Satyagraha

Cultural Psychology

Archive for March 2009

Latest Pope Bashing by the Media

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Latest Pope Bashing by the Media

Eager to seize even the slightest pretense for bashing the Pope, news media, European governments, and even medical journals have taken his recent comments about African AIDS completely out of context.

The Lancet even went so far as to accuse His Holiness of “manipulating science” and having “publicly distorted scientific evidence”. Apparently his critics have not bothered to read the transcript of his remarks. The context makes it plain that Pope Benedict scarcely denies the physical effects of condoms. His point, as his preceding sentences makes plain, was that the real solution to the AIDS crisis is to strengthen spiritual values in society — including a respect for continence and personal virtue. It is not condoms per se which contribute to the AIDS epidemic, but materialistic values which over-reliance on condoms as public policy promotes. Governments are happy to distribute condoms, but afraid to tell people: “look, you are spiritual beings with moral responsibilities; act that way.”

The Pope isn’t afraid to say that, and for exposing the pretensions of atheistic civil government they are attacking him.

They are counting on the fact that people won’t bother to read the transcript of the interview in question.

The relevant portion is as follows:

Moderator – Now a further question from a French speaker: our colleague Philippe Visseyrias from France 2:

VisseyriasYour Holiness, among the many ills that beset Africa, one of the most pressing is the spread of AIDS. The position of the Catholic Church on the way to fight it is often considered unrealistic and ineffective. Will you address this theme during the journey? Holy Father, would you be able to respond in French to this question?

Pope – [Reply in Italian]. I would say the opposite. I think that the most efficient, most truly present player in the fight against AIDS is the Catholic Church herself, with her movements and her various organizations. I think of the Sant’Egidio community that does so much, visibly and also behind the scenes, in the struggle against Aids, I think of the Camillians, and so much more besides, I think of all the Sisters who take care of the sick. I would say that this problem of Aids cannot be overcome merely with money, necessary though it is. If there is no human dimension [se non c’è l’anima — literally, if there is not soul], if Africans do not help, the problem cannot be overcome by the distribution of prophylactics: on the contrary, they increase it. The solution must have two elements: firstly, bringing out the human dimension of sexuality, that is to say a spiritual and human renewal that would bring with it a new way of behaving towards others, and secondly, true friendship offered above all to those who are suffering, a willingness to make sacrifices and to practise self-denial, to be alongside the suffering. And so these are the factors that help and that lead to real progress: our twofold effort to renew humanity inwardly, to give spiritual and human strength for proper conduct towards our bodies and those of others, and this capacity to suffer with those who are suffering, to remain present in situations of trial. It seems to me that this is the proper response, and the Church does this, thereby offering an enormous and important contribution. We thank all who do so.

Here is a letter of reply I submitted to The Lancet.

To the Editors:

Subject: The Lancet Catholic Bashing

Concerning your editorial [1] on recent comments of Pope Benedict XVI:

A basic principle of science and civil discourse holds that, as words are inherently limited and ambiguous, one should consider context and interpret another’s statements generously. This is especially true when translation between languages is involved.

The opposite — to interpret something in the least charitable way — implies prejudice.

Clearly the Pope does not wish to “manipulate science” and has not “publicly distorted scientific evidence” as the editorial states; to suggest this reflects badly on the motives, credibility, and critical thinking of the Editors.

As the full transcript [2] shows, his comments were ethical in nature: they observed — correctly — that an excessive public emphasis on condoms, and the resulting underemphasis on issues of the soul (“se non c’è l’anima”), personal virtue, and continence, supports an overly casual cultural attitude towards extra-marital sex which is a major contributor to the AIDS epidemic.

To paraphrase your own remark: When an influential medical journal makes comments that misrepresent the intentions and statements of religious leaders in ways that could injure the religious health of many millions of people, it should retract or correct the public record.

The Editors should seek the causes of their inability to discern the plain meaning and intentions of the Pope. Perhaps this is a clue: Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart. (Eph 4:18)

John S. Uebersax PhD
Brussels, Belgium

References:

1. The Lancet, Volume 373, Issue 9669, Page 1054, 28 March 2009

2. “Interview of the holy father benedict xvi during the flight to Africa”. 17 March 2009.
Available at: http://www.vatican.va. (Accesssed 27 March 2009).

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Written by John Uebersax

March 27, 2009 at 7:03 pm

Republican Ideology: Let’s Have Less Rush Limbaugh, More Cato Institute

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Short post — no need for a long one.

The papers are presenting Rush Limbaugh as the new ideological spokesman for the Republican Party.

Get a clue.

Rush is a comedian and an entertainer. Part of his schtik is to act like a serious ideologue. But he really isn’t, and its ridiculous to think otherwise.

Yes, Rush is correct in asserting traditional American values of personal freedom, limited government, free enterprise, and low taxes. But he’s completely wrong in contributing to a climate of confrontation and disharmony.

Democrats and social liberals are not fools, and they’re not demons. They see things differently than conservatives, and place a higher priority on social welfare. That’s not because they are ignorant, or are trying to destroy the country. They have had different personal experiences, and so have a different perspective and value system.

To be fully consistent with his own position, a conservative like Limbaugh should aim to educate liberals. But by stirring up continual ill-will, that’s the last thing he’ll accomplish. He’s working against his own stated agenda, by pressing liberals into a defensive attitude.

