Sunday, May 31, 2020

Mithras - Lord of the Cosmos


I've been studying Mathraism, exploring for memes we might use to glue together Quakerism (Amigos) and Sufism to form an interesting hybrid. Of course Nietzsche's Zarathustra might come into it. This isn't about fixating on only ancient sources, as if sources need to be ancient to be religious.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Debating Race on Q2

Thank you for your contribution to this discussion Aaron. I still brave coming here even though Chrome insists I'm at risk (some certificate configuration thingy). The red exclamation point next to the URI reminds me I'm here against Chrome's better judgement.
Anyway, I understand how human languages branch and fork into family trees.  Computer languages do that too (branch and fork, have ancestor influences and descendents). much as rivers do, and the notion that Semitic languages form one such family, on purely philological grounds, seems pretty plausible, if not outright indubitable. Sanskrit fits into this puzzle too.

Then you get a rather different concept, of Semite as "a race". That's crossing a threshold into new territory in my book, as we're no longer discussing communication codes.  Now we're talking animal husbandry, and family planning.  The stakes seem higher and the danger of animosity greater.  I'm heeding Ashley Montagu's warnings, about "race" as man's most dangerous myth, a myth going way back to before genetic science, or Ancestry.com. 

I've remarked earlier in this discussion how these racial undertones give off a vibe or smell that reminds me of Aryan supremacist ideology, so vested in notions of "super-race" (an ideology requiring of the concept of "race" in the first place, and therefore "pure" versus "hybrid" strains or classes, i.e "mixed race" or "mongrel" versus "pureblood"). 

Semite in the sense of "race" gets traced back to scripture (to Genesis) by many scholars, religious and not, who point to the descendents of Noah as the begetters of N races where N = Number of Noah's sons (a patriarchal reckoning is taken for granted). Bible School websites teach the story of Noah in the same breath as they plant the seeds of racism.

Then, after the Flood, in a following chapter came the Tower of Babel debacle, which ended up in these Races dispersing around the world (a first diaspora).  And so, children, this is how the Races of Man came to be.  

I don't believe contemporary genetic science has any corresponding theory of such a severe, near-extinction level cataclysmic event for all humans, let alone all species, although bottlenecks there may have been according to the mitochondrial record etc. 

Our species has certainly enjoyed its share of disasters (more to come), with many of them self inflicted, or so it seems to appear in some god's eye view, to which we are mysteriously privy (something about a shared "image"); certainly the Babel debacle was one of those. The disaster was our wasting time on single-mindedly building that silly tower, not the liberating solution that God devised for us.

Genesis gets to stay meaningful as a profound myth: the Tower of Babel story is quite powerful in my book.

[ I've seen the Youtube channel Genesis Apologetics, which seems to want to re-literalize those Bible stories. There's always the temptation to saddle the ancestors with our contemporary cosmology, seems comforting.  Manifestly, the "curse of many tongues" was never lifted (pssst: because it's not really a curse, praise Allah for our biodiversity and freedom from groupthink) ]

What I sense within some branches of Judaism is a strong interest in Ancestry.com type concerns i.e. genetic heritage and lineage, which is something we can trace in geographic terms (genetic markers moving around on a globe). When you get to the age of jet air travel, the record gets more confused. 

Christianity, as a latter day state organized and supported religion (historically speaking) of monarchs and emperors, satellite nobles, is of course all caught up in pedigree and distinguishing royalty from the unwashed masses etc., the animal husbandry derived genetic science of selective breeding, originally based in theories about "blood" (a lazy pseudo-scientific language perpetuated to this day among the common folk (smile)).

[ Christians who think Jesus survived the crucifixion to have children tend to have more focussed genetic obsessions, however said "Da Vinci Code" minority may be branded heretical. Likewise are Quakers (the sect) so branded by many a shocked flock. ]
I'm a fan of Isaac Asimov for his three rules of robotics, a way of talking and thinking about ethics, human to human as well.

Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek introduced the Prime Directive (a doctrine of non-interference), so much the opposite of colonizing or beaming down missionaries. Star Trek communicated a more secular / catholic / universalist / liberal ("live and let live") code of conduct. Mark Twain and Thomas Paine are in the background (more influences).

