Movie thoughts:The Kill Team

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2732932/

For who is unfamiliar with the name The Kill Team – we are, after all, not all American citizens -: it was given to themselves by a group of soldiers that were active in Afghanistan around 2010 and subsequently the name was taken over and spread by the media when these men were accused, arrested and convicted for crimes including pre-meditated murder during an incident known as the Maywand District murders(Maywand_District_murders)

The scene is set up well as we are introduced to the setting -Afghanistan in the first decade of the 21st century – then given some background on the soldiers in general and finally shift to the handful of individual soldiers that are the subjects of the documentary.

Screenshot - 3_20_2016 , 11_13_11 AM

In particular The Kill Team follows Adam Winfield, who had attempted to alert the army of The Kill Team’s existence prior to the Maywand incident. The actual whistle blower however was Justin Stoner. We should remind ourselves not to confuse Winfield with Stoner. The first made an attempt to alert the army, did not succeed, and then did not stop the murders from occurring. He was thus sentenced to prison and got an dishonorable discharge. Stoner did notify the army and thus the investigation was started on his instigation. He was dismissed with honorable discharge. I want to mention this because at first it seemed as if the whistle blower got punished for doing his duty.

Screenshot - 3_20_2016 , 12_00_35 PM.png

The documentary does an excellent job of portraying Winfield and his parents as they struggle with what he has become. We even get a moment where he cries over what has happened and tells us at one point that he once planned his own suicide. We get an in-depth view of the anguish of a man who knew what happened was wrong, what others did was wrong, what he did was wrong and did not stop it, mostly because he was unable to. It was a truly sad thing.

Screenshot - 3_20_2016 , 11_12_49 AM.png

But when the documentary wraps it up it feels like something is missing. In fact, besides the interviews and some spurious remarks about what happened to the key people involved, there is nothing that is lifted above the level of personal drama. Isn’t there a bigger picture?

Stoner sums it up at the end: Your job is to kill.You’re infantry.[] Well, why the hell are you pissed off when we do it?

And here the documentary fails. If soldiers are taught to kill and just kill regardless is that what we want them to do? And if we don’t, how come they do things that we don’t want them to do?
Would that not be a valid question to ask, explore and answer?

Here is a few quotes that gives us a startling insight in the armies way of thinking(see the wikipedia):

“Colonel Harry Tunnell’s (of the 5th Stryker Brigade) “inattentiveness to administrative matters … may have helped create an environment in which misconduct could occur.”

and

“The brigade, was reported to be “rife with lapses of discipline, misdirection and mixed signals about its mission.”

and

“As an Army, we are troubled that any soldier would lose his ‘moral compass’ as one soldier said during his trial.”

Does it mean that soldiers get bad when their commanders allow them to go bad? Is losing your moral compass the expected behavior when a lack of proper discipline releases a soldier from the leash that his superior keeps him in check with? Like a dog?
Does morality come with rank? And has a general more morality than a private?
Is that how we see people?

But if that explains it, why were those soldiers punished at all? I mean, without their commanders keeping them on the right track, they are bound to go off in the deep end as the reports seem to suggest. They lost their moral compass.Can’t they plead insanity(as in A time to kill) or perhaps a sufficient lack of amorality?

The kill team is a well made documentary but also one that leaves something to be desired. The documentary doesn’t spent much time on the bigger picture and keeps the camera focused on the personal drama of a few individuals, which makes for a gripping tale, but not much more and that is a pity. It would have been a lot stronger if it they had asked themselves: why did this come about? It tells you the who, the what, the how but does not address the why.

Sources:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2732932/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maywand_District_murders
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Kill_Team

 

Safety is security is silence…Shut up & Inside.

the-enemy-listens-3

On my work we suddenly got a sign at the entry that camera’s were about watching the premises. Inside another sigh had been added stating that all the items were marked, either visible an invisible. The we got a notice that company resources were only meant for the use of company purposes. So I made this sign as these warnings reminded me of the enemy listens. The enemy being you.. or them.

Here is another one:

the-enemy-listens-4
Inside

 

Relay for life 2015: The future of your money.

why-we-don't-do-relay-for-l

This year the American Cancer Society(ACS) organizes another Relay For Life(RFL) charity event in Second Life. The impact of this event can be estimated from their site: “As of July 2014 RFL of SL ranks number 17th out of 5000 teams worldwide in donations receive.We have brought in over 2 million US dollars to help with the fight against cancer.”

17th out of 5000. That is no mean event!

I ran into the Relay For Life charity some years ago and still recall the event vividly. I was confronted by a donation stand near a castle named Camelot and a big star spangled banner was waving in front of the home of the British king Arthur.Was this over-sized flag signalling something?

