Tuesday, 11 April 2006

Ideas vs People

There are a disturbing number of people who don't understand the difference between ideas and those who hold them. Perhaps the clearest example yesterday was a commenter on Kiwiblog's 'Anti-Islam Speech' thread in this exchange:
RW: "Islam is not any individual muslim, it is a socio-political ideology with religious dressings, and it is a mortal enemy of the infidel."
ERR: "Oh, now that's just sophism. What is a religion? It is an idea shared by a collection of people. If all the individual people vanish, so does the entire idea. Therefore the individuals making up Islam are a subset of the entirity of the religion."

Far from being 'sophism,' understanding the difference between destroying an idea and destroying a person is surely fundamental to the exchange of ideas. Conflating ideas and people is, well, either sophism or just plain silly.

Calling for the death of an idea does not entail calling for the death of a person. If for instance I say "I look forward to the death of the idea that flared trousers are fashionable," then I'm advocating that people no longer wear flares; I'm maybe suggesting that flared-trouser-wearers be shunned socially; what I'm not doing is advocating killing those who wear them or sell them. On the other hand, Eric Pianka in the post below is calling for people to die, or is at least saying he'll be happy when mass-dying happens. You see the difference? [Sheesh, you'd hardly think this was necessary to point out, would you?]

Equally, if I advocate the death of an idea or a religion I am not advocating genocide -- I'm calling for the death of an idea; the death of the religion, not the deaths of the religion's adherents. (Not, that is, unless those adherents have taken the next step of becoming murderers themselves.)

So what lack of logic equates one with the other? The other day I quoted Eleanor Roosevelt saying, "Great minds talk about ideas, average minds talk about events, small minds talk about people." What sort of mind confuses one with another?

There are some ideas that are so toxic they deserve to lose support. They deserve to be shunned. They deserve to die out. Just because some ideas are held very strongly -- indeed religiously -- does not mean they can't be criticised, pilloried, satirised or laughed at. As Thomas Sowell reminds us, "Cultures are not museum pieces, they are the working machinery of everyday life." We need to judge cultures and religious beliefs and practices by the same standards as we judge "working machinery": that is, by how well they work for adherents and those affected by cultural and religious practices. The standard by which that judgement is made is life, human life. By that standard, modern Islam ranks very poorly.

The West too had its own Dark Ages before reason and individualism brought us into the sunlight of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. Sadly, as the West embraced reason and went from Dark Age to Golden Age, Islamic philosophers did the reverse, rejecting reason and this earth and setting off Islam's own slide into darkness, where it has remained ever since. Without their own rebirth of reason, Islamic cultures are likely to stay there.

Whatever you can say about Golden Age Islam and its great advances, sharia, subjugation of women, suicide bombing, virulent irrationalism and worldwide terrorism say an awful lot about modern Islam and it's current anti-life outlook. Said the Islamic philosopher who first rejected reason and this earth on behalf of his brothers, "If it's in the Koran we don't want it; if it's not in the Koran we don't need it. Said Osama bin Laden after 9/11, "We love death. The U.S. loves life. That is the difference between us two... in the [Muslim] nation there are thousands of young men who are as keen on death as Americans are keen on life." The events of the last five years in particular show these statements should be taken seriously, and judged accordingly.

Like I said, there are some ideas so toxic that they deserve to die out. Irrational, anti-life religion is one of them. "Death to the anti-life," say I.

NOTE: For your interest, I've added links to two related pieces I wrote for Scoop back in 2001: 'The Heart of the West' and a response to critics of that piece, posted down the page from 'Who Kills the Innocents?'

UPDATE: I'm adding a link to an excellent piece by Amit Ghate on 'The Islamist Threat to Civilization' which concretises exactly that, showing exactly what is at stake and why. It's not Islamism versus Chistianity, its Islamism versus every civilising value that the West stands for.