Given such hallmarks of Americana inform my thinking, I say "far be it from me to try deprogramming every cultish devotee I come across".  Like if you choose to believe in "races" (what I'd call a "whiteman concept" in my homebrewed vernacular given its Social Darwinist roots) go right ahead, free country.  Your bag of beliefs (worldview) is your cross to bear (karma).  Debate me if you want to.

However, even as I leave people to their bags of belief, I make room within Quakerism for a Planet Earth = Promised Land revelation (ongoing). We've been chosen by God to cherish or trash it, make it our heaven or our hell. A big responsibility, especially with free will. Lucifer's angels are betting we fail, and torture us with our own shortcomings.

Given the confusion of tongues (a gift!), we maybe thought (or at least some of us did), that some patch of land in the Middle East is what a few tribes of humans were destined to inherit, to be given the gift of, by our Lord. That was the whole point of those stories, those myths. 

However, in hindsight, some of us see it was more than that. We now have a more clear-eyed view of the species predicament, and we're are grateful for this opportunity to prove ourselves worthy.  Amen. Some of us might confess our convincement as Jewish, others not (without being anti-Jewish about it, in contradiction of what's been revealed).

Friday, May 22, 2020

From a Quaker Discussion List

Hi Rainer --
Thanks for your thoughts. Everyone says we need to be processing about "race" (whether we believe in such a thing or not) and we're doing it, in the context of anti-semitism no less, all red hot stuff in the eyes of many, yet we're just having a casual Quakerly conversation, very primitive and Friendly.
I appreciate your willingness to shoot the breeze ("even Quakers shoot the breeze" might go with my "Quakers play Quake" bumper sticker -- I sometimes wear a Stetson hat that says Gun Club inside, approved it through Oversight Committee, but said committee is no more, as that sounded too slavey, too antiquarian, for supervising taste testers -- I'm forgetting the new name).
My "math head" (a member of my "internal committee" aka politburo) says "pre science literate humans didn't just happen upon the eigentypes with their homebrewed notion of 'races'."

Do you understand him? Me neither, and yet he's one of my internal team (I like the committee approach taken by a certain Scottish Jungian I admire, also a student of P.D. Ouspensky's, one Maurice Nicoll:  we're all made up of many egos, none of whom you need to identify with if you're into doing the Work as he defines it).
Seriously, I get to teach data science online and I just spent a whole bunch of hours hearing Youtubers talk about "eigenfaces" which would be like the paradigm "template faces" of which all others could be mixtures. But has any science mag printed a few?  I think they'd say there's no way to render them as it's all numbers by then, nothing to see here, move on.
I think what my math voice is saying is that the superficial heuristics we called "the seven races" might have worked well at one time, long ago, for some people, and it's not the moral fault of anyone (not a tragedy either) that commercial airplanes and world travel (global wars, nasty fevers) messed that all up for good. Not everyone is caught up on that fact, but then people still believe in all kinds of dated stuff. What choice do we have?  Some would say waiting in silence for revelations.

The delicate fragile worldview based on the Biblical idea of a diaspora of Noah's kids at the Tower of Babel, didn't survive the 1800s intact (in depth psychology it did, as a myth, but not as history) and the subsequent Darwinism-meets-Bible hybrid, a Social Darwinism, likewise didn't stand up over the long haul. It has its half life as well. Bringing it back would require breaking the laws of thermodynamics.
That's not to say we're done with humans demonizing other humans (per Romeo and Juliet, Capulets versus Montagues).  We might have speciation on the basis of political party affiliation if things keep going the way they're going (joke).
Maybe before any genetic flip that makes reproduction impossible, there's just a growing antipathy in the sense of demonizing another group. That proclivity to demonize doesn't evaporate just because the racial sense of teams has disbanded. We still have teams.  We still have defectors.  Americans still have a problem with Russians somehow (fanned by years of profitable cashing in on said psychological complex).
I tend to zoom back and say "the human race" so I still use the term "race" myself.  But I don't mean subspecies by it.  I refer to people by their differences too.  That guy with the mustache, that black girl next to that brown girl.  I'm pinkish tan.  Where I was raised, saying "colored people" was discouraged as crassly  illiterate and to this day I hear "people of color" (same word bag) as not a nice thing to say.  But that's just me, I don't go around shushing people or writing to the editors or like that.

