Final Reaction: “On Tyranny”

I had picked up a copy of “On Tyranny” before the semester had started because Timothy Snyder had been making his rounds on various media platforms–Bill Maher’s show in particular. However, it was when Snyder had made an appearance on Sam Harris’ Waking Up podcast that I had decided to go out and grab a copy of my own. Despite its size, this concise little book held quite a bit of intellectual heft. In particular, my favorite section involves messages about “subsidizing” journalism and spending time with long-form journalism:

“9.  Investigate. Figure things out for yourself. Spend more time with long articles. Subsidize investigative journalism by subscribing to print media. Realize that some of what is on your screen is there to harm you. Learn about sites that investigate foreign propaganda pushes.”

In an age where any moron with access to the internet and Photoshop can take information and transform it to the point where the Earth can appear flat or that the skies are streaked with chemtrails, seeking out and supporting news media outlets that have a track record of impeccable journalism is of great importance. Moreover, finding journalists that are dedicated to the telling of truth in the same way that suicide bombers are dedicated to their religion is important. This makes me miss figures of the media like Christopher Hitchens, somebody whom you could trust to provide accurate media coverage, sans propaganda. (Douglas Murray might be one of the few candidates for taking Hitch’s place). That being said, there are more than a few outlets that are deserving of subsidization from the public–The New Yorker is a particular favorite of mine along with Foreign Affairs, Vanity Fair, The Spectator, all of whom provide excellent long-form journalism pieces.

In an age where conservatives (not only the child-like billionaire would-be autocrats that they seem to levitate toward) decry everything as fake news, we should impress on those who wish to have the privilege of reporting the daily news the importance of their jobs. Freedom of Expression and Freedom of the Press, if anything, are two of the most important characteristics of a democracy.

(First Response) On the Recent Nostalgia for Enoch Powell

Enoch Powell, the man behind the infamous “Rivers of Blood” speech, has found newfound appreciation in the 21st Century, a fact that unfortunately can be laid at the feet of those responsible for the European immigration crisis. Prior to this, Powell and his speech had effectively been placed into the same box as Mein Kampf and “Segregation Today, Segregation Tomorrow, Segregation Forever.” However, among the formerly stigmatized nationalists and even modern conservative intellectuals (including Douglas Murray, who had mounted a defense of Powell in his otherwise wonderful and eye-opening book “The Strange Death of Europe: Identity, Immigration, Islam”), Powell has become a figure of nearly prophetic vision with regards to the changing demographics of Britain. When put into the proper historical context, the fears expounded upon in Powell’s speech are groundless and blatantly racist–the speech was, after all, a reaction to the increasing presence of black people in England and the groundless accusation of interracial rape which instigated the Notting Hill Riots. However, it is easy enough to recontextualize words spoken almost exactly fifty years ago today in order to find a prophet–religion gets away with such blatant intellectual dishonesty all the time. There will always be people who are hungry for revisionism.

Consider the Hobolt article regarding the reasons behind the success of the Leave Vote. The fears of those who voted to abandon the European Union–anti-immigration stances, the desire to reassert control over borders, et cetera–are absolutely not irrational when we look at the disastrous consequences of the mass immigration policies of Europe. Nobody in their right mind would look at Germany, Sweden, Italy or any other country that allowed in such a ridiculous number of people without regard for available space, available resources to adequately care for and integrate these people into the society or the strain that this would place on the native population. Worse than that, transplanting millions of people who come from illiberal, hyper-religious (that is to say Islamic), ultra-conservative third-world countries was going to shift the zeitgeist of the society receiving the transplant. This was destined to be a disaster from the very beginning and, unfortunately, this is the kind of environment where racists, far-right figureheads and fringe groups like The National Front, UKIP, Geert Wilders and Enoch Powell find re-invigoration and, worst of all, vindication.

Unfortunately, years (if not entire decades) will be required to repair the damage caused by this immigrant crisis. Perhaps world leaders will look at these events and realize that they need to think carefully before virtue-signalling their countries toward the brink of illiberal chaos. Otherwise, the vultures of the far right will find a banquet of corpses on which they can feast.

