Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre—
To be redeemed from fire by fire.

Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire.
--T.S. Elliot, "Little Gidding" No. 4

reflections on the rioting

Only the wilfully blind could have been surprised by the scale or ferocity of the riots that have engulfed Britain in the past week. Unfortunately, most of the country’s political and intellectual class have been wilfully blind for years, in a state of the most abject denial; a brief walk in any of our cities should have been enough to tell them all that they needed to know.

How anyone could have missed the aggressive malignity inscribed in the faces and manner of so many young men in Britain is a mystery to me. Perhaps, like Dr Watson, our political and intellectual class saw but did not observe; and they did not observe because they lacked the moral courage to attempt anything but appeasement.

The vulpine lope or swagger, the face that regards eye contact with a stranger as a challenge to be met, the adoption of fashions that are known to signify aggression and dangerousness, the grotesquely inflated self-esteem combined with a total incapacity for doing anything constructive: all could and should have sounded an alarm in our politicians. Not only is our population ageing, but a significant proportion of such young people as we have engendered are like this, which no doubt helps to explain why we have had to resort to the importation of foreign unskilled labour while maintaining high levels of domestic unemployment, especially among the young. It is as difficult to employ a hoodie as to hug him.

No one has paid serious attention to the mentality and culture of these young men (using the word culture in its broad, anthropological sense). The morality is that of Satan on his expulsion from heaven: evil, be thou my good. The aesthetics follow the morality. Ugliness, be thou my beauty.

Terms such as ’unrest’ and ’disaffection’, which trip so lightly off the tongue of those who do not want to face a far more disturbing reality, do not explain the behaviour of the rioters. It is obvious, for instance, that if there were any justice in the world — at least if justice is the right return for voluntary effort and conduct — the young rioters would be much worse off than they are. Their problem is not that they have been given too little, but that they have deserved nothing.

The evident glee of the rioters, celebrating and smiling triumphantly among the devastation they wrought, as if in victory, is testimony not to their outraged feelings, but to the strength of the destructive urge that lies within us all and has always to be kept under firm control.

I remember as a child the sheer joy of smashing a radio on our lawn with a croquet mallet, a joy that was quite unrelated to any personal animus against the radio, which could not possibly have done me any harm. I loved the destruction for its own sake and wanted it to continue for as long as possible, smashing the parts into dust long after there was no possibility of repair, feeling that I was almost performing a duty in being so thorough in my annihilation of them.

And the first riot, in Panama, that I ever attended — reporting on it for this magazine — taught me that rioting is fun, that the supposed reason for it is soon forgotten in the ecstatic pleasure of destruction. Talleyrand said that no one knew how sweet life could be who had not lived under the Ancien Régime; one might add that no one has known unalloyed joy who has not heard the tinkle of plate glass, or seen flames lick up a building, in the alleged furtherance of a cause. Incidentally, part of the sweetness of life under the Ancien Régime was the knowledge that it was far from sweet for everyone; and the imagined distress of the owners of the property that rioters destroy is part of the joy of rioting.

The urge to cruelty is not much different in this respect. I doubt there are many people who have never in their lives experienced the pleasure of inflicting some kind of pain on others, physical or mental, from sheer malice and delight in doing so. It is an urge that we overcome first by effort and then by habit.

It is one of the tasks of civilisation to tame our inherent savagery. But who, contemplating contemporary British culture, would recognise in it any civilising influence, or rather fail to recognise its opposite? It is a constant call to and celebration of degradation, not only physical but spiritual and emotional. A culture in which Amy Winehouse, with her militant vulgarity and self-indulgent stupidity, combined with a very minor talent, could be so extravagantly admired and feted, is not one to put up strong barriers against our baser instincts, desires and urges. On the contrary, that culture has long been a celebration of those very urges. He who pays the savage never gets rid of the savagery; and this is only the beginning.
--Theodore Dalrymple

FBI: Nation's largest terrorist organization

A recent report put together by Mother Jones and the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California-Berkley analyses some striking statistics about the role of FBI informants in terrorism cases that the Bureau has targeted in the decade since the September 11 attacks.

