Isles) is not like the Pope. He's more like a facilitator of a group meeting than say a Boss. The Archbishop of Cantebury has no ability to enforce his will on the rest of the Anglican church. It is a communion in the sense that it is comprised of national churches that choose to be in communion with one another. It is not nearly as centralized as the Vatican. Somewhat more like the Eastern Orthodox churches.

The current instantitation of the Anglican Communion dates to the 1880s. The Anglican Church to then from the days of the split had mostly been relegated to England, Wales, and smaller numbers in Ireland, Scotland. Plus US and Canada. [The Episcopal Church in the US changed its name from Church of England (in US) during the Revolutionary War so as not to be looked upon as a Loyalist sympathizers.]

With the spread of the British empire, Anglican churches spread. New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and then in the latter half of the 20th century through large portions of sub-Saharan Africa, especially Nigeria, Uganda.

And from the later 19th century to today, the Communion has been run on essentially a gentleman's agreement. Each church is independent in its own jurisdiction but is generally answerable to the other churches. Hence the great emphasis on reconciliation, dialogue, broad based tolerance (to a degree) that has been the hallmark (or depending on your pov the sin/weakeness) of the AC.

That agreement almost severed with the issue of women's ordination which came on the scene during the 1960-1980s. While at points it looked as if there might be a split, the Communion managed to agree to disagree. Churches that allowed women's ordination were to remain with churches that did not. Either choice was viable in the Church. The majority of churches (both size-wise and numerically) do not to date ordain women to the priesthood/espicopate.

The Esiscopal Church just elected this past summer a new presiding Bishop--again not the head bishop of the United States but rather its spokesman, er spokeswoman in this case. As background.

The major issue of course has been over homosexuality which both politically and religiously is a wedge issue. Wedge issues stoke bases, create us/thems, and allow for people from many different stripes/persuasions use what are otherwise valid moral quandaries as power plays, avenues for other agendas. [on both sides incidentally].

Whatever does happen going forward, and I have my ideas but I wouldn't yet put my money on anything, this gentleman's agreement has been severed. Controversy is if nothing else a sign that there is life, committment (on all sides), passion. Though very painful. Very painful one must admit.

In other news, I'm planning to do some general themes, specific methodologies, and evidences to cite in support of detailed hypothesis (deductions from the abduction as Peirce would say) around integral. I had written some pieces which I've decided I don't like and deleted them. They were pieces rebutting specific charges, counterarguments made by fellow bloggers/thinkers. But I realized, writing from that space was too constricting and the work suffered. Too reactionary.

I want to go to a more exploratory kinda place. Distancing myself from the immediate fray over pro-Ken, anti-Ken. I'm more interested in considering the emotional/moral implications of why would adhere to certain methodologies/paradigms/worldviews (however broadly or narrowly), and what would be the implications in other realms if such and such were the case--if say integral did have major contributions to make. If it did have a way to act as a new critical theory--i'll be focusing only on what I know--politics, ethics/morals, religion, and philosophy.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Back up

Got my computer cleaned and reformatted.

Wasn't just my computer that crashed this week.

Had a similar emotional crash the last few days. Typical effects: some social anxiety--not good to have at art museum in case your wondering--plus low self-esteem, headaches, numbness in the extremities. Not pretty.

Though I'm blessed to have a really good woman. Her love gives me strength. Thanks to her I'm better.

The computer crash, some money issues around school (loans), and searching for a part-time job are the proximate causes of this latest round. But they are just triggering the underlying issues.

Even as I work towards clearing those immediate needs up--the job is the only one left--the deeper bugs remain.

Sunday, August 27, 2006


Sat. 8/27.

Writing from Vancouver Public Library.

Had a computer quasi-meltdown...waiting to hear back tomorrow on an estimate. Maybe it's on to Macs for me. Either way, no posting for a few days until I get all this sorted out. One week before classes started--nice timing. Better than into classes I guess.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


Thomas Barnett, Ross Douthat (from Bloggingheads) among others on OpenSourceRadio with Christopher Lyden. Listening to the program more and more of late.

Listen here.

The panel discusses Ross Douthat's recent op-ed on what year it is in foreign policy.

Douthat says there are five groups in American discourse on what year we are at--for historical analogical purposes.

1942: George Bush (increasingly isolated). Early entrance in WWII, heavy casulties, bogged down, but 1943-1944 will bring momentum in our direction. Which would be Iraq/ME about to turn corner like the war against the Axis did.

1948: Peter Beinart, center-left. Those disillusioned with the way Iraq has been handled. See Islamo-fascism as the new communism. Advocate a long hard fight ahead, victory better achieved through containment, soft power, and diplomacy.

1938: Neoconservatives, Newt Gingrich (right/right-center). Bush is Chamberlain and Ahmadeinjad is Hitler. West is appeasing the new Nazis (Iran) when we should be pre-empting them and bombing them to the stone age. Otherwise we will reap another World War.

1919: Paleoconservatives, isolationists (neo-realists?), Pat Buchanan (far right). George Bush is Woodrow Wilson whose naive idealism and attempt to demoractize the world has cost us too much. We need to get out as fast possible and retreat to our own sphere.

Alternate 1919 reading. Wilson's League of Nations failed precisely because Henry Cabot Lodge and the isolationist Republicans vetoed our membership at the Congressional level. We should more than ever be engaging in security building, alliances to prevent such another America-less vacuum that gave birth to Fascism and Communism.

1972: anti-war left. Bush is Nixon. Iraq is Vietnam. The greatest danger comes not from terrorism but American imperialism. Get out of Iraq.

Alternate 1972: Bush could be Nixon and go to China (Iran). 1972 as the year of detente and the beginnings of the Soviet-US missile talks, US-Chinese accords. The creation of a trans-bloc (East/West Europe) strategy talks giving room for later Walesa to challenge Soviet hegemony. Analogy obvious: Need for detente/strategic umbrella with Shia, isolating terrorism to non-state (Somalia as only jihadist state?) actors among Sunni salafi.

Douthat interestingly wrote the piece to say that he thought the historical analogical process was a bad idea in most cases.

But anyway, for the fun of it....