Andrew Scheer: Advocate for Religion and Ignorance (Op/Ed #2)

Given his behavior since rising to power in the Conservative Party, Andrew Scheer has made it quite plain that he sides with religion and willful ignorance. More to the point, Scheer has shown himself willing to pander to them in ways that might have held weight in the United States but almost certainly not in this highly educated, highly secular country.

In late 2017, the newly appointed Governor General Julie Payette, an astronaut and public advocate of science, rightfully bemoaned popular ideas such as “alternative” “medicine”, belief in astrology and the denial of evolution before the audience of a science convention in Ottawa. Then Ms. Payette, appearing frustrated and exhausted by the thought, turned her commentary on religion. “We are still debating and still questioning whether life was a divine intervention or whether it was coming out of a natural process let alone, oh my goodness, lo and behold, a random process.” This was bound to be a controversial comment but one which was absolutely refreshing to hear coming from one of our politicians. The Prime Minister correctly defended the Governor General and, after describing the Canadian public as people who value science and the Canadian government as being grounded in science, he described himself as being proud of her. Indeed, we can say with great certainty that the government of this country is on the side of science, given the amounts of money being poured into environmental protection (oil pipelines notwithstanding). Moreover, this government is most certainly not on the side of religion, thankfully. Just this past year, we have succeeded in stripping the blasphemy laws out of our criminal code, joining the 21st Century at long last.

Of course, Scheer, following in the late Conservative Federal Government’s anti-science footsteps, scolded both the Governor General and the Prime Minister via Facebook post. “It is extremely disappointing that the Prime Minister will not support Indigenous peoples, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Christians and other faith groups who believe there is truth in their religion. Respect for diversity includes respect for the diversity of religious beliefs, and Justin Trudeau has offended millions of Canadians with his comments‎.” The implication here being that one must tolerate the nonsensical, unscientific beliefs of the public in order to serve their best interests on a governmental level. Pardon me, Mr. Scheer, but I would like my elected officials to be better informed than the masses about the nature of reality.

Scheer, who is a practicing Roman Catholic, has continued to openly pander to the religious right voting block in this country, which does not exist in the same forceful, organized manner that it does in the United States. Like Donald Trump, Scheer has announced that his hypothetical government would recognize Jerusalem, rather than Tel Aviv, as the capital of Israel. In America, this might make sense politically due to the power of the Jewish voting block and the interest that Evangelical Christians have in such politics. In Canada, the Jewish population is minuscule, barely reaching 1.1% demographically and Christianity as a political force lies on the fringes of the political landscape. More importantly, numerous human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, stand firmly in opposition to such needlessly incendiary political posturing. The recognition of Jerusalem does not help anybody. Looking deeper into Scheer’s history of making religion part of his political discourse, he came out in defense of the deceased Bishop Frederick Henry of Calgary, allowing the latter to hide behind the transparent concept of faith to defend the man’s bigotry.  “To think that a Catholic bishop must answer to a civil authority over matters of faith is abominable. It is abhorrent to me, to other Catholics and to every member of every faith community. It is abhorrent because the very essence of being a religious official is to teach the faith and instruct the faithful.” Naturally, the Bishop had the right to express whatever idea he wanted to—such is the nature of freedom of expression—but because he was a public figure, he was destined to be scrutinized. Religion does not make one untouchable or safe from criticism.

In the end, given everything, I have only one question: Who exactly is Andrew Scheer trying to appeal to? Not entirely unlike an unprepared teenager trying to cheat during an exam, he appears to be copying the movements of our conservative American counterparts–movements that are tailored to please their constituents.

Canadian conservatism surely deserves better than this.

