Tag Archives: Fundamentalist Christianity

And now for something completely different…

16 Jan

Later today I’m putting up a brilliant short story by a friend of mine, that will take our minds right away from this distasteful legal twaddle.

In the meantime, I have to moderate all your comments before I publish them, as I’ve been advised that Melinda Tankard Reist’s lawyers are monitoring the blog and twitter for any “vilification” of the lady. If any such thing appears in comments on my blog I cop another legal threat, and it will be added to the list of my crimes against MTR. On twitter, well, I guess it’s every human for him or herself.

Also, I’m not always on the blog so if I don’t moderate you for a few hours please don’t get pissed off at me.

It may be all piss and wind, but does anybody really want the hassle?

I’m also told that it is ALLEGED that MTR is backed by seriously wealthy Christian fundamentalist lawyers, and that money may not be a problem for her as it is for most of us.

Now I am going to get out of the PJ’s that I’ve been wearing for the last two days for  emotional and physical comfort, and take the dog out.

Fortunately I was given a superb kimono for Xmas so I’ve been able to throw that over the PJ’s. The kimono along with my scarlet painted toenails has allowed me to keep up my usual sartorial standards despite the legal twaddle. It is so important to keep oneself looking as good as one can, no matter how demanding the circumstances in which one finds oneself.

I feel an incipient hysteria. That is, if I’m allowed to describe myself as hysterical, without incurring the awful wrath of the language police that was visited upon Justin Shaw, and to a lesser extent myself, just last week. It is amazing how many people there are in the world who want to control every word that comes out of someone else’s mouth. To be set upon by two wildly differing feminist factions within the space of three days because of what one has said, is indeed a novel experience

So far the year has been full of excitement and controversy. Pass me the gin and the chocolates.

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Anders Behring Breivik: terrorist or madman?

27 Jul

Flowers in Oslo

Since the news of the Norwegian massacre broke, the blogosphere and mainstream media have been engaged in understandably urgent efforts to make some sense of the weekend’s ghastly events. One of the methods employed is a semantic discussion as to whether or not the perpetrator ought to be identified as a terrorist, or a lone madman acting out his insane fantasies.

As some authors have pointed out, the term terrorist is largely used when the violent events are performed by Islamic fundamentalists. When the perpetrator is identified as white and homegrown, they are described as mad, lunatic, a lone wolf, or a crazy isolationist. Terrorism has become synonymous with Muslims, while attacks on civilians such as those carried out by non Muslims like Anders Behring Breivik,  Timothy McVeigh, or Jared Lee Loughner are constructed by the media and often politicians as the insane actions of a crazed loner.

In fact all three of these murderers of non combatants had a political agenda that to them justified their actions, and all three had a political and ideological goal – this is the definition of a terrorist.

The reluctance of the West to identify it’s homegrown aggressors as terrorists is symptomatic of a widespread Islamophobia that defines terrorists as Muslims. Islamophobes perceive Islam as violent, aggressive, and supportive of terrorism. Islam is widely associated with terrorism, by Islamophobes, unlike other major religions, and largely as a consequence of the 9/11 attacks on the US. The term terrorist when  used in much Western media signifies cultural and emotional associations with Islam, indeed it has apparently become a metonym for Islam.

That this is the case was proved beyond doubt when global mainstream media initially declared the Norwegian terrorist to be an agent of Al Qaeda. With no evidence and little information, prominent commentators in the popular press made this assumption based solely on the nature of the attacks. When the gunman turned out to be an “Aryan poster boy” who expressed a loathing of Muslims and identified with right wing Christian fundamentalists (as well as our own homegrown John Howard, Cardinal Pell, Peter Costello and Keith Windschuttle, all of whom are quoted admiringly in Breivik’s manifesto) this came as something of a shock to the complacent, and as it turned out ignorant, purveyors of media misinformation.

In an aside, the Windschuttle link above will take you to Murdoch journalist Andrew Bolt‘s blog. There you’ll find the headline “The new blood libel of the Left,” underneath which Windschuttle presents his response on hearing of Breivik’s admiration of him and the Left’s “gleeful” reaction to this.

In another aside, the contentiously anti semitic term “blood libel” was used by Sarah Palin when she attempted to defend herself against charges that her extremist right wing rhetoric had inspired Jared Lee Loughner to shoot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Giffords is Jewish.

What a tangled web.

Murdoch’s minion Bolt, one of the many public voices who rushed to judgement, declared when he discovered the killer had ties to right wing Christians that Breivik was not really a Christian. Presumably this is because Christians don’t carry out such atrocities, while in Bolt’s book Muslims do.

At this moment it is likely of little interest to the families and friends of the Norwegian dead, and to the injured survivors of Breivik’s monstrous attacks whether he is defined by the rest of the world as a terrorist or a madman. Those of us less directly affected are privileged to be in a state of mind that permits these speculations. While it makes no immediate difference to the agony so many people must be feeling, it is important that those of us who can do have this discussion: we owe it to the dead and injured, and to those who mourn, to ensure that the truth be spoken as best as is possible about the man who brought this misery and loss down upon them, and about the world in which he developed his anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim philosophy.

