Thursday, September 18, 2014

Hirsi Ali Is No Spokeswoman for the West

In my previous post Creed and Conscience, I wrote the following about Hirsi Ali's remark that she would let her son choose his religion when he's old enough to decide:
If she has spent her whole adult life denouncing Islam, and writing about its evils, then why would she want her son to "choose" Islam? It is as though she's hedging her bets, and doesn't want the responsibility of influence a child's life into nihilism. Let him do that for himself!
She is not fighting an existential fight, but what looks like a personal one. She spent all these years fighting Islam, compromising herself and endangering her colleagues in order to escape Islam, and the best she can come up with is that she will let her son decide his religion (or no religion), and that she's "hoping it does not happen" that he "choose" Islam. For this declared atheist, the freedom of choice of her son is more important than his spiritual integrity. And this is her fatal problem, making her a dangerous spokesman for the West's survival. She has no armor with which to combat this combative religion other than "freedom of choice."

If her son becomes one of those Muslims living in a Western city, making demands for mosques, Islamic schools, special dietary regulations for Muslims in restaurants and shops, and the myriad of other cultural changes that Islam has been demanding in Western cities, and making her particular Western city into the one that she left behind in Somalia, will she still say "he is free to choose his religion?" What if one day she reads about him in the news, and finds he'd strapped bombs to his chest in the name of Allah?

What an obtuse, and dangerous, woman. It is important that we point out these inconsistencies, rather than naively promote her as the saviour of the West.
Posted By: Kidist P. Asrat

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Creed Vs. Conscience

Here is a recent photograph of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, at Yale in mid-September, 2014
She looks strained, and her red eyes indicate fatigue, or lack of sleep.
Motherhood, and an activist's life must be taking their toll

After the usual fanfare that follows Ayaan Hirsi Ali, she was finally able to make her speech at Yale University.

I've written about her over the years (see list below), and I've tried to understand her. Finally, this time, I can only say that she's not a very intelligent woman, but has an aggressive personality and is unafraid to "jump in" as she has with many instances both in her private and activist life.

She first came into the limelight in Dutch politics when she publicly denounced Islam, which caused her to go into hiding for fear of her life. But, her outspokenness, even in hiding, caused her to endanger the life of Geert Wilders, another Dutch politician.

Her affair and consequent marriage to British historian Niall Ferguson, broke up his sixteen-year marriage.

Here is her jumbled messages on religion, declaring herself an atheist, at her Yale speech:
Muslim Students Association of Yale, you live in a time when Muslims are at a crossroad. Every single day, there is a headline that forces the Muslim individual to chose between his conscience and his creed. The Muslim world is on fire. And those fanning the fire are using your core creed. With every atrocity they commit, they remind the Muslim of his commitment to submit to Allah. Will you submit, passively or actively, or will you finally stand up to Allah.
Is Ali denouncing Islam? Is she trying to find an Islam that suits her? Is she telling people to leave Allah?

One of her theses is that Islam can (should) be "reformed" as Christianity was "reformed." Her theological obtuseness is apparent here, when she compares two very different religions and tries to fashion one like the other ("Islam can be reformed, like Christianity!"). And if it isn't, that is because of the backwardness of Muslims. So in one conceptual fallacy, she manages to insult Christians (Islam is like Christianity), Muslims (Islam can be "reformed" like Christianity), and Muslims again (your religion is barbaric and inhuman). And Christians and Muslims alike, by declaring her theological superiority all the while declaring herself irreligious - an atheist.

While she was expecting her child, she was interviewed by the Globe and Mail about how she would raise him:
Globe And Mail: What if your son decides to follow Islam?

Ali:...I have to do what my father and my mother were incapable of doing, which is to say, “Alright, go for it.” I'm hoping it does not happen.

You have to let individuals make their own choices and respect that, even if it's your own child...

I want to be strong enough to tell my son, it's your choice.
Again, with Ali, it is all a jumble. If she has spent her whole adult life denouncing Islam, and writing about its evils, then why would she want her son to "choose" Islam? It is as though she's hedging her bets, and doesn't want the responsibility of influence a child's life into nihilism. Let him do that for himself! And although she declares herself an atheist, it seems that she is passing on theological decisions to him.

Atheists are the biggest hypocrites. They always surreptitiously reveal that they do "believe" after all, if only to hedge their bets.