 

(First Responder) What A Real Rape Culture Looks Like: The Pinochet Regime

The idea of weaponizing rape is hardly a new concept–quite possibly the most depressing sentence I have ever written. However, being born in a first-world, fully developed nation that has never had to deal with anything in the way of an authoritarian dictatorship, it would be difficult indeed for anybody to grasp the idea of government-sanctioned systemic sexual assault. While reading Kaplan’s piece about Nieves Ayress’ experiences at the hands of her torturers, I found myself having to reread descriptions of the torture that she suffered because I could not believe what I had just read. Some of the details provided sound like something taken from literature by the Marquis De Sade.

Other than disturbing me greatly–and I do consider myself quite unflappable with regards to horror, whether its fictional or not–this article presented a number of striking points, some of which I had never thought of before. I had never considered the idea that (the threat of) prison rape could be used to disarm men (in this case, fathers, sons) who would resist their captors–“If you continue to resist, we will rape your daughter/you will be forced to rape your daughter.” Placing men, the usual beneficiaries of sexual violence, into states of submission through sex, something which would have been a nearly exclusively female experience, must have been additionally humiliating, given that Chilean society was incredibly patriarchal.

Additionally, the article talks about how being the victim of a rape in Chile would have been the equivalent of being a leper, something which would have been a very public source of shame. This coerced victims into a state of modesty that benefited those who had committed such atrocities. This could not be a more perfect definition of the term “rape culture”, this combination of societal ridicule (victim blaming) and internalized, privatized shame. The power of privatizing and internalizing atrocities like this really cannot be understated. Humans being the introspective creatures that we are, it really does not take much for our overactive minds to turn things that people do to us into happenings for which we see ourselves as responsible for. This shows a horrifying but remarkably deep understanding of human psychology. Regimes of this nature are, most regrettably, not stupid on the topic of fear.

 

The Far Right’s Behavior Toward Women and Sex: Old Anxieties, Modern Settings

In the context of the worldview espoused through right-wing politics, women are definitely not valued to the degree that they ought to be. In the context of the worldview of the far right, the societal value of women amounts to little more than living property–house-bound baby-making objects of desire which need protection, especially from rape by men of other races. These attitudes are perfectly observable in the far right movements of the past as well as the present.

Let’s examine the word “cuck”, a popular insult among the alt-right. To be a cuckold involves deriving a masochistic pleasure from watching another man having sex with your wife. This concept is hardly a product of modernity, as we can find instances of cuckoldry in Shakespeare and Chaucer, but the meaning has been tweaked somewhat. In the context of modern pornography, cuckoldry involves a white woman having sex with a black man while her husband, who is almost always white, watches helplessly. Language being one of the many windows into the mind, this speaks volumes about the far right and alt-right’s mentality, especially about race–blacks being a threatening invasive species–perceived weakness–liberals being too weak to defend what is theirs, perhaps even enjoying the humiliation of it all–and women in general–helpless living sex dolls. This, of course, is hardly a new concept. Overblown (and propagandized) fears about black men raping white women can be traced back to the Ku Klux Klan.

The Klan, finding great inspiration in romanticized visions of medieval knights, believed in protecting the virtue of white women under their care, which meant protecting them from those depraved black animals that were roaming the streets. Heartfelt consent between two people did not mean anything to the Klan, especially with regards to interracial relationships, something which was only made legal in the United States in 1967. One example of the Klan taking it upon themselves to involve themselves in someone’s personal life took place in Canada, a country which had never taken a legal stand against interracial marriage, though it was frowned upon. In 1930, seventy-five hooded men marched through Oakville, Ontario and invaded the home of Ira Johnson and Isabel Jones–the former was a black man and the latter a white woman. The klansmen forced Ms. Jones into a car and delivered her to the doorstep of a Captain of the Salvation Army. Consider this section of the Canadian Klan’s creed:

“We believe that our white race has a ministry of supreme service to mankind, and that the introduction of elements which cannot readily be assimilated or fused into our racial stock will lead to the corruption of racial health and seriously impair the service we might render to our fellow men. We therefore avow ourselves to be ever true to the maintenance of our racial integrity.”

