Thursday, July 31, 2003
CLEARING THE MUDDY WATERS OF GAY MARRIAGE
There are certain topics I strive to avoid in my blogging: long-standing hot-button issues that are fueled mainly by emotion on both sides, and about which truly substantive debate is hard to come by. Unless I'm sure I can provide part of the latter, I just don't see the point.
Gay marriage is certainly one of these incendiary topics, and thus far I've decided to remain silent on it despite its current prominence in the blogosphere. I've decided to break my blogging silence on this, however, because I keep seeing muddled thinking on the subject everywhere, which ultimately serves only the interests of ideologues. Although what I write here will come mainly at the expense of its supporters, keep in mind that accepting these clarifications does not entail having to reject gay marriage -- they simply serve to clarify exactly what is being considered.
Equal Access Vs. Redefinition
The first example of fuzzy thinking deals with the nature of gay marriage vis a vis traditional marriage. Both sides in the debate seem to visualize the issue as a matter of the denial of access of homosexuals to traditional marriage. In a sense, this is an uncritical application of the template of historical civil rights arguments: a clearly defined subgroup is denied equal access to something which is open to citizens at large. This is an entirely wrong model. The simple fact is that homosexuals already have complete, unfettered access to marriage: any gay man is entirely free to marry a woman, and any lesbian is entirely free to marry a man. Allowing gay marriage should be seen instead as either a redefinition of or an addition to traditional marriage. It is either the creation of a second type of marriage alongside the traditional one, or a redefinition of traditional marriage from the union of two adults of opposite sex to the union of two adults of whatever sex. Which of these two models one adopts is not important -- the outcome is the same in either case -- but both are a far more accurate description than the misused civil rights template.
I suspect this recasting will not be eagerly adopted by gay marriage proponents, since at least over the short term the muddled visualization is more tactically useful through its drawing on accepted civil rights rhetoric. There is no legitimate reason, however, why one must automatically reject gay marriage when accepting this clarified model. Acknowledging that it is a redefinition of marriage ultimately says nothing about whether or not it should occur.
On Arbitrary Limits
The second example of fuzzy thinking deals with the casual dismissals of the "then we'll have polygamous/incestuous/bestial unions too!" type of argument. Regardless of how ridiculously these arguments might be delivered, their point is legitimate and disregarding them will in the end only be to the detriment of gay marriage supporters. The issue, after all, lies at the heart of the most common argument for gay marriage. This is essentially the claim that the requirement of couples to be of opposite sex is an arbitrary one resulting more from traditional prejudices then any substantive rationale, and thus must be removed. This may get them what they want, but by employing it proponents will have set in motion a relentless logic that threatens almost any limitation on marriage. If a limitation on the sex of the couple is "arbitrary," how less arbitrary is a limitation on the number of people involved? (Go on, find a good justification of limiting it to 2 people using their logic, I challenge you.) It's an easy exercise to continue on in this vein ad absurdum. Proponents may not bother to think beyond their issue, or perhaps have but don't personally care if the limits keep getting pushed like this. Regardless, many who must be won over have thought about it and are concerned. To be assured success, proponents must take this head on and come up with a justification for why limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples is arbitrary, but limiting it to two non-incestuously related adults is not.
Tuesday, July 29, 2003
TOWARD A REFORMED ISLAM
Again and again in the blogosphere I come across claims that Islam is unreformable, that it is inherently bloody-minded and destructive of civilization and can never be anything more. (This often crops up in the comments section of Little Green Footballs, for example.) If there is an awareness of the difference between Islam and Islamism it seems to be considered a meaningless distinction.
Well, Varenius ain't buying it.
The Islamic Golden Age would never have happened were Islam poisonous to civilization. Yes, I know Muslims (understandably) and anti-Western Westerners (despicably) overinflate its achievements. But exaggerated or not, achievements there were, and these would not have come about if Islam did not have something enriching to, or at least protective of, culture in it. Likewise, even if we take into consideration the fact that many of these were achieved by non-Arab and non-Muslim subjects rather than their Arabic overlords, this still testifies to the valuing of these positive cultural traits in the Islamic milieu. Thus to say there is nothing upon which Muslims can draw from their tradition to help in setting up societies more nurturing of civilization is groundless.
The same case can be made in the purely theological realm. Yes, there is much negative religious material in the inheritance of today's Islam. Given the faith's bloody birth and equally violent expansion combined with the frequently explicit scriptural justification for this barbarism, Islam has a far more challenging obstacle to overcome than either Judaism and Christianity (or any other major religion) has faced in dealing with their dark patches. Although their histories and scriptures have fewer reprehensible things to deal with, the fact that its fellow Abrahamic faiths have successfully done so gives one hope that Islam can do the same. If I, a non-Muslim, have been able to quickly sketch possible answers to problematic Qu'ranic verses off the cuff, then surely earnest Muslim theologians who have immersed themselves in the offerings of centuries of Muslim thinkers can work out substantive and robust ones. Here too, I see no reason to think that Islam cannot be reformed in a more positive direction.
