Ben gets the lead here for calling Harris and Maher racist. Steele and Kristof do a good job trying to inject the ‘reasonable persons’ argument.
My problem is this – Affleck is right. Harris is also right. Islam is not a blind spot for liberals, how we approach intolerance of Muslims while maintaining an anti-authoritarian, anti-theocratic point of view is a confluence of ideological imperatives that takes more than a soundbite to parse and understand.
As a person who feels strongly that religious ideology is poisonous to all reasonable debate (and dangerous when mixed with military or police powers), I also recognize that the ‘liberal values’ that Maher is adopting as his shield evolved from Protestant Christian thought during the Renaissance and Reformation. Without the enlightenment, led by many Christian and former Christian/Deist and Jewish philosophers, Maher would have no universal rights of man to point to.
Likewise, we Americans give a pass to ourselves and choose to ignore the religious ideation of many of our own value systems when we look at our actions, political or otherwise. Atheist liberals look at the civil rights movement as a victory of humanist ideals, when really it was led by black ministers. When our own terrorists like Timothy McVeigh and Robert Bales kill hundreds no one calls the pope or Rick Warren to account. This is because white Americans see their own foundational beliefs and power structures as natural and progressing toward a positive end, for us and everyone, while we regard foreign concepts as suspect and ill-wrought. Islam has had enlightenments before, where religious pluralism, the arts and sciences flourish. This is not because of Islam, it is because of people. Likewise with violence and intolerance, from all cultures.
Sam Harris has indeed made a career of criticism of religious thought, and the fact is, he’s lightyears ahead of most folks on the subject intellectually. But he’s also made a lot of money in the post 9/11 world, cashing in on Islamophobia when he can do so with a bit of professorial distance. Affleck is a hero of mine, and Harris is one of my faves as well. This argument speaks to the core of what it means to be a liberal in the United States. But it isn’t necessary to pick a side. Because the bottom line is that good people are good no matter what they believe, and as long as the good people in any culture can ignore the ugly parts of their people’s ideologies – and actively decry them in public spaces, an all too difficult thing to do in moderate Muslim countries, in Communist countries, in America (if you’re black) – and treat each other like human beings, then we can thrive together.
I know they’re AT&T ads, but I remember watching these and being so excited for the future. Yesterday, I actually looked up how much a virtual reality headset costs. My car drives on half electricity generated when I brake. These videos make me flush with gratitude for how tech has changed our world.
But I also see that really nothing big has changed. The advances demonstrated in this video are largely conveniences meant to help people consume more quickly and work during their vacations, and making face to face communications obsolete through video screens. Almost everyone in these videos is alone. The in-person interactions are incidental. (The exception is the athlete receiving medical care, which stands out as a humane and very necessary deployment of tech. Sagefully, the patient’s health is of utmost importance to a major American corporate entity – his NFL team – making his recovery not a self evident matter of good fortune for a person and his family, but because he gets back on the field, the season is saved, blah blah blah.)
Commerce will self-innovate, businesses will always look for ways to improve themselves to out compete the next business or address new needs and pain points for consumers. But tech and money can’t solve problems that exist between people. They can only make the conversations more predictable and less frequent, less intimate, they insulate the richest people from the poorest people, and provide a dim glow of connectedness for the warm smelly suchness of other people.
So ‘think different’ is all I’m saying. just do it. you will.
Posted in economics, internet, Quickies, video
Tagged apple, at&t, commerce, internet, smelly, suchness, tech, technology
Nelson Mandela, 1918 – 2013
‘Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.’
- from ‘Invictus’ by W.E. Henley.
I try to see everything labeled ‘environmental/immersive/ambulatory’ that pops up in Los Angeles because I feel it’s the coolest thing theater has going for it. No other form can make you stand up, walk around, touch, feel, smell and throw yourself into a story or experience like the present art of theater. TV and video games can’t do that, and never will (my apologies to Virtual Boy.) And yet, how do we spend our time at plays? Silent, seated, hands folded or clutching a program, policing the behavior of other paying patrons, and counting the minutes until the intermission brings renal release. Artists and companies which go out of their way to stretch and mangle the frozen boxes where we usually imbibe our drama are doing us and the art form a great service, because they are giving audiences something they can’t get from a screen, something undeniably now, with more dimension and perspective than can be achieved while sitting down.
“Everyone grieves differently.”
As most of you know, my theater company Brimmer Street develops original works for the theater from scratch, collaborating with writers, actors, designers and producers from start to finish. Our latest mainstage offering is Pack Up the Moon, by Christina Cigala and starring yours truly.
Posted in Features, los angeles, theater
Tagged #lathtr, Amy K. Harmon, Arts, Brimmer Street, Christina Cigala, los angeles, Moon, NewPlay, Play (theatre)
“Any joke about raping you, yeah, that’s pretty funny to me.”
“WAAHHH WAAHHHH!!! I’m a big cry baby and I need daddy to save me from the razor-sharp wit of an absolute genius!”
This is what Jason Rohrer will read in this post, but I imagine everyone else will feel otherwise. This is because in a brief twitter exchange between myself and Jason today, he managed to turn a perfectly civil discourse on casually offensive comedy, and the strategy of contacting advertisers to combat it, into a personal attack. I figured I’d put my money where my mouth is and let Daddy know he was pulling my hair.
Really I just wanted to consolidate it so he can see how ridiculous he is and maybe get him and others like him to check their privilege and see the light: that casual rape jokes are harmful, and it is not an affront to free speech to point that shit out.
Posted in los angeles, people, snark, theater
Tagged Carlin, Daniel Tosh, Jason Rohrer, Jim Norton, Joan Rivers, Lindy West, Rape, W. Kamau Bell