Sunday, July 14, 2013

Fundamentalists hurrah, tackling everything from tampons to music and dancing...

(Above: the pond stands with Texas women. Follow the blog here, where these images came from, and discover why Texas men fear tampons but not guns).

A friend kindly sent the pond a link to a gobbet that says it all about Rick Perry's Texas, and what's more, says it all in the header:

Because of course tampons are a deadly weapon, while concealed guns are the right of every American.

It got the pond to thinking just how universal fundamentalist conservatives are in their desire to control and repress.

One of the most painful reads the pond has indulged in recently was Jon Lee Anderson's State of Terror for The New Yorker. 

It's behind the paywall, but its sub-header also said it all: What happened when an Al Qaeda affiliate ruled in Mali.

What happened was the country was fucked, hands were chopped off, music and dancing were banned, women and children persecuted (but so were men and the once thriving music industry), and so when they turned up, the general population treated the French as liberators. 

Memories of Calvinist hostility to any form of fun trickled into the pond's brain. Yes, Calvin, the hero of angry Sydney Anglicans was agin dancing, theatre going, card playing, obscene songs, drunkenness, luxurious living and luxurious dressing, with the banning of plays and attempts to introduce religious pamphlets and psalm singing into Geneva's taverns.

He was a classic killjoy, much like angry Sydney Anglicans and fundamentalist Islamics. And a classic killer - witness his insistence on the death penalty for  Michael Servetus, who had harmlessly noted that the Trinity of god was an absurdity. And Geneva was home to a hearty dose of witch-hunting 1542-1546, with some 58 men and women sentenced to death.

Now the past is the past, except if you're a fundamentalist who insists on living in the past and conducting yourself according to the strange rituals and beliefs of ancient fanaticism.

It so happens that there's a handy guide to Calvinist thinking on view in pdf format here.

Let's just see how in synch Calvin and his followers were with the Taliban on the matter of dancing:

It may be instructive to review the anti-dancing campaign of the Geneva reformers. Their opposition to dancing is laid down in the catalogue of vices in the Confession of Faith (1536), Art. 19, and in the Articles (1537). The Draft Ordinances of 1541 include among the vices from which the ministers must be free, "dances and similar dissoluteness: (LCC, 22.61). Among the later proclamations, one (Laws of Geneva, ET, 1643, 29) enjoins the citizens "to haunt and come diligently to the Sermons of the Word of God" and "to live holily and peaceably, to be obedient according to their duties to Magistrates, Fathers, Mothers, Lords and Masters, defending and inhibiting all blasphemy, despising of God and his Ministers, dishonest words, vain songs, drunkenness, dissolutions, excess arrogancy, and insolency, plays or games, idle running from house to house, cut or embroidered hose, chiding, dissensions, fighting or brawling, injuring of others, and all other things not lawful and contrary to the holy word of God and his Commandments and the Acts and Proclamations heretofore made." In the schedule of fines (ibid., p. 36), among other items, is the following: "that no manner person do sing any vain, dishonest, or ribald songs, neither to dance, nor make masques or mummeries, or any disguisings in no manner or sort whatsoever it be, upon pain to be put three days in prison with bread and water and 40s. for every time so offending."

Cut or embroidered hose! Worse than tampons.

And so to Mali, recent past:

Music and television were banned. graven images were destroyed, and men and women were obliged to wear conservative dress. Transgressors were publicly punished with amputation, whipping and stoning. Three hundred thousand people fled.

The banning of music was particularly devastating, given Mali's rich history of music, and Anderson talks to a number of musicians who suffered.  Singer Khaira Arby:

Musicians in the north told her that the jihadis had destroyed their instruments and sent her a message. "They threatened to cut off my tongue...".

Shrines were demolished, document destroyed, memories of ancient cultures blown apart, schools closed.

Like vandals, the Islamists had scrawled graffiti and painted over road signs that showed human and animal images, leaving messy swatches of brown paint. Hair salons, which in Mali advertise their services with portraits of men and women, had also been targeted. There was little electricity, and not much water; the Islamists had also destroyed the city's tele-communications system before they left.

