Nonfiction Blows Sometimes

I TOTALLY get why people read escapist fiction.

 

adult book boring face
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I am a seeker. I read nonfiction to find answers to big questions.

One big question of many that perplex me when it comes to the State of Israel and Jewish people is: Why are 14.2 million people more newsworthy in the West than the other 6.86 billion people of the world? Is there more to this than media control, ownership, or the claimed disproportionate number of Jewish people working in Western media? I don’t know. When I don’t know something, I read, and keep on reading until I find answers. This tiny segment of the world’s population endlessly reminds us of their stories of persecution; some of these stories are based on historically documented facts, while others have so little empirical evidence they border on the mythological. A media spotlight affords a tiny state some protection from transgressors, but in doing so, it can also cast a shadow on any freshly dug graves.

If you want to truly get a handle on a culture, you must dive into their indoctrinations.

The world’s religions mastered indoctrination long ago, so this, I thought, would be a good area to acquire a better grasp of a people without diving into the more volatile areas of politics and economics.

Yesterday’s read began with enthusiasm as I found a book which was touted to be: A Guide to Jewish Wisdom; something that appealed to me on a couple of different levels even though I am not Jewish, and have—putting it mildly—a general dislike of almost all religions for their exploitive,  for-profit business model which excludes aid to anyone who is not a paying customer. Firstly, this book appealed to the researcher inside me as I am usually forced to open dozens of books over several days just to find puzzle pieces which I then have to make notes on and later assemble into something that makes sense. It’s a good day when you find an author who has done all the work for you. Secondly, I have not given Judaism its due, relative to the volume of reading I have done on all of the larger religions. Oh sure I have skimmed the Tanakh and read the greatest hits of the Torah in my fact-finding missions to compare stories from other religions, but I really did not have a “feel” for this group’s beliefs. I really hoped this book on the mystical side of Judaism: Kabbalah, would give me a better understanding of the big picture.

A great many authors should thank their lucky stars I don’t publish reviews or ratings below three stars on a five star scale.

This book dodged a bullet. When we choose a nonfiction book to read, we are encouraged to pay attention to the credentials of the author as though only a credentialed person can put forth a valid thought—or so the publishing world a.k.a. print media would have us believe. The author is a Rabbi and an educational psychologist so I expected a balance of theology with logic and reason. What I got was a heavy dose of mysticism, magic, and the supernatural with a smattering of references to empirical research that, at best, offered a weak endorsement of how the magic worked. The spiritual mumbo-jumbo, of course, told the believer how to think and live “correctly”:

‘You must be a giving person.’

In fact, there was an entire paragraph on how to appropriately greet and compensate a Kabbalist or Hassidic rebbe if you were ever fortunate enough to garner their attention.

‘You must not be an egotist.’

And yet the author saw fit to publish a photo of himself with the Dali Lama instead of one where he was feeding or counseling “displaced” Palestinian children.

In fairness, I expect hypocrisy in all books from theologians, however once you strip away the nonsense, there were about fifty pages of good reading where the author succinctly explained: The Ten Sefirot, the meaning of the Star of David, and he interpreted a number of commonly used Jewish religious terms while passing along some insights into Judaic “philosophy”. The book was just 200 pages so I’ll give it a 1.25 star rating.

Every book will give you something.

What did I learn? Nothing Earth shattering, but it would appear that Judaism:

  • Is a very complex belief system which requires significant interpretation.
  • Has a significant number of teachings related to self.
  • Places women closer to men in terms of equality.
  • Has roots in Zoroastrianism.
  • Is open to different planes of existence, science, and multiple universes.
  • Believes they have all the answers.
  • Believes Hebrew is the Holy tongue—necessary to enter a higher reality.
  • Believes their religious men are above the average follower.
  • Believes the Torah contains a hidden spiritual code supported by mathematics.
  • Codify beliefs into law in much the same way Muslims do.

This lackluster book did however point me at a new target of inquiry. It seems that in the 1700’s a scholastic elite were the only ones with access to Jewish literary works. This wreaks of potential tampering akin to Constantine or King James. I’ll let you know if anything interesting turns up once I have chased down this lead.

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The FEAR Lessons: Part 2

EVIL WORDSMITHS ARE PREYING ON YOUR IMAGINATIONS!

“FEAR IS THE MIND KILLER”- paraphrasing Frank Herbert author of Dune.

Terror; terrified; terrorized.

My latest re-examination of this topic began with me “ACCIDENTALLY” writing a children’s story based on my personal adventures living in the wilderness.

