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The term “politically correct” describes an idea that the majority – or a highly visible group – in a given historical time period see as true or acceptable.
When a politically correct idea takes hold, many follow suit and boldly proclaim with an almost religious certainty some ‘right’ idea or course of action that could just be an ephemeral, ideological trend.
The classical French sociologist Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) argued that democracy’s emphasis on equality could possibly squelch individuality, leading to a suffocating majority rule characterized by total conformity.
In Biblical lore, Pontius Pilate voices the philosophical essence of political correctness when he says to Jesus Christ:
What is Truth! (John, 18:38 NASB).
Likewise, in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar, Pilate sarcastically says:
But what is truth? Is truth unchanging law? We both have truths. Are mine the same as yours?
And the following from the New Testament offers a rather scathing view of worldly wisdom, which could be seen as a kind of political correctness:
Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is THE ONE WHO CATCHES THE WISE IN THEIR CRAFTINESS”; and again, “THE LORD KNOWS THE REASONINGS of the wise, THAT THEY ARE USELESS” (I Corinthians 3:18-20 NASB).
Having said this much, we shouldn’t become so jaded, cynical or perhaps self-righteous to say that all politically correct ideas are bogus. Many may have virtue. The key, however, is to not blindly submit the intellect (and heart) to majority opinion while assessing politically correct ideas.
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Aside from being an adjective denoting a relation to politics, social theorists such as Michael Parenti¹ say the word ‘political’ has become a euphemism obscuring real human choices that influence or determine outcomes in a competitive struggle for control, command or jurisdiction.
The term can be used to hide the various human indecencies that may accompany organizational behavior.
Sociological power theorists often say that political choices may be legitimized as unavoidable due to “policy” and ”the greater good.”
Policies, however, are sometimes created to maintain systems of exploitation, fear and totalitarian control. Adolf Hitler used this strategy when writing laws to justify the actions of the Nazis. And while politicians may believe they’re acting in accord with the greater good, sometimes they’re perceived as flat wrong and removed from office.
In our competitive world, with much to gain and lose, to use the word ‘political’ in everyday speech arguably is a political act in itself.
Some are pessimistic about and simply “hate” politics. But critics of this negative take on politics would argue that politicians are just people, for the most part doing their best to make positive changes in an imperfect world. In other words, one must be political if one wants any change at all.
The term politically correct is arguably a subcategory of the political. This describes an idea believed to be true, legitimate or acceptable because the majority – or a highly visible social group – in a given culture and historical time period see it that way.
Quite likely some merely pretend to believe in politically correct ideas for fear of repercussions if they were to voice dissenting, politically incorrect opinions.
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Around the 6th century CE Pseudo-Dionysus the Areopagite‘s The Celestial Hierarchy outlined three groups of hierarchically arranged angels. And angels are mentioned in the Jewish Kabbala as inhabiting seven heavenly halls.
Both Jewish and Christian (especially Catholic and Baptist) cosmologies differentiate angels from gods—unlike gods, angels are never worshipped. Instead angels are revered or called upon as beings created by God.
However, the study of world religions is far from easy. And misunderstandings and uncertainties lead many to question this difference. For example, some gods in the Zoroastrian Avesta or the Hindu pantheon are worshipped as deities subservient to or representing a single God. And some casual observers liken these to angels without asking if the character and function of angels and gods could possibly differ.
In a somewhat Christianized Neoplatonism we find that Proclus (4th century CE) adapts ancient Greek philosophy in relation to otherworldly beings:
In the commentaries of Proclus (4th century, under Christian rule) on the Timaeus of Plato, Proclus uses the terminology of “angelic” (aggelikos) and “angel” (aggelos) in relation to metaphysical beings. According to Aristotle, just as there is a First Mover, so, too, must there be spiritual secondary movers.¹
Mystically inclined Christians tend to believe that angels are slightly more dignified than human beings, as evident in the Old Testament:
What is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
You made him a little lower than the angels (Hebrews 2:6-8 NIV).
Gnostics, on the other hand, generally regard human beings as superior to angels. For Gnostics, angels serve God by serving humanity.
Jewish apocalyptic literature tells the story of the fall of the angel Satan – the author of all lies and evil – and his dark angels in terms of their unwillingness to humble themselves before mankind. And Jesus Christ sees Satan fall in the New Testament story:
I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning” (Luke 10:18).
Contemporary beliefs about angels take a different tone from the more traditional understanding. Some writers suggest that the warm, loving presence of angelic beings can be felt in every part of the body, almost like a romantic, sensual relationship.
