Tuesday, July 18, 2006

So, this whole thing with Israel and Lebanon...what?

Okay, so, for real, Israel's all ganked that Hezbollah lifted a couple of their soldiers. I get that. It makes sense that they'd want to get them back safe and sound. Hell, it doesn't just make sense; it's actually a good and reasonable thing that they want their guys back. Nobody is saying it's not a good thing. Shit, even Hezbollah thinks it's a good and reasonable thing, otherwise they wouldn't have grabbed 'em up in the first place.

But all the good and reasonable ends right there, doesn't it?

I don't quite get Israel's reasoning here. First they go batshit on Hamas by blowing up the power station that feeds most of the Palestinian state (and, therefore, most of the Palestinian population), then go SUPER batshit on Hezbollah by shelling apartment buildings and suburban neighborhoods, whacking out civilians pretty much indiscriminately in an attempt to nail a couple of high-profile militants.

Maybe I'm just old-fashioned, but I am HUGELY of the opinion that civilians should never have a first-person view of a bomb tumbling off the wing of a fighter jet. Especially not off the wing of a fighter jet that MY FUCKING COUNTRY helped to pay for (seriously, we're tapping Israel something like US$5 billion a year in aid, and fighter jets are pretty fucking spendy). And any country that takes that step and calls it reasonable has lost their collective fucking mind.

Okay, yeah, Hezbollah can easily be called bad guys. I'm down with that. Their whole thrust is about hatred and intolerance, but keep in mind that the organization didn't exist until Israel occupied Southern Lebanon back in the 80's. And, yeah, Israel had some pretty compelling reasons to be there, but since when do you invade a country and not expect the people you've invaded (and their allies) to do everything possible to kick your asses out of there?

Now, if we're talking about two somewhat equal groups duking it out, okay, well, that's some potential for big, bad shit. But when you've got one tiny, angry pit bull of a country blowing farts at a whole fuckload of people who've got a bunch of cultural and religious reasons to not particularly like 'em to begin with, well, there's really only one way that should play out, right? Sure, the pit bull bites the crap out of everybody and then someone puts a bullet in the back of its head, dumps the corpse in the river and everyone calls it a day. But when your tiny little angry country is getting backed up by the biggest, meanest, toughest country on the planet the equation flips itself on its head, doesn't it?

So everybody hates Israel but none of the nations are really ready to move on them for one of two reasons: 1. They're too small and weak to really do any lasting damage and have to settle for terrorist actions (Palestine/Hamas, Lebanon/Hezbollah) or 2. They could probably win it, with a lot of damage, if they were willing to have the US come thundering down on them (Syria, Iran), which they aren't quite willing to do.

Or, actually, haven't been willing to do in the past. But in the past the US wasn't stuck neck-deep in Iraq and Afghanistan, right? No, in the recent past the US armed forces would have been able to move in with a fair amount of freedom, blast the living shit outta Tehran or Damascus and still have some munitions left for mopping up wherever. That threat is, I think, a lot of what's kept things relatively even in the Middle East for the last few decades.

Don't get me wrong; there's been a TON of wrong shit going on out in the desert, but it's been a lot of primarily internal stuff that the US couldn't get overtly involved in (covertly, sure, but for that track yourself back to Kermit Roosevelt and the overthrow of the Ayatollah in 1953 and then all the oil deals and close ties to Saudi Arabia since then) without taking shit from the rest of the world. And, yeah, we bust into Iraq and the whole fucking world calls us assholes, and suddenly, it seems, the whole goddamned pot is boiling over.

Right, I know, I'm swirling around the bowl here, but listen to me. Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, all those guys pretty much hate our guts, but do you really dig why? Think about it; all those joints were occupied or colonized by white Europeans going back to the 1800's and it wasn't until after WWII that most of them busted free and got to be their own countries again. So, yeah, there's a basic distrust of white Europeans throughout the middle east FOR A VERY, VERY GOOD REASON. They, the white Europeans, couldn't be trusted to keep their hands off other peoples' countries. And America, really, is just the cancer growth that white Europeans are capable of when there's no borders to hold them in check. So, okay, the middle east manages to reclaim themselves to a greater or lesser degree and there's suddenly this faint hope that maybe all the fucking paleskins are gonna go home and STAY there for once, and then the three most powerful countries on the planet (the US, the UK and the USSR, for those of you who might be a bit foggy on where the hell Israel came from) swoop in and say "By the way, we're taking this hunk of land that a bunch of other people are living on and that contains some shit that's sacred to 'em and giving it to the Jews 'cause, really, they just had a totally rough time of it and we feel bad."

"Wait, hey, how come here? 'Cause, y'know, we've been living here for, y'know, a while now, man."