The report reveals that the FBI regularly infiltrates communities where they suspect terrorist-minded individuals to be engaging with others. Regardless of their intentions, agents are sent in to converse within the community, find suspects that could potentially carry out “lone wolf” attacks and then, more or less, encourage them to do so. By providing weaponry, funds and a plan, FBI-directed agents will encourage otherwise-unwilling participants to plot out terrorist attacks, only to bust them before any events fully materialize.

The FBI has used those informants to set-up and thus shut-down several of the more high profile would-be attacks in recent years. The report reveals that the Washington DC Metro bombing plot, the New York City subway plot, the attempt to blow up Chicago’s Sears Tower and dozens more were all orchestrated by FBI agents. In fact, reads the report, only three of the more well-known terror plots of the last decade weren’t orchestrated by FBI-involved agents.

The report reveals that in many of the stings, important meetings between informants and the unknowing participants are left purposely unrecorded, as to avoid any entrapment charges that could cause the case to be dismissed.

"The problem with the cases we're talking about is that defendants would not have done anything if not kicked in the ass by government agents," Martin Stolar tells Mother Jones. Stolar represented the suspect involved in a New York City bombing plot that was set-up by FBI agents. "They're creating crimes to solve crimes so they can claim a victory in the war on terror." For their part, the FBI says this method is a plan for "preemption," "prevention" and "disruption."

The report also reveals that, of the 500-plus prosecutions of terrorism-related cases they analyzed, nearly half of them involved the use of informants, many of whom worked for the FBI in exchange for money or to work off criminal charges. Of the 158 prosecutions carried out, 49 defendants participated in plots that agent provocateurs arranged on behalf of the FBI.

Intelligence and Affection by Parley P. Pratt

Man, (and woman) know thyself, -study thine own nature, -learn thy powers of body, -thy capacity of mind. Learn thine origin, thy purpose and thy destiny. Study the true source of thine every happiness, and the happiness of all beings with which thou art associated. Learn to act in unison with thy true character, nature and attributes; and thus improve and cultivate the resources within and around thee. This will render you truly happy, and be an acceptable service to your God. And being faithful over a few things, you may hope to be made ruler over many things.

Some persons have supposed that our natural affections were the results of a fallen and corrupt nature, and that they are "carnal, sensual, and devilish," and therefore ought to be resisted, subdued, or overcome and so many evils which prevent our perfection, or progress in the spiritual life. In short, that they should be greatly subdued in this world, and in the world to come entirely done away. And even our intelligence also.

So far from this being the case, our natural affections are planted in us by the Spirit of God, for a wise purpose; and they are the very mainsprings of life and happiness- they are the cement of all virtuous and heavenly society-they are the essence of charity, or love; and therefore never fail, but endure forever...

What then is sinful? I answer, our unnatural passions and affections, or in other words the abuse, the perversion, the unlawful indulgence of that which is otherwise good. Sodom was not destroyed for their natural affections, but for the want of it. They had perverted all their affections, and had to give place to that which was unnatural, and contrary to nature. Thus they had lost those holy and pure principles of virtue and love which was calculated to preserve and exalt.

Know then, O man, (and woman) that aided and directed by the light of heaven the sources of thy happiness are within and around thee. Instead of seeking unto God for a mysterious change to be wrought, or for your affections and attributes to be taken away and subdued, seek unto him for aid and wisdom to govern, direct and cultivate them in a manner which will tend to your happiness and exaltation, both in this world and in that which is to come. Yeah, pray to him that every affection, attribute, power and energy of your body and mind may be cultivated, increased, enlarged, perfected and exercised for his glory and for the glory and happiness of yourself, and of all those whose good fortune it may be to be associated with you.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A few years after Henry Bennion Eyring became president of Ricks College (now Brigham Young University–Idaho), he was offered a high-paying, prestige-filled job in southern California.

“It sounds like a great opportunity,” President Spencer W. Kimball told him as Henry described the offer and its benefits. “If we ever needed you, we would know where you were.”

Henry had expected President Kimball, his uncle, to ask him to stay on at Ricks. Instead, it became obvious that Henry and his wife, Kathleen, were to pray and fast about their decision, which they did. Within a week, the Spirit whispered to Henry that he would have the privilege of staying at Ricks College “a little longer.”