This idea is found in the 19th century novel Ardath: The Story of a Dead Self by Marie Corelli (1889):
And by and by, as each mellifluous stanza sounded softly on his ears, a strangely solemn tranquility swept over him,–a most soothing halcyon calm, as though some passing angel’s hand had touched his brow in benediction…Ah! ’tis a glittering pathway in the skies whereon men and the angels meet and know each other! …she stretched out her hands toward him: “Speak to me, dearest one!” she murmured wistfully–”Tell me,–am I welcome?” “O exquisite humility!–O beautiful maiden-timid hesitation! Was she,–even she, God’s Angel, so far removed from pride, as to be uncertain of her lover’s reception of such a gift of love? Roused from his half-swooning sense of wonder, he caught those gentle hands, and laid them tenderly against his breast,–tremblingly, and all devoutly, he drew the lovely, yielding form into his arms, close to his heart,–with dazzled sight he gazed down into that pure, perfect face, those clear and holy eyes shining like new- created stars beneath the soft cloud of clustering fair hair!
And yet Corelli also mentions the stunning beauty of evil angels:
His countenance, darkly threatening and defiant, was yet beautiful with the evil beauty of a rebellious and fallen angel.
Throughout history many believe they have been guided by a guardian angel.
St. Basil writes,
Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life (Catholic Catechism, par 336).
The philosopher Leibniz (1646 – 1716) claimed that angels communicate with a universal language, and began to develop a universal symbolic language that would help human beings communicate among universities.²
The Roman Catholic catechism doesn’t place too much emphasis on angels but does affirm their existence as servants of God and man.
From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession (Catholic Catechism, par 336).
Glorifying God, Catholic angels are said to be spiritual powers whose perfection – in contrast to Gnostic belief – surpasses that of human beings. Created by God, Catholic angels are inferior to Christ and the prophets but nearer to God, making them higher than human beings.
As for the contemporary notion that angels and aliens (ETs) are simply different cultural representations of the same basic essence, the American evangelist Billy Graham, among others, insists that angels and aliens are mutually exclusive.³
² Geert Lovink says “Leibniz also philosophized about a computer based on a binary numerical system. In 1679 he wrote, ”Despite its length, the binary system, in other words counting with 0 and 1, is scientifically the most fundamental system, and leads to new discoveries. When numbers are reduced to 0 and 1, a beautiful order prevails everywhere” (See “The Archeology of Computer Assemblage” 1992 at http://www.mediamatic.net/article-8664-en.html).
- Fallen Angel (reeablog.wordpress.com)
- “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread” (markatstpauls.wordpress.com)
- When a Politician Lies, an Angel Gets His Wings #tgdn #tcot (politicalbrian.wordpress.com)
- Gaurdian angel? (tiaralewis67.wordpress.com)
- Chuck Missler: Return Of The Nephilim! The Biblical Perspective on the Modern UFO-Alien Phenomena! (socioecohistory.wordpress.com)
Ancestor Cults [ancestor, from Latin antecessor, from ante, before + cedere, to go] is the now antiquated and politically incorrect term that until fairly recently scholars applied to individuals or groups who revere ancestors believed to exist in the afterlife.
Various traditions around the world venerate and pray to deceased ancestors.
Adherent of these traditions believe that familial spirits come to aid in daily life by bestowing spiritual power, protection, wisdom and practical guidance through individuals acting as mediums.
With roots in Africa, China, Korea, Taiwan, and Japan, ancestor veneration appears especially in folk religions. Ritual is often present. In Africa, ancestors are said to protect living relatives from witches and voodoo curses. In Asia, ancestor veneration takes on varying degrees of importance in Confucianism, Taoism, Shinto and Buddhism. In China, the graves of ancestors are meticulously kept, despite former Marxist and Communist attempts to eradicate other spiritual practices.
In North American Native religions, the ongoing presence of the dead is taken to be equally as important as the ongoing presence of the living. Western culture tends to view this as odd and some religious groups deplore it as Satanic, probably because of their focus on the trappings and trends of everyday life. But it’s ironic that Catholics, for instance, believe that anybody can be a saint, and as such, mediate divine graces for us.¹
On the other hand, we do have psychologically questionable individuals who believe and follow any voice they hear without question. Some of these folks can do quite well in society, masking their difference (especially when non-violent). If the voices tell them to do bad things, they can still hide it for a long time before being discovered. Usually things start to unravel, however, and the potentially violent person’s family, friends, coworkers and, perhaps, psychiatrist begin to see that something’s wrong. Sometimes this is reported in time. Other times not, and an upsetting event (like failing an exam or losing a job) triggers these individuals into committing unspeakable acts of violence.
