Dagdha's Blog

Random Ruminations #5

Posted in Uncategorized by dagdha on September 18, 2012

I’ve hit my longest writing dry-spell of the last year and it needs to end.  In my attempt to avoid writing about politics or religion, I stopped writing altogether, so what follows is going to be a wall of angst-induced polemical vomit. I apologize in advance for the lack of original subject matter, and the oatmeal I ate for breakfast.

There’s only one place to begin a discussion about the current state of affairs: the condemnation of mob-think idiocy. Whether in politics, religion, or even science, the capricious prejudice of mobocracy has proven invariably to be an ally of hubris – the fall of the Roman Republic, the persecutions of Galileo and Copernicus, the French Revolution, and Nazism are just a few examples that spring to mind. Yet, despite continuous admonitions from the Bronze Age to present day against falling victim to the emotional irrationality of mob mentality, millions of people still react thoughtlessly to the rallying cries of the crowd.

Violent protests are sweeping through the Middle East because of a laughably poor video produced by a Christian fundamentalist, racist, and convicted felon. As insulting as the video is intended to be, taking its message seriously is indicative of a bigger problem, namely the reactionary violence that the video indicts. Even more appalling is the newly revived debate over what constitutes free speech, again revisiting the same political media fodder that was paraded a couple years ago when violence erupted over a Danish cartoon depicting the Islamic prophet Mohammed with a bomb in his turban. Taking offense to this kind of satire, as personal as the attack may be, is to miss the point of the genre altogether. And, to take the extreme action of inciting violence and issuing fatwas in response to such criticism, only adds kindling to the inflammatory arguments against the theocratic tyranny of Islamic fundamentalism. But this problem is not currently exclusive to religion in the Middle East.

China too is ablaze with violent protests against Japan over a small group of islands in the South China Sea, known as Diaoyu by the Chinese or Senkaku by Japanese. In addition to attacks on Japanese citizens in China, Japanese companies and goods have been vandalized or destroyed, including cars manufactured by Toyota or Honda but owned by Chinese citizens.  To put it another way, citizens of the same nation are attacking each other and their respective property based on corporate brands. And while I can’t claim to understand the internal political unrest behind these actions, the situation suggests scary new implications behind the phrase “brand loyalty.”  Regardless of how they feel about each other politically, I think both countries would have a difficult time justifying greater economic prosperity without the other.

Mob rule is powerful and arguably indestructible because it appeals to our basest primal instincts, especially as social primates. Being part of a group in the animal world increases an individual’s chances of survival, increasing the number of potential mates and decreasing the likelihood of falling prey to a predator. At this stage in our evolution, however, such behavior degrades the primary characteristic that defines our species – the ability to reason – which is why we value freedom of speech as an inalienable right. Without the ability to express all points of view, it’s impossible to determine which is correct, or at the very least make an informed decision. Hell, we have anti-trust laws to protect consumers from technological tyranny by a single entity. Would we give up those laws if Apple started violently threatening outspoken Microsoft fanboys? Of course not. So why is this a discussion when it comes to religious zealots, a title that could easily be applied to extreme Apple fanatics?

I’m starting to dry heave, so I’ll move on to another topic, but my main point is this: at least five of our six inhabitable continents are experiencing violent civil unrest because too many people are either unwilling or unable to be self-critical and realize the larger implications of their actions. It’s easy to “go with the flow,” but one should always be wary of where the current leads.

On to the circus that is our democratic process.

Despite my annoyance with the trivial antics of both political parties during this election, I have, quite surprisingly, learned a lot about the faith in which I was raised and have since disavowed. Growing up in the Mormon church, I already knew the superficial arguments against the denomination, such as their early support of polygamy and racist doctrine, but I never bothered looking into the uncensored history of its founding members and internally disputed beliefs.  Had I done so, I could have dispensed with much of the ingrained guilt I’ve held for many years, both with respect to the church and my own family. I wouldn’t know where to begin such a discussion, so I’ll briefly summarize by pointing out the blatant hypocrisy between the church’s proclaimed concern for the family and its practice of alienation of apostates, regardless of overt intention. A year ago I was content with accepting my alienation and allowing my family to believe as they wished. A year later, after reading a number of books that challenged this view, and exchanging letters with my youngest brother on his mission in Mexico (the first of four to serve), I can no longer sit quietly when religion and faith are discussed at family gatherings, because to do so would be an acknowledgment of defeat to an institution that has destroyed my family and caused unrelenting pain and guilt for my siblings.  I was always in trouble for challenging my Sunday School teachers, and I did not arduously escape their mental shackles only to be quiet now.


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