Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Twilight of the Gods

There's a sight as common on the NYC subway as amateur dance crews and that's middle-aged Nigerian immigrants babbling about Jesus. Unlike the dance crews, this is greeted with a rigorous indifference as everyone looks away and tries to find something, anything else to focus on until they or the proselytizer gets off the train.

Now you probably want to shrug this off as mere New Yorker godlessness but there's two problems with that. First, New York City is much more Republican than the boring states are willing to acknowledge. You can't throw a rock in Sheepshead Bay without hitting some Ayn Rand quoting blowhard - who also identifies as Christian because Randroids are too stupid to even get their own philosophy right. Second, and most importantly, this very indifference - if not outright hostility - to wild-eyed Belief was demonstrated by much more middle Americans a little over ten years ago:

[T]he pilot of an American Airlines flight started talking crazy Jesus shit shortly after takeoff. He asked the passengers, over the intercom, to raise their hands if they were Christians... The great thing is that the pilot didn't stop there. He asked each of the passengers who didn't raise their Jesus-spiked hands to seek help from the nearest Christian lunatic in the plane. 
"The passengers feared for their safety." That's a direct quote from the reports.

This reveals one of those never acknowledged but undeniable truths about modern America: religion just ain't that important. Oh sure, you're shit out of luck in South Carolina or Kansas if your boss finds out you attend the wrong church - or even worse, no church - but that's just the everyday petty tyranny of the workplace. The weirdos are always purged so as to maintain the same bland normality, whether they're atheists or into group sex. Culturally normative behavior, especially the image of such, is strictly enforced in America by the middle management commissars.

But not one of those All-American Bible-clutchers really believes any of it. Not the same way as these Nigerians evangelizing the morning commuters. For them, religion is Religion. It's a beginning and an end, an injunction encompassing the whole of life. It is, quite simply, "To the death!"

Not even the most red-faced Jesus-Freak Republican is "To the death!" Not a single gringo has treated religion with that certainty, that intensity since the Thirty Years War. Everything from the Eucharist to the Pentecostal Potluck is just so much hollow ritual, people going through the motions just to find some sense of community and consistency.

A typical internet atheist would rub his hands with glee at this revelation. Because internet atheists are just as entrenched in Western myopia as the dullest Baptist in Charleston. Yeah, religion in America and Europe may be just a zombie puppet show but goddamn does the rest of the world still mean it! Those Nigerian Christians actually die in their homeland for it and they were doing so long before Boko Haram came on the scene. Sunni Jihadis from the Sahel to Chechnya have killed and died - often both at once - over the sanctity of some long dead goat-fucker's likeness in newspapers.

And before you get a head up of good ol' Islamophobia, remember that those same Nigerian Christians are just as able and willing to massacre the jihadis right back. Liberian preacher Joshua Blahyi spent the 1990s as General Butt Naked, leading his Butt Naked Brigade on a rampage of drugged up Kalashnikov fire and severed head soccer. Honor killings and even human sacrifice still go on in the northern backwaters of India and the Buddhists in neighboring Nepal and Indochina were the guerrilla warfare capitols of the world all through the latter half of the 20th Century.

Besides, it's not like the lukewarm Christianity of America has made it any nicer either. An entire political movement was born in 2009 because people were opposed to getting better healthcare. The recent torture docs revealed all the bizarre butt stuff that went on as "enhanced interrogation" which anyone willing to pay attention had known for years anyway. And the nominal peace movement spends more time dithering over the legality of flying killbots, having internalized the priorities of amoral global empire.

Point is, people don't need some medieval spook in the sky as justification to be assholes.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

On Satire and Obscenity

Sometimes you need to take a step back and appreciate the absurdity of the world.

Like how twelve French journalists were murdered over cartoons. In all the commentary and nombrilisme over the Charlie Hebdo attack, you often see that point left out. These people were murdered over cartoons, that is the exact reason the attackers who were posthumously claimed by Al Qaeda Yemen gave for their bloodbath. They were pretty unambiguous, as reactionaries often are since nuance is one of those things for wishy-washy liberals.

Although, going by the reaction in Anglo-American media, those same wishy-washy liberals can lock it down like the best neocons. First you had all the cable news companies "refraining" from showing the cartoons because they're pussies so as not to offend, then you had dozens of online lefties - even the excellent Jacobin! - offering the argument of "Yes murder is bad but Charlie Hebdo is racist."

Now that's pretty damn absurd too. And it's a rare case of a commie agreeing with a Catholic:

Religious freedom and freedom of expression, [Pope Francis] said, are fundamental human rights. But they are also not a total liberties... "If [a close friend] says a swear word against my mother, he’s going to get a punch in the nose," he explained. "One cannot provoke, one cannot insult other people’s faith, one cannot make fun of faith."

Yep, Pope Franky is totes for free speech but wants you to understand that it'll get you ganked. Like how you should expect sexual assault if you go out dressed like a whore.

John Dolan, in a bit of a rant, makes the point that Anglo-American culture just doesn't get French satire. That's certainly true, the gleeful irreverence of French comedy being alien even to liberal Americans. That's also what makes it so goddamn brilliant, the utter lack of sanctimony. That's why Republicans are so unfunny and also why AlterNet publishes the occasional complaint about The Daily Show - sanctimony is as American as Apple Pie or crediting upper middle class protesters with ending the Vietnam War, as opposed to the bravery and ingenuity of the Viet Cong.

