Malcolm X died today

(If you’re going to read this, take the time to briefly touch the videos and links- it’s the only way things will make sense, I promise.)

Malcolm X was killed today – 49 years ago at 3:30 p.m. on 165th Street, New York City. He was shot, in front of his family, in front of his friends, in front of over 600 earnest listeners at the Audubon Ballroom. He knew it was going to happen that day, he really did, but he went with it anyway. He was prepared to die.

Malcolm died calling for a “black revolution”.  He distinguished this from a “Negro revolution”, which represented civil rights in the United States. He prophesied a Marx-esque global overturn in society. He wanted “Negroes” to join in on the global revolution that “is world-wide in scope and in nature. The black revolution is sweeping Asia, sweeping Africa, is rearing its head in Latin America. The Cuban Revolution…. They overturned the system”. He foresaw a world of egalitarianism for all people, white, “black, brown, red, or yellow”. At the time of his death, he didn’t see whites as evil at all – he met people “whose eyes were the bluest of blue, whose hair was the blondest of blond, and whose skin was the whitest of white” that he could call brothers (Malcolm X, “A Message to the Grassroots”). And as he called for his global revolution in 1965, for his new vision of equality, he was shot and killed. Don’t listen to any media that tells you otherwise – “read the books” (Maya Angelou, recalling Malcolm).

“It is incorrect to classify the revolt of the Negro as simply a racial conflict of Black against White, or as a purely American problem. Rather, we are today seeing a global rebellion of the oppressed against the oppressor, the exploited against the exploiter.” – Malcolm X

Of course, that’s not the whole story. Malcolm was never a mainstream civil rights leader, and never wanted to be and chose not to be. The most mainstream he got was on his deathbed, still calling for a global revolution. He was not a Martin Luther King, who he called a member of the black bourgeoisie. He didn’t have a white picket fence and didn’t work with white liberals on a daily basis. He was a field negroe, a common man.  He was a radical compared to the other great civil rights leaders of his time (this is not to say he didn’t work with the mainstream; he personally knew James Baldwin, Bayard Rustin, Maya Angelou, Sydney Poitier, Adam Clayton Powell, and Shirley Du Bois).

What differentiated Malcolm X from the others was his conception of African Americans. He never saw himself as an American, he saw himself and other blacks as Afro-Americans; namely, people robbed from their ancestral past in Africa, forced to live in America. He called on others to remember that past, to remember that legacy. Because of this honorary sense of African Americans, he “was the only leader out there that taught black people to be proud of being black” (Robert Haggins, Malcolm’s photographer.)

“So we are all black people, so-called Negroes, second-class citizens, ex-slaves. You are nothing but a [sic] ex-slave. You don’t like to be told that. But what else are you? You are ex-slaves. You didn’t come here on the “Mayflower.” You came here on a slave ship — in chains, like a horse, or a cow, or a chicken. And you were brought here by the people who came here on the “Mayflower.” You were brought here by the so-called Pilgrims, or Founding Fathers. They were the ones who brought you here.” – Malcolm X, “A Message to the Grassroots”

A friend asked me once, “What did Malcolm X actually DO?” The simple answer is nothing; he didn’t organize unions like Phillip Randolph, marches like Bayard Rustin, or sit-ins like Martin Luther King. Malcolm X didn’t deal with unjust laws or racial separation per se. He dealt with changing minds and perceptions. In the black South, whether it was Birmingham or Atlanta, the largest issue was Jim Crow: bus segregation, school segregation, church segregation. Malcolm X didn’t have to deal with laws in Detroit, New York City, or Omaha. He dealt with urban ghettos and cyclical poverty. He dealt with people who were lost as to their purpose of living, as to their identity, as to their future. He taught his listeners to love themselves, to love their heritage, to love the world around them. He taught them to identify with oppression everywhere, and to fight for justice anywhere. He didn’t teach full integration – he saw that as whitewash. Instead, he taught embracement, nationalism, self-confidence.

