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Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, or How Much Can the Media Distort Opinions

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So what is Roman Catholic Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor’s opinion on the “Sharia Law” brouhaha around the Archbishop of Canterbury?

Who knows? Because from a look around the internet, it’s hard to tell…

(a) BBC News
(a1) Carey weighs into Sharia law row
Last Updated: Sunday, 10 February 2008, 08:11 GMT

Catholic leader Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor said he was “saddened” by the way the archbishop’s comments had been misunderstood. “I think he did raise a point of considerable interest and concern at the moment, namely, the rights of a religious groups within secular state. “Everyone in Britain must obey the law and therefore the question of how one can be a loyal British citizen and a faithful member of a religious group is a very pertinent question,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme.

(a2) Sharia row persists for Williams
Last Updated: Sunday, 10 February 2008, 18:53 GMT

Catholic leader Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor is one of the many to come out in defence of Dr Williams. “I feel he may fear that people with a Christian conscience will be put to the sidelines and not allowed to say what they believe to be true for the common good,” he told the BBC.

(b) AFP
Anglican leader ‘horrified’ by Sharia law row: predecessor
6AM Sunday

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, the leader of the 4.5 million Catholics in England and Wales, weighed into the debate, saying there were aspects of sharia that were not wanted in Britain. “I don’t believe in a multi-cultural society,” he told The Sunday Telegraph. “When people come to this country, they have to obey the laws of the land,” said the son of Irish immigrants.

(c) The Independent (Ireland)
Sharia law comments leave bishop in hot water

In an interview, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, the leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales, said that government promotion of multiculturalism has destroyed the unity that used to hold British society together. Immigrants must “obey the laws of this country”, he said

(d) Sunday Telegraph
(d1) ENGLAND: Sharia law may result in ‘legal apartheid’
By Jonathan Wynne-Jones, Religious Affairs Correspondent
9/02/2008

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, said that the Government’s promotion of multiculturalism had destroyed the unity that used to hold society together. Immigrants must “obey the laws of this country“.

(d2) People here ‘must obey the laws of the land’
Last Updated: 1:16am GMT 10/02/2008

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, leader of the 4.5 million Catholics in England and Wales, begs to differ. He is adamant that such a move would only make segregation even more entrenched. “I don’t believe in a multicultural society,” he says firmly. “When people come into this country they have to obey the laws of the land.” He has a mellifluous voice and an affable manner, but the cardinal becomes steely when discussing the problems facing British society, and the issue of sharia law.

(e) Evening Standard
Two of the most powerful clergy in Britain launch stinging attack on Archbishop over sharia row
Last updated at 20:37pm on 10.02.08

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor added his criticisms and went on to urge Muslims to do more to integrate. “The extent to which multiculturalism has been encouraged recently has meant a lessening of the kind of unity that a country needs.
“There are common values which are part of the heritage of this country which should be embraced by everybody.
“I don’t believe in a multi-cultural society. When people come into this country they have to obey the laws of the land.”

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Notably (alas, I haven’t kept any evidence…) the BBC (a1) article mentioned the Cardinal’s criticisms at first this morning, then around 9AM switched to a more supportive note (Radio 4’s Sunday Programme was broadcast today between 7.10 and 7.55AM).

So what can we be sure of?

(1) Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor has expressed complex thoughts, and felt the need to clarify them

(2) Those thoughts were anyway too difficult to translate into a soundbite

(3) Every media source opted to pick-and-choose whatever pleased them

(4) Even after the Cardinal’s change of tones between the Telegraph’s interview and the Sunday Programme’s appearance, most if not all stuck to their first choice

(5) Only the BBC made any significant change, but more or less “under duress”: to avoid ridicule, that is

The end result is that whatever the Cardinal’s opinions, his words were and still are just fodder for the Media animals. And whatever is read via one source or another, is very very unlikely to communicate the nuances of the Cardinal’s actual opinions.

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The question then becomes, given the above, how should one relate to the British media to avoid continuous distortions of one’s thoughts?