That makes me, something like

Step 1: Alternate 1972er. Bush goes to Iran (too bad Condi is no Kissinger). And Bush goes back to China, this time political-military accords. Locking China in to governance in globalization and nudging them ever so slightly towrds a more open-political system.

Step 2: Only after 1 is completed. ONLY after 1 complete.

1948. Sunni Salafi jihadism as the new competing ideology to free market/representative government. But as a non-state reality. The key difference between it and Communism.

By taking Iran (Shia) out of the picture, getting China/India/Russia on board we head south to sub-Saharan Africa to prevent Salafi jihadism from becoming a state reality, from becoming a new Warsaw-like pact versus sub-sahAfrican aligned with West (new-NATO). To prevent a Cold War on the African continent.

Globalization as Barnett says in the piece, is Red Rovering to the Middle East--ready or not here I come--and ready the Arab Sunni world is not.

The new containment will then be around that area--withIran already co-opted in and desirous to get stability in the region. Or in the '42 analogy, Iran as our Soviets against the Nazis.

All of it hinging on Iran as I've stressed repeatedly. And my fear going Step 1 to the 1938er camp which, as I have said before is a self-fulfilling prophecy, the demon of historical analogical thinking. If we both Step 1, either with a Gingrich-pre empt or a George McGovern pull out plus paleocon isolationism, we are in big trouble.

New Stem Cell Technique

Stem Cell News Could Intensify Political Debate (NYTimes, 8/24; Nicholas Wade)
Stem Cells Produced Without Harming Embryos (NPR, Morning Edition). Audio

As usual, not very good titles to the articles, but good pieces both.

Here's Wade on the new technique:

The new technique would be performed on a two-day-old embryo, after the fertilized egg has divided into eight cells, known as blastomeres. In fertility clinics, where the embryo is available outside the woman in the normal course of in vitro fertilization, one of these blastomeres can be removed for diagnostic tests, like for Down syndrome.

The embryo, now with seven cells, can be implanted in the woman if no defect is found. Many such embryos have grown into apparently healthy babies over the 10 years or so the diagnostic tests have been used.

Up to now, human embryonic stem cells have been derived at a later stage of development, when the embryo consists of about 150 cells. Both this stage, called the blastocyst, and the earlier eight-cell stage, occur before the embryo implants in the wall of the womb. Harvesting the blastocyst-stage cells kills the embryo, a principal objection of those who oppose the research.

Initial reaction from the researchers, was typically over-hyped, claiming this solved all the ethical-political concerns over stem-cell funding. Kathy Hudson, from John Hopkins, the scientific expert interviewed in the NPR piece is more cautious.

She points out a set of concerns remains over the procedure itself. Namely that the removal of the cell from the blastomere invovles risk to the embryo. And there have not been longitudinal studies of children born from this procuedure. This one cell removal at the 8 cell stage has been used in Genetic Screening Tests for some time now. This new procedure is the first to use the technique to create stem cell colonies.

And as Wade points out under current federal legislation where this process fits in--if at all--is unclear. Of course a law always be changed or amended.

Stem Cell research, from an observational pov is totally fascinating to me as it's a preview of later ethical debates over genetic engineering, biotech moves to come. And come they will. The 21st century as Jeremy Rifkin said, will be the century of biology. Of human control, as we do now of the physical and chemical worlds. And with the promise of nanotech, the possibilty of influence/control of the underlying processes of materiality themselves.

With any new venture, there will be an immediate recoil action from many quarters. Like a train, those in the front stoking the fires wanting to speed up the engine, and those in the (metaphoric) caboose, trying to put the brakes on.

If the brakers are not always right in specific policy recommendations, they often have their fingers on the emerging dangers, particularly ethical ones.

The biggest braker in this argument is likely the Catholic Church or the pro-life lobby more generally (lot of evangelicals on board). But I do think increasingly as newer measures are found and public opinion puts more pressure on the Republicans, might see a splintering of the coalition into more moderate and hardline elements. Some willing to make compormise and adopt certain techniques over others--with strong constraints and supervision.

For the Catholic Church this procedure is meaningless because it entirely rejects in vitro fertilization and pre-implamantation screening altogether. They are against pre-implamantation tests because those tests are used by many to screen for certain inherited incurable dis-eases (e.g. Huntington's disease), and if the embryo is found to have them, often aborted. That argument has some strong logic behind it.

The C.Church however opposes all in-vitro fertilization because as it says, it divorces contraception from love. The lack of love of the genetic technician, not the parents. There's no proof that children conceived in-virtro and then birthed the natural way are an less loved by their parents. The "love-less" nature of the genetic labs is more symptomatic of the love-less, commercialized nature of medicine/health professions in general than in-vitro per se seems to me. I don't see these clinics as any more or less so than institutionalized medicine across the board. It does, to my mind, a great service, but yes there is a great lack of love and compassion invovled.

The Catholic Church's position on in-vitro to me though just heaps more lack of love onto would be parents struggling to have a child. The Catholic Church's position, which would send me veering off in a totally other direction, on in-vitro is much more tied into the control of sexual activity (Humanae Vitae) and its desire to latch original guilt through sexual intercourse, than it would ever admit. If humans create life in a dish, is it still born with original sin and hence needing to become a member of the Roman Church because original sin is pased through the lust inherit in the sexual act (or so it is claimed)? Would that lust not be passed on in a dish?

More than that, it gets to the issue of conceiving of God in such a mythic, childish way. That somehow humans by entering the sphere of creation--which we do across the board anyway--will somehow lose true humility before the Creator. The Creator of course conceived of as some big father figure in the sky who literally gets his fingers in everything.

What if we had a moral theology that saw humans as deeply responsible for both life and death in all our decisions, for all our actions always involve both. Intead of simple dichotomies between the pro-life (what forms of life?) and commercialized death industries. Instead of seeing ways in whcih both bring altenrate forms of life and death.

The more the pro-life lobby refuses to compromise, the less its wisdom is brought into relationship with mainstream science.