What has occasioned my thoughts is a remarkable piece in Reason entitled Revealed Libertarianism. It's an interview with Imad A. Ahmad, president and director of Minaret of Freedom, a Muslim organization dedicated to promoting "Libertarianism" as an expression of Islamic values. (I think "classical liberalism" is a better description, since the ideas involved are not narrowly libertarian.) Ahmad states that free-market capitalism and Western-style civil rights are not only compatible with Islam, but are in fact fully supported by it. I cannot judge how valid this position is, but simply that one like it is being voiced and specifically backed up with Islam is very heartening. As more of these alternative visions of Islam come forth and spread, the birth of a reformed and revitalized Islam inhospitable to destructive traits becomes ever more likely.
Athanasius: Architect of the Dark Ages?
In the course of the interview, Ahmad makes this curious statement:
More than one criticism could easily be made of this, but what has me scratching my head is his singling out of Athanasian Christianity as the apparent instigator of the "Dark Ages." Why Athanasius' ideas??? I'm at a loss here. The only possibility that occurs to me is that it has to do with the Athanasian defense of the Trinity, which Ahmad perhaps sees as a "pagan" takeover of what was before a basically "Islamic" Christianity (though this would not explain why Protestantism was an escape from "ignorance" considering that most Protestants affirm the Trinity).
Any ideas, readers?
MARXISM WATCH: BRAZIL
It's time once again to see how our friend President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil is doing. Bill King at Enter Stage Right gives us an update on Lula's fortunes. Lula has thus far managed to continue on his promised prudent course:
But trouble is brewing over President da Silva's continuing attempts to reform the country's lavish public pension system. In a situation parallel to similar attempts going on in France, opposition to reforms by its beneficiaries threatens to be a political death-dealer, and is creating the potential for internecine fighting within the President's party:
King concludes that Lula's administration may be at a turning point:
(Previous entry in this series)
Wednesday, July 23, 2003
HAPPY (BELATED) BLOGIVERSARY TO ME
Well, I've passed the one-year mark here at Anti-Socialist Tendencies, believe it or not. To commemorate the occasion, here's a flashback to some of my favorite entries spanning the past year:
* ParEcon Doesn't Need Socialism!: Wherein I discuss the importance of butt fortitude in syndicalist economic schemes.
* The X-Files & Spiritual Dilettantes
* Dystopia in One Easy Step: The one human trait that fates all attempts at creating Utopia to end up creating a Hell instead.
* Anti-War Campus Follies: The Ridiculous, the Reasonable, and a Followup.
* The Raelian Cloning Fantasy: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3
* Mortality Makes Meaning?: Does death give an atheist's life meaning?
* Green Party Growth: Voter protest, not endorsement.
* Relativism Merely Scolded: I guess even philosophy profs can be slackers!
* RUN, ABDUL! IT'S THOSE SEX-CRAZED EVANGELICALS!
Thanks to all my readers through the past year, regulars and occasional visitors alike!
Tuesday, July 22, 2003
DEBUNKING THE ALLENDE MYTH
An absolutely outstanding piece on the Leftist myths surrounding the Allende regime in Chile and its overthrow by Pinochet appears over at Val e-diction. Especially noteworthy are its detailing of the dramatically destructive effects of Allende's policies on the Chilean economy and the negligible role of the CIA in the coup against him. I'm thrilled that Val has posted this since I've been wanting to write something like it for months, and he has done a far more masterful job of it than I would have.
Stafford Beer & Allende's Cybernetic Dreams
Some years back, I came across an interesting bit of trivia about Allende in the first edition of Theodore Roszak's The Cult of Information (I don't know if it is in the current edition). Allende had hired British "cyberneticist" Stafford Beer to design a near-real time information system for detailed, systematic monitoring and modeling of the Chilean national economy. According to Roszak it was (ironically) nicknamed the "Liberty Machine." Andrew Pickering [HTML | DOC] describes the project thusly:
Another online author claims that "By the time of the CIA sponsored [sic] coup on September 11, 1973, seventy-five per cent of nationalized industry was brought into the system with economic information not more than a day out of date."
Whatever the actual promise of this system, however, one can certainly be forgiven for skepticism regarding its usefulness given the spectacular train-wreck that the regime's approach had already made of Chile's economy.
UPDATE: Catallarchy has some interesting points regarding Allende and Pinochet as well.
Monday, July 21, 2003
GLOBAL WARMING: A NEW EXTRATERRESTRIAL FACTOR?
Fitting alongside evidence that fluctuations in solar activity are a major factor in climate change is new research suggesting a role for cosmic rays in global warming:
Yet more evidence that climate change is far more complex than previously imagined.
CHARLES TAYLOR = PSYCHO; LIBERIA = BASKET CASE
What more can possibly be said after reading this article?
