Friday, 24 April 2009

Discovering and stating the obvious.

I've been preoccupied of late with the uselessness and negative results of polarised discussions.

This morning, I heard a radio feature here in the UK dealing with the US "Human Terrane" program in Iraq and Afghanistan. This recruits social scientists, anthropologists particularly, to advise the military in how best to deal with a civil population with very different cultural perspectives from the coalition forces.

This has generated a good deal of heat, not least within the academic community.

One very simple fact emerged for me. This program is attacked and defended equally genuinely.

I happen to think that it's impossible for governments to exclude their self-interest from any enterprise. If they have the power to impose their will, or seek to impose it, this conduct will be labelled "imperialist", probably with some justification.

Whether we agree with this or not, it does us no good to ignore the fact that many people involved in this are doing so because they "Want to make a bad situation better".

Unless we're prepared to take on a whole range of motivations when embarking on a discussion of issues like foreign involvement in Iraq or Afghanistan, we will be seeking only to advance a narrow prejudiced view of how the world turns.

If people wish to indulge in this as a passtime, either to sharpen up their debating skills, or to get some personal psycho-therapy, then that's fine, as long as they don't think they're going to contribute anything to their own or anyone else's understanding.

I won't be responding to comments until Tuesday week, since I'm going to be away enjoying myself, but please comment if you feel the need, and I'll respond later.


Sunday, 12 April 2009

The End of Barbarism

I think this article at Progression of Faith is at least one good answer to how Christianity can once again address society in a thoughtful and meaningful way and simultaneously divest itself of the one thing in Christian theology that does not resonate with reasoned and intelligent folk everywhere. If it is true at all, isn't it best to re-work the Gospel toward a higher vision for society, beginning with the doctrine of "atonement," and prevent religion from bringing society down to its lowest common denominator: violence? What do you think?

Welcome new contributor

The author of at least 3 interesting blogs, including the one which got my interest in spirituality seriously rekindled:
is now a contributor to this blog.
I don't suppose for a moment she'll have much time to contribute, but since she was gracious enough to make me a contributor on MOI, the least I could do was reciprocate.



Opinion, Belief, and Truth

In this article, Roger Scruton investigates "irony and forgiveness" in the context of how the West can confront the terrorist mind set, be it Islamist fundamentalist or otherwise.

I'll almost certainly be coming back to this article in the future, because it was positive, while provoking me to question some of my assumptions, which is why I bother to read this kind of stuff at all.

In the tangential spirit of this blog however, it also provoked in me a few other thoughts. For example, how do we view our own opinions and those of others?

Scruton imbues irony with the attribute of allowing us to perceive ourselves as "other", so that the possessor of that sense can appreciate how he/she appears to others, rather than simply viewing others from his/her own viewpoint.

We all notice very easily that other people's opinions are a result as much of their experience as their accumulated knowledge.

In theory, we know that this must also be true for us, but somehow, we, or certainly I, may find it difficult to view our own opinions as equally subjective when it comes to discussion with others.

I have tended to regard my opinions as central to who I am, when really they are just a projection of the temporary me - how I an today. These are the external trappings of me, as much as are the coping strategies I have adopted in the past to cope with adverse circumstances.

I think Scruton's perception of irony is valuable, in that it shows me that I need to become more detached from these external trappings - opinions which should be ephemeral in the face of new knowledge and experience, or coping strategies which may have passed beyond use if those adverse circumstances change.

Subjective as these things are, we cannot be sure that what we believe is true, we should not need it to be true for questionable emotional reasons, and the need to establish truth, righteousness ETC, can only militate against ire-free discussion, and a constructive exchange of information and varied life experience.