Irritation > Apathy

Well, hello again everyone. It is almost a year since I have written a post: it seems that for all that time my latent apathy and laziness were able to out-weigh my need to find release, in the form of writing, for any feelings of irritation, anger, amusement and even out-and-out hair-tearing, teeth-grinding, eye-popping, red faced, screaming apoplexy brought about by the idiotically deranged rantings of the terminally faithful.

Now I don't want you to get the impression that I am in need of anger management classes - I'm generally a pretty mild-mannered sort of chap who wouldn't say boo to a goose - or who would at least have the courtesy to apologise to the goose if it seemed scared afterwards. Nay, in fact for most of life's daily travails I appear so laid back as to be practically horizontal, and for this reason and others I doubt I will ever be successful in life, but, well that's another story and need not concern us here.

Religion, and faith for those of you who make the distinction, have the capacity to get under my skin like nothing else, to really wind me up, to thoroughly get my goat in fact, and sadly it's not even a goat that I can sacrifice to propitiate the god of anger, so I can tell him to let me calm down a bit and lower my blood pressure, being as it is, of course, a merely metaphorical goat.
So what happened, I hear you ask, to kick me up from my stew of apathy and dis-interest long enough to bring me back to this page that has lain unaltered and reader-less for almost a year, and write three paragraphs of bullshit before I even get close to the point? Why now, when every single day, millions of children around the world have their wonderful, inquisitive and innocent little minds inexcusably polluted with ancient myths, and with hatred for those who don't share them? When nearly every day one or more of these products of hate-filled 'education' detonates themselves for the glory of god? When unwanted children are conceived and born because contraception goes against god's design? When another innocent contracts HIV for the same reason? When young girls have their labia and clitoris cut off to prevent any chance of them ever enjoying sex, which would of course make god angry? When women are forced to cover themselves from head to toe because god holds them responsible if a man be aroused enough to rape them? When women are killed by their own families if they are raped, to expunge the shame and restore family 'honour'? When building continues in occupied land because it was given to the Jews by god? When European Governments like my own capitulate in the face of implicit threats of violence and unrest, further eroding our hard-won freedom and national identity? And the list goes on and on and on and on, so, why now?

I don't know, I just felt like it.

Sometimes whole days can go by when the news is free of religious stories, excepting of course the daily casualty list in Afghanistan, and I am prepared to accept that political and economic reasons are as much to blame as religion in that particular case. Occasionally though, several stories are covered at once and I find my blood pressure rising and have to try very hard not to pull out any of my few remaining hairs.

We are of course approaching the anniversary of the 9/11 atrocities, and TV channels are full of programs showing 'new' and 'previously unseen' amateur video footage which is of course deeply harrowing. Not so many show the pictures of Palestinians jubilantly dancing in the street we all remember from the news at the time. I wonder why?

Here in Britain three men have just been convicted of a plot (dramatically dubbed Britain's 9/11) to blow up several airliners in flight, in a second trial (in the first trial the jury were hung and could not reach a unanimous decision) after new evidence was presented. Last night viewers of BBC's Newsnight were presented with the stomach-churning spectacle of an 'ex-extremist' who now works to 'reach out to angry and disaffected young British muslims' explain how otherwise perfectly pleasant young men turn in to psychopathic kaffir-hating would-be murderers (my words, you may have guessed, not his) by having their anger and hatred channelled by unscrupulous Wahhabi Imams preaching a vilely fundamentalist version of Islam, you know, the one that is the state religion in Saudi Arabia. He was saying that of course this result is a triumph for British policing and military intelligence, but might not be perceived as a triumph for British justice because some people, in the grass roots of muslim communities, especially these angry-but-otherwise-perfectly-pleasant-young-men would feel that a retrial was only held so that we could 'get the right result' (note that in the lovely Islamic dictatorships that these men would like Britain to become, a retrial would most certainly not be necessary - indeed an initial trial would probably be unnecessary, we'd simply get an angry mob to stone the accused to death, and all be home by tea-time).

All this pathetic justification from a man who was presumably in his youth just as angry and psychopathic as the remorseless newly convicted jihadis (what happened to make him an 'ex'-extremist, I wonder? Did he just grow up a bit? Did he get married and channel his previously retarded and pent-up emotions in to the more wholesome pastime of sex? Did he perhaps realise that a potentially lucrative career as a pundit and government advisor was preferable to scattering himself over a wide area in the pursuit of murdering kaffirs?) was of course accompanied by the usual hand-wringing from the government's spokesperson, in this case the ex-security minister Tony McNulty - 'ex' because while in office he had the deeply unnerving habit of occasionally departing from the party line and saying what he actually thought about things. Unfortunately for McNulty and the government alike, what he thought usually turned out to be unadulterated bollocks. If I were a cynic (which of course I am) I might suggest that this 'ex' minister was wheeled out to parlay with the 'ex' extremist so that if he should accidentally put his foot in his mouth again it would be very easy for the government to 'distance itself' from his remarks. In the event his remarks were of course wholly un-remarkable, the basic gist being that a) government policy and extra funding for security were responsible for bringing these men to justice and b) we must of course do more to 'reach out' to these poor angry young men, to prevent them being corrupted by hate-filled preachers, and to explain to them, so that they really understand, why as a nation we have to do these things that make them so angry. Yada-yada: poor defenceless angry souls; simply misguided and misled; of course it's our fault that they hate us so much and has nothing at all to do with a literal interpretation of an iron-age murder-manual (oops, better be careful, I might hurt somebody's feelings or cause offence - these count as hate crimes in my 'free' country - how terrible it would be to be accused of 'inciting racial hatred' against a group of people who are most certainly not 'a race' and who have the practice of hatred down to a fine art).