The controlling impulse is the same. Back to Calvin:

Is dancing - providing there be no illicit intercourse - so bad? Calvin stubbornly answers that it is in fact the prelude to such adultery, and both opens the door to, and announces the entrance of Satan (Serm. Dt. 5.18, XCR, 26:340f.; Wallace, Calvin's Doctrine of the Christian Life, 175, n.4). In keeping with his "interiorization" of the Decalogue through the Sermon on the Mount, Calvin's exposition of the Seventh Commandment ((nst. 2.8.41-44), while it does not expressly mention dancing, broadly treats fornication as including, besides the act itself, "the seduction of another's modesty with wanton dress and obscene gestures and foul speech." That dancing remained a topic for preaching to the end of Calvin's life is demonstrated by Serm. 41 on 2 Sam 13.11-14 (1562, Suppl. Calv., 2.363.14f.): "Why do the men wish their wives and daughters to dance? In order that they may be adulteresses and go to perdition and acquire everlasting ignominy." Again in Serm. 80 on 2 Sam. 23.2 (1563, Suppl. Calv. 1.699.45ff.), Calvin contrasts the effect of David's "holy song" and that of the drum and flute, which causes the crowd in their dancing and dissipation to lose control, honor, shame - like "unbridled calves".

Anderson does provide a little ray of hope at the end of his gloomy tale of Mali, telling of a musician, Baba Salah, a guitarist who was once given a guitar by Jackson Browne, and has been playing it ever since:

Onstage, he picked up the guitar and said a few words about how happy he was that the north was free, which drew applause and joyful shouts. Then he and his band began playing. Their music, driven by his guitar, was a looping, riffing, electric sound that evoked the sixties underground yet was distinctly African. Baba Salah's singing was casual, comfortable, and as he launched into the first song people filled the floor to dance.

Now the pond's not much for dancing, but that's more a matter of technique than theology, and at the end of that harrowing read, the pond felt like standing up and dancing like an unbridled calf, dancing defiantly in the face of the Islamic fundies and the Calvinists and all the other god botherers who attempt to make a misery of this life on earth.

Oh but you say, this is all too much, too long a bow, linking Calvin and Islamics and the angry Sydney Anglicans, but truth to tell, they're all infested by and tarnished by their own forms of puritanism.

Of course the Angries claim they're moderate, and that their hero has been unfairly tarnished, with Michael Jensen leading the way:

He is a byword for bigotry cast in the role of the austere, humourless and cruel preacher of an austere, humourless and cruel God. He was held responsible by Max Weber for the rapacity of late capitalism. He is remembered as the persecutor of his opponents, including the hapless heretic Michael Servetus, for whose burning John Calvin is held responsible. Calvinism, the form of Christianity he spawned, allegedly shares its fatalism with Islam. It is a church of prigs and wowsers, of Talibanesque idol-smashers and woman-haters, of middle managers and bean counters. It is a faith that broods on the depravity of humankind rather than celebrating its glorious capacity to build, to create and to redeem. It is the religion of Ned Flanders and the ironically named Reverend Lovejoy. (Decline of John Calvin)

Yes, indeed, because it's true, but the Sydney Anglicans can't get enough of Calvinism, and seek to dress him in modest garb, perhaps a fetching nicely cut black - no embroidered hose please! - so he can appeal:

Calvin was not without flaws, some of them serious. Yet if we are to judge him cruel, we are failing to recognise that he was a man of remarkable moderation in an age of often extreme judicial cruelty. If we are to judge his view of humanity too bleak, we are seriously overestimating our own capacity for moral heroism. If we are to celebrate the waning of his influence, it is quite possibly because we have accepted too lazily the caricature of his critics. As Robinson reminds us: "There are things for which we in this culture clearly are indebted to him, including relatively popular government, the relatively high status of women, the separation of church and state, what remains of universal schooling and, while it lasted, liberal higher education, education in the humanities. How easily we forget."

Indeed, how easily we forget that Calvin locked up dancers in clink, and so did the Islamists when they had the chance, and so the war on fundamentalism and its apologists and fellow-travellers must continue.

On an upnote, the Jensenist heresy sees another farewell noted this Sunday - Phillip Jensen scribbling  Retirements and Beginnings - but remember, the man who took over at Moore College, Mark Thompson, was responsible for "Engaging with Calvin", and the Sydney Anglicans are still busy engaging with African Anglicans intent on making life on earth a living hell for African gays ...

Not that they're the only ones that are trying to make Africa a living hell.

The second most depressing read the pond had this week also came in The New Yorker, with Patrick Radden Keefe's Buried Secrets, How an Israeli billionaire wrestled control of of Africa's biggest prizes (hurry, outside the paywall at the moment).

The next big looting of Africa has begun, and the Calvinists are small beer in the looting, though not if you're gay or a woman, and it got harder to dance reading President Condé musing "How can we be so rich and yet so poor?"

Perhaps because the fundamentalists look at the trees, and all they can see is the need for fig leafs scattered over gays, women, dancing and music, while the rich make out like bandits ...

