The Horrible French vs. One Poor, Delicate Muslim Beachgoer

burkha eyes copyA constant for those of us on the left is our “rage against the machine” vibe. When it comes to the power of government or the rights of the individual, we’re totally tuned in to those individual rights.

When a story floats across our attention about a kid sent home from school for wearing “inappropriate clothing” — a provocative blouse, for instance, or a t-shirt with a comically dirty picture on it — we’re right there swinging, often screaming that the teacher should be fired, or the principal should be fired, for assaulting the fragile psyche of each of these embattled children.

Yet it’s rare for me to leap to spitting hate at teachers and school administrators when I hear these stories. For one thing, I feel strongly that the purpose of school is education, and everything else should come second. The deal is: You come to school and pay attention and we’ll hand you the keys to life.  But the deal is also: You’re required to act in such a way that you don’t distract the other kids trying to absorb those keys, and don’t make it harder for the teachers — who already have a damned difficult job — trying to impart them.

You have a RIGHT to education. But you have a DUTY to not interfere with others’ enjoyment of that right.

Too often, it seems to me, in our avid clamor for our rights in society, we miss the point that we also have these attached duties. We on the left forget that waaaay too often. We scream and leap rather than take a moment to think, deeply and thoroughly, about each issue as it arises.

One of the hazards of that sort of reaction is that we’re easily manipulated. On issue after issue, our knee-jerk scream reaction makes us easy marks for clever opponents. I watched this happen when I was a political activist: Developers in my small town would present this plan for a vast, elaborate development with all sorts of environment-destroying bells and whistles. We would predictably scream and leap, writing letters to the paper, speaking up angrily in city council meetings, drawing up petitions for people to sign. And the developer would back down! But he would back down to his real, original plan, which was to build condos in a delicate meadow and major viewshed area of the town.

If he’d proposed that real plan in the beginning, we would have worked against that, and maybe blocked the development entirely. But because he tossed out the equivalent of radar-foiling chaff, we saw only the chaff and missed the bombers coming through. At the end, we sighed with pride at our efforts. Sure the condos got built in that delicate meadow but, by god, we stopped him from building the touristy blacksmith shop along that one delicate creek.

I saw it time after time, enough to finally realize that the developers KNEW US. They knew what we’d do. We’d go for the red cape — EVERY TIME — and miss the fact that there was a bullfighter behind it with a killing sword.

I came to understand there was something like a bull session where the developer would get his whole crew in and say “Okay, kids, here’s the plan. Now let’s add on some bait for the idiots, stuff we know they’ll hate, so they can fight that while we get the main project approved. Come on, what can we put in here? Let’s have some ideas, the goofier the better!”

We won and won and won the small battles, but lost and lost and lost the big ones.

We on the left are suckers for an obvious pitch. Time after time, we’ll leap for the shiny lure and miss the fact that there’s a fisherman on the other end of the line.

So: France.

They’ve been catching holy hell for the recent ban on burkinis on some French beaches, which was even more recently overturned. The online community practically burned up the Internet with outrage at that hideous transgression onto individual liberty and the misogynistic assault on women. FRENCH POLICE FORCE WOMAN TO REMOVE BURKINI!!!

Meanwhile, over in that bastion of women’s rights (and Islam), Saudi Arabia, women are forbidden to drive cars, or try on clothing in stores. Forbidden to wear body-defining clothing or makeup that “enhances beauty.” Forbidden to open a bank account without their husband’s permission. Forbidden to go for a swim, compete in sports, or interact with men while out and about. FORBIDDEN TO APPEAR IN PUBLIC WITHOUT A MALE ESCORT.

Hell, I saw stories saying women in Saudi Arabia were forbidden to buy Barbie dolls, or visit cemeteries!

So you’d expect an equal or greater amount of outrage over all that, right? I mean, considering the horrified reaction with France? Because, hey, talk about assaults on individual liberty and pure-dee misogyny!

I mean, dayyum — Saudi women LIVE UNDER HOUSE ARREST for their entire lives. Just because they’re women.

Our reaction? … Crickets.

To be fair, I’ve seen plenty of stories in the atheist community about Islam-the-religion. We oppose it as avidly as we oppose Christianity. But when it comes to Islamic culture, which contains Islam-the-religion as an inseparable foundational element, we seem fairly blind to it. Too many of us have even adopted the word “Islamophobia” — which seems to be defined as “blind hatred for poor, innocent Muslims” — and used it to flail at everyone in sight, passionately defending both Muslims and Islam with the same cannonade.