He called Jeffrey R. Holland, then Commissioner of the Church Educational System, and told him that he had turned down the job offer. That evening Henry received a phone call from President Kimball.

“I understand you’ve decided to stay,” said President Kimball.

“Yes,” replied Henry.

“Do you think you’ve made a sacrifice?” asked President Kimball.

“No,” said Henry.

“That’s right!” President Kimball assured him. With that, President Kimball ended the conversation.

The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be either good or evil.
- Hannah Arendt

called to serve

I have had [many] experiences feeling of the Holy Ghost…But I’ve never felt what I have felt as I have…participated in the assigning of missionaries…Because of technology, it is possible for us to have your picture and the information about you displayed. And then quickly, on that same screen, all the missions of the Church with all of their needs are displayed. Within minutes, and sometimes less than a minute, the impression comes so powerfully that it would be, if it were a single instance, something that you would never forget. Can you imagine sitting there for hours at a time, having that happen time after time without interruption? I testify to you that it is real…[The Lord] somehow not only knows you but loves you enough to ensure that your call is where He needs you to go to teach the children of our Heavenly Father.
--Pres. Henry B. Eyring

Rules for Radicals

In 1971, Saul Alinsky wrote an entertaining classic on grassroots organizing titled Rules for Radicals. Those who prefer cooperative tactics describe the book as out-of-date. Nevertheless, it provides some of the best advice on confrontational tactics. Alinsky begins this way:

What follows is for those who want to change the world from what it is to what they believe it should be. The Prince was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power. Rules for Radicals is written for the Have-Nots on how to take it away.

His “rules” derive from many successful campaigns where he helped poor people fighting power and privilege

For Alinsky, organizing is the process of highlighting what is wrong and convincing people they can actually do something about it. The two are linked. If people feel they don’t have the power to change a bad situation, they stop thinking about it.

According to Alinsky, the organizer — especially a paid organizer from outside — must first overcome suspicion and establish credibility. Next the organizer must begin the task of agitating: rubbing resentments, fanning hostilities, and searching out controversy. This is necessary to get people to participate. An organizer has to attack apathy and disturb the prevailing patterns of complacent community life where people have simply come to accept a bad situation. Alinsky would say, “The first step in community organization is community disorganization.”

Through a process combining hope and resentment, the organizer tries to create a “mass army” that brings in as many recruits as possible from local organizations, churches, services groups, labor unions, corner gangs, and individuals.

Alinsky provides a collection of rules to guide the process. But he emphasizes these rules must be translated into real-life tactics that are fluid and responsive to the situation at hand.

Rule 1: Power is not only what you have, but what an opponent thinks you have. If your organization is small, hide your numbers in the dark and raise a din that will make everyone think you have many more people than you do.

Rule 2: Never go outside the experience of your people.
The result is confusion, fear, and retreat.

Rule 3: Whenever possible, go outside the experience of an opponent. Here you want to cause confusion, fear, and retreat.

Rule 4: Make opponents live up to their own book of rules. “You can kill them with this, for they can no more obey their own rules than the Christian church can live up to Christianity.”

Rule 5: Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon. It’s hard to counterattack ridicule, and it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage.

Rule 6: A good tactic is one your people enjoy. “If your people aren’t having a ball doing it, there is something very wrong with the tactic.”

Rule 7: A tactic that drags on for too long becomes a drag. Commitment may become ritualistic as people turn to other issues.

Rule 8: Keep the pressure on. Use different tactics and actions and use all events of the period for your purpose. “The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition. It is this that will cause the opposition to react to your advantage.”

Rule 9: The threat is more terrifying than the thing itself. When Alinsky leaked word that large numbers of poor people were going to tie up the washrooms of O’Hare Airport, Chicago city authorities quickly agreed to act on a longstanding commitment to a ghetto organization. They imagined the mayhem as thousands of passengers poured off airplanes to discover every washroom occupied. Then they imagined the international embarrassment and the damage to the city’s reputation.

Rule 10: The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative. Avoid being trapped by an opponent or an interviewer who says, “Okay, what would you do?”
--Bill Buppert