This short account of the psychology behind this type of violence might seem out of place here. But I mention it to underscore the fact that the belief in spirit communication is not always benign.
¹ See the entry on intercession.
- Beliefs of the Zulu (gleeklainefanboy.wordpress.com)
- Ancestors: Or, Once a Skeptic, Always (acastleeastofthesun.wordpress.com)
- Polytheistic Values: My Thoughts (hawkandlion.wordpress.com)
- Fantasy Magic – Ancestor Worship (gameystuff.wordpress.com)
- Polytheists and Values: A Response (thetwistedrope.wordpress.com)
- Ode to Ancestors (seshatwuji.wordpress.com)
- How Your Ancestors Communicate With You And Act As Your Spiritual Guide (harounkola.com)
- Talking with the Beloved Dead (pixiecraft.wordpress.com)
- A meditation on the Ancestors, by Jon Cleland Host (humanisticpaganism.com)
- Who Was Your First Ancestor to Have an “Afterlife”? (secularnewsdaily.com)
Boy George (George Alan O’Dowd, 1961- )
In the 1980′s this lead vocalist from the pop group Culture Club followed David Bowie‘s lead by cross-dressing and generally combining big business with political statement.
The single “Karma Chameleon” touched on spiritual themes, as did his less commercially successful later work.
In the 21st century he remains an outspoken critic of figures like Madonna, although he’s virtually gone from an 80s big shot to a new millennium dark horse. In 2008 he served four months in prison for the assault and false imprisonment of Audun Carlsen.¹
I only mention George here because, in his day, he did have something to say.
- Boy George Is The Dharma Queen (noise11.com)
- What do Boy George and Mississippi in 1870 have in common? (southinpopculture.com)
- Boy George: My shock diet saved me from self-destruction (metro.co.uk)
- Boy George Takes On “I Wanna Be Your Dog” By The Stooges [Listen] (wxrt.cbslocal.com)
- Karma karma karma karma karma chameleon (blackmarketbabyblog.wordpress.com)
- Two Drawings of Boy George (expertspages.com)
- Boy George: lean, completely clean and ready for classy Meltdown (standard.co.uk)
In the American TV show Star Trek: The Next Generation, the Borg are a disturbing species of cybernetic organisms whose sole purpose is to increase their alleged perfection by assimilating the intelligence and technology of weaker life forms throughout the galaxy.
Their technology enables them to psychically connect to a collective like a termite colony. Individuality is unknown and the Borg exist in a dark synchrony of de-individualizing amalgamation.
Among other things, they arguably represent the Orwellian extreme of unreflective political, corporate and religious yesmen and yeswomen who do whatever they’re told by authoritarian figures without heeding their own conscience.
The Borg image is particularly effective as it recasts previous Frankenstein and zombie myths within a futuristic scenario of techno-gloom. An interesting and optimistic twist, however, appears with the character Seven of Nine (played by actor Jerry Ryan and introduced in Star Trek: Voyager) who was once abducted by the Borg but is gradually re-humanized among the supportive crew of the Federation starship Voyager.
In the feature film Star Trek: First Contact (1996) we’re introduced to the hideously compelling Borg Queen—again, not unlike the Queen of a termite colony. She’s a frightening but, for some, darkly attractive creature who in the TV series Voyager is jealous of Captain Katherine Janeway, arguably a symbol of American drive and determination. Indeed, heroic Federation starship captains like James T. Kirk, Jean-Luc Picard and Katherine Janeway represent the very opposite of the Borg’s chilling refrain: “Resistance is Futile.”
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Book of Isaiah – Isaiah, son of Amoz, was a statesman, counselor to Kings and a prophet in the Old Testament around the 8th-century BCE. He apparently lived in Jerusalem, having a profound influence in the Kingdom of Judah.
Like many other books in the Bible, scholars question the authorship of the Book of Isaiah. While some fundamentalists still believe that all of the books of the Bible were written by the authors ascribed to them, contemporary biblical scholars generally agree that the prophetic book written in Isaiah’s name contains material from at least two other unnamed prophets, known as Deutero-Isaiah and Trito-Isaiah.
