Thursday, October 09, 2014
A realistic woman
When it comes to the cinema sensation Gone Girl, it appears that most of us fall into one of two camps – those who have seen it, and those who are about to see it.
The thriller, which topped the UK film charts, taking £4.1million in its opening weekend, is the story of an unhappily married woman who goes missing – leaving her husband accused of murder.
At its heart is British beauty Rosamund Pike, 35, who plays Amy, the wife of Nick Dunne, portrayed by US star Ben Affleck, 41.
Even though she is not married herself, Miss Pike has revealed forthright views on matrimony during interviews about the movie.
The actress, who is expecting her second child with partner Robie Uniacke, said we demand too much of our spouses nowadays, telling Spectrum magazine: 'People have ridiculous expectations of a mate.
'In my grandmother's day, you wouldn't expect your husband to fulfil the same need in you as your sister, or girlfriends, or colleagues at work. You'd have different needs met by different people.
'Now we want all our needs met by one person, and I don't believe that's possible. Or rather, it is, but I don't think it's universally achievable.
'I do think separation is key to a relationship. I go out with my partner and we are put next to each other – there's a feeling of, 'What, you don't think we can't operate without each other?' I don't need him as a crutch. Of course, he's the person I want to go home with but he's not necessarily the person I want to sit next to. I'd rather meet someone new, and he would too.'
Is the West to blame for trouble in the Middle East?
FOR at least a decade, attempts to understand why some young Muslims living in Western countries turn to violence in the name of religion have raised questions about Western foreign policy in the Middle East.
Many blame the United States' foreign policy.
The Islamic State uses anger and grievance against Western intervention as a powerful recruiting tool.
But is it really fair to blame Western foreign policy for the state of affairs in the Middle East?
THERE is some truth to the argument that anger at foreign policy and the West's engagement with the Arab world is at the heart of Muslim anger, as well as a driver of radicalisation among Muslim youth.
American and British intelligence agencies have both reported that the US-led invasion of Iraq has actually increased the number of Islamist terrorists.
The belief that the war on terror was a thinly disguised attempt to attack Islam was no longer limited to conspiracy theorists and 9/11 "truth seekers".
Instead, it became popularised among Muslims around the world.
However, to solely lay blame for the rise of a global and increasingly violent Jihadi movement on Western intervention ignores other crucial factors that allow extremism to take root and spread.
The origins of extremism
In his book A Fundamental Fear: Eurocentrism and the emergence of Islamism, Dr S. Sayyid describes five arguments that explain the spread of what is commonly called Islamic fundamentalism, Islamism or militant Islamism.
Islamism is a response to the failure of Arab leaders to deliver meaningful outcomes to their people.
Lacking opportunities for political participation, Arab citizens turned to mosques as public spaces for political discussion. As a result religion became the language of politics and of political change.
Post-colonialism also failed the Arab middle class, as the ruling elite continued to hold power and wealth.
Rapid economic growth in the emerging Gulf States increased the influence of conservative Muslim governments. At the same time, the expansion of the oil-based Gulf economy brought about uneven economic development, the response to which was growing support for Islamism as a mode of expression for internal grievances.
Finally, the spread of Islamism has also been due to the effects of cultural erosion and globalisation contributing to a Muslim identity crisis.
So the current state of affairs in the Middle East is not simply an outcome of Western intervention and the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Western foreign policy in the region has no doubt influenced the current situation. But the conditions for the spread of militant Islamism have come from attempts to deal with the crisis within: a crisis that is as much political in nature as it is religious.
Filling a power vacuum
In terms of politics, the traditional seats of power in the Arab world have been toppled, creating a void and opening opportunities for other Arab nations to vie for power.
With the decline of Egyptian power and ongoing chaos in Syria and Iraq, the Gulf states have emerged as the most economically and politically stable influences in the region.
Egyptian protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir square in 2011
Egyptian protesters in Cairo’s Tahrir square in 2011
Gulf state competition, particularly between Abu Dhabi and Doha, has become one of the defining features of the Middle East.
While Doha supports the Syrian revolution as well as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, Abu Dhabi stands guarded against a foreign policy approach that strengthens Islamists.
Qatar, on the other hand, has been known to provide significant financial assistance to violent Islamist groups, including groups linked to Al Qaeda.
It has also failed to act on wealthy citizens accused of financing terrorist organisations to the tune of millions of dollars.
Angered by its support for extremist groups, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia all withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar in March this year.
The political struggle for power has also played out as a struggle for religious space in the Arab world.
Here, the declining role of Saudi Arabia as the traditional seat of religious authority and knowledge has contributed, as Saudi Arabia also struggles to contain extremist Islamist elements within its own brand of Islam.
Links have been made between Wahhabi Islam that originated in Saudi Arabia and the ideological frame of the jihadist movement.