I listen to how English (the language) mixes "race" with "competitive running event, or anything involving a competition involving motion" (chess is not a "race" to checkmate, nor are card games "races" -- interesting, English is so buggy, so packed with exceptions).
With humans, I'd happily go with "breed" as a kind of loose Venn diagram on the fly talk, and yak about the NRA breed or the golfer breed or the TV wrestler breed (e.g. Trump). What channels you watch and what brands you buy is more interesting to the monster machine learning algorithms than whether your ancestors were slaves in Imperial Rome (although that could be interesting to discover, I admit). I tend to collapse "subculture" to "cult" for short, to short-circuit all those morally superior holier than thou types who don't regard themselves as cult members (nor ethnocentric in any way).
Remember The Time Machine by H.G. Wells? In that science fiction, racial bifurcation does occur, but not at all along the racial lines (pseudo-eigentypes) as "we the Social Darwinists" think of them. The engineering-savvy, number crunchy subterranean-janitorial Morlocks, split off from the more melodramatic crybaby politician surface dwellers, the Eloi.  Morlocks actually ate Eloi for lunch in the Wells dystopian nightmare.  His War of the Worlds is front & center in Martian Math (a math course I've pilot tested at Reed College). 

You could see it as satire, based around C.P. Snow's great divide (later bridged by American Transcendentalists) but then: Edwin Abbott's Flatland was likewise political satire and people still take it seriously as mathematics (one dimensional beings... hah hah, that's us for sure (hello Marcuse)).
I'm thinking speciation might happen around "wanting to live underwater" i.e. in those future cities where you have to scuba dive to visit friends. I imagine an assortment of gingers, dwarves, albinos, normal people, skiers, mathematicians, autistics (lots of overlap) all joining together to live under the sea, and pretty soon (in geological time) a few mutants sprout lungs that can breath underwater. Like fish! No need for expensive scuba (I used to scuba). Looking back, we can find the gene sequences that made this feature more likely to express in some people, but correlation with our "races" of 2020 was very low. 
It's only with hindsight that we see what the real races were (as you might put it, the proto-species).  We just don't see them today. We don't see the future.
Another species starts off with the Mars venture of 4230 CE. Those people can't return because of the G forces, we already knew that.  Meanwhile, Earth falls silent in 6798 (self nuked or something, the Martians have no way of knowing for sure) and so the Martians live on, but don't look like us after awhile (pretty quickly, like by 90874 given help from genetic engineering).  Some of them have black skin, or Asian features, some have white skin, others green, others orange.  They roll around like pool balls, as they're almost perfectly spherical.  Just kidding, I think...
Just saying: anyone can come up with these pleasant fictions, and the racist taxonomists of Old Europe, spreading their memes by missionary and school teacher to North America, had theirs. They promulgated their stories everywhere (talk about fake news!). We live with the consequences, North Americans among the most dumbed down, yet still struggling to breathe free of such dogmas.
South Africa was really more the laboratory, as it sits on a primarily black continent, so the whites were in no position to get that uppity, unlike here, where uppity whites are allowed to drive cars (just kidding again, a lot of them have been forbidden to drive, based on past violations).
South Africa worked through it and although not problem free, is nothing like the race war snakepit a lot of people were predicting for it.
I've lived in Southern Africa myself in the Kingdom of Lesotho, where my parents took up residence. They were planning to retire there, as Quakers uninterested in supporting the so-called United States (per Medal of Freedom winner, already bankrupt and extinct by the 1980s -- but the crybaby Eloi know nothing, bless their hearts). I'm a big fan of Die Antwoord BTW (punk RSA group, see movie Chappie for context).
Kirby


Rainer Möller said:
Kirby,
I must admit that the theory of evolution (i.e. evolution of new species via racial differentiation) is a mere theory.