"Yeah, well they've got this sacred scripture that you guys don't subscribe to that says that their god told 'em it was theirs."

"Hey, wait, we're not totally cool with that."

"Really? 'Cause, y'know, we've got a ton of guns and just nuked the civilian populace of another tiny little county, so, really...you sure you're not cool with that?"

Right. And so a country is born. Or reborn, depending on how you like to look at these things. And never mind that it was as contentious a land grab as you could ask for, and that it displaced one group of people who seemed to be getting along with everybody else pretty well with a group of utter xenophobes who kept talking about how wrong everybody else was, and never mind that the fighting started about ten seconds after the first kibbutz started planting their first row of tomatoes. And, moving forward, never mind that the Israelis proved themselves to be some of the most homicidal motherfuckers on the planet, and never mind that they seemed to have no problem moving into other people's land and setting up shop there, and never mind that, as a country, they seem to have taken the idea of 'the ends justify the means' to a level that even Genghis Khan might've felt a tad uncomfortable with. And, hell, never mind that Jewish commentators have taken to comparing the Israeli government to the Nazi party. And never mind that even fucking NPR & FOXNews are starting to side with the Lebanese and Palestinians. Never mind, really, that the Israelis are as wrong as they can be, that they're rapidly becoming more terrifying than any of the terrorists they claim to be fighting against.

Ah, never mind. As the father said, when I asked his opinion, "A pox on both their houses."

Dad is so Old Testament.

Sorry, that's a long ramble for no real payoff. I guess all I'm trying to point out is that Israel was created with, I truly believe, the best of intentions. A nation for people that had been displaced for milennia, somewhere that a culture with a long and rich history could be secure and thrive. Great idea, nice concept. Real heart-touching. But when the only way you can be 'secure' is by blowing up everybody who looks at you cross-eyed, isn't it maybe time to call the experiment failed and try something else? Not that I have the slightest idea what, but, shit, there's gotta be something. 'Cause I'm tired of having my government playing legos in the sand over there. I want my people to come home, and I want us to treat everyone else over there like adults, and to let them handle their own destiny.

C'mon, is that truly too much to ask?

Ah, probably.

I can't believe I missed The Daily Show to type this. I'm very angry and need to lift weights now.



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Monday, July 10, 2006

Okay, so, this is kinda interesting. I may well have come up with a whole new damned religion. Or I'm an adherent to one that's been around for a while and I just can't find a neat synopsis on the web anywhere.

So, yeah, FARK posted up this, which, if you're too lazy to click, is a comparison chart of big world religions. All right, I grew up in the midst of a great deal of religion, and religion pervades my family to this very day (which is probably why I married someone who, truly, couldn't care less about religion, but who has a deep and abiding faith in predestination...which is a definate faith in something bigger than yourself, but doesn't require you to give up Sundays or spend a lot of time memorizing someone else's moral coda), so, yeah, I've got more than a passing interest in the weirdness that people dedicate their lives to for no concrete reason.

So I click over and do some reading and find this under Atheism, Adherents Worldwide: "1.1 billion (this figure includes AGNOSTIC and non-religious, which tend to be grouped on surveys)" Yeah, okay, I don't always spend a fuckload of time truly learning the meanings of words that I throw around with great abandon, but since when does AGNOSTIC = ATHEIST?

I've never claimed to be an Atheist, even in the midst of an argument with whoever in which I did my damndest to use logic to disprove God. I've always called myself an Agnostic, understanding that to be a catchall term for someone who bought into a grand Creator/Overbeing thing, but not one that was truly explained by any particular religion. Really, I have a hard time with the whole concept of something as big as God (or god, or gods or Gods) bothering to try and make itself understood to something as tiny and confused as human beings.

Don't get me wrong; I tend to like human beings, for the most part. But you've got to admit that 'tiny and confused' goes a good way to describing the whole of mankind.

Right. Anyway, so now I'm at a bit of a loose end, 'cause I thought I had pigeonholed myself quite nicely into this 'Agnostic' thing, but now I'm wondering. So I do some searching and come up with a couple of different definitions (courtesy of a Google search for definitions of Agnostic):

"A word first used by Professor Huxley, to indicate one who believes nothing which cannot be demonstrated by the senses."

Okay, not really me. I tend to stick to my senses in moving throughout the world, but, really, if you write anything that takes place outside the world you live in (which is mostly what I tend to write), then can you truly say that you don't believe in anything outside your senses? No, you can't, dammit, and don't fucking argue with me on this one. This is not the time for that. Unca Billy's trying to make a long-winded point here.