Such accusations have prompted Saudi Arabia to examine the Wahhabi Jihadist connection, leading to a review of religious programs and school curricular in the kingdom.
Seeing beyond a 'clash of civilisations'
The Middle East is a complex mix of culture, religion, politics and history.
To continue to engage with the Arab world on the basis of flawed assumptions that neatly divide it into the camp of moderate Islam and the camp of extreme Islam feeds into an equally flawed analysis of the conflict as a clash of civilisations.
It may be tempting to oversimplify the conflict as a battle of the West against Islam, just as it is tempting to overstate its origins in the history of Western intervention and foreign policy.
However, more nuanced analyses should also take into account the various internal factors that created the conditions for the spread of extremist Islamist ideologies in the first place.
Such analyses are necessary to developing understanding of how to address the ongoing threat of non-state terrorism to national and international security.
Porn is super-empowering: just ask the Duke University porn star
She looks young, younger than her 18 years. Sitting on a bed in a hotel room wearing baggy pajamas, glasses, and a far-away look, she looks at the camera and says bluntly, “A lot of s**t in my life has been ruined because of sex.”
It is then that you see her eyes. They look somehow old.
Hundreds of thousands of fans know her as Belle Knox, one of the most popular names in porn. The media often refers to her as the “Duke University porn star,” after a classmate revealed that she was paying her tuition by starring in porn shoots. We later discovered that the name her friends and family know her by is Miriam Weeks.
She has been touted far and wide as proof that porn can be empowering and evidence that feminists can sell their bodies as objects and still be, well, “feminist.” Here, porn supporters told us with satisfaction, is a nice girl from a Catholic home who loves to do porn just because she loves sex. Porn is, as Weeks told the cameras, “empowering” and “freeing” and “the way the world should be.”
And then, recently, Weeks did a series of interviews for an upcoming documentary. In them, she paints a much different picture than the freeing, empowering, sex-fueled fantasy world her fans and porn supporters claim she inhabits.
Is it any wonder that many fathers have a harder time connecting with their daughters, when they spend countless hours watching girls their daughters’ age being beaten up, raped, and subjected to every imaginable type of sexual degradation?
“The sex industry has a way of making you very cynical and very bitter,” a tired-looking Weeks tells an off-camera interviewer, “In a way I’ve started to become kind of a bit bitter and a bit cynical.”
Why? “It teaches you to be street smart and not to trust people…I’m so used to being on the lookout for scammers, people who are going to try pimp me out or traffic me. I think my experiences have aged me. I don’t have the mind of an eighteen-year-old. I have the emotional baggage of someone much, much older than me.”
Some of this baggage is what propelled her into the porn industry in the first place.
In many interviews, Weeks talks obsessively about how porn gives her control over her own sexual destiny: “In porn, everything is on my terms. I can say no whenever I want to. I am in control.” Later on, we discover why this is so important to her: Weeks reveals that she had been raped. “What porn has done for me,” she says firmly, “is it has given me back my agency.”
Even amidst the perverted adulation of porn-addicted fans, however, she still bears the scars of self-loathing. In some cases, literal scars. One day looking in the mirror, she became so overcome with self-hatred that she smashed the mirror and cut herself, slicing the jagged letters “FAT” into the flesh of her thigh. Thus, the reactions of many who found out that she had done porn shoots – who called her “ugly” and “a dumb whore” and said that she “should die” - proved devastating to Miriam. It is this ugly misogyny that increasingly fuels many porn viewers, and gives delusional publications like Salon the excuse they need to claim that working in porn has not hurt Miriam Weeks, but only opponents of porn who try to “shame” her.
Listening to Miriam tell her story, it boggles my mind that people can still defend the porn industry, or call it “empowering” or “the way the world should be.”
Miriam herself admits that her first scene, shot for a company she refers to as “Facial Abuse,” was “a really, really rough scene. I wasn’t prepared for how rough it was. It was weird having some random photographer watch me have my a** kicked on camera.” She talks about getting literally torn up during porn shoots. She admits that porn shoots in which she was physically beaten up until she sobbed were probably shoots she should have refused. Yet she didn’t.
The control is a myth too, of course. The porn industry has many ways of coercing the human beings they market into doing what they want. For one shoot, Miriam recalls almost tearfully, her agent wouldn’t tell her who she had to “work with.” When she arrived at the set, she realized he was fifty years old. She wanted to leave, but then she’d have to pay a 300 dollar “kill fee,” the director would have been furious, and, she says, she could never have worked for that company again. So she did it.
“I felt like crying during the entire scene and afterwards I was really, really upset,” Miriam says tearfully to the camera, looking like nothing more than the hurting 18-year-old girl she is. “I just thought of my mom, who was always there for me and always protected me…I think about my mom a lot when I do porn scenes. Just how sad she would be that her little daughter was doing this.”
