Tuesday 13 December 2011

River of Shit - preface.

Up, Down, Appendix, Slough.

I keep a candle burning during these Cluster FCCCs - a lame ritual for increasingly silly performances - and as I begin this, the last stub from Durban is burning down, a few inches to go.

(Rituals are good - it's ending them is the hard part. Last year I kept a candle lit 'til sometime in January. They sell candles by the box-of-twenty downstairs in the Dollar Store. But ... I'm an addict eh? Oh well.   "Ich, ich, ich, ich, I could hardly speak.")

Gwynne Dyer has got me thinking about women and hierarchies. His essay is interesting; but the last paragraph/sentence is jarring to me - it seems stuck-on, tacked-on somehow, just anyhow, and I am trying to understand where that comes from as well as the rest of it.

... still and all, hierarchies or not: some take no notice, some are caught in the cognitive dissonance and destroyed, some get through it some way - to what I don't know.

Willard Metzger, Peter Kent, Mardi Tindal, unidentified.I guess the naïve can be lumped in with the mediocre; and coupled with the venal (OED: Capable of being acquired by purchase, instead of being conferred on grounds of merit or regarded as above bargaining for) and our quintessential Canadian complacency they are all but unassailable.

This picture shows our Peter the Poppet as a perfect poster-boy for venality (OED: Prostitution of talents or principles for mercenary considerations) eh? The epitome, the exemplar, a veritable para-dig-em of venal.

And yet she calls him 'principled' somewhere. A-and Elizabeth May says, "I like Peter Kent as a person. He is extremely kind in many ways." What's he got that brings these plump middle-aged moths so eagerly to his flame?

The hob-nobbing k-k-Canadian faith leaders are naïve to the point of lacking all discernment; read it and weep: Willard Metzger, General Secretary of the Mennonite Church in Canada, Words with Minister Kent; and Mardi Tindal, Moderator of the United Church of Canada, Longing for Leadership.

Mardi Tindal later participated in a panel discussion at COP17, put on by the Southern African Faith Communities' Environment Institute (SAFCEI) - one wonders at four white faces representing South Africa, but nevermind that - parts 3, 5 and 7 of this series (just the the 35 minute FCCC webcast grabbed & cut up into chunks, the original is here) show her commitment to the nonsensical notion that Peter Kent 'understands the science':
       1) David Lepage, introduction, 4 min.,
       2) Geoff Davies, 9 min.,
       3) Mardi Tindal, statement, 3 min.,
       4) Andrew Warmback, 3 min.,
       5) Stephen Leahy to Mardi Tindal & general response, 9 min.,
       6) questions & comments, 4 min., and,
       7) Elise Tempelhoff to Mardi Tindal, 3 min..

Elise Tempelhoff, 2009.Worth watching 7) with attention as Elise Tempelhoff asks Tindal in disbelief: "... have you confirmed, that it actually was, the minister?." Mardi stumbles & stutters & says, "Oh yes ... It was minister Kent who convinced me yesterday that he understands the science and spoke about a disaster-in-the-making."

Elise Tempelhoff seems credible - her profile (the translation from Afrikaans takes a few minutes) at Beeld; and various environmental prizes here and there (one from the beer companies, OK - I never said she was Joan of Arc); but her phrasing of the comment to Tindal was enough to convince me that she is at least conscious and thinking and competent, as opposed to Tindal, not so much, whatever.

And I stumble away wondering if I inhabit the same planet as any of these people?

Singers on 'Solid Rock' - Clydie King, Gwen Evans, Mary Elizabeth Bridges, Regina Havis, and Mona Lisa Young.So I turn again to Bob singin' "I wanna let go but I can't let go" in this video from Massey Hall in 1980. I think the singers are: Clydie King, Gwen Evans, Mary Elizabeth Bridges, Regina Havis, and Mona Lisa Young. Back in the 80's I wore out a vinyl record of this as I stitched together quilts from my kids' discarded clothing, pulling all-nighters, volume on bust, neighbours definitely thought I was nuts (and they were right).

And here now; the solid rock turned to sand, imaginary sand at that; hangin' onto ... air (?) but still feeling the same: I ... wanna let go but I can't let go.

Spend all of twenty minutes wondering about going to Rio+20: take in the conference and see the girls and their families; maybe luck into a cheap hidey-hole somehow; fraternize with 'the accredited' as they come fresh from $1,000-a-night resorts in Phuket & the Maldives or wherever they go to relax these days ... Tierra del Fuego maybe (Iceland?); and ask 'em, "When is the funeral then?"


(Does it not even occur to Mardi & Elizabeth that a person, say, Peter Kent, can be at once un-principled and charming, and not understand the science and simply not give a rat's ass about understanding the science as long as he gets what he wants (viz. their knickers off)? Were they never in a bar at closing time? Have they never met a bounder? Or is it some kind of misguided Christian forbearance? Have they never read Blake? Are they just too nice, too k-k-Canadian to call the man a criminal when that is exactly what he is?