Most civil rights leaders didn’t identify with the urban North. In Boston, Lansing, and Baltimore, it wasn’t about being at the back of the bus, but about being at the bottom of society. It was about institutional racism.

Racism is both overt and covert. It takes two, closely related forms: individual whites acting against individual blacks, and acts by the total white community against the black community. We call these individual racism and institutional racism. The first consists of overt acts by individuals, which cause death, injury or the violent destruction of property. This type can be recorded by television cameras; it can frequently be observed in the process of commission. The second type is less overt, far more subtle, less identifiable in terms of specific individuals committing the acts. But it is no less destructive of human life. The second type originates in the operation of established and respected forces in the society, and thus receives far less public condemnation than the first type. When white terrorists bomb a black church and kill five black children, that is an act of individual racism, widely deplored by most segments of the society. But when in that same city – Birmingham, Alabama – five hundred black babies die each year because of the lack of proper food, shelter and medical facilities, and thousands more are destroyed and maimed physically, emotionally and intellectually because of conditions of poverty and discrimination in the black community, that is a function of institutional racism. When a black family moves into a home in a white neighborhood and is stoned, burned or routed out, they are victims of an overt act of individual racism which many people will condemn – at least in words. But it is institutional racism that keeps black people locked in dilapidated slum tenements, subject to the daily prey of exploitative slumlords, merchants, loan sharks and discriminatory real estate agents. The society either pretends it does not know of this latter situation, or is in fact incapable of doing anything meaningful about it.” —Stokely Carmichael, Honorary Prime Minister of the Black Panther Party.

Institutional racism consisted but runs far deeper than Jim Crow. It penetrated the hearts and minds of those in power – whites. It affected Malcolm’s people in the ghetto and on the bus and everywhere in between. Laws don’t change minds, words change minds. Malcolm dealt with minds, perceptions, and identity. That needs to be clear.

“But as racism leads America up the suicide path, I do believe, from the experiences that I have had with them, that the whites of the younger generation, in the colleges and universities, will see the handwriting on the walls and many of them will turn to the spiritual path of truth – the only way left to America to ward off the disaster that racism inevitably must lead to.” – Malcolm X, “Letter from Mecca”

He did this as a performer. Whether it was as a porter on trains that ran in and out of Detroit or on the podium at Oxford University, he was the same Detroit Red, wooing and playing to the audience. He was there to change minds and to get others to act. He wasn’t there for laws, he was there for minds. He wasn’t there to desegregate schools or buses; he was there to remove the mentality of racism and to create the identity of black conscious. He saw politics as a tool for the benefit the black community, not politics as a tool in itself. His speeches reflected just that. He didn’t DO anything, because he didn’t see DOING as enough. Putting black people in white schools won’t end racism, only changing the minds of whites would. And that was only the first step – because there was a revolution coming for a new global order (let’s be clear, time tells us he was dead wrong on this prophecy).

“We must understand the politics of our community…we must know what role politics play in our lives” — Malcolm X, “Ballot or the Bullet”

Malcolm performed to all sorts of audiences across the world. He met with kings, dictators, and presidents across Africa, with communists in South America, with leaders in Europe, and with lay blacks back home. It was for this reason among others that he is so difficult to understand – at one speech he’d call for integration and capitalism, on the other for segregation and communism. On one stage he’s a Muslim whose faith guides his actions, on another stage he’s a Muslim who has no intention of letting people know. The factor of time causes just as much confusion – he began in Black supremacy and died almost mainstream. To discuss all of that requires a whole book. Here, I am trying to highlight the most powerful continuities of Ossie Davis‘s “black shining prince”.

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When looking at this man in his totality, agreeing with him or not, we find a powerful lesson. We see the story of someone who thought big – civil rights wasn’t just about America. We see the story of someone who never compromised his values, yet was always willing to compromise his style. We find someone who thought deep, to the real issues of the time. And we find someone who taught me to be myself and to love myself and try to be no other than myself. Manning Marable tells it best: “Of the figures who tower over twentieth century American history, perhaps none is more complex, more multifaceted and controversial, than Malcolm X” (Malcolm X: A life of reinvention).