I became curious and looked for information. It soon became evident that it was an event specifically organized by the American Cancer Society for their own benefit. Indeed. All the money that is gathered world wide is used to financing activities of this All-to-American organization.

Nothing wrong with that you might say? If it is used for a good cause which eventually benefits the whole world, why would you be against it?
Actually, there is nothing wrong if they were upfront about it.
But for a long time they were pretty secretive about it and they still are.
But at least the are now more open about who is behind RLF as compared to last year:

For 100 years, the American Cancer Society has been working to create a world with less cancer and more birthdays. Together with our millions of supporters, the American Cancer Society (ACS) saves lives by helping people stay well and get well, by finding cures, and by fighting back. The American Cancer Society is a nationwide, community-based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem. The American Cancer Society is a nationwide, community-based, voluntary health, and international organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives, and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy, and service.

So from this statement we gather that the ACS is both a nationwide organization and an international organization. Which would stand to reason considering that  Second Life is a global community and as of July 2014 RFL of SL ranks number 17th out of 5000 teams worldwide. It means that part of that money raised comes from the world and it would be a sad thing if all that money was just used to benefit one nation.
So does it?
Have you checked?
I bet you didn’t.
Actually the ACS is an American organization that is bound by American laws and their grants are exclusively focused on funding US based research. You can look it up for yourself on their website. Not one grant is given to a foreign university. Hence all research is done in the US within the restrictions of the US laws. And that will probably also apply to sharing research data, if they even posses such data, as they mostly finance research.
This doesn’t mean the ACS exclusively focuses on the US. It does provide information and help within the limits of the  laws as they show on their website. But all of that help is of an informational nature and aimed at those countries that are on the friends list of the US.

But what happens to countries that are not on the friends list? Have you checked if your country is?

It would be fair if the ACS was honest about what they do with the money they raise and make explicit who benefits and who doesn’t. Now it seems to me that they invest non US money in US based research which they will only provide to your country if they are allowed by law.
And this is just about research. How about all the community programs that are solely based on the US  and the world raises money for?

If you decide to fund Relay For Life as a world citizen or a foreigner you might never see any direct benefit from it. Perhaps it would be better to give your money to your local cancer organization or. preferably, to a truly international one.
Perhaps if the ACS pays attention to rest of the world it might become a true world leader. It seems that being transparent and open about it would be the first step.

But even as an American you might think twice before donating to the ACS. Their president makes a whopping 2 million a year… which is about the amount of money relay for life in SL raised in 2014. You could say SL paid his wages.
And the ACS seems to have dubious ties with companies, which seem to influence their policies.  More criticism can be found in links below.

relay-1

ACS & Relay for Life

http://www.cancer.org/
http://relayforlifeofsecondlife.org/

Charity status

https://www.charitywatch.org/top-charity-salaries
http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=6495#.VOjbpfnF-So

Critical articles
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/05/24/american-cancer-society–more-interested-in-wealth-than-health.aspx
http://www.preventcancer.com/losing/acs/wealthiest_links.htm

http://tobaccoanalysis.blogspot.nl/2014/04/american-cancer-society-sells-out-its.html

What’s on Molyneux’s mind?

Criticizing the  Bible is all to easy.
It might be  a good motivation to write for some, but I don’t find  it interesting by itself. Therefore I am rewriting a post  that I had in the make about the bible, as I want to focus on storytelling and narrative instead of what a colleague of mine called bible thumping. My aim is to try and learn about storytelling and narratives and the bible, being a source and inspiration for many (tall) tales, would be a great book to use as an angle. Perhaps too great.
A few weeks ago I started to do the rework and I decided to start You Tube because I usually have some music or documentary in the background when working on something. When it started, You Tube offers suggestions and one of these was a movie called: the end of the world.I looked at the link.
It was a podcast by Stefan Molyneux.
I did not want to watch because he upsets me, but I also wanted to give the man a fair chance.  I thought: perhaps I am biased, so let’s hear what he has to say.
He managed to annoy from the get go.
The next line is not exactly the first sentence of the podcast, but it is close and it is the sentence that sets the tone for the rest of his forty minutes podcast:

“It is hard for me[]to think of a group or a culture or a country with really divergent cultures that gets along hunky dory and integrates[].. You got Ireland, you got Kosovo and you got various places in Africa with tribal warfare. You have racial gangs in prison.”
(Stefan Molyneux, The end of the World. 12  seconds into the podcast)

And Molyneux is pretty honest about himself: he has a hard time to think. So let’s help him think:

1  Wine and water mix!

Imagine Stefan walking on a sandy beach on a balmy summer morning. The weather is pleasant so he walks barefooted into the surf. Then his big toe bumps into something. It is a flask filled with a red fluid and he picks it up. From the shape of the flask and the cork he figures that is must be wine.. He tries to pull out the cork, and with a hard twist he succeeds, but then the flask escapes his grasp and falls into the sea. He quickly grabs for it, but the waves toss the flask around and he pushes it under the water several times before he can retrieve it from the sea. Once he has the flask he tries to drink from it. But he spits out the fluid, for all he tastes is the sea water. And Stefan wonders: where is the wine?

