Birdblog

A conservative news and views blog.

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Location: St. Louis, Missouri, United States

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Glass Houses

There is a saying, ``people who live in glass houses shouldn`t throw stones``. This is undoubtedly a modernized polemic based on the Gospel story of Jesus and the adulteress; Jesus` enemies brought a woman caught in adultery before him to adjudicate the case. They were laying a trap for Jesus, because if he followed the Law scrupulously he would condemn her to be stoned, exposing him for a hypocrite since he had preached forgiveness and angering the general populace, while if he called for her to be paroled he would be violating the Law. Jesus, in his inimitable fashion, called for the imposition of the penalty of the Law provided that the first to cast a stone at her be without sin. He turned the trap back on his enemies, who quietly snuck away. When all of her accusers were gone, Jesus told the woman (who had remained to take her medicine)that he would not condemn her if they would not, and told her to go and sin no-more. He forgave the debt, while less decent men rushed to judge her.

I had thought to title this post ``Still With Mel`` which was intended to be a play on the campaign slogan of deceased Senatorial candidate Mel Carnahan a few years back, but decided it was a bit too flippant; I don`t want anyone, in any way, to think I take what Mel Gibson said lightly, or am being dismissive of the anger felt by Jewish folks at the (as he himself termed it) despicable comments made by Gibson after his arrest. I understand why people are upset, and I think Gibson needs to take his lumps. However, I also think he should be cut some slack; who of us can toss rocks in our own many-windowed houses? Who of us is in the position of stoning the adulteress?

There are certainly differences between comments which can be construed as discriminatory; some are not meant in a hurtful vein, while some are venomous. Former Vice President Spiro Agnew was once attacked by the press because he referred to someone as a ``fat Jap``. What the MSM didn`t tell the American people was that this ``fat Jap`` was Agnew`s lifelong friend, and he and the man went back and forth with this repartee in a jovial spirit. There was no malicious intent, no dark undertones to this, no slur involved. This was the way people used to speak before the forces of political correctness stifled everyone`s free expression. Germans were Krauts, Irish Micks, Italians were called Dago`s or Wops. (Here in St. Louis there is an Italian district which used to be called Dago Hill,named that by the inhabitants themselves-it has since been sanitized to ``The Hill``) There was generally no animosity in these terms (although that WAS sometimes the intent) but often they were used affectionately; it just wasn`t a big deal back then.

Of course, this was not the spirit in which Mr. Gibson spoke when he was arrested; the things coming out of his mouth did, indeed, bear a maliciousness which cannot be ignored.

What are the pertinent facts in this case? We know that Gibson was raised in an anti-Semitic environment. His father was an avowed anti-Semite, and young Mel could not possibly have avoided absorbing some of this into his unconscious. As a Christian man, the adult Mel has renounced this philosophy-whether for principle or profit no one can tell for certain.

We also know that Mr. Gibson was washed-out stinking drunk out of his mind at the time of his arrest, and as John Derbyshire pointed out at NRO, nobody wants to be held to account for drunken rants, because people often say things when blotto which they neither mean nor believe. Alcohol is not a truth serum; it does not, as the leftist critics of Gibson would have you believe, indicate your innermost thoughts necessarily (if it did the police would liquor people up in the police station.) That Gibson had these concepts in his noggin does not make him anti-Semitic; he grew up with such talk. Free will means we can accept or reject concepts, and Gibson`s life strongly suggests he rejected these odious ideas. As Tim McNabb pointed out civilization is about corking the bottle, repressing the ``inner Adam``. Sin is inherent in Man, and it is natural for us to have evil thoughts. We have to chain our bestial nature. Mel Gibson was drunk, and we got a glimpse of the Beast.

Prejudice itself is poorly understood in modern America because our egalitarian ideals have stifled frank and open discussion of the topic. Prejudice is as natural to mankind as any psychological pattern, because we are a fallen creature with Sin and because we are limited in our knowledge. From a purely secular point of view, prejudice is a survival mechanism. As individuals we don`t know enough, and, in a primitive environment, lack of knowledge was often fatal, so we assume anyone unlike ourselves is dangerous. You could not afford to be trusting in a eat-or-be-eaten world, and so Man learned to trust only those with a direct connection to himself. This was tribalism, which was the main social institution through most of human existence.

It was a logical approach to survival for Paleolithic Man, but by the Neolithic the usefulness of such an approach was ending, as people needed greater cooperation with each-other through trade and the development of primitive agriculture. Still, old habits die hard, and the various empires which would follow through history have always had to contend with the natural tendency to seek after one`s own kind. The nation-state was developed with a recognition of this fact, and those nation-states had a hard enough time, despite great cultural and ethnic similarities. True empires have never been stable-except through force of arms-because the people have nothing in common except a sovereign, and prejudice breaks them apart when they realize the rulers no longer have the physical power to restrain them.

Look at Yugoslavia; the bitterness of their tribal animosities lead to wholesale carnage after the communists were removed. Look at Chechnya, look at the Basque separatists in Spain, Northern Ireland, etc. These all stem from tribal animosity, which stems from a biological desire to survive, and the accompanying prejudice.