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So…it’s Christmas!

I thougt I’d share some quotes from How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, based off of Dr. Seuss’s short story/poem/picture book.

The Grinch: All right, you’re a reindeer [talking to his dog Max]. Here’s your motivation: Your name is Rudolph, you’re a freak with a red nose, and no one likes you. Then, one day, Santa picks you and you save Christmas. No, forget that part. We’ll improvise… just keep it kind of loosey-goosey. You HATE Christmas! You’re gonna steal it. Saving Christmas is a lousy ending, way too commercial. ACTION!

[Max knocks the red nose off]

The Grinch: BRILLIANT! You reject your own nose because it represents the glitter of commercialism. Why didn’t I think of that? Cut, print, check the gate, moving on.

—————

The Grinch: The nerve of those Whos. Inviting me down there – on such short notice! Even if I wanted to go my schedule wouldn’t allow it. 4:00, wallow in self pity; 4:30, stare into the abyss; 5:00, solve world hunger, tell no one; 5:30, jazzercize; 6:30, dinner with me – I can’t cancel that again; 7:00, wrestle with my self-loathing… I’m booked. Of course, if I bump the loathing to 9, I could still be done in time to lay in bed, stare at the ceiling and slip slowly into madness. But what would I wear?

—————

The Grinch: What’s that stench? It’s fantastic.

—————

The Grinch: It’s because I’m green isn’t it?

—————

Lou Lou Who: I’m glad he took our presents. You can’t hurt Christmas, Mr. Mayor, beacuse it isn’t about the… the gifts or the contest or the fancy lights. That’s what Cindy’s been trying to tell everyone… and me. I don’t need anything more for Christmas than this right here: my family.

————–

The Grinch: MAX. HELP ME… I’m FEELING.

————–

The Grinch: Any calls?

Grinch’s Answering Machine: [computer voice] You have no messages.

The Grinch: Odd. Better check the outgoing.

Grinch’s Answering Machine: [Grinch’s voice] If you utter so much as one syllable, I’LL HUNT YOU DOWN AND GUT YOU LIKE A FISH! If you’d like to fax me, press the star key.

The Grinch: Hmm. Hmm.

————–

The Grinch: One man’s toxic sludge is another man’s potpourri.

[Max barks]

The Grinch: I don’t know, it’s some kind of soup.

————–

Cindy Lou Who: Thanks for saving me.

The Grinch: [stops in his tracks] Saving you, is that what you think I was doing? Wrongo. I just noticed that you were improperly packaged, my dear.

[grabs wrapping paper and starts wrapping Cindy up]

The Grinch: Hold still.

[to Max]

The Grinch: Max, pick out a bow.

[to Cindy]

The Grinch: Can I use your finger for a sec?

————–

The Grinch: I am the Grinch that stole Christmas… and I’m sorry.

[long silence]

The Grinch: Aren’t you going to cuff me? Put me in a choke hole? Blind me with pepper spray?

Mayor Augustus Maywho: You heard him, Officer. He admitted it. I’d go with the pepper spray.

Officer Wholihan: Yes, I heard him all right. He said he was sorry.

————–

Martha May Whovier: Did I have a crush on the Grinch? Of COURSE not.

Cindy Lou Who: Uh… I didn’t ask you that.

————–

The Grinch: It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes, or bags.

Narrator: The the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.

The Grinch: Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas…

Narrator: He thought

The Grinch: …means a little bit more.

————–

The Grinch: [messing with peoples mail] Jury duty, jury duty, jury duty, black mail, pink slip, chain letter, eviction notice, jury duty.

————–

The Grinch: Who wants the gizzard?

Drew Lou Who: I do.

The Grinch: Too late. That’ll be mine.

————-

Mayor Augustus Maywho: And if you marry me, you get this new car, which has been generously paid for by the taxpayers of Whoville.

————-

The Grinch: Well, pucker up and kiss it, Whoville.

[puts mistletoe up to his butt and makes a taunting noise as he shakes it around]

————-

The Grinch: Am I just eating because I’m bored?