Stefan, cultures tend to mix. If you are trying to find really divergent cultures that work together you will have hard time to find them because cultures tend to influence each other and mix and eventually flow together. It is like stating that you can not find a bottle containing a separate part of wine and a separate part of water.  You can’t Stefan, because they mix. And the sea contains a lot of salt water.. and the wine in the flask is just a tiny drop in the ocean. That is why you no longer taste it. Just so you know the next time you have a hard time thinking.

2  Sea Water is not wine!

Stefan takes his wine flask containing the seawater to a barman down the beach. He shows the flask to the barman and asks: “Is this a wine flask?”
The barman – an expert in his business – takes a close look and then nods; “That it is indeed a wine-flask. I would say – reading from the label – that it is a Pinot Noir.” (He is that good).
“Then,” Stefan concludes, “it is wine!” And Stefan takes a big swig from the flask and then spits it out again for the fluid inside still tastes like salt water.
“Sir…seawater is seawater regardless of the container that holds it,” The barman says with a suppressed smile, “seawater won’t become wine simply because a wine flask holds it!”

See Stefan, If a really divergent culture is defined as a culture that cannot abide another culture then you just made a watertight but pointless premise. For if it does tolerate another culture.. it isn’t really divergent.  And voila.. the logic is inescapable. Seawater is seawater not matter what and if it is not seawater.. it’s not seawater. Brilliant! And pointless.

3 Removing sea water from a wine flask does not make the wine appear.

“Then, ” Stefan says, “I get rid of the salt water!”  And Stefan turns the wine flask upside down and lets the water run away.
He then takes another drink, but after a moment he puts down the bottle and says, “Where is the wine?”
And the barman says, “But Stefan, removing the seawater does not make the wine appear. It just makes for an empty flask.”
“I see, ” Stefan says, “I guess I wasn’t thinking.”

Stefan, what examples do you come up with? Ireland, Kosovo and some African countries.
Let’s pick Ireland.  You mean Northern Ireland. Are we talking about really divergent cultures here? Really Stefan? Are the parties involved so really divergent culturally that it explains the conflict? Then allow me to give an example of some ‘really divergent’ cultures that do work together as you have a hard time of thinking of them.
One is called the European Union. You remember those world wars that started in Europe?  The Union exists also to avoid a war between such ‘really divergent’ cultures as say: France(mostly catholic) and Germany(mostly protestant).
You think the European Union is not a good example(and I bet you do)? Then let’s have a look at my country, the Netherlands: partly protestant, partly catholic and even partly non christian. I can not recall the last time Dutch protestants were blowing up  Dutch Catholics here.. perhaps you should remind me?  But if you are about to make your case anyway.. perhaps you could explain how it can be that the Frisians aren’t killing the rest of us, because they are defined as having their own culture and if they aren’t ‘really divergent’ culturally from the rest of the country, then I wouldn’t know who would be ‘really divergent’ culturally.
Oh wait.. not a good example either? Then your Ireland example isn’t one either. Or would you claim that the parties that oppose each-other in Northern Ireland are more divergent culturally than the Catholics and the protestants are in the Netherlands? Or the Frisians from the rest of the country?  Or France from Germany, countries that speak different languages and have their own centuries old literature?
Of course you would. The latter are not really divergent culturally because they don’t kill each other, but those in Northern Ireland are because they did once kill one another. Hence your premise remains true no matter what. If they kill people it is because they are really divergent, if they don’t, the culture isn’t really divergent.
Perhaps you might not be aware of the fact that a fragile peace exists in Northern Ireland since 2001. Maybe you forgot? You should look it up:  the troubles.
But even if they start killing each other in abundance, you should be aware that the majority of all these people live together without killing each other. Yes Stefan.. people are not so hell bend on violence as you deem them to be.

4 Are there traces of divergent cultures living together?

Well, point 1 and 2 makes it hard to find them, but let’s have a look at the biggest melting pot in the history of the world: the US of A. You know that country next to yours? If you take a look at the history of the United States you will find people and groups from diverse cultures and backgrounds work and live together without trying to blow each-other up. But then these are not really divergent cultures because they are not killing each other. Except for the gangs in prison of course, those are really divergent cultures because they kill people(mostly among their own kind of people(gangs).. so how would that fit in your picture?), while those not in prison and not killing each other are not really divergent. A water tight case: if they kill people they are really divergent, if they do not kill others, they are not.

