Unintended Consequences

The inculcated sense of disempowerment, subjugation and victimhood however real or imagined carried in the minds of today’s generation has led it to adopt, on a large scale, slogans, references and notions about the individual, society and human freedom that it hasn’t (I believe) quite reflected upon.

Let me be more exact, the cliché ‘born that way’ have gone unexamined. It suggests a form of determinism, something which eludes human will or initiative. Regardless of the context in which a phrase like that is used it absolves agency. This is done increasingly with regard to sexuality or crime. If people are to be safeguarded and respected under the pretext of this determinism, how do you respond to lobby groups who have operated in Britain and Holland since the 1980s who say they are attracted to children? That there’s is merely sexual orientation over which they have absolutely no control?

We all know, instinctively that paedophilia is a grave social deviancy which transgresses moral boundaries that are found across the world, boundaries which hold societies in tact, preservation of the species. It is the conscious choice of an adult to act upon the most unnatural desires, desires which emerge in the course of a long dark pursuit of sexual self-gratification. Despite unprecedented attempts in certain countries at finding the wildest possible excuses for human behaviour, I suggest, in accordance with longstanding wisdom which has formed the basis of cultural and legal systems across the world for centuries that human beings are responsible for their actions. Which means responsible for guarding their desires whether perverse or noble.

– In a time when metaphysical determinism is abandoned or reviled and a new scientific determinism has won favour in excusing the inexcusable.

“The soul is not moved to abandon higher things and love inferior things unless it wills to do so.”
― Augustine of Hippo, On Free Choice of the Will

Ways to attribute causation and blame

‘Islam’ and ‘The West’ are questionable rubrics that in popular discourse have particular meanings and connotations. I want to take a look at how these seemingly diametrically opposed forces meet in possibility and actuality.

Islam is a world religion, roughly a fifth of people living identify with it. It is like any other religion, it is embodied in more than one way, that’s to say it looks and acts differently depending on where and when, different shades of the same colour on a palette you could say. This is an obvious but necessary point considering that repeated narrative of Islam’s one-dimensional nature.

The West is easier to definitely negatively, it is not a geographical area, after all Australia and Austria are nowhere near each other, nor does a language define it, I mean Portuguese and Danish don’t share much in common linguistically, perhaps the link is elsewhere. What has the power to relate people beyond immediate words in such a dramatic way? Religion seems to be the force.

The West is broadly speaking, Christian, it has different languages and more than a few ethnic groups, it  underwent a process of secularization which has changed different countries to varying degrees, so France is secular in a different way to how Portugal is secular. Most Muslim Majority Countries are Secular in the political sense yet different still because the Enlightenment was an activity restricted to a relatively small area of the world, to pockets of Western Europe, its ideas percolating over time through those societies in different ways.

The West has a Christian heritage, this is the underlying relation that is at the root, (often unconsciously) of this modern discourse of ‘The West’ as I see it. This discourse is often the basis of identity politics, a type of politics that often sadly reduces the world to a polarised story of us the good, us the hero, us the victim, and them, the ‘others’, the ‘savages’, the perpetrators. This is an inescapable aspect of identity politics of which ‘Islam’, as a civilisation plays in the same way, nor is it confined to ‘The West & ‘Islam’, it is a matter of identity, a feature throughout history.

Where is the meeting of the Monotheisms you ask? After all I have described two worlds that would seem to be separate…there is a separation but there are always  meeting points, even 1000 years ago there was a bridge between Aquinas & Avicenna via the former’s scholastic mentor. Very few civilisations maintain lives apart from the world beyond them. The question is to what extent? After all we are now seeing through globalization the deliberate dilution of national identities across the world. We ought not imagine however that in ages past there was no interaction between cultures. Scholarship has shown that whether through trade routes, through philosophy, through migration, there has always been a link between Christendom and its younger cousin, the Islamic world.

This is excluding all the untold stories that scholarship can  perhaps never document, the only prospect that I find disconcerting is the loss of identity within both worlds, the commercialisation and post-modern process of a world of diverse groups living the same lives as consumers with the same goals and same importance and same truths….a world blind to nuance, without the wisdom to appreciate difference while distinguishing it.

The prospect of identity loss, loss of heritage and a watering down of human identity into a world of brightly lit consumerism and shallow selfish individualism is a prospect that should worry people, rather than reaching for convenient words like Islam and The West by which we attribute all sorts of phenomena.

The debasement of human relations

A whole generation’s understanding of what it means to be social is being reduced to a relentless, pavlovian system of abstract connectivity which amounts to a barrage of inconsistent visual and aural stimulations, a system in which people have invested all their heart, hope and ego, a system upon which they are utterly dependent, and yet this is considered progress?

The economic and political order on which modern society was constructed killed off the tribal/clan/family based society, which was not based upon self-interest, it was based upon the common good. This system could only be born if the shared religious/mythological/supernatural worldview was eroded. And so a tyrant was born, the false-self, something which our ancestors and eternal truth demands we each, as individuals slay.

Dignity denied because we´re petrified.

I´ve been in Spain for almost a week now, I´ll be heading back home soon. Though I’m not as gregarious as most here, I´ve made a point of spending most of my time walking around this Andalusian city, becoming acquainted with streets, developing by habit my own routes. The architecture is markedly beautiful. By wandering off a busy boulevard down any given side street, one quickly encounters the moorish patterns that embody Andalusian history. It was down one of these side streets I met a venerable native, Lola.

My eyes caught her from a distance as I walked down through this narrow side street among a steady trickle of people.  Perched in the shade on a narrowly enclosed porch step, I could not have been more than 3 feet away from her, a second later and I would have passed by her, but I didn’t, something awakened in me, for she didn’t prompt me for money, she held a little round tin yet she didn’t stretch it out.

I sat down beside her and we started a conversation which for me was extraordinary, one in which notions of time are lost in the age old gift of dialogue. Lola spoke humbly of herself, her being homeless, the hardships of life hadn’t in any way embittered her or weakened her spirit. She trusted in something greater, ‘creo en dios’ she would tell me, whatever she had endured, be it the cataracts in her left eye or the daily grapples with hunger had made her ultimately stronger.

The more we talked, the more my admiration for her grew. I realised suddenly in getting to know lola what a colourful person she was, that she was a living testament to human strength, she was as unique a human as anyone else in this city, in this world, with a life of unique experience and wisdom. It was with a sense of regret that I realised how easy it is to pass judgement on the vulnerable and marginalised in society, people are swift in their judgements of what they see on the surface often never stopping to question, to open their minds and hearts, to actually communicate with those who invariably take on a sceptre like existence, perhaps becoming themselves as dangerously unconvinced of their integrity as we are.