————-

The Grinch: [singing] Be it ever so heinous, there’s no place like home.

————-

Cindy Lou Who: Santa, what’s the meaning of Christmas?

The Grinch: [bursts through the Christmas tree] VENGEANCE!

The Grinch: [calmly] Er, I mean… presents, I suppose

————-

Cindy Lou Who: Santa?

The Grinch: WHAT?

Cindy Lou Who: Don’t forget the Grinch. I know he’s mean and hairy and smelly. His hands might be cold and clammy, but I think he’s actually kinda… sweet.

The Grinch: SWEET? You think he’s sweet?

Cindy Lou Who: [nods] Merry Christmas, Santa.

[goes upstairs]

The Grinch: Nice kid… baaad judge of character.

————-

The Grinch: Those Whos are hard to frazzle, Max. But, we did our worst, and that’s all that matters.

————-

[Lastly:]

The Grinch: It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes, or bags.

Narrator: The the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.

The Grinch: Maybe Christmas doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas…

Narrator: He thought

The Grinch: …means a little bit more.

I found those all relevant and rather fantastic.

Indeed, too, some were bombastic.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0170016/quotes

“You know what …

“You know what I say to people when I hear they’re writing anti-war books?”

“No. What do you say, Harrison Starr?”

“I say, ‘Why don’t you write an anti-glacier book instead?’ ” — Slaughter House Five

Author Kurt Vonnegut.

There will always be war, just like there will always be glaciers. Unfortunately. Why still write anti-war novels? Global warming.

 

Why Bertrand Russell was not a Christian

Why Bertrand Russell is not a Christian is a 25 page rage against Bertrand Russell’s religious views written by Reverend Ralph Allen Smith. It is in response to a brilliant lecture by Bertrand Russell titled Why I am not a Christian; I have written a review on that already. This essay serves to criticize Russell’s reasoning against Jesus and his reasoning for a secular worldview. It spends little time arguing for the Existence of God, although the author seems to imply he could argue that too if he wanted.

Reverend Smith begins by explaining that the existence of God is an unnecessary component of the Christian faith. This is in Catholic doctrine as well as in many Protestant faiths directly: that God does not need to be rationally deductible, only provable by means of Christianity alone. Smith, after explaining this, quickly and rashly states that Russell didn’t spend enough time thoroughly explaining why the rationale for God isn’t all too rationale. For some reason he doesn’t say how.

The first section, the smaller one, is absolute bogus and completely avoids answering any questions, but I love the second larger section. This one deals with why Russell’s worldview is insufficient (and thus Christianity, at the very least, is better), and why Russell’s tirade against Christianity is flat out stupid. He’s right about that.

Russell insists that Jesus was immoral on the grounds that anyone who believes in Hell is immoral. In other words, whether or not Hell is immoral by itself, if you tell people it exists you are immoral, even if you earnestly beleive it. For rational people like you and I, that’s crazy talk. I was astonished he would say something like that – and I read and re read his essay a number of times to make sure that was what he was earnestly saying. It was. Perhaps he isn’t so logical of a philosopher.

It gets worse though, and more controversial. Russell’s worldview, in the mind of the author and I, is by far the most irrational. It is a worldview completely absent of meaning and coherency, devoid of purpose and order. It is a worldview of nothing but chaos and randomness, but yet, there is a savior: morality! The cherished secular worldview of Bertrand Russell involves denying any purpose of life while simultaneously demanding altruism in life. It requires you to stand for open mindedness and rationality while simultaneously succumb to your altruistic evolutioned brain. There is no purpose of your existence, but you have to be a good person anyway. This is coming from Russell, a man who has cheated on several wives and dozens of women. This is coming from Russell, an icon of logic and pure thinking. This is coming from the idol of many atheists and secularists: and yet he was no more than an illogical fool when it comes to the subject of ethics and religion. This is hypocrisy and doublethink!