Stefan, we are all living in various social constructions were various cultures live together. And perhaps you might have forgotten that we all live on a one planet with seven billion people of which most are not blowing up other people. Perhaps you should not only focus on the items that are in the head lines or on the front pages. These are by nature sensational and usually limited in background information. Just repeating them without thinking makes you look shallow.

But it doesn’t really matter does it?

It doesn’t, because the statement is just an angle to argue your case against state(and family and women). It is a rhetorical device. Like Cato used. You know Cato? I bet you do. And if not: you should look him up. He used the tactic you use: repeating the same thing over and over regardless of  whether it was appropriate to what was talked about:
Carthago must be destroyed.
Carthago must be destroyed!
CARTHAGO MUST BE DESTROYED!
And that is what you do: repeat the same thing over and over regardless of context or logic: the state must be destroyed!
For the state sucks! And it sucks because you claim that taxes are blackmail and gets used to line the pockets of  the parasites that use the state to enrich themselves and who mismanage everything and hinder progress.  And that is why the state should go: so you don’t need to pay them taxes. For you hate taxes. Yeah, for paying taxes sucks! Get over it.

Ceci n’est pas un prohète

https://flic.kr/p/pMo2zQ

Ceci n’est pas un prohète
It is hard not to say something…

One cannot stay silent in a world where silence is demanded by thugs with delude minds and possibly a well founded grudge against the world they lived in.

Islam plays undeniably a part in the Charlie Hebdo atrocities, but at the same time the marginalization, the disenfranchising of youth of alien descent seems to be something we all should be aware of.

Veleda Lorakeet.

I am no atheist!

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Some days ago I lost a post I was writing about ‘my’ atheism.  Strangely enough it was a wordpress article and normally wordpress saves your work, but I can’t find the post. I did find the picture I uploaded.  Perhaps I lost the post when I turned of the computer while traditionally ignoring all the warning signs that pop up on the screen when doing so. Seems you can’t shutdown your pc anymore without warning signs and alerts popping up all over in such abundance that you ignore them.

Because I put a lot of effort into it I felt spent, so I probably wouldn’t have written this it if I hadn’t been watching a video made by Logicked(see below: the relevant passage is at 16:00).

Logicked is the identity for someone who says of himself: (I am an) Atheist / anti-creationist “debunking entertainment” videos with a top hat.
At some point in the video he tells that he was not raised with religion and this struck a cord with me as I can’t actually recall to have grown up with religion either. My parents had grown up with ‘religion’. She come from a group called Nederduits Hervormd(impossible to translate well but here we go: Lowergerman reformed)My mother told me once that her parents were looked down upon by some distant family members because they were related(they were nephew and niece), which according to those family members wasn’t allowed according to the bible(figure that for a book that has incest at the core of it’s writing). My father’s parents were vaguely catholic. I can’t recall my grandparents ever mentioning church or going to church.
My father was the most dominant of my parents by far, and a firm believer in science, so he ‘acquired’ books from the then popular Timelife series. This covered an extensive range of subjects in history, art and science and geography. He also liked science fiction novels and had a subscription on a popular science monthly. I always got the feeling that he wanted to give his children all the advantages he never got. I think he was very proud when I got my masters in history. It is all conjecture on my part, for my father died suddenly, so I never got around to ask about these things.
Religion was for me something on par with Tolkien and the Norse gods. I name these in one sentence because the time life series had a book called the early middle ages, basically the period of 400 to around 1200, which was mostly about the vikings and early England. It is that time in which the legends of Arthur are set. It has some very beautiful pictures in it. I don’t have those pictures of course, but here are a view similar ones I found on the internet.

Germanic_bracteate_from_Funen,_Denmark_(DR_BR42) copy
Germanic Bracteate
nordic art
Nordic carving
c78d661a2e50128513b6e391d8c23cc8
Coast line in scandanavia(not sure where)


For me these pictures speak of a vibrant society.
It might be one of the reason I like to make landscapes like these:

Book of summer
Book of summer(an inspired bit of nonsense I made on Veleda’s sim).