That deeply normative sanctimony is why so many Americans are dithering over Charlie Hebdo. They know the proper response should be "free speech," but there's just something too salty about those anarcho-atheist Frenchies. The charge of "racism" even uses the very broad American definition, which is obsessed with skin color, rather than the French concept which has much more to do with national identity. In France, if you drink wine and sneer at religion you're In, whereas in America even Darius Rucker still gets shit from country fans just because of his melanin.

The only sensible thing out there is this article by sci-fi fantasy author Saladin Ahmed. He examines the "punching down" of Charlie Hebdo's vendetta against Islam without condemning them. And thank Allah for that because it moves past the shaky - and blitheringly ignorant - debate about racism and brings us to the much more real problem of the rising right-wing hysteria in Europe over what's a meager single digit percentage of Muslims in the  population:

"In an unequal world, satire that mocks everyone equally ends up serving the powerful."

There are real issues of power here that the attack on Charlie Hebdo has brought up for discussion. French Muslims are as powerless as Shias in Saudi Arabia while being just as demonized - though they likely don't get whipped and beheaded as much as said Shia. Truly bold satire denigrates wealthy Sunnis like the House of Saud and the Catholic Church that continues to retard sexual health in the developing world while molesting children. Speaking truth to power is a vital necessity of any free and progressive society.

So in that spirit, here's a caricature of Sarah Palin getting hammered in the ass by Joel Osteen a closet-case pastor:

"So, did you see the upstairs?" Madame President's hand was roughly kneading inside his back pocket. "They've got this new... thing."

Damn woman! Couldn't She leave him be for just one evening? "Love to."

She dragged him up the wide staircase. He could feel eyes flitting to them from the now drunk crowd. "There they go again," they would all be thinking. Bad enough Feely had to pleasure the goddamn whore but now everywhere he went, everyone he met just saw him as one more of her playthings - and oh how many She'd already had!

That was one of the many elephants in the room he'd learned of in this town, how She'd been fucking everyone but Her husband since the moment She took office. He'd seen all the anonymous blogs, claiming firsthand accounts of the affair - even the paid journalists couldn't keep a straight face anymore in denying it. His congregation had a field day once getting righteously pissed over executive infidelities which left him wondering if now they didn't care or they were really too dumb to notice.

The second floor was empty, save for the two of them and - as always - Klein. He gave the usual nod, a silent "I've cleared out anyone who might hear her moose noises." Feely had to admit that, despite the work he did, he genuinely liked Klein. He was quiet, professional, and never judged. And that chiseled jaw line -

"Let's do a quick one in the bathroom," She said, Her tongue slithering over his ear.

It didn't bother Feely as much anymore. He'd gradually learned how to tune everything out while still "performing." Alcohol usually helped, as did Her seemingly endless supply of cocaine. Really - he frantically told himself - he actually enjoyed this blanked out mental state. It gave him time to relax, to remember happier times of sneaking past Anita to go cruising Denver for a tight-assed boy and some meth -

The brief reminiscence died - as always - to Her slobbering grunts of, "Fuck my pooper! Fuck my pooper!"

Get my filthy and disrespectful novel One Nation Under God on Kindle or the ereader of your choice!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


You’re staring down at a meal. Could be a turkey dinner, a pizza from Domino’s, mint chocolate-chip ice cream, whatever you like. Because this is your last meal. The last thing you taste before the elected Powers That Be take your life in the name of Lady Justice.

Because you fucked up. Maybe you caught your significant other getting some on the side and lost control. It happens. Or maybe you were a dirty crook to begin with and shot some rich prick who wouldn’t give up his Rolex. Hell, maybe you’re a methodical serial killer. Ted Bundy: The Next Generation.

It doesn’t matter.

Whoever you are and whatever you’re eating, you have a unique opportunity. Unlike many, you can contemplate your death as an immediate reality rather than a philosophical abstract. The greatest thinkers themselves were never in your position, the old being too incoherent and the young never seeing it coming. Well, there was Socrates, but we won’t get into that.

The myriad of possibilities rushes through your mind. Heaven, Hell, Reincarnation, or just plain Oblivion. The greatest question ever asked by humanity: “What comes after death?” and you are about to learn the answer and, possibly, the ultimate Truth of the universe.

You may be excited or intrigued at the thought of gaining such knowledge. You might be shitting your pants; terrified of losing the only existence you have ever known. You may have found Religion while on death row and go to your fate with a sense of peace. You may be an unrepentant monster who happily recounts every horrendous act, especially the ones the cops never found out about.

Doesn’t matter. There’s a schedule to follow and your feelings don’t factor into it.

You can be thinking of this while you eat, or while the nice guards lead you down the hall. It’s okay, no one will deny you the right to daydream.

And when you’re being strapped into the Chair, or the Gas Chamber, or whatever form of egress is currently in vogue, it hits you: the banality of the whole thing. The systematic tightening of restraints (can’t disturb anyone with you’re flailing limbs), the droning voice of whatever religious authority you have requested (if any), it’s all so mechanical. Executions, the State ordered ending of a life, are carried out with all the seriousness and emotion of a routine board meeting. You’re Executioner looks like he’d rather be at the bar with his buddies. This is when you realize there is no grand finale, no climax, no drum roll leading up to a clash of symbols. It just ends.