Since I first heard the news about the terrorist attack in Paris on Friday, I have struggled with trying to find something to say about it.
Like pretty much everyone with a working heart and mind, I was appalled by the news on Friday of the attacks. I was also disgusted by what I saw on social media following the attacks. No sooner had the news broken than professional pundits and amateurs alike were using the horrific events to advance their own agendas. If only the “good guys” had had concealed guns in the theater. Or we shouldn’t pray just for white people (as if we all knew the skin tones of everyone who was killed in Paris). Or we shouldn’t pray at all because religion caused this. Or about how Obama’s stance on climate change led to the attacks. And on and on and on and on.
There’s no need to add more to that cacophony. No one is listening.
About half an hour ago I came across John Oliver’s comments on the attacks on his show Last Week Tonight, and now I know what I want to say. Here’s a link so you can watch John Oliver say it better first.
This is what he said:
“Here is where things stand: As of now, we know this attack was carried out by gigantic fucking assholes. Unconscionable flaming assholes. Possibly working with other fucking assholes. Definitely working in service of an ideology of pure assholery. Second, and this goes almost without saying: Fuck these assholes. Fuck them, if I may say, sideways.
“And third, it is important to remember, nothing about what these assholes are trying to do is going to work. France is going to endure and I’ll tell you why. If you are in a war of culture and lifestyle with France, good fucking luck. Go ahead, bring your bankrupt ideology. They’ll bring Jean-Paul Sartre, Edith Piaf, fine wine, Gauloise cigarettes, Camus, Camembert, madeleines, macarons, and the fucking croquembouche. You just brought a philosophy of rigorous self-abnegation to a pastry fight, my friend. You are fucked.”
It’s a funny rant, but it’s also deeply true. So I’ll just provide my own commentary for whatever that’s worth.
“This attack was carried out by gigantic fucking assholes.”
This is important. Those who planned and carried out this attack may nominally be Muslims, but first and foremost they are assholes. Not all assholes are Muslim and not all Muslims are assholes. Muslims around the world are just as appalled and outraged by the attack as anyone else. In fact, it was a Muslim security guard who saved the lives of a few dozen people when he prevented a suicide bomber from entering the Stade de France stadium on Friday. As a result of his actions only the asshole got killed. And good riddance to him.
“Definitely working in service of an ideology of pure assholery.”
The ideology propounded by ISIS is not Islam but Asshole-lam. As David Wong put it in an extremely insightful piece prompted by the earlier attack in Paris this January, “Their ‘side’ is what I’m going to henceforth call Team Violence. The bully doesn’t fight because he wants to win; he fights because he wants a world in which everything is resolved by fighting (note: The bully himself doesn’t realize this). It doesn’t matter if he loses — the moment you chose to fight, his side already won, and the world becomes more like the world he wants to live in.” Later he says, “if radical Islam went away tomorrow, Team Violence would just pop up again under some other name. Maybe this one doesn’t justify it with the Quran; maybe they’ll do it under the banner of eugenics, or racial purity, or environmentalism, or My Little Pony fandom.”
Here’s a link to an astute commentary on this aspect of things by Waleed Aly in Australia. Listen to what he says and remember it well.
In the book The Last Days of Hitler, author Hugh Trevor-Roper makes the point that in a world at peace, Hitler, Himmler, Goering and the rest of the Nazi gang would never have amounted to much of anything. Oh sure, Goebbels may have had a future writing ad copy for Haribo candies, and maybe Adolf could have drawn the posters, but that’s about it. Real psychopaths can only come to power in times of great chaos and that’s what the folks at ISIS are trying to create.
“France is going to endure and I’ll tell you why. If you are in a war of culture and lifestyle with France, good fucking luck.”
And not just France. The real culture of Syria and Iraq, as well as that of Iran, Palestine, Afghanistan and everywhere else in the world will endure. Because more people want culture than want a world in which assholes run everything for their own assholey benefit.
But let’s look at the examples Oliver cites in respect to France.
“Go ahead, bring your bankrupt ideology. They’ll bring Jean-Paul Sartre, Edith Piaf, fine wine, Gauloise cigarettes, Camus, Camembert, madeleines, macarons, and the fucking croquembouche. You just brought a philosophy of rigorous self-abnegation to a pastry fight, my friend. You are fucked.”
Go watch a TV series called How We Got to Now. It’s on Netflix as well as PBS‘s online site. It’s about how the things we take for granted in our contemporary civilization did not arrive through magic but through the hard work of a lot of people over the span of centuries. The reason you can read this blog is directly connected with efforts to clean up the streets of growing cities over a century ago.
The idea of a “pastry fight” is funny, but it’s also true. The world wants pastry more than it wants some demented Islamified version of the Left Behind books. And to have pastry you need a civilization. To have clean water, you need advanced technology. To have food that doesn’t kill you, you need culture.
“It is important to remember, nothing about what these assholes are trying to do is going to work.”
The lunatics who think they can overturn all of this effort are using technologies that could not possibly even exist at all if the rest of the world wanted to go back to life as it was in the seventh century. They will fail.
Greed, hatred and stupidity are universal human traits. But so are cooperation, love and intelligence.
And more people support cooperation, love and intelligence than will ever support greed, hatred and stupidity.
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April 23, 2016 Long Island, New York Molloy College “Spring Awakening 2016”
October 23-28, 2016 Benediktushof Meditation Centrum (near Würzburg, Germany) 5-Day Retreat
Every Monday at 8pm there’s zazen at Silverlake Yoga Studio 2 located at 2810 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90039. Beginners only!
Every Saturday at 9:30 there’s zazen at the Veteran’s Memorial Complex located at 4117 Overland Blvd., Culver City, CA 90230. Beginners only! (It will still happen this Saturday Nov. 7, 2015 even though I will be up at Mt Baldy)
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