The Malta Independent 17 June 2019, Monday

A Gallimaufry of Stupidity, Selfishness and Spiritedness

Mark A. Sammut Sunday, 31 March 2019, 09:15 Last update: about 4 months ago

This is one of those weeks when, instead of tackling one theme, I have to flit from one theme to another, ranging from stupidity to selfishness, to spiritedness.

The stupidity of the pro-abortion argument

Now, let us assume for one moment that this idea being bandied about by the vol-au-vent organisations' pro-abortion coalition - of conception by rape to subdue the woman -  were to be accepted and take root and abortion would be allowed in such cases. What would happen then? Would all these alleged rapists be prosecuted? What would happen in the case of those not found guilty after a fair trial (meaning that rape would not have been legally established)? Can abortions be reversed? This is the stupidest justification of abortion I've ever heard in my life. It elevates the woman - the would-be oppressed victim - to prosecutor, judge, jury, executioner and... oppressor.

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(The same applies to MAP administered "after rape" - it simply defies the presumption of innocence.)

 If it's a joke, it's a sick one

In the meantime, I saw something on Facebook that left me disgusted beyond words. Somebody cut and pasted the comments made by at least three women who were 'joking' about abortion: comments such as "Love a good mangled human foetus" and "F*ck foie gras. I want foetus" and "Prefer them BBQ'ed" followed by the face-with-tears-of-joy emoji (I found this 'technical term' on  emojipedia.org).

Do these people form part of the pro-abortion coalition? If they do, is it normal to crack such jokes in this coalition? Are these the same people who want a 'mature' debate on abortion?

High-rise buildings

After my article of last week in which I wrote about high-rise buildings and the link I see with the liberal attitude toward everything (essentially, "My desire above all else"), I was approached by somebody who alerted me to last September's Malta Design Week, during which Dr Karl Micallef, who is currently working on the United Nations Offices at Geneva project, gave a brilliant thought-provoking presentation on high-rise buildings in Malta. You can view it here: http://designweek.com.mt/project/20-september-2018-building-tall/.

We need more of this type of debate in this country.

 Export-oriented industry

A few days ago, it emerged from Eurostat statistics that, to quote Malta Today, the Government's favourite newspaper, "Malta was the only EU country to experience a contraction in wages during the second half of 2018". Malta Today then makes an observation worth reproducing here: "the figures would represent good news for industry, making it more competitive internationally".

My reaction: so why is the State allowing the reduction in wages while at the same time failing concretely to encourage the diversion of entrepreneurial energy toward exports?

The country is clearly experiencing a California-gold-rush phase: a construction craze which, once it fizzles out, could leave us with ghost towns. Whichever way you look at it, it's the working and middles classes that will ultimately have to foot the bill: smaller wages and a pillaged, ruined environment.

That will be the legacy of Joseph Muscat's misguided administration, ladies and gentlemen.

In the meanwhile, one industry which is excellent at exporting Maltese services is under serious threat. The predictions made by sensible people - such as former Central Bank Governor Francis Vassallo, the Nationalist Party, and also yours truly - that the Panama Papers scandal would devastate Malta's reputation in the financial sector, are beginning to materialise. This is no rejoicing matter.

It is another warning that we need functioning institutions to protect the national interest, and serious independent journalism which, instead of promoting the Looney Liberal agenda - abortion, language policing ("they" when referring to "non-binary" people) and such nonsense, should act as a veritable Cerebus-like watchdog protecting this country from the happy-go-lucky government with which Destiny has saddled us and, before it is really too late, instil a healthy dose of awareness in an electorate lulled into slumber by an economic bubble set to burst one day or the other.

 Either lulled into slumber or stoned

While wages are being eroded and the environment raped (but there's no abortion for greedy construction projects), we are occasionally reminded of the attempts to legalise cannabis consumption (as if that were really a national priority).

On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of her founding the NGO Nuovi Orizzonti [New Horizons], the Italian best-selling author Chiara Amirante published a new book called La guarigione del cuore (Curing the heart) (Piemme, 2019). She argues that the way forward regarding addictions is not decriminalisation, but helping people (re)discover love for themselves and for others.

In a recent interview, she argued that whereas it is true that not all those who start with a joint end up taking hard drugs, it is also true that all those who consume hard drugs had started out with soft ones.

I think that self-control is one of the most difficult things in life. It is interesting to note that, early in the history of smoking, religious and political leaders tried to ban the habit. They were largely unsuccessful because people craved the pleasure and no amount of moral scaremongering or fiscal burdens could enforce the bans. Only criminal punishment could.

And now for some real pleasure

According to The Economist of a few days ago, "Happiness is watching a brawl between iconoclastic philosophers"! Oh yes, I can subscribe to that view with absolutely no reservations! On 19 April, in Toronto, Jordan Peterson and Slavoj ?i?ek will face each other in a debate. It's like a dream boxing match - like having Mike Tyson face Butterbean, if you know what I mean.

