02 December 2009

Religion, Politics, and the French Press

Let us address religion and politics ever so briefly. The subjects have come to mind again.


On 7 November—or was it 14 November?--I had the pleasure of listening to the Drunk Punk's broadcast on Scooter Forums Radio. During the broadcast the Drunk Punk indulged himself in a delightful rant on the subject of organized religion, casting a bright light on the patent absurdities involved in all that.

For my part I have been showing you the first communion of Mexican boys and girls and the aftermath of the baptism of the babies with obvious delight. I have taken you on tours of incredibly beautiful churches. It occurred to me that one might conclude that I have gone soft on the Roman Catholic Church. I have not.

I still appreciate that the rites of the Church are quaint efforts to inject meaning into being and nothingness. However, while maintaining this awareness on the intellectual level, I have found that in México I can take great pleasure in the aesthetic enjoyment of the spectacle.

I still appreciate that the grandeur of the cathedral exists for one purpose and one purpose only—the cow the ignorant and the gullible into submission through the force of awe. Again, while maintaining this awareness on the intellectual level, I have found that in México I can take great pleasure in the aesthetic enjoyment of my own special brand of awe when visiting these amazing buildings.

Apropos of nothing, I wish to add something regarding the Latin American clergy that has held true through history in spades in México. The fact that historically in Latin America a clergyman can get easily get his ass shot adds a whole new dimension to that profession in my estimation. And it has brought about a respect on my part for the clergy here that I do not generally and otherwise have.

When the left wing revolution comes, more often than not it is accompanied by a random assassination of priests as occurred in this country. George Orwell described the reason for this same phenomenon as it manifested itself in Spain during the Civil War in Homage to Catalonia:

It struck me that the people in this part of Spain must be genuinely without religious feeling—religious feeling, I mean, in the orthodox sense. It is curious that all the time I was in Spain I never once saw a person cross himself; yet you would think such a movement would become instinctive, revolution or no revolution. Obviously the Spanish Church will come back (as the saying goes, night and the Jesuits always return), but there is no doubt that at the outbreak of the revolution it collapsed and was smashed up to an extent that would be unthinkable even for the moribund C. of E. [Church of England] in like circumstances. To the Spanish people, at any rate in Catalonia and Aragon, the Church was a racket pure and simple. And possibly Christian belief was replaced to some extent by Anarchism, whose influence is widely spread and which undoubtedly has a religious tinge. [Emphasis mine.]

On the other side of the coin, when a priest flirts too openly with the left wing, expressing too much empathy with the poor or the concept of land reform, he is often dispatched by emissaries of the right. In fact being an Archbishop is no protection in this respect as Monsignor Oscar Romero of El Salvador could testify if he were still around to testify.

The fascinating subject of the Jesuits, those brilliant clerical Roman riders with one foot on the Enlightenment and one foot on the strictest of dogma, must await another day. The main reason it must await another day is that the subject is complicated by my love for Father David Cowan Bayne, S.J., my professor of corporate law in law school.

I have dispensed here with the usual, “With all due respect for my Catholic friends. . . .” Respect is not relevant. Rather, I simply do not care in any way about how others deal with the conundrum of existence just as I simply do not care how others get off sexually, as long as they do not exploit chickens, hamsters, or small children.


What a wonderful respite from American politics this stay in México has been for me. I still count myself a member of the far left. I still consider that the reports of the demise of left wing politics ten years ago, before the bursting of the latest capitalist bubble, were far, far too premature. Now, though, I have an equanimity on the whole subject that I did not have before. Perhaps “contempt for” would be a better phrase than “equanimity on” in sense of the words of Switters, Tom Robbins' protagonist in Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Countries:

Power struggles disgusted Switters, and usually his contempt for the combatants was distributed equally on either side. At the onset it was easy to favor rebellion because the rebels usually were struggling legitimately against tyranny and oppression. It had become a grotesque cliché of modern history, however, that every rebel success embodied a duplication of establishment tactics, which meant that every rebellion, no matter how successful, was ultimately a failure in that it perpetuated rather than transcended the meanness of man, and in that those innocents who managed to survive its bombardments would later be strangled by its red tape. (Czechoslovakia's “velvet” revolution, nonviolent and generous of spirit, was so far proving to be a notable exception.)

I have always appreciated that the left has its fair share of nitwits and shit heads. Some time ago I also shed my active hatred for the right, many of whom are admirable people and worthy competitors in the marketplace of ideas. I simply believe that the right has more than its fair share of nitwits and shit heads. I still consider the mass in the middle, becalmed in willful ignorance, to be merely sheep. More importantly, however, now I consider this whole area of human endeavor to be the same interminable, contemptible mess that it always has been.

I looked in on the New York Times on line this past Sunday morning for the first time in weeks. It was amusing rather than enraging. Listening to La Mexicana rail on the subject of Mexican politics is amusing rather than enraging. Politics no longer riles me just as college basketball no longer riles me.

I hasten to admit, though, that Mexican fútbol is starting to rile me a little.

There now. We have dispensed with those two subjects for the time being and can move on.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

My European friends and many friends on this side are going to laugh at my very belated discovery of preparing coffee with a French Press. I am coming clean about this late discovery, coffee being the only remaining medium in which I still express my addictive personality.

This, my friends, is the only way to prepare coffee. Take my word on faith. Tote your Mister Coffee machine, your percolator, and whatever other coffee-making detritus you may own directly to the dumpster and purchase a French Press. And a coffee grinder if you are still benighted enough not to own one of those.

Yes, that is my lollipop on the table to the left. It adds an oral dimension to the coffee that would otherwise be missing.


Four Dinners said...

Politics is for the week after this....no show this week as I'm off out on The Old Pretenders Football Club Christmas bash....some chap called Jason may broadcast but it ain't me.....

I do respect anyone's religious beliefs. I truly do.

I also think they are nuts but their you go.

The Drunk Punk Show....Every Saturday (except this coming one) on www.scooter-forums.com

Lot's of great music next...er...soz...a week Saturday....

See you there!!!!!!

It may be as help if religion was banned.

There's nowt wrong wi religion per sais(?)....French ain't my fortais... but it's the wankers who claim to practice it that are the problem.

Pissed. Bed. G'night old bean

Allyson said...

Your far left of left political views are softening, perhaps with age, or could that be senility? I, too, am far left of left and, too, can't get riled anymore over the "shitheads" in power. After all, they are helping to feed the hungry, that is, Corporate Amerika,
Love your blog.

Allyson said...

The last comment was from me, SteveO, not Allyson.

John said...

Cathedrals present an interesting dichotomy. Awe-inspiring in their grandeur and beauty. Disturbing in their witness to greed, ambition, ego and the subjection and exploitation of those whose lives (thank you Mr. Hobbes) were "poore, nasty, brutish and short". And all in the name of religion. The only thing worse is politics. Or the combination of the two, as in the right-wing fundamentalist zealotry that is so noisily and destructively in evidence on the American political scene.