The Worship of Violence

I have for some years of watching life be lived come to the belief that, whether the individual or the society, what prevails is what we admire.  Our lives, and those of our progeny,  become the beneficiaries of the values we hold dearest.

These comments are prelude to the most recent visitation of mass violence in Boston. The specific victims are just that and not to be the recipients of “blame” but, at most, hubris. No one jumping to his death from a high widow can be other than a tragic ignorance of the working of nature.

We may decry the viciousness of violence and mourn those among us who become its victims; but our laws and ideologies are formed from the  claimed virtue,  the “right” to bear lethal weapons and use them at a hair trigger provocation.
“Due process” has become bypassed and perverted to the point of meaninglessness through the process of preemption; preemptive killing, whether in preemptive wars, targeted individuals on the basis of “signature” behavior  or defense of home and property when believing they might be in danger.    There is little suggestion that in practice consideration is given to the rights of targets or to their impact on world opinion.
These rights to lethal weapons and their use  are so admired they are extended to virtually every individual in the nation based on the notion that the Constitution endows each of us with the inalienable right to commit violence even  in the cause of sedition and rebellion.  When will sanity prevail?

Book Review: What Kinship is and What it is Not.

This is a two part essay by Marshall Sahlins, well regarded anthropologist who recently resigned from the National Academy of Sciences  in protest of the body’s election of Napoleon Chagon to membership.  The NPR account of this caught my eye and I picked up the book.

For me this was a difficult read but I am not an anthropologist and have difficulty understanding why they all seem to need to make their points through observations of marginal societies on the verge of extinction. But it’s their Petri dish.  The author’s use of metaphor created from these observations is quite skillful. His conclusions regarding the place of genetics and culture in determining and forming the institutions, in particular kinship, that are so characteristic of humans are compelling.  We are born into a kinship that is defined by how we label and share experiences with others. We are not born with a pre-determined  pattern of social behavior.

Chagnon’s work is not the topic of this book but it is worthy of commenting on in this review because his theories tend to sustain the politically motivated ideology of radical individualism through violence that beginning with among others Ardrey and his The Territorial Imperative has biased much of the thinking in this area over the past 60 or so years.

What Kinship is and What it is Not may be found in Amazon Books 



The Fundamentalists – Billy Graham

Comment on Joan King Column — Defining the nature of our reality. April 3,2013


At the risk of banality; living life is a pretty complicated process.

I think Ms. King is describing the Rev. Graham columns as stimulating her thought processes as to religion. She incorporates his ideas along with her experiences and learning over years in expanding insights.

There is a certain comfort in Rev. Graham’s messages that remind many of us of our childhood Sunday School understanding of how things are. It was so simple and safe, wonderful for the growing child. But as Paul says, “we must (some day) put away childish things.” I personally am offended by those who who so debase my human capacities for nuance, complexity and potential for great achievements. And not just for technology, but also for a life of moral decision that nourishes and enhances the joy of the gifts of the earth, including its people.

Most accept that the ability to determine reality and act “logically” is in a large part learned as well as determined by availability and grasp of information provided by the senses. It is highly influenced by the internal processes of memory and what we call “education.” By far more often than not, concepts and actions that are judged by others to be irrational adhere to a perfect rationality when understood in the context of information held by the individual or group.

It is disturbing to contemplate that Christian fundamentalists such as Graham insist on their concrete, minimalist interpretation of Biblical literature being the sole source of information for living, for decisions of not only personal morality but the very truths of reality that science, and education in various other disciplines brings. How flat the earth for the man who has never known the joy of autonomy and mastery. It is also guaranteed that in such a world rational decisions become even more rare.

The question lingers, Why? Mr.Graham had access to great educational opportunities. His capacity to put on a show are evidence of his intellect. As a self-described minister and counselor to the common and the uncommon men of his era, why would he choose to preach this infantilizing philosophy?