The brake position would only accept adult stem cells lines. If adult stem cell lines were found to be successful, that would in fact clear up all the ethical-political debate seems to me. Would be the perfect option for everyone. I'm not a scientist, so I'm not going to take bets on its viability, but more I'm interested in exploring ethical constructs around "what if not". If it has to be embryonic stem cells.

Assuming of course embryonic stem cells do hold opportunities for medical breakthroughs.

Kathy Hudson, at the end of the interview, almost as an aside, says she thinks we should return to the already fertilized but not yet destroyed embyros, frozen in fertility clincs. The so-called pro-life lobby says that we can't harm those embryos because people might adopt them. They are future babies waiting to be born. There's been a big drive to adopt these orphaned embryos and in typical Washington fashion, cute little children were cynically employed as photo-ops.

But sadly there has been very little in the way of adopted embryos. And here is a place where the pro-life absolutist view I think is causing death. Death not just in a physical sense, but more as St. Paul understood death, i.e. the outomce of sin. Mental, social, emotional death. Waste, and non-ecological non-holistic mindframe. A view where we see all our actions as degrees of light/dark and ask always for mercy and repentence. A view based on healing. Not one predicated on our own holiness--which has to do with our relationship to God, our amount of love, not specific actions. A total failure in evangelical spirituality, in my book. Trying to "earn" our salvation by convincing ourselves how holy we are.

We aren't holy. No matter how enlightened, all of us fall short. Either the Universe/God is merciful or we're all screwed anyway, as I see it. [I believe that the life/death process is ultimately redeemed-embraced by the Divine]. So given that context, where does the pride come from? Sin. It's false pride. It's arrogance and it's a desire to not live with heart in this love-wound, in this crazy drama, in this created process.

It's a desire to be holy, separate and other. That is where the so-called pro-lifers fail. They are right that love is missing, that boundaries need to be set ethically, it's just that the love is not to be found in any specific action declared to be right for all times, all peoples. And the boundaries have to be strong but flexible, always open to growth and new information.

Using those frozen embryos would cause their deaths. I think they should have never been created like that in the first place. But they were, and I think just leaving them there is also wrong. I don't think two wrongs make a right, but good can come out of evil.

That holiness-separateness view affects our governmental policy. For the fed. gov. has struck a weird position, one I think that gets the worst of both worlds in some ways.

The Fed. Legislations has not made criminal the destruction of human embryos. So if the government does believe that tax dollars will not be spent on the destruction of life, then I'm not sure how it can let slide private funds used for such a purpose. Which if I understand the logic right, is considered murder. Which means the government is neither pursuing lines of research that could be effective--and given this technique which clearly seems a step up from the earlier ones seems more plausible--nor is it intervening in the society. It's not preventing--from this point of view--crimminal activity.

Or to put it less controversially, the government is leaving this industry unregulated. Unregulated industries of course are where ethical no-nos, corruption, buy-offs, and all the rest take place. I would rather the government adroitly gets its hands dirty and therefore add a measure of social discourse/morality/norm creation to enterprises that are deeply ethical and not considered by a good number within those fields as such. That to me is the truly frightening aspect of it.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The other side of the See-saw

I've strongly argued that Islam itself is not the problem. In its current instantiation among sadly far too many, it is also not the answer.

I've criticized the Bush administration as well as liberal movements (in the US and Euro) for all failing to grasp this issue holistically.

I've argued that another way of viewing the issue beyond a Clash of Civilizations nor a simple Western imperial oppressive model, is needed. [and have offered a sketch of that plan].

I've even argued that our continued hypersensitivity around terrorism is hurting us--throwing far too many resources into unnecessary and wasteful projects (see: Dept. of Homeland Security the biggest pork-barrel of 'em all).
--Bin Laden's vision, which he learned fighting the Soviets, was simply to bleed the great powers dry. Ask yourself how much money was lost economically by the attacks of 9/11 and how much has been spent, for exaple in Iraq, as compaed to what it cost al-Qaeda to organize/execute the terrorist plot of 2001?

But just to balance any cosmic ledgers, if needs be, this photo to remind us how deep the problem of fundamentalist Islam (major emphasis on the qualifying adjective) is:

That is a picture of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt at a rally with a Swastika superimposed on the Star of David. Translation pretty clear: The Israelis are Nazis.

No immediate jumping to conclusions about how they are Nazis are saying the Jews are Nazis. I'm frankly sick of anybody being called a Nazi--unless they are in fact a Neo-Nazi. Like a skinhead, with a swastika, seek a return to pagan German ideology of the soil (as opposed to say a transcendent God).

Just sit with it. Contemplate and feel into the mindset that can so unconsciously, so matter of factly, so arrogantly, and so ignorantly make such a statement. With no taking of the others into account, being totally lost in one's egocentric/ethnocentric space. The wounded pride, the self-loathing projected, the crushing narcissism.

First feel a way of embracing that mercifully. Not condoning, not excusing, but loving beyond it. Don't fall into the same unconsciousness and do unto them as they have done unto others. Neither look away from the depths of hatred involved. Don't write it off with some line about they couldn't know any better. Don't deny their humanity so easily just to assuage your conscience.

Look long and hard.

The West for now is losing the so-called War on Terror where it has always ever mattered for now and for the next decade or so--the "war" for hearts and minds. We won the Cold War not just with more bombs but because we had better ideas. Because we created a vision for people on the other side of the Wall (Havel, Sharansky, Walesa). We are not doing that with the Muslim world.

Some, many of a certain age, disposition are unconvertible. So be it. The real struggle always involves the young whose minds are open. What are we offering them to break the aura of this hateful image?

[PS: Check out this article by Flynt Leverett on Iran-Syria and failings in the Bush agenda for a New Middle East. As well as his criticisms of the surging anti-war left].

Monday, August 21, 2006

Christian Symbolism

This post per Tuff Ghost's request on allegorical religion.

TG wondering what others, "have to say about the allegorical understanding and reverence for religion, when that understanding is divorced from an imperative to practice: to put it bluntly, respecting Christianity because of its artistic and historical importance. I'm not actually sure what I think on this topic, but I'd love to hear from you all."

His piece was in respone to Matthew, his a refletion (re-produced in Matthew's post here) by Mario Loyola.