Or is it more perverse than that? Is it the ghost of Sylvia with "Every woman adores a Fascist, the boot in the face, the brute brute heart of a brute like you."

There are no ghosts. If it is at all it must be the spirit not the ghost - it's a spiritual thing, eh?)

Be well gentle reader.


"The infernal serpent; he it was, whose guile
Stirred up with envy and revenge, deceived
The mother of mankind, ..."

       Milton, Paradise Lost, Book I, 34ff.

Deceived? Milton was a man after all - so it could be either not strong enough or entirely misleading. At least mother is not capitalized.

(It's not me. I'm not that smart or well read. I downoaded Inspector Morse and things turn up - this is from episode 1 in 1990, 'The Infernal Serpent'. Morse's sidekick is a Geordie. If you have been paying attention you may have noticed some of that idiom here lately.)


1. Weird fear of free women still panics some, Gwynne Dyer, December 10 2011.

Weird fear of free women still panics some, Gwynne Dyer, December 10 2011.

       The fear of free women in Middle Eastern monotheisms,
       Women and Monotheisms, and,
       Fundamentalists and their obsession with sex.

One should not mock the sexual obsessions of Islamic fundamentalists; it's like shooting fish in a barrel.

When a senior academic in Saudi Arabia, Prof. Kamal Subhi, declares in a report for the Shura Council, the kingdom's legislative assembly, that allowing women to drive would spell the end of virginity in the kingdom, it doesn't really require further comment. But let's offer a few comments anyway.

In the report, Subhi describes sitting in a coffee shop in an unnamed Arab state where "all the women were looking at me. One made a gesture that made it clear she was available. This is what happens when women are allowed to drive."

I regret to report this doesn't happen to me in coffee shops. It doesn't even happen to me in bars, although I am generally reckoned to be the most handsome man of my generation. (The late Jurassic generation.) It doesn't seem to happen to any of my male friends either, although most of us live in the decadent, post-Christian West, where women drive all the time.

Maybe it's just that none of us are as amazingly good-looking and sexy as Subhi, or maybe Arab women are incredibly lascivious and immoral. But it seems more likely he was just imagining it all, in which case another possible explanation presents itself.

Perhaps he has a mentality so sex-obsessed and so fearful of women that these feverish imaginings seem perfectly normal to him. And they are quite normal among Islamic fundamentalists, like the Nour Party in Egypt that demands strict prohibitions against mixed bathing, "fornication" and the appointment of women to leadership roles - and got a quarter of the votes in last week's election in Egypt.

But the point is not that Muslims are weird; they are all too normal. All the "Abrahamic" religions, as Muslims call them, have traditionally been sex-obsessed and terrified of women, and the fundamentalists among them still are.

Take the increasingly influential and importunate Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews of Israel. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week told an audience that included Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor and Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni she was shocked by the growing discrimination against Israeli women. She even compared the separate seating for women on some Jerusalem buses to the humiliation of Rosa Parks, the black American woman who made history in 1955 by refusing to give up her bus seat for white passengers.

Clinton also compared the behaviour of some Israeli soldiers who recently walked out on a performance by female singers to the attitude towards women in Iran. But God - at least, the God worshipped by the Haredim - is enraged whenever men listen to women singing, so of course they had to leave.

As for Christian fundamentalist attitudes toward women, here's the Rev. Pat Robertson, one of the most influential U.S. television evangelists: "The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practise witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians." Not to mention drive cars and hang around in coffee shops, making come-hither eyes at aging academics.

Where does all this weirdness come from? Other societies and other religions have been just as patriarchal and disrespectful of women: it wasn't much fun being a woman in traditional Hindu, Buddhist or Confucian societies either. But nowhere else was there the same male sexual panic, the profound, ingrained fear of free women that infests all the Middle Eastern monotheisms. Where does that come from?

I started to write this next paragraph three times, and then admitted to myself I really do not know the answer. It's clear from the fragments of history that have come down to us from 5,000 years ago that there was an intense struggle in the ancient Fertile Crescent between the old female fertility cults and the new male-centred religions, which celebrated war, hierarchy and blind obedience.

The male religions triumphed everywhere: by 3,500 years ago, male hierarchies ruled everything, both on Earth and apparently in the heavens. But why was the struggle so much more intense in the Middle East, and the outcome so much more hostile to women, than in most other places? Dunno.

It doesn't matter, really. You can't unpick the history; you have to start from where you are, even if you'd much rather start from somewhere else. And the fact is people can overcome their history: most Jews, Christians and Muslims today do not have extreme anti-female attitudes. The reason we have a special name for those who still do is evidence enough that they are a minority in the present populations, if you actually needed it.

Fundamentalists are a big minority in countries like the United States, Israel, Egypt and Iran, but a much smaller minority in countries like France, Turkey and Russia. In some places their numbers are actually growing at the moment, but the long-term trend is sharply down.

By today's standards, all Jews, Christians and Muslims were fundamentalists 500 ago.


No comments: