Friday, September 10, 2010

Yearning for rites, ritual and group membership in the world of the individual

I have long argued (See particularly the subhead "Conservatives and emotion") that there is a human need for connectedness both with a group (which can be as broad as a nation) and with the past (which can be a family past or a national past). And conservatives easily satisfy that instinctive need with, for instance, concentration on the family and love of their country and its traditions.

Leftists, however, in their hatred of their own society, are largely cut off from such satisfactions -- hence their extremism and irrationality when they find something or someone whom they feel they can identify with -- from Adolf Hitler to Barack Obama, from Nazism to the many other forms of extreme Leftism (including Communism, Trotskyism etc.)

Interesting to see similar thinking below in a Westernized Australian Muslim. The examples of ritual and custom that he gives focus on Australia but similar American customs and rituals come easily to mind: Thanksgiving, 4th of July etc.

By Tanveer Ahmed

Life in our secular and material world often lacks ritual. From praying in a house of worship to participating in a family dinner, time-honoured rites have become less common. The demands of efficiency do not care for such intangible worth.

Ramadan, the holy month of fasting when Muslims abstain from eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset, is ending. It is believed the first verses of the Koran were revealed during this period, and its end is signalled by the sighting of the new moon.

My family is not religious, but it is a practice we like to perform. It binds us to our ancestral past and connects us to a cultural group. Almost all cultures have some tradition of fasting. Whether it is Catholics avoiding meat on Fridays, the Jewish tradition of Yom Kippur, or Native American tribes fasting to stimulate ecstatic experiences: fasting is ubiquitous.

In modern times fasting has become more associated with political protest than religion. Gandhi is perhaps its most famous proponent, but more recently in Australia, asylum seekers have become the torch bearers. Tamils protesting at the maltreatment of their brethren in Sri Lanka are the latest examples.

As a psychiatrist, myths and their associated rituals often form the backdrop to many problems I see.

A growing group of my patients fall in the category of what is called borderline personality disorder, an illness where patients cannot calibrate their emotions and often engage in damaging behaviours like self-mutilation or food deprivation. They can suffer visions and a loss of boundaries. They usually present in their adolescence.

An American study in 2008 study in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry found the prevalence was much higher than was previously thought, at around 6 per cent.

Many of these damaging behaviours are similar to rites of passage in more traditional cultures, suggesting the disorder may be related to the failure of Western, liberal culture to provide context and myth for meaningful phases in development. Their symptoms may actually be attempts at self healing gone astray in a culture bereft of an integrative spiritual and ritualistic context.

Individual narratives have their parallels in societies and communities. Anthropologists have long had a chicken and egg argument about the relationship between myths and ritual.

Anzac Day is an example. There have been record turnouts in recent years to dawn services in venues such as Martin Place, especially among young people. A new generation of Australians have embraced the Anzac legend as their most powerful myth of nationhood, and with it has come the ritual of attending the dawn service. It has helped fill a need in a post-religious society that no longer delivers ancient certainties to young people in search of spiritual nourishment.

Our most recent election could also be construed as a grand ritual built on a myth. Modern democracies hinge on the idea of representation, of one person standing for a much larger group of people, making the decisions "they" might expect to make had they been consulted. This mysterious link between representative and represented is established and renewed in ritual form; through elections.

An anthropologist at Sydney University, Stephen Juan, argues the yearning for ritual and group membership has never been greater, especially in a society becoming more fragmented and atomised. He points to a host of trends such as rave parties, the growth in events like outdoor concerts and the rise of radical religious movements such as Hillsong or Islamic extremism as part of the same pattern.

Juan has observed that even consumer rituals such as buying presents or shopping for oneself are examples of rituals of the least nourishing kind. "When in doubt, we go and buy. It makes us feel empowered, that we are deserving of love, albeit for an instant."

But even consumer rituals can have value when used to create social bonds and nourish interpersonal relationships, a fact marketers have long exploited, often resulting in people putting consumption ahead of the social bonds the act of shopping is meant to strengthen. And yet consuming more only increases our yearning for those bonds.



Even America's liberal elites concede that Obama's Presidency is crumbling
Democrats in Congress are no longer asking themselves whether this is going to be a bad election year for them and their party. They are asking whether it is going to be a disaster. The GOP pushed deep into Democratic-held territory over the summer, to the point where the party is well within range of picking up the 39 seats it would need to take control of the House. Overall, as many as 80 House seats could be at risk, and fewer than a dozen of these are held by Republicans.

Political handicappers now say it is conceivable that the Republicans could also win the 10 seats they need to take back the Senate. Not since 1930 has the House changed hands without the Senate following suit.

Is this a piece from National Review, The Weekly Standard, The Wall Street Journal or Fox, all major conservative news outlets in the United States? No. It’s a direct quote from yesterday’s Washington Post, usually viewed by conservatives as a flagship of the liberal establishment inside the Beltway. The fact The Post is reporting that not only could Republicans sweep the House of Representatives this November, but may even take the Senate as well, is a reflection of just how far the mainstream, overwhelmingly left-of-centre US media has moved in the last month towards acknowledging the scale of the crisis facing the White House.

To its credit, The Washington Post has generally been ahead of the curve compared to its main competitors such as The New York Times in reporting President Obama’s travails, but its striking front page coverage of the “Democrats’ plight” and talk of a possible GOP Senate win (regarded as fantasy just a fortnight ago) was a bold step for a publication that is probably read in every office of the Obama administration.