And it`s not always wrong to act on prejudice; it can save your life. If a young girl is in a dark alley, and a shabbily dressed man (of any race) approaches her, she would do well to flee. Is this prejudice? You bet. Is it wise? Absolutely.

A dozen years back or so there was a murder here in St. Louis which gained national prominence. Two young girls took their cousin on the abandoned Chain-of-Rocks bridge across the Mississippi River to look at some poetry they had graffiti`d. At that time, people used to graffiti all over the rusted thing (although you weren`t supposed to be on it) and it was actually used in the movie ``Escape from New York`` because it looked like something that belonged in an abandoned city full of criminals. At any rate, these girls were young and idealistic (in fact, this was my general neighborhood, and my mother had taught them in grade school) and went out on the bridge at night to show this out-of-town cousin a poem about racial tolerance. On the way to the poem, they encountered several rough-looking customers with whom they passed a few words. Now, had prejudice kicked in, they would have been much more cautious (the men were black, but that needn`t have been the reason for concern; they were rough, male, and should have been given a wide berth by two teenage girls and a teenage boy.) As things stand, the men threw the cousin off of the bridge, raped the girls, and threw them to their deaths on the jagged rocks and into the black water below. Only the cousin survived.

The moral of the story is that prejudice is not always bad; had these girls been less tolerant, they would be alive today. Tolerance killed them.

That said, prejudice is only useful in any form because humans can`t read minds, nor smell emotions. If we could ascertain the intentions of an Other, we could act on that, but we have no way of realistically divining the intentions of someone so must base our thoughts and actions on established patterns. These established patterns are often mistaken, based on things which happened in the past or which people have claimed based not on actual experience but on fear. Very often, a healthy prejudice becomes a malevolent pathology. Giving a rough-looking person a wide berth on the street can lead to hating them because of a willingness to allow fear to direct that prejudice. Worry about individual behavior can lead to hatred of the entire class. This is an example of Man`s baser instincts dominating his higher brain. This is what civilization was created for-to repress the inner Beast.

And most civilized people by and large DO repress the inner Beast most of the time. Unfortunately, like Mel Gibson illustrated, the Beast lurks very near the surface and sometimes shows his face.

Let`s face it, there is no such thing as a truly unprejudiced person. We ALL have some irrational prejudices, some fear or dislike for the Other. This is obvious to anyone who has attended High School; schools break into a number of cliques, each of which dislikes and distrusts people from outside their respective circle. Jocks have nothing to do with grunge, nerds wouldn`t be caught dead with jocks, preppies look down their noses at gothic types, etc. This is illustrative of the old adage ``Birds of a feather flock together``. It`s also illustrative of the tendency to tribalize, the coming together of people with mutual interest for their mutual benefit.

These stark differences usually fade as the children mature, and, although they are present in college, are generally an underlying thing. Still, they never go completely away and you have the workplace function in much the same manner. Where I work we always have a Christmas party, and the maintenance men hang with each-other, the office people hang out, and the people from our other office stick together. Why? Prejudice. These groups are more familiar with each-other than with the other groups, and so it is natural to stick together. There is no animosity involved, but it is more comfortable to be with those from your own group.

The point of all this is that we are all in glass houses, and we shouldn`t throw stones unless we are sure of our mark. The nature of prejudice is the nature of Man himself, the measure of that Man is his willingness to resist his bad impulses despite his natural inclinations.

And that is what I believe Mel Gibson has done most of his life. He was raised to be a racist bigot, but he has fought against this; not in others, which would be easy, but in himself. He has, I believe, waged a valiant war with his own demons. The other night he lost a battle. He still may win the war.

I suspect that Gibson is, like many alcoholics, a belligerent drunk, and his being arrested by a Jewish policeman lead him to the comments he made. I suspect he was trying to get this fellow`s goat. Maybe the trouble he had over The Passion kindled some anger in him, anger which he kept chained. Maybe he took it out on this policeman because he was handy and because Gibson wanted to abuse someone while in a drunken rage.

I understand Jewish anger at these comments; it`s not just the stupidity and insulting nature of what was said, but it`s the underlying fear all Jews must have as a result of their peculiar historical experiences. Too often in history such talk lead to violence against the Children of Israel, and it is natural to want to lash out at this form of misogyny, lest it spread cancerously to others. Furthermore, it seems to confirm what the more liberal Jews said all along-that Gibson made The Passion out of anti-Semitic motivations.

I really don`t think that`s true, and I want to appeal to everybody, and especially those of the Jewish faith, to give the guy a second chance. I don`t think one drunken rant from an alcoholic who fell off the wagon should be the end for him. We should see how he behaves in the future; the man has stumbled, but which of us hasn`t at some point in our lives? We are all living in glass houses, and none of us have the right to throw stones.

As for me, I`m still with Mel-at least for now.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Michael Morrison said...

For an intriguing perspective on Mel Gibson and Jews, take a look at http://www.towardtradition.org/Mel_Gibson.htm and see what a rabbi has to say.

6:27 AM  
Blogger Brandon_T_Stanley said...

This is a good example of the insanity of the media. This was mentioned over and over on the news. Meanwhile the Muslim who shot six Jews is never mentioned. The Muslim who shot six Jews actually committed an act of violence. Mel simply said some very stupid things.

9:51 AM  

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