Something we’re almost not permitted to say on the Left is that some cultures are superior to others. Considering its treatment and subjugation of women, I consider Islam — as practiced in predominantly Islamic countries — to be an inferior culture. Anyplace that forces women to walk around in burkhas, to cover themselves head to foot, aside from anything else, that’s UGLY. Any country or culture that confines women (hell, anybody!) to their homes — with the right to leave dependent on having a MAN, and only a close relative at that — is a culture that should not qualify as even minimally acceptable to the modern world.

Yes, I’m sure there are plenty of women there who are happy with their burkhas (cough*StockholmSyndrome*cough), who would defend to the death the wearing of the burkha. But in my view, some things are an offense against freedom and equality themselves, against womanhood itself. The burkha is one of those things.

In France, it’s currently estimated that 5 to 10 percent of French residents are now Muslims, with a full 25 percent of French teens being Islamic. The Muslim population is growing, and most French citizens can clearly see the coming radical demographic and cultural shift.

If you focus only on the rights of poor, embattled women to wear burkinis on the beach, you’d have to conclude the French are horrible and hateful and even racist. The idea! Sending armed thugs to force a poor little woman to remove her burkini! My god, what is the world coming to?

But if you see the bigger picture of an invasive — and inferior — culture using such controversies as manipulative bait to win more and more of the cultural ground, things look a bit different.

In that bigger picture, France is trying to preserve French culture.

Do they have that right? I mean, if it means this poor, poor woman has to face public humiliation?

I have to say they do. Hell, I think they have the DUTY to push back with everything they’ve got.

Not because they want to hurt this one innocent woman, but because they want to protect the rights of ALL French women, the freedom of ALL women to move confidently and freely through the cities and towns of France, indefinitely into the future, against a real trend toward Islamic majority that would — will! — diminish those rights and freedoms.

The lure to gain our knee-jerk reaction of sympathy and support is the picture of this one poor woman. Thanks to us, Islam wins another public relations battle.

But meanwhile, something hidden, something bigger, goes on.



Postscript 1: Oh, that brutal murder of the Charlie Hebdo staff by an Islamist? No, no, that was one lone individual. A total aberration. Islam is the Religion of Peace™.

Postscript 2: Aside from individual rights, the Koran is pretty clear that alcohol is satanic. What happens to the French wine industry — third largest in the world — when Islam becomes the dominant culture? Hey, probably they’ll just switch over to Prophet Muhammad Wine, right? Riiiight.



The Book of Good Living: Left Lane Driving

BGL copyThe Book of Good Living, if you’re new here, is my concept for a broad, basic guide to living well and living with others. It’s all the stuff we SHOULD know about living life among other humans and on Planet Earth.

Rather than some silly Ten Commandments focused on duties to a mythical god, this would be a searchable online multimedia encyclopedia something like Wikipedia, constantly updated by users and powerfully cross-referenced, covering every area of life, everything from basic morality to practical everyday health and safety. A how-to guide, completely voluntary in use, but packed with crowd-sourced wisdom about every little thing.

Elsewhere I recently wrote:

I imagine a Book of Good Living collected online with non-religious guidance for daily life, for anyone who chose to read and consider it. With tidbits such as “Take pictures of your parents, lots of them, something to keep you company in the long years alone,” or perhaps “Live your life in such a way that nobody has to pick up after you.” Or maybe even “Never leave your dog in a hot car.” But definitely, “Hey, dummy, if you’re on the freeway and people are passing you on the right, get the hell out of the left lane.”

Regarding that last, I came across this video last night, and it’s practically perfect for The Book.

The Shocking Truth About Hillary Clinton

HitleryI came across this incredible article about Hillary Clinton: #HillaryCoverageIsCrap.

It is >>shocking<< because it’s not only true, but glaringly obvious. And yet nobody  talks about it.

Media coverage of Hillary Clinton — Hillary the candidate, even Hillary the person — is so blatantly vicious, so casually demeaning, so gleefully mean-spirited, it’s … disgusting. Horrifying. SICK.