Thursday, July 17, 2003
CHRISTIANITY'S FREE-MARKET TRADITION
Late Medieval Scholasticism might seem to us moderns an unlikely place to find sophisticated economic insight, but unlikely or not it is indeed there, as Stephen Carson discusses in this book review. Carson's opinion of the thinkers involved is stunning:
The article briefly outlines their views on private property, public finance, money, international trade, value and price, and profit -- all of which remarkably foreshadow what are usually considered "modern" ideas.
(Via Cella's Review)
Friday, July 11, 2003
QUOTES ON SOCIALISM
The two most potent post-war orthodoxies -- socialist politics and modernist art -- have at least one feature in common: they are both forms of snobbery, the anti-bourgeois snobbery of people convinced of their right to dictate to the common man in the name of the common man.
--- Roger Scruton, "In Praise of Bourgeois Art"
To the biologist the problem of socialism appears largely as a problem of size. The extreme socialists desire to run every nation as a single business concern. I do not suppose that Henry Ford would find much difficulty in running Andorra or Luxembourg on a socialistic basis. He has already more men on his pay-roll than their population. It is conceivable that a syndicate of Fords, if we could find them, would make Belgium Ltd. or Denmark Inc. pay their way. But while nationalization of certain industries is an obvious possibility in the largest of states, I find it no easier to picture a completely socialized British Empire or United States than an elephant turning somersaults or a hippopotamus jumping a hedge.
--- J.B.S. Haldane, Possible Worlds
I nearly always find, when I ask a vegetarian if he is a socialist, or a socialist if he is a vegetarian, that the answer is in the affirmative.
--- Katharine Fullerton Gerould, Modes and Morals
Wednesday, July 09, 2003
THE GEOGRAPHER AS SECURITY THREAT
Here's an interesting piece on a fellow geography grad student whose GIS on weaknesses in national infrastructure is making the security establishment nervous. He should certainly be thanked rather than condemned, because he is merely bringing attention to something that already exists rather than creating it himself -- these data and tools are out there right now and those with ill intent are no doubt already aware of them.
Tuesday, July 08, 2003
AN EXCHANGE ON FASCISM
As part of the new austerity program here at Anti-Socialist Tendencies, I will now be implementing recycling measures. For example, rather than writing a lengthy discussion of A. James Gregor's The Faces of Janus as I might have previously, I will simply post a comments page exchange over this entry by Josh Claybourn at his blog in which I refer to Gregor:
A very gentlemanly final reply, Isaac! ;-)
Sunday, July 06, 2003
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
It may be said that European Humanism found its term in Nietzsche... There was a great difference between him and Dostoevsky, who, before him, had shown that the loss of man by the way of self-deification was the inevitable goal of Humanism. Dostoevsky recognized that this deification is illusory; he explored the vagaries of self-will in every direction, and he had another source of knowledge -- he saw the light of Christ: he was a prophet of the Spirit. Nietzsche, on the contrary, was dominated by his idea of the superman and it killed the idea of real man in him.... The human essence presupposes the divine essence; kill God, and at the same time you kill man, and on the grave of these two supreme ideas of God and of man is set up a monstrous image -- the image of the man who wants to be God, of the superman in action, of antichrist. For Nietzsche there was neither God nor man but only this unknown man-god. For Dostoevsky there was both God and man: the God who does not devour man and the man who is not dissolved in God but remains himself throughout all eternity. It is there that Dostoevsky shows himself to be a Christian in the deepest sense of the word.
--- Nicholas Berdyaev, Dostoevsky
THE BLOG: ECONO-SIZED BUT NOT DEAD
Due to the outcry among
For several months now I've been wanting to put more energy into this blog, but realistically just couldn't do it. My earlier post was basically an admission of this -- one mainly to myself -- so that I wouldn't have the feeling of there being an obligation I wasn't meeting. However, I am not planning to give it up completely. I will probably be posting with about the same (in)frequency, but the entries will be scaled down a bit -- more of the "Hey, go look at this!" variety than the extended essays that I would prefer to write. Hopefully I can return to more of the latter in the future.
Seriously, my heartfelt thanks go out to everyone who wrote urging me to stick with the blog. I'm touched to know that there are people who find the bits and pieces I offer here interesting and worthwhile.
Saturday, July 05, 2003
MORE ON EVANGELIZING MUSLIMS
In contrast to our silly friend Bronski, TIME Magazine has a balanced piece on Evangelical missions to the Muslim world: Should Christians Convert Muslims?
Wednesday, July 02, 2003
SEASON OF SCATTERED BLOGGING
If you haven't guessed already by the infrequent posting here of late, I don't have much time for blogging these days, and that isn't likely to change soon. So I'm posting this announcement both as a courtesy to my readers and, more importantly, as a way of giving myself permission to take the blog off my mental "to do" list. I may post occasionally here in the next few months, but I don't plan to do anything extensive until I can devote sufficient time to make this blog the more substantial resource I originally envisioned.
Thanks for your continued readership throughout the past year. Enjoy the summer!
Tuesday, July 01, 2003
THE NEOCON CONSPIRATORIAL CRUISE
Want a role in plotting the future imperial conquests of the