Friday, July 30, 2004

Not topical enough... get off!

It would not be a good thing if I only dredged up material from long ago to put here, when the whole idea of blogs is to be quasi-real-time responsive to what is going on. Here are just a few assertions to be justified later:

* If Kerry wins, the foreign press will be just as anti-American, Islamic extremists will be just as anti-American, and the world will not be a safer place.

* The Weapons of Mass Destruction are in Syria.

* The religious right in Australia is unreasonably hung up on homosexuality, and ought to be supporting same-sex marriage as one of the least morally dubious methods of contraception.

And, here is my favourite quote from Salman Rushdie's "The Satanic Verses":

Any new idea, Mahound, is asked two questions.
The first is asked when it’s weak:
Are you the kind that compromises, does deals, accommodates itself to society, aims to find a niche, to survive;
or are you the cursed, bloody-minded ramrod-backed type of damnfool notion that would rather break than sway with the breeze?
- the kind that will almost certainly, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, be smashed to bits;
but the hundredth time, will change the world?

What’s the second question? Gibreel asked.

Answer the first one first.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Now we are thirty...

Now, there was a moment in my life when some of my friends were dissing another one of the Bush brothers for what I felt were the wrong reasons, and saying all the horrible things that he would do now thanks to the hanging chads, and somebody said he would reverse Roe vs. Wade, and I couldn't help myself and shouted something like 'Hooray!'

And the conversation almost immediately died, as it almost always does whenever anyone expresses an opinion which is more than a conventional, reflexive, grumble in my circle of friends. But I felt queasy at the depths which separated me from my friends, and could not rest or think, and as it was close to my birthday when my potential for speaking my mind always seems to peak in recent years, I wrote something to explain myself... which eventually, in one form or another, years later, I did circulate to those who were present. But never to everyone, which was my original intention. Ahem:


Greetings Everyone,

I have spent my entire life, as near as I can recall, avoiding saying what I really thought about the things that are most important to me. This is a most regrettable example of peer pressure, and now that I am thirty, I feel like I ought to be able to stand on my own feet and say what I believe without worrying about disturbing the peace. Since last Saturday something one of you said has set the fire burning in my bones, so I am compelled to write to you, peers of mine these last few decades.

Thirty years ago I was born.

Fortunately, I was never a subhuman. I was never without any form of legal protection. I was never a creature that could be killed with absolute impunity. None of these statements are true for my brother, or my sisters, or my own children. I feel sorry for all the young people who have not lived their whole lives as legal humans.

Since I have understood what abortion is it has horrified and revulsed me. Opposition to abortion is my oldest and deepest position on anything, and with each of my children my feeling has grown stronger.

So after many years of not voicing any serious political opinion to anyone, I must tell you, I would vote for Osama ben Laden if I thought he would pack the U.S. Supreme Court with conservative justices. Mind you, Osama ben Laden probably would stand a good chance if he ran in my electorate anyway.

I am unable to comprehend how people can be passionate advocates of abortion. How can people defend this thing as anything other than a regrettable necessity, whether a foetus is human or not? Surely this nastiest and least efficient form of birth control is defended not for what it is, but for its perceived role as a monument to the liberation of women? If so, a more sanguinary and macabre monument is hard to imagine. Tamerlane's pyramids of severed heads shrink to insignificance beside this ever-growing mountain of corpses.

I have had some thoughts in the last few days and I would like to write a calm essay putting them together and explaining why the institution of abortion is doomed. Because it is doomed, whatever the outcome of the election in the United States, whatever I do, whatever the other side does. I will probably fail to write a calm essay, but here are my points:

Firstly: The defence of abortion is based on the idea that the developing foetus in some way a part of mother's body, a blob of cells incapable of independent existence. This is a position based on pre-Copernican science. Year by year, this position will become more and more untenable, for in a few decades a child at any stage of development will be just as capable or incapable of independent existence as everyone else - that is, the life-support apparatus that is our technological society will be able to sustain it whether it has a mother or not. It will come down to a naked 'choice' - into a tank to become a healthy human individual, or into a rubbish bin. I believe that this technological affirmation of the separate personhood of each child will inexorably restrict support of abortion to the die-hard eugenicists who see nothing wrong with killing newborn children or the mentally ill. God forbid, they will never be a majority in any democratic country.

Secondly: The past has never been as conservative as we believe, since we extrapolate from our parents, who are selected for conservatism. The baby-boomers were the last generation where social 'liberals' had significant numbers of children, and secular society is in unprecedented demographic decline, with most western countries now below replacement levels. Most of the mothers I see in the streets of my neighbourhood wear head-cloths. The mother of all demographic shifts to the religious right is coming, and this is sure to make the future less congenial for abortionists.

For which I can only say, HOORAY!

You always thought I was joking when I said I wanted to smash all existing institutions and rebuild Australia according to the teachings of Bob Santamaria. But I have always been perfectly serious :)

(You see, gentle reader, I have taken the most optimistic of all possible strategies enabling me to share Paul Hill’s premises but avoid his conclusions: The assumption that the triumph of our cause is historically inevitable...)

And what followed?

When I did get up the gumption to pass a version of this to the friend of mine who had made the Roe vs. Wade grumble, I was glad to discover that they had no strong philosophical commitment to abortion and had only been reflexively, conventionally grumbling.

I was surprised to find that the brief discussion we had centred around when an embryo 'becomes' a human, something I have never considered relevant. There seems a qualitative difference to me between an entity that is not conscious and never will be conscious, and one that is not conscious and if left alone will almost certainly be conscious soon.

The first one is the cockroach I crush with few qualms; the second is me, sleeping. Here is an epigram to summarise my position:

Human being is a process, not the name of a thing.

For what it is worth, in my experience human beings begin to show signs of being a 'person' (unique patterns of behaviour, musical tastes, etc.) at three to four months after conception, and complete the process sometime in their late twenties, if they don't watch too much TV.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Who is the gringo in the poem?

I translated 'Manuel Flores' into 'Paul Hill' because he was the one death row inmate in the United States I had actually heard of and could empathise with. He was killed by the state of Florida, under Jeb Bush's watch.

When I googled him the other day, the number one response was this one.

I also found this eulogy by a Rev. Murch.

Friday, July 23, 2004

The Milonga of Manuel Flores

Hmm, have to start in some non-threatening, not-too-extreme way...

A few days ago I woke up in the middle of the night with a sudden urge to read Borges' poem, The Milonga of Manuel Flores, again. I did my own fairly lame verse translation of it, which goes like this:

Paul Jennings Hill is gonna die.
That’s a bet you’re sure to win.
Dying’s a thing that’s common enough
in our fallen world of sin.

Tomorrow they’ll bring me the needle
and kick off my long dark ride;
I think it was Merlin who said it:
“You ain’t been born till you’ve died.”

But that doesn’t dull the pain much
Of telling this life goodbye-
This thing I’ve gotten so used to,
As sweet and true as the sky.

I look at my hand in the morning.
I look at the veins in my hand.
It’s strange to find they look just like
the veins of some other man.

How many things my eyes have seen
on this road I’ve walked along!
Who knows what else they’re yet to see
After Christ has judged my song.

Paul Jennings Hill is gonna die.
That’s a bet you’re sure to win.
Dying’s a thing that’s common enough
in our fallen world of sin.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

The Accidental Blogger

Er... I just wanted to post a comment to Dave's blog, Lexifab, and accidentally got sucked into creating one of my own. Oops. Oh well, at least it will give me a place to post my extremist rantings and prove that blogs need not be about the intensely boring minutiae of people's lives.