On Hopelessness

“There are no hopeless situations there are only people who have grown hopeless about them.”

– Clare Boothe Luce

Conversations: Orlando

There is every reason to assume that, in a period of time leading up to the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, the perpetrator was dealing with severe feelings of repression and rejection from both men and women. In time, these feelings were converted into anger, which he then directed specifically at homosexual men, culminating in the shooting of 102 people, of which 49 were killed. Although we know the he was not aided by a terrorist organisation, it is obvious that, in the weeks leading up to the shooting, the perpetrator found comfort in hate-driven dogma which not only intensified his anger, but also justified violence. It is therefore reasonable to assume that the perpetrator must have been filled with confused anger and pious indignation when he legally purchased a semi-automatic assault rifle two weeks before the shooting. Can the reasonable worries expressed by reasonable people be any more graphically illustrated by the events that followed? Continue reading


Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
No religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

– John Lennon

Unless you are the Mongols

The Mongols are a civilization that are known for being the exception to many historical phenomena.[1] Listed below are some of the most important of those exceptions in a generalised form:

  • Nomads: The downside is that you have to move around a lot because your herd always needs new grass, which makes it hard to build cities, unless you are the Mongols.
  • Civilization: Certain conglomerations of humans are seen as civilizations, where as, say nomadic cultures generally aren’t. Unless you are, say it with me, the Mongols.
  • Early Cities: The city-state period in Mesopotamia ended around 2000 BCE, probably because drought and a shift in the course of rivers led to pastoral nomads coming in and conquering the environmentally weakened cities, and then the nomads settled into cities of their own as nomads almost always will, unless, wait for it, you are the Mongols.
  • Persian Empire: Let’s start with the Persian empire, which became the model for pretty much all land-based empires throughout the world. Except for, wait for it, the Mongols.
  • Silk Road: […] with the growth of the Silk Road, the nomadic people of Central Asia suddenly become much more important to world history. Much of Central Asia isn’t great for agriculture, but it’s difficult to conquer, unless you are, wait for it, the Mongols.

“A tiger wearing a bell will starve.” – Mongolian proverb

  • Early Christianity: Both Herods ultimately took their orders from the Romans, and they both show up on the list of rulers who are oppressive to the Jews, partly because there’s never that much religious freedom in an empire, unless you are, wait for it, the Mongols… or the Persians.
  • Early Islam: It’s common to hear that in these early years Islam quote “spread by the sword”, and that’s partly true, unless you are — wait for it — the Mongols.[2]
  • Dark Ages: [The Abbasids] hailed from the Eastern, and therefore more Persian, provinces of the Islamic Empire. The Abbasids took over in 750 and no one could fully defeat them; until 1258, when they were conquered by, wait for it, the Mongols.
  • Islam in Africa: Until then, most of the people living in the East had been hunter-gatherers or herders, but once introduced, agriculture took hold, as it almost always does. Unless, wait for it, you’re the Mongols.
  • Imperialism: So by the end of the 19th century, most of Africa and much of Asia had been colonized by European powers. […] Notable exceptions include Japan, which was happily pursuing its own imperialism, Thailand, Iran, and of course Afghanistan. Because no one can conquer Afghanistan, unless you are, wait for it, the Mongols.
  • World War II: So, not to sound jingoistic, but the entry of the U.S. into the war really did change everything, although I doubt the Nazis could’ve taken Russia regardless. No one conquers Russia in the wintertime, unless you are, wait for it, the Mongols.

“A donkey that carries me is worth more than a horse that kicks me.” – Mongolian proverb

[1] Green. J. (2012) Crash Course World History

[2] Actually, as usual, the truth is more complicated. Many people, including the Mongols, but also including lots of people in Central and East Asia, embraced Islam without any military campaigns.

On a Nice House

“What is the good of having a nice house without a decent planet to put it on?”

– Henry David Thoreau

On A Liberal Bias

“Reality has a well-known liberal bias.”

– Stephen Colbert

Intelligence, Liberalism and Atheism

A higher intelligence has a definite correlation with a liberal political ideology and atheism, or so new statistical research informs us. According to psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa, human beings with an above average intelligence are more likely to adapt themselves to evolutionary innovations and act according to superior values.

“General intelligence, the ability to think and reason, endowed our ancestors with advantages in solving evolutionarily novel problems for which they did not have innate solutions,” argues Kanazawa. “As a result, more intelligent people are more likely to recognize and understand such novel entities and situations than less intelligent people, and some of these entities and situations are preferences, values, and lifestyles.”

Religion is a by-product of man’s tendency to constantly try to see patterns in the world around him, and to try to explain – however feebly – everything that world. “Humans are evolutionarily designed to be paranoid, and they believe in [a] god because they are paranoid,” states Kanazawa.

Now, this paranoid behaviour was fine for our ancient ancestors. In fact, it probably helped them to remain vigilant and alert to dangers that could pose a threat to themselves, their family and their tribe. – Hardly behaviour that one likes to associate with modern mankind.

“What is it you most dislike? Stupidity, especially in its nastiest forms of racism and superstition. […] The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks, but in how it thinks.” ― Christopher Hitchens

Kanazawa concludes “so, more intelligent children are more likely to grow up to go against their natural evolutionary tendency to believe in god, and they become atheists.”