Public Relations work aside; I have never written fiction before. All I did to create this story was to think back to how I was startled, by the then unexplained happenings, and how my mind raced for answers at the time.

THIS IS HOW TO STRIKE FEAR IN A HUMAN.

As I wrote, I was smiling and even laughing aloud as I envisioned scaring the crap out of some kids in a tent with a flashlight held to my chin, recounting these tales as though they really had some other-worldly explanation.

A thought occurred. These kids would never get to sleep without them knowing the TRUTH of what had happened. If I released these scary stories without teaching children about the IRRATIONALITY OF FEAR, I would have dozens of e-mails from angry parents and/or camp councilors, “thanking me” for a sleepless night or nights. I was not writing this to give kids nightmares. I am not Steven King. I was writing it to show children how interesting and entertaining reading can be on a rainy night, perhaps without power, whether in a tent, a cottage, or in a city.

So after regaling them with three, SEEMINGLY PLAUSIBLE and VERY REAL SOUNDING scary stories of the unknown and unexplained, I added an epilogue instructing the parent to continue reading.

In simple terms, I explained how I had intentionally MANIPULATED the readers and listeners to make their imaginations run wild.

What I did not tell the youngsters, was I had covertly scared them into: not going anywhere alone, going inside when they should, wearing life-jackets, and brushing their teeth.

I explained in non-grownup words, the fear-threat response that is genetically wired into us, courtesy of earliest man, and the fight or flight mechanism which creates the feeling of fright, thanks to our adrenal activity.

I walked them through all the stories to show them how I had SCARED THEM WITH WORDS.

The messages went something like this:

When we cannot see, we tend to rely on what we hear. Everything seems louder, and bigger, closer, and more dangerous. When trying to interpret sounds, we use our imaginations. Our brains create possible pictures in our head of what we might be hearing, and then we choose one to BELIEVE in based on our knowledge and experiences.

The title made you believe in something IMAGINARY. You were told the writer had encountered these things in the title when, in fact, he had not. He said he heard things, smelled something, and even was splashed by something he never saw.

You were told about a legend. A legend is just an old story. Stories can be fictional, or in other words, made up in someone’s imagination.

The writer began to scare you with creepy words like: snakes, big dangerous things, lions, tigers, bears, cougars, wolves, bats, owls, and how they come out at night when it is dark, and you cannot see well.

The writer told you this was the third time he had run into this, so you thought it could be true.

In the first story, the writer used more scary words like: alone; the air was deadly still; dark shadows everywhere; and suddenly in the blackness.

A grownup was telling you he was scared and went to hide, so you would think the thing must be real, and it scared you.

The writer never saw a thing; he just heard something his imagination associated with a sound he had heard before.

He used lots of scary words. He told us a story he had only heard about bears so we don’t know if it is true.

He scared us with words like: no moonlight; eerily quiet; dark black night; something huge; he was alone and scared; and something was not afraid of fire.

The writer told us there must be more than one of the things, to play on our fear of being out-numbered.

The writer scared us some more about being alone and far away from help.

He used scary words like: right behind me; trapped; dark; foggy; could not see; boards creaking; and a bad smell.

So why did he make up a scary story? Scary stories can be exciting and fun if we do not BELIEVE TOO MUCH of a story.

We are only afraid of things we do not understand, whether it is animals, or people who are different from us.

It is here where I realized I had completely explained fear-mongering to children.

If there is an argument for total honesty with children in the world of psychology, I come down on the FOR side, and I may be alone over there. We want our children to have an INNOCENT, happy, blissful, and care-free childhood which is unrealistic even in the smallest rural area. As much as we would like to, we cannot create a bubble around our children. Their natural inquisitive nature will take them outside of any bubble parents create for them, and what the child finds outside the bubble, will lessen the child’s opinion of the parents who appear FEARFUL of it. The child loses respect for parents exhibiting irrational fear.

I finished with this note.

A note from the Author to parents:

Please do not help to make your children live in fear. There are trying times ahead for future generations, and we must stop passing along our more ridiculous fears to our children.

  • Being afraid to go into a lake is ridiculous.
  • Being afraid of thunder and lightning is ridiculous.
  • BEING TERRIFIED OF ANYTHING IS RIDICULOUS.

Having respect for the power of nature is PRUDENT, so long as you are not putting rubber boots on the bed-posts in a lightning storm, and then hiding under it.

When we encounter something new that we do not understand, we are naturally a little afraid and cautious of it until we UNDERSTAND it better.

