Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Bonfires

One of the nice things about possessing Epicurean strains to my thinking is that a lot of times I can sit in my garden, sip coffee, watch people throw gasoline on bonfires, and say, “see, I told you so.” It is a kind of smug self satisfied pleasure to be savored and enjoyed if one has the stomach for it and can bring a slightly decadent attitude towards it.

Such is the case with the Danish cartoon crisis.

The Bush administration issued a rather mild statement about the affair and then has had the wisdom, rare for them in these matters, to shut up about the whole thing. It would appear they realize that getting involved would throw a whole lot of gasoline on more bonfires burning around the world. The U. S. has its own bonfires raging and doesn’t need any more unless they burn artifacts that do not promote U. S. interests. Enlisting aid from oil producing countries to assist with the Iran nuclear arms issue is a delicate operation and not conducive to creating yet another anti-American bonfire.

Just as interesting is reactions from folks on the left—the broad left that is. Some folks, such as me, have defended free speech by returning to Enlightenment values which I admit is not always a reliable defense or motive.

The case I find interesting is the side taken by some others on the left. They feel the cartoons are racist and that is the end of the story. Any reaction by certain religious sects, political groups, or other categories of folks is justified in light of this. I won’t quibble. The cartoons are racist—sort of. OK, I quibbled a little bit.

One blog of a Leninist strain, you can find it on the blogroll at the side (guess which one for extra credit on your homework assignment), is an interesting blog and often has good things to say. I find it irksome at times though. It’s primary author has set himself the task of being the world’s arbiter on what is racist and what is not. OK, no big deal. It is a damned dirty job and somebody has to do it.

What is irksome is that the racist card is played quite often when someone disagrees with said arbiter’s opinions, ideas, and arguments about any matter of dispute. It is a form of censorship that shuts down all discussion except those comments that happen, by coincidence if nothing else, to agree with said arbiter’s position on any issue.

In particular, accusing people of being racist doesn’t seem to add much to the current Danish cartoon brouhaha. Yes, there is a racist element to it just like so many other published racist attitudes in all parts of the world. However, making fun of religion is not racist in of itself.

Keep in mind I am playing the Epicurean in his sunny garden watching the world go by and contemplating on the mysteries of the universe. This is a much more pleasant task than being the world’s arbiter on racism.

The ability of religion to stand astride all political categories always amazes me. Sometimes religion uses politics. Other times politics uses religion. Add economics to the mix and the combinations multiply. I search for answers via a Epicurean, Marxian, and anthropological orientation to untangle this knot of religious belief, its power, and its consequences. My failure to comprehend is probably due to lack of intellectual ability.

I confess I have not done nearly enough research and thinking into the matter. However, we do know that organized authoritarian religions tend to react unkindly to those inside and outside the religion when they don’t believe in the accepted orthodoxy of its leaders.

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