Religion was only talked about in our family in the way people talk about dwarves or orcs. Or, perhaps, like in role play games, where you have to pick a god as a trait, such as other people like to collect stamps.
Later on I joined the young humanists, not out of a conscious act against religion, but simply because I had a friend who invited me to join. Again, religion never played a part, nor did we ever think of religion as being a valid source of ideals that could only be supplied by religion.
When I went to university to study history, I did get to study religion, or to be more specific, Christianity, but it was like reading about the Scandinavian Gods(Hence the picture at the top). Some kind of religion that once held sway but has no relevance in our world. Of course there were people who killed in the name of religion, but these were to me nutcases belonging to a very small minority.
It is therefore that I don’t feel like an atheist even though other people might describe me as such. For me atheist supposes  that there is something valid to differ from, but in my world there was never something else. Besides, I don’t like be part of a group by default. I fact I have problems with belonging to groups regardless.
So I never felt like an atheist simply because religion(or perhaps I ought to say theism(which Is not the same I know)) is something I wasn’t  much aware of in my day to day life. Perhaps there were people who believed one thing or another, but probably my world is mostly populated with secular people or people who see religion as something personal.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered the state of affairs in the United States. I actually started to find this out via Steve Shives, who  posted a video about five stupid things about Ayn Rand(a proponent of way of thinking that has led to some very objectionable ideas).  From Ayn Rand we got to Ayn Rand and Jesus and then from Jesus to the Logicked.

So we get from I an no atheist to I am one.

Damm, how do I hate to admit that.

—-

Logicked on himself(https://www.youtube.com/user/logicked/about).
Logicked: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J91d9hBisMg).
Steve Shives on Ayn Rand(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0CyunRUJmc).
Steve Shives on Ayn Rand and Jesus(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IeRAnNvyk5c).
Steve Shives on Jesus(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FLEnBK7s7o).

Sucker Punch, Tacitus, atheism and Orwell

” If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

I don’t like quotes like these, because it feels like mindless repeating something that someone else has thought off and is probably quoted out of context anyway.. I heard  this quote when I watched the movie Sucker Punch, just to give you an idea of the context..
Sucker Punch is a curious movie. On the face it seems to be an over-the-top action movie filled with scanty dressed women who are facing various diverse unrealistic situations such as world war I with zombie Germans and so on.. The whole is tied together by a double layered story. The first layer is the ‘real’ world in which the main character is locked up in a psychiatric hospital. She fantasizes to escape her dreary environment and impending doom(being lobotomized). The next layer has her and her other inmates being held by a sleazy guy who acts like a pimp and the environment has a definite vintage feel. It is the layer in which she escaped to the next world.
Sucker Punch has not been received well and I think I can make case  that this has much to do with the pretty women dressed in fetish outfits and the over the top action scenes. It is too flashy and too sexy to look like a profound movie and as such it isn’t.  And that is ironic. Perhaps more quotes would have helped, even if these quotes are totally out of context such as the quote above. And as the case may be: quoting things out of context and cherry picking is a well established practice.

The quote made me also think of an issue I have been struggling with these last few months. I have been watching a lot discussions surrounding atheism on you tube. Atheism can be described as a rejection of the claim that a god(or gods) exists on the ground that there is not enough proof to think otherwise.  In the western world this discussion focuses mainly on the god of the Christians because that god is culturally tied to those areas.

In the Netherlands(my native country) there are almost no discussions surrounding atheism and as far as I can tell nobody takes exception when you say you are an atheist. Perhaps it might lead to an exchange of views, that eventually ends with stand off, but nothing more.
In the US and on You Tube however the discussion is on. There are good reasons for that.  In the US the obvious conflict is the one between fundamental Christians, spearheaded by creationist and apologists, and the atheists. But it isn’t just a fight between ‘extremes’ but one that has a profound influence on our world and thus affects us all. The well funded extreme Christian basically denounce anyone who oppose their claims and want any other claims suppressed. And this is scary because the US is the most powerful nation in the world both economically and military and also very influential in many other areas. A right winged extreme Christian United States is no blessing too the world.

An example of a group of people that are seen as enemies of the faith are those scientists who hold views that are contrary to the views held by extreme Christians. If their scientific investigations do not match with the Christian claims  or even contradict them then science has to take a backseat and adapt to fit the Chritian. claim. Such extreme views are propagated by the likes of a Sye ten Bruggencate.
An example is a passage from the works of the Roman historian Tacitus. When describing the burning of Roman in 64 AD he tells us that the emperor Nero shifted the blame to a group of people called Christians by the populace.. He then tells that the name Christians comes from a man called Christ who has been killed on orders of Pilate during the reign of Tiberius.  More about this can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tacitus_on_Christ
This is the only passage on Christians and Christ that exist in the extant works of Tacitus. It is often pointed to as proof of Christs existence. The whole issue comes down to the interpretation of this sentence: Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus,[]
Either this sentence builds upon the previous sentence in which Tacitus says that the name Christians is a name given to these people by the populace.. and then what is said about Christ is also derived from that source(whatever the value of such a source) or this sentence does not build upon the previous one and is one that stands on its own: this is what I Tacitus have found about about Christs(from other sources than mere hearsay). As you might have gathered, even the best of ancient writers do not out of habit mention their sources.