I cannot believe there is a need to discuss religion in the year 2015. I thought that humanity would have grown past this by now. As always, mankind continually disappoints. The West is being told to BE AFRAID of unfamiliar religions and peoples, by the media and North American politicians who have shit for brains.

Are we as stupid as the people on TV?

The media cites the worst interpreted examples from the Qur’an, and the most radical denominations of Islam, leaving the peace-loving MAJORITY of followers of that faith to try to repair the damage . . . and it NEVER happens on main-stream media.

WHO IS CONTROLLING MAIN-STREAM MEDIA CONTENT?

He, she, it, or they are the EVIL we need to be fighting.

I will attempt to clear up some “misconceptions”, a polite Canadian word which in this case means: MORONIC STUPIDITY.

  • Islam is the second biggest religion in the world next to Christianity. NEITHER PRESENTS “A CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER” until we throw in some LOOSE INTERPRETATION like King James did, and like Islamists do; so we have this in common.
  • There are apparently 72 sects or schools—what we call denominations of Islamic followers. The largest is the Sunni sect and globally they even outnumber Catholics.

Generations of Catholics have been “at odds” with Protestants in Ireland. I have been to their pubs and drank with both sides. I heard their explanations, but never really got it. Both made good arguments, but neither showed me the necessity for violence, but this is what happens when you mix CHURCH and STATE. My conclusion was they were raised with FEAR, hate, anger, and intolerance, and know nothing else. (I can hear the facebook UN-FRIEND buttons clicking now.) Generations of Sunni have been at odds with Shias in the Middle East, so we again have something in common.

In researching this paper, I found out there are 41,000 Christian denominations—which is just NUTS—so you can bet your ass there are Christian radical extremists out there somewhere.

What is a radical religious extremist?

It is ANYONE who TWISTS THE WORDS of ANY “book of faith” TO DO EVIL, or SANCTION EVIL, and it has been going on for thousands of years IN ALL RELIGIONS.

I HAVE AN EQUAL DISTASTE FOR ALL RELIGIONS. Here is why: ALL of them rely on a fallible human student of theology, to ATTEMPT to interpret ancient texts in order to create A VERSION OF EVENTS, that sends a message to followers living in modern times. This CREATIVE WRITING ASSIGNMENT is not always done well, nor is it without bias. A political slant or conclusion is often added to appease whoever was paying the writer. Centuries later the same bad writing assignment will be misinterpreted to suit another political agenda, AND SO IT GOES . . . CENTURY AFTER CENTURY.

  • Most religions practice EXCLUSIONISM. “If you are not ONE OF US you are not welcome here unless you convert.”
  • Most religions tell their followers that they are “THE CHOSEN ONES” making them think they are better than other humans. YOU ARE NOT.
  • Most religions sell you FEAR. Fear of others who do not have the same faith as you, and fear of an afterlife where you will be punished for your sins.
  • Each religion promises that it can save you if you are faithful and PAY.

So, here is my best INTERPRETATION of the Islamic faith and its significant sects, for the brain dead politicians and media types, who just cannot seem to get a handle on the subject:

It can be very confusing, as we in the West separate church, state and law whereas Muslims tend to merge them. THIS MAY BE SINGLE BIGGEST DIVIDING FACTOR as historically, we in the West view this as dangerous. Anytime someone has controlled all three, it led to corruption, totalitarianism, and usually wars.

View Muslims NOT as being part of a singular Islamic religion, but rather as being one of 72 possible Islamic nation states, trying to live within the borders of your nation like an embassy. All 72 have their own take on government, society, and a legal system, whether we in the West agree with it or not. The local Mosque should be thought of more like an Embassy than a house of worship.

Our next problem in the West is we like to pick a team and stick with it. YOU CANNOT DO THIS WITH THE ISLAMIC SECTS. Every one of the 72 has a different take on religion, societal governance. and jurisprudence. They evolve as well, with some new “up and comers” that leave others in decline.

The West was introduced to Islam for the first time in Iran, when the Shias assumed power after the Shaw was ousted, and those people had a dislike for the Shaw because he was backed by the West.

THIS WAS NOT A GOOD INTRODUCTION.

A picture was painted of ALL ISLAMIC PEOPLES based on Iran in 1979 which was not flattering. I am trying, 36 YEARS LATER, to spread a gallon of paint on a canvas which has become miles wide; but try I will because I am Canadian.

In Iraq it was the Sunnis who backed Saddam, and that also explained, to a large degree, the Iran / Iraq war.