I’d like to select out a pithy quote from it, but the whole damned article is so good, so obviously true, it’s hard to decide on the best excerpt. So here’s a big chunk of it, with some of my own bolding to emphasize more shocking parts:

Somehow, enragingly, it is acceptable for panelists of talking heads to discuss her voice, her laugh, whether she smiles enough. To admonish her for “shouting.” To talk about her hair, her clothes, her accessories. To sneer at her jokes and disdainfully disqualify any personal tidbit she shares as “pandering” and “cynical” and a desperate, pathetic attempt to connect to voters.

To openly laugh at anything she does that reveals her humanity.

This is not news coverage. This is harassment. This is rank dehumanization. This is abuse.

How have we gotten to a point where we tolerate this deeply sexist, deeply personal sustained attack on one of the most admired women in the world?

How have we allowed ourselves to become so inured to a public, ritualistic humiliation of one of our nation’s most admired public servants?

Why do we expect that this overpoweringly unhealthy dynamic should be the cost of her public service, when no man in her position – including her disgusting opponent – is subjected to anything like this level of harassment and dehumanization?

Could any other human being survive this level of aggressive, ceaseless auditing, judgment, scrutiny, and personal criticism?

Why are the media doing this to her? And why are we allowing it to happen?

Hillary is the only person in public service at this level for whom unbridled contempt is not merely acceptable, but encouraged.

There is an elite Beltway media club, dominated by conservative-leaning white men, and every reporter on the political beat wants to belong to the club – a club whose gatekeepers have set as a requirement for entry the willingness to abandon all pretense of objectivity toward Hillary.


The theme that runs throughout her career in public service that she is dishonest, corrupt, compromised is accompanied by a parallel theme of exoneration. She is investigated; she is found to have done nothing wrong. She is accused; the accusations are found to be without merit. She is battered by insinuations that are, upon objective scrutiny, found to be unjustifiable.

But they are endlessly repeated nonetheless, in order to create enough smoke that some voters reflexively assume there must be a fire.

But there is no fire. There is only a smoke machine.

And still more:

I refuse to abide in silence this toxic dynamic of a culture that treats as normal the ritualistic shaming and abuse of the woman who could be our first woman president.



Randall Eades: On Beta Culture

Guest Post 2Randall Eades is a Facebook friend, and is responding to the four-part intro post on Beta Culture. He posted on Facebook, but is allowing me to echo it here.


I have to preface this by stating it is coming from an autistically wired brain, i.e., high intelligence and analytical skills, minimal social connectivity and a penchant for systemizing the world around me. So my opinions may be a bit atypical.

I am a Betan. I am an atheist. I am rational and curious. The most important thing I got from a four-year adventure in the military was the realization that I am not an American, probably not what they were going for. Everywhere I traveled I noticed the people were all just like me, going about their daily lives, trying to survive and raise their children as best they could, with little concern for the forces that sent me into their world. They didn’t want to kill me nor I them. I have no enemies anywhere. I am a Human, a citizen of the planet. We all breathe the same air.

Having said that, the other part of my autism kicks in. I don’t do community and culture. I don’t join groups. I am equally uncomfortable with rational people and raving rednecks. I don’t even see the world from that perspective. I am not traveling in a boat looking for an island of like-minded people. I am alone on a log, with no paddle, floating down an endless river, amazed at the scenery and random people I see along the way. I have little to no control over the system. I just enjoy the ride.

I don’t see the world as something I need to mold and shape to fit my ideals, but to understand. I have always seen it as this hugely complex role-playing game I awakened into at birth. I had no skills and no idea where I was or what I was doing here. Level 1, so to speak. My task, as I see it, was not to change the world, the game, but to adapt to and survive it. The conditions around me are irrelevant, a random roll of the dice. African desert, Arctic ice, Amazon jungle, Southern USofA, rural, city, rich, poor, democracy, dictatorship, it’s all the same — a given set of conditions I must adapt to and survive for as long as I can. Some conditions are obviously easier and more pleasant than others, and it’s nice when I find myself in those places, but self-development is always the point of the game. It is not a game for the faint of heart nor slow of wit. Those generally escape into comfortable self-delusion of one sort or another. But I have made it 67 years … so far. Along the way I have picked up some skills and game knowledge, I’ve advanced a few levels, and I’ve had a hell of a lot of fun.

But I understand that is not your point of view, and I’m not suggesting it should be. You are in the boat. You are a part of the group. You have a desire to leave the world a better place than you found it, to do what you can to solve some of the many problems. You are connected to your fellow Humans in ways I can never be. So while I don’t feel driven to personally be a part of Beta Culture, I do find it extremely interesting as a concept, and I hope you find a way to develop it. It would be a good thing in the world, an island of sanity in a sea going chaotic.