Loyola comments on what he sees positive appreciation for religion, in this case Chrsitianity, as a civic duty, way to venerate tradition, connect with ancestors, and to simply admire the symbolism/history in vovled. Matthew connected this with Camille Paglia's views on Christianity as important to artists in the West because it holds such deep symbolism.

There is certainly a great deal that can be learned by this approach. If for no other reason Western society is totally steeped in the Latin Christian theological worldview. Some of the deep cultural differences within the West--between southern Mediterranean Euopre, Northern Europe, and the United States can be traced to the Roman Catholic, classical Protestant, and evangelical/sectarian Protestant forms of the faith dominant in each of those regions (respectively).

And I said Latin Christian because notice the differences between all those groups and say Eastern Orthodox Europe. Or even Jewish gropus within the West.

So, minus an artistic context, from a point of view of living in the Western world, I find it is crucial that one knows the deep structural influences at work. Rationalistic type folks often drop a line about "Ockham's Razor" as a sorta proof of the non-existence of God. Ockham's razor recall is the proposition that in the least complex answer tends to be the correct one---tends. William of Ockham was a Christian theologian, and his Razor was part of his theology, in a Scholastic argument against Metaphysical Realism. He saw the Razor as constitutive of his understanding of God, which he took, at that time like everyone else, to be the "simplest" explnation to the universe possible.

Just an interesting dichtomy as to how it is now commonly used/understood and what it originally meant. There are 2 billion of so Christians in the world of different stripes/flavors, but to not know anything about the religion cuts you off from 1/3 of the planet. Add ignorance of Islam (another billion) and essentially you are deeply dis-connected to the inner thoughts/feelings of half fhe world's population. Whatever else is the case, that can not be good.
In the artistic sphere, which is not my forte, but certainly here it can be of value I think. The great art of the West often was involved in the liturgy (the aristic work) of the Church. Palestrina, Bach, Titian, on and on.

Art since the split of the modern era has not been tied to a "work" greater than itself, it seems to me. Leaving it wide open to being manipulated commericially, socially, and politically.

And the Bible is of course literature, especially of the Near Eastern variety. Even at times very good, even great, some would argue, literature.

You can, as Mario says, go to mass and appreciate the aesthetic beauty of the spectacle, and that no doubt has some sort of liberating, opening effect on the soul.

All of which to me is eminently reasonble.

But as a worshipper, as a theologian, I of course have to say that is essentially no more than dipping your toes in the water--to use a baptismal image.

I think one ultimately has to come to some existential grappling with the text, with the faith, with God, if there be such a reality.

Take the Gospels for example. They can certainly be read for promoting a certain social vision, a gender one, ideas power/authority (i.e Pomos). It can read as literature, as mythology (a la Jung, Campbell).

But it also, from within its parameters, a theological vision. It is "written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ", as the Gospel of John states.

Outside of the context of deep existential belief/encounter, it seems to me, one has never really approproiate the tradition, the works at their deepest level. There are other levels, appropriate to others I'm sure. But I make that claim from within the tradition. I could be wrong no doubt, but I stake a claim on that one.

The Gospels take their perspective from a later date on the nature of the Christ, as per their experience of him, and find OT passages that validate that vision, that open them to experience more deeply the truth they already however minutely have experienced.

As an example from the Gospel of Luke.

"When they came to the place called the Skull they crucified Jesus and the criminals there, one on his right, the other on his left." [Luke 23:33].

Now compare that passage with this one from the Prophet Isaiah--the "he" referenced is The Suffering Servant alternatively interpreted as the Messiah or the People of Israel:

"Because of his affiliction
he shall see the light in fullness of days;
Through his suffering, my esrvant shall justify many,
"Therefore I will give him his portion among the great, and he shall divide the spoils with the mightly,
Because he surrendered himself to death
and was counted among the wicked [note: wicked];
and he shall take away the sins of many
and win pardon for their offenses." [Isaiah 53:11-12]

Now this isn't exactly on target of TG/MD, but it's important point nonetheless, I think. Namely other interpretative ventures, which give access to all other sorts of wonderful truths/experiences, don't get to this background.

Jesus died and his disciples kept alive his vision and sought for a meaning, a justification, a "prophecy", if you like, for these actions.

So they returned to their own Scriptures. There was no NT then, so the Scriptures they read were what Christians calls the OT or the Hebrew Scriptures/Bible.

They created a theological narrative--using OT passages to create "belief statements."

Jesus didn't literally die with two criminals on his side. The point of the story, the author original intent, was to allude to the Prophet Isaiah. To say Jesus was the Suffering Servant.

He read the Suffering Servant Passage which states that he was killed among the wicked, and then creates the story of two criminals around Jesus. Which later people read and say either Jesus did get crucified next to criminals and the Bible is right or he didn't and therefore it's lying. Neither of which is right. The question is whether the meaning is right.

Remember that the two criminals argue with one another, one mocking Jesus telling him to save himself, the other rebuking him. He says that Jesus is innocent and asks Jesus to forgive him, to which Jesus, in one of the most beautiful passages of the Bible, says, "Today you will be with me in paradise."

Which is to "prove" the words of the Prophet apply to Jesus: "he shall take away the sins of many and win pardon for their offenses." [Isaiah 53:12]. From the same passage quoted above.

All roads then lead back to the question and the encounter with this man. And that to me means prayer, worship and that includes whether we take on faith the theological visions of the Biblical writers. Whether we can in any way seem them as "inspired."

There are certainly other "allegorical" meanings, symbolic readings and their application to new contexts, to life events in our world now. Seeing Christ crucified in the millions of poor dying of AIDS, of God's power being his weakness. Of AIDS as a great "blessing" to reveal our weakness so that we may finally love one another beyond our boundaries. Beyond our skin, our most intimate boundaries--beyond neuroticisms about sex, drugs, loneliness.

And Christ's words again here: "When I was hungry you gave me to eat, thirsty and you gave me to drink." And the righteous and the unrighteous both ask--when did we do this Lord. "When you did it to the least of my brothers/sisters you did it to me."

All of which is massively profound and condemning of our world, ourselves.

But the tradtiional meaning of the allegorical reading of Scripture is in fact the mystical one. Also called the Spiritual reading.

