‘It’s bloody obvious,’ is my frequent, exasperated response to my long-time interlocutor, critic, sometime editor, second harshest critic, and good friend, Dorothy Uckling. Her counsel? ‘You should explain what you mean when you say… because people won’t understand you.’
The critique about not explaining myself more clearly happens less frequently than it did, but with a still somewhat predictable regularity that tells me I need to pause, sometimes, and consider whether I have assumed the wrong audience, and whether I need to do something about that.
This is likely a problem for any writer. You have to think yourself into your subject, but when you then write about it, you may leave behind more casual observers who did not come along for that immersion, and who may not agree with your conclusions. One of the obstacles working against that apparently simple writerly task is an orthodox tradition in the academy, and the public province of readership, of frowning on self-referential pointers about such journeys, and the unwritten prohibition on any self-assertiveness. ‘Who do you think you are to say such a thing?’ Continue reading “Theology of technical rationality”
A post written specifically in response to disturbing intrusions into Google Plus by religious nutcases.
Religionist-baiting is a little bit like dog fighting. It is a cruel sport because the dogs are predictably narrow in their range of reactions to each other, and because once you set them on each other you stand back to watch rather than suffer the consequences of your actions, which are pain and death.
Trust an old Bolshie friend of mine to beat me about the head with a perfect example of the Stalinist political correctness that has so devastated the Western academy for the past 40 years: we must be tolerant of intolerance in order to be morally righteous people.
I am well aware of the embarrassing ideological-ethical cowardice within the academy, but something about Michael Brull’s sanctimonious defence of Islam in the University of NSW online Overland magazine wouldn’t quite let go of me.
It wasn’t the overbearingly self-righteous tone. That’s almost de rigeur from the university literary set. Dull and doctrinaire writers apparently obsessed with lost causes, and competing for some imaginary prize awarded to whoever can demonstrate the furthest remove from social or economic practicalities, let alone worthy ethical positions.
It wasn’t the credulous, politically correct, abhorrent defence of misogynistic mediaevalism either; it strikes me as an almost obligatory sideline for humanities academics to defend the indefensible ever since they made a kind of fetish cult of supporting Stalinism and all its brutal horrors just to give the finger to American imperialism. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.
A lesson America has yet to learn about taking the sting out of dissidence.
You know, it’s pretty easy listing all the atrocities, iniquities, hypocrisies and various crimes committed by organised religions, and I’m all for reminding everyone about that every time some holy roller gets all self-righteous about pushing guilt, obligation or fire and brimstone, but it’s really not my thing to be doing that for fun.
And I’m pretty OK with debunking the hypocrisy of ‘god’s word’, but it’s already been done so much more eloquently and convincingly than I’m willing to spend time and effort improving on. I’m happy to associate myself with the ideas put forward by the late Christopher Hitchens, particularly those in his swansong god is Not Great (see my review here).
Then there is the scientific discourse that put the whole idea to rest; none can surpass the supreme elegance of Stephen Hawking’s explanation that the universe, its origins, everything in it, and its future do not require the concept of a deity at all. It is simply not needed to understand ‘creation’ or anything else.