To conclude, this essay is A MUST READ for anyone who reads Russell’s lecture. I recommend for anyone. Now as I am not Christian, I find his argument that all Atheists know Christianity is true in their hearts but deny it anyways quite dubious, and as a Muslim I refuse to accept that God does not have to be rationally deductible for religion to be true, but his disparage against Russell still holds. His disparage against the secular worldview is short, blunt, and brilliant. I can only hope that truth and free thought can one day emerge within all of us.

War is Peace! Freedom is slavery! Ignorance is strength!: Doublethink is Everywhere

The motto in the title is a quote from 1984, a book I wrote a review on, where people are brainwashed in a totalitarian state to believe contradictory ideals with no concept of logic. The absurd reasoning of people in the book is referred to as “doublethink.”

Doublethink is an interesting concept, where people contradict themselves without realizing it. We see this every day. For example, 90 percent of Americans think that nuclear war is unwinnable, and yet 70 percent of the same data pool believe America should build more nukes (see page 12 of the link). Such logic is incoherent, and I love the quote from the Hindu epic the Mahabharata where it explains how we literally never stop to think about the fact that we could die tomorrow while people die in front of us every day.

A more relevant example is how most religious people of America find religion to be good for people and support evangelical causes while simultaneously preaching secular governance. Similarly, many in Britain are against the Sharia law courts they’ve implemented (I am too) on the grounds of secularism, while their own beloved Head of State is the head of the English Church! Or how the American PATRIOT Act is called so as if to tell Americans they should be patriotic, whilst the act itself contradicts what the original patriots fought for!

You know what else is doublethink? CVS, a drug store chain, didn’t sell the latest Rolling Stones magazine since it had the Boston Bomber on the front page “out of respect for the victims of the attack and their loved ones,” while they didn’t hesitate to have Obama on the front page: someone who is technically a war criminal. That is doublethink, and I wish neither ever got a photo in a magazine.

Doublethink is a bit different from hypocrisy, because hypocrisy is when your actions and beliefs contradict, and you know it. Hypocrisy is probably the best adjective to describe any government or head of state. Take Prime Minister Francois Hollande, who criticized America for the NSA spying scandal despite that France (his nation) spys on its people themselves.

Religion is another place where you find a load of hypocrisy from some practitioners, if not most. On the far right, you have ultra-literalist Muslims that use scripture to defend something that the spirit of the scripture refutes. On the far left, you have people that believe in the whole nine yard of mainstream Christianity: Jesus is Jehovah in flesh and if you don’t listen to him you’ll be damned, while they themselves hardly practice! For the people that take religion “liberally”, I have a question: would Jesus act the way you do? If not, you have some serious work to do.

We live in a world of contradictions, hypocrisy, and doublethink, and we don’t even realize it sometimes. So let’s get past the incoherency. Let’s take a look at our values and beliefs and seriously consider what the hell we are doing with our lives. Let’s figure out why we contradict ourselves on a daily basis and solve that problem. Let’s fight the indoctrination and question why we spout secular dogma while being religiously conservative, or the other way around. Let’s talk to our politicians and government officials and try to figure out how to go about stopping the hypocrisy, if possible, and how to make the masses realize it. There are giant hypocrisies in our society, and I only named a few. Chances are, I’m a hypocrite myself and doublethink my thoughts without even realizing it, and I’ll be working on that like you should too.

Why I am not a Christian

Why I am not Christian is a collection of essays written by secular philosophers and academics. I am only writing on the most famous essay of the collection, a transcript of a lecture given by the famed Bertrand Russell at the National Secular Society. This lecture was a short rebuttal to every well known argument for God and some of the arguments for Christianity. His lecture has been renowned by many as a quick, concise deconstruction of religious thinking and apologism. That is too quick of a judgment.

His lecture first goes through the well known arguments for God, pretty much all of which can be seen in The Reason for God book I wrote a review on. Russell briefly runs through explaining each argument, and then points out a particular flaw in said argument that deconstructs the entire conclusion. He does not spend the time to give a full rebuttal and his alternative worldview to each argument, but it was not necessary to prove the theist apologist wrong. As I explains in my The Reason for God review, I do not find any of the mainstream arguments for God’s existence entirely convincing, but I also do not find any of the mainstream arguments against God’s existence convincing either. There are additional argument that we rarely hear about that keep me in theism, and I’ll one day explain them.