So will it be her conscience that will tell her son to follow his creed, if that is what he "chooses?"

Here are my previous posts on Ali (dating from 2008):
Islam's Missionary Women
Hirsi Ali and Knopf Canada
All about Ayaan
All About Ayaan Part II
The Vacillation Hiris Ali, or All About Ayaan Part III
Hirsi Ali on the View From the Right
More on Hirsi Ali and Her Disdain for Christianity
Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Latest Update
Hirsi Ali's Advice to Geert Wilders
Hirsi Ali and Ferguson busy making babies
Posted By: Kidist P. Asrat

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sham Realism and the Usual Nihilism

Another New York icon for blowing up: The Brooklyn Bridge stylized with a pistol

I've posted below the full article by Armond White Working Class Goes to Hell: Drop and The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby. Once again, movies make a mess of class realism.

The article is posted on National Review Online.

I post it here because I read it just after I posted my recent article on the 9/11 memorial, where I wrote: "A defeatist, nihilistic symbol will produce a defeated people."

White, in the article below, expands on the nihilism of contemporary films. He writes in the article:
Lehane’s popularity among filmmakers, from Clint Eastwood to Scorsese, points to an ongoing class war between out-of-touch professionals who have enjoyed class ascension and self-hating audiences who eagerly accept the worse view of themselves as if confronting hard facts of life. This sham realism [in the film] contains the usual indie-movie nihilism.
He continues:
Cynics love this junk for its simultaneous wallowing in decadence..., sanctimony..., and self-pity...
It is far easier to wallow in decadence, sanctimony and self-pity than to take a stand against these camouflaged evils, expose them, and provide (and live) an alternative life of goodness, choosing God instead of the devil. Our modern world, as I wrote in the article linked above, has left us with
a depressing, generic memorial, which has become the norm in our godless, non-spiritual world.
This norm is not only in our public memorials, but in our personal presentations, where dark, nihilistic clothes now make up standard attire.

Working Class Goes to Hell: Drop and The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby
Once again, movies make a mess of class realism.

By Armond White
September 11, 2014

Another Dennis Lehane carnival of urban clichés, The Drop uses the story of a quiet, lonely Brooklyn barkeep, Bob Malinowski (Tom Hardy), who outwits the criminals, the cops, and the people around him, for a fable that is sinister, sentimental, ironic, and worthless.

Based on Lehane’s short story “Animal Rescue” (which became the intro to his novelization The Drop), the film belongs to the same trash heap as Hollywood’s other Lehane adaptations such as Gone Baby Gone and Mystic River. It transfers those Boston-based tales to New York, the epicenter of current miscreant mythology. It’s a confabulation of news media, publishing, TV, and Hollywood industries, where hardboiled fiction and urban crime are combined into cheap and trite storytelling (what the book industry calls thrillers) and has become a new dark brand of Americana.

From its opening voiceover narration, The Drop is both fake and familiar. Its characters are all woebegone: bar owner Marv (James Gandolfini), the scared and scarred abused girl Nadia (Noomi Rapace), and Bob himself, so emotionally recessive he thinks and speaks dull-wittedly and stumbles instead of walks — a plot device of slow-boiling rage. (Bob closely relates to the pitbull puppy he rescues.) The underworld subplot involving drop-offs for Chechan mobsters is a dismal, lazy way to deal with the contemporary social challenges and the seemingly inescapable beat-down of working-class life.

Alert, socially conscious viewers might trace Lehane’s genre to The Sopranos and its exurban offshoots, like New Jersey‘s Boardwalk Empire and Maryland’s The Wire (to which Lehane contributed), that twisted the gangster genre into a perverse, overly self-conscious version of social realism. These urban-crime tales excite viewers from the middle class to the underclass by pretending to show how rough today’s pitbull-versus-pitbull world can be. A bizarre form of gallows escapism, they simplify the gradual decline of our cities. It is the pretense of an author like Lehane to pinpoint corruption while also profiting from it.
This distraction from political reality indicts that entire entertainment complex that takes a sentimentalized (and half-understood) history of ethnic struggle that frequently includes criminality, such as Marv’s pathetic get-rich scheming, as the pattern of ethnic desperation. Lehane’s insipid moralizing offers psychological rationales: Americans like Bob, Marv, and Nadia harbor such horrors from their pasts that they have no recourse other than reprobate behavior — which Martin Scorsese’s hysterical film version of Lehane’s Shutter Island illustrated, as does the equally ludicrous The Drop.

