On Comprehension

Ready comprehension is often a knee-jerk response and the most dangerous form of understanding. It blinks an opaque screen over your ability to learn. The judgmental precedents of law function that way, littering your path with dead ends. Be warned. Understand nothing. All comprehension is temporary.

-Mentat Fixe (adacto)

Demystifying the suicide attack

Robert A. Pape is Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago and is well-known in the field of international security affairs. This is what he has to say on religion and suicide terrorism:

“The conventional wisdom is mostly wrong. Suicide terrorism is not mainly the product of Islamic fundamentalism or any other evil ideology independent of circumstance. I have studied 462 suicide terrorists; over half are secular. The world leader in suicide terrorism is the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka – they’re a Marxist group, a secular group, a Hindu group. The Tamil Tigers have committed more suicide terrorist attacks than Hamas or Islamic Jihad. Instead, what more than 95 percent of all suicide terrorist attacks since 1980 have in common is not religion, but a specific secular goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory the terrorists view as their homeland. From Lebanon to Chechnya to Kashmir to Sri Lanka to the West Bank, every suicide terrorist campaign since 1980 has had as its main objective to compel a democratic state to withdraw combat forces from territory that the terrorists prize.”

“The taproot of suicide terrorism is nationalism, it is an extreme strategy for national liberation”

“Religion is often a component of nationalism, and that is true not only for Muslims. For instance, there are many American Jews who believe that Jerusalem should be the capital of Israel. They view themselves as completely secular, and yet they have no problem also believing that Jerusalem should be the capital of Israel. Why? Because in many national histories religion plays a key role, especially religion associated with territory – that is an extremely common feature. It is not that religion and nationalism are at odds with each other, though they can be; it is often the case that religion is a subcomponent of nationalism.”

Further reading:

Rehabilitation via The Witness Protection System

I chanced across a very engaging review of a book called ‘Witsec: Inside the Federal Witness Protection Program’ (Gerald Shur & Pete Earley)

In summing up a lengthy description, the reviewer writes:

In popular culture, the Witness Protection Program has an aura of mystery. In laying out its full history in Inside the Federal Witness Protection Program, Earley and Shur share plenty of stories — about creative assassination attempts, mob parties, and the smuggling of drug cartel leaders across the Mexican border — of the type that have long captured Hollywood’s imagination. But the real surprises are aspects like the program’s low recidivism rate: the Witness Protection Program as an example of what vigorous government-led rehabilitation could look like, the Witness Protection Program as an example of how our past weighs on our present, the Witness Protection Program as an example of both the salience and liminality of identity.

I believe this review and then perhaps this book may be quite thought-provoking for people who are interested in the issues above.

Read the full article by Alex Mayyasi at this link: http://priceonomics.com/what-happens-when-you-enter-the-witness-protection/?utm_source=digg&utm_medium=email

An opportunity for nostalgia.

Waiting in the hospital this morning surrounded by shuffling geriatrics, I was reminded of this sentiment from Stephen Fry’s ‘Liar’, which I recently re-read:-

As Adrian hurried past the Senate House he noticed two old men standing outside Bowes and Bowes. He put an extra spring in his step, a thing he often did when walking near the elderly. He imagined old people would look at his athletic bounce with a misty longing for their own youth. Not that he was trying to show off or rub salt into the wounds of the infirm, he really believed he was offering a service, an opportunity for nostalgia, like whistling the theme tune from Happidrome or spinning a Diabolo.

He skipped past them with carefree ease, missed his footing and fell to the ground with a thump. One of the old men helped him up.

“You all right, lad?”

“Yes fine … I must have slipped on the ice.”