The Isaiah recorded in the Bible shows some hostility towards his political enemies, but this is tempered by his hope for a better future that he never sees… not in this world, anyhow. Wikipedia nicely sums up the bulk of Isaiah:
The first 39 chapters prophesy doom for a sinful Judah and for all the nations of the world that oppose God, while the last 27 prophesy the restoration of the nation of Israel and a new creation in God’s glorious future kingdom; this section includes the Songs of the Suffering Servant, four separate passages referring to the nation of Israel, interpreted by Christians as prefiguring the coming of Jesus Christ.¹
In Trito-Isaiah God reveals his total sovereignty over human life and thought:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are my ways your ways, says the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts.²
After the Assyrian invasion of 701 BCE, it is generally believed that Isaiah was martyred.
² Isaiah 55 : 8-9 . This is one of my favorite Biblical passages and it was instrumental in my conversion to Catholicism. During a transitional stage in my life a non-Catholic Christian, quite out of the blue, suggested I read Isaiah 55 : 6-9. When I did, the power of the words hit me hard and I eventually converted to Catholicism. Interestingly, the numbers 55 and 69 had already been personally significant for several years prior, in a sort of ongoing synchronistic way. So hearing the Christian suggest I read that particular passage, and the effect it had on me, contained special significance. It seems that God usually works that way (MC).
- Book of Isaiah (altruistico.wordpress.com)
- Isaiah the prophet, son of Amoz (sharperthanatwoedgedsword.wordpress.com)
- Fear Leads To Spiritual Darkness (nweatherhead.wordpress.com)
- The Beginning (discoveringisaiah.wordpress.com)
- Starting Monday off with a message from God (aliendad.wordpress.com)
- “What should we learn from the life of Isaiah?” (altruistico.wordpress.com)
- Who is the “Man of Sorrows” in Isaiah 53? (verse4psalm37.wordpress.com)
- Status Report Day 98 (journeyofthebible.wordpress.com)
Roland Barthes (1915-1980) was a French semiologist, best known for his book Mythologies (1957). Barthes argued that most of what we assume to be natural could be products of history and culture. More specifically, linguistic and artistic representations play a crucial role in the naturalization of arbitrary and morally ambiguous historical events.
By way of example, politically active gay persons usually challenge the following argument:
Homosexuality is ethically bad because it is unnatural, and heterosexuality is ethically good because it is natural.
Critics will say that, according to this line of reasoning, a deadly rattlesnake could be good for children because it is natural. And this seems a valid critique of this kind of argument. Regardless of one’s beliefs about the joys or horrors of homosexuality, to challenge it with this type of reasoning is philosophically weak.
Barthes also makes a distinction between readerly and writerly text, outlined well at Wikipedia:
A text that makes no requirement of the reader to “write” or “produce” their own meanings. The reader may passively locate “ready-made” meaning. Barthes writes that these sorts of texts are “controlled by the principle of non-contradiction” (156), that is, they do not disturb the “common sense,” or “Doxa,” of the surrounding culture. The “readerly texts,” moreover, “are products [that] make up the enormous mass of our literature” (5). Within this category, there is a spectrum of “replete literature,” which comprises “any classic (readerly) texts” that work “like a cupboard where meanings are shelved, stacked, [and] safeguarded” (200).
A text that aspires to the proper goal of literature and criticism: “… to make the reader no longer a consumer but a producer of the text” (4). Writerly texts and ways of reading constitute, in short, an active rather than passive way of interacting with a culture and its texts. A culture and its texts, Barthes writes, should never be accepted in their given forms and traditions. As opposed to the “readerly texts” as “product,” the “writerly text is ourselves writing, before the infinite play of the world is traversed, intersected, stopped, plasticized by some singular system (Ideology, Genus, Criticism) which reduces the plurality of entrances, the opening of networks, the infinity of languages” (5). Thus reading becomes for Barthes “not a parasitical act, the reactive complement of a writing,” but rather a “form of work”¹
However, this distinction seems spurious, for readers are always interpreting and creating as they take in a text, regardless of if being a so-called “classic” text or an “avante-garde” text. In fact, avant garde texts usually emerge within some new kind of clique or arts group that can be just as “bourgeois” as traditional groups. This was made abundantly clear whenever I attended a Cultural Studies class in university, which usually reeked with the snobbery of style exuded by some students living on their wealthy parents’ credit cards.
¹ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roland_Barthes#Key_terms. See more on this distinction here: http://www.arts.uwaterloo.ca/~raha/700_701_web/BarthesLO/readerly.html
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- MartinJ’s #CBR5 review #1: Mythologies by Roland Barthes (cannonballread5.wordpress.com)
- ‘Finnegans Wake’ Follows Tocqueville Onto Chinese Best-Seller List (artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com)
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