Over the weekend I went to game with some friends. In the aftermath, as all were packing up, there was a discussion on christmas. Now, as I understand it, two of my friends think that there are only three reasons to celebrate christmas:
We won't get into my thoughts on this (suffice to say I disagree), except to wonder why said people have a christmas tree in their house. But that's not the point. I went on to say I like Christmas, and was accused of liking it for the commercialism aspect. I replied that no, I consider it a celebration of giving a damn about people, to which she said "Oh, but fuck 'em the rest of the year." Another friend piped up that "yes, that's Michael's basic philosophy." Now, I laughed, but in case you didn't catch it, that was a fake laugh.
Do you people really believe that shit? If so, why in the Nine Hells are you my friends?
I'm equally angry and hurt that I'm reduced to such a characture of my personality by my own friends, especially considering the number of times I've gone out of my way to help people. Has my image changed so damned much? Am I really just an irritable grump to you people?
The thing is, I believed as I do long before Babylon 5 ever premiered. From the beginning, I liked Delenn and her people the best because they were most like me in their philosophies. Everything about Minbari society appealed to me, from the three sectors of their society (Worker, Warrior, and Religious) to their belief in threes, to their basic philosophies, to their rituals. A lot of this is probably because JMS apparently culled much from Eastern philosophies when he created the Minbari. And yeah, it's kind of geeky, but I can't help it.
There's a Dune quote I'm fond of, that says Truth is easy to recognize. It is something that, when you first hear it, causes you to say "This is something I have always known."
Much of what I heard from Delenn was Truth, just as I heard much Truth from Dune. There are those who probably will think less of me because of this. To them I say, "Fuck you." It's no worse than believing the Christian myths, I think. And it isn't like I took my beliefs from the show -- the show just put better words to them than I had previously. So why am I so defensive about it?
The core of the Minbari belief is found in a statement Delenn makes, explaining to Sheridan why they meditate with candles. Now, I've been meditating with candles for 20 years, and though I could have put it into words, I don't have JMS' skill with them, so his is better (and remember, this is metaphorical, not literal -- and this is only the basics):
"We are all born as molecules in the heart of a billion stars; molecules that do not understand politics or policies or differences...
"Over a billion years, we foolish molecules forget who we are, and where we came from. In desperate acts of ego we give ourselves names, fight over lines on maps, and pretend our light is better than everyone else's...
"The flame reminds us of the piece of those stars that lives on inside us, the spark that tells us,'you know better'."
Of course, I also have to say that G'kar's speeches and thoughts also resonated with me really really well.
Anyway... does that make me a total loser?
Of course, your opinions will mean precisely squat in the long run, but I'm still interested.
A stream of conciousness rant from the Mahdi...
I'm not a peacenik.
I'm also not as pacifistic as most of my friends. I believe in fighting for what one believes in, and I don't automatically condemn violence. While I believe violent conflict should be a last resort, I do believe there are some enemies -- be they individuals, countries, or ideas -- which in the end can only be fought with violence.
Watching the situation in Afghanistan develop, I've been at turns saddened, gladdened, and confused.
People say we cannot condemn another's beliefs. Bullshit. We can categorically do so, and I don't find anything wrong with that. Hell, my friends and I do it all the time. I look at hardline fundamentalists, of any religion, and I find their beliefs abhorrent. And while I agree they have the right to believe as they do, that does not cover acting on those beliefs.
Look at it this way -- Fred Phelps and his tribe of inbred misfits believe that God hates gay people, that it is, while illegal, morally alright to kill gays. That is wrong. It should not be allowed to happen, and isn't. Hardline Islamic Fundies believe that America is evil, that we should be destroyed. Fine. But the moment they ACT on those beliefs, that is wrong.
Sure, this applies equally to our own values. But some things are universal. Does anyone reading this deny that all humans deserve equal treatment, that some things are just wrong?
The Taliban (and other fundamentalist Islamic movements) say women are second-class citizens. They cannot be educated, they must obey men at all times, etc. etc. In some places in Africa and the Middle East, women are circumcised -- a painful procedure with no medical value whatsoever. I believe these things are wrong, and more, I believe the rest of us have a moral obligation to stop this kind of cruelty and mistreatment of another human being.
People say "That's their beliefs, we don't have the right to stop them." In my honest opinion, these people are either morons or not thinking clearly. This is the problem with moral relativism and complete openness to opinions. "It's my opinion and you can't refute it" is one of the most absurd concepts in education today. Some opinions are wrong, plain and simple. Yet some would allow anything to happen, so long as it is under another belief system. By that kind of logic, we should have allowed the systematic murder of millions of people by the Nazi regime to go unpunished, women should never have campaigned for suffrage, and most of the planet should still be under British Rule.
Sure, there are peaceful solutions to many of these problems, and I believe they ought to be pursued. But sometimes, there are no other options but to fight, and in such cases, one should fight to the best of his ability and not relent.
A lot of people died in the World Trade Center attacks. And a lot of people have died in the war in Afghanistan. But in the end, perhaps some good has been done. The Taliban is fleeing, the country looks like it shall be handed back to it's people. To quote an article I read today:
In a rickety old blue bus, one women quickly flipped her burqa up over her head. Male residents who were gathering around a group of Northern Alliance soldiers laughed. One young soldier gestured to other women to take off their burqas, the traditional heavy veil mandated by the Taliban.
Most of the women simply watched the soldiers. Some of the women closed the curtains that are on all buses that carry women in Afghanistan. Others simply looked away.
The one who slipped her burqa off quickly put it back on.
Nearby, six women, all in burqas, were going to a wedding. “For now we will leave the burqa on. We don’t know yet who are these people in the city,” said Mariam Jan.
Elsewhere, clean-shaven men rubbed their faces. An old man with a newly trimmed gray beard danced in the street holding a small tape recorder blaring music to his ear.
The Taliban had banned music and ordered men to wear beards.
Do you see what I see? Though there is confusion, and there will doubtless be difficulties ahead, in the end, some good has been accomplished, and if we're careful, will remain.
I was opposed to beginning this war, but now that it has begun, I only hope that, when over, we do not abandon Afghanistan to an uncertain future without helping them face it with pride and with strength.
And yes, I'm aware of the trickiness of these things, that in essence I'm doing the same thing I would accuse the evildoers of doing. And there are degrees, of course. I don't think Communism is ok, but that doesn't mean I'd advocate war to stop it. I don't think Christianity makes any sense at all, but I'm not going to bomb churches. But I do demand that we, as a race, care for our peoples, no matter where they are.
Because if we don't, no one else will.