This Ruthless World

Adventures in absurdity

Archive for the category “culture”

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The Burning of Sodomites (unknown artist, German, 1482)
My previous post, Teabagging Jesus, provoked a lengthy discussion in the comments, which devolved into a general argument about the supposedly unfocused and shifting nature of liberalism. At one point, a guest commented that people who harass confront (let’s use a polite term here) women in front of abortion clinics are motivated only by a good-faith concern for those women’s souls, not maliciousness. It’s important that we all understand that, the guest contended. After some reflection, I decided the topic deserves its own post. Read more…

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More Stupid Things People Like to Say: Third Installment

John William Waterhouse, "A Tale From the Decameron" (1916)People love saying things that sound clever. Especially people who aren’t very bright. Take that combination — an intellectually mediocre person and a desire to appear “deep” — and you’ve got the perfect recipe for the birth of notions so intensely stupid, they are destined to endure forever. These are notions that end up on “inspirational” posters of sunsets and beaches. These are notions that the world’s vulgarians repeat over and over — and still think themselves not only well-informed, but original. So here is my third list of certain pearls of “wisdom” that are common as dirt — and explanations as to how they are actually idiotic. (You can find prior installments here and here). Read more…

Trayvon Martin Was A Floozie

Udo Keppler, "A Good Beginning" (1899)I haven’t commented on the George Zimmerman verdict, because there isn’t much to say that hasn’t already been said by others more eloquently than I ever could. So not to beat a dead horse, I just want to briefly point out a detail that I haven’t seen discussed, but that I find very curious: the standard justifications that “impartial” people offer for killing Trayvon Martin are eerily similar to the arguments the same kind of people usually offer in defense of rape. Nay, they aren’t similar, they are exactly the same. Read more…

The Long 1950’s … Behind the Iron Curtain

Yuri Pimenov, "A Wedding on Tomorrow's Street" (1962)As someone who grew up in a totalitarian Communist state, nothing infuriates me more than the incessant conservative droning-on about progressives being “communist”, “socialist” and “Stalinist”. People who say these things use such words as mere slurs, not much different than calling someone an asswipe, and of course, they betray both a profound ignorance of history and a great deal of contempt for it. But more than that, they’ve got it completely backwards. Truth is, American conservatives have remarkably a lot in common with Russian communists: the same obsession with ideological purity, the same irrational intolerance towards loyal dissent, the same prioritizing of ideology over practicality, the same preparedness to sacrifice liberties, human dignity and lives for the sake of ideological totems, the same clash-of-civilizations thinking, the same pretensions at worldwide cultural and political hegemony. And of course, the modern American conservative and the Russian communist of the bygone era share a deep and abiding dislike of people having unauthorized sex in pursuit of “instant gratification”.

Enter Congress’ resident comedian, Rep. Louie Gohmert, because of course he doth enter, for how could he not? After all, it’s only been a few hours since the last eruption of stupid from the right-wingers, and we haven’t heard from Gohmert in, like, days. With a name that sounds like a practical joke and every word coming out of his mouth worthy of an Onion editorial, he provides an endless parade of stupidity and ignorance, which is probably why he was elected in the first place. His latest installment revolves around the idea that teaching school children about human biology and reproductive health would turn us into the USSR. Read more…

On The Need To Believe In Something Greater Than Us

Jacob Isaacksz van Ruisdael, "The Jewish Cemetery at Odenkirk" (1657)Why does anybody believe in God? I mean, outside of habit, or having been brought up in faith, such that life outside of it is unimaginable? Reasons for religious belief are invariably personal, and none is more interesting me to me than the oft-repeated “I am a person of faith because I need to believe there is something greater than us.” It is a ridiculous justification, for sure — but it reveals something very curious about human nature. Read more…

How Not To Be A Demagogue, Part II: Deconstructing The Emotional Appeal Fallacy Fallacy

It is a well-known fact in the legal profession that good lawyers almost never use legalese. Indeed, it’s one of the first things you learn in law school. Sure, sometimes custom and practice require arcane word formulas, but any lawyer worth his salt knows not to offer “therein’s” and what not in the body of an argument. Packing your writing or your speech with that garbage only serves to insult the court’s intelligence by signalling that you are a pretentious asshat who is using fifty-cent words to mask your lack of a good argument. If you can’t convey your point in normal, clear, non-ritualistic language, then you have no point to convey. Read more…

Quit Squawking About Valentine’s Day: A Postcard to the Outraged

Bitching about Valentine's day:  an art form since 1849.There was a time (back in the early fourteenth century) when I used to “protest” Valentine’s Day by wearing the most funereal black I could find in my mom’s closet. Most of my teenage years were embarrassingly boyfriendless, so naturally, I spent the day annoying the hell out of countless people with an umpteen-millionth account of who the real, historical St. Valentine was, and condescending banter about how stupid Valentine’s Day is. I thought it was very clever, edgy and original of me. But there came a point when I stopped doing that. You know why? Because I grew the hell up. Read more…

What Does This Movie Mean? Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil” (1985)

Another entry on movie interpretation. If you haven’t seen Brazil, are planning to see it, and do not want the experience ruined for you, do not read past the jump. This essay is geared towards people who have seen the movie. Major plot points will be revealed, and minor plot points too. Proceed at your own risk.
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Shocked, But Not Surprised: The Sandy Hook Massacre

Vasily Vereshchagin, "The Apotheosis of War" (1871)I’ve been having real difficulty trying to write something about the Sandy Hook massacre. The circumstances of what happened are terrifying for anyone to contemplate, but when you have a small child, like I do, the horror hits home in a way that’s hard to describe. Mostly, I’ve found that I don’t know what to say, except to repeat that I am horrified, and that only leads me to the dark but inevitable conclusion that there is no way to completely prevent this kind of thing from happening, so we can live happily on autopilot. That said, I really don’t know how anyone can deny with a straight face that Adam Lanza would have had a much, much harder time killing all those people and all those kids if he didn’t have access to firearms designed for the maximum efficiency of killing.

My writer’s block broke when I saw this shit: a prominent Tea-Partier blaming the massacre on the existence of public schools, teachers’ unions, government bureaucracy, and most astoundingly, sex in movies and on television. I had no doubt, of course, that some reactionary, hypocritical nincompoop was going to write something like that sooner or later, but actually seeing the words on the screen changed my despair to anger. Bottom line, while almost everything that’s been offered so far as a reason for Adam Lanza’s actions is speculation and conjecture, one thing is certain: we have a culture that inspires a thirst for blood in a fairly significant number of individuals, some of whom go so far as to kill a bunch of people (whilst others, like Judson Phillips there, contend themselves with vicarious thrills).

So what is this “culture of violence”? Read more…

Relax, Medical Science IS Your Friend

It’s Luddism Appreciation Week over at Slate, apparently, first with a comically pretentious essay arguing that reading e-books is not real reading (please print out this entry on fine vellum and stroke it sensually, if you want the next ten minutes of your life to count) and now with one that explores the hypothetical existential crisis spawned by hypothetical brain implants designed to improve memory and cognitive function. All our i-goods and Internet addiction notwithstanding, technophobia remains a popular exercise in pseudo-intellectualism. Read more…

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