In short, his arguments against the theist appeals were quite convincing. His shockingly short rebuttals were satisfactory for the point he wanted to convey, although much more could have been discussed. For example, he dismisses the First Cause argument on the basis that the universe could have been the first cause without God and then proceeds to talk about other arguments. Brutally short and concise, Russell gets the point across without unnecessary commentary. He later starts talking about religious thinking and Jesus, and his views on both.

His dismissal of religious thinking as incompatible with science shows his ignorance of history and utter arrogance for an academic of his esteem. To claim a clash between faith and reason at the level in which Russell does is a moronic outcry secularists have tried for centuries in this plea for academic legitimacy that they once did not have. Now that they do, they insist that this legitimacy is only for them and delude their audiences with dogmatic bullcrap about how men of religion are less intelligent or not free thinking. Academic arrogance of this kind is usually only seen in extreme right wingers or children, but Russell proves to be an exception.

He then proceeds to dismiss Jesus as “the best and wisest of men.” Now most non-Christians will agree that Jesus was not “the best and wisest of men”, but Russell’s reasoning stems from academic dishonesty and hypocrisy. Many of the fellow secularists of his time relented that Jesus was the pinnacle of moral character in the history of man while not supernatural in any way. Russell first states that “historically it is quite doubtful whether Christ ever existed at all” as if he has never entered through a university door before. The existence of Jesus is not questioned by any legitimate historian of our time for a number of well documented reasons that I assume Russell rejects because he lacks the level of reason he so preciously propagates. Let me be clear: Jesus, beyond a doubt, existed during the Roman occupation of Palestine by all historical accounts.What he did and who he was is what is up for debate.

Russell continues his dismissal of Christ on the grounds that Christ believed in his imminent second coming. I won’t address whether or not Russell interpreted scripture right, but this has almost nothing to do with Christ’s moral character or wisdom for that matter. Russell throws another red herring in his dismissal of Christ in that Christ warned of a hellfire, something Russell doesn’t find moral. This kind of skewed logic isn’t even shown by extreme right wingers or children. I find murder of innocents wrong, and if my friend was going to be murdered I would certainly try to warn him. Likewise, Christ believed of a coming hell, and chose to warn his companions of its coming. Whether Christ was right or wrong is irrelevant, Russell seems to insist that it is immoral either way to warn someone of something you find immoral that may happen to them.

In conclusion, the secular philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell brilliantly shatters every mainstream argument for God’s existence in a few minutes of reading. His criticisms of Christianity, however, fall short and are academically dishonest and rationally inconsistent. I honestly advice that you only read the first part of Russell’s essay, and not waste your time with his criticisms of Jesus and Christianity. If you do choose to read the whole thing, you have been warned.

TO BE CONTINUED with a review on the essay Why Bertrand Russell was not a Christian by Rev. Ralph Allan Smith.

Misquoting Jesus

The author of this book is a sheer badass and a genius. His lectures, speeches, and debates are amazing and they have opened my mind over the years. I owe almost all of my understanding of New Testament history to Ehrman, and his views and opinions while quite controversial are certainly academic and not original. This work of his is world renowned and respected, and there are few of its kind. As the back cover of the book explains, his ideas and examples are not original nor unknown to academics of this field, but the public has absolutely no idea and little resources to know these ever important things.

Nevertheless, I hated this book. Quite frankly it was written poorly and organized in a jumbled hargle bargle. It must be remembered that this book is one of the first of its kind though, and I commend his iniative. The book first explains how Ehrman shifted his faith from a non practicing Christian to a born again to a Christian scholar to an agnostic. Now I don’t know numbers, but a large number of people in his profession are agnostic because of the blurred origins of the Christian bible (but certainly not all). He then explains how the complicated field of New Testament criticism and the history of searching for New Testament origins from various brave scholars of the past. The book  devotes the rest of its time to various parts of the New Testament that he believes aren’t authentic. Some of these are well accepted fabrications by scholars, others are a bit more controversial (he thankfully tells us which is which).