It reads for example the Biblical Song of Songs--a Hebrew wedding poem--as a love song between the Soul and God in mystical embrace. This reading, however literate the interpretation, is again making, by conventoinal standards, a crazy claim--i.e. that mystical union with God is real.

This reading can only be "proved" or "disproved" by actually undertaking the mystical paradigm and seeing if in fact the Bible after the fact describes this union. Whether that love song is indeed a correct, however symbolic interpretation, of the Soul's embrace by its Creator.

I believe it is. As someone who has both studied the Bible from its historical method and practiced the mystical path and is familiar with the spiritual reading, I believe that both (and more) readings are true. The mystical one only being available in a higehr state of consciousness.

So all other forms of interpretation have their place, some much wiser and more humane than others. But the Christian, of course, must always say that the text/tradition/ritual is never truly understood except through faith. And that faith mysteriously is somehow a gift of God. A God that seeks humanity out and desires to break through the walls of our heart and the world and bring justice, mercy, and love.

A frame that can never be proved or disproved by interpretations from political-historical-sociological-literate, even artistic (only) points of view.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Follow up on Islamic Comments #2

This one on seeing Islam in relation to the history of Judaism.

First a basic review of Jewish history. The story told in the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible) describe the Israelites as being descended from Jacob who was renamed Israel after fight with the angel of the Lord. Jacob's son Joseph is sold into slavery in Egypt by his jealous brothers. He rises to become Overseer of all Pharoah's lands. Joseph eventually reunites with his brothers who bring his aging father and the rest of the clan to Egypt to avoid a famine in Israel.

And thus ends the Book of Genesis. The Book of Exodus which follows starts off by saying that another Pharoah arose in Egypt who "knew not Joseph." Meaning he did not recognize an alliance with the "Hebrews" and begins to enslave them. The Exodus recalls the story of Moses and his brother Aaron, leading the people out of Egypt into the Wilderness and eventually to the Promised Land of Canaan.

The Books of Joshua and Judges complete the piecture of the Pentatecuh. It continues the story of how these twelve tribes form a nation and conquer the Canaanite peoples--the original inhabitants of the land.

It is a deep and complex narrative, at times violent and brutal at others transcendent and mysterious. But scholars no longer see this narrative as historical fact.

It is much more likely that what we today now as the Jewish peoples were originally Canaanites themselves, who began by some process to form their own unique identity within the Canaanite world. There was a Northern and Southern version of this Jewish identity, reflecting in the texts. But anyway, they begin to tell stories of patriachs and their foundings, a cosmology (and cosmogony) as did all ancient peoples.

The Hebrew writings start to reflect a deep suspicion of "intercourse" (metaphoric and literal) between the Jews and Canannites. The text has what one scholar describes as a monotheistic-trajectory or tendency.

If you read the Hebrew Scriptures you see a movement towards monothesim, in fits and starts. And the earlier "historical" pieces have been later re-edited to fit a later theological format.

The Hebrew Bible--what Christians calls the Old Testament--really comes to be only after the Babylonina Exile (6th century BC). It arises in relation to the quesiton of how one can worship their local god Yahweh in a foreign land. All ancient tribal religious traditions were localized. It is in exile that certain authors, some prophets, speak of a universal God, a Lord over all and an identity of common humanity larger than local tribal-only identifications. A Lord who seesk justice and looks after the widow, orphan, stranger, and the oppressed.

The two main traditions that flow out of the Exile and re-interpret the Biblical text to fit their theological viewpiont is the Deutoronomist and Priestly Traditions. The D tradition emphasizes Torah, the living of a life of justice devoted to God and his law. The P tradition emphasizes "holiness" and "purity". After the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 CE the Priestly tradition loses its grounding.

The modern Rabbinic Judaism that arose from then on, is the tradition of Torah-Deutoronomy.

As many scholars now argue the Jewish narrative of a people in exodus from Egypt to Canaan--what will become Israel--is a deeply mythic story.

But it's important to note how the Jewish identity of truly being Jews only really starts to gain popular credence around the year 300 BC or so. And that identity arose through military exploit, political subterfuge, prophetic inspiration, and all other means both good and bad.

Theologically, we say that God writes straight human's crooked lines. In other words, God is not "above" using "base" means. Or not as crudely, God works with humans as they are. God calls humans into comunity; God calls a people. And these people wander in the wilderness, they struggle, they sin, and yet God's love is faithful and everlasting.

So the Hebrew tradition is full of the notion of warfare and even, if you like, "holy war." But Judaism through conquests by the Greeks and Romans, lost its ability to hold political power. It learned "separation of synagogue and state" if you like through necessity.

Through contacts with the Western Enlightenment, Reform Judaism was born. Judaism is now split across the spectrum--religious and secular; progressive, conservative, hardline.

And perhaps most importantly, the Jewish people were given the state of Israel by international agreement. Zionism was orginally a secular nationlist agenda (even Marxist for some). It played upon a religious notion of returning to the land, to bring more religious Jews on board with the idea. But there were, prior to 1948, Zionist terrorists, who targeted British supply lines, even at times innocents. Just as there were Arab attacks on Jews and vice versa during the British mandate.

Out of these threads, Israel managed to make a leap into modern political consciousness and most Jews--both religious and secular--followed that trend. [American Judaism as well].

out of all these trends, with its Prophets and Leaders Moses and Joshua leading troops in battle, killing enemies, there is no argument that Judaism, as such is incapable of living in the modern world. That Judaism is an inherently violent religion. In fact much of the leftist anti-Israeli writing common in Europe hates Israel and to a degree Jewish religion because it is frankly too modern and corrupt.

So the argument that Islam because there are destructive texts in the Quran because Muhammad and the early companions were also warriors, is an inherently violent religion incapable of relating to the modern world, I just don't get it.

If one of conservativism's credo is to support traditional values (especially religion) then it would be here I thought Western conservatism might build a bride with Islam. Namely Islam is the traditional faith and the stabilizing social glue for more than a billion people on the planet currently and has been a dominant religious tradition for over 1,000 years in huge swaths of the world.