LINKS: Anti-Islam speech - Kiwiblog
The Heart of the West - Peter Cresswell, Scoop
Who kills the innocents? - Peter Cresswell, Scoop
The Islamist threat to civilization - Amit Ghate, Capitalist Magazine

War, Multiculturalism, Religion, Philosophy, Ethics


  1. good and obvious point. Ruth seems to assume that because one hates Islam that means one hates all Muslims. Her reasoning, not mine, nor perigo's.
    It's obvious that there are Muslims out there just like me or you. Example: The Free Muslim Coalition, a moderate group in the US, which once spoke with Objectivist David Kelly. It's stupidity to assume that "anti Islam" types hate all Muslims. Actually, it's possible to be friends with a Muslim despite disagreeing with his religion. You don't have to be in 100% agreement on every issue to see some good in people that makes them worthy of companionship.
    and no, Perigo wasn't referring to Islamism as some people have said. He said Islam and he meant it. Mainstream Islam, as practised by over a billion people, has serious problems and needs to be modified. As a non-Muslim there isn't much I can say or do to convince Muslims to change, but its obvious that a change is needed.
    Mainstream Islamic thought or practice is alien to such concepts as 'Secular'. Christainity and Islam have profound differences in regards to relations between government and religion. From the beginning, the prophet was head of state. Islam hence provides rules and principles for the regulation and conduct of public/social life. This tradition is not compatiable with the principles behind liberal democracies. Many do not see a difference between gods laws (Sharia) and man-made laws. This ought to be obvious. Oh btw, didn't you hear, moderate Sistani from Iraq called for the death of homosexauls? I'm not saying mainstream Islam must no longer exist, but it must change (as it has in some small parts of the Western world) and become more liberal if our way of life is to be maintained.
    Lastly, why can't commentators be more honest? Obviously David Farrar doesnt believe in Islam. Why not? whats wrong with saying why not?
    and if you don't believe in Islam, and instead some other belief system, don't you want to spread it? After all, those of us who care about the truth want to reveal it to others, to explain and educate. So in that spirit, I said death to thousands of Ideas from Christanity and Islam to Marxism and Political correctness.

  2. Peter, I think I said a very similar thing here and here, just with a lot less clarity and a lot more rambling and analogy :-)

    The more I think about the hysterical assertions by the Islam-appeasers that we're advocating the death of Islam by putting Muslims to the sword, the more I think it's some kind of 'projection'; that they would like to see the actual phsyical death of those who don't share their philosophy. Hmmmm .......

  3. My position was that you cannot divorce evil from its practitioners- evil is not a Platonic abstraction existing in some other dimension independently of the human beings who perpetrate it and that it's perfectly proper to attack them personally precisely for the evil that they are perpetrating.

    I'm not the first to say that.

    Furthermore it is worth reminding ourselves, as James has, that Perigo did say Islam is evil and he did mean Islam. "Let us not forget that Muslims are the locus of totalitarianism." he said. They are "god-ridden grotesqueries, these ignoble ignoramuses, these genocidal jihadists.." these Muslims, all Muslims.

    It is also worth reminding ourselves that Ruth's comments confined themselves to pointing out how, for winning hearts and minds, remonstrating to Islam this way ain't the best trick in the book. I've seen the water muddied but I've not seen anybody take her up on that, which was her whole actual argument.

  4. 1) Rick, I've said to you before that when adults are talking you need to keep quiet. It's taken you ten years to show that you just can't grow up and be taken seriously, but do try to please remember that simple rule and we'll all get along just fine.

    2) If you're going to post quotes, let alone interpret them, then they need to be accurate -- which means quoting correctly and accurately, and not dropping context. When adults are conversing, they don't want to have to go back and check that what you said was correct, only to find out that not for the first time you're talking nonsense. Remember, there's a reason courts talk about "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." [Emphasis mine.] Posting quotes is like that too, especially if you claim to be the only one who really understand them, .