Data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (2010) supports Kanazawa’s hypothesis. Young adults who subjectively identify themselves as ‘very liberal’ have an average IQ of 106 during adolescence, while those who identify themselves as ‘very conservative’ have an average IQ of 95 during adolescence.

Similarly, young adults who identify themselves as ‘not at all religious’ have an average IQ of 103 during adolescence, while those who identify themselves as ‘very religious’ have an average IQ of 97 during adolescence.

Je Suis Charlie

Nous Sommes Tous Charlie, that is to say ‘we are all Charlie’ – a headline featured on the front page of the French newspaper Libération on the 8th of January 2015.

On the previous day, a number of heavily armed religious fundamentalists had attacked the Parisian headquarters of Charlie Hebdo, a critical, liberal and outspokenly atheist French magazine, which had recently printed satirical cartoons of the prophet Muhammad; twelve people were killed in the attack.

And with those twelve funerals, liberal society witnessed, unfortunately not for the first time, a breathtaking manifestation of deadly violence – the only way in which fundamentalism is capable of expressing itself.

Without making light of the subject, it could well be argued that the following quotation by Jerry Seinfeld accurately satirises this deeply self-righteous, intellectually deficient, ’empathy free zone’ kind of individual out of which such immoral behaviour could have sprung “People with guns don’t understand! That’s why they get guns, too many misunderstandings.”

Before we go any further, the definition of a fundamentalist should be settled. Fortunately, it turns out to be quite a simple one; a fundamentalist is a person who does not just believe in something – be it simply a tedious political conviction, or a curious thought only relevant to the metaphysical realm – he believes that everyone else should believe exactly the same as himself, and in the knowledge that this eventuality is not likely to occur, this person is willing to act furiously and even violently in order to try to realise this against all the odds.

Fundamentalists, of whatever denomination, do not necessarily hate the freedom of secular Western societies, they hate the fact the inhabitants of liberal societies do not believe what they believe, and do as they do, and think (if that is indeed the correct verb here) what they think.

It was Henry Louis Mencken who so aptly phrased this very thought of sheer intolerance when he wrote “Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.” – and of course, it is obvious that the term ‘Puritanism’ could easily be swapped with ‘Fundamentalism’ or similar epithets of equal hideousness.

“You can’t kill art if you kill the artist.” – Predrag Srbljanin

On the 8th of January, a day after the attacks, an interesting divide became apparent in the French media; it was the left-wing newspaper Libération that printed the headline Nous Sommes Tous Charlie (We Are All Charlie), whereas the rather more right-wing newspaper Le Figaro printed La Liberté Assassinée (Liberty Has Been Assassinated) on its front page. From the start, inclusivity opposed exclusivity.

This interpretative squabble is more important than one might realise at first glance. It seems that the headline shouting “Freedom died today” is not only apt but it also formulates the proper amount of urgency needed in one of the most desperate hours in the battle for the freedom of expression.

As far as expressing urgency is concerned, that’s all very well and good, but the pessimism-fuelled cries of horror akin to nothing better than a deranged old town crier shouting “The end is nigh” are merely counter-productive.

Now, it may seem counter-intuitive, but the seemingly soppy liberal bleeding heart headline declaring “We are all Charlie” is the far more aggressive political stand.

Consider the following, left-wing politicians across Western society have never made apologies for their thoughts that all organised religion is childishly unnecessary at best, and a vicious cancer on the morality of civilised society at worst.

People who despise one religion but are curiously mild towards another, if not a supporter of another faith are suspiciously absent on the political left. There are no hate-mongering religious apologists that have much love for the colour red.

This is what the headline Nous Sommes Tous Charlie comes down to; indeed, “We are all Charlie”. We are all human beings with an indivisible right to the freedom to express our thoughts and feelings. And if that freedom should lead to lampooning the devoutly held beliefs of people stating they can eat the body of a dead person, or that any odd number of female virgins await those that die heroically, or that taking a knife to the clitoris or foreskin of a prepubescent child is defensible behaviour in a post-desert society, so be it.

“We are all Charlie”, in such an inclusive thought there can be no place for party politics or the petty quarrels of religious obsessives. And in this heated debate, there can be no doubt that the left-wing adeist stance, which promotes reason instead of providing the poor confused and above all angry masses with another Lyotardian grand story, is the most moral course of action. Not ‘us versus them’, but ‘us versus mythology’ – inclusivity instead of exclusivity.

“There really is no society in human history that has ever suffered because its population became too reasonable.” – Sam Harris

The twelve editorial cartoons that were published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten on 30 September 2005 were on the whole more heavily criticised by religious, journalistic and political organisations than the boycotts, riots and violent demonstrations that were organised in response to the drawings.

Almost ten years later, history will teach us whether the lamented deaths of the twelve French journalists who were violently murdered on the 7th of January 2015 will change the way people treat fledgling fundamentalism, racism, and organised religion in general.

One day after the attacks, all the lights of the Eiffel Tower were dimmed as the City of Light mourned its dead. And at the centre of it all someone wrote Ils ne tuerons pas la liberté, ‘they shall not diminish our freedom’.

Christopher Hitchens said it best with his poetic eloquence when he was asked why he could not keep his atheism to himself, he replied “Because the religious won’t allow me to. Because every time I open up the paper there’s another instance of theocratic encroachment on free society which I won’t put up with – up with which, I will not put!”

Je suis Charlie
Tu es Charlie
Nous sommes tous Charlie
Vive la liberté