Such orders could have been found in the manifesto of an old knight order, perhaps even something more clerical or governmental. The unfortunate part is that despite the fact that Canada never had codified laws against interracial marriage, it was clearly considered taboo. The officer that was called to the scene of Ms. Jones’ kidnapping ultimately spoke highly of the Klansmen that kidnapped her and even shook hands with them. Making matters worse, the Mayor of Oakville, one A.B. Moat, complimented the Klansmen on how orderly their conduct was and that the town stood in objection to marriage between two people of different races.

Similar sentiments, though not always so bluntly stated, are still very much alive in racist and far-right groups and individuals as well. Take, for instance, Dylann Roof, the convicted ethno-nationalist terrorist who gunned down several African American parishioners during a Bible study.  Roof, who wore flag patches of the defunct Apartheid state Rhodesia on his shirt, who believed that current expressions of racial nationalist views and the Klan itself were inadequate, believed that blacks were taking over the world and “were raping our women”.

This obscene fixation on white women being raped by black men is a deeply rooted, arguably genetic (intellectually speaking) infection found only on the far right, whether they would like to admit as much or not. Proponents of the far right might look at this opinion piece and pull out one of their many buzz words–snowflake, libtard, perhaps even cuck, though that one does appear to have gone out of style. Such would be expected. Introspection is hard, I suppose.

 

Sweeper Response: “It Can’t Happen Here”

Admittedly, our group discussion ran off the rails due, perhaps, to the lack of people who actually had the time to read through the novel. Despite that, I do think several interesting points came up, the one which I want to talk about for a moment being the idea that “all art is political”, something which I do not entirely agree with. Lewis absolutely was the kind of writer who did create stories which contain messages but that does not mean that every novel ever written has some sort of underlying message in its prose. While, say, pulp fiction novels from the forties can very well be read like social barometer, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they should be counted along side novels like “It Can’t Happen Here” or “1984” or “Brave New World”. Somethings really are just plastic, commercial and meaningless. This is why I think we should know more about the people who write the stories and whether they were political or had specific stances which they were vocal about. Just skimming quickly through Lewis’s Wikipedia entry can easily confirm that this was a man with something to say and a target to criticize–namely, American capitalism and materialism. If you like, one could look at Lewis as something of a fiction-writing polemicist in the vein of George Orwell or a social commentator like Bret Easton Ellis or Kurt Vonnegut.

First Response: Sexism’s Unexpected “Silver Lining” in The Third Reich

In the context of the book “Hitler’s Furies”, in particular the chapter entitled “What Happened To Them”, sexism can be said to have had a benefit for women who were involved in the atrocities committed under the Third Reich–do not read that as an endorsement of sexism, of course. What I am talking about is how the position of women in society at the time acted both as an impediment for women to truly walk the halls of tangible political power (for the most part) and it also provided them with a practical defense during the Nuremberg Trials. SS Clerks (including the ones who transmitted kill orders), stenographers and cleaning staff–jobs which employed mostly women, who were viewed as being the weaker, fairer sex–were largely not considered dangerous by those responsible for bringing those responsible for the Holocaust to justice. Not even those female detectives who were responsible for gathering Jews for deportation to the death camps weren’t given any serious consideration. Convictions of women for Nazi crimes against humanity were few in number and many of them weren’t pursued in the post-war era. This is exactly what led to the “silver lining” of sexism referenced to in the title.

Not only did women carry the benefit of the doubt in the eyes of the prosecutors purely because of their sex, they were able to make the argument that the power to inflict misery and destruction on the Jews required power and authority which was beyond anything that would have been given to a woman in the Third Reich. Judging by the fact that the number of women prosecuted during the Nuremberg Trials is so dramatically eclipsed by the number of men prosecuted, this was ultimately a great strategy to deploy. Another interesting factor which the book brings up is that this defense could have been easily turned around by any of the prosecutors because there were numerous examples of crimes committed by women where a great number of witnesses were called to testify. What authority did, say, the wife of a high-ranking Nazi official or the secretary of a camp commandant, have to kill, torture or steal from Jews, even if they were enemies of the state? Absolutely none. Prosecutors, had they been able to move past their preconceived notions of female frailty and gentility, would have been able to convict women perpetrators because they extended their authority beyond what the government had prescribed for them. The men could have (and often did) use the excuse of “following orders”. Women would have been in a situation where they disobeyed orders and seized authority that did not belong to them.