Whatever viewpoint is  the most valid one is very much in dispute, but one thing can be said for sure: this passage is not undisputed proof for the existence of Christ for the passage inself is disputed.
But extremist Christians still keep submitting that Tacitus offers precisely that: undisputed proof for the existence of Christ.

In the US the conflict is taken to the classroom where intelligent design is pushed as valid alternative scientific idea next to ideas such as evolution. These attempts have often failed, so an alternative strategy is develop: remove disliked theories such as evolution from the classroom.
And here we touch a profound  pattern. This is no longer about a conflict over opposing ideas,. this touched on  the progress of humanity. Evolution is not the only view that collides with intelligent design and creationism. Ideas about how the universe and life evolved contradict extremist views and eventually any critical thinking will. So when evolution is removed, this will be just the first of ideas that will be removed, because evolution isn’t a stand alone idea, it is part of a bigger picture, remove one and you need to remove the next . And then the next will follow. And the next. And the next. Until nothing remains.
But these are the idea that are born from critical thinking and eventually critical think will need to go. But it  this same critical thinking that underpins progress and inventions.  Without critical thinking there would be no internet or mobile phones or cars or advanced medicines or science.
Critical thinking, out of the box thinking, qualities that are so readily demanded from applicants by companies and institutions alike, have to be suppressed to make the world match with  extreme Christian concepts .And so we are now entering Orwells world of 1984 where history is rewritten to match the current state of affairs between the superpowers, because suggesting that it might have been changed is to suggest that ‘Big Brother’ has changed his mind, which suggest that he might have been in error. And ‘Big Brother’ does not make errors. The world will be eternally frozen into the now.. there will be no past and no future. There will be no progress.

I have often seen these discussions about atheism as fringe discussions,  interesting only to inhabitants of the United States and not ‘us’  Europeans. In addition I do not always like the methods and arguments of those that fight Christian fundamentalism. But the fact is that they, atheist, sceptics, scientists, artist and anyone else who are not liked by extreme Christians) are actually fighting for something that we accept as normal and we are not helping them.  They are up against some pretty powerful well funded organisations that do not hesitate to stoop to lies, deceit and manipulation to advance their agendas, and which will include an attempt to brainwash the next generation in thinking that the bible is the only proper source of knowledge and truth. And although  I don’t feel on any level qualified to join the discussion, I can at least report on it.. for even writing about it will be contrary to those who like to drag humanity down into ignorance.

So more posts will follow…

 ” If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” might seem to be a reason to take a stand on something. But as a matter of fact, if you do stand for something it doesn’t mean you are doing better than those that stand for nothing. Fundamentalist stand for something.. and see what that leads to.

“Gott mit uns”(God with us)

Grand-Guignol-Gott_mit_uns-1928
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Grand-Guignol-Gott_mit_uns-1928.jpg

I can’t help it to  write this post. I resisted several times and I even have a complete rant hidden as post someplace that addresses this issue, but I decided against posting it.

But now it happened again!

“What is the issue?,” you might ask.

It is the use of the “Gott mit uns” argument.

The “Gott mit uns” argument usually pops up in discussions between atheists and theists. It is an extension of Godwin’s law: the longer a discussion on the internet last, the higher the chance that Hitler or Nazis will be mentioned.  And Hitler is a hot button.

The argument comes down to this: and the Germans(or the German army) under Hitler used “Gott mit uns” on their belt buckles(which means that he supported Christianity or was a Christian, but certainly not an atheist) In an slightly less charged discussion it might also mean: for any argument you have that he is an atheist(and therefore by association atheists are evil) we have an argument that he is a Christian(and therefore by association they are evil).

I have heard Matt Dillahunty use this example twice(once in his debate with Father Jacobse and once on the ACA podcast) and now I hear it repeated by Jacquelyn Glenn(1).

I think they usually have good arguments, but I would like people to stop using this argument because it speaks of a lack of knowledge of history of Germany, Hitler and the Second world war and therefore illustrates a lack of insight. And here is the reason why.