Written by omnologos

2008/Feb/10 at 22:30:14

The Best Reason to Avoid Becoming a Drug Addict

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Forget dangers for your health, for your social life, for your job. Forget the risk of ending up prematurely aged and/or dead and/or in a dirty room and/or in jail.

The best reason to avoid becoming a drug addict (of any kind of “illegal” drug) is that State and society, including the Government, the vast majority of Parliamentarians, most Justices, a good many Police officers and an overwhelming number of fellow citizens will see you as a sub-human to mistreat and anyway deserving whatever comes your way.

Hence little practical help, zero understanding, zero tolerance, absurd jail terms, forced detox therapies, effective abandonement into the “careful” hands of drug dealers, and the risk of finding oneself without the necessary medicines and any chance to call one’s doctor, in case of arrest.

Perhaps that’s the unconscious goal of the War on Drugs that we have been losing for almost 40 years…the blackmail of being either a non-addicted good citizen, or treated as dung.

Written by omnologos

2008/Jan/19 at 22:52:04

Posted in Drugs, Sociology

Tagged with ,

Marx and Nietzsche on Socialism and Envy

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Follow-up to my earlier blog: “Research Shows Socialism Is About Envy“:

(many thanks to my friends M and E for this)

First a quote from Karl Marx himself. I found it in extended length at the blog called “The Sentinel“:

Marx, in his much neglected Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts warned against […] what he termed “crude communism”. Crude communism “appears in a double form; the domination of material property looms so large that it aims to destroy everything which is incapable of being possessed by everyone as private property. It wishes to eliminate talent, etc., by force . . . The role of worker is not abolished but extended to all men. The relation of private property remains the relation of the community to the world of things . . . This communism, which negates the personality of man in every sphere is . . . Universal envy setting itself up as a power, is only camouflaged form of cupidity which re-establishes itself and satisfies itself in a different way. The thoughts of every individual private property are at least directed against any wealthier private property, in the form of envy and the desire to reduce everything to a common level; so that this envy and levelling in fact constitute the essence of competition. Crude communism is only the culmination of such envy and levelling-down on the basis of a preconceived minimum. How little this abolishing of private property represents a genuine appropriation is shown by the abstract negation of the whole world of culture and civilisation, and the regression to the unnatural simplicity of the poor and wantless individual who has not only not surpassed private property but has not even attained to it. The community is only a community of work and of equality of wages paid out by the communal capital, by the community as universal capitalists. The two sides of the relation are raised to a supposed universality; labour as a condition in which everyone is placed, and capital as the acknowledged universality and power of the community.

Marx was likely talking about Babeuf, but the idea of flattening everybody down to the lowest common poverty has come back into fashion (usually dressed up as “antiglobalization” or “environmentalism”).

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And now unto Friedrich Nietzsche, in The Anti-Christ (section #57):

Whom do I hate most among the rabble of today? The socialist rabble, the chandala apostles, who undermine the instinct, the pleasure, the worker’s sense of satisfaction with his small existence–who make him envious, who teach him revenge. The source of wrong is never unequal rights but the claim of “equal” rights.

Nietzsche was of course talking about Christians too, but that I’ll leave to another blog…

Research Shows Socialism Is About Envy

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Michael Shermer on the Los Angeles Times

“Would you rather earn $50,000 a year while other people make $25,000, or would you rather earn $100,000 a year while other people get $250,000? Assume for the moment that prices of goods and services will stay the same.

Surprisingly — stunningly, in fact — research shows that the majority of people select the first option; they would rather make twice as much as others even if that meant earning half as much as they could otherwise have. How irrational is that?”

And so it is shown that Socialism (American Liberalism) as the belief that societies should be fair is basically about making sure nobody earn more than you do.

No wonder “socialist economies” were unable to make the people rich: everybody’s goal was to bring everybody else down

Written by omnologos

2008/Jan/15 at 10:31:47

Climate Change, or The Medicalization of Our Society

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Yesterday’s absurdist post linking anthropogenic global warming (AGW) to supernovae in the cosmos was in fact more than the usual criticism about correlation not showing evidence of causation.