Fifa 14 or Call of Duty

Michael Calvin had this to say in the Independent On Sunday:-

“No one batted an eyelid on Friday night when, during the paternalistic burbling that passes as a Fifa presidential address, Sepp Blatter called for a suspension of global armed activity* for the duration of a tournament in which 157,000 soldiers and FBI-trained riot police have been ordered to keep the peace.
They will be supported by Israeli-supplied drones, 48 aircraft, 20 warships and 60 fast-response vessels such as speed boats. Twelve military command centres have been set up across the country and 36 ground-to-air missile batteries, purchased from the German army, have been deployed. Fifa 14 has become a real-time version of Call of Duty

*Sepp Blatter said:- “During 32 days, the world actuality (news) will be with football and I hope during this time all belligerent activities in the different corners of the world shall stop and then I would say King Football shall reign” Reuters link

A Brave and Startling Truth

We, this people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth

And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms

When we come to it
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean
When battlefields and coliseum
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters
Up with the bruised and bloody grass
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil

When the rapacious storming of the churches
The screaming racket in the temples have ceased
When the pennants are waving gaily
When the banners of the world tremble
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze

When we come to it
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce
When land mines of death have been removed
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace
When religious ritual is not perfumed
By the incense of burning flesh
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake
By nightmares of abuse

When we come to it
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids
With their stones set in mysterious perfection
Nor the Gardens of Babylon
Hanging as eternal beauty
In our collective memory
Not the Grand Canyon
Kindled into delicious color
By Western sunsets

Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji
Stretching to the Rising Sun
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor,
Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores
These are not the only wonders of the world

When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear

When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.

Maya Angelou (4 April 1928 – 28 May 2014)

Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin.

I love this summation by the author:

Man may be excused for feeling some pride at having risen, though not through his own exertions, to the very summit of the organic scale; and the fact of his having thus risen, instead of having been aboriginally placed there, may give him hope for a still higher destiny in the distant future. But we are not here concerned with hopes or fears, only with the truth as far as our reason permits us to discover it; and I have given the evidence to the best of my ability. We must, however, acknowledge, as it seems to me, that man with all his noble qualities, with sympathy which feels for the most debased, with benevolence which extends not only to other men but to the humblest living creature, with his god-like intellect which has penetrated into the movements and constitution of the solar system – with all these exalted powers – Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin.

I think we can guess the author of these lines.

Thanks to http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/darwinselection.html

Who cares anymore?

If 2013 was the year of coming out, let’s make 2014 the year we just are. When being gay stops being front-page and starts being “so-what?”.

I read these sentences in the Sunday Times editorial by Katie Glass on the 2nd of February
and found myself agreeing with her. She talks of the ‘celebrigay’ smashing the ‘glass closets’ as feeling very old-fashioned.

Some more quotes:

…the most powerful thing we can offer young people isn’t gay role models but role models who are gay.

…I want who I’m sleeping with to be the least interesting thing about me there is.

p.s. Although there is perhaps some case to be made for ‘celebrigays’ making it easier for people in still-homophobic societies/occupations.

LOTR: A conversation.

1: Hey guys, we’ve got this epic quest ahead of us.

2: Yeah, better start packing, it’ll be a long walk.

1: Walk? Can’t we just call the eagles and get it boxed off this afternoon, like, pronto?

2: Nah, we’ll walk.

1: You DO know if we walk there’ll be mountains to climb, rivers to cross, forests to brave, caves to dare.. not the mention the Trolls, and Black Riders, and Goblins, and Orcs, and Goblins, and Uruk-Hai, and Stone Giants, and Wargs, and Crebain, and Mamukil, and Azog, and Bolg, and the Balrog, and Shelob, and Morgoth, and the Witch-King, and Nazgul, and Khamul, and Gothmog, and Ungoliant….
Let’s just call the eagles, hey?

2: Nah, we’ll walk.

Book queue

I’m loving Wool by Howey, Hugh at the moment, 400 more pages to go and then these are the books I have acquired that are lying about waiting to be read:

  1. An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Hadfield, Chris.
  2. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Joyce, Rachel.
  3. The Particle at the End of the Universe by Carroll, Sean.
  4. The Black Swan: The impact of the highly improbable by Taleb, Nassim Nicholas.
  5. Philosophy: The Classics by Warburton, Nigel.
  6. Another Bloody Love Letter by Loyd, Anthony.
  7. Harvest of Time by Reynolds, Alastair.
  8. Grammar for Grown-ups by Fry, Katharine & Kirton, Rowena.
  9. The Inside Track: Paddocks, pit stops and tales of life in the fast lane by Humphrey, Jake.