“Gott mit uns’ was a slogan displayed on the buckle of the privates and soldiers of the regular German army( and not on that of the SS for instance, who used: Meine  Ehre heisst treue: my honor is loyalty).  The slogan was used by the Germans under the Empire(1870-1918), during the Weimar Republic(1918-1934) and even by Prussia before the German unification.  In other words, it wasn’t implemented as part of a conscious decision by Hitler but part of a tradition of the German and Prussian army(2)
Now you might say, by not removing it, he supported it, but this speaks of a lack of knowledge of German history. For one when Hitler went on his program of rearmament in 1933 he needed the German army to make it happen. In addition Hitler came to power through a series of power deals, most specifically with the conservatives which were well linked with the German army, industry and with the churches. In addition, Hitler did not attain full dictatorial powers until after after the burning of the Reichstag, the death of von Hindenburg, the president of Germany and one of the leading exponents of the Germany army, and the elimination of the SA.  And those who are informed about the German army, know Hitler did not acquire full nominal control of the German army until the removal of von Blomberg in 1938(3).
We basically have no idea what Hitler’s vision was on the buckle. You could claim he supported Christianity because of it, but you could equally state that he was against it because the SS had a different slogan. Against the latter views speaks for that the SS slogan was not introduced by Hitler, but by Himmler and the SS had nothing to do with the army, even though the waffen-ss became a rival of the army during the war.

I hope that the above will convince people to be cautious when using the argument that the belt buckles of the German soldiers say anything about Hitler’s religious convictions. It is a small point, but it makes me cringe every time when I hear people refer to it as if it is a proof in one way or another.

(1)


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbtDQYAk09Y#t=387

(2)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gott_mit_uns
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meine_Ehre_hei%C3%9Ft_Treue
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schutzstaffel

(3)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Werner_von_Blomberg,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolf_Hitler’s_rise_to_power
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_von_Hindenburg
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sturmabteilung
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_re-armament

Relay for life: raising funds worldwide for the fight against cancer..


“Join thousands of Second Life Residents from all across the real globe as they rally today and Sunday for the 10th Relay Weekend of Relay For Life of Second Life.”

(Text from the Relay For Life of Second Life website)

relay-2
Relay For Life welcome center and landing spot. Many flags for many countries. The wiki says that avatars from over 80 real life countries took part in 2011.

When I logged on to Second Life today my viewer told me that perhaps the biggest annual event of second life  was happening.   It was the Relay For Life fundraising event, and it was not only for today: it had been going on for the whole weekend. But those who are regular visitors of Second Life will know that  the fund raising for Relay For Life has not limited itself to this weekend alone. Indeed  this weekend is just this year’s climax in a fund raising campaign that has been going on for many months and probably will never see a definite end. Relay For Life is almost unavoidable and unstoppable as more and more people, organisations and places from all around the globe pitch in to raise money.  I am told by the Relay For Life wiki  that last year no less than 40 sims  took part in this event and almost 400.000 US dollars was raised. An astounding figure, certainly for Second Life.

Relay for life: Knights of Avalon.

The first time I became  consciously aware of Relay For Life was two years ago. I still have the picture of the moment, which is dated 27 July 2012. I found myself on one of my infrequent exploration trips and ran into a place that was called Camelot (I think) and it was the home of the Knights of Avalon. The picture shows a  flag of the United State in front of the castle(I think there were a few more off picture) .  Near the flag there was a Relay For Life donation stand. I was somewhat perplexed to see this rather huge American flag sticking out right in front of what was supposed to be castle from an English legend. It seemed that the owner(s) wanted to make sure that there was no mistake about their nationality. Indeed, it could be that visitors might take them to be English or perhaps  even French.  Perish the idea, they must have thought.  So the flag was put there to leave no doubt.

My thoughts now turned to Relay For Life  stand. I had heard of Relay For Life . It was a fundraising event against cancer. I had taken this to be a global event organised by a global organisation as it was held throughout Second Life. But would such an event get a stand at a place of which the owner(s) were at pains to make sure there would be no mistake about their  American origins? I somehow doubted that.  So I thought at the time and I have to laugh now.  Of course there was  another possible explanation: the flag was put there because of liberation day, which is on the 4th of July and not so much as expression of patriotism(which is, so I am given to understand, different from nationalism).

However it made me curious about Relay For Life, as it was unclear from the stand who was actually behind this event. Who are we giving money to? Luckily it wasn’t hard to find. Relay For Life is organised by the American Cancer Society(ACS). So the donation stand and the flag did go together in a way.

Did this mean that people from all over the world were in fact fundraising for a national organisation instead of a global organisation?  Indeed they were. According to the Relay For Life  wiki avatars from eighty countries took part in the event in 2011.  Eighty countries? Were these people all aware that they were donating to the American Cancer Society?

I wonder.

But does it matter? I mean, should we begrudge an organisation of one country their fundraising in the rest of the world? When I think about it, I don’t feel that there is anything against such fundraising. Maybe  this money is put to good use by the ACS for the entire world population. Perhaps the ACS is the best organisation in the world to fund research into cancer, to finance aid for those who have fallen victim to cancer and organize teaching for everyone else.  And if they are, why should we not give money to that organisation instead of some local and perhaps less efficient organization?