The other, even more important point underlying my text concerned the all-too-apparent link between AGW/Climate Change and the ever-increasing efforts by all sorts of “experts” to convince our worrying global society that its future can be divined in this or that indicator.

There is a name for this: we are being “medicalized”.

Just like with the hapless villagers in Jules Romains’ 1923 play “Knock” (aka “Dr. Knock or The Triumph of Medicine“), all the “experts” have to do is stock up our fears, and abuse our credulity.

Just keep on measuring, and keep on suggesting, and an illness will be found. Next!

In the case of AGW, the indicator is the amount of human-induced greenhouse-gases emissions. But as the supernovae blog shows, it is all too easy to find an indicator for everything, linking whatever to anything else. Divination does not depend on the particular item used to predict the future: it is much more solid than that.

Knock’s story has in fact a distinctly sinister undertone. In the words of Iain Bamforth writing in the BMJ’s “Medical Humanities” (“Knock: a study in medical cynicism“, MH 2002;28:14-18):

Isn’t it that people ask to be deceived? All right, [Knock] will deceive them. Order requires domination, and domination requires a lie or two. So he gives their lives a medical meaning. That is: he extends the bounds of the biological, of whose oracles he is the interpreter, so as to make illness not just a bodily phenomenon but an organising principle for the effective administration of society itself. His argument is life, for that is what a doctor defends. His tools are ideals, seduction, fright, and, if necessary, the threat of violence. His power is his command of language […] Knock is […] a storyteller, raconteur, bluffer, salesman […] Knock gives everyone the fever. He inoculates his patients with the one idea: self preservation, at all costs.

In other words: from 85 years ago, echoes of what is being sold to us as “a universal threat, a generational challenge“. And preservation of the world’s climate, at all cost.

And so it was Jules Romains the one really capable to describe what the future would look like. As noted by French actor Louis Jouvet in 1949, but still we could be written today:

a penetrating act of inspiration, Knock revealed the direction a new mentality was going to take… . This mentality was Information and its strategies, astounding advances and violent dramatisings; abrupt and terrifying revelations; the invention of new needs, new ways of breakdown; the exalting of fresh anxieties that humankind would feed upon. Jules Romains announced, though we didn’t yet know it, the mad-cap mechanisms that were going to rule the world, suggestion and self-suggestion. In Knock, like a prophet at the gates, Jules Romains suddenly shone a light on power, the upsurge of parodigms (idées-forces) and collective theories. Humankind is a machine to make gods and every leader of men a creator of myths. Jules Romains, philosopher, moralist and dramatist, provided an admirable advance warning of the modern and all-encompassing mechanism of cohesion and conviction […]

Is this what “progress” and “modernity” were meant to be, in the case of Medicine, Climatology or anything else?

Written by omnologos

2008/Jan/07 at 23:57:02

Genetics, IQ and Racism

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Why do many potentially intelligent people decide to look and sound silly for generations to come? Or “given enough bales you’ll find a few straws in all the colors of the rainbow”…

Some bloggers (and likely, some scientists) whose names and URLs I won’t spend a minute linking to, have started using the latest discoveries in biology to suggest “genetics differences between races” and a linking between high IQ and “several snippets of DNA“.

In other words, there are people out there hell-bent in demonstrating that blacks are inferior to whites.

They are wrong. And it’s not a case of being “politically incorrect“…rather, it’s an example of how to be “idiotically incorrect“.

In fact, haven’t we seen this whole circus before (just read Stephen Jay Gould’s “The Mismeasure of Man“)? A circus where invariably:

(1) The most recent scientific findings get used to provide a rational basis to existing prejudices

(2) People jump to “certain conclusions” even before any scientific article is published

(3) Legitimacy is given to the incoherent notion that skin color can be used to classify people into racial groups, but only up to a point: so a Sicilian becomes a White like a Swede, and a Wolof from Senegal becomes a Black like an Oromo from Ethiopia

(I myself am semi-officially White during winter time, then after two weeks in the sun demonstrably a tad more black than an Ethiopian)

(4) It always boils down to black inferiority and white superiority. In fact, never ever in the History of Biology there has been any hint of consensus about the notion that blacks are superior to whites, or far-east asians superior to whites.