But try as they might, it's hard to ban laughter, and so the YouTube poster below refused requests to take down what surely must be the zillionth re-working of this riff, featuring at last our very own Sydney Anglicans ...

(Below: thanks to Calamity Jane for reminding the pond how weird the world of the splitters and the feuders and the schemers is).


  1. The Calvinists might not get to enjoy a roast heretic anymore, but they still get their kicks from making life miserable for the most vulnerable of the reprobates. Not content with defending their right to refuse nursing home beds to gay or lesbian elderly, or refuse employment to clerks and gardeners because they are gay or lesbian, they are now indignant at the possibility that they may no longer be able hold the threat of expulsion over the heads of gay or lesbian school students. You should check out Michael Jensen’s slimy attempt to try and defend this on Twitter (8 July).

    I would have said that they are an irredeemably evil bunch until I read this wonderful post on the Angries’ tech specialist’s site. Follow the links, this man really knows how to love!

  2. Great links Brian. Clearly the NSA needs some angry Anglican advice on how to track heretics, and as for Michael Jensen trying to defend the indefensible, isn't that his daily task?

  3. Dorothy, the French as liberators in Mali? Accomplished only with heavy US material, intelligence, and drone support. Al Qaeda and/or affiliate? Well, sure, just everything is down to that. There's nothing at all to do with US State and/or affiliate business interests, nor their affiliated State's interests. Nothing to do with certain states and/or their affiliates desperate engagement in currency war. Nothing to do with rich new Mali gold mines production being exported to China. Not at all, clearly just white hats sticking it to black hats in the wild west... of Africa. I agree that anything freeing up the wonderful people and culture, the enjoyment of dance and music in Mali is a good thing, however incidental that may be to the box office aim of the b-grade wild west actors.
    (Music from Mali? )

  4. And so to an Israeli billionaire black hatter. Focus on a lone outlier wolf not on the packs of wolves circling to get themselves some of what he's having. Myopic focus narrowed surely by added manifest destiny blinkers, skewed by an 'american' exceptionalism in truth, justice, and of the 'american' way!

    The US now obtains more oil from Africa than the Gulf, don't focus on how.

    The business of the US state and the various agencies and clients mentioned by Keefe is boosting business: their business. Keefe makes them and their affiliates out to be yet again white hats in the wild west... of Africa. We're supposed to believe, based on much innuendo and admittedly no proof that's likely to stand, that they're hunting an outlaw who even had the gall to beat Rio Tinto by their own rules on their own turf in a show down. Poor Rio Tinto was done wrong, crikey a whole poor nice country was done wrong by black hats, but not to worry the white hat cavalry are riding to the rescue. Sure they're riding out to help, only just watch them help themselves.

    There is yet another African rush on by all and sundry to hold any and all the resources in Africa. There is a huge foreign land grab on. One-eyed, somewhat vision impaired Anderson, Keefe, and the New Yorker won't let you see that as the curtain closes on their matinee feature before the credits finish rolling and yankee doodle continues playing not so softly to the end.

    The charming New Yorker wouldn't (nor likewise would have that old CIA front the Reader's Digest), but a yank in the Guardian, Glen Greenwald, wrote a par recently about another matter which also pretty much sums things up here: "...just incidentally, the notion that a government that has spent the last decade invading, bombing, torturing, rendering, kidnapping, imprisoning without charges, droning, partnering with the worst dictators and murderers, and targeting its own citizens for assassination would be above such conduct is charmingly quaint." check Monbiot's linked references, check the wording of the statements and framework agreements - he's correct again.

  5. Look Anon, the pond doesn't mind if someone wants to defend the Taliban and fundamentalist Islamics and their psychotic behaviour towards the people they repress, but you won't find the pond arguing for the right for them to fuck over Mali or Afghanistan, just as you won't find the pond arguing for any other kind of religious fundamentalism.

    You can cite all the references you like, but in the pond's eyes, it's a very simple discussion. Fundamentalist islamics are fucked in the head, short and simple, n'est ce pas? They do no good to the cause of the people, or the right of the people to get wealthy from their resources, no good at all ...

  6. DP, it's simpler and shorter still: fundamentalists are fucked in the head.

    There was no such alleged defence of these fuckheads made, rather a mere attempt to counter the New Yorker's articles logical fallacies such as "appeal to emotion", so like the good old Readers' Digest spin appropriately read on the dunny as a boy, and to possibly widen the perspective on who benefits by following the money. The New Yorker white hat front ain't so clean, and they want more African dirt for themselves too - much more. The victims in both articles are their foil. If they get any proper share of the wealth of their respective countries out of it I'll eat my hat.


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