Lehane’s popularity among filmmakers, from Clint Eastwood to Scorsese, points to an ongoing class war between out-of-touch professionals who have enjoyed class ascension and self-hating audiences who eagerly accept the worse view of themselves as if confronting hard facts of life. (Note Bob’s strange locution “That‘s unlike me” to explain or disguise an eccentric act.) This sham realism contains the usual indie-movie nihilism. One cop exclaims, “Well, I’ll be damned.” And his female partner responds, “Like you weren’t already.” It’s the same laughably literary conceit as in Cormac McCarthy’s “original” screenplay for Ridley Scott’s The Counselor. Cynics love this junk for its simultaneous wallowing in decadence (Bob’s local parish church is about to close), sanctimony (Bob’s chivalrous defense of Nadia), and self-pity (“You have to be alone forever,” Bob philosophizes).

The class condescension in The Drop has become such a cliché that even Belgian director Michael R. Roskam can imitate the Brooklyn miasma with the same fake fussiness as native son James Gray. This gloomy, hardboiled pathos exposes the filmmakers’ distance from their subject. When Italian director Elio Petri made The Working Class Goes to Heaven (also known as Mimi the Metalworker) in the early ’70s, the defense of lower-class struggle was part of Petri’s combined Communist critique and satire. Lehane sends the working class to hell out of Hollywood/literary pity. It’s nothing less than cultural decadence that should be obvious to anyone who doesn’t have an academic or industry stake in denying the problem. Imagine if the makers of The Drop had kept Lehane’s original title and honestly asked moviegoers to approve the symbolic treatment of their lives as animals?


Why would first-time feature director Ned Benson The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby allude to the title of a famous 1966 Beatles song and then deny an exploration into its meaning? That bad idea is a warning. So is the story’s confounding presentation. Benson’s tale of a broken marriage between once-blissful young parents Conor (James McAvoy) and Eleanor (Jessica Chastain) started in two separate films, one subtitled “Him,” the other “Her.” This reviewer endured the remix, a third version subtitled “Them.”

McAvoy’s ornery petulance as the bratty son of a restaurateur and Chastain’s actressy traumatized daughter of a professor make an annoying, mismatched pair. This is the opposite of The Drop, as both these affluent characters are meant to be envied, even in their exasperating, enervated struggle to find the companionship they lost. They suffer in luxe settings and among highly theatrical peers (William Hurt, Viola Davis, Isabelle Huppert) who seem signed on for narcissism (acting out one “heartfelt” confession after another) not truth. Here’s a different kind of class displacement — filmmakers who are so out of touch with the prosperity to which they have ascended that they falsify the terms of their apparent spiritual emptiness. Fatuous Benson, who treats Conor and Eleanor as teenagers, relates it all to a song — and it’s a song he doesn’t seem to understand.

When The Smiths updated “Eleanor Rigby” as “Vicar in a Tutu” (1986), the new song satirized a pre-millennial sense of spiritual isolation. Skepticism, tradition, impudence, and desperation were examined and then redeemed for a powerful and refreshed sense of identity. Challenging pop and religious heritage, and hearing its echo, the Smiths were also marvelously rooted to it. In The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, Benson and cast seem unaware they are rootless.

White briefly mentions Martin Scorcese's Shutter Island in his article, where he writes:
Americans like Bob, Marv, and Nadia harbor such horrors from their pasts that they have no recourse other than reprobate behavior - which Martin Scorsese’s hysterical film version of Lehane’s Shutter Island illustrated, as does the equally ludicrous The Drop.
I discuss this phenomenon in a post from 2011, where I write:
A recent program on Television Ontario's news/current affairs program The Agenda had a panel discussion it titled as "Zombie Zeitgeist" and had zombie experts from various universities as guest on its panel...It is astonishing how seriously they all take the topic, including the usually sharp and adroit host of the program Steve Paiken.

I noticed this foray into the "unreal" with two films that Leonardo DiCaprio made, in quick succession just last year: Shutter Island and Inception. DiCaprio's characters enter some abyss (in Shutter Island we find out that he's actually mad) where the laws of reality (including gravity) don't exist, or at least they don't fully and consistently exist.
Posted By: Kidist P. Asrat

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Twin Towers Memorial

The bombing of the Twin Towers has left a hollow in the American spirit. I sense that whenever I travel to the US, and specifically New York. People are quieter, softer. This is not the New York spirit.