It's not going anywhere. The Prophet Muhammad allowed wommen to divorce men (in 650 AD!!!--the Roman Catholic Church will still not allow a married woman whose husband has HIV to use a condom to perfect herself/children even under the moral banner of the lesser of two evils. In 2006!!!

That initial teaching of the Prophet was lost. Christians and Jews during Muhammad's lifetime could worship in Arabia. The later caliphs outlawed such a practice, still the tradition in Saudi Arabia--which bars women from driving...find that one in the Quran.

So W. conservatives could have made a very strong argument to the effect of modern Muslims were not being sufficiently conservative. They weren't actually following their tradition. They weren't traditional enough.

That argument was lost by the underlying anti-Islamic bias still inherent in Western psyche, and particularly the not so thinly veiled desire for an American geo-political shifting of the Middle East to be followed by a mass Christian evangelizing effort.

What the Muslim world, particularly in the Middle East needs is an Israel-like international acceptance. Particularly of a Palestinian state. It needs that to no longer be outsiders and thereby affect this anti-colonial rebel-chic, seeing a Nasrallah as some kinda hero, far leftists thinking he is the new Che or something absurd like that.

Until such an agreement both with Palestine and diplomatic co-option with Iran, fighting Israel and Islamiczing society will be the only way of restoring pride. the pride has been lost and the West fundamentally misunderstands this basic fact.

Such a deal struck, this inner pain within the Islamic religion and dominant Muslims societies will be directed where it belongs--the conservative ulema (scholars/clerics) who have held the evolution of the religion back and the political autocrats who hold back the political evolution.

Like Israel/Judaism more generally, this shift must come within themselves. Religion is the converyor belt, as it were. They only thing the West can do is its side of the bargain and smooth the path as much as possible.

As a famous hadith (saying of the Prophet) goes, Muhammad returned from battle victorious and when he was congratulated by those back home he subtly rebuked them saying, "Now is the time for the greater jihad."

The greater jihad is the struggle of the heart, the struggle for justice in this world with peace, the struggle against our own egocentricism, cynicism, and sin. The struggle to be "warriors" for righteousness.

The Muslim world needs the opportunity to be done with the lesser jihad of war/anti-Westernism/corruption/terrorism so that each and all can undertake the greater one. Of building societies of justice and multi-ethnic harmony under the banner of the One God, merciful and just towards all. inshallah.

Iraqi Civil War

A disturbing (and informative) article from Kenneth Pollack and Daniel Byman on how to contain--if it is possible--the Iraqi Civil War.

Further proof of their assertion here: Shia continue to be attacked at religious sites, on pilgrimage.

Kenneth Pollack was an aggressive supporter of the claim that Saddam Hussein held the capacity (or would soon gain) to create and deploy WMD. He called for an invasion in 2002.

So one can take that piece of information when judging his op-ed and form his/her opinion. Either A)he's wrong again and there isn't a Civil War. Or B)If the people who were in favor of the war and believed Saddam had weapons are now saying yes there is a civil war and we need to think right now about how to contain it/stop a regional war from spreading, then it has become that horrific there, that truly disturbing.

I hold the latter view sadly. I believe that there was a Civil War, by whatever defintion, from the moment Saddam's regime collapsed. The US did not bring sufficient troop strength and power devoled to local levels, where it has resided ever since, and the creation of an Iraqi while beautiful in many ways, was doomed for the get-go bc it could never handle security, never had any real influence--except via the militias--on the local level.

And what's worse the US plan to create an Iraqi army/police became in the minds of the Sunnis--who didn't participate recall--a further wedge against them. The Iraqi regular units often beame nothing more than fronts for Shia militias. Joining those groups was the only opportunity afforded many poor Shia.

The creation of this force only further inflamed the ethnic hatreds. The US had been so focused on the insurgency against itself, it missed the split within the Iraqi ranks along sectarian lines. What used to be called the Sunni insurgency is essentially now the Sunni defense militia.

Our eye has been off events in Iraq due to the Lebanon/Israeli conflict. But as the authors note, more people died in the last month in Iraq then in all the fighting in Lebanon. Basically, though hard to get an exact figure, 100 people are dying a die in Iraq. That's 3,000 a month. Added curfews in Baghdad are not going to stop this.

Perhaps most worrisome immediately is the fact that Turkey continues to amass troops on its border with Kurdistan. As I said before, I think the only way to diffuse that growing situation is to get the EU/US to tell Turkey it's entrance to the EU is predicated on acceptance of the (soon to be) Kurdish state. Which of course would require much pressure put on the Europeans to let Turkey in.

Sunni tribesmen in the Western Iraqi provinces have strong ties with their relatives across the borders in Jordan, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. I'm very worried we will see a growing uptick of fighters coming across to aid their cousins.

And Iran's influence in S.Iraq grows stronger every day.

Frighteningly this administration shows no signs of realizing this serious threat of regional war. Of spillover from the Iraqi Civil into any number of places within the Middle East. And of further Shia/Sunni conflict spreading to other countries.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Follow up on Islamic Comment

I realized after posting a comment to this post on Matthew's blog, I wanted to say a little more about the question of whether Islam is inherently a violent religion or not. Whether warfare/jihad is part of its DNA, if you will.

The Qu'ran was originally an oral tradition. It was memerized and passed down by a ritual-like chanting. The Revelations given to The Prophet occurred over a series of about two decades. They were very context-specific in many regards. The Quran was not written down until later. There are arguments as to just how much later, which need not concern us here; sufficed to say, it was later.

And once it became written down and a final, letter text, the whole Arabian setting/historical context was lost (similar in this regard to the editing, final version of the Bible we know). However, the Quran is not narrative, like the Bible. Nor Letters like those of St. Paul.

They almost have to be grasped through listening to them chanted (or chanting onself) in Arabic. There is something "magical" to the Arabic tongue that accords with its power to captivate. That's why Islam does not like translating the Quran. Just sit down and try reading an English translation--it's very difficult to understand what is happening.

It is an oral chanted piece, understood more in light of Arabian ecstatic (shamanic?) poetry.