It is too easy to describe Breivik simply as crazed, though mentally unhinged he most certainly is. Breivik is also a terrorist. There is an argument that all terrorists are inevitably crazed, that the act of slaughtering civilians in the pursuit of a political and/or ideological goal is not the act of a sane person. Whether or not Breivik would meet the legal definition of insane is as yet undetermined but certainly colloquially there can be no doubt.

But that’s not the end of it. Breivik is also a product of the zeitgeist. Islamaphobia is everywhere. The beliefs that to him justified his rampage are everywhere. So widespread, so culturally embedded are they in the West, that his murderous actions were immediately attributed to the group he so powerfully loathed. It could only be Al Qaeda or its associates, for who else kills Westerners in a terrorist attack?

The irony is heartbreaking.

What we owe to the Norwegian dead and grieving is to seriously examine ourselves and the societies in which we live. While Breivik is an extremist and his actions are thank God extreme, scapegoating, anti-Muslim  and anti-immigration rhetoric and the beliefs that fueled his insanity are everywhere, and are increasingly normalized as they are sanctioned by the mainstream political system and the media that represents it.

We could start in our own back yards. For example, the Malaysian solution. Is it just a coincidence that the majority of the 800 asylum seekers we will send to Malaysia will be Muslim, while the majority of the 4,000 refugees we receive in return will be non Muslim?

Breivik did not kill Muslims, for all his hatred of them. He killed the young members of the Norwegian political party he believed was responsible for allowing Muslims into his country in greater numbers than was acceptable to him. He killed his own people. He is a domestic terrorist, like McVeigh and Loughner. Like McVeigh and Loughner, he is also crazy.

It can also be argued that any of these terrorists could have hung their craziness on whatever cause took their fancy, and this is also true. The impulse to slaughter and the capacity to act on the impulse is in their personalities. Politics and ideology did not make them into murderers. Politics and ideology offered them an avenue for the expression of their extreme violence and hatred.

As for the origins of that violence and hatred, we may never know. Many, many people endure difficulties and hardships in childhood and very few become terrorists. Many many people feel violent and hateful, but they do not act on those emotions. There are human beings whose pathology is inexplicable. But when there is a perfect storm of pathology and zeitgeist, the terrorist is born.

There is little we can do about the pathology.  About the zeitgeist we can do everything if we have the collective will. But we will need leaders who give a damn.

Norway

23 Jul

Anders Behring Breivik

The alleged terrorist has the fresh-faced look of a young David Duchovney. He’s been described by Norwegian police as an ethnic Norwegian right-wing Christian fundamentalist. He’s posted anti Muslim rhetoric on the Internet, and has links to right wing extremist organisations.

So far police estimate that 91 people died at his hands, the majority on the wooded island of Utøya, and the majority of them young.

Norway is a peaceful humanitarian country that lifts more than its weight in the world when it comes to international aid and support. Probably the best-known Norwegian of recent years, in Australia at least, is the retired captain of the Tampa, Arne Rinnan, who got into a face-off with John Howard’s government over the fate of the refugees his ship rescued at sea. Captain Rinnan’s decency, his determination to honour the mariner’s responsibility to those in trouble on the world’s oceans played out in stark contrast to our then government’s brutality. In his way Rinnan exemplifies the Norwegian national spirit that makes the country one of the most socially responsible in the world, both to its own people and to foreigners.

Now that country is in deep shock. The terror and loss is unimaginable, on a personal level and on a national level. The country of the Nobel Peace Prize is changed forever by the magnitude of the events of the last 24 hours. Events orchestrated and executed, it appears, by one of their own.

No doubt we will hear plenty more about Breivik in the coming days as authorities attempt to unravel the forces that motivated him, and drove him to these atrocities. Is it possible he could have done all this alone? Is it possible he was so isolated that no one had any idea of his plans? Will right-wing Christian fundamentalists think twice about their rhetoric? Is this an outcome they intend?

I’m not a praying woman, but tonight I’ll do it anyway, for the families, and for the people of Norway. I don’t know what they’ll need to get through this, but I pray they can help each other, and cling fast to one another through what lies ahead.

As W.H.Auden puts it:

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are, 
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

We must love one another, or die.

Today it is Norway: tomorrow it could be any of us hurled out of our comfortable and complacent daily existence into the unthinkable. Is it possible to protect ourselves and one another from such things? Increasingly it appears not. The terrorist, home grown or foreign, is the most devout and devious of humans, with a will to power and devotion to cause that transcends ordinary comprehension.

We’re all at the terrorist’s mercy, as we already know in Australia, and we have known them both home grown and foreign. Today, with horror, and outrage and fear, Norway joins the other nations of the world shaken to the core by the actions of  terrorists, a growing community of those who’ve survived the shock, horror, and loss of an entirely unexpected and deadly attack. Lost in a haunted wood.

 

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