Archive for November, 2015

Humility

Thinking about it over at my iPhone blog:

As one gets older, mental hygiene becomes more important than ability or intelligence. Laziness is the chief vice of high aptitude.

I was at Burger King the other day, and grew irritated by how long it took to receive my cheeseburger. I had to walk away from the counter because I did not want the cashier to see my twisted face. Then I remembered that I got fired from Burger King 40 years ago. It was my first real job. I kept forgetting to put the fish in the fish fillet sandwiches.

Edifying Irritation

The first thing I read most every morning is Clarissa’s Blog. It is a whirlwind of commentary on culture and literature and history. The folk who follow her blog chip in with animated and sometimes antagonistic discussion. It’s really really wonderful. The last couple of days Clarissa has been providing spirited critiques of the way people typically understand The Holocaust, and how they use it in public and private debates. Today she hammers those lamebrains among us who, as a rhetorical device, compare such-and-such an event to The Shoah. I am going to quote the whole post, because every sentence matters.

Middle schoolers who join debate teams are warned to avoid the “that’s just like Hitler” argument because it’s intellectually vacuous and morally unsustainable. Reaching out for an easy, tear-jerking analogy is a sign of an impotent mind.

Lazy, primitive brains love nothing as much as they do analogy. They dismiss any new information that reaches them with an, “Oh, it’s just like X” because absorbing anything new is work, and it’s much easier to sift through a limited stock of trivia tidbits than try to learn. The Hitler Analogy is the easiest one because every ignoramus on the planet feels hugely knowledgeable about the Holocaust on the basis of having heard that something vaguely bad might have happened and can be used to shame people you don’t like.

This morning, I tried scrolling through my news feed but all I saw, in about 30 articles in a row, was the comparison of Syrian refugees with European Jews in 1938. The analogy is both unsustainable and offensive. It’s also been done to death, it sheds no light on the understanding of anything, yet people repeat it with the insistence of robots who’ve had no other function programmed into them.

Have you noticed, though, that for just-like-Holocausters everything is as bad as the Holocaust except for the Holocaust? They have no sympathy for Jews but every sympathy for just-like-Jews. (One of the just-like-Holocausters in my blogroll, for instance, was the “tender-hearted Nazis” fellow I quoted yesterday.)

The reason is that their attachment to just-like-Holocausting does not only serve the purpose of faking an understanding where there is none. It also helps them trivialize the Holocaust and turn it into an ordinary, mundane occurrence which is “just like” everything else in the world.

Get thee to Clarissa’s Blog, go!

No Word

A friend in the media emailed me this morning: “Everyone keeps talking about hostages having been taken in Paris. Doesn’t the word ‘hostage’ imply a demand on the part of the terrorists? They made no demands; they intended all along to slaughter them. Wouldn’t captive be a more appropriate word, or am I over-thinking this?”

I wrote back: “You are definitely right about ‘hostage’ being the wrong word and for the reasons you say. I would say that ‘captive’ is also the wrong word, because captives are prisoners – not intended victims of murder. At the very least, one ‘holds’ a captive for a predetermined period of time; this was not the case yesterday. To see how ‘captive’ is the wrong word: One would not say that a person killed in his/her or another person’s home is a captive – same for a person killed in a restaurant in a drive-by. I think ‘intended victim’ is the closest. There is no single word for ‘terrorist victim,’ and it seems discourteous to refer repeatedly to the slain as ‘terrorist victims’ – two awful words to describe innocent souls.”

My friend’s reply: “Alas, ‘intended victim’ is clumsy.”

True.

About this one can truly say, There is no word.

cross-posted at NoContest.CA

My neighborhood

hood

From Robert Mangelsdorf and The Westender (an alert and lovely weekly):

Vancouver’s West End has been recognized as Canada’s greatest neighbourhood, something that no doubt comes as no surprise to the people who live there.

The West End took first place in the annual Great Places in Canada contest, hosted by the Canadian Institute of Planners and now in its fifth year.

“We couldn’t be more delighted,” stated the West End BIA on their website of the win. “[We’d] like to thank all of the amazing citizens, community groups, businesses, and event organizers that make the West End such a fantastic place to live, work and play.”

The neighbourhood was recognized by Great Places in Canada for its natural beauty, culture, and liveability, including “spectacular English Bay beach, a backdrop of majestic North Shore mountains, tree lined and foliage rich streets, an elegant blend of heritage and modern buildings, lively commercial areas, parklets and roundabouts, [and] dedicated cycling lanes.”

Every morning when I wake up and realize that *I’m still living, and living here* … I thank the heavens. I really do.

 

Paris

I am praying for the people of France and sending my love there.

[Addendum: Saturday mornings invite reflection; today we feel the whole world zooming and twirling, its surface topped and toppled by our species; are we really *that* sickening, ever remote from atonement? – 14 Nov. 12]