    EXAMPLE 1: You misquoted: '"Let us not forget that Muslims are the locus of totalitarianism.'[sic] he said." No, he didn't. Here's exactly what he said, with the context:

    The quote with context:

    "Let us not forget that while Muslims are the locus of totalitarianism, they are aided and abetted by an array of allied ayatollahs, woeful witch-doctors of every hue. I quote from the Horror File of the upcoming Free Radical:

    “Christian and Muslim church leaders have rallied to stop a South Park episode, that depicts the Virgin Mary bleeding, from going to air. … The episode, which the CanWest channel plans to screen in May, shows a statue of the Virgin Mary bleeding. A cartoon character of Pope Benedict is called to investigate and declares she is menstruating. ‘Chicks bleed all the time’ he says. … Catholic Communications Director Lyndsay Freer said representatives of the Council of Christians and Jews and Council of Christians and Muslims, Anglican Bishops, the Salvation Army and other church leaders have signed the letter requesting that C4 not screen the episode. ‘The letter pointed out it would give offence to a great many people.’
    (Dominion Post, January 30, 2006)"

    Yes, a global harem of umbrage-takers."
    See the difference a context makes, and an exact quote? If that's too subtle for you, then kindly leave the adults to talk and stop bothering us.

    EXAMPLE 2: Here's what you said was said: "They are 'god-ridden grotesqueries, these ignoble ignoramuses, these genocidal jihadists..'[sic] these Muslims, all Muslims."

    Here's what was said, with the context:
    "They’ve been out in force recently, these squalid savages, these bigoted barbarians, these hysterical humanity-haters, these tawdry terrorists, these god-ridden grotesqueries, these ignoble ignoramuses, these genocidal jihadists … burning flags and embassies because their super-superstitious sensibilities were offended by some cartoons in a Danish newspaper."
    Now, if you can't tell the difference between what you misquoted (and the intent you read into them) and what was actually said, then can I suggest a course in reading comprehension. But don't keep doing it on my time. Keep posting nonsense here, and I'll keep deleting it. And if you can't read or quote correctly, then go and bother some other poor blogger -- surely there's plenty of Compulsion Touters that would welcome you?

    3) Ruth's comments did not confine themselves to how to win Muslim hearts and minds. That was in no way "her whole actual argument." And I note while writing, too, that her recent 'update' on tolerance blurs any distinction between Person A who publishes a cartoon that offends Person B, and Person B then seeking to behead the cartoonist. Stupidity like that can't be bought, but it can and unfortunately is being replicated.

    4) And finally, if I want advice I wouldn't be taking it from the village idiot. But how on earth would anyone think I was "remonstrating to Islam" anyway. The mind just boggles. Not only have you once again confused a person (or person) for an idea, you competely miss who that piece was written for. Sheesh already.

  5. It's amusing to watch those who oppose the critics of Islam tie themselves in knots , defending the indefensible.
    Islam is a totalitarian philosophy hiding inside a "religion" and the result of that is atrocities carried out in the name of the prophet. Whether or not millions of individual muslims reject violence is entirely beside the point--their religion demands murder of the infidel and if they personally don't indulge in that kind of behaviour it doesn't make the religion any less of a threat to civilised values.
    If they themselves are opposed to sawing off the heads of infidels, opposed to murdering schoolchildren, opposed to hanging homosexuals, then why the hell don't they choose another religion?
    Because, perhaps, by claiming to be "moderate muslims" they can enjoy the benefits of Western civilisation while privately supporting the islamofascists in their midst.
    I'm tired of hearing naive Westerners defend the indefensible. If you believe in civilisation then you oppose barbarism.

  6. Well I'll resist correcting the above in order to please you.

    And if my mere twitterings somehow subtract from your unassailable posts of fact please don't erase them. Withdrawing my permission to comment is the last word on the matter, and more binding than any technical means you think you have over me.

  7. "I'm tired of hearing naive Westerners defend the indefensible. If you believe in civilisation then you oppose barbarism."

    Well said KG. Well said.

  8. PC, you can probably tell me in what age the most witches were burned. Can't be that age of enlightment and renaissance, so this is a dead give-away...

  9. The whole 'kill the idea not the people' thing smacks of the Christian concept of 'Hate the sin, love the sinner', which was often used in an extraordinarily hypocritical sense, with reference to the Protestant burning of Catholics during 1600s and 1700s. It is impossible to wipe out an idea without persecuting its practitioners in some capacity, even the nonviolent practitioners.

    Also, the 'death of an idea' is a fairly impossible concept. As long as there is someone to remember it and pass it on, an idea cannot be destroyed. An idea can be brought into irreparable discredit (see Communism, Nazism) or marginalised and laughed into irrelevency (see Anarchism, Scientology, Objectivism), but unless every book and record containing it is destroyed and every person aware of it killed, an idea can never be utterly destroyed.