(5) We are told that even if it may be difficult to accept, still we have to accept that Blacks be inferior to Whites, because Science is said to say so

(6) People opposing such views are labeled as left-leaning “defenders of social justice” (i.e., “communists”)

(7) The discourse moves then to show Men, White Men that is, as superior to Women. Next, to show that White Men with Ancestors from Northern European Countries are superior to everybody else.

(8) After making a big mess, such a stale soup of fallacies is shown false but then only goes into some kind of “sleep mode” ready to come back to make many potentially intelligent people look and sound silly for generations to come.

This happens every few decases. Truly we never learn anything from history.

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On my side, the issue is not about defending social justice or imposing equality to all in the face of contrary evidence.

The issue is that if something has been shown wrong in the past, again and again, then it cannot be accepted as “true” unless there is some extraordinary evidence supporting it.

And at every round, the notch for “extraordinary” gets a little bit higher. I am afraid that the discovery of a few “snippets” among the thousands and thousands available appears way too ordinary, and at best the result of bad statistical analysis applied to extremely large sample sizes (in other words: given enough bales you’ll find a few straws in all the colors of the rainbow)

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All in all, I am starting to believe that the one difference between races, is in the genes that predispose to developing an Inferiority Complex.

Those genes are obviously very powerfully expressed among Racist White Men. In fact, for what other reason would they feel the need to try again, and again, and again, to find a scientific basis for their most stupid thoughts?

Written by omnologos

2007/Nov/10 at 22:45:55

Affluence’s Curse

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When everything is due, anything that goes missing causes a tragedy

Why is it that the most affluent societies are the ones where the fear of the future becomes some kind of collective Phobia of the Novelty, mixed up with a morbid fascination for dreaming up their own, however improbable, catastrophes?

Conversely, what makes quite poor people keep their hopes high for the future? If we could restrict ourselves purely to risk analysis, the opposite would be true.

Being rich means having a multitude of metaphorical cushions protecting one’s fall, for example being able to buy actual insurances.

For many instead, being poor means finding oneself wondering if there will be anything to eat for dinner.

And yet it’s in the Affluent West, plus Japan that blatant absurdities like the Principle of Precaution are fashionable.

I won’t even mention how many people are hooked into believing in toto the interminable series of catastrophical environmental reports that nowadays grace newspapers almost as commonly as gossip columns.

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One way to understand such a paradox is via what can be called “the Curse of Affluence“.

Humans naturally being hoarding animals, they have no qualms in pretending that everything they can get their hands onto is actually due to them.

Therefore, the more they have, the higher their fear some, any of it may disappear.

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Imagine one earns $25,000/year. Having been particularly good at their job, he/she gets a promotion and a salary of $40,000.

The happiness that brings disappears quickly though, and the following year the new level will be considered a given, not an achievement.

One will soon start to yearn for a higher salary still. Not only that: the new income will have surely brought a few more luxuries in one’s life. Losing those would feel like an abysmal failure: anxiety for the future will therefore kick in.

If left unchecked, that anxiety will increase more and more with increasingly higher salaries.

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If we apply the same line of thought to a society of people, then we can understand why they would all live in fear of losing their affluence rather than trying to enjoy it while they have it.

If everything is due, then anything that goes missing is in itself a tragedy (it works the other way around: if nothing is due, than anything that is obtained is a cause for celebration).

At the end then, a whole nation of rich people may as well stop functioning, with each one of them paralyzed by the fear of losing any of their innumerable luxuries, life included.

With the trap of a pessimistic Decadence bubble growing larger and larger, progress is then passed on to those that are not yet rich enough. And so on.

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To free affluent societies from their fears, first of all risk management should be made part of the school curriculum, like literature or maths. Also, people must be reminded for example via museums of the terrible aspects of non-affluent life.

In general, anything that would expose them to the practicalities of being dirt poor will definitely help. Just as (of course!) the spreading of a simple concept: that the neverending accumulation of stuff can only kill all hopes.

Written by omnologos

2007/Nov/06 at 21:39:01