Before we go any farther, we need to clear up some misconceptions:

  • Most Muslims live in Asia and not in the Middle-East.
  • Only about 20% of Arabs are Muslims.
  • 93% of Muslims do not support extremist views on terrorism. There have been far more acts of terrorism against this peaceful group than all the non-Islamic peoples combined.
  • Their books are comparable IN CONCEPT to Christianity’s Old and New Testaments.
  • ON THE SURFACE it appears Christian people, Jewish people, and Islamic people all worship the same GOD, but they all have VERY different takes on prophets, disciples, and the power (if any) attributed to each. Beyond “the Commandments” there is little common ground in those various INTERPRETATIONS of events.
  • Islam is the religion of Muslims.
  • Muhammad is their prophet and Allah is their word for GOD.
  • The Qur’an is their book of faith with the Hadith which teaches a Muslim how to lead their day to day lives in the way of Muhammad.
  • They know much more about Jesus than most Christians know about Mohammed.
  • Islam is the name of a faith. This term is in the Qur’an.
  • Islamic means relating to Islam. This term is in the Qur’an.
  • Islamism means POLITICAL Islam. These terms are NOT in the Qur‘an.
  • Islamist means POLITICAL ACTIVIST with beliefs supporting Islamism. These terms are NOT in the Qur’an.
  • A Muslim is “anyone who submits to the will of GOD” – a follower of ANY interpretation of Islamic faith. This term is in the Qur’an.
  • Iman means faith.
  • Imam is a prayer leader.
  • Jihadism is a Sunni Islamist armed struggle that describes sectarian conflicts with Shia Islam, Sufi Islam, and Ahmadi Islam. These terms are NOT in the Qur’an.
  • Jihadist or Jihadi is a person who believes that ONE ISLAMIC STATE GOVERNING ALL MUSLIMS must be created through violence if necessary. These terms are not in the Qur’an.
  • JIHAD is a word that is found in the Qur’an that SHOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN REFERENCED BY THE WESTERN MEDIA. It is an INFLAMMATORY word and subject, even among Islamic peoples of differing sects.
  • Jihad has multiple INTERPRETATIONS and therein lies the problem. It means “the cause of GOD.” The literal definition is “striving to achieve a goal.” It also is referred to as “fighting a non-believer in the fields of battle”. I read a story about a man who approached Muhammad and asked simply: What is Jihad? The response he was given made him ask the same question a second time which resulted in the same answer. The positive message Muhammad seemed to be attempting to pass along was that THE MOST IMPORTANT STRUGGLE IS WITHIN A MAN, and less important are the external struggles he faces in his life. Even in the time of Muhammad, Jihad was a difficult concept.

Now, let us be PERFECTLY CLEAR: I am not a theologian. I am not religiously affiliated. I DO HAVE STRONG PERSONAL BELIEFS WHICH ARE NOBODY’S BUSINESS BUT MY OWN. I am conveying my take on what I read FROM AN ALREADY INTERPRETED TEXT THAT WAS THEN TRANSLATED! It is best Westerners do not attempt to weigh in on this conversation.