    It would be impossible to affect the total banning/eradication of Islam without the institution of a 1984-like government, which would ban Korans, monitor housing of signs of prayer, etc. Obviously you don't believe this would be a good idea: I merely bring it up to emphasise the impossibility of banning Islam.



    Global Economic Crisis

    The world is under a great economic crisis. For the conventional economists it is only a Recession and not a Depression at all, for their partial analytical techniques, over-simplified models with unrealistic assumptions and over emphasis on data. It may take at least five years for them to realize that it would be a Great Depression and by that time it may be over. When Cybernetics is employed for the study of the working of the global economy as a whole with multi-sector approaches on the basis of the deeper understanding of Political Economy, we are forced to admit that this is not a simple Recession, but a Great Depression that requires not only economic stimulus but Ethical or Spiritual and Political Stimulus also to recover.

    Dreadful Consumerism

    Not only the capitalist or developed countries but also the Socialist or Islamist or Less Developed Countries too are brought under the Great Depression II. It is not only Islam or Christianity but also Communism could not save the world from Consumerism and the unethical or immoral business practices that are hundred times deadlier than Materialism or even Atheism. Consumerism has emerged as the greatest threat to the very existence of Capitalism for it drained away saving and investment, that constitute Capital without which there is no Capitalism.

    The corporate culture has corrupted almost all religions and communist movements and made them the victims of Consumerism. The corporate culture made everything expensive and unaffordable for the majority for it aims only ‘the chosen few’. It has speeded up the process of the demise of spirituality and moral values. Eroding of the basic spiritual values has paved the way for greed, fraud and corruptions at all level. The present crisis is the result of the total ethical and moral failures besides the economic and technical failures.

    Spirituality and Human Values

    In the demise of spirituality and basic human values, religions turn towards rigorous and harsh customs, practices, devotions, prolonged prayers and fasting without any element of love, mercy and forgiveness. All these factors acted as catalysts for religious fundamentalism. A big vacuum in spirituality of religions paved the way for terrorism. The youth, especially the poor, are indoctrinated and getting believed that the greatest virtue is become martyrs and to die and kill for their religions for they are rewarded with all the luxuries and pleasures of a ‘seven star hotel’ besides the service of seven virgins in the Paradise after their martyrdom. Sex, drugs and money are administered to them as the immediate rewards.

    Islam and Christianity

    Islam and Christianity, the two major world religions have miserably failed, in practice, to imbibe the basic moral, spiritual and ethical values to the humanity. After embracing the corporate culture, they have been rivaling each other in spreading across nations and adhering to the rigorous religious practices. Their champions or leaders have become as materialistic as the ancient Epicureans.

    Because of their warring or quarreling factions and their quench for pomp and acquiring more and more material wealth, almost all religions miserably failed to lead the world in the realm of spirituality and to inculcate minimum ethical and human values to the society. Most of the sects or cults in Hinduism and Buddhism also assumed the role of big multinational corporations with assets in terms of trillions.

    Oil and Cars

    Industrialization started with steam powered locomotives and nurtured by the automobile industry that speeded up the processes of urbanization and fast life style besides giving predominance to oil industry. Oil producers and automobile industry started to dictate the entire economies of the world, especially of the western industrialized economies. OPEC has squeezed oil importing nations by charging exorbitant price for oil and amassed the wealth of nations.

    The corporate world has effectively employed Information Technology to have a virtual control over the entire globe by e-money, e-banking and e-commerce and spread the corporate culture of greed, fraud and consumerism. Oil, cars and consumerism, originally acted as the catalyst of boom have turned the catalysis of Doom or the Great Depression II. They have drained away the saving and investment habits of the middle class and made everybody debtors and upset not only the balance of economies but also of the Nature.

    New Awareness

    People are getting aware that for the wrong logistics of their places of stay, work, shopping and entertainment, they have to travel a lot and burn out a lot of oil unnecessarily. . They could have avoided over 60 per cent of their journeys, especially in the age of advanced communication technologies. By a proper development of public transportation system and its effective use, many could have avoided owning cars or traveling in cars. A good majority of business trips are unnecessary or unproductive. All these make a very dark future for the oil, automobile and hospitality sectors. Consuming lesser and lesser oil for the recovery of the economy and for the health of the environment would emerge as a major slogan in almost all countries.