For those who want find out for themselves I have some sources listed below and you are encouraged to go and find out for yourself on the internet. But one question can be answered at once from the wiki:
“In real life, Relay For Life is licensed to national cancer societies in 19 countries outside the United States, and the American Cancer Society’s International Relay For Life Program provides training and technical assistance to licensees. In Second Life, participation by residents from other countries is growing, with avatars from over 80 real life countries taking part in 2011.” (The bold lettering is my doing.)
I let you draw your own conclusions.

And for those who wonder if  the ACS is actually the best organisation to give money to, perhaps this question can be answered here: http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=6495#.U8vNbPmSx8E

relay-1

 

Sources:

http://www.cancer.org/

http://relayforlifeofsecondlife.org/

http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Relay_For_Life_of_Second_Life#Frequently_Asked_Questions

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/08/10-insanely-overpaid-nonp_n_3038162.html

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-09-12/charities-deceive-donors-unaware-money-goes-to-a-telemarketer.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jonathan-agin/friends-dont-let-friends-_2_b_2759403.html

http://catalystnewspaper.com/2012/11/30/skip-relay-for-life-for-more-effective-efforts/

http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summary&orgid=6495#.U8vNbPmSx8E

http://www.wtflungcancer.com/category/american-cancer-society/

Some other organisations

http://www.cancerresearch.org/

http://www.uicc.org/

http://www.aicr.org.uk

 

 

 

Vending machines

The employees trickled into the room by the twos and threes depending on who shared an office with whom. A few went out again to form a short line in front of the vending machine in the hallway. But eventually they all gathered into the windows less meeting room with it’s yellowish walls at the appointed time. There were only two noticeable pieces of furniture in the room. A large table surrounded by chairs in the middle of the room and a whiteboard against one of the wall full of intelligible scribbles .

There they were joined by two managers. These were so called mid-level managers: men already too high up the ladder from them to speak to on a daily basis, but still low enough to be encountered in the corridors. Sometimes even greetings were exchanged during those awkward moments in the morning when an employee had a run in with one of those managers at one of the three vending machines in the building. Mid-level managers also used vending machines.

The men -there were only men-  had been informed by mail to attend the meeting on a short notice, the trigger being the removal of their direct superior, the news of which had arrived earlier on the day.   The highest manager took a seat at the table. Then the employees choose theirs.  Finally the other manager sat down at one end of the table and although he did not sit exactly opposite the other manager, he also did not sit next to him. There was a certain reserved distance between the two. The highest manager, a small man with hair as grey as his suit, was going to break the news, the other manager, a man with glasses and a pensive expression dressed in a buttoned shirt like the employees, was there because he was expected to attend, The hierarchy of the company positioned him in between the higher manager and the one that was leaving.

“Your manager will join us in a moment,” the highest one remarked, “In the mean time I bring you the news that he will step down from his current position.”

None of the men said a thing..

“At the moment we will have no replacement for his position. Instead we expect the foremen to take care of business. We will have individual talks during the week with some of your key people about the future of this department and its reorganization.”

The men accepted these words in silence as well, but they did look at each other, not entirely sure who of them were considered to be the mentioned key people, but also uneasy about their prospects if they were not  considered to be part of the group of key persons.

The highest manager, triggered by the uneasy stares,  tried to get a feel of the mood, but also avoided to look the men straight in the eye.   “Men, the company needs you all and we need you in the future as well. Some important projects are coming our way. Especially we will be needing you to work on the desktop replacement project. That will be some ten thousand desktops that need replacing, urgently. An important job which has been delayed far too often.”

At that moment there was a short interruption when the leaving manager arrived. He nodded to the men and sat down at the other end of the table. He didn’t say a thing, but folded his arms across his chest. It was a posture that was familiar to them all. employees and managers alike. It meant defiance, the kind that he had showed towards the other managers when it had been announced, earlier in the year, that the department was being considered for outsourcing to external interested parties.

One of the men asked the question that was foremost on their minds: “Does this have anything to do with the outsourcing project?”

There was another moment of silence before the highest manager braved himself to look the questioner straight in the eyes and deliver his answer, “No, this has nothing to do with it.”

“Then why does he leave? He has been our manager for twelve years!”

The manager looked away while he reacted with a lot of words. But those were simply meant to obscure the lack of a proper straightforward answer to the first question, which would have been very short and it would have sounded like: yes.  After the flood of words he stressed again the importance that the men would continue working as they had done before and mentioned their importance for the future of the company.

“Remember.. we need you.. for we got some important projects ahead of us.”

But who would believe a man that could not give a straight answer to a simple question everyone knew the answer to already?