True intellectual leadership in American politics would consist of seeking to get beyond the ideological differences of the Republican and Democratic parties, and to see how the false Conservative–Liberal bipolarity has held back progress in the country.

But if you want to see where leadership in conservative political thinking is, turn off the Rush Limbaugh show, visit the website of The Cato Institute, and maybe listen to some of their free podcasts.

Whether you agree with their views or not, at least you will see an intelligent and mature approach taken to American political thought.

Written by John Uebersax

March 13, 2009 at 12:11 pm

Posted in Politics

The Irony of Jon Stewart’s Diatribes Against Wall Street

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The Irony of Jon Stewart’s Diatribes Against Wall Street

Lately Jon Stewart, dean of cable television comedy and host of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, has been sanctimoniously criticizing Wall Street for their role in the economic meltdown. Technically, he’s right: greedy financial speculators supported a climate of easy mortgage lending, made loans, sold the loans for profit, then walked away to leave everybody else holding the bag (or in this case, a lot of defaulted loans.)

But he’s really missing the point. He’s not delving deeply enough into the collective psyche of the American public — and that’s where the root problem is to be found. This is a topic about which much still needs to be said, but the point at present is to note the irony in Jon Stewart’s being so self-righteous.

The ultimate problem with American society, which has led to the current economic problems, is an erosion of traditional values and common sense. And the milieu of false values, materialism and moral confusion actively promoted by the media — and television in particular — is a large contributor.

Jon Stewart has never severed his ties with MTV, where he got his start. On the one hand, you get the impression that Jon is a nice, conventional Jewish guy, with traditional values and views about God, morality, and so on. Yet he still actively promotes MTV, with personal appearances, among other things, seemingly oblivious to the tremendous negative impact that channel has had on the minds of the young. I say “young,” but in fact those young in the 1980’s, when MTV got started, are now middle aged adults.

It would be difficult to enumerate all the ways that MTV exerts a negative cultural influence. At the very least we can say it promotes a philosophy of: atheism, relativism, sensualism, anti-intellectualism, and condescension towards traditional religion and values.

Now keep in mind that I am scarcely a fundamentalist, right-wing reactionary saying these things. I am a pretty open-minded person. I write essays on things like the Egyptian Book of the Dead — not exactly the kind of thing you find in the “Christian right.”

No, I am simply someone who still has at least half a brain, and am able to see the shabby MTV brainwashing for what it is: a crass attempt of commercial industries, including television and the music industry, to dumb down the public, to appeal to base appetites, and to shape thinking — for the sake of profit.

And Jon Stewart is there in the middle of the whole thing. He’s potentially doing more harm than good. Yes, he’s drawing some attention to Wall Street’s role in the economic crisis. But he’s also presenting the Comedy Channel, where Stewart’s show appears, as place people should be looking to get the straight story. They shouldn’t. Remember, folks at the Comedy Channel are the same nice people who’ve brought America (and the rest of the world), that wretched show, South Park.

So look, I’m not going to pull my punches here, or be afraid to call a spade a spade. If you want to know what’s really wrong with America, look at the show South Park. The fact that such trash is on television at all is sad testimony to the lack of values of the entertainment industry. It’s partly because Americans are dumbed down that they bought into (literally) the easy lending scam that produced the economic crash. Obviously the entertainment industry is not the whole problem here, but (1) it is a large part of it, and (2) it’s more than ironic that Jon Stewart, as spokesman of the industry, is now acting like a moral watchdog.

So Jon, if you want to help Americans, tell them this: turn off South Park, turn off MTV, turn off Stephen Colbert, and, yes, even turn off The Daily Show with Jon Stewart; stop buying into entertainment industry propoganda; and get back in touch with the true, enduring values. Dust off that old concept, “virtue” and start thinking about what it means.

Written by John Uebersax

March 13, 2009 at 11:48 am

Top 10 Reasons Why the War on Drugs is Evil

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Top 10 Reasons Why the War on Drugs is Evil

10. Doesn’t work
9. No open debate, objective policy review, or clear moral basis
8. Corporate-run prisons
7. Prison guard unions lobby for more drug laws
6. Real purpose: justify big government
5. Mandatory sentencing and no-knock warrants trash Bill of Rights
4. Disproportionately harms lower income groups
3. SWAT raids on mellow medical marijuana clinics
2. Produces global conflict: Afghanistan, Colombia, Mexico …
1. Real name: War on Citizens

Written by John Uebersax

March 8, 2009 at 3:51 pm

Clergy Speak Out Against the War on Drugs

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Mike Gray of Common Sense for Drug Policy, in cooperation with the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative, has made a documentary titled “Protestant, Catholic and Jewish Clergy Speak Out Against The War On Drugs“.

Substantial clips (9 and 11 minutes each) from the video can be found here:

http://www.csdp.org/news/news/clergydvd.htm

These clips shows Christian and Jewish clerics speaking out against the ‘war on drugs’. May insightful and wise things are said.

The stituation now is reminiscent of what during the Viet Nam war. For a long time, people who spoke out against the war were considered unpatriotic. But little by little, more people joined their voices to the opposition, until the tide turned. Then it became clear that the consensus opinion was against the war. That is what is going on today, hopefully, with regard to the war on drugs.

Mike Gray was also kind enough to send me a transcript, which you can view here.

Written by John Uebersax

March 8, 2009 at 2:36 pm