Written poorly and shoddily organized, its difficult to follow through with what he is saying or even to remember it all, but he goes through events such as the Jesus’s encounter with the female adulterer and explains how this was a clear fabrication. Other more controversial include who wrote Peter (was it actually Peter?). Either way, simple internet searches can get you the results that Ehrman explains poorly in his book. One thing I should note though, is that while Ehrman’s views are scholarly legitimate, he is one of the most critical scholars and few share all of his views together. If you want to learn about New Testament criticism, I don’t recommend this book, and you’re time is better spent watching Ehrman’s lectures  on YouTube(he is ridiculously entertaining when not not writing books) or reading some articles on the internet.

1984

Orwell’s world is in a post WWIII dystopia. There are three world superpowers, and all 3 are totalitarian communist regimes that control about 90% of the Earth. The rest of the Earth is a bufferzone between the three superpowers that is fought for in an endless stalemate. The protagonist is someone who realizes that the world he lives in is god-forsaken, and there is literally nothing he could do about it. He goes about living, starts breaking some rules, gets caught, has problems, and the book ends with an equally dystopian world as in the beginning.

In other words, the novel was great. Sad, pitiful, and unbelievably pessimistic I found this book to be one of the best I’ve ever read. It deals with a number of philosophical elements – mainly dealing with the lack of freedom in society and the concept of “doublethink”. This is a word I’ve used a bit so far and will continue to use. Basically, the idea of “doublethink” is to believe in two contradictory statements simultaneously. I once read about a survey in which most Americans thought a nuclear war was inevitable, but that more nukes should be built anyways. That would be an example of doublethink, and every person of that world uses it in their everyday lives. ‘WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, and IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH,” a common motto of the people goes.

There is another theme that deals with the control of knowledge. The superpower the protagonist lives in, Oceania, controls all learning of history. In other words, they make history out to whatever they want to be and come a new generation, and no one knows what happened in the past at all.  Soon, no one will even know that history was changed (not even the people at the very top of the government), because history was made to not say that. “He who controls the past controls the future, and he who controls the present controls the past,” a government motto goes.

Probably the most major theme of the book has to do with the lack of freedom. The protagonist is watched from television monitors that are basically everywhere, even in his house. He cannot trust anyone, even his own wife (who the government chose for him). Later in the novel, we find out that technology has come to the point where even his mind can be read. The sanctity of our universal human rights (I’ll talk about this term one day and how most of us have no idea what it means and just spout the concept because we’ve been taught to spout it).The lack of freedom in this society makes life completely meaningless for the protagonist – who cannot pursue any sort of happiness or pleasure (be it physical, emotional, academic…). In other words, a lack of freedom is a lack of purpose in life.

The biggest theme for me, though, was something I don’t think most people catch on too. It was basically the fact that in this world, no one was happy. There was no sole dictator at the top of the bureaucratic chain, and even the people up there are not happy. No one liked the society how it was, as it ruined everything for absolutely everyone. And yet, nothing could be done about it. For one purpose to revolt the system means for others to have him done away with. The others that do away with him do it solely because if they don’t, they’ll be done away with. And so on, you have a society that continuously destroys itself because people will never completely join together – because of the invisible hand we will call “fear”. people realize it, too, but there is always the fear that your peers may not realize it, which is far too risky. The structure of the society is made so that it will literally last forever.The three superpowers are in an endless stalemate, and there is no chance of revolution inside each one. Likewise, there is a perfect balance between population and resources that will last forever in an eternal structure with no happiness or joy amongst anyone. Beautiful.

Crisis of Islam

Bernard Lewis is an interesting Middle Eastern scholar who I will surely talk about more when I get into Orientalism. This book, Crisis of Islam, is about the utter chaos the Islamic World has experienced in the last century. The book explores the history of the Islamic World and the modern context it is now. The book discusses the various edge groups and their opponents in the modern world – from the Salafis to the hidden secularist liberals. This is an extraordinary read that is well worth, insightful, easy to understand, and scholarly.