To complicate matters, the Quran is not written in chronological order. The Suras (Chapters) are not 1: 1st Revelation to Muhammad, 2: 2nd, 3:3rd, etc. etc. They are ordered by length, from longest to shortest. So it is very difficult to gain a sense of the historical context of each chapter.

So immediately the question is how do you interpret this thing? Because there are clearly contradictory passages in the book, just like in the Bible.

One hermeneutical principle was the concept of abrogation: the later passages abrogated the former. This principle is vitally important to the understanding of passages relating to violence/warfare/jihad.

Prof. Reuven Firestone (and here on Jerusalem) marks out three phases in the life of the early Muslim community regarding warfare.

Recall the early Muslims were threatened by the established Meccan Qurayashi community. The Qurayashi controlled a lucrative pilgrimage trade in Arabia Peninsula with a shrine at Mecca. This shrine involved the worship of any number of gods/goddesses, many common throughout the larger Near East. Call them pagan, polytheist if you like. The Q tribe controlled the pilgrimage route and the sacred shrine and exorted a tax on all pilgrims. Anyone was allowed to worship--except as we'll see Muslims--as long as they paid their money. This initial pilgrimage is the ancestor of the Muslim haj.

Mecca was likely a religious shrine because of a spring and regarded as a natural holy site--animistic faith. There was also a culture of poetic mastery. It involved men who performed oral poetry that relished in individual acts of heroism, courage, and puttting down others (primitive hero journey). And the social system was based on tribal clans with chiefs (sheiks). These tribal affiliations dominated all forms of interaction. One's identity was totally subsumed into the tribe.
Resources were scarce. Some agricultural sedentary lifestyle emerged but during times of (frequent) drought, people would return to a combination hunter-gatherer existence plus small farming. And even during periods of sedentary agriculture, there was always the fear of attack/expropriation from nomadic tribes.

There was no imperial system superseding the clans. Clan justice was swift and brutal. A tribal consciousness still very much in play currently.

All of these trends show just how localized/limited were the identities-affiliations: economics, local gods, heroic poetry. The Quran labels this life-complex (red) jahiliyah ("the ignorant"--i.e. ignorant of God's Revelation).

There were initially a group of Monotheists (Hanifa) who protested the Meccan shrine and refused to participate. One of these figures plays a John the Baptist-like role (Muhammad: Jesus) to the young prophet to be Muhammad, teaching him not to eat meat sacrificed to the pagan gods. But the Hanifa wee more solitary figures and were not seen as a threat by the Meccan establishment, it appears.

Muhammad not only condemned the practice but gained followers and had a movement; hence he was seen as a threat.

Muhammad was from a low-level clan of the Qurayash tribe himself. After making a name for himself as a caravan trader and marrying up in the social ladder (to an older woman), he began to feel existentially depressed around the age of 40 [a very mythic number]. He went to the caves to be alone and pray. It was there that he became a mouthpiece for God.

The Revelations of the Quran sought to create a trans-tribal identity and to bring justice and care for one another beyond the brutal tribal law. He sought it seems almost a tribe of all believers in God--including at first it appears Chrsitians and Jews.

We deeply misunderstand Muhammad's life and teaching if we do not grasp his role as both prophet and tribal sheik. A man who attempted to create aa tribe of mutual care for all those who desired to join based out of their love of God and acceptance of the Revelation, not out of birth/familial identity.

Originally Muhammad and the early followers were rebuffed, scorned, even persecuted verbally but phyiscally he was unharmed. The first phase of Quran revelations talk of simply resisting evil with good, turning the other-cheek like phrases and trying to persuade others.

But the situation grew worse and the followers were forced to flee to Medina. [Called the hajj]. Muhammad was originally invited to Medina to mediate in a blood-feud, tribal war between two Arab tribes, Aws and Khazraj. Again pay close attention to the tribal form of governance. By all accounts he was a master negotiator.

Nevertheless this alternate power was perceived as a threat to Mecca and the Qurayashi declared war. The second phase, represented by the early Medinian community, talk of defending with arms but put strict limits on that warfare. Defensive only, no killing of non-combatants, no fighting during the holy pilgrimmage month, no attacking wells/crops, and must sue for peace as soon as the opponent offers.

The war continued however and rather than sue for peace the Qurayashi sought to totally exterminate the Muslims. For they talked of a transcendent God, one that superseded the local gods, and a God not to be depicted through statues.

During the second phase Muhammad, against the wishes of many of his followers, declared a truce with the Qurayash. He even allowed Muslims who wished to apostasize and return to Mecca (join the Qurayash) to be able to do so freely and they would not be harmed.

The treaty was broken and Muhammad offered to restiution to the Qurayash for their dead. They refused and the war entered its final stage.

The last set of passages relate to this phase and they are the passages (taken out of context) used to justify terrorism, or even jiadhi resistance movements.

Muhammad and the Jews

There were Jewish tribes, living a similar type of existence to the other local Arabian tribes during Muhammad's life.

Muhammad was deeply impressed by the discipline and piety of the Jews. Originally Muslims face to Jerusalem (not Mecca) when they prayed; Islam also has a lunar calendar, as does Judaism, all a product of their admiration for the Jewish faith.

Muhammad as tribal leader and religious prophet also had tribal-political alliances with some of these Jewish tribes.

After the a battle against the Qurayash, (Badr) it was discovered that a Jewish tribe in alliance with the Muslims had consorted with the enemy. Obviously the Jewish tribe (the Banu Qaniquba) thought the Muslims were going to lose and the Qaniquba sought to protect themselves with their new overlords to be, the Qurayash.

In violation of traditional tribal custom, Muhammad only exiled the group. The punishment accoreded at the time was total annihilation.

After the Battle of the Trench another Jewish tribe, the Koreish also broke treaty with the Muslims and supported the Quraysh. After the battle, Muhammad took his forces down and appointed another in his place as mediator. The mediator decided, as per then custom to execute all the men who did not convert. Others it seems argued to spare them---this was their second such offense, after the first Muhammad forgave them--but it seems that Muhammad this time did not relent.