The Post also ran another headline yesterday on its front page – “Republicans making gains ahead of midterm elections” – which would undoubtedly have sent a shudder through the White House. It carried a new poll commissioned jointly with ABC News, which showed public faith in Barack Obama’s leadership has fallen to an all-time low, with just 46 percent approval. The Washington Post-ABC News survey revealed high levels of public unease with President Obama’s handling of the economy, with 57 percent of Americans disapproving, and 58 percent critical of his handling of the deficit.

For most of the year, America’s political and media elites, including the Obama team itself, have touted the notion of an economic recovery (which never materialised), significantly underestimated the rise of the Tea Party movement, and questioned the notion that conservatism was sweeping America.

It is only now hitting home just how close Washington is to experiencing a political revolution in November that will fundamentally change the political landscape on Capitol Hill, with huge implications for the Obama presidency. What was once a perspective confined largely to Fox News, online conservative news sites, or talk radio is now gaining ground in the liberal US print media as well – historic change is coming to America, though not quite the version promised by Barack Obama.



The Constitution Trumps Islamic Law

When reading stories about that formerly obscure Florida preacher who wants to mark the ninth anniversary of 9/11 by burning a stack of Qurans, bear in mind that the only law he breaks in doing so is Islamic law. With this in mind, it should become clear that the extraordinary global campaign against this stunt is yet another concerted effort, aided by an army's worth of useful fools, to bring our constitutional republic into conformance with Islamic law.

Islam demands "respect" with an intensity and strategic purpose well beyond other beliefs. (Still) don't believe me? For indelible culture contrast, imagine the worldwide body count in reaction to a hypothetical NEA-funded project entitled "Piss Mohammed," or the absence of a worldwide body count in reaction to the Army's actual decision to discard and burn a bunch of Bibles on a U.S. base in Afghanistan last year for fear of offending Muslims in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan -- a land where Christian converts (Abdul Rahman) and promoters of (minimal) women's rights (Sayed Pervez Kambakhsh) must flee with their lives, by the way.

What Islam is demanding, then, is a separate speech code for itself. This demand is manifested at the highest diplomatic levels in a strategic campaign by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Islamic bloc of 57 nations that functions in the international arena as an Islamic supra-state. The OIC has long been maneuvering to bring international law into conformance with Islamic law by prohibiting "defamation of religions" -- namely Islam -- at the United Nations.

This same demand also manifests itself in the society-level assumption that Islam should somehow exist in a state of exaltation that no Western society grants any belief system, or any God.

That narrative, or rationale, tells us that burning a Quran causes murder and mayhem, putting our troops, our citizens, our cities and our interests at increased risk. In this narrative, the actual bad actors are absolved of both volition and blame. Similarly, drawing cartoons of Muhammad (Kurt Westergaard, Lars Vilks) -- or not drawing cartoons of Muhammad ("South Park") -- sermonizing about violence within Islam (the Pope), and critiquing Islam (Geert Wilders' "Fitna") are increasingly viewed as unacceptably "insensitive" and "disrespectful" provocations in Western society, regardless of their free-speech protections.

This is rank capitulation to dhimmitude, the non-Islamic state of deference to Islamic law, and it is now being repeated in the misdirected Western offensive against the Florida preacher -- an effort that should be turned into an unapologetic defense of his constitutional rights. Repeat after me: The Constitution trumps Islamic law.



Pataki: ObamaCare Individual Mandate "Patently Unconstitutional"

State lawsuits that argue against the constitutionality of ObamaCare under the Commerce Clause have considerable merit and could potentially come before the U.S. Supreme Court former New York Gov. George Pataki told reporters Wednesday during a question and answer period at The National Press Club.

In response to a question from The American Spectator that asked whether or not the state suits could potentially reach The Supreme Court, Pataki responded “Yes, I do.” But he also said that opponents should not rely on the judiciary alone and work toward the election of a new Congress more responsive to public sentiment.

“I think that there are legitimate constitutional issues when the federal government is imposing new burdens on the states, new burdens that they have to increase their Medicaid eligibility break when the states pay a significant part of that without providing any funding,” he observed.

Pataki continued, “I think there are some serious constitutional issues particularly when you are telling someone who just doesn’t want to be a part of the system that you’re going to get health care coverage acceptable to a Washington bureaucrat or we’re going to fine you.




US Marines storm pirate-held cargo ship: "US Marine commandos stormed a pirate-held cargo ship off the Somalia coast, reclaiming control and taking nine prisoners without firing a shot in the first such boarding ride by the international antipiracy flotilla, according to the US Navy. The mission — using small craft to reach the deck of German-owned vessel as the crew huddled in a safe room below — ranks among the most dramatic high seas confrontations with pirates by the task force created to protect shipping lanes off lawless Somalia. The crew managed to kill the engines before taking refuge in an panic room-style chamber, leaving the ship adrift and the pirates so frustrated they started damaging equipment after hijacking the vessel on Wednesday"

Switzerland: Shelter for newly separated husbands opens: "A trickle of newly separated Swiss fathers looking for shelter and help after marital breakdown have been finding a warm bed and a sympathetic ear from a pilot project on the shores of Lake Zurich. Unique in Switzerland, the project has seen the numbers of applications to stay in the house increasing every week. ‘80 percent of the time it is the wife asking for a divorce and the children stay in the family home while the father leaves with his suitcases and becomes more vulnerable,’ Cabalzar told Reuters.”


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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