I have mentioned the Slovene Slavoj ?i?ek many times in my writings. I find him a good guide to understanding our times. His originality lies mostly in the marriage he has arranged between philosophy and psychoanalysis. He claims to be a Marxist and a Lacanian. Whereas I take his word for the latter, I have my doubts as to the former. He seems to me a sort of Catholic/Christian-Marxist, a bit like the UK's Blue Labour and the Italian philosopher Diego Fusaro. In the case of Fusaro, he has told me that one of his grandfathers was a staunch Communist and the other a staunch Catholic, and he fuses the two currents. In the case of ?i?ek, it is difficult to say, as he loves playing the clown. (You might remember Peter Serracino Inglott's fascination with clowns...)

The Canadian Jordan Peterson is a Professor of Psychology with a clear interest in philosophy and ideology (incidentally, Professor ?i?ek's hobby-horse). He claims to dislike Marxists: "I will never use words I hate, like the trendy and artificially constructed words 'zhe' and 'zher'. These words are at the vanguard of a post-modern, radical leftist ideology that I detest, and which is, in my professional opinion, frighteningly similar to the Marxist doctrines that killed at least 100 million people in the 20th century."

In particular, Peterson dislikes those Marxists who pretend not to be Marxists. He argues that, since the 1960s, a certain current within academia has transposed the Marxist idea of the oppressed proletariat to a general idea of oppressed versus oppressor: "instead of pitting the proletariat, the working class, against the bourgeois, they started to pit the oppressed against the oppressor. That opened up the avenue to identifying any number of groups as oppressed and oppressor and to continue the same narrative under a different name ... The people who hold this doctrine - this radical, postmodern communitarian doctrine that makes racial identity or sexual identity or gender identity or some kind of group identity paramount - they've got control over most low-to-mid level bureaucratic structures, and many governments as well."

Peterson was recently banned from taking up a fellowship at Cambridge University because he had a photo taken with a fan (self-mockingly) wearing an anti-Islam T-Shirt. The ban irked London's Sunday Times columnist Sarah Baxter who called it "a sign of snowflaky thinking".

 My personal library (43)

When the Maltese press reported the case of a US paediatrician who was sentenced to 79 years in jail for sexually assaulting 31 children - implicitly demonstrating that opportunity makes the thief, and not that a particular institution attracts paedophiles because its members are not married - I remembered a crazy book I read many years ago.

Readers will have by now gathered that among my greatest antipathies are people like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and, obviously, our own Saviour Balzan. (Even though the three of them share more or less the same ideas, the first two can write in English.)

Though Dawkins is self-evidently deranged, he's also an expert on evolutionary biology, and in his crazy book The God Delusion (2006), there are two good chapters - 'good' because they deal with his area of expertise: evolution.

The book opens with a 19th-century anecdote of two Catholic prelates taking a Jewish boy away from his family. I never checked the historical truth of this anecdote, or its context, but it somehow reminds me of the hysterical charges feverishly levelled against the Catholic Church when, as the case of the US paediatrician has shown, nobody has monopolised paedophilia so far.

Evidently, Dawkins is carried away by his Catholic-Church bashing, from which he clearly gets a kick, not to mention that it's definitely a lucrative activity: The God Delusion sold almost three million copies. (Online bookstores sell it for €13; royalties are usually 10-15% of the price. You can easily work out the maths.

The book is essentially one long, intellectually-shallow, juvenile and at times embarrassing rant, interrupted by those two good chapters I mentioned above, in which Professor Dawkins writes on something about he is knowledgeable: evolutionary biology. One of the chapters opens with an explanation of why the moth is attracted to the flame, or nowadays the bulb. The moth evolved, says Dawkins, to treat the moon as its compass when it is flying, and it mistakes the bulb for the moon.

This idea - of an evolutionary device gone astray - struck me. I think it is accepted that religious sentiments are innate to us, almost an evolutionary device one could say. (I could propose, to taunt the hardliners, that creationism is an evolutionary device.)

Just like the moth takes the flame - or the bulb - for the moon, so humanist/ neoliberal fundamentalists have a convoluted relationship with their innate religious sentiments and take their neoliberal humanism religiously, ultimately becoming fundamentalists.

In their quest to disprove the existence of God, they become fundamentalist atheists, fundamentalist neoliberal humanists.

Frankly, I am one of those who embrace John's verse: "No one has ever seen God" (1:18). If nobody has seen "God", it follows that "God" can neither be proved nor disproved. "God", however, is like "Love". Has anybody seen Love? Is there a thing you can perceive with your senses called "Love"? Yes and no. No, because there is no such tangible thing called "Love". Yes, because you can see love-in-action.

Parents sacrificing themselves for their child: that's love-in-action. A husband shutting up while his wife is nagging, or a wife putting up with her husband's football mania: that's love-in-action. And so on.

I think we could say the same thing about "God". "No one has ever seen God", but we see God-in-action, when we behave like the Good Samaritan. Just consider one example from everyday life. Consider a siren-wailing ambulance trying to pass and cars making way, even though there's no policeman in sight. That is God-in-action. Is "God" a delusion? Possibly; who knows? But what a beautiful delusion it is.

By the way. I'm not the only one to think Dawkins is a bit loony. A few days ago, the London Review of Books' Daniel Soar wrote that Dawkins seems "deranged". Soar concluded: "I feel a bit sorry for someone like poor Richard Dawkins, who was only trying to disprove the existence of God, and - though he may not know it - is now and forever fighting the fight of the Hitch." The fight of the Hitch... well, that refers to Christopher Hitchens, and it's another story, perhaps for some other time.


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