Then lo and behold, the very next item was a special report about the Israeli army. Apparently this avowedly secular organisation has more and more Rabbis joining up to provide moral and religious direction to the troops. Now of course many of the World's armies have ministers and chaplains of some sort to cater for the spiritual needs of their men (and women in some countries), but what makes the Israeli case so interesting and blood-curdlingly frightening is the sheer number of Rabbis joining up, and the fact that they will actually be leading troops in combat operations. So we have the wonderful prospect of Orthodox Rabbis blessing their troops, saying a few prayers and then charging in to battle in the name of god with a rifle in one hand and a Torah in the other. Fantastic. The BBC were not allowed to film these soldiers of god in action, because the Israeli government is understandably a little worried about how this looks abroad, but they did manage to interview a few charming young men at an orthodox seminary who plan to join up. One said that 'god will make our army stronger', another that 'we know god is on our side because he has given this land to us' and the other one said 'we can feel the hand of god guiding our nation's history, look at how we have survived so many wars with so few dead' - nothing to do with having massively superior fire-power and a highly trained and well organised military of course. And where was this 'guiding hand of god' for the last 2000 years or so while the Jews were being pretty much universally hated and persecuted?

So lets not forget that in Gaza, Jerusalem and the West Bank, the Israeli army is an occupying army, charged with keeping the peace of a reluctant population that is hardly without it's own fair share of faith-filled crazies. It really bodes well for peace in the region when the only thing currently preventing out-and-out anarchy in the occupied territories is slowly being filled with men who believe they are doing the work of god with just as much conviction as your average suicide bomber.

The Israeli top-brass say they are not worried because the army has strict secular codes that all soldiers must obey, and all these Rabbis are merely junior officers. Well, what happens in the heat of battle, when some messianic lieutenant gives an order that might be consistent with the will of Yahweh (something like 'thou shalt killeth them all, spare not ye their women, neither spare ye their children, nor their cattle, their sheep nor their goats, nay, thou shalt killeth them all that thou shalt taketh this thy land which your god, who is a merciful god, has given to you; oh and by the way, don't kill all the chickens cos I'll use one later' etc) rather than the army code ('go in, kill the ones with guns and stylish bomb belts, tie up the rest and leave the bloody chickens alone' etc)? I do of course exaggerate (slightly) for comic effect but it can't be good. And where do you suppose the next generation of top brass comes from? From the current crop of Colonels and Majors of course. And what happens when Rabbi lieutenants distinguish themselves in battle? They will be promoted... Captain - Major - Colonel... you see where I'm going with this; wouldn't it be great if some of the Generals of the region's most powerful army truly believed with all their hearts that Israel was given to them by god? It would be a bit like making Pat Robertson a General and putting him in charge of NATO forces in Afghanistan - in other words a truly horrifying prospect for anyone not completely high on scripture.

Well that feels a little bit better, to get that irritation and pent-up sarcasm off my chest, but as is so often the case, anger at religion and its self-righteous practitioners, and their feeble-minded total certainty that what they believe and do is absolutely 100% right, gives way to a sadness at the condition of our species, a real sense of worry about our collective future. Here we are in the 21st century (depending on your calender of course) knowing so much, capable of achieving so much, with a real idea of our place in the Universe, striving forward - and yet still we have one foot shackled to our ignorant past, as though caught in a gin-trap. We try to march into the future with our seven-league boot of knowledge, uncertainty and critical inquiry on our front foot, whilst the bloody trap of superstition, myth and an ignorance that is the hallmark of total certainty spills countless gallons of our blood. Part crippled by this trap and the festering tendrils of infection it tries to spread into our whole body, will we ever manage to prise open the jaws of the trap, break the chain and heal our wounds? Will we stumble on carrying the dead-weight of chains and trap, weakened by infection? Or will it bring us down and leave us dying in the dust and blood from which, with total certainty, we know we were made?

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Anonymous said...

Cool thanks for that man, scary shit about the Israeli army - you'd think they'd be more careful to keep religion out of it when they can see how it fucks up the guys on the other side... like the bit at the end, nice metaphors. good to see you're back writing again man.