And they were executed. Bloody affair and there's no need to try and excuse it. But to frame it, it is helpful to recall that it wasn't a "kill Jews" thing. Muhammad still had friendly relations with other Jewish tribes and none of those tribes protested at his destruction of the Koreshi. It was a tribal-political decision, not a religious one.

Eventually Mecca was defeated and Muhammad did not put the ban on his former enemies. He entered the city in peace. He destroyed the images in the Kaba (shrine), all except a statue of Jesus and Mary.

This victory of course brought prestige and in such a tme and place, leadership was largely of ability to suceed in battle and feed one's own. Tribes converted some out of what we might today call "poitical" reasons, others due to the aura of victory bringing a sense of this being a "powerful God."

And once that momentum started it became almost avalanche-like.

The notion of death in battle was profuodly strong no doubt in Islam. The mythic desire to re-convert all peoples to Islam, and its vision of being the last and greatest (the seal) of all world religions, its Prophet the last and greatest certainly gave it a sense of superiority and dogmatic truth. But as I will explore in the next post, not more nor less frankly than either Judaism or Christiantiy.

None of this history as foundational principles points to the idea that Islam is inherently a religion that only brings conversion by the sword. It has wounds, blindspots, and negative accretions in its history, no doubt. It must overcome its mythic-only form of instantiation currently as it increasingly becomes reactionary relative to continued evolutionary pressures. But Islam, en toto, is not the problem, nor frankly in most of its current forms, "the answer".

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Political Wrap Up II: Domestic--Trans-Racial Discourse

A fascinating discussion with Juan Williams and Michael Eric Dyson on the future of the African American community. They are discussing William's new book Enough.

Here's the link You need to scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page its the last entry bottom right column.

Worth the watch if only to see Dyson flip out about 2/3 into it. He starts going on some almost completely incoherent rant (with excellent verbosity no doubt) to which Williams calmly says, "Michael ask me a question." Brilliant--worldviews colliding (in this case)=good television.

[For a shorter, non-argumentative version see William's interview on his own NPR]

The title of the Juan's book is Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America -- and What We Can Do About It. Nice subtitle, pretty much states where's he's coming from.

Dyson might be characterized by what is called Mean Green Meme. aka victim-meme.

Williams work flows out of Bill Cosby's (in)famous speech in front of the NAACP. Williams is in the "Cosby-camp", if you like, arguing that the primary (note primary, not only, primary=first and most important) emphasis within black circles needs to be on self-reliance and esteem.

An "integralism" can help here I think. The inner and outer quadrants. Discrimination represents injustice to the exterior. It is the right and duty of our government to fight discrimation. It has no place in our society. Things like housing or job discrimination. Or in the past of course, horrifically, slavery and Jim Crow/segregation.

Of course there is still discrimation in the US, loads of it. But relative to the past, there's no comparison. And I think we dis-honor the struggle and transcendent courage of those in the past who faced church bombings, public lynchings, the KKK, the overseer to say it's all the same today. It's just a different form of oppression, etc.etc.

It's not just different, it's qualitatively different and that is just ideology talking to not admit that. It still is awful, no doubt, but relative to our own past and relative to other countries on the planet---see how the French treat the Muslims in their country recently? Or Serbs towards Bosnians, Hutus & Tutsis, seriously. It's bad but it ain't that bad.

Racism is an interior phenomena. No government can outlaw racism. It does not have the right to violate your interior feelings, thoughts. It can only enforce uniform codes of behavior in public. Like you're free to think that blacks and whites (or multi-racial marriage generally) is wrong. But there's no passing laws to that effect---laws that did ex-ist in the US for a long time.

I think it's sad that people have racist views. I think they need to called out and I'm even for what Robert Wright calls "moral sanction."

Bc when we don't do that, the government does the sanctioning, and then it becomes censorship and "hate speech laws", political correctness etc.

And it leads to certain leaders stating that black people will never get anywhere in the US unless white people stop being racist. Which I gotta tell you, is NEVER going to happen. There are always going to be racists--and all of us frankly should be honest that unconsciously elements of racism are a part of all of us, across the board.

But that is manifestly untrue that African Americans will not succeed while there is still racism. They will not succeed and reach into the mainstream while there is DISCRIMINATION. Exterior-right hand injustice/oppression. Not to me when the black middle class is bigger than it has ever been in our nation's history AND white racism has certainly not in massive decrease.

It seems to me that the best argument to counter racism has been, as the great black leaders have always said, to show that their idiots. To prove them wrong by living an exemplary life.

Another strong brilliant voice for African Americans---truly arguably a "teal" thinker--John McWhorter (read both his books, Losing and Winning the Race). Check out for some glowing reviews of his work for the future of race discourse in America.

I know McW.'s considered too conservative, square, a sell-out, Uncle Tom whatever. But the guy has heart, it comes through so clearly in his writing. And while Cosby certainly in the heat of the moment said some things that should have been backed off a bit later, it was, to me, a cry of pain, a cry out of love, however one-sided the presentation.

What McW offers is a reconstruction as to why the acceptance (however broad one thinks it is--Dyson v. Cosby) of the "victim" meme. The interiors of the black people were so crushed and so hurt for so long, that when the major (not completely) discriminatory barriers were lifted in the 1960s, it finally gave space for an opening to not be on 100% guard at all times for the white sheets and the whip.

And people found this deep pain and sorrow. Along came the acceptance among intellectuals of multiple contexts and communal wisdom (mostly white people interestingly) which filtered down via therapy to the acceptance and embrace of other-ness, history, and embedded culture. And there was an outpouring of all kinds of feelings--both beautiful, pained, and even at times violent/combative.

The combative types became an infatuation with a certain kind of folk anti-hero renegade. Sometimes referred to as a by product of the secret love affair between "green and red." Traditional structures were de-constructed leaving only the against the system forces--gangsta idealization, gun play, criminal gangs.

And to connect this whole discussion 0f internationalism, we see the US ghettos as essentially our own Anbar province. Non-state actors like gangs controlling neighborhoods. The US ghetto and underlcass as our own "Gap" within the Core of our Country. [Even the Core/Gap within our own psyches].

And as pathetically incompetent as our administration (and the opposition party to boot!!!) is at reconstrution abroad---see the case of Hezbollah--so we are at home.