Fascinating stuff.

 

Hitler’s Furies, pages 167-180

 

Sweeper Response #1

The topics taken up by our group in class was rather ho-hum–not in the sense of it being boring but in the sense that it was all rather routine (Donald Trump, right wing populism, etc)–but something that had particularly caught my attention in the readings was something that had not (in my opinion) really been given enough of a focus, which is unfortunate because there would have been much to discuss. When I had read the Kaufman article, something that had struck me is that whenever race-based, right wing nationalist outbursts occur, there is usually some kind of sexual component involved, the first example being observable in the Ku Klux Klan. Since these are people who take their inspiration from romanticized Arthurian-type knights and orders (Sir Shining Armor rescuing Princess Helpless) it shouldn’t really considered surprising but when the topic of sex keeps resurfacing, one can’t help but wonder. The article later describes the terrorist Dylann Storm Roof (yes, Storm is his real middle name) as telling his future victims that they were (paraphrasing) raping “our” women. As I was reading this, it brought me back to one of my British history classes where we were discussing the Notting Hill Race Riots of the 1950s. To make a long story short, the riots were started in a neighborhood where an influx of immigrants (which is to say non-white, non-British people) had become entirely noticeable to the “native” population. Really, the riots began when a black man was having a public argument with his white wife. A group of people defending the woman evolved into a mob and from there exploded into further chaos. The reasons for the riot given by those who were rioting bounced between complaints about having to compete with immigrants for employment to believing that they shouldn’t have to tolerate non-white men having sex with their white women. For more, see the links at the bottom of this post. I personally find this sexual component found in right wing/extreme right wing populist movements fascinating, even when they become childish and asinine, one example being the alt-right’s bizarre obsession with cuckolding. One does have to wonder about what sort of pornography these people look at. I think it would be worth reading into, this binding together of apparent fear of sexual inadequacy and right wing ideology and fanaticism, in more depth in the future.

 

 

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/white-riot-the-week-notting-hill-exploded-912105.html

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/6675793.stm

Introduction

To begin with, I am pursuing a major in History, I have already obtained a Japanese minor and I am in the beginning stages of getting a CTESL certificate for teaching English overseas.

Some would consider it pretentious to point out that I want to be a novelist, but that is exactly what I am going to do here. It is my life’s ultimate ambition. So far, in my third attempt to write a novel that would actually be worth reading, I have written approximately 10,000 words of acceptable quality (in my opinion).

…I have rewritten that second paragraph four times and I still find that it sounds pretentious. Oh well.

My pen name, as garish as it sounds, can be explained by pointing out two things about myself: “Nikolai” comes from my love for Russian novelists and “Narcisse”, which I nicked from a character on HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, comes from the fact that I am an overly opinionated man with a big mouth, a combination which has led some to think of me as being narcissistic. You can decide whether that is accurate. In class, I respond to the name Julian.

As far as history goes, I have come to adore East Asia (Japan in particular) after taking practically every course that Professor Jacob Kovalio has offered. My general interests are somewhat scattered–the French Revolution, the Jacobin Terror, the disaster at Chernobyl, Nazism, North Korea, The Crusades, the dangers posed by religion in modern society, the impending arrival of artificial intelligence, the music scene in Manchester from the 1970s through to the 1990s, et cetera.

The people whose work I admire (whether it is artistic or intellectual) are Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Douglas Murray, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, George Orwell, Saul Bellow, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Ernest Hemingway, H.P. Lovecraft, James Joyce, Bret Easton Ellis, Ian Curtis, Noel Gallagher, Nicolas Winding Refn and Stanley Kubrick (to name a few).

My blog, called “Atrocity Exhibitionist”, can be found here:

https://atrocityexhibitionist.wordpress.com

I think I have written enough here, don’t you?

NN