Okay, then. Some random thoughts….

I agree with you that atheists should be as aggressive in proselytizing their non-belief as religions do their belief. There is more to it than simply a lack of belief, that once you’ve achieved it you’re done. There is a long-running war between rationality and superstition, reality and myth, and until very recently we’ve been losing badly. It is a war for the minds of our children. Religions have no qualms about indoctrinating children even before they can form a rational thought, when they are most easily warped and shaped. Once a mind is formed as a child, it is very difficult to change as an adult. Anyone who has tried to argue rationality with a Christian fundamentalist knows they have an impenetrable Jesus Shield in place that simply deflects any fact contrary to their dogma. They not only don’t think about it, they don’t even hear it.

Religion is not just an alternative way of looking at the world. It is a controlled way of thinking. It is dictatorship over the mind. They are big on preaching free will, that their god allows us to freely choose to follow his will. But then they wrap that free will in chains of commandments and thou-shalt-nots so tightly their followers don’t dare think outside their box for fear of eternal damnation of their immortal souls. They aren’t even allowed to question whether they do, in fact, have immortal souls. It cripples the mind, then sells it a crutch. It is a form of slavery that should be fought with all the zeal with which we would fight against physical slavery. The goal of a Beta Culture should be to end this blight on humanity.

There is the notion among theists that Humans have an innate, almost instinctive, need for “God,” that everyone has always had gods. That’s not true. The early Chinese, one of the great cultures of the world, never invented gods. They had a Heaven, but that was a kind of system within which the dance of Life took place, not an Afterlife for the righteous. There was no capricious anthropomorphic deity that demanded worship in exchange for fair weather and good fortune. They worshiped, or at least prayed to, their ancestors, who they didn’t consider dead and gone, but simply transformed. They didn’t have gods until the Buddhists brought them from India. Then the Christians came and really screwed things up. But we can live without gods.

There is the notion that there can be no morality without the commandments of a god. True morality has nothing to do with a god. It is totally rational. It is about survival. Put in terms of the Venn diagrams you like, it is a set of concentric circles. In the center circle is Self. Our own survival, doing whatever it takes to stay alive, is basic morality. Any deliberate action that threatens that survival is immoral. The next circle is family. While I must strive to survive, to sacrifice my own survival for that of my family is a higher level or morality. I work at a job I hate to ensure their survival, and, if need be, I stand between them and the gun. The next circle is friends, to whom I have no blood connection, no genetic imperative, but only bonds of love. The next circle is community, some of whom I don’t even know, but still help when there is need. The next circle is nation, whose taxes I pay to care for the less fortunate among us, whose call for common defense I answer with my life. The next circle, the highest level of morality we know, is the Human species and the planet we live on. Morality is simply stated as, to quote the Vulcan, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.” Or, for those who like the carpenter, “Greater love hath no man, than that he lay down his life for his friends.” Morality is not about how we worship a god, but how we treat each other.

Beta Culture is not without precedence. The Hellenistic Era is generally considered to be such a culture. Philosophers and poets and artists were the honored ones in society, wandering all over the place and performing like rock stars. Philosophy was debated in the public arena. Schools of philosophy competed like political parties now do. And even though there were many gods and goddesses who had to be consulted for every trivial decision, there were also major schools of atheism. Epicurus’s life lived for the sake of pleasure was a very popular school of rationality and atheism all the way up to the end of the Roman Era, until the chaos of the times inflamed religious zealotry that drove it underground. Perhaps there one might find the remains of a foundation upon which to build.

In trying to figure out how to start a culture, you might also look to the Hippie culture of the ’60s. It sprang up out of nowhere, in little enclaves here and there, and invited the world to live in peace, equality and brotherhood (though it might have been a bit short on rationality, with the psychedelics and weird religious cults). It spread around the world in a very few years. And though it has mostly faded over time, it left an indelible stamp on the world that is still with us. Its music is still popular. Every now and then you see a budding political movement in Russia or somewhere adopt the look. As mature adults, its members are still pushing the political spectrum toward the liberal side, as with drug legalization and LGBT rights.

While I really have no idea how to deliberately start a culture, most of them seem to just evolve out of seemingly minor events, I agree with you that it is a worthy endeavor and I wish you well with it. And even if you cannot save the world, perhaps you can push the Sisyphean stone a little further up the hill.