    Natural Death

    It is time for the Multinational Corporations to have a natural death for their crimes committed against the humanity, especially against the poor nations and peoples. Championing the cause of consumerism, they have even turned a malignant cancer of Capitalism and Globalization besides corrupting Islam and Christianity and other religions. They destroyed the economic foundations of millions of families and virtually wiped out the middle class not only in the west but also in emerging economies with their aggressive marketing strategies. Selling dreams and fantasies, they pushed everyone into illusions. They have hidden or invisible link with almost all terrorist organizations. They are involved in money laundry, corruptions and fabrication of wrong accounts or documents and cheating the shareholders and the general public.

    The Stimulus Packages

    It is fact that, none of the stimulus packages, though in terms of several trillions, could save the world from the impending peril and miseries of the millions unless the world saves itself from the dirty hands of consumerism and controls the growth of automobile industry besides reducing oil consumption to the extent of 30 to 40 per cent. This is the time for fair business practices and code of ethics for all economic activities besides regulating marketing and advertisements for which a global summit must be held soon. Ensuring sustainable income along with reasonable saving and investment is the only means for recovery on a long time basis. Otherwise, all the stimulus packages and recovery efforts would vanish within three to six months after making some symptoms of recovery and then aggravate and prolong the crisis to the extent of ten years.

    Survival Strategy

    The present global crisis taught the basic lesson that humanity and its various socio-economic systems or organizations could not survive without the basic moral and ethical values and some element of spirituality and upsetting the balance of the Nature. It is high time in burying down Consumerism and Corporate Culture besides adopting slow and simple life styles and turning towards spirituality and setting right the imbalances between urban and rural sectors and also between agriculture, industry and service sectors and the different regions of the world for the very survival of humanity. Humanity could not afford to pay so much high salary and bonus in terms of several millions to the CEOs and Managers and to allow the traders and business people to make such a huge profit within a short span of time.

    It is a great crime against Humanity and the Nature to burn out so much oil and generating so much heat and sound from the speeding millions of cars and driving away the millions from farms and rural life to the cities. It is high time to redefine the very meaning of development and urbanization especially when the entire humanity is under threat and peril.

    The people of OPEC or OECD Countries must shed away the deadly and inhuman ideology as they are the chosen people of God, an ideology originated at the time of Abraham and aggressively implemented during the time of Moses to dominate or exterminate other tribes or races. For the Just and Loving God, all men are chosen and everybody has an equal right for a decent life just like the people of the OPEC or OECD countries and everybody must observe spiritual and ethical values. Nobody has any right to dominate or dictate over other people. If Islam and Christianity fail to bridge the gap between the rich and poor, among their followers, and upheld basic spiritual and human values, their very worth and relevance will be questioned in the age of crisis and globalization of religious faiths.

    About the Author
    Dr. Raju M. Mathew is an economist, a strategist and theoretician with strong background in Cybernetics, Education and Information Technology with long years of experience in teaching and research. He has so far supervised ten doctoral works, including the basic approaches of Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam towards knowledge, economy and spirituality.
    Dr. Mathew formulated two basic theories of knowledge consumption and knowledge production that got published in 1985 and appeared in several languages. Now these theories are known in his name and have become an area for doctoral research. In 2005, Prof. Mathew proposed Knowmatics and Knowledge Technology as the two Post-Information Technology disciplines for processing and handling knowledge so as to develop knowledge industries.
    He is the founder president of the International Forum for Knowmatics & Knowledge Technology (IFKT). Some of his works are available in the site: www.ifkt.net. Now he is working with the Al Ain University of Science & Technology, Abu Dhabi, UAE.
    Dr. Mathew is on a mission of making the world aware of the impacts and intensities of the present crisis, the Great Depression II of 2009 and persuading the governments and international agencies to formulate correct strategies and policies and implement them urgently to deal with it and make an early recovery from it, so as to save the lives of millions, especially the young and the poor. Dr. Raju M. Mathew can be contacted by e-mail: rajoocyber@yahoo.com.


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