"Agnostic: one who questions religious or spiritual beliefs, and who may choose not to claim any system of knowledge"

Okay, that's a little bit closer to where I'm at ('cause, yes, I will happily and endlessly question religious beliefs), but not really. I do claim a system of knowledge, which is pretty much 'Don't fuck with anyone just for the sake of fucking with them, don't hurt anyone just because you can, be unfailingly polite no matter how pissed you are, and try not to be a giant dick more than once a year or so.' As a system it's pretty simple to say and REALLY fucking hard to do. Try it. It's rough. And, yes, it is a system of belief for me, 'cause I tend to believe in the idea that a fucker will end up being a fuckee as many times as he's a fucker. Regretably, I didn't come to this conclusion until I'd spent a lot of time being a fucker, so I've still got some dues a'comin'. And if like me, you've spent a lot of your life bouncing around the country, getting away from the people you've fucked, and still have reason to believe that what's gone around is coming around, then you've gone well beyond simple human revenge and have tapped into some kind of giant spiritual merry-go-round, which kind of kills any idea of not having some kind of spiritual sense to glom onto.

Still reading? Goddamn. You must be one of my friends.

Okay, one more:

"Someone who claims that they do not know or are unable to know whether God exists."

Okay, sure, I can't quantify God, but that doesn't mean I don't have faith that there's something out there. So, yeah, that one's fucked as well.

And those three seem to kind of cover what is traditionally meant by Agnostic. Okay, so, tonight I've had an Epiphany, and realize that I am not an Agnostic in any of Google's traditional senses of the word.

Well, hell. Okay, I need my pigeonhole, so I dredge up another word: Deist. 'Cause Deists believe in some kinda creator, but don't claim to know all the details, right?

"A person who believes that God created the universe and then abandoned it"


"One Creator God who is uninterested in the world. Reason is basis for all knowledge."

Pretty much the same thing, and still nope.

"One who admits the possibility of the existence of a God or gods, but claims to know nothing of either, and denies revelation. An agnostic of olden times."

And we're back to the Agnostics. So, nope.

Okay, well, that's pretty much tapped me out, I guess. Scanning the rest of the big religions, I'm not a Buddhist ("Purpose is to avoid suffering and gain enlightenment and release from cycle of rebirth, or at least attain a better rebirth by gaining merit." Reincarnation, to me, seems like you're just loading a saved game in GTA or something...too easy, too simple), a Confucianist ("Purpose of life is to fulfill one's role in society with propriety, honor, and loyalty." Sounds good, but when you dive into it, there's a whole lotta bowing and scraping and I'm just too much hateful of authority to buy into that) or a follower of Shinto ("Humans are pure by nature and can keep away evil through purification rituals and attain good things by calling on the kami." I tend towards the idea that 'purity' is just a way for someone to avoid doing things that they're afraid they'll like too much, or that they're simply scared to try). Yeah, okay, there's a WHOLE lotta stuff that I'm not, but there doesn't seem to be much that I am.

Listen to me: You're all-powerful and you're bored. You kicked off the universe, spun out super-heated plasma into an arc that spans lightyears, watched as the stars and planets formed, checked out the cool gas clouds that spread out across billions of miles in the cold dark between the galaxies, and it was all really groovy and really pretty, but, y'know, it's done. Sure, some shit goes boom! every once in a while, and that's just big fireworks when you're divine and infinite, but, really, it's done, the big act of creation, and all you can really do at that point is wait for entropy to kick in and kill the whole thing. Dullsville, truly.

But, yeah, you're powerful as all hell, and you're all alone. Admittedly, I can't really put myself into the mind of God (or god, or gods, or Gods), but I'm thinking there has to be a period of some hyper-dimensional thumb-twiddling that goes on, that you've hit a lazy Sunday afternoon that goes on for a few thousand millenia and, man, you're just clawing at the walls. What to do?

This is what you do: You make something that's curious, something that's smart, something that has an overwhelming drive to build and learn and push the envelope of what's possible and what's just dreaming. And if you're my kind of God, you make 'em with the potential, just the barest sliver of a fragment of wish of a dream, to become just as big as you are. You make something that, if everything works out right, will become something that you can truly befriend and admire.

I guess that's just me, this thought that we can, perhaps, become equals with the universe, with the creator or everything that is, was or will be. That the only God I can allow myself to believe in isn't looking for prostrating drones singing praises or mumbling pilgrims talking down their own worth, but has enough self-confidence to create the beings that will someday supplant it. I guess my God is the best of parents, the mother/father that wants nothing more than for its children to be in all ways superior to itself, that is content in knowing that it gave up itself for the sake of a better world, a better universe, a better creation.

Of course, the flipside of this is that I can't help but feel we're doing a hell of a job letting it down.

Ah, well.

Fucking people.


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