Jerusalem Chalk Circle

Violence: Six Sideways ReflectionsJust to give you an idea of the greatness of Slavoj Žižek, his approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict is remarkably innovative and compassionate. He suggests that both parties should renounce political control of Jerusalem and turn it into an extra-state locale of religious freedom. Doing this would have many advantages. It would turn Jerusalem into the truly sacred site that it cannot be in the middle of a war. It also allows the Israelis and the Palestinians to see that both sides would be gaining.

It wouldn’t be easy. Žižek write, “Each of the two sides would have to realize that this renunciation of the ethnically ‘pure’ nation state is a liberation for themselves, not simply a sacrifice to be made for the other.” And that is the crux of the problem: self-identification. Every religious group thinks it is special and cut off from the others (the great “unwashed,” for example). Thus, I think that solution is great, but it does beg the question: if they were tolerant of dissent and open-minded about other religions, there would be no problem.

Still, Žižek shows he understands the situation:

Let’s go back to the story about the Caucasian chalk circle on which Brecht based one of his late plays. In ancient times, somewhere in the Caucasus, a biological mother and a stepmother appealed to a judge to decide to which one of them the child belonged. The judge drew a chalk circle on the ground, placed the baby in the middle and told the two women to take one arm each; the child would belong to the one who pulled him out of the circle first. When the real mother saw that the child was hurt by being pulled in opposite directions, she released her hold out of compassion. Of course, the judge gave the child to her, claiming that she displayed true maternal love. Along these lines, one could imagine a Jerusalem chalk circle. The one who truly loves Jerusalem would rather let it go than see it torn apart by strife. Of course, the supreme irony here is that this Brechtian anecdote is a variation on the judgement of King Solomon from the Old Testament, who, acknowledging there was no just way to resolve the maternal dilemma, proposed a two-state solution: the child should be cut in two, each mother getting half. The true mother, of course, gave up her claim to the child.

It is interesting how people are inclined to use their religious identities for political goals while ignoring what wisdom is to be found in their religions.

Assumptions Assumptions Assumptions

Jennifer RubinJonathan Chait is at it again, getting laughs while demolishing right wing idiocy. Today, it is fucktard (accent on the tard) Jennifer Rubin and her willful (?) misunderstanding of the Tax Policy Center’s analysis of Mitt Romney’s tax plan. This is the analysis that showed that even if you accepted all of Romney’s unbelievable assumptions, you still couldn’t get it to work without it being—What a surprise!—a huge tax cut for the rich and a tax hike for the poor and middle class.

On Sunday morning, Jennifer Rubin of Fox on 15th decided to take on those nasty liberals—who were wonderful nonpartisan analysts only a couple of months ago—at the Tax Policy Center. Ha! She was going to show that they were making assumptions about Romney’s tax plan, and those assumptions were unfair!

Unfortunately, it seems just like CNN and Fox News after the Supreme Court’s ACA decision was handed down, Rubin didn’t read past the first page—or even understand the words she did read. As Chait notes, “The math is so incontestable here that the only rebuttal left is Rubin’s I-don’t-understand-what-words-mean interpretive method.” She claimed that the Tax Policy Center was making assumptions when they in fact are saying, “We grant all of Romney’s assumptions—even if we think them unrealistic—and his tax plan still doesn’t work as advertised.”

Chait explains it thusly:

Rubin seems unfamiliar with this form of argumentation. Let me demonstrate the principle. Suppose Rubin were to write, “The liberal media refuse to report that the rightful winner of the Olympic Games is actually Mitt Romney, who defeated the entire U.S. women’s soccer team by himself.” And then I were to reply that, even if Romney had accomplished this goal, which I doubt, he would be ineligible for the gold medal because he is not a woman. It would not rebut my argument for Rubin to insist that Romney had too defeated the U.S. women’s soccer team all by himself. She would have to address the point I am actually contesting — namely, Romney’s gender eligibility to claim the women’s soccer gold medal.

Yet the Republican talking points just echo on.

Usain Bolt: Spammer

Usain BoltAs though he is not busy enough at the Olympics winning every race he is in (he got the gold in the 100 m—of course—and was first in the first round of the 200 m), I got spammed by him this morning. Well, I got spammed by someone with the same name. What are the odds? You would think Bolt would make enough money with his Puma sponsorship, but I guess not. He has to stoop to spamming. What a waste!

There is something serious here: Usain Bolt “didn’t build that” in a more fundamental way than any public figure in America will admit. The man is six foot five inches. He could not have been a world class marathon runner, regardless how hard he worked. Similarly, if he had been five foot five inches, he could not have been a world class sprinter.

I have great admiration for Bolt, but what he has was given to him: by genes, environment, and luck. It is right to hold up his accomplishments as a sign of what humans can do. But it is wrong to pretend that he is doing anything but what comes naturally. And note: he wouldn’t be as revered or well compensated if his talents tended toward, say, lacrosse.

Let me give some examples. People who are exceptional at math also enjoy it or they never would have gotten so good. People who read a lot of books don’t do it through force of will; they enjoy reading. And a man who runs 100 meters in 9.63 seconds (0.05 seconds off his record) does it because he loves it.

The bootstrap myth that Americans just love is total rubbish. Not everyone can grow up to be Usain Bolt. Not everyone can grow up to be President. Not everyone can even grow up to collect carts in the Walmart parking lot.

Perhaps if we had a more equitable society, all people could focus on adding value to the society. The spam culture is the truest manifestation of the “profits above all” mentality of capitalism gone wild. If Usain Bolt didn’t have great speed and generous sponsors, what would he do? He would only have to be two tenths of a second slower—much faster than anyone I know—to be poor. I’m sure there are many impressive people who are part of the army of spammers who attack me each night. And that is a waste—for me and them.