The memorial for the destroyed towers and the 3,000 dead dwells on death. Or, on the nihilism of these deaths. It is not a memorial as much as a hollow pit (or two hollow pits) where there is insatiable grief. Memorials are not happy places, of course, but they should have some dignity for the dead. In this case, the two pits look like mass burial holes. The names, which no-one will read in their entirety, look like carved lines.

To give these 3,000 names more meaning, they should have made crosses with the names carved on them. No-one will take the time to read them all, of course, but the combined presence of these 3,000 crosses would give a deeper, more spiritual meaning to the deaths.

The lights, which emit from these pits, go upwards. I thought this was an attempt to send the souls of these dead upwards towards the sky, if not to heaven. But no! These lights are "search lights." Still searching for more dead bodies?

The argument against these symbols would be, how about those that are not Christian? Therefore, the lights cannot go to heaven, and the crosses cannot be used. Our meaningful symbols are too specific, and what we're left with, in our multicultural era, is a depressing, generic memorial, which has become the norm in our godless, non-spiritual world.

But, ordinary people still want meaning in their lives. People reacted so negatively to the dark, empty granite sheath that stood for the original Vietnam Memorial, that another, showing soldiers in combat, was finally put up.

I suggest that such a sculpture be erected around this mound of granite at Ground Zero, since it is impossible to remove that mound now. It can be something as mundane as a sculpture of one of the passengers on a cell-phone, trasmitting information about the hijackers. Something which would show the bravery of an ordinary citizen, thinking about life, or the living, instead of death.

Memorials should of course be about the dead. But, they should also raise the spirits of the living, if only to say: Never Again! A defeatist memorial will produce defeated people, who will not be ready and vigilant enough to say "Never Again" let alone act to prevent atrocities from happening to their country.

A defeatist, nihilistic symbol will produce a defeated people. That is what the 9/11 memorial does. Of course, the name also has to go. What memorial gains any gravity when remembered as numbers? "The September 11 Memorial" or simply "The Twin Towers Memorial" can give strength back to New Yorkers, and to Americans.
Posted By: Kidist P. Asrat

Friday, September 12, 2014

Osgoode Law School, Toronto

[Photo By: KPA]

This is the Osgoode Law School in Toronto.

The building is hidden behind trees and the dark railings, and the traffic-heavy Queen and University Streets. But, a lot happens behind its doors.
Architecturally, Osgoode Hall represents a blend of Palladianism and Neoclassicism characteristic of mid-19th-century Canadian architecture. The original building was erected in 1829-32 to designs by John Ewart, assisted by Dr. W.W. Baldwin. The building's unusual plan and elevation are a result of numerous successive additions by a series of different architects. Centre and west wings were added in 1844-6 to designs by Henry Bower Lane, establishing the basic composition of the present building. Renovations by Cumberland and Storm in 1857 replaced the centre wing and added other significant decorative and structural components. In 1865, a law school was added to the rear of the East Wing, to plans by William Storm. Additions and alterations to the building continued throughout the 20th century.


Since its construction in 1832, Osgoode Hall has served as the headquarters for the Law Society of Upper Canada, the governing body of the legal profession in Ontario. The building was named for William Osgoode, the first Chief Justice of Upper Canada. As law society headquarters, Osgoode Hall has provided a library, dining room and study space for practising lawyers since 1832. During the 19th century it also provided sleeping quarters for students-at-law. From 1889 to 1974 the law society operated a law school at Osgoode Hall, until 1959, the only one in the province. The law society continues to administer the bar admission course for Ontario from Osgoode Hall. Since 1846 Osgoode Hall has also served as a courthouse for senior provincial courts, and many important cases have been heard here. The Province has owned part of the building since 1874, with the Law Society retaining ownership of the East Wing and Great Library. Growth of both the law society and the court system prompted the numerous additions and alterations made to the building over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries. [Source: Osgoode Hall National Historic Site of Canada]
Posted By: Kidist P. Asrat

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Light Reflections

[Photo By: KPA]
Posted By: Kidist P. Asrat

View Down Victoria Street

Victoria Street, Downtown Toronto
[Photo By: KPA]
Posted By: Kidist P. Asrat