Professor Lewis is quick to explain that Islam is not inherently linked to terrorism. He goes through the historical roots of terrorism and the history of violence in the Islamic World, and thoroughly demonstrates the lack of relationship between the two. Terrorism has “no antecedents in Islamic history, and no justification in terms of Islamic theology, law, or tradition.” Nevertheless, the terrorist of the Muslim World justify themselves through their religion in an incredulous way. Dealing with the Middle East has thus become so difficult – that the fanatics believe wholeheartedly that they are correct, and that killing them is only good for them.

The crisis of the Islamic World and the rise of extremism can be attributed much to the decline in Islamic thinking, which occurred a little before colonialism  and after the fall of the Mongols as a reaction to the Renaissance (the public perception suddenly became that the roots of Islamic decline are because of too much thinking and too little dogma, and this led to only more decline). This was not helped by colonialism centuries later, which destroyed the academic institutions (theological, philosophical, and scientific) forever. In modern times, oil has both been crucial and destructive to the Arab world in particular. Lewis has a famous quote where he flips the common American quote: “No representation without taxation”. The oil rich gulf states have traditionally had almost no taxes on its citizens- the wealth of the nation was generated entirely by oil resources. Their was no need for a parliamentary system to develop a taxation system, and thus the monarchies established themselves permanently, and are only replaced if ever by ruthless tyrants.

His book after explaining what I have said so far in much more details concludes with a solution. The purpose of the text was not really to provide a solution, so it doesn’t focus too much on it, but his conclusion is that the only solution to the Middle East is non-secular democracy (secular preferably, but that is asking for too much too quick). America is a necessary component for reviving the Middle East (Lewis was a big advocate of the Iraq war…before it happened). I won’t comment on what I think about his conclusions, but I am content to say that his identifying of Middle Eastern and Islamic problems was excellent, and his analysis of their roots essential.

The Reason for God

Timothy Keller’s book is a remarkable, easy read that masterfully explains difficult concepts to people who aren’t all that good at difficult concepts. His book is written, organized, and crafted beautifully. Anyone with a high school level education could easily read this book and understand the complex philosophical arguments he discusses in defense of what we call “God.” It is important however to note that this book is not just his reasoning for God, but as well his reasoning for Christianity. Put simply, it’s a Christian apologist book about Christianity in an Age of Skepticism. There’s nothing wrong about that, but you should know what you’re reading.

Onto his arguments. Keller summarizes the basic arguments for God we love and adore: Aristotle’s First Cause Argument, the Islamic Kalam Cosmological Argument, the Watchmaker Argument, etc. He then attempts to refute the traditional anti-God arguments such as the problem of evil argument. I myself am placed in a difficult situation when it comes to these God arguments: for one, I find all the classical arguments for God (the ones that Keller uses) to be weak and insufficient, and at the same time, I find all the classical arguments against God (the ones that Keller refutes) to be equally weak and insufficient. As a Muslim, my faith requires me to believe that the idea of God is rationally deductible, and I struggle with finding a sure-fire way to philosophically prove God (I haven’t looked too much into it though, but I’ll write more on this later). Most Christians, notably Catholics, do not need to prove God rationally as a principle of their faith, but it certainly helps. They need only to prove Christianity rationally, and the concept of God naturally follows through

Thus he argues his Christian apologist views. These stem from his belief in a “historical record” of the Ressurection of Christ, amongst other things. Now I am not Christian, so I’m obviously disagree with his views for a number of reasons. I won’t delve too much into what these arguments of his are, but he does wonderfully in presenting them and explaining why he feels Christianity is the way to go.

To summarize, Keller wrote a masterful book on the argument for God and Christianity. Whether you agree with his conclusions or not, he certainly explains himself thoroughly. He writes simple enough for any audience as well, without sounding unintelligent. If you are interesting in reading about Christian apology or about the philosophy of God, there is no better book to read than this one.