  • Do Muslims view Westerners as non-believers or infidels? MOST DO NOT.
  • Many do however think the West has “lost its way” with our endless uncaring exploitation of the planet, and they may well be right about this as are the millions of other people, both religious and non-religious, who think the same.
  • Christians and Jewish peoples are viewed as having a SIMILAR faith by many Muslim peoples. Christians, Jewish people, and Islamic people ALL view people of other faiths as infidels. In fact infidel is a term first used by Christians to describe anyone who did not have THE EXACT SAME FAITH OR DENOMINATION. Now there is a small component of Islam that DISTORTS the term the way Christians once did. So we have this in common with them as well.
  • About 10 to 20% of Islamic peoples fall into the category of Islamism or Political Islam or Activist Islam or Militant Islam; four names meaning the same thing. These people hold to a totalitarian belief where all aspects of life: social, political, and personal are to be “guided” by their ideologies, that were interpreted and delivered by their leaders. Ancient Sharia law is rigidly held to. They want to remove all Western military, economic, political, social, or cultural influences from the Muslim world, as they believe these to be incompatible with Islam. In other words, they want to be left alone to live how they wish. They are isolationists. THEY VIEW NON-INTERFERENCE AS FREEDOM.
  • Sunni Islam is the largest group of Islamic followers with more than 50% of Muslims. Claims have been made the number could be as high as 80%. This group can be termed the “orthodox” version of Islamic belief. The name is derived from the word sanna meaning “smooth and easy flow” describing (if my INTERPRETATION of an already interpreted and translated document is correct) an easy path to Heaven. They believe their caliph (judge) to be just a man.
  • Shia Islam represents about 13% of Islamic followers and they focus on the teachings Muhammad’s cousin Ali. Sometimes referred to as Shiite, this group considers their Imams (law givers) to be infallible and not mere men.
  • ALL DIVISION BETWEEN SHIA AND SUNNI MUSLIMS BEGAN WHEN MUHAMMAD DIED in 632 A.D. and they have been getting farther apart ever since.
  • The Shafi are the Official Schools of the Brunei and Malaysian governments.
  • The Hanbali school is followed by Muslims in Qatar and most of Saudi Arabia. The Salafist movement claims to follow these teachings.
  • The Zahiri school was once followed by the majority of Muslims going back to Mesopotamia, but now it is a minority community in Morocco and Pakistan.
  • The Salafi sect is about LITERAL INTERPRETATION of the Qur’an.
  • The Wahhabism sect is the dominant Creed in Saudi Arabia.
  • The Ahi al-Hadith is a Sunni movement started in northern India that are considered Salifi.
  • Then there are the political movements within each.
  • Al-Ikhwan Al-Muslimun or Muslim Brotherhood is the largest Sunni movement in the Arab world. They wish to “order the life of the Muslim family.”
  • Jamaat-e-Islami is the oldest Islamic political party in Pakistan and India. The J. I. wish to form Islamic governments in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. They oppose all things Western.

I could go on and on.

Muslim leaders squabble among themselves and always have, as did Christian leaders. It is their nature. It is human nature. It is the SAME OLD ONGOING PROBLEM with all humans involved in religion:

NO ONE CAN AGREE ON INTERPRETATION!

The Muslim world can best be described as splinter group after splinter group. I doubt there is a Muslim who has a handle on all of the sects, just as a Christian could never adequately describe each of the thousands of denominations available to a church-goer. Perhaps this is the biggest reason we in the West have little understanding of the Muslim world.

THERE ARE FEW RELIABLE SOURCES WITHOUT A POLITICAL AGENDA.

The only thing almost all sects in the Middle East can agree on… IS THAT ISRAEL HAS TO GO. THE ARGUMENT HAS NEVER BEEN ABOUT RELIGION. It is about a questionable claim to ancient RELIGIOUS lands. Religion has just been USED BY ALL THE PARTIES INVOLVED to justify their positions. It has never been made clear why the U.S. backs this nation. All I see is “the haves” kicking the “have-nots”.  I see South Africa all over again. In the 1950’s when Israel backed by Britain and France invaded Egypt, the U.S. sided with Egypt and forced a withdrawal. I view the U.S. as hedging bets to maintain the oil flow. Years ago, they needed Israel to ward off communism in the region. They also needed Egypt to have a moderate Arab voice in the region, and they had the Shaw of Iran to lend a moderate Islamic voice. Those were the “good ol’ days”.

All out war with Israel means NUKES, NO MORE OIL, and an end to the West’s way of life. We can see why the U.S. protects Saudi Arabia. OIL and a moderate Arab voice combined with a moderate Islamic voice in the region.

THE SAD TRUTH:

Maintaining some semblance of peace in the Middle East means a continual flow of OIL. It has little or nothing to do with religious ideologies.

Are there many assholes in the world who would like to nuke us?

ABSOLUTELY.

Can they pull it off? Few Islamic nations could, and even fewer Islamic terrorists would be capable without SIGNIFICANT OUTSIDE HELP.

Why are so many Islamic peoples emigrating to the West? For most it is fear of terrorism. Some are people just seeking a better life for their children. The most FEARFUL and paranoid among us believe it to be a covert invasion strategy, but they also believe guns are not a problem in the USA. Should we in the West be concerned about Muslims wanting to be somewhere surrounded by Westerners who have ideologies Islamic peoples are told to reject? Yes, CONCERN is warranted.

HOWEVER, WE CAN BE VIGILANT WITHOUT BEING FEARFUL.

HUMANS ARE CAPABLE OF GROWTH THROUGH EDUCATION AND NOTHING ELSE. MISINFORMATION is the key to successfully manipulating the minds of a FEARFUL ignorant populace.

It has a synonym: PROPAGANDA.

Starting in childhood we become suckers for well-presented fictitious stories.

Blogus-interuptus:

To be continued…