And Mrs. Weeks’ little daughter does these things in part because of the demand. The demand of creepy grey-haired men twice her age or more who line up to get her photo autographed at porn conventions. Is it any wonder that many fathers have a harder time connecting with their daughters, when they spend countless hours watching girls their daughters’ age being beaten up, raped, and subjected to every imaginable type of sexual degradation?
Miriam Weeks, we see in her heart-breaking interviews, is just a hurting 18-year-old girl being used by an industry that takes girls like her, exploits their insecurities, promises them empowerment, and then subjects them to abuse and degradation until they can’t handle it any more. Then the carnivorous recruiters simply go out looking for fresh flesh to feed the baying cannibalistic mob, burning with insatiable lust and shouting their demands for new girls, new girls to degrade and discard.
A new day, a new human sacrifice at the altar of Eros.
The more fortunate girls realize they need to leave the industry. One of Miriam’s friends has told her that when she can no longer distinguish between her porn alter-ego and herself, it’s time to leave. Miriam is not quite sure what this means, she tells the interviewer, but she finds it interesting.
“People see Belle, but they don’t see Miriam,” she says sadly, “I think I’m…Miriam right now?”
And for all the world, she sounds as lost as our morally bankrupt culture.
National suicide by political correctness
Barack Obama said "ISIL is not Islamic. No religion condones the killing if innocents."
That definition includes: al- Qa'ida, Abu Sayyaf, Gama'a al-Islamiyya, Hamas, Hizballah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e Tayyiba, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, Asbat al-Ansar, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, Jemaah Islamiya, Ansar al-Islam, Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, al-Shabaab, al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula, Boko Haram, al-Nusrah Front, Ansar al-Shari'a in Benghazi, Ansar al-Shari'a in Darnah, Ansar al-Shari'a in Tunisia - Well, you get the idea.
As noted recently by Diana West, Americans continue to be perplexed as to how the Obama Administration and the media keep repeating the politically correct propaganda that Islam has nothing to do with jihad. Such widespread, politics- and mass-media-driven brainwashing is not new.
Just as today's politicians, journalists and academics seek to separate Islam from its radical impact; brutal conquest, forced conversion, sex slavery and beheadings. Past opinion-makers worked equally hard to separate communism from its own brand inhuman impact; brutal conquest, forced collectivization, concentration camps and mass murder.
Few Americans realize that political correctness, a policy implicitly promoted by Democrats and established as the de facto totalitarian legal system on American universities, was designed by communists in the 1930s to undermine western civilization and democracy while disguising the nature of the threat.
After the successful 1917 communist revolution in Russia, it was widely believed that a proletarian revolt would sweep across Europe and, ultimately, North America. It did not. The only two attempts at a workers' government in Munich and Budapest lasted only months.
As a result the Communist International began to investigate other ways to create the state of societal hopelessness and alienation necessary as a prerequisite for socialist revolution.
The single, most important organizational component of this conspiracy was a Communist think tank called the Institute for Social Research, popularly known as the Frankfurt School. The task of the Frankfurt School was first, to undermine the Judeo-Christian foundation of Western civilization that emphasized the uniqueness and sacredness of the individual and, second, to determine new cultural forms which would increase the disaffection of the population.
Political Correctness is cultural Marxism translated from economic into cultural terms. Just as in classical economic Marxism, certain groups, i.e. workers and peasants, are a priori good, and other groups, i.e., the bourgeoisie and capital owners, are evil. In the cultural Marxism of Political Correctness certain groups are good, such as feminist women, blacks, ethnic minorities and those who define themselves according to sexual orientation. These groups are deemed to be "victims," and therefore unquestionably good. Similarly, white males and, by extension Western civilization, are determined to be automatically evil, thereby becoming the equivalent of the bourgeoisie in economic Marxism.
Perhaps the most important, if least-known, of the Frankfurt School's successes was the shaping of the electronic media of radio and television into the powerful instruments of social control which they represent today.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, American universities now represent the largest concentration of Marxist dogma and political correctness in the world. This is not the academy of a republic, but Hitler's Gestapo and Stalin's NKVD rooting out deviationists in the guise of racial, ethnic, gender and cultural sensitivity.
The policies of the Obama Administration reflect what David Horowitz described as an unholy alliance between leftists and radical Islam. They have been brought together by the traits they share - their hatred of Western civilization and their belief that the United States is the embodiment of evil on earth. While Islamic radicals seek to purge the world of heresies and of the infidels who practice them, leftist radicals seek to purge society's collective "soul" of the vices allegedly spawned by capitalism -- those being racism, sexism, imperialism, and greed.
Given the existential threat posed by such ideologies, political correctness can no longer be considered merely a peculiarity of cowardly politicians, a biased media or tenured radicals, but a dangerous subversive element of an anti-American and anti-Western strategy.
But frankly, Mr. Obama, I don't care if ISIL is "Islamic" or not. Wanting us all